How Penal Substitutionary Atonement Fails

As we discussed last time, the New Testament writers agree that the death of Jesus on the cross has a tremendous effect on us, but they never quite explain what they think this effect is or how it works. The Church Fathers were not content with this ambiguity and developed theories of what they imagined happened on the cross. When we talk of the Church Fathers, we simply mean those Christians who wrote about Christianity; it does not imply that they were considered authoritative.

The earliest wide-spread view of atonement (what happened on the cross) is the Ransom Theory. The thought is that in the fall of Adam we became subject to the devil instead of God. Jesus ransomed us; thus Jesus was victor over the devil. There were other theories, but this one was widely held for about a thousand years until it was challenged by Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory in A.D. 1098—about 900 years ago.

Philipe Champaigne La Crucifixion

Philippe de Champaigne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Anselm and the Satisfaction Theory of Atonement

By Anselm’s day Europe had become a feudal society. Common people (serfs) served a knight who protected a certain area and its population. Socially, there was great distance between knights and serfs so that, while an offense of a serf against another serf might seem fairly insignificant, an offense against the honor of a knight was considered very serious requiring the satisfaction of heavy punishment. Knights could not simply forgive an offense because it would indicate that it didn’t matter much.

The knights, in turn, served the King. Offense against a King was even more serious and warranted an even more severe response.

Rejecting the Ransom Theory, Anselm devised a new theory to explain the need for Jesus’ death. Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory was very much influenced by the feudal society in which he lived. In Anselm’s mind, sin was an offense against the honor of God, and just as a King could not ignore affront to his honor neither could God ignore our affronts to his honor. They had to be punished. However, Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied that honor, so that his death paid for our sins. Jesus suffered punishment as a substitute for us.

This was the first theory that atonement was payment for our sin.

The Protestant Reformers and Penal Substitutionary Atonement

A few hundred years after Anselm, the world of Europe was changing and people were challenging the ideas and restrictions of the old society. One expression of this challenge was the Protestant Reformation led by Luther, Calvin, and others. And one result was the development of a new theory of atonement called Penal Substitution.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement was built on Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory but with a significant difference—these reformers did not see the atonement as Jesus satisfying the honor of God in our place; instead Jesus satisfied the holiness and justice of God.

The idea was that God is holy and cannot abide the unholiness of sin, and he is also just and cannot ignore sin—he must punish it. So God poured out his necessary wrath for our sin on Jesus. Therefore, Jesus paid the debt for our sins in satisfaction of God’s holiness and justice.

Like the Satisfaction Theory, Penal Substitution theory is based on vengeance and retribution rather than love. I believe this falsely portrays the Father as an angry, harsh, vengeful God. Jesus describes him otherwise–as a loving Father seeking our good.

We often feel alienated from God, but the alienation we feel is only from our side; God is NOT alienated from us. The crucifixion of Jesus was unjust. Reflecting on this injustice changes us–not God. God did not ‘require’ a substitute to change his attitude toward us. His forgiveness was already available. Jesus came in order to share the Father’s love for us and to bring reconciliation (atonement).

Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory Today

Millions of believers today continue to embrace the misguided Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory. I call it The Story of Sin and Salvation: Common Baggage Version (CBV). You likely have encountered it yourself. It is often communicated something like this:

God created Adam and Eve in perfection, but then Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. God put curses on both of them, and everyone born since then carries Adam’s ‘original sin’ and is separated from angry God.

God is so holy he cannot even look at us because of our sin. And because we are guilty of sin against an infinite God, we must receive an infinite punishment. Therefore we are all on our way to eternal suffering in the fires of hell, and there is nothing we can do to avoid it.

However, God himself made a remarkable provision. He sent his own son to take our sin upon himself. At the crucifixion, God poured all his wrath from our sin upon Jesus, who was infinitely righteous; Jesus suffered the penalty of sin for all of us. Therefore, if we accept the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, God is able to look at us through the blood of Jesus and forgive our sin.

If we accept Jesus as our savior in the proper way, and separate ourselves from sin in our lives, we can avoid eternal suffering in hell and, instead, go to heaven when we die.

This is an atrocious understanding of God, sin, and forgiveness. It presents God as angry and vindictive instead of a loving Father, and this creates in us fear and alienation. But God wants to heal our fear and alienation. Penal Substitution also presents a mistaken perspective on sin as an affront against God and his many religious rules rather than our harming ourselves and other people.

In addition, there is no forgiveness involved at all. If we owe a debt, the person owed can choose to forgive our debt. But if our debt is paid, then it can’t be forgiven—it is already paid. This theory also brings up the question of God’s abuse against his own son—an abuse anyone would consider nothing less than horrific for any father among us.

There is nothing helpful about Penal Substitution theory; it is all harmful and draws us away from the message of Jesus. Yet those who embrace this theory will offer proof-texts and sometimes harmonize them as proof of this awful theory. But they are only reading their own theory of Penal Substitution back into the biblical passages.

I don’t think any of the three theories we discussed today are anywhere near on target—and by focusing only on Jesus death on the cross they completely leave out what I believe is the most important element of all—his resurrection. Next time, we will talk about resurrection, as well as a better understanding of what Jesus’ death means for us that many believers embrace today.

Articles in this series: Sin and Forgiveness

The Story of Sin and Salvation—Common Baggage Version (CBV)
What is Sin but Pain and Alienation?
Addressing Sin in the Old Testament
The Prophets Begin to Talk about Sin in a New Way
What Does Jesus Say about Sin? Not Much!
The Misguided Concept of ‘Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin’
What does Jesus’ Death on the Cross Do for Us?
How Substitutionary Atonement Fails
Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?
Does Jesus Tell Us to Judge People in Matthew 18?
Are Sins Primarily Sins against God?
“If There’s No Hell then I Will Sin All I Want!”
Problems with the Sinner’s Prayer
What does the Story of Eden Tell Us? Is it about Sin?
We Do Not Inherit Original Sin from Adam
Original Sin or Original Self-Centeredness?
Who Does God Refuse to Forgive?

See also:

What Does Jesus Think of Sinners Today?


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94 Responses to How Penal Substitutionary Atonement Fails

  1. Pingback: What Does Jesus’ Death on the Cross Do for Us? | Jesus Without Baggage

  2. Pingback: The Misguided Concept of ‘Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin’ | Jesus Without Baggage

  3. Pingback: What Does Jesus Say about Sin? Not Much! | Jesus Without Baggage

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  5. Pingback: Addressing Sin in the Old Testament | Jesus Without Baggage

  6. Pingback: What is Sin but Pain and Alienation? | Jesus Without Baggage

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  8. Hi Tim, I like what you’re saying and you argue the case very well.

    I too find the Penal Substitution theory of atonement deeply troublesome, even repugnant. But I don’t feel quite as able yet to discard and reject it completely as you do. However, for me it’s just one of many models or metaphors for understanding something that is really a mystery beyond our understanding. There are many different ways of thinking about the cross, but they’re all imperfect and incomplete – all partial views which reveal something of the reality while also obscuring it.

