How Does “Dying For Our Sins” Work?

In response to my Tuesday post on the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jane suggested a blog post from Brian Zahnd that was extremely helpful to her. I read Brian’s post and would like to recommend it to you.

Crucifixion by Grünewald Matthias

Brian’s post begins:

When we say “Jesus died for our sins,” what does that mean? It’s undeniably an essential confession of Christian faith, but how does it work? This much I’m sure of, it’s not reducible to just one thing…To try to reduce the death of Jesus to a single meaning is an impoverished approach to the mystery of the cross. I’m especially talking about those tidy explanations of the cross known as “atonement theories.” I find most of them inadequate; others I find repellent. Particularly abhorrent are those theories that portray the Father of Jesus as a pagan deity who can only be placated by the barbarism of child sacrifice. The god who is mollified by throwing a virgin into a volcano or by nailing his son to a tree is not the Abba of Jesus!

Neither is the death of Jesus a kind of quid pro quo by which God gains the necessary capital to forgive sinners…

Read the rest of Brian’s post at

The artwork is The Crucifixion (1515) by Grünewald Matthias via Brian Zahnd’s blog.
I invite your comments and observations below.
If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please sign up in the column to the right so you don’t miss future posts.
Have a great day! ~Tim
This entry was posted in atonement, favorite blogs, Jesus and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to How Does “Dying For Our Sins” Work?

  1. michaeleeast says:

    I like the idea that the cross is a symbol of God’s forgiveness.
    It is also a hideous image of human sin.


  2. jessedooley says:

    Thank you for sharing. That was a really GREAT post!


  3. Pingback: How Does "Dying For Our Sins" Work? | Brian Zahnd - Contemplative Theology : Contemplative Theology

  4. Marc says:

    At the Feat of the Resurrection we Orthodox Christians sing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” It is the terminal spiritual illness of sin that had to be healed so that the first and spiritual resurrection could take place in preparation for the general resurrect yet to come. How a sinless man, who is also God, was able to reverse the ontological reality of sin causing death, remains a mystery of love.


  5. Wow Marc, I love this! “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”!

    I have great respect for the Eastern Orthodox Church. I have not had deep experience with the Church, but the reading I have done, and my one visit to a Greek Orthodox church, impressed me very much.


  6. madagoo says:

    the death of Jesus is a necessary procession of God’s plan to not only to break into history but to redeem it. Walter Bruggerman, an exquisite thinker, first proposed the Gd breaking into history concept, and later, my tutor Neil MacDonald (Roehampton University) has propsed that the Genesis account both represents a creation of time-space contnuum as well as a representation of the first event of God breaking into history and creation in order to first identify with it and thereby provide a basis for redemtion. But, in all of this there is a model for us as mere humans to learn from. Why do we pray? Jesus shows us that his heavenly advocacy for us following his resurrection was based on his incarnation. Thus, at the very heart of intercession we find total identification with those for whom we intercess. So, that would be my first point. But, I would also say, that Christ’s sacrifice was something that exausted evil’s bank account. Jesus’s dual nature meant that he could be the perfect mediator…. he could put a hand on both parties in the mediation. But, this dual nature meant that he had a resource that humanity could never supply. After death and evil had exacted all that they could….there was more! Jesus had an infinite resource that exceeded evil’s paultry bank account. that was why death could not maintain its hold on him! Halleluyah! Satan was a bad poker player…he didn’t know when to fold! lol And Death was committed to all or broke. Thankfully, love conquers all, and the Father’s love for his beloved Son, expressed via the Spirit, was able to maintain that bond.


    • Thanks for sharing your perspective Madagdoo. So it seems you believe the death and resurrection reflect a victory over Satan, evil, and death. Do you think there is a literal Satan? If so, how does he fit into this scenario?


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