How Jesus Destroyed the Devil’s Work

Jesus defeating the devilFrom Destroy the Devil’s Work, a post by Jeremy Myers:

Jesus certainly did come to destroy the devil’s work, but His route for doing so was not conventional. Or at least, it was not the way any human would seek to do it. He did not rain down fire and death from the skies. He did not raise up an army and march off to war. He did not call on political leaders and those with money, power, and prominence to exert their influence and bring about change.

No, Jesus destroyed the devil’s works by doing the exact opposite things of the devil. He loved the unlovable. He forgave the worst of sinners. He healed the chronically sick. He fed the hungry. He empowered the weak. He extended grace to those who showed none. He was patient with repeat offenders. He did not seek to control. He never sought to enslave. He always refused to punish or condemn.


Book: The Biblical Revelation of the Cross

Several years ago, at a time when there was a lot of discussion, on this blog and elsewhere, of different views of the atonement, Norman McIlwain kindly sent me a free copy of his book The Biblical Revelation of the Cross. Norman, like me, was critical of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, and was looking at other ways of understanding the biblical material about the death of Jesus. I intended to read the book and review it here, but to my regret I never did so.

The Biblical Revelation of the CrossNorman has now revised and expanded his book and published it again, but for now only online, and free of charge. The extra material is about the early church’s teaching on the atonement. This is not formatted as an e-book but as one long HTML page, here: The Biblical Revelation of the Cross. See also Norman’s main Bible study website.

I have not read most of this material and so cannot review or endorse it. I can say from what I have read that it seems well argued. His conclusions seem to me on a skim reading a little too close to saying that Jesus’ death was only as a moral example. But I appreciate the way in which he links our salvation in with the Resurrection and the ongoing Christian life:

Our atonement, therefore, is achieved for us through our being raised up in Christ, who gave Himself for us that we might know God through Him and the power of the resurrection.

This is surely a book worth looking at for anyone interested in the atonement.

Cross or Resurrection 4: The Centrality of the Cross?

I continue this series on what is determinative for the Christian life by looking at the Cross. I have already looked at the life and baptism of John and at the life and teaching of Jesus as possible focal examples for our own life, and have concluded that the former is sub-Christian and the latter is inadequate apart from what follows. Now I want to move on to consider what very many Christians consider to be the very centre of their faith, the Cross, or more precisely the death of Jesus on it.

Dali, Christ of St John of the CrossFirst I want to make it very clear that for me this Crucifixion is absolutely vital for the Christian faith. The atoning death of the Son of God, however one might understand it and formulate it doctrinally, is the only basis for the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation of sinners to the holy Trinity. Its significance goes beyond this into the cosmic realm, as it effected the reconciliation to God not just of humanity but of all things (Colossians 1:20, Romans 8:21).

However, for many Christians, especially those in the Reformed tradition, the Cross is treated as more than just one of the central aspects of their faith. For them it is THE centre, the one focal point of Christianity, relative to which everything else is secondary. Their presentations of the Gospel tend to begin and end at the Cross: Jesus died for the audience’s sins, and nothing more need be said.

These Christians of course accept that Jesus was the Son of God, and was born and lived as a man among us. After all, apart from that his death had no special meaning. For the most part they also accept that he rose again and ascended to heaven. But these parts of the story rarely if ever figure in their preaching, either as part of the narrative or for their theological significance. In part 1 of my review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ I noted how, for example, people could be assured that they had become Christians without even learning that Jesus had risen again – and I expressed my amazement that it took a voice from God to prompt Adrian to preach on the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

This focus on the cross alone has its effect also on what these people understand the Christian life to be about. I started this series by linking to a post by Daniel Kirk (no relation) Resonate: Matthew (Ch. 11), in which he writes:

life in the kingdom is not about seeing fortune and glory here and now. It is as much or more about crucifixion. But resurrection awaits for those who are faithful to the end.

Well, it is good that Daniel does not ignore the Resurrection, but he seems to see it as relevant only in the distant future. For now, it seems, we should only take up our cross and expect to suffer with Jesus.

Now I certainly don’t deny that this is one aspect of the Christian life. Yes, Jesus did say

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (NIV)

But immediately before that he said

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Luke 9:22 (NIV)

For Jesus there was no Cross without the Resurrection to follow. Similarly those who follow him should take up their cross only in the hope of resurrection. And this is not just something for the distant future. Jesus also said

no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.

