Unsatisfactory Satisfaction (Part 2)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Notes on John Stott’s
The Cross of Christ
Chapter 5: Satisfaction for Sin

If you haven’t read the first part yet, I recommend that you take a look. This post is a direct continuation of the previous.

2. The cross satisfied the law

This view is also suggested in the Witch’s conversation with Aslan:

“‘Fool,’ said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, ‘do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.'”
~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Sin is violation of the law–and to fail to punish it would be to fail to satisfy the law. Stott gives a human example of this in the law that had Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. Even though King Darius really didn’t want to throw Daniel into the den, he had no choice but to do it. Even he was not above the law he had created.

This view has some utility and some Scriptural support. The Bible makes clear that the wages of sin are death. That price had to be paid. Sin has a curse associated with it. Jesus bore that curse.

Yet this view fails in that it subjects God to the law, as though God were “caught in a technical legal muddle.” Stott quotes R.W. Dale in saying that “God’s connection with the law is ‘not a relation of subjection but of identity….In God the law is alive; it reigns on his throe, sways his sceptre, is crowned with his glory.’ For the law is the expression of his own moral being, and his moral being is always self-consistent.”

3. The cross satisfied God’s honour and justice.

This view is likely to hold great appeal to Piper fans. It suggests that our sin is a dishonoring of God’s name, taking away the honor that is due Him, and that “God upholds nothing more justly than he doth the honour of his own dignity.”

Quoting Anselm (an early proponent of this view):

“Man the sinner owes to God, on account of sin, what he cannot repay, and unless he repays it he cannot be saved….There is no one who can make this satisfaction except God himself…But no one ought to make it except man; otherwise man does not make satisfaction….It is necessary that one who is God-man should make it.”
~from The Cross of Christ

C.S. Lewis takes a similar tack to explain the necessity of the Incarnation in Mere Christianity.

The reformers took on this view and the former, claiming that Christ’s death provided a double satisfaction: of God’s law and of God’s justice.

Again, this view has utility and Biblical support–but it has the same flaw as the second view. It suggests that somehow God is subservient to justice.

While the first view (discussed yesterday) was mostly wrong, these two views are mostly right. Yet none of the models that have been mentioned so far are satisfactory to Stott (or to me as Stott leads me along.) They’re missing something, some vital element.

What is satisfied at the cross if not the devil?
What is satisfied at the cross if not the law?
What is satisfied at the cross if not God’s honor and justice?

I’m getting long again, so this chapter will spill into another day. I promise you, though–only ONE more day! :-)

(See more notes on The Cross of Christ here.)

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