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President Obama's comments at the National Prayer Breakfast

You can find the entirety of it here. But here's the part that is mysterious to me: "There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Wasn't Jesus innocent? So, if Jesus is God and freely gave himself to us, did not God in at least this instance condone "taking the life of an innocent human being"?

Others on the internet, such as the ever insightful Douglas Wilson, are assessing the President's comments by drawing our attention what seems obvious, the President's rejection of protecting the unborn, the partial-born, and the infants who survive abortions.

That, of course, occurred to me as well. But bringing that up had too much of a shooting-fish-in-a-bucket-while-taking-candy-from-a-baby quality. So, I passed on that one. However, what did occur to me was how a Christian of such native intelligence, as the president no doubt seems to be, would not instantly think of the cross and the innocence of the One slain on it when he mentions "God," "life taking," "innocent," and "human being" in the same sentence while apparently making a theological point.

(Cross-posted)

Comments (49)

Let's also not forget that the definition of "innocent" can be pretty flexible to our Muslim brethren. See: http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/024723.php

Sheesh, Dr. Beckwith. If there were ever a sound candidate for an "exception that proves the rule", that would be it. Isn't this the sort of logic some Calvinists use to praise the God who makes his universal attribute of wrath known by predestining the reprobate to perdition (in order that he might be glorified more)? Or that God actually doesn't love some people or desire them to come to repentance? Must I turn to Eastern Orthodoxy to escape these slanderous attributions of evil to God?

The cross is not the condoning or justification of evil and death. It is their overthrow. Jesus can say "father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" not because what they are doing is condoned by God, but because his love overthrows and endures all evil. The principalities and powers with their trechary are not proved right by the resurrection - they are condemned. The love and obedience of his son he condones - the evil he turns against itself and defeats. I am convinced, with David Hart in "The Doors of the Sea", that this distinction really is crucial. Must you really side with the Calvinists on this one?

Anyway, I approve the president's words wholeheartedly. As should every Christian. We should urge him to actually follow them in his policies.

Rather odd the grammatical syntax he uses, almost as if there were a pantheon of gods.

I think you confuse "taking" and "giving" in this case.

Obama doesn't worship the God of Heaven, The Creator of everything-seen and unseen. He worships a god of his own making, one he can live with. I think he's searched for the god that'll suit him so he can live with himself and justify his actions without facing the evil that all men possess, the evil that will not bow the knee.

Francis asks:
"Wasn't Jesus innocent? So, if Jesus is God and freely gave himself to us, did not God in at least this instance condone "taking the life of an innocent human being"?"

Because of his[Obama's] worship of another god, not the eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he wouldn't intuitively recognize that Jesus did suffer not only physical death, but the full wrath of the Father as an innocent person, slain Lamb of God. His intuition doesn't include things of the spirit because he is of the flesh. "you shall know them by their fruit".

Obama's first principles allow him to abuse logic this way, to make this statement and miss the clear abuse of the claim he himself has made.

This I think is what is called "condemning yourself".

Rom. 2:1 "Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things."

Jesus wasn't an "innocent person" in the same sense that Obama is talking about. He was the king of God's rebellious people - the Adam of the fallen human race. It is as this that Jesus endures "the wrath of God" - which is never turned against the innocent. For Jesus to suffer, in any sense, with God's approval, he had to take our guilt upon himself in his vocation as our head. It is a very distorted picture to ever talk of God approving the killing of an innocent person - insofar as Jesus' death is "approved" by God, we are talking about our sins bearing his fiery consummation. Do not slander God, and do not slander a simple statement that basically boils down to "God doesn't approve of evil".

I say, we shd. go ahead and shoot those darned fish in that darned barrel. He asked for it. (Obama, that is.)

Obama just finished his excruciating 57-minute press conference. Summed up: It will rain tommorow, or it won't.

...do not slander a simple statement that basically boils down to "God doesn't approve of evil".

You mean a simple statement that basically boils down to "God doesn't approve of evil... except when it comes to murdering innocent babies especially when still in their mother's womb"!

Hi Wonders..., I somehow dont think you escaped to Eastern Orthodoxy to come to that conclusion--that the person of Jesus wan not innocent. His guilt was imputed only, He was/is pure perfection, He put on unrighteousness for the sake of His beloved, He didn't do unrighteousness for their sake.