Luke 18:29-30 (NIV)

Yes, giving up all that is dear to us for the sake of the kingdom will be painful. At times it will feel like being crucified, and for some it may even literally mean that, or its equivalent. But Jesus promises us far greater rewards, not only in the age to come but also in this life. The apostle Paul fills out some of the details which Jesus left unclear, for example in this favourite verse of those who focus on the Cross:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

What is sometimes missed in this verse is that the Christ who lives in the believer is not a person who is dead from crucifixion, but the One who rose again from the dead. So Paul’s teaching is that Christians are living the Resurrection life of Jesus, in the body here and now. He makes this explicit elsewhere:

because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus …

Ephesians 2:4-6 (NIV)

The consequence of this is that our salvation depends not only on the Cross but also on the Resurrection, as Paul also made very clear:

if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

1 Corinthians 15:17 (NIV)

What this means is that a Christian faith centred around the Cross, with the Resurrection considered as a secondary matter, is seriously unbalanced.

Continued in Cross or Resurrection 5: Risen and Ascended Lord.


Did God kill Jesus? Olson and Caiaphas vs. Piper

One of my first major posts on this blog, in June 2006, tackled the controversial question Did God kill Jesus? See also the post which led up to this, “The Father killed the Son”: the offence of the Gospel?, and the follow-up Did God kill Jesus: should I post like this?

Today Roger Olson is asking exactly the same question, Did God kill Jesus? He writes that

Recently a leading evangelical pastor and author has declared publicly that “God killed Jesus”–meaning, I suppose, the Father killed Jesus.  That’s his way (I assume) of emphasizing the penal substitution theory of the atonement.

Personally, I think some “friends of penal substitution” are its worst enemies.

John PiperA little Google research reveals that the pastor and author that Olson refers to is none other than John Piper, who in a sermon this Sunday said, with reference to John 11:50,

In the mind of Caiaphas, the substitution was this: We kill Jesus so the Romans won’t kill us. We substitute Jesus for ourselves. In the mind of God, the substitution was this: I will kill my Son so I don’t have to kill you. God substitutes Jesus for his enemies.

God Killed Jesus?

I know it sounds harsh to speak of God killing Jesus. Killing so easily connotes sinning and callous cruelty. God never sins. And he is never callous. The reason I say that God killed his own Son is because Isaiah 53 uses this kind of language. Verse 4: “We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God.” God smote him. Verse 6: “The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 10: “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” God smote him. God crushed him.

My first response to this is an exegetical one. If we look at Isaiah 53:4-5, in Piper’s preferred English Standard Version, we read three propositions about the Suffering Servant separated by other material, which we can summarise as follows: “Surely A; yet we esteemed B. But C”. In other words, A is certainly true, and B is our own human estimation of the situation, which should be rejected in favour of C. That is to say, B is a false proposition, or at least inadequate one, according to the text of Isaiah itself. And what is proposition B? That the Servant was “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted”. Thus the verse Piper quotes to prove that God smote Jesus in fact says the opposite. It is redundant to note that the Hebrew verb translated “smitten”, although sometimes used in the context of homicide, does not actually mean “killed”, but only “hit” or “beaten”.

Meanwhile, when the apostle John (11:51) writes that these words of the High Priest were a prophecy, Piper dares to declare that Caiaphas was speaking his own mind, not the mind of God, which Piper claims to know better the prophet does!

Olson, eirenic as always, declines to name Piper. But he makes a strong case for a proper understanding of penal substitutionary atonement. He agrees with the prophetic words of Caiaphas rather than with Piper’s speculation:

Men [gender inclusive, surely?] committed the violence against Jesus, not God the Father, and the actual suffering of the atonement was the rejection Jesus suffered by the Father.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was the moment of atonement.  God did not kill Jesus (at least in my version of penal substitution); people did.  The Father did not inflict punishment on the unwilling, innocent Son as his victim; the Son volunteered to suffer the Father’s wrath.  The Father’s wrath was not physical violence; it was the rupture within the Godhead suffered by both the Son and the Father (in different ways).  The atonement was that he (Jesus), who knew no sin, became sin for us…., with the result that the Father had to turn away and forsake him.  The penalty for sin is spiritual death; separation from God, not physical death.

