I while ago my friend Andy wrote a very interesting piece
on the consequences of ignoring the Atonement. Was Jesus’ life simply an example for us to follow or did he come as the Lamb of God to take away sins of those who would believe?
[Andy writes] In the early days of liberal theology, it was the vogue to claim that Jesus’ death was the result of His zeal. He shot His mouth off too many times about religious and moral truth, until, finally, His opponents could take no more and had Him assassinated. The theological axe-to-grind of this view was their rejection of the atonement as an objective, meritorious, vicarious sacrifice – in short, as a substitionary death.
Evacuating Christ’s death in such a way, all that remained was His example. Not many evangelicals (a term I am growing increasingly uncomfortable with) would espouse such a radical view regarding Christ’s death, but the accompanying view of His life as merely a pattern or example, has clung on with tenacity in the best of circles.
A common incarnation of this view can be seen in the WWJD crowd. “What Would Jesus Do?”, comes, as an idea, from Sheldon’s book In His Steps. The fictional story imagines a small church wherein the minister challenges everyone to ask this question before they do anything. The whole town is revolutionized as a result, and everyone lives happily ever after. If I sound sacrcastic it is because I bristle at such a empty view of Christ’s life and death. If anything is plain from the Gospels, it is that Christ acted and lived a natural life. His holy, blameless life was the natural life of the God-man. It was not a legalistic, moment-by-moment succession of decisions based on the question: What is the right thing to do in this situation.
Before I raise anyone’s ire, let me hasten to say that I believe Christ did leave us an example of a holy life. But we are gravely mistaken if we think that His life and death were merely an example. Christ showed us what a perfect and holy life looks like, but not so that we could knock ourselves out imitating it and thereby earn brownie points with God. Christ’s life must never be unconnected or disconnected from the price He paid and the ransom He offered.
- I am swimming back to Rome! (atwistedcrownofthorns.com)
- We glory… in Jesus Christ! (atwistedcrownofthorns.com)