    So the Penal Substitution model does seem to have *some* basis in the words of Isaiah 53: “he was pierced for our transgressions… upon him was laid the punishment that brought us peace… the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. And of course (as you say) there’s the imagery of the priestly sacrifices for sin, which the writer of Hebrews in particular links to Jesus’s sacrifice of himself on our behalf.

    But the key for me is that these are all poetic images and metaphors, not scientific or legal statements to be taken literally. And there are many other ways of understanding the cross that I find far more helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Harvey, I agree that there are a number of ways of thinking about how Jesus’ death works on our behalf; even the NT writers thought different things. I will share a bit next time on what I think is a better way to think about it–but, as you say, there is no absolutely right way that would serve as a doctrinal ‘truth’. It is a mystery and will remain so.

      However, as you noted, I think substitutionary atonement is absolutely misguided and has a number of very harmful consequences. Regarding Isaiah 53, I think it refers to the situation of Israel in Isaiah’s time and is not a prediction of Jesus at all. However, it does resemble Jesus’ experience to some extent and was appropriated to Jesus by NT writers. But it was not written about Jesus, and I don’t think it can serve as a basis for explaining the impact of his death.

      I certainly agree that all the NT references involve imagery and metaphor and were not meant to be doctrinal statements.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tim, I completely understand why you view substitionary atonement as so harmful, and I do agree to quite a large extent. Perhaps my problem is that there’s still a persistent part of me that worries it might be true! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          I understand. I have been on my journey out of conservative evangelicalism for a long time but along the way, as I discarded certain beliefs, I often had that uncomfortable feeling: ‘What if they are right?’

          Though I have no desire to persuade anyone to believe as I do, I do feel quite firmly that God is not an angry, vindictive, or petty God. He loves us and he always has.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Yes. I think that if we refer to the Life and Words and Actions of Jesus/Yeshua Himself, there can be no doubt as to the Nature of GOD, and ‘His’ creation of ALL in the Spirit of Love. If God, the Great Spirit behind and within all of creation (recognized and acknowledged or not!), were anything less than “unchangeably compassionate” (Pythagoras), and of unconditional Love (albeit we discipline ourselves via the cause-and-effect law), then He would not Be God!!?

            Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Well said, Noel.


          • Son of man says:

            The gift that Christ brings is The Holy Spirit Of His Heavenly Father (John 7:39). The Holy Spirit renews and sustains and augments with Eternal Life. It can be interpreted to get rid of sins, but the real focus is on the Christ relationship and with all the faithful & true to God-The-All-to-be-In-One-Perfect-Holy-Spirit attempting to unify with the prioritization of Love & Truth such as


  9. Chas says:

    TEL touches on an important factor in regard to understanding. The problem is that the Bible was written by men alone, without God taking any part. Had it been written under God’s instruction, or even under His inspiration, it would have been clear and concise and easy to understand.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Agreed. However, I don’t think Jesus was interested in satisfying our intense curiosity about background theological issues; that was not his purpose. But I think his purpose in letting us know that the Father loves us and that we should love each other is quite clear. Theology is secondary to the good news.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Chas says:

        Tim, the problem is that because of these difficulties in understanding, the Bible actually shifts our focus away from God. For my part, I wish to discard it all, but I am aware that we all have to start somewhere and that hidden among it is a fundamental truth that has brought us to our belief in Jesus. The Bible is nearly all baggage that has been added by man, hung on the simple truth. Our problem is to go back and discern that simple truth.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Yes, Chas, I would like to discard some parts of the Bible that are not useful myself. But if we can approach the Bible with the idea that it was written by humans who felt a strong relationship with God, then we can learn about how they thought and gain insights for ourselves. The problem, it seems to me, is in taking everything in the Bible as God’s word to us. You are right in that there is also some essential information in the Bible–especially as it relates to Jesus.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Cynthia says:

      What? Of course the Bible was inspired by God! Scripture is sacred and men were inspired by the Holy Spirit. There were councils of scholars that were able to discern what books were inspired and what was just good history. There is also tradition that was passed down and Paul says to hold fast to those traditions. There was no written word, no Scripture/Bible for the first 400 years. Also Scripture that was being written would have cost too much money to own. There was the Church of the Bishops which was the fastest growing church and found to be the church which came from Jesus and the apostles. It was known as the universal church and universal means catholic. People had no Bible so they depended on that church to protect the teachings of Christ and the apostles. It was that same church that gave us the inspired Scripture we read today. Yes there are interpretations but the overall message of salvation is the same. I too do not see penal Substitution in the Bible or history. My journey has led me to go back and read the early church Fathers. We Christians in the US are so limited because our country and beliefs were formed by the Puritians. What was Christianity before the Reformation? The early church Fathers make it clear. The Evangelical church is only about 300 years old and most mainline denominations only a couple hundred years before that. We go from Jesus and the apostles right to the Reformation. That’s over 1,400 years of history left out. The early church for all those years has always believed in Scripture as the inspired word of God. That’s why it has been protected as a sacred Scripture.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Cynthia, I enjoy reading the early church fathers as well! And I see that you have a good grasp of church history. I appreciate that you do not subscribe to penal substitution but I suppose we disagree on the level of inspiration of ‘scripture’.


  10. Thank you for the historical context and progression.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. There seems far to much emphasis in Christianity of blood sacrifice and sin when the emphasis should instead be placed on Christ’s Gift Of His Father’s Boundless & Incorruptible Holy Spirit.

    Q. Who or what is the Holy Spirit?

    From these two verses it can be deduced that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father:

    Berean Literal Bible
    Matthew 10:20 For you are not those speaking, but *the Spirit of your Father* speaking through you.

    Berean Literal Bible
    Mark 13:11 But when they might lead you away, delivering you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you should say; but whatever might be given to you in that hour, speak that. For you are not those speaking, but *the Holy Spirit*.

    Furthermore the Father is considered as the Source of the Holy Spirit, and the Son glorified in the Father is the giver of the Holy Spirit *of* the Father:

    King James Bible
    John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom *I will send* unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, *which proceedeth from the Father*, he shall testify of me:

    The analogy of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would be to think of the Father as the Ocean and the Holy Spirit as the Water in the Ocean. The Son can be thought of as the conduit immersed in the Ocean which grants others access to the Water having the same properties of the Ocean. The only problem with this analogy is that when we think of drinking the Water we think of taking it out from the Ocean and consuming it separately from the Ocean, whereas the gift of the Holy Spirit remains both in the boundless & incorruptible Father while also simultaneously within the faithful of Christ becoming all part of the Same One Spirit. The Father being the boundless & incorruptible Source is also always able to satisfy the innumerable faithful of Christ as much as they want to experience of the Holy Spirit’s infinite range of forever more peace, love, beauty, joy and blissful freedom throughout eternity with Christ.

