I do not believe in the Crucifixion as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God, and pay the price of human sin. I see Jesus’ death as our example, not our get-out-of-jail-free card. This is not original: when I heard Richard Holloway say something similar, I challenged him, as it chucks out most of the Epistle to the Hebrews; and now I have come round to it.

In Hebrews, Jesus is Melchizedek, the deathless priest who enters the Holy of Holies and sacrifices himself for our sins. But Christians’ understanding of the meaning of that sacrifice has changed over the years.

In the mediæval period, it was believed that man had withdrawn his allegiance from God, and given it voluntarily to the devil, as in the act of diffidatio under feudal law. This gave the devil rights, which God could not override. In becoming man, God in Jesus was the man who had not bowed to the devil, over whom the devil had no rights. When the devil subjected Jesus to death, he took authority over a man who had made no diffidatio, and thus lost his rights over all mankind. This doctrine lasted five hundred years.

St Anselm and St Bernard changed the view of the crucifixion. The invisible God wished to be seen in the flesh and to converse with men, that he might draw all the affections of carnal men, who were unable to love except after the flesh, to the saving love of His flesh, and so step by step lead them to spiritual love. God was of Love, not of Law.

Jesus went to his destiny with open eyes. He did not run or hide, but taught in the temple. He did not resist. When Peter struck the ear of the priest’s servant with his sword, Jesus healed him. Jesus spoke the truth as he saw it. He spoke it in his trial.

Jesus was our example, not to resist evil but to respond to it with love, so that the fear of the other, always opposing the other in self-defence, would melt away.

Mine is not a biblical view. I am emphasising certain parts, ignoring others (especially Hebrews). And yet mine makes God more than a violent abusive and manipulative parent. When God is in one of his more Old Testament moods- eg Exodus 20:5:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me

it helps to see this as descriptive, not prescriptive. God is not being cruel for the fun of it, that is just the way the World is. In the same way, the wrath of God, through which we suffer, is truly the wrath of Man: as we resist each other, seeking to defend what we hold dear, we inflict suffering on others and prolong and ensure our own. It is in Proverbs 15:1:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

This is the answer to my post Certainty.

4 thoughts on “Crucifixion

  1. Clare, it’s interesting how Christian beliefs have changed over the millennia. I heard once that early Christians didn’t believe in Jesus’ divinity until the Nicean Convention in 928. And it’s interesting to read about the change in beliefs about the Crucifixion. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church in the U.S. and studied the Bible during many years of Sunday School, but later decided that Jesus, for me, was one of many great teachers and enlightened masters – but no more divine that I am. I heard a Religious Science Minister say one time: “Jesus was the great example, not the great exception.” And that works for me.



    • 325 AD: “Being of one substance with the Father”. There is the distinction between homoiousion and homoousion- both, like oil and water in a glass, or both, like wine and water in a glass, the latter is Orthodox- many would call the Divinity of Christ an absolute requirement to be “Christian”, and it is in the statement of common belief of inter-church organisations. And- many Quakers would dispute it. For me, I do not know, and do not feel a need to decide my Belief, as it would not affect my actions.

      Seeing Christ as an example motivates us.


  2. firstly I am not judging, just kind of observing. I read some qoutes from Bonhoffer about ‘costly grace’ and cannot help but think of links to your piece. Grace was costly, and it has to be costly on both sides – the gospel cannot be the gospel if we ignore the bits we don’t agree with – we have to take into account all that is written.

    Also the crucifixation, and resurrection, can be seen seen on many different levels, allegorical as well ad spiritual, but cannot be ignored. Without the bodily resurrection of Christ we have no faith?

    Jesus refers to himself as ‘the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’ identifying himself with both the Passover Lamb & as well as ‘the scapegoat’.

    Interesting blog, and I respect your beliefs, but thought I would share my own.



    • Pax.

      Thank you for sharing. On the net is not the place to debate these things, though I would love to look you up if I came to Swindon. And of course it is costly to reverse the destructive, frightened nature of humanity- for all of us who do Jesus’s work.


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