Wonders, who said that the cross justifies evil? All I'm saying is that God condoned the killing of an innocent person. Jesus was innocent, a person, and God condoned it. If he didn't condone it, then the Second Person of the Trinity violated his own nature.

And Jesus was ontologically innocent. He could not have become sin and remained God. This is why He is the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," and not the "Wolf of God who becomes the sins of the world." If Jesus were not innocent, His death would not have been efficacious.

Look, I was making a subtle point that should be clear to even to the untrained eye: politicians, including Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc., are typically bad theologians, since they try to use the language of the present age to convey what they think are deep theological truths.

If I really wanted to play hardball, I could have brought up the fact that there are numerous places that God does in fact approve of the killing of innocents if those innocents are part of a group that he wants to wipe out. For example, I'm sure little babies were killed in Noah's Flood. God condoned the flood. Therefore, God condones the killing of innocents. Now, I understand there are theological and biblical arguments that attempt to account for this in a way consistent with the character of a good and loving God. But, let's not kid ourselves, the Bible does not fit easily into the sensibilities of the worldview of 21st century postmodern pseudo-pacifists. You know the type: they say Bush was a war criminal; Che Guevera and Fidel Castro are champions of the people's republic; and snail darters have more rights that the babies that survive late term abortions.

Aristocles,

That is my point. Say you could talk to Obama about what he said. What would be more profitable, to say "you are right - now let us put it into practice by saving the lives of millions of unborn children" or to say "actually sometimes God does approve of killing innocent people - like with Jesus"? The first is a clear application of moral truth, the second is at best misleading and convoluted - taking pages of nuance to even approach something less than monstrous.

Brad,

I don't know that I understand what "imputed" means. All I know is that God is good, and does not condemn the innocent. For God to condemn our sin, evil, and death in Christ, they had to be "really" in him in a way that thinking in terms of "legal status" just cannot communicate. God may condemn sin in the body of his son, but it is the evil that he condemns, not the good. The good he raises up, trampling down death by death.

Dr. Beckwith, this just looks to me as no stick being too bad to beat Obama with. Don't condemn him for saying something that many Christians, especially Orthodox ones would heartily agree with. Especially when it is exactly this point that he needs to take to heart!

Wonders, who said that the cross justifies evil

You did, Dr. Beckwith. Cross = Death of Innocent. Condones = Justifies. Hence my objection. God "condones" the cross in the way he "condones" the acts of Joseph's brothers. Meaning that the salvation in them is his plan from before the foundation of the Earth, but that the acts themselves are the very abhorrent evil that he is destroying. This is not an unimportant distinction, and saying "God condoned the killing of an innocent person" communicates something other than the truth. It is the sort of damnable slander against God that only subtle theologians can make, where rulers who themselves facilitate the killing of millions somehow avoid. These things should not be.

Look, when the average person hears you say this, he isn't thinking "wow, look at how Obama is missing subtle theological points" - he's thinking "see - those Christians are just as willing to whitewash and justify violence as the Islamists." For Christ's sake, can we not agree that killing innocent people is wrong?

You know the type: they say Bush was a war criminal; Che Guevera and Fidel Castro are champions of the people's republic; and snail darters have more rights that the babies that survive late term abortions.

I do know the type. I don't like their ignorant rhetoric any better than you do. So let's not resemble them in foolish characterizations made in polemic zeal.

You're no doubt twice the man I am - you've done some courageous things and are very learned. But this point you made I think obscures far more truth than it reveals, even to the theologically literate - to say nothing of others who will link to it! Think of the links: "Guess what the Christian right is up in arms about: Obama saying that God doesn't want us to kill innocent people!" I don't think it's prudent or fitting (nor, if you read David Hart's "The Doors of the Sea" or Kalimros' "Ring of Fire", ultimately really theologically defensible).

Anyway, I've said a beardful, and doubtless more than I should. The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God - how much less flaming blog comments! Forgive.

I get the bad theology among the politicians. I have no qualms with your greater point. To say God condones the crucifixion would mean he approved of the actions of those who hated Christ, spit on him, scourged him, mocked him with a crown of thorns, and every other evil thing that went into the killing of Jesus Christ.

God allowed these things, and through these evil acts he provided our salvation--but allowing a deed and using it for good is not the same thing as approving of it. He approves the sacrifice of his Son in submitting himself to the nails, not the nailing of the nails that killed him.

Dr. Beckwith,

"Jesus was innocent, a person, and God condoned it."