    New International Version
    Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

    New International Version
    John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

    International Standard Version
    John 7:38 The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have rivers of living water flowing from his heart.
    39 (But this he spoke of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

    A. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father the boundless & incorruptible Source in whom Jesus is forevermore glorified being the Christ the Fulfillment of the Gift of the Holy Spirit joining all the faithful of Christ together in The One Eternally Blessed God; The Eternal Progression of Oneness-In-Love (see diagram linked below).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      Bernard, I am very much with you on the need to focus on God rather than on the details of, and reasons for, Jesus’ death. What man has chosen to call the Holy Spirit is just God communicating with us. Using an elaborate explanation is not necessary.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Jennifer Bristol says:

    I’m new to Christianity and learning there’s a lot of opinions out there. As I understand it… Adam was told by God that eating the fruit would cause death (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam and Eve disobeyed and became cursed to suffer pain and death of the physical and spiritual body.

    Jesus was here to teach us about God and was the sacrificial lamb to partially atone for that original sin by dying on the cross, so our spirit/souls have eternal life. We still pay for the sin with our suffering and physical death.

    As long as it makes sense to you, what does it matter which theory you believe in?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thank you, Jennifer. I think you are right in a sense, but in my opinion this theory of atonement casts God as alienated from us and easily offended. This is not at all the way Jesus talks about him in the gospels as a Father who loves us unconditionally and always has..

      Believing this theory often causes people to be afraid of God and constantly concerned that they will offend him and be punished, so rather than living joyfully in the good news of Jesus they are always on trial. This is harmful baggage.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Cynthia says:

      Read the early church Fathers like Polycarp, Clement of Roam, ignatius of Antioch, Justin Marter, etc. There is a good book called, The Fathers Know Best. I am asking a lot of questions because all I see with all the thousands of denominations is disunity and confusion. God is not the author of confusion and a Jesus prayed in his high, priestly prayer, “that they all be one.” He prays for unity, which the Protestant church (churches of the Reformation) quite obviously does not have.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Cynthia, I love the early church fathers, too. But I don’t think they always ‘knew best’; in fact they often disagreed with each other.


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  14. mark says:

    The early traditions of the “fathers” seemed to fall into to camps of thoughts. One was that Jesus was a prophet sent to turn the people back to the true worship of the TRUE GOD of creation.
    The other has it that Jesus as the Christ was to be a ransom paid to the Demiurge to correct the first Adams failure.. But neither camp spoke of or wrote about a resurrection of the body. The first group held that Jesus death was a tragedy but was not the intended purpose…..the second group held that the crucifixion did occur but that CHRIST was Spirit and not flesh.
    The thoughts and doctrines of a crucifixion and resurrection and the why of it all didn’t come about before the mid to late 2nd century..and was unified at the council of TRENT later on. We are talking nearly 3 centuries here!

    Most of the NT was written well after Jesus day,..except for Paul’s writings which seem to date around 45 to 60 ad…The Gospels appear to date as late as 90 to 127 ad. Could this mean they like us didn’t understand the “CROSS” either? OR,..was it something else?
    Why the period of silence?
    By the time the writings were inked. all the eye-witnesses to the events were dead and gone.
    Only Paul seemed to be current and his tales came no earlier than 10 to 15 years after the fact…..also as a contemporary and being in and around Jerusalem supposedly during Jesus ministry Paul doesn’t seem to know anything about the Man or his teachings……only a vision many years later……I find that very odd indeed.

    Oh boy what a can of worms we have….for 2 hundred years nobody spoke or taught of a blood sacrifice by Christ for our sins. Then we have politics getting in the picture by the Emperor Constantine and Christianity is not LEGAL and it’s all the latest rage!….it’s suddenly a respectful and Hellenistic style philosophical religion the masses can get behind and the Government can control..
    Jesus didn’t teach sacrifice….he taught obedience and Love as the way to please GOD….why did the Newly invented “State Church” change the message and the story of why Jesus came and what he taught?
    We sing the song “Jesus saves” but we don’t do what He says…we listen to Paul instead. Did Jesus found Christianity or did Paul?
    If it’s of Paul then the cross answer can be either a substitution or it can be a ransom…
    But what if Jesus was right and many would come in “his name” making claims…..he said don’t go there and don’t listen to them….they would scatter the flock…..hmmmmm.

    I have many questions these days since my exit from fundamentalism…and I’m sure I could be labeled a Heretic for even mentioning them… But I keep thinking about what Jesus said “by your traditions of men, you make the Word of GOD to none effect” mk 7:13
    So don’t hate me guys….just trying to be a Berean

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      Certainly not trying to hate you here, Mark, I agree with much of what you have said. As I have looked at this more closely, it seems to me that Paul might have been the author of the Q-Gospel and that he could have sent out Luke and Mark, and probably Matthew, on missions, each taking a copy of the Q-Gospel with them as their guide to Paul’s views on Christianity. Each then made their own additions to their Q-Gospel to provide stories that supported the views they were trying to put over. Many problems have arisen because of the independence of these additions (e.g. the two different genealogies of Jesus).


      • Cynthia says:

        Read the early church Fathers. The book by Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best is a good start. Early church history is a must if you truly want to understand what was taught and believed before the Reformation which ushered in the thousands of denominations we have today.


  15. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Hey Guys, my post was shared to another Facebook page that had a good exchange between two readers who disagreed. One of the responses (from Mark) was so good I wanted to post it here.

    He replied to he opposing discussion partner, “There are several things at stake for me, including…

    “1) I think it is important to get away from a notion that the need for death and blood and judgment/destruction/vengeance is so fundamentally ingrained in the universe that even God must obey and satisfy it. It puts something above or beyond God.

    “2) Even if we understand this need for death, punishment, and judgment as something God requires (but understand that God could have done something different) it paints a picture of God that is predominated by death, wrath, vengeance, and hard application of draconian law, rather than a picture of God who is loving (or, for that matter, love itself), gracious, merciful, who relents from punishing, and so forth. At the very least it paints a picture of a God most fundamentally concerned about rules or absolute order. The picture of God in a framework that requires substitution is not one that at least distorts, if not falsifies, the biblical picture of God.

    “3) Following from number 2, this also ends up elevating law over gospel, making the gospel subservient to the law’s demands by making the gospel a special case fulfillment thereof.

    “4) It tends to make the death and suffering of Christ dominant in such away that the incarnation, the life of Christ, and the resurrection are relegated supporting roles to the death itself.

    “5) A substitutionary scheme concentrates on satisfying a condition or removing a block, rather than opening up a life that is deeper, wider, broader, and greater than without him.