This presentation of penal substitutionary atonement, with the Son suffering as a volunteer, avoids any suggestion of the split in the Trinity which is implied by Piper’s version. It refutes Steve Chalke’s accusation of “cosmic child abuse”. The focus is no longer on the Father’s wrath but on his love. This seems similar to J.I. Packer’s view of the atonement as “planned by the holy Three in their eternal solidarity of mutual love”. It is also compatible with the Christus Victor model of the atonement, differing from it in perspective more than in content. Most importantly, it is far more biblical than Piper’s caricature.

The only major negative point I would make about Olson’s critique of Piper’s position is that Olson follows Piper in focusing too much on personal sin and justification, on what Scot McKnight calls the “soterian gospel”. Thus Olson’s gospel seems a little unbalanced in the way that I described in my post this morning Which Gospel? Justice or Justification? Olson doesn’t seem to have commented on McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel . I would be interested to see his response.

Which Gospel? Justice or Justification?

Scot McKnightScot McKnight posts today on The Three “J’s” in the Gospel Debate, and by doing so opens up in interesting ways this debate about what the gospel is and how we should understand it. This debate is fundamental to the Christian faith, because, in McKnight’s words,

The gospel is at the heart today of every major theological debate, and it spills over into one ecclesiastical debate after another.

For McKnight the key to the debate is how to frame the gospel. He notes that “some people frame the gospel through the category of justice“, and others “through the category of justification“. The latter group, especially those who call themselves “Reformed”, tend to reject as “liberals” the former, who tend towards political activism. The latter often reject the former as “fundamentalists”. McKnight responds to both groups:

The gospel, I contend, is not properly framed as injustice becoming justice (though clearly this happens) or as the unjust becoming just/justified (though clearly this happens too). And the debate between these two folks proves an inability to convince one leads to the other compellingly. There’s a better way.  Instead…

This is where McKnight brings in his third J. He writes that “some people frame the gospel through the category of Jesus“, and for his discussion of this framing he links to his own recent book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited . He concludes:

There are three J’s in the gospel debate. The right J is Jesus.

If you preach Jesus as the gospel you will get both justification and justice.
If you preach justification you may get Jesus (but I see only some of Jesus and not the whole of Jesus) and you may get some justice (I’m skeptical on this one).
If you preach justice you may get some justification (but I’m skeptical on enough justice gospelers ever getting to justification) and you get Jesus, but again only some of Jesus (often only his teachings, his life, and his life as an example).

If you preach the Jesus of Paul’s gospel (1 Cor 15) or the apostolic sermons in Acts or the gospel of the Gospels, you get all of Jesus and all of Jesus creates both justice and justification.

As for me and my house, we take the third J.

And so will I. Jesus comes first. Following him leads to personal justification and also to action for justice. But both have to spring from a relationship with him and follow the path on which he leads.

How much power does Satan have in the world?

I was rather surprised by a reaction I received to my post Lance Wallnau’s Apocalyptic Vision of the Kingdom. Rod of Alexandria, who usually posts at Political Jesus, chose Joel Watts’ blog Unsettled Christianity for his post, addressed to me, Thanks, Peter! More Evidence Dominionists Reject Christus Victor.

Rod of AlexandriaIn this post Rod looks at an issue which was not at all in focus in Lance Wallnau’s video or in my post about it, and jumps to an unjustified conclusion about Wallnau’s view of the Atonement. He then compounds his error by generalising this view to “Dominionists”, that extremely ill-defined group who, if Wallnau is to be included, must include anyone who accepts that some Christians should be involved in politics. I wrote more about this in comments on Rod’s post.

My main point here is rather different. It springs from what Rod wrote in his post and his own comments on it. In the post he expounds his own Christus Victor view of the Atonement. He writes that in this model

The Devil is defeated, he has no ground to stand on … Satan is defeated and is stuck here, with only the ability to lie. … Satan is in retreat—this is the message of hope of CV atonement; he cannot hide, he has been exposed.

I would totally agree, although I am not as committed to a specific model of the Atonement as Rod seems to be. And I am almost sure that Lance Wallnau would agree. Although I summarised part of his teaching as “Satan taking his last stand on earth”, I did not mean to suggest that Satan has firm ground on earth on which to take this stand.

But Rod claims that Wallnau’s “views of Satan … contradict the claims of Christus Victor”. When I objected he responded by linking, indirectly, to a YouTube video of Wallnau saying something like “Satan Hand Picks Our Government Leaders”:

Here are some of Wallnau’s actual words in this video (length 2:34):

Satan determines which ones he is going to get the most out of and promotes them to the top (1:10). … And the false prophets and counterfeit priesthood of Satan isn’t necessarily wearing clerical robes. They’re dressed in suits and they have Gucci briefcases, but they are his priests in many cases, because they were hand picked for that assignment at the top of the mind moulders, because he gives it to whom he wills (1:53).

“Right Wing Watch” who posted this seem to expect viewers to be shocked by it. But to me it looks as if Wallnau is hinting at much the same as the Occupy protesters, attributing the ills of our society to a few people “dressed in suits and they have Gucci briefcases”.

Rod seriously misunderstands Wallnau here:

Wallnau also believes Satan has the power to determine who is in power: … he totally is anti-everything Christus Victor, if not a dominionist. No CV affirming Christian believes the Devil has that sort of power.

But Wallnau says nothing about “power to determine” anything at all. Yes, he uses the word “determines”, but in the context he is clearly using it in the sense “decides, chooses”. He clarifies this later with “hand picked”. In other words, he is teaching that Satan chooses which of his followers, his “priests”, are fit for promotion to the top of one of the “seven mountains”, of which, we must remember, government is only one.

Rod clarifies his objection to this teaching of Wallnau by denying that Satan has “the power of election, to choose who is in control of the world”. But he accepts that Satan has “the ability to lie”, and this is the only power that the evil one needs to put his chosen people on the mountain tops – if his followers are in the majority, or even if they are a minority but the others keep out of politics or retreat into monasteries. This is because Satan, the great deceiver, is also the great persuader. He only needs to get a few key people behind him to persuade those who pull the strings of power in our world, or even a whole electorate, to choose his candidates for the highest offices. By the way, here I don’t want to imply that any specific office holders, or potential ones, are Satan’s candidates.

To support his claim that Satan’s power is limited, Rod quotes Hebrews 2:14, in an anonymous version which reads, in part,

so that through death [Jesus] might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.

This reads rather differently in NIV:

so that by his death [Jesus] might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.

Hebrews 2:14 (NIV)

The Greek verb katargeo, rendered “destroy” in Rod’s version, is probably better understood as “make powerless”, hence NIV’s “break the power”. But if it does mean “destroy”, it is clear from other Bible passages that this destruction was not already accomplished when Jesus died and rose again. The cross may have made Satan’s final annihilation inevitable, but it is apparently only at the very end that it will actually happen, when he is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Meanwhile, as the apostles specifically teach and as I commented on Rod’s post, Satan is alive and active in the world, in our current “church age” after the Resurrection and Pentecost:

Peter: Satan can fill apparent Christians’ hearts (Acts 5:3);

Paul: Satan can scheme and might outwit Christians (2 Corinthians 2:11);

Paul: Satan can block Christians’ way (1 Thessalonians 2:18);

Peter: The devil prowls around and might devour Christians (1 Peter 5:8);

John: The evil one controls the world (1 John 5:19).

Now Rod is correct that Satan has

a power to deceive and over the lives who believe his lies, but nothing more.

But he doesn’t need anything more to exercise his control over the world.

However, the situation is not quite as bleak as I have painted it, because we Christians are in the world. The apostle John writes to us that

the whole world is under the control of the evil one

1 John 5:19 (NIV)

but also that

the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NIV)

Indeed Satan has no power over us, because he can only tell lies and we know the truth. We need to recognise his lies, but we have no reason to be afraid of him. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can proclaim this truth, refute Satan’s lies, and expose his deception. But we can’t do this by hiding in holes in fear. Instead, like Jonathan and his armour bearer in 1 Samuel 14:1-23, we need to boldly climb the mountain, confront the enemy, and take back the world for God.

Is this “dominionism”? Maybe. But surely it is better than letting Satan rule the world through his chosen candidates.

The inner logic of Calvinist attacks on "Love Wins"

Roger E. OlsonRoger E. Olson, as one of his “evangelical Arminian theological musings”, explains Why I defend Rob Bell’s Love Wins (and other controversial books). In doing so he offers some fascinating observations about Calvinist attacks on Arminianism and other perceived theological errors. He refers to “American evangelical Calvinisms’ DNA”, but much of what he says applies equally to some strands of British Calvinism, such as that of Adrian Warnock.

Olson considers Calvinist responses both to open theism and to Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, and compares them with general Calvinist criticisms of Arminianism. He is careful to point out differences between these three positions, but point out that Calvinists who reject them offer the same arguments against all three, that

they are human-centered, belittling the glory of God, neglecting God’s justice and wrath in favor of too much emphasis on God’s love, etc., etc.

At this point I would add that there is a similar character to much Calvinist and “Reformed” polemic against those seen as rejecting penal substitutionary atonement, like Steve Chalke, with the same arguments being made that the rejected position is human-centred and neglects God’s justice and wrath.

Olson then considers specifically the arguments against Bell’s book. He looks at 1 Timothy 2:4:

God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

He rejects the Calvinist position that “all people” here means any less than everyone. He also agrees with Bell’s rejection of universalism. So the implication is that what God wants does not actually happen. And, Olson writes,

I think that is what offends critics of Love Wins–the suggestion that God doesn’t get what he really, perfectly wants.  That seems to them to demean God, to lessen his glory. …

The deep, inner logic of the attacks on Love Wins seems to me of this variety.  The ones I have read and heard ALL arise out of Reformed assumptions about God rather than out of Arminian assumptions about God.  And there’s the main difference.  Not all Arminians will agree with everything Bell says, but the general thrust of his theology in Love Wins is classically Arminian–that God permits free creatures to resist his love out of love and therefore love wins even as God seems to lose something.  Because of the risk his love forces him to take, and human resistance to it, God ends up not getting all that God wants.  ON THE OTHER HAND, of course, God DOES GET WHAT GOD WANTS–this world in which his love can be resisted.  It’s dialectical but not contradictory.

Olson makes it clear that he does not accept all of Bell’s arguments. But he concludes with

I would like to suggest to both sides that what is really going on in this whole controversy over Bell’s Love Wins is another round of the old Calvinist versus Arminian debate.

That’s what it looks like to me as well.

The wrath of God and apocalyptic events

I was surprised to find that more than a week had passed since I posted on The wrath of God, or the inevitable consequences of sin?, and that a whole week had passed since Sam completed his series on the wrath of God with part 4 and part 5I promised to comment again when the series was complete, but I have not yet done so, so here goes, briefly.

It is interesting to read that Sam sees the genocide in Rwanda as a foretaste of God’s wrath. I am happy with this as long as it is clear that earthly events are always a foretaste, never the fullness of God’s wrath. But would Sam say the same about more recent events in Japan? Is God’s wrath shown only when humans deliberately destroy one another, or also when natural or man-made disasters apparently accidentally to so?

A few days later Sam embarked on a follow-up series From Wrath to Apocalypse (part 1, part 2, still “to be continued”). I thought maybe this would be a quick response to the Japan earthquake and tsunami, but apparently like me Sam is ignoring Japan. However, his new series looks like a timely reminder not to over-react to apocalyptic predictions. Now I look forward to more from Sam on

what Jesus is doing is bringing “the end of the world” to bear on how people live in the present moment.

The wrath of God, or the inevitable consequences of sin?

Sam Norton, an Essex vicar, has written an insightful short series of posts on the wrath of God: part 1, part 2, part 3. He starts with this seeming contradiction, and then goes on to explain it:

There are two things that I believe about wrath: that the phrase “the wrath of God” refers to something real but also that, as Julian of Norwich taught, “there is no wrath in God”.

First, he clearly distinguishes the pagan idea of sacrifice from the biblical concept. The pagan idea is that

there is an angry god who has been offended and needs to be appeased

but the biblical concept, as shown at the Day of Atonement, is that

it is God who is active, who moves towards the sinners.

Sam continues, in part 2, by showing how the idea of the wrath of God developed into the New Testament. He makes the interesting point that

In Paul for example, it is a theme in Paul’s writings, but there tends to be “wrath” rather than “the wrath of God”. Of some twenty to twenty five references to wrath, only two or three are to the wrath of God. Mostly Paul refers to wrath as a concept. …

So what is a properly Christian understanding of wrath? Wrath is when we experience the consequences of our own sin.

