Tony Jones on Why Jesus died

This article, “Why Jesus Died” by Tony Jones has already caused quite a bit of discussion and controversy but I thought I would add some thoughts of my own.  Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

“So when Jesus’ three years of traveling, teaching, and miracles ends in Jerusalem, on a Roman cross, his death culminates the life that he lived. His execution amidst common thieves is his ultimate act of solidarity with every human being who has experienced godlessness and godforsakenness. In other words, every human being.”

“Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.

Instead, Jesus death offers life because in Christianity, and in Christianity alone, the God and Creator of the universe deigned to become human, to be tempted, to reach out to those who had been de-humanized and restore their humanity, and ultimately to die in solidarity with every one of us. Yes, he was a sacrifice. Yes, he was “sinless.” But thank God, Jesus was also human.

The hope he offers is that, by dying on that cross, the eternal Trinity became forever bound to my humanity. The God of the universe identified with me, and I have the opportunity to identify with him.”

Read the whole thing here

It seems that Tony finds hope in the fact of solidarity.  Putting aside a discussion of what the Bible says (for the record I hold to penal substitutionary atonement).  How does the fact that Jesus died in solidarity with me, with my feeling of godforsakeness give me any hope?

I can show you a whole world of people with whom I have solidarity in pain, sin, wickedness and weakness.  And I find little real hope here.

So why would it give me hope that my God expresses solidarity with me in my brokenness?  Why would it give me hope that my God joins me in my brokenness?  If he does not come to transcend it, to heal it, to radically alter the nature of the brokenness, to do something about the brokenness – then what hope can I possibly have?

Because Tony, the brokenness and the evil is not just something out there in sickness, big business, poverty etc, as if all we need is a good example.  The sickness, the sin and the weakness is in here, in me.  No matter how much solidarity I feel with Jesus and his identifying with me – it does not change the fact that even though I know what the right thing to do is, I still want to and do the wrong thing.

I do not need God to become joined with me in solidarity in my sick, selfish, weak and wanton position.  I need God to rescue me.  I want a God who does not identify with the world but who transcends it.  Who loves it, redeems it and rescues it.

What possible hope is there in a God who identifies with this mess?  If God does not hate the sin and evil of this world, and my heart and do something about it,then that is not a God worth following.  If God is not a God who judges and punishes the evil of the world – then what kind of God is that?

I find no hope in a God who joins with me in my brokenness, but I need to join with my God in his glory!

And how is it possible for a sinner such as me to join with a God such as this…  only the cross that takes away my sin makes any sense to me!

~ by John on April 16, 2009.

3 Responses to “Tony Jones on Why Jesus died”

  1. I actually find Jesus’ solidarity and identification with me in my weakness and sin and brokenness to be both comforting and biblical. But it is a truth that pales in comparison with the truth that he offered himself as a sinless substitute for me while I was still bound in my rebellion and sin. In that I find great joy!

  2. Barry, I completely agree with you Jesus solidarity with us in our weakness and sin is both comforting and biblical.

    But if that is where it ends – if that is all that Jesus was doing, as Tony seems to be saying – then we have no hope…

    Our hope is in the cross of Jesus where he takes away our sin and in his ressurrection where sin and death are defeated. And Christ is vindicated.

    Would I be right in saying that without the cross and resurrection any comfort we may gain from Jesus’ solidarity is a short-lived and shallow comfort for this life only?

  3. Yeah, John, I would agree whole-heartedly with your last statement. When Tony says he finds penal substitutionary atonement “neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative” it’s clear that we’re worlds apart in our thinking. I find nothing more compelling and in keeping with the biblical narrative than that.

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