ENUMCLAW, Wash., Jan. 17, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines atonement as "the reconciliation of God and humankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ." Widely-held Christian teaching says that Jesus died in the place of sinners -- that our sin required punishment and because God did not want to see us perish, Jesus took that punishment, providing a way for forgiveness and reconciliation to God.
In "Cross Purposes" pastor Mark Miller challenges this view, suggesting that God's interest was not in seeing sin punished, but on seeing humanity reconciled to Him. He explains that the "Satisfaction Theory" commonly presented in today's church is rooted in medieval European culture, where God was presented as a kind of liege lord. Miller hopes to show that God's forgiveness was not something Jesus had to purchase. Rather, it was freely offered to everyone. According to Miller's book, Jesus died, not so we could be forgiven, but so we could embrace the forgiveness we already have. Miller says, "I wanted to offer an alternative view that is strongly supported by the Bible, faithful to the bulk of history, and is even more hopeful than the understanding for which we have settled."
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"Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:22-28)
"And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." (Hebrews 10:10-14)Scripture clearly teaches that blood, a perfect, unblemished sacrifice, was required in order for anyone's sin to be forgiven. That perfect sacrifice was Jesus Christ. As our sin was imputed to Christ at the cross, so are those who believe imputed undeservingly with His holy and perfect righteousness. Oh, but this doesn't make sense, does it? It sounds foolish, vengeful, and downright mean. God in his omnipotent wisdom, and knowing men and their finite and fallen reasoning, surely foresaw such a reaction.
The doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement is a vital, core doctrine of the Christian faith. To deny it is nothing short of heresy. We must, then, call "Pastor" Miller to repentance for even daring to question this merciful, gracious truth of the saving, atoning work of our Lord, Jesus Christ.For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)