‘Four: The Majority Opinion’

Part 4 of our reading through ‘Did God Kill Jesus’ by Tony Jones

Read Part 4‘ The Majority Opinion’ of ‘Did God Kill Jesus’. Read the short reflection below, then comment about either Part 4 or the reflection!

The Payment Model

It is hard for me to accept the title of this section. I know it’s true. Perhaps it’s true. If anything it is a plurality if not majority.

The Payment Model, that Jesus’s death is a payment made to balance the ledger for God and original sin is certainly the most dominant view. Why I quibble on the notion that it’s the majority view is that I’m not sure that there are enough people who have a clear idea of the atonement at all to suggest that more than half of all Christians hold this particular model of atonement.

And it seems significant that it is the most “dominant” because part of what makes it stick with people is that it articulates a dominating view of God and Jesus.

The Angry God Hypothesis

I had a good conversation this week with someone who holds to the Payment Model. He even articulates that it is Penal Substitution. But his words are about the love and mercy of God.

When I (and others) spoke to him about abuse and the philosophical questions of an angry God who would have his own son killed to fulfill an adherence to a law more powerful than God, he was genuinely confused by it all. Like he was only able to see “the good side” of this atonement theory and not the bad.

It was clear that everything he articulated about the atonement and what it reveals about God described my own views. They just didn’t sound at all like penal substitution or the payment model. They weren’t excluded from it. They just weren’t dependent on it.

The parts where God is mad at you and demands justification from you. Or that there is a debt which needs to be paid so that we can all be good with God. Or that all of this is predicated on a violence and set of theological positions which make God both super powerful and powerless, a hater and a lover, abusive and merciful, and willing to kill Jesus to avoid killing us.

The logical foundation of the Payment Model is compromised and doesn’t even come close to the smell test. But its internal logic makes enough sense to be convincing. As long as we don’t think about all of its implications for God and Jesus.