The Wrong View Of Easter

This past week there was an opinion article on CNN.com about the meaning of Easter. The author is Jay Parini and is a college professor at Middlebury College. He states that Easter is not about Jesus’ sacrifice but instead about faith and love. He does not believe that Jesus is paying some type of debt we owe God but is instead giving us an example on how to live. He grew up in a fundamentalist church and says, “I recall being quite upset, imagining the cruelty of the sacrifice of God's only son. I thought it was horrific. I didn't want him to have to die for miserable sinners like myself. Soon enough I grew to dislike this version of Easter, with the crucifixion as some form of blood-revenge. Why would a God who had gone to the trouble to create humanity take such umbrage? Why would he need to put his only son on the cross and see him publicly tortured—brutalized--to satisfy his feelings of disappointment and anger at what his people had done? Was I missing something?” Yes he is. Unfortunately he is missing the whole point of the gospel. He continues, “ God is better than this, I thought. The human beings he had created were surely good enough for him? Simplistic ideas about the meaning of the crucifixion still abound, and there is a vast industry founded on what is called "substitution theology." One can easily dig through the Hebrew and Greek scriptures to snatch occasional verses that seem to support this transactional theology, with God in a bargaining mode, needing "payment" for our sins. But I've studied the scriptures carefully, especially the gospels and Paul's letters, and I see no reason to capitulate to this downsized version of Easter weekend, with a vengeful God putting up his own son on a cross for satisfaction of some kind.”
So if Jesus did not die for our sins, why did He die? What was the point of the cross if it wasn’t to pay our debt to God? He states, “Easter teaches Christians this, I believe: to emulate the faith of Jesus in the goodness of the universe-- to rest in God, whatever we mean by that great holy syllable, which seems a stumbling block for so many in our highly secular world.” Let's look at what he is claiming here piece by piece because as he said, “ I've studied the scriptures carefully, especially the gospels and Paul's letters…”
  • “the crucifixion [is] some form of blood-revenge”. This is a gross misunderstanding of the cross. It is not a form of revenge. It was God’s great act of love for His people to save them from eternal punishment. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18)
  • “Why would a God who had gone to the trouble to create humanity take such umbrage?” He doesn’t take “umbrage”. He is a holy and just God,”For I, the LORD, love justice,” (Isaiah 61:8) And because of this He must look away from those that disobey Him. Mr. Parini is fine with a god that looks away from wrongdoing and not holding people accountable for their wrong actions. But that is not the god of the Bible. The God of the bible must and will punish sin. “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:20)
  • “Why would he need to put his only son on the cross and see him publicly tortured—brutalized--to satisfy his feelings of disappointment and anger at what his people had done?” The cross is not to satisfy God’s feelings. It was too save people from certain eternal death. “By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14)
  • “The human beings he had created were surely good enough for him?” No we are not! Scripture is clear that we are all sinners and are not “good enough”. “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Jesus taught that everything that comes from humans is foul. (Mark 7:20-23) Even the very best things we do are like soiled garments before God (Isaiah 64:6) If you believe you are good enough for God, your heart has deceived you from the truth. (1 John 1:8-10)
  • “One can easily dig through the Hebrew and Greek scriptures to snatch occasional verses that seem to support this transactional theology..” Even if this claim is true are we to just ignore these verses because there are not that many of them? Since when does volume dictate doctrine? But once again he is wrong. Here is a small sample of verses I was able to scrape together that teach Jesus paid for our sins to redeem us; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 5:1-10, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Romans 4:25, Romans 6:10, Hebrews 9:15, Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28, Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Colossians 2:14, Romans 8:1, Colossians 1:20, 1 Peter 2:24-25, Isaiah 53:5, Galatians 3:13. This is in no way an exhaustive list. There are plenty more. But it shows that there are a lot more than just an “occasional verse”.
  • “I see no reason to capitulate...God putting up his own son on a cross.” But God did. This was always His plan. The Bible clearly teaches that God sent His son to the cross. “[Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge…” (Acts 2:23)

What Jay Parini states is the reason for Easter is very close to the Gospel. He talks of things like; faith, love, imitating Jesus, self sacrifice etc. Theses things are taught in the bible. They are apart of our walk with God. But what he denounces is also taught in the Bible and very important to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is an example, sadly, of someone who conforms the Bible to what they believe. When instead we must submit to the Bible’s teaching and let it transform us to the truth. Easter is not about blood-vengeance or satisfying God’s feelings. Jay was right, he was missing something. Easter is about God’s love. But it is about His love taking action to save us because we do need salvation. Easter is about God’s love for us being so strong that He sent His son down to die for our sins to save us. Easter is the greatest act of grace, mercy and love that will ever be displayed. I pray and hope Mr. Parini’s heart is opened to this wonderful truth.
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