Saturday, September 22, 2007

Atonement and Ransom

Here is something about the atonement that I have blogged about elsewhere, but thought I would throw it out here. In my studies about the early church fathers, I run across the idea of the ‘Ransom to Satan’ theory of the atonement. As a good evangelical I know that is totally bogus, but as a curious weirdo, I can’t let go of the thing. So here is a proposal as to how the ‘ransom to Satan’ and vicarious atonement propitiation can actually fit together. Please understand that I am not simply interested in trying to reconcile everything. I genuinely feel that our evangelical theory of the atonement needs some supplement. The doctrine of redemption where Jesus pays the penalty for our sins is pretty solid in the Scriptures. I have no objection to it. But I feel like there is more. Anyway, here goes.

God has said that whoever sins will be punished, usually with death. Who does the punishing? Often we feel lke God does it. But I noticed a pattern in Scripture. God usually has an angel do the job. Often both God and the angel are given credit for the task. But the angel actually does the deed. In Exodus 12:21, 29 it says that God killed the first-born. But in Exodus 12:23, it says that ‘the Lord will pass over your door and not allow the destroyer to enter.’

In church discipline, Paul turns someone over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, 1 Cor. 5:5. The scapegoat ritual in Leviticus 16 is very interesting on this score. Two goats are at the center of this Day of Atonement ritual. One goat is sacrificed and its blood shed. The other is set aside. The priest places his hands on the live goat and transfers all the sins of the people onto the goat’s head, Lev. 16:21. Then, they will send the live goat out into the desert to Azazel, Lev. 16:8, 22. Many commentators, including Keil and Delitzsch believe this refers to a demon in the wilderness, who takes the goat with the sins. They are sending the sins back to where they come from, namely, the devil.

Now, Hebrews 2:14 says that Satan held the power of death, and that Christ set us free from him. What if that power were delegated to Satan? Therefore, in order to pay for our sins, the Father turned Jesus over to Satan to be killed, to pay the penalty we deserved. This might make Lewis’s Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe make more sense. In order to pay for Edmund’s sin, Aslan was not turned over to his father, the emporer across the sea. What does the witch say? ‘Traitors belong to me?’ Maybe she is right, and that that ownership was given to her, just as to Satan. So when a person becomes a believer, they are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, Col. 1:14. They are set free from the devil who has taken them captive, 2 Tim 2:26. Well, it is something to think about.

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