I'm probably reading something into what you say that you don't mean to say at all, but Jesus is not an innocent human person. He is not a human person at all.

Look! A Monophysite!

Did the Reverend Wright have theology classes?

I think, C. J., that this a job for the Formationator, whose favorite line is: "Profess Chalcedon or take a beatin'": http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2007/12/the_formationator_profess_chal_1.html

CJ:

"A Monophysite!"

Rather, not a Nestorian.

Thanks Francis. That was hilarious. My favorite was the guy at the beginning who put all the Christological heresies in a blender and came up with his own, wretched brew.

Frank writes: "there are numerous places that God does in fact approve of the killing of innocents if those innocents are part of a group that he wants to wipe out. For example, I'm sure little babies were killed in Noah's Flood. God condoned the flood. Therefore, God condones the killing of innocents. Now, I understand there are theological and biblical arguments that attempt to account for this in a way consistent with the character of a good and loving God. But, let's not kid ourselves, the Bible does not fit easily into the sensibilities of the worldview of 21st century postmodern pseudo-pacifists."

Whoah!

I believe that this is what is known as "biting the bullet."

I stand in awe. And I'd really like to know what some of our other contributors might think about this - especially the long-absent Daniel Larison.

There are two indisputable claims for Bible believers, 1]God is good, 2] He commanded and or caused the destruction/death of men, women, and children-including babies. Both claims according to His word.

Whether or not someone wants to argue for innocence may be another thing altogether.

Since God condoned or even presided over the killing of babies, is it even possible to [while being logically consistent] to call it evil considering #1 above?

Since God condoned or even presided over the killing of babies, is it even possible to [while being logically consistent] to call it evil considering #1 above?

I guess not, Brad. Better abandon this misguided "pro-life" nonsense. Dash a few heads against the rocks, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Kill the innocent, just as your Father in Heaven kills even little children who displease him.

You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.

Hi Wonders..., are you disputing that God is good, or that the scriptures clearly speak of God's sovereignty and approval of everything that comes to pass? Or, are you unwilling to wrestle with these two facts or just hold to a visage of a god who meets your approval.

I do not deny that God is good - I affirm this above all else. But all scripture must be interpreted through Christ. And I condemn any reading which takes these Old Testament accounts of collective punishment as a statement that God approves of killing the innocent. This sort of thing makes the antebellum justification of slavery on scriptural grounds look positively benign.

Hi Wonders..., I'm glad that you're willing to intrepret scripture though Christ, hopefully we two can come to terms with what that phrase means. My first impression is that in some way your view is imposing creature perspecive onto the Creator. What IF God has at one time approved the killing of the innocent? Is there ANY possible circumstance that you could conceive of where it would serve God's purpose to condone the killing children?

No, Brad. Injustice does not serve the purposes of God - at least not in itself. God can certainly, in his providence, work in all things for our salvation, but this never makes the injustice itself condoned. God is good and righteous, and the condemnation of the innocent is the very definition of injustice. It is on the grounds of God's goodness that he urges us to come and serve him. He is, in the language of antiquity:

a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.

In other words, he is a good God who loves mankind, but also a firm and righteous God who will not indulge those who would take advantage of such lavish kindness.

The accounts of collective punishment in the OT are certainly troubling to the modern mind - and for good reason. We have a strong sense of individualistic justice, gained in part by the strong influence of the Christian faith in our culture over two thousand years. God himself lead the way on this in the prophets, where "the soul who sins shall die" as opposed to "the fathers eat sour grapes and the children's teeth are put on edge".

But the story does start where collective identity is assumed, and God works in that framework as well. And there is much insight to be gained by it. We are, after all, a part of each other in ways we don't fully comprehend. Yet here's the thing - scripture only talks of the death of children in judgment in a context where collective identity is assumed. In other words, insofar as a child perishes with his parents, that child is assumed to be a part of the sin of the parents (surely I was sinful at birth, and in sin did my mother conceive me).

So then, to lift these passages from that context, and then plop it down in our culture, where individualistic justice is assumed, and then to make the point that God condones the killing of the innocent, is a slanderous misreading of scripture. It makes the opposite point that those very scriptures were trying to make - that God is just. This really is the same as plopping down the Mosaic law and saying God condones slavery - ignoring that the whole thrust of the story is of a God who makes slaves free.

So no, God does not condone the taking of the life of an innocent human being. God hates the shedding of innocent blood. God is righteous and just, despite the well-meaning slander of subtle theologians.

Hi Wonders..., a definition of innocent may be in order. Did not God make His power known to Israel by making an example of pharoah and by slaying the first born male of every household that did not have the sign on the doorpost? The previous miracles didn't incline pharoah to "let My people go".

I dont quite buy the collective identity theory as an answer to this problem because individual children died who did not commit the offense that brought on God's wrath. No matter how much you'd want to hide behind collective identity, you'll still have to deal with the fact that individual personal beings were slain. Does it make them less innocent by mans standards just because they are babies of a cursed people?

Brad, I'm not "hiding" behind collective identity. This is no "theory" - it's a basic statement about the ancient near east worldview. I'm talking about something that is assumed in much of the Old Testament. Your imposing individualistic standards on it, and coming to the conclusion that God approves of the shedding of innocent blood, something the Bible specifically and vehemently denies.

Look at the passage I quoted above: The visiting of the sins of the fathers on the children is given as evidence that God will be no means clear the guilty, not the innocent. Look up "innocent" in a concordance, and you will see example after example of God disapproving - not because the death of the innocent doesn't happen to serve his present purposes, but because it is fundamentally wrong and detestable to a righteous God.

I'm amazed, by the way, that I'm having this argument with people who are supposedly champions of the pro-life cause. With friends like these, do the unborn in our country really need enemies?

Hi Wonders, visiting the sins of the fathers onto future generations doesn't allow you to evade the charge that innocent [i.e. those who didn't actually commit the crime/sin] were punished in reality. I still believe that your thinking presupposes a view of God that sees Him as a creature, not Creator. He has right to do what He wants, His court is just. When we see babies killed, we dont *know* their standing before God in Heaven, it is surely judgement being carried out, but we do not challenge God on this--especially after His demonstration of great love wherein He gave His Son for those who hated Him.

Brad, does God or does God not "hate hands that shed innocent blood"?

Hi Wonders..., sure He does, He also hates the wicked all the day long as the scriptures tell us. BUT, we are not talking about men taking innocent life[which God hates], we are talking about God's presiding over it or in fact carrying out the judgement as the Captain of the Lord of Hosts [Jos.5] You are in fact attributing the limitations of man onto God as a presuppositional proposition when you consider God's divine right. What about the King of Assyria in Isa 9? God used him as a rod against His chosen people because they were neglecting the widow,fatherless, and being unfaithful. As a rod of discipline in war. After the king bragged about what he'd accomplished of his own power, God turned His wrath on the king and judged him by Israel's restoration after repentance. You just simply are not reading the Bible if you miss these plain examples of God sitting on the throne of His creation, ruling in the affairs of all that occurs--including the deaths of infants or even those who dont know the right hand from the left hand.

Somebody please change the TITLE

of this thread to the:

"Brad vs. Wonders" Never Cease Debate

Regarding my last post, every single U.S. citizen will bear the wrath of God for the failure of protecting the helpless just like Israel in Is. chapter nine. He hasn't been vague, but we are not willing to be uncomfortable, as the cup of wrath fills to overflowing, we say peace, peace. There really are no innocent men at all before The Holy.

BUT, we are not talking about men taking innocent life

I thought that was exactly what we were talking about.

On Feb 10:54 I said: " Since God condoned or even presided over the killing of babies, is it even possible to [while being logically consistent] to call it evil considering #1 above?"

You responded to the statement, and I didn't see any mention of man having right to kill innocents in any of my posts along the way. I dont see how ther'd be confusion.

Above should have said "on Feb 10th, at 10:54"

You are saying that the scriptures teach that there are times where God approves of men taking innocent life. I dispute this - they teach nothing of the sort. Where the scriptures talk of the death of infants, they are operating out of a framework of corporate identity where these infants are part of the sin of their fathers. The scriptures simply do not teach that God condones the killing of innocent people.

But you do branch into other areas - saying essentially that, since God is "sovereign", he approves of all that comes to pass. Do you believe God to be the author of sin? Also, is God beyond good and evil?

Hi Wonders..., like I said earlier, I dont see how the corporate identity eliminates the burden you are trying to avoid, namely that God condoned the killing of "innocents". I dont think you've addressed the instances where I mentioned that God used an angel to do his will as in the passover, or the destruction of Jerico, and the mention by Francis of the Great Flood also are unmistakable instances of God's not only condoning, but presiding over the death sentence. There are other similar instances where He commanded the total destruction of nations as Israel claimed their inheritance, He showed sore displeasure when they left survivors including women or children or even animals--in any of these instances, individuals were involved--even if you want to add the framework of corporate identity title to the act..

As to your last question, I wouldn't want to irritate aristocles any more than it appears he is so I'll pass on branching out, but I'll say that Rom. 9 has been instrumental in my coming to terms with the issue of God's sovereignty.

Evangelical apologist Glenn Miller tackles this issue several times:

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/rbutcher1.html

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qamorite.html

The upshot is 1) death was the most humane option after the guilty were eliminated and 2) the dead innocents were victims of their wicked rulers/countrymen.

Discuss amongst yourselves. Or not.

I've made the argument before - in an exploratory sense, not in a deeply committed sense - that it is not possible for God to commit murder. Murder by its nature is an irrevocable act of killing the innocent (where "innocent" means "not engaging in an attacking behavior"); God is omnipotent and therefore none of his "acts" (which at the end of the day are only analogical to our acts anyway) are irrevocable in a morally pertinent sense; therefore God cannot commit murder, even when He kills.

But in any event I think talk about God of the sort which attempts to morally evaluate his "acts", assume that they are transitive with our acts, and then conclude that we are morally licensed to something analogical to what He does, are not always particularly well founded arguments; though they make for superficially nice rhetoric.

I dont see how the corporate identity eliminates the burden you are trying to avoid, namely that God condoned the killing of "innocents".

Um, it does so by understanding that, from the perspective of the text, those killed were not innocent. It's pretty simple, really.

The more difficult question is how to integrate such passages with an understanding of God as revealed most clearly through the love of Christ (letting Christ inform our reading of the OT, rather than the OT mute the gospel of Christ). Many of the early Church fathers did so by saying we should read those OT passages allegorically, and I'm not convinced they were wrong to say so. After all, it was this desire to meet out judgment on the nations rather than be a light for them that caused the Jews, who diligently studied the scriptures, to kill the Messiah.

But regardless, even though the passages are shocking and horrible to our modern sensibilities, it is still patently false that the text ever meant to imply that God condoned killing the innocent.

By the way, this idea that we should submit to God's power regardless of whether or not he shows himself to be good, seems to me to be about the surest recipe for Devil worship that I can conceive of. If anyone wants to know what the sovereignty of a good God looks like, they need to start with what Jesus said about the kingdom of God. The greatest among you must be the servant of all. God's sovereignty isn't his utilitarian manipulation of people's destinies for his own self-aggrandizement, but rather his self-giving love for the salvation of his creatures to draw them into the divine life of the trinity. Jesus is the sovereignty of God.

Consider this Wonders..., This is Jesus' handling of men.

Mat 10:28 ""Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Mat 13:10 "And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"
Mat 13:11 Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.
Mat 13:12 "For whoever has, to him {more} shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
Mat 13:13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. "


Your recent post seems to indicate that if we'd let the love of Christ inform our OT reading, we'd then see that it's impossible for God to be responsible for the death of innocents. Well here, Jesus is purposely withholding the truths of the kingdom from some, guaranteeing a fate worse than death [ala Mat 10:28] Now, these Jews had families with children that'd be left out also, Jesus knew that Jerusalem would be destroyed, the warning was given in a parable also. Jesus *could* have done other than leave them in the dark, bue He did the will of the Father instead. From what you say, your notion of God the Father and Jesus is skewed, only showing a small portion of the total revelaton.

Jesus is here condoning a fate worse than death--for the sake of obedience to the will of the Father

This discussion is fruitless. If you are intent on extrapolating cruelty and injustice even in the face of Christ, then I simply shake the dust off my feet. I hope indeed that you do not come to be conformed into the image of the god you worship.

This is extrapolating? What part of my analysis of that scripture passage involved extrapolating? I think it'd be better described as believing what the plain meaning is saying--not turning the Word of God into a compilation of allegories.

Dr. Beckwith, I have been curious for some time now whether your conversion to Catholicism involved any changes to your understanding of the Doctrine of the Atonement?

The most popular understanding among English speaking Protestants, variously expressed by their theologians and common believers, seems to be best summed up as "substitutionary penal atonement".

As a young Catholic I didn't think much about the issue, but something always seemed a bit at odds between the way this doctrine is embodied in Catholic devotional and liturgical texts, and the way it was expressed by my Evangelical neighbors when they spoke of "getting saved".

In my late 20s, this subject began to bug me a bit. I've found the following books helpful as I've grappled with this mystery:

The great English-language work on this subject, from the 19th Century, by Henry Nutcombe Oxenham: The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement

A related work of one of Mr. Oxenham's Protestant contemporaries, John McLeod Campbell: The Nature of the Atonement

There is also a helpful article from the Original Catholic Encyclopedia: Doctrine of the Atonement.

I would be very interested in reading what views (if any) Dr. Beckwith, you've formed or reformed on this important doctrine of the Christian Faith.

Let me quote a salient passage from Chapter One of Oxenham's work:

That Jesus died, the Just for the unjust, to redeem mankind from the bondage of corruption, and restore the broken communion between earth and heaven, is, and ever has been, a fundamental verity of the Christian faith. From that uplifted cross, for eighteen centuries, He has been drawing all men by the ' cords of Adam' to Himself. Round the altars where that one true Sacrifice, offered once in blood on Calvary, is presented perpetually in a bloodless mystery, from the rising to the setting of the sun, has been gathered through those eighteen centuries of her chequered history the faith, the penitence, the devotion of the Church He purchased by that greatest pledge of love. -Yet, even as then among the spectators of the crucifixion there were some who worshipped and some who doubted, and its stillness was broken by the questionings, or the jests, or the mockeries of those for whose sake it was endured, so it has been till now. And doubts have multiplied tenfold since the first controversies of the Reformation period involved the whole subject in the confusions of a theological warfare, where men darken counsel with many words, and strive rather for a party triumph than for simple truth. Forgetting or greatly underrating, for the most part, the significance of the Incarnation as the centre-point of all Christian belief, the first leaders of the movement in the sixteenth century dragged forward into disproportionate prominence, and often in connection with an erroneous theory of ' imputation,' one side and one only of that Divine mystery, namely, the doctrine of the Atonement. And hence there has grown up in many quarters a way of looking at the doctrine, and speaking of it, full of difficulties to the devout believer, and offering abundant opportunities for the cavils of the sceptie. In our own country this has been partly due to the theological influence of Paradise Lost, which had become for a large number of Englishmen a kind of supplementary Bible. The Arian opinions of Milton on our Lord's Person, have strengthened the hold obtained over the national mind by what is in fact an Arianizing conception of His work. It has been so represented as to cloud our most primary conceptions of the attributes of God; and to imply, or seem to imply, a division of will between the Persons of the undivided Trinity, in whom being and will are one. And so men have come to complain that they cannot believe in a justice Avhich strikes the innocent, while it spares the criminal; that they cannot understand a love which waits to forgive till it has exacted rigorous compensation ; or recognise the holiness of that displeasure against sin which is content to exhale in displeasure against the Sinless One. Such objections may often be urged in a tone of mockery, or disbelief; but it is not always so. It will not then, I trust, be an unprofitable task to show that the doctrine of atonement held and taught from the beginning in the Catholic Church is open to no such criticism. An investigation of her teaching, as laid down by the Fathers and later theologians who are the accredited interpreters of her mind, will prove that the opinions fairly open to objection are no part of it, but are either those of particular writers or schools only; or such as have prevailed for a season and then passed away, like the notion of a ransom paid to the Evil One; or were put forward from the first with an heretical animus, and have never found a home within her pale; or are the doctrines of those who have formally renounced her creed. Meanwhile, it will not be out of place to premise some explanations, at starting, in reference to certain leading misconceptions on the subject.

First, then, let me repeat distinctly what has already been implied, that no division of mind or will is even conceivable between the First and Second Person-of the holy and undivided Trinity. The Atonement Was not, if one may put such blasphemy into articulate words, a device of the Son to avert the wrath or appease the justice of His offended Father, as when He is said in a well-known hymn to have " smoothed the angry Father's face." Sin is equally displeasing to the Father and the Son, and to the Father as much as to the Son belongs the love which by the mystery of redemption " devised a way to bring His banished home." The Father sent the Son in likeness of sinful flesh, and by the Eternal Spirit was He conceived in Mary's womb, and offered on the Cross. The atonement is the work of the whole Trinity, and the sacrifice of the Cross, like the sacrifice of the Altar, is offered to the whole Trinity. To conceive of the Father being angry with His sinless Son, and inflicting on Him the punishