Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another myth bites the dust...

Ever since I first listened to Wayne Jacobsen's Transition Series back in Feb/Mar this year a few things have happened. Firstly, my whole life changed. My understanding of God changed. My thoughts on the religious structure changed. And for the first time in my journey as a Christian, what I understood of God in my heart gelled with the description of Father that Wayne was detailing.

But it wasn't all farts and roses. There were a few things that, although I was elated if they were true, I wasn't sure Wayne debunked the original presupositions 100%. This is ok, because he was mostly focussing on detailing a better understanding of what the gospel is, and why we should be happy about it, and not on giving reasons to debunk the previous presupostitions.

One of the main issues that I've had a bit of a hard time with was the concept that the cross was a cure not a punishment. Although it was one of the most freeing things to hear, I'd always had a niggling feeling that there is something somewhere in the Bible that specifically talks of the cross as a punishment... because my spirit sat so right with the cure concept, I felt that if I was wrong, God would show me, and I'd rather believe something this freeing than hang onto the constrictive 'punishment' theory. It's been at the back of my mind ever since, slighty worrying me, but never really taking precedence, because I didn't have an answer on it.

Just a few months ago, I was having a chat with a woman in the congregation I'd left, who had always seemed to have a great understanding of God's love and grace, and seemed to express it in the way she lived. Her daughter and I are friends, and she'd mentioned how she's read the Shack and had been in contact with Wayne, so in talking to her mom, I told her how freeing I'd found Wayne's recalling the cross as a cure, and not as a punishment. Her reaction really suprised me. She kind of blurted that the cross as punishment is a biblical idea, and walked away.

If it did anything, it brought back the worry that this punishment thing is a solid biblically-based bit of dogma. As I liked the cure idea so much, I still didn't do much about it.. (woops) but recently on reading through the blogs in my rss reader, I came across a blog by one of my fellow bloggers, Rick Gibson, regarding "A 'Punishing God'?". Today I read his follow up to that post, which more directly discusses the problem of punishment vs cure in the context of the reason Jesus died.

I found it so helpful that I though I'd ping-back on the articles so whoever reads here can read it too.

One of the things that really helped was this: Rick says that there's only one verse in the bible that refers to punishment in the context of the cross. That verse is Isaiah 53:5 (in the NIV), and this is what he has to say about it:
In all of scripture there is only one verse that comes close to calling the cross 'God's punishment'. And that is Isaiah 53:5, yet even this verse uses a Hebrew word that is distinct from the word used for punishment. This word, muwcar, means chastening, correction, or instruction. This of course differs greatly from punishing someone for a criminal act. So you still have to bring your own presuppositions about 'punishment' to the text in order to read it that way (which, unfortunately, the NIV translators did). Excerpt from the article A 'Punishing God'? - Thoughts on the Cross and Forgiveness, Rick Gibson
This has been such a revelation and relief to me. I still want to make sure that it is the only 'punishment' scripture, but it's awesome to see (as I noted in another post) how God seems eager to settle my worries and point me to truth, be it with a soft assurance, an unspoken word or thought in my mind or someone's blog article.

It's a good feeling to know Dad is as excited on seeing me grow to know Him better as I am (read: immeasurably more than I could ever be)!


Anonymous said...

Hello. I also listen to Wayne & Brad over at the God Journey and are so happy I found these brothers!

I believe in the cross as "the cure" as you put it, or as I've also said, "fulfillment."

Since it seems that you enjoy reading articles about the subject, please feel free to "stop over" at my blog. I've posted a few entries specifically about this topic:
"Sin's Cloud" - 8/14/08
"Sin & Atonement I, II, & III"

Please feel free to leave a comment or two, and also to read other posts I have there. I always love new blogosphere friends.

~Amy :)

Timothy Charles Theron said...

the way i see the punishment thing is; the sin was punished? not the man? thats the only context in which i can understand using the word 'punished'. but maybe its because the truth of the 'cure' has settled so solidly in my heart. i think we just have to be super sensitive when talking to people about it, because baically you are uprooting an entire belief structure. for some, like you and me, its exciting, but for others, its mortifying!
i was reminded this morning about Gods love. its entirety, and the absolute freedom of it. AND our call/duty to mimic it.
i think that includes being sensitive about stuff like this. try and comunicate it, but if people arent ready, then remember that we and God should love them just as much - limitlessly.

Cam said...

Tim, I agree so much - truth is, in the end, love conquers all - and that by quiet persuasion.

Thing is, although in that light, I am usually very careful about who I discuss this with. It's sad, because it has brought me so much freedom, the default is to want to scream it from the rooftops :) but subtlety and care is usually the better medium.. :) strange thing is, this lady had always seemed to me to be on the outskirts of traditional cruel-god theology. She is loving and caring and seems to believe God is also, so she seemed to be a ready ear.. suppose I was wrong :)

Can't wait till you home, my friend!

Cam said...

Amy, thanks for stopping by. I've seen you posting over on Kent's site and thegodjourney forums, and have been meaning to pop by your blog, just haven't had the chance yet.

Thanks for giving me a headstart on topics to read, I'll have a look see, and leave you a comment or 2.

It's always a great thing finding like-minded friends on this journey!

Manuela said...

Hi! I linked here from Kent's and I really have had the same struggle you mentioned in seeing the cross as cure, when it's been so over-taught (drilled) that it was punishment.
I will try to read Rick's blog about it soon, thanks for putting the link. Like you, in my heart "cure" sits right. If God punished anything, in my opinion, it was sin itself and the devil...(defeating him), but I still need to read more to have my mind more settled. Kent mentioned the transition series a while back and my husband listened to them but I haven't...
Hope you can stop by my blog sometime whenever but no pressure! I'll swing by here again I'm sure. Also, congratulations on becoming a father!

Cam said...


I would encourage you to listen to the Transition series, there is much in there that is good food for the soul. :)

That said, I strongly believe Dad places things on your heart that He wants part of your journey. I listened to the Transition series, loved it, and it literally changed my world around. I wasn't the same afterwards, and I attribute that to God and His timing (I wasn't even planning on listening, it was on my iTunes because my mom had asked me to copy it for her, and it came on while on shuffle and I listened to the first 4 hour sessions in one go!). But my wife hasn't felt the need. She has heard bits of it as I've replayed them or listened in the car, etc. And for a while I was 'shoulding' on her about listening.. and then I realised (I think the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear) that just because it was great for me doesn't mean that is what God wants to tell my wife at this moment. I think, personally, that was a huge lesson - God's timing is not ours, even if we think it's the greatest thing since sliced cheese, He has His timing with His children on our journey, and each one is different.

I'll stop by your site, promise. :)

Marc said...

Hey Cam ...
Been a while since I have been here, good to see a couple of new posts.

Just some food for thought on this "Punishment vs Cure" topic: It is my tendnacy to think that that is was not so much a 'cure' or a 'punishment' but a nessecary means to an end. It was all part of God's perfect plan and therefor had to be the most excellent way. Our God is a covenantal God ... I don't know what he chooses to work this way, but he does ... God's covenant with man was sealed in sacrifice and blood in the Old testament. We all know that Jesus was the perfect and ultimate sacrfice (the Lamb of God) to make a perfect and everlasting NEW conventant with us. So whether it was punishment or a cure I feel is symmantics. The important thing is that God accomplished what he set out to do ... to make a way for us to have proper relatinship with Him.

Punishement or Cure ... it was pefect in His love for us but more importantly for the FAME OF HIS NAME!

Love Marc

Cam said...

Hey Marc,

sorry for taking so long to respond.
Although, to some degree, I agree - it doesn't really matter the reason, the important thing is that it's been done, in some ways the reason still is very important.

For too many people, they see the cross as punishment. They see it as God needing to punish us for our sins, but then He sent His Son to do bear His wrath and punishment instead. And that leaves us (as I've written about in another post) - with the sense of - if God would do that to His own Son, what chance do we have to escape the same fate (I actually think that's more or less what Spurgeon or one of the old greats actually said - more or less) - but that just leaves us never knowing if God is going to love us or thump us. And we judge every good or bad thing as God being happy or unhappy with us.

And all that leaves us with is a typical abusive father.

What 'cure' says, is, I believe, more congruent with biblical understanding of the cross. Then it was a love thing. God (as the triune one) laid down their life so that we may have life. 'cure theory' implies that we were doomed to death with the greatest disease known to mankind, but Jesus, as God AND man, took that disease and endured the cure until it was destroyed. And then through His death, we died, and are raised with Him. His victory over this disease is what brings us freedom.

That's why the distinction is important for me, but I think I understand where you're coming from as well... :)