“A warm welcome to Zingcreed which today challenges the belief at the centre of most Christians’ faith. The argument I put here is an edited version of a chapter in the book “Why weren’t we told?” This is an excellent book written by Christians for Christians. It claims, correctly, that most ministers, whether Protestant or Catholic, lie to their congregations. They peddle an old fashioned version of the faith to them which they themselves gave up believing in college. The book goes through the commonest topics that churchgoers are confused about. The topic I summarise here is the theory of substitutionary atonement i.e. the theory that Jesus died for our sins.
I hope you find this more than just interesting;
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”
The theory that Jesus died for our sins is unknown in the Eastern church, and has only existed in the West since the eleventh century. A Benedictine monk, Saint Anselm (1033-1109 C.E.) expressed it in terms that are still familiar to us today:
God became human in Jesus so Jesus might die on the cross in place of all of humanity who ought to die because of their sins. Thus God’s anger and offended honour are appeased. Only a perfect sacrifice, the death of the sinless son of God, could satisfy the righteous God. (My words)
So, what’s wrong with that? The four objections are: it’s bad history, it’s bad anthropology, it’s bad theology, and it’s bad psychology.
1/ Bad history
Jesus’s death did not happen because it was a ‘divine necessity’ at all. The crucifixion was the inevitable consequence of Jesus’s challenge to the temple system as well as to the inequities of Roman and Herodian rule.
2/ Bad anthropology
Anselm took the Garden of Eden myth literally, complete with disobedient Adam and Eve and the ‘fall’. The ‘fall’ is the passing on of sinfulness from Adam and Eve to every successive human being.
But there was no Adam or Eve. Humans have evolved over tens of thousands of years to their present state.
3/ Bad theology
Substitutionary atonement makes God a child abuser on a cosmic scale. The theory requires the brutal death of God’s only son to satiate divine anger. It posits a limited God incapable of devising any other means of divine/human reconciliation. It also misrepresents the Jewish sacrificial system which always killed animals humanely.
4/ Bad psychology
Substitutionary atonement is the basis of generations of Christian self-loathing, reinforced by a liturgical emphasis on the atoning death of Jesus and human unworthiness. It encourages spiritualities based on the agonies and blood of Jesus requiring Christians’ self-abnegation and mortification. God is portrayed as a punitive figure who will punish those who do not accept Jesus’s atoning death, rather than the loving God of Jesus who draws out the best from us.
Hunt, Rex, A.E. & Smith, John, W.H., eds “Why weren’t we told? A handbook on ‘progressive’ Christianity” Polebridge Press (2013)
Borg, M. & Crossan, J.D. “The last week” (2006)