    “6) Substitution minimized the literally compassionate aspect of Jesus incarnation, life, an death. That is, it moves Jesus to suffering instead of us, rather than a Jesus who gets down in the mud of the human condition and suffers with us (literally compassion, suffering with), and so brings us through it with him. That is, the fundamental nature of Jesus work is not in the word “instead” but in the word “with” so that we can come out on the other side, accompanied along the way, with him in his resurrection.”

    I want to thank Mark for this excellent comment! ~Tim

    Liked by 2 people

    • fiddlrts says:

      That’s an outstanding response. I particularly love the first one – the foundation idea. In a world where we are *less* obsessed with vengeance, honor, and blood payment, the whole idea that the universe is set up to resemble a violent society of the past just doesn’t make sense.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Chas says:

      Tim, Point 2) is an interesting idea, as it also implies that the world in which we live, with its suffering, death and destruction, was also unavoidable to God. This is consistent with the concept that God made everything in the universe from something separated out of Himself, so that destruction could occur separate from Him. Thus He must have created the universe so that the forces of destruction in it are of themselves bringing about what He wants to create, without Him needing to destroy anything. Because He is loving, kind and gentle, He influences people not to do things that they know might lead to suffering, so that suffering is minimized.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. fiddlrts says:

    Intriguing ideas. I hadn’t made the connection between Medieval honor culture and the atonement idea. (For one thing, raised Evangelical, I had never even heard that there were alternatives to PSA, or that it was not the original understanding.)

    It seems this should have been obvious to me earlier in life, that our interpretations of things has *always* tracked our understandings in other areas. Thus, a culture focused on honor and avenging insults would indeed see an event in that light. Even the NT seems to do this, with the writers of the Gospels tying the Cross to the OT sacrifices – because that’s how a Jewish readership would understand it. We get into the weeds so easily when we insist on taking metaphors and attempts to picture concepts as literally as possible and assuming they just transplant into our own culture and frame of reference. (My least favorite example is taking the metaphor of Christ and the Church to mean that marriage is a hierarchy.)

    I look forward to the rest of this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Fiddlrts, as a fundamentalist I was not aware there were other ideas about atonement either. When I came to realize this and was able to evaluate substitutionary atonement against what Jesus tells us about the Father, it was a great relief to be able to walk away from this misguided belief.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. This is helpful, and thank you for writing it. I’m currently reading NT (Tom) Wright’s “Simply Good News” and it discusses a lot of what you’ve covered here. I’ve found it really helpful. Despite years of studying this theology at an amateur level under some highly regarded teachers, it never seemed complete to stop with “Jesus died for my sins.” The question, “What do I do about that?” seemed to rely too much on sitting around waiting for a disembodied heaven, while selling the magic password to heaven to as many people as possible along the way. After reading NT Wright and similar authors I’m learning there are fuller, more complete and more practical answers that affect how I live in the present (and it’s not about selling people an afterlife insurance plan). It in no way detracts from Jesus’s death and resurrection to take it deeper than a vague notion of His taking the violent blows from a wrathful God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi Fikalo, it’s good to hear from you; I haven’t heard from you in a while. NT Wright does write some good stuff, though I haven’t read that particular book.

      Your statement, “What do I do about that?” seemed to rely too much on sitting around waiting for a disembodied heaven, while selling the magic password to heaven to as many people as possible along the way” made me chuckle. You expressed very well the way I lived for years before I realized we have a greater purpose in the world than that.

      It sounds as though you are reading some good authors, and I bet its making a big difference for you–it does for me. So keep on reading, learning, and growing. We all need it!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. robstanback says:

    As one fairly new to the church, I find that one of the things that kept me away so long was that for me the various versions of substitutionary theories did not ring true. Do they not mean that prior to the crucifixion all sinners – and that means everyone – went to Hell? Did God really have to find a loophole in the laws of the universe, and sacrifice a son, in order that He might forgive us? Any god I might believe in was surely bigger than that!

    Whatever theory we choose to replace substitutionary theories, the crucial question remains:
    Why did Jesus CHOOSE to die on the cross?
    It is clear that Jesus knew what was in store for him, but He did not try to escape, and in fact walked intentionally into the path of his own crucifixion. His death must have had a divine purpose!

    What Jesus brought that was new to religion was the centrality of unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness, the two being intertwined. One cannot love whom one cannot forgive, and unconditional forgiveness is a true act of love. Jesus set out to teach us that God’s forgiveness is there for the asking, and thus we, too, are to be forgiving. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” was central to his message that we are loved by God and are to love others.

    In Jesus’ time the prevalent mindset was that, as sinners, we must pay for our sins, as illustrated by the requirement of making sacrifices upon the altar of the temple. God was thus a vengeful god. Jesus set out to upset this thinking, just as He upset the tables of the money changers. He had to change that mindset in order for His message of love to spread throughout the world. Jesus’ death became the foundation of a religion based on love and forgiveness, that would revolutionize the world. Regardless of which substitutionary theory one might believe, His crucifixion has convinced millions of people over the years that God forgave them, and that they were therefore to forgive others.

    Two thousand years later, we still haven’t got it right; we still find it hard to accept that we are forgiven our sins (do we all not carry around some degree of shame?) and we still find it hard to forgive and to love those who have harmed us. How different our world would be if we all could better learn to forgive!

    Jesus did not die to so that we would be forgiven. We already were! Jesus died so that we might accept the reality of God’s unconditional forgiveness. This, that we might be freed – no, bound – to go about the business of creating His Kingdom on Earth through love and forgiveness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wow Rob! For a person fairly new to the church, you certainly show a lot of good insight. Everything you said resonates with me, and I have been in the church more than 50 years and did not arrive at my current views quickly.

      I strongly agree that Jesus’ vision for his followers is not generally recognizable in the church today or for most of its history. Would that we would all grasp the depth and importance of loving God, ourselves, and others.


  19. cmgatlin53 says:

    I don’t think it is reasonable to accept most of what we all accept about Jesus (found in the NT) and reject the concept that Jesus’ death on the cross was undertaken to make it possible for us to enter eternity with God (also found in the NT).
    One place where the various theological explanations go wrong is in analyzing this as some sort of balancing of the books, rather than a necessary process to transform imperfect human beings into beings that can enter that state of eternity.
    Resurrection seems to be step of that process that lets mortal beings become immortal beings (whatever that means, as I don’t insist that the descriptions of the future state are literal, although I do believe they are true). Death is a necessary prelude to resurrection.
    Jesus’ “one oblation once offered” is somehow the mechanism that allows our deaths to lead to resurrection. We are not told exactly how this works, although some metaphorical comparisons are made by the evangelists and Paul. We are told “THIS is happening, with THIS result,” which is all we need to know. (We can trust Jesus, and much of the Gospels were written to show us that.) Theologians and preachers just won’t let go of trying to explain logically how it works; but all these explanations—being based from our own viewpoint in a finite world—go wrong because they’re trying to explain something that happens in eternity, where God is, where Jesus came from, returned to, and will take us when we leave here.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      CMG, I think you are right about “We are told “THIS is happening, with THIS result,” which is all we need to know…Theologians and preachers just won’t let go of trying to explain logically how it works.” I don’t think it is bad to speculate on it, but to settle on penal substitution and declare that this is the way God is really distorts what Jesus says about God and makes reconciliation a whole different, and terrible, concern.

      I agree with you that this is not some balancing of the books and that death is necessary for resurrection. Why muddy up Jesus death with either Medieval or legal mindsets?

      Liked by 1 person

    • robstanback says:

      CMG, If Jesus’ death on the cross was undertaken to make it possible (i.e., was necessary) for us to enter eternity with God, what happened to all the souls who died before Jesus? And, what happens since then to those who die but do not believe?

      I find I cannot accept the answers I have found in the past to these questions, but perhaps you or someone else can explain it differently or more effectively. Until then, I will remain agnostic as to eternity, and continue to believe in creating God’s Kingdom here on Earth.


      • cmgatlin53 says:

        Replying to your last statement first, I don’t find believing in eternity with God mutually exclusive with working to build up His kingdom here and now. Where eternity comes in for me personally is when my earthly life ends–hopefully not for another decade or so.
        As to what happened (happens?) to the people who died before Jesus died on the cross and rose again, we are not told in the Bible. But we are told that God is just and merciful. If it offends even our flawed sense of justice and our insufficient compassion to contemplate what happens to those souls, we can trust that God, who is infinitely more just and merciful, has got them safely provided for. We don’t need to worry about them. We need to make sure we’re trying to follow Jesus ourselves.
        However, there are some hints in the Bible that perhaps the souls in the place of waiting after death got an opportunity to hear the Good News from Jesus (I think the passage is in one of Peter’s epistles). Likewise, my speculation would be that those after the crucifixion who died without hearing the Gospel might also be in that same place of waiting when Jesus got there between Good Friday and Easter morning. But we haven’t been told what provisions are made. We’re told to share the good news, not worry about mysteries of God’s compassion.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you! Yes, reading widely has always been my method of dealing with anything life throws at me…

    My use of WordPress always seems to die down a bit during the Australian summer – now it’s autumn here I’m back online more often!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. mark says:

    I look at Christianity with a very critical eye today. After having spent 56 years in the “church”, standing in the Que of the very far left fundies all the way over to the far right..universal salvation group, I’ve become very skeptical of mens traditions and the way the “sell” GOD .
    We have a Bible….or 50 so translations of a story written by the Pen of scribes….not the finger of GOD. It’s mans opinion!.

    So what if……
    What if the Religious leaders of the temple had their bank-roll and iron grip challenged by a young upstart radical who attempted to teach the people the TRUTH about the Creator GOD. The GOD who loves HIS creation and called it all good….not evil and sinful.
    What if the Sacrifice on the cross was not the intended outcome?
    What if this young teacher was calling out the Mollec/Baal/Ishtar/Tammuz animal and child blood sacrifice for what it was….Evil!
    According to the text dating s…none of the gospels are eye-witnesses to the actual events…so why do we take the words of scribes that wrote these events many many years after the fact as the FACT?
    Matt Mark Luke and John were not written by the apostles….why do we take these stories as gospel,…pun intended..

    I’m stepping out on a limb here but I feel the Jesus was set up and killed to silence his opposition to their sickening and revolting practices.
    The scriptural and pseudo-textual evidence doesn’t support the narrative.
    So what if….what if Jesus Christ died not to take away our supposed Passed down “Garden Sins” to reconcile us with the FATHER…….but instead was murdered plain and simple to shut him up….

    The more things change the more they stay the same….

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Mark, I agree with you that the books of the Bible, including the gospels, were written by people–not God. In the case of the gospels, though, I think they have a good foundation. They aren’t just made-up stories but were written from the memories of Jesus’ earliest followers passed down in oral tradition among the churches until the gospel writers wrote them down.

      The words of Jesus might not be word-for-word, but they represent the memory of the hearer and the impact they had on them. Overall, the gospels present a fairly consistent picture of Jesus that I think we can trust and follow.

      I also agree with you that the reason Jesus was killed was because he caught the attention of the powers that be by challenging their religion and politics with the new underground kingdom of God movement. But I think there were also other things going on in his death and resurrection that I will talk about in my next post.


      • mark says:

        Tim…I will ruffle feathers here. Sorry my friend but I do not for one second believe that what we have as a biblical text today was indeed the memories of those folk who knew the LORD and passed the stories on. Scientifically it has been proven with testimonies in a court of law that after 2-3 months a witness’s testimony is clouded , jaded and a figment of what they Chose to remember…not the truth. We we look at the gospel dating s..the earliest are those of Paul….and they are 18 to 25 year after the fact…and the fact He never met Jesus in person or seemed to even know about him while he persecuted the early movement…do you not find that strange? Well I do! I also find it odd that those who transcribed the tets and interpreted them for us are also the same TRIBE who voted in one voice to crucify him and have his blood on their hands for generations…The same Talmudist today who claim CHRIST is in hell boiling in a vat of urine..! If we want to look at CHRIST without baggage then lets take of the theological and racially chosen blinders off and call the ace an ace.
        Let’s not parse words here my friend…what we have today as a BIBLE is a doctored political satanic “Their” version of events that simply can not be researchers or Biblical scholars There are nearly 5000 manuscripts from antiquity that share many things…old and New Testament..but what we have at our disposal are a minority of scripts from the Masoretic interpretations that do not agree with nearly 96% of the oldest know scrolls. To think there is not a political and satanic agenda here is to be naive to say the least. Our red letter version make the claim that these are Jesus’s words and are proof of what Our LORD taught….BUNK!! You ever play the telephone game as a kid??
        Ok…lets play switch hitter here!…..If we believe the BI-bull is true,..then CHRIST never taught the gospel we teach in Christianity today. HE never taught that he was sent as a blood sacrifice to redeem mankind back to GOD.. He taught the Law of the Temple was idolatry and the way back to GOD was obedience and NOT SACRIFICE.. He never said do the LAW and believe on me ’cause in a month or two I will shed my blood and make it all right with the FATHER and then the LAW would go away.. HE said to have eternal life we had to OBEY…not the Pharisees…..but the simple commands of GOD……HE even told the disciple to KEEP HIS COMMANDS….not cry and slobber over spilled blood at and alter..
        These opinions are not mine…they are the culmination of 1900 years of GODLY men who withstood the Constantine Catholic and satanic subversion of the true faith…

        Indeed lets have JESUS without the Baggage.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Mark, you did not ruffle my feathers; I think you said some good things here, especially in the ‘Let’s play switch hitter’ portion. However, I did not follow you completely in the early parts. The New Testament is not based on the Masoretic text, which is an Old Testament Hebrew text. In fact OT quotes in the NT are primarily from the Greek Septuagint.

          I also agree with you that the ‘red letter’ portions of the Gospels are not word-for-word what Jesus said, but I think differently about the general integrity of what is written in the Gospels about Jesus. Jesus’ early followers who watched him and heard them speak were impacted by the things they heard and saw, and the things that impacted them most were shared in their churches.

          The stories from these original witness were passed down orally and publicly to the following one or two generations until they were written down. This is not the same as playing ‘telephone’.

          Now I am no fan of the Constantinian church, but there is no evidence that the manuscripts were tampered with. There are differences between the broader witness of the earliest NT manuscripts and the limited Majority Text, but they are minimal and make hardly a difference at all.

          I agree with you that the Bible is not a collection of works dictated by God; they were written by people who had strong feelings about God but wrote from the limitations of their era, culture, and understanding. But that does not destroy the integrity of Jesus’ life and message. And there is no political corruption of the texts.

          What do you propose in place of the Bible we have today? I am not sure, but some of your protests seemed anti-Jewish. Essentially all the early followers of Jesus and leaders the early church WERE Jewish. Do I misunderstand your point here?

          By the way, I have never heard of a ‘Talmudist’ who claimed “CHRIST is in hell boiling in a vat of urine.” Can you document this for us? Also, can you list some names of those throughout the centuries who opposed the Constantine church, so we can understand who you are talking about?

          Liked by 1 person

          • noelenesanderson says:

            I think that Jesus’ life and teachings (i.e. what He truly said, when, why and to whom) are the only important aspects. They should cover everything for us!
            It can be confusing…..e.g., Tim, your comment that “some of your protests seem anti-Jewish……early followers of Jesus……WERE Jewish..”
            Yes. However, in addition, my understanding is that only the Northern Jews were among the followers of Jesus; the Southern Judean Jews were the practitioners of the cult of blood-sacrifice. It was they who caused Jesus’ denouncement of them in the Temple scene, and who determined that He must be done away with.
            I guess my point is….do most Christians still think that all Jews were one united nation? Or am I wrong? Some Christian people blame all Jews, as such, for Jesus’ death? It was the southern branch of Jews, as I understand from, e.g.,, 10 years of historical research by author Antonio Sebastian.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Noel, you said, “I guess my point is….do most Christians still think that all Jews were one united nation? Or am I wrong? Some Christian people blame all Jews, as such, for Jesus’ death? It was the southern branch of Jews, as I understand…”

            I would say that all the Jews in Palestine during the time of Jesus were one people, but this is because the Roman government divided the Jewish area into sections with different governors. However, I think you are on target that it was primarily the leading Jews of the Jerusalem area who were most involved in Jesus death–though Jesus did encounter Jewish hostility even in the northern area. Also, Jesus had many followers from the Jews of the Jerusalem area.


        • noelenesanderson says:

          I totally agree with your post (of May 11, 2016) Mark. Thank you!


    • Chas says:

      I agree that Jesus was killed to shut him up, but what would cause them to want to shut him up. Perhaps by saying that the Judaic scriptures were written by men, because they contradicted one another.

      Liked by 1 person

    • noelenesanderson says:

      Wow. Mark, I find I agree with everything you say in this post. The first impression I gained as to the possibility of such an explanation was from the books and blogs of author and historian Antonio Sebastian – especially, initially, his historical novel following his 10 years’ intensive research into the times, the life and words of Yeshua (Jesus)…”The Last Letters of Jesus.”
      From that, and his “, my lifelong inability to accept the doctrines within our Christianity, appeared to have found an intelligent, acceptable explanation. Basically, that the southern branch of Jews – the Judeans – had, for several hundred years, fought the northern Israeli Jews – among whom were the followers of Yeshua in His time, in the effort to persuade or force them to accept the cult of blood-sacrifice in order to “unite” the Jewish Nation!!
      When Jesus went into the Temple to challenge them severely, in their following of the god of violence, death and destruction rather than the True (His) God ,of love and compassion for all of His Creation, that was the last straw – and those Judeans determined that He had to be done away with.
      The Romans’ agenda would have exacerbated the situation…and Jesus was murdered.
      The major message, as I see it, is that His message then, if applied ever since, and even today, that the true ‘G-D’ is unchangeably compassionate toward all life, would result in the banishing of the blood-sacrifice – the killing of creatures to satisfy human taste-buds, a practice with so many destructive effects upon humans also, and the environment we are trying to save. Harmlessness toward other lives would solve so many urgent problems.
      As for any “need” for ‘God’ constantly to punish souls, vs my conclusion and feeling that G-d is more compassionate than the most compassionate human (if not, He would not BE ‘GOD’), my further conclusions involve the probability of reincarnation in different bodies over many lifetimes, learning and growing spiritually via the universal (God’s?) Law of cause-and-effect, and by recompense wherever possible, and so on, as an alternative view, providing the way in which we progress – without ‘God’ wanting or needing to ‘punish’ each soul as they progress – but that is another issue!!!


      • noelenesanderson says:

        Please refer back to Mark’s post of March 04, 2016, above. This is his post to which I am referring> Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Noel, I haven’t read Antonio Sebastian but from your description I think his history of the area is skewed. Perhaps I misunderstand what he is saying, but I don’t have a need to pursue it further.


        • noelenesanderson says:

          That’s fair, Tim. I appreciate your point of view and your knowledge. perhaps my explanation was not sufficiently accurate – I can’t be sure of that, can I!!

          Liked by 1 person

  22. Ben Leese says:

    I agree with much of what you are saying. I have thought through some of this and developed a different model based on Paul’s concern about our adoption as sons and daughters. You can read about it at The bottom left essay is the best place to start.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Pingback: Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross? | Jesus Without Baggage

  24. michaeleeast says:

    Substitutionary Atonement Theory, especially the Satisfaction Theory, is revolting and offensive. Jesus’ death on the cross was a great tragedy lamented by God. We should not try and twist it into God’s Will. God is not in control of everything. He is not represented by earthly authorities. God is non-violent and does not force us. We have free will and God respects that. This is why Jesus died. But there is more. God responds with the resurrection.

    Liked by 1 person

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  37. Rob Stanback says:

    Richard Rohr on the topic of substitutionary atonement:

    The Franciscan “minority view” of atonement — so ably explained here by Richard Rohr — is precisely the same as the view I hold, which I have struggled fruitlessly to verbalize ever since my acceptance of Jesus into my life. Previously, though I did not know the term of substitutionary atonement, the idea — that God required Jesus to die on the cross in order that we might be forgiven — was not credible to me, and thus invalidated what I thought was the key tenet of Christianity. Only when I discovered the idea that Jesus’ death was a gift to us, that enabled us to accept God’s grace, and not a sacrifice to God that made it possible for God to forgive us, only then did the God of the Bible become the God of eternal love who was the only God I was able to believe in; only then was I able to fully embrace Christianity.

    I hope his words are as meaningful to others as they are to me.


  38. Beau says:

    Hello Tim,

    A very interesting article. But how about we go even deeper than “what Jesus death on the cross meant” and look at the original reason we think the cross is even important. Because if we listen at all to GOD via the Prophets, the cross actually means nothing.

    Whatever one’s theory about what the cross was supposed to do, the ultimate view is that man as a group, a whole, sinned and that inherited sin somehow needed to be atoned for, washed away, removed, whatever.

    However, in Ezekiel 18, within the first 5 verses of this chapter, GOD in no uncertain terms nukes the entire idea of inherited sin and then further goes on in the rest of the chapter to nuke the whole idea of substitutionary atonement.

    In other words, the whole Christian concept of Jesus even needed to die is moot. Now this is not misguided re-interpretation of Ezekiel 18 here, it’s in simple terms, in bold black and white.

    But Christianity deliberately ignores that GOD says here, for what should be obvious reasons. If Jesus didn’t need to die as a human sacrifice, then what’s the point of Christianity signature punchline?

    I would recommend this book as well: The GOD Jesus Knew and Christianity Forgot.


    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Beau, thanks for sharing with us. I think you are right that Ezekiel 18 presents a problem for penal substitutionary atonement. One might say that Ezekiel is not necessarily speaking for God, but the same people who embrace penal substitution also embrace inerrancy which would make Ezekiel 18 matter very much.

      Further down in the chapter Ezekiel makes very clear what he means:

      “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

      “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them.”

      Thanks for bringing this tour attention.


  39. Teodora says:

    Love this! I believe something similar! Glad I found your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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  41. Dennis Wade says:

    I just finished reading Mark’s Facebook response that Tim quoted, and I would say that this idea has a LOT of merit.

    When we look at who Jesus is, I think the best description was from John:

    “In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was God and the Word was With God.”
    “And the Word became flesh and dwelled amount us.”

    My understanding of this is this:
    God and His Word cannot be separated.(In the beginning was the Word)
    God’s Word reveals His Character. (And the Word was God)
    God’s Word is how He Communicates directly to us.
    Jesus is God’s Word sent into the world to tell us what God wants us to know, with no middleman getting in the way. (And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.)

    Everything Jesus ever taught, He taught as the Word of God, so that we could finally clear up all of the old misunderstandings of the real nature of God.
    His message was one of unconditional acceptance for anyone who wanted it, a life filled with the love and support of the Father, and eventually eternal life with Him. He taught us how to show ourselves to the world.
    What should people see when they look at us? They should see how we love one another. They should see how we love our neighbors. They should see how we love even our enemies. They should see how we—in obedience to our King—handle conflict: by loving, forgiving, blessing, and serving those who come against us. They should see how we value the outcasts, love the poor, and how we care for those people that everyone else wants to ignore or marginalize.
    When people look at us, they should see us acting as peacemakers when everyone else is crying out for war and bloodshed. They should see us living lives that are radically different from everyone who is not of our Father’s Kingdom.

    I believe the conflict has never been between God and sin, because God knows that sins can be forgiven.
    Instead, I think the conflict has always been between God and those who would dare to speak for God when they are not. The ones who argue for legalisms and dogmas. Most, if not all of these people have a strong sense of self-righteousness. They KNOW what is right. They Know what we should do, and they KNOW that it’s the ONLY RIGHT thing to do, regardless of the many who may be harmed. This gives them a feeling of righteous power. And often these people will sacrifice even those close to them, just because they are right.

    When I read the NT, I see these people in the religious and political establishments of that time, lording it over the people, claiming that ONLY they knew what God wanted and how we should live.
    This is why they hated Jesus, because He taught a totally different understanding of God, one that was in danger of destroying their control over the people.He was seen in their eyes as an enemy to the state. And so they did what these types of people always do. They plotted against Him and decided that it would be better for Him to die. If you read the story of His arrest, it was done in secret, in the dark, and in a hurry, because they feared His popularity with the common people.
    They tried many different tactics to prove that He should die, and finally the one that worked was when they twisted His words to Pilate that Jesus wanted to be a King of the Jews, thereby refusing the rule of Rome.
    And then they had permission to have Him put to death by crucifixion.

    Why did God allow this? What was His thinking?
    AS I said earlier, I don’t believe this was ever a war between God and sin, because God can and does forgive sin.
    This was a war between God and self-righteousness, legalism, and dogmas that claim to be the only authority, and that must be obeyed at cost of death.
    I think God’s will was to allow them to demonstrate the full results of those kind of minds, including just what extremes they will go to to be right and to hang on to power at any cost.
    This is why Jesus died.

    But the story doesn’t end there. God had one more ace up His sleeve . . . the resurrection!!
    And what an ace it was!
    He demonstrated to the whole world that the old legalism and power through self righteousness cannot win!
    Sure, they can kill us, but Jesus shows us what an empty threat that is. It no longer holds any fear for us and no power over us.

    This is why you see such a psychological and radical change in the nature of the Disciples!
    They went from hiding in fear when Jesus was arrested to standing before any power or authority that insisted that they should obey them instead, even to the point of being willing to be put to death over it! And many of them even rejoiced in their deaths, because they KNEW that death no longer had any power over them! They had seen the resurrected body of Jesus for themselves!
    “O, Death, where is thy victory? O, Grave, where is thy sting?”

    This to me is the message of the resurrection. This is why Jesus died,, so that He could demonstrate that God’s Love. the message of total acceptance for any that want it, support and nourishing through your life, and eventually eternal life can never be destroyed!

    To me, this is what is meant by “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us”.
    God took His Word, His message to us and sent it into the world as a living person so that He could tell us this message directly. He knew what the legalism and dogmatism had done to His message, and could no longer trust anyone else to speak for Him.

    I know that these are in the end just my thoughts, but they resonate with me.
    I am open, however, to dialogue about this, in the hopes that it will bring us all to a better understanding of God’s true Nature and how we should live.
    I’m thankful for forums such as these where we can converse openly and respectfully with each other with the intention to help each other and ourselves to grow more in proper understanding.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dennis Wade says:

      P.S.; I do believe that the death of Jesus grieved the Father as much as it did the Son.
      There was no legalism requiring it, no debt to be paid, no ransoming of sinners.
      It was done from the heart, of out of pure love.
      And I do accept the actual resurrection of the body of Christ. What else could cause such a radical change in the lives and conduct of the early disciples? They had seen their very leader killed for living and saying what He believed, and suddenly they went from hiding in secret to shouting it from the rooftops.
      And although I don’t always agree with Paul, It is likely that He really did have an encounter with the resurrected Jesus because of the readical change in his nature as well.
      I know that my interactions with Jesus in my life have certainly changed me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dennis Wade says:

        Sorry, but I just had another thought to add:
        People often question what Jesus said while dying on the cross:
        “My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?”
        Many take this to mean that God had to reject Jesus because He represented the sins of the world being punished. But that seems to put the emphasis on a judgmental Deity who can’t stand sin and will do anything to destroy it.
        Many will say that maybe Jesus didn’t really say this, but that it was added later.
        And many will say that it just may be one of those things that there can be many interpretations of, and we may never know which is right.
        I would like to add another thought to this:

        I understand it as Jesus setting the stage for His resurrection. His Father had sent Him into the world as His Word made flesh, to give a personal demonstration of God’s message of love and forgiveness. They both knew that there would be opposition from the legalistic and dogmatic powers, and that it would result in His death.
        If my understanding of the meaning of the resurrection is correct, and that it really was a demonstration of Love conquering over these old forces, then it may just be possible that Jesus was also demonstrating to the world how we often feel when we are being persecuted by these same powers: “Where is my God? Why doesn’t He help me? Why do I have to go through this?”
        The answer comes from the power of the resurrection. These old forces may be able to take us even right up to death, but through Jesus we have conquered death!
        This , to me’ is why Jesus died on the cross. Not as a ransom or a payment to an angry God, but as a message to this old way of thinking: “You have no power over me!”
        And also as a message to us: “Don’t have any fear of what they can do to you for living and speaking this message of love! The worst they can do is to killl you, and through me you have conquered death!” ,

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Dennis, I REALLY like this! “And also as a message to us: “Don’t have any fear of what they can do to you for living and speaking this message of love! The worst they can do is to kill you, and through me you have conquered death!”


        • James says:

          I view these first words (“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) of Psalm 22 which Jesus quotes, in the context of the rest of the Psalm. In the midst of extreme desperation in which it appears that God has forsaken his righteous one, the persecuted righteous man turns with complete trust to God who sets him free. The Psalm concludes with gratitude and praise: For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:24). So I generally reply to those who use the first words of Psalm 22 as an argument for God forsaking Christ on the cross in the following way: Psalm 22 is not talking about a righteous man being separated from God (either through his own or other people’s sins), but about his persecution by evil people. Even in misery and tribulation—in which there seems to be no evidence of God’s presence—God is very close to his own. God was close to Jesus all the time, that is why Jesus would go on to say in John 16:32: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” I quote most of the words of mine from the following website For me, this is the clearest interpretation of Jesus’ death on the Cross that I’ve ever come across.

          I landed on this blog while searching on the web with the words, ‘substitutionary death is a wrong concept’. It gave me a great sense of joy to read the post and to learn that I’m not alone in rejecting the wrong understanding of Christ’s death on the cross. Thank you Tim. I would also encourage you to read the article that I shared above.

          Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dennis, you make a lot of good points in these comments.


  42. Excellent insights, Tim. Your point that God’s “forgiveness was already available” is true, and is a point Jesus made repeatedly, telling people “your faith has saved you” without adding any caveat, “conditional upon your believing a certain interpretation of my death, after it happens.” He showed the way was already open. May I dare to recommend my own books as resources on debunking atonement? Problems with Atonement (Liturgical) and Sacrifice and Atonement (Fortress) address the problems, especially with penal theory. I will be following your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Stephen, it seems we are on the same page. I will keep your books in mind, but right now my reading list is quite long. I am glad you like the blog, and I look forward to seeing you here again whenever you wish.


  43. Pingback: If We Are Free to Approach God Without Fear, What Becomes of Our Other Religious Fears—Like Hell? | Jesus Without Baggage

  44. Joseph kuzara says:

    All of you listen very carefully, DSA: Disciplinary Substitution Atonement is very biblical but the Penal suffering was never wrathful even though through what He suffered in life and death did please / propitiate
    Father and expiated/atoned our sins as our guilt and sin offering in full to nullify His wrath towards the many He chose to reconcile with through His Son being a peace offering.

    Jesus was born under the Law with the fullness of God in bodily form in the likeness and not exactness of sinful flesh by becoming the elects scapegoat (lev 16) in order to be subject to the Law( 1 Timothy 1:9-11) to fulfill it Sinlessly on the elects behalf to become there mediator and advocate between them and Father.

    Father always taught that those whom are His accepted children He delights in and loves, does He correctively discipline and scourge if they sin for there good so they may partake in His Holiness being made complete.

    Jesus’ discipline is that set example and reason why Father disciplines instead of punishes us through His life and death and why through Faith in His Son(YHVH) as there Savior and Redeemer did Father pass over the sins of His chosen people whom is accredited/imputed Jesus Righteousness by Faith to not punish but chastise and scourge for the sake of what His Son will and has accomplished being Father’s Justification( Rom 3:25)to not punish us with the rest of humanity.

    Through the One Baptism in Christ at conversion by the Spirit(1 Co 12:13kjv), we partake in His suffering( 1 Peter 4:13) , death and burial(Colossians 2:12;Rom 6:4).As a ligit righteous Son He voluntarily underwent Chastisement and Scourging for the sins, transgressions and iniquities of the elect as Sinless,(isa 35:5-10) did He suffer in order to learn obedience even obedience onto the Crux simplex(stauros,xylon)(Heb 5:8-9;Philipp 2:8) in order to be the pioneer of our salvation as our High Priest whom can sympathize with those of His Royal Priesthood. Becoming our ransom and redemption price by His voluntary shed blood.

    Jesus’ suffering unto death was to learn obedience being in our likeness of sinful flesh under His Law which Father only chose to come by corrective discipline and scourging as wrathful punishment is not for one’s good , done out of love nor in order to learn obedience.

    Father can be satisfied by presenting Jesus to suffer correctivective discipline and Scourging unto death as a Sinless Son in our likeness instead of the elect suffering everlasting wrath, as an equivalent disciplinary substitution in order to justify our atonement, reconciliation and be freed from God’s wrath for those He chose to undergo what Jesus did while imputed His righteousness: Chastisement and Scourging to learn obedience and partake in God’s Holiness.

    But God’s wrath will not be satisfied because those whom remain under wrath to die as wicked (of those not chosen to come to conscious repentance and faith)does God not take pleasure in, even though justice is administered(Ezekiel 18:23). What God is not willing to forgive can’t lead to His appeasement/satisfaction as God will everlastingly pour out His orge and thymos on those whom don’t know Him nor obeyed the Gospel.

    Ezekiel 18:23 is a counter to Jesus becoming the embodiment of wickedness on the pole to die under and satisfy wrath.

    But also the cup of Father in which Jesus did undertake was not the cup of God’s wrath nor was it implied nor described as such because His disciples were to “drink” of it as well.

    Matthew 20:22-23 reveals to us what cup of suffering was intended with accordance to us partaking in Jesus suffering, picking up our own poles and following after Jesus. Whom is the set example by lifestyle of why Father Chastised and scourges those whom He loves and received as ligit righteous children through Faith in His Son. Jesus himself for the elects sins suffering corrective discipline as the ligit righteous son


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