Now I want to inject a word of caution here. In my post The Maltese Cross, or the Christian one? I argued against the position, which I consider sub-Christian, that “justice” is some higher authority than God which can oblige God to act against his character of love. Similarly I would reject any idea that “wrath” is a separate concept which imposes obligations on God. But Sam carefully avoids that danger by explaining that wrath, in the sense of experiencing the proper consequences of ones actions, is part of the consistent order of the universe which God created.

Sam continues in part 3 by suggesting that there is a human tendency to set up idols and to make pagan type sacrifices to them. This is true even today:

If the governing idol is Mammon, then the scapegoated minority will be the poor, who will be described as deserving their poverty due to some moral failing, such as laziness.

Thus Sam concludes:

Wrath is first and foremost about when we go against the natural order and suffer as a consequence, but it is also about the nature of who we are as a human society when we are fallen. If we do not focus our human society on the Living God then we will end up having this process of scapegoating and sacrifice repeating itself for ever.

This is an important contribution to a debate in which Christians have become increasingly polarised, in which an important figure like John Piper has apparently written off as non-Christian another, Rob Bell, on the basis of mere rumours that he is not sound on the matter of hell. See this discussion of the controversy. Bell may indeed have argued

that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering.

But Justin Taylor is wrong to conclude, without even reading Bell’s book, that this implies “full-blown hell-is-empty-everyone-gets-saved universalism”. It doesn’t. There are other real possibilities. One, with some biblical support, is that hell is populated by those who have chosen for themselves to go there. Another, and this would seem to be Sam’s position, is that people go there as the natural consequence of their sin. There is room for proper debate here, but not if some people prejudge others without even listening to them.

Hosea redeems his wife: a model of the Atonement

The preacher at the evening service I just went to, a young layman, made in passing an interesting point relevant to the Atonement. His main theme was about the wooden idols in Hosea 4:12. But he also mentioned how in Hosea 3:2 the prophet bought his estranged wife Gomer out of prostitution by paying money to her pimp – at least that was the preacher’s interpretation, which makes a lot of sense. The NIV Study Bible suggests that what Hosea paid for her was equivalent to the regular price of a slave, 30 shekels. Of course still today prostitutes are often in effect the slaves of their pimps. So Hosea had to pay the price to redeem Gomer from slavery before he could take her back again as his wife.

The interesting point here is that, as is made explicit in Hosea 1:2, the prophet’s wife is a picture of unfaithful Israel, and the prophet himself is taking God’s part in accepting her back despite her unfaithfulness. As Christians, and this was tonight’s preacher’s point in passing, we can understand Hosea as a type of Jesus Christ and his wife as prefiguring the church, the unfaithful bride of Christ.

So we have here a model of the Atonement, and one which is somewhat different from the more standard models like penal substitutionary atonement and Christus Victor. Hosea, the type of Christ, pays a great price to redeem his bride. But this price is not any kind of punishment or fine; nor is it the price paid to be victorious in a battle. Rather it is a purchase price, which is actually paid to someone, not to God. The recipient is the one who has held the bride captive, the pimp.

Now we don’t know how Gomer became a prostitute, apparently reverting to her former life before first marrying Hosea (1:2), but we can suppose that she started with adultery (3:1) and gradually became enslaved through her sin. And it is a general rule that people who sin gradually become enslaved through their sin, not necessarily to a human slave owner but to a greater or lesser extent to the powers of evil, to the devil.

So, typologically, the pimp who received the redemption price corresponds to Satan. This sounds like the classical ransom view of the Atonement. This was apparently the dominant view in the early church, but was rejected by, among others, Anselm and Gustaf Aulén, on the basis that “Satan, being himself a rebel and outlaw, could never have a just claim against humans”. But, one might respond, although the almighty God could have simply overridden Satan’s claims, whether just or unjust, the way he chose was to submit to these claims, without conceding their justice, and pay the price demanded – which was the death of his Son.

So maybe there is more to the ransom view of the Atonement than is generally recognised. It can certainly be understood as one of a number of different models which have good biblical support. But like all the other models it must be understood as a human description which is not fully adequate, rather than a complete explanation of something whose details must remain a mystery beyond human understanding.

It is worth noting also Hosea 3:3: after Gomer was redeemed from her prostitution she was expected to become a faithful wife again, not to return to prostitution or adultery. In the same way our redemption in Christ is not to be taken as an excuse for continued sin or unfaithfulness to God. This theme of the redeemed remaining sexually and otherwise pure is taken up again in Revelation 14:3-5.