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The Incarnation and Atonement - a 3rd party view
« on: March 09, 2018, 03:51:47 pm »
I have been thinking through a new view of the atonement for a while now.  Christianity stands or falls on the atonement.  It is not necessary for us to understand the atonement for it to be true, but I sincerely believe that it should be comprehensible and compatible with all the facets of God's moral perfection (mercy, forgiveness, justice) without over-emphasizing any one.  I have not come across this view in any of my readings up until now so I would like to know whether it has any validity.

Premise 1 – When we sin we always incur a debt held by God.

Premise 2 – God is morally justified (but not morally obliged) to dismiss debts held by himself

Premise 3 – When we sin against a person other than God we incur an additional debt held by that person (in addition to the debt against God)

Premise 4 – That person is morally justified (but not obliged) to freely dismiss the debt incurred by sins committed against her.

Premise 5 – If the debt held from Premise 4 is not dismissed but is instead brought to the judgment throne a just God cannot simply dismiss the debts.  A just God must dispense justice in accordance with the debts held.

Premise 6 – As described in Question of the Week 549 the misdeeds of a worker can be impugned to an employer.  God impugns those sins onto Himself and then inflicts the maximum penalty any human can justifiably request – a tortuous death.  This then clears the debts held by any person who does not freely dismiss the debts.  At this point all debts against the person in question have been cleared (God has freely dismissed, forgivers have freely dismissed, non-forgivers have seen their justice done).

Premise 6b – We innately recognize the right of God to take the place of the sinner.  How many times have we heard the question “why would God let this happen” when “this” refers to the sinful actions of another human.  People often hold against God the actions of sinful man.  This demonstrates an intuition that God has the moral right (but not obligation) to accept responsibility for the sins of others.

Premise 7 – If we do not freely drop our complaints against other people (as in Premise 4) then God does not drop his complaint against us (Premise 2) and punishes us according to our deeds.  That is, if we require Christ’s death on the cross (the means by which God can clear debts against others) then God does not dismiss the debts held by himself.

Followup on Premise 6:  In our legal system (and really any legal system) the maximum penalty for any crime is death.  In our system the death penalty is made as painless as possible, but that has not always been the case.  In many systems crimes could be punished by a tortuous death.  That is really the greatest penalty that any mortal could request.  However, God as a disembodied spirit cannot take that punishment.  The only way God could bear the punishment that humans request in Premise 5 is through the incarnation.  Once embodied God can then bear the punishment that we deserve, suffering in our place, and freely forgiving our sins.

Ultimately then the cross is not an answer to God's demand for justice, but God's just response to man's demand for justice and lack of forgiveness.  Man is complicit in the act because humanity's spiritual and political leaders (high priest, Herod, and Pilate) agreed that a sinless man should die on behalf of many.  Every example of God's free forgiveness is taken at face value, and the passages "if you do not forgive you will not be forgiven" fall in place.  The incarnation is crucial and cannot be removed without the process of the atonement falling apart.

What reasons (biblical or philosophical) are there to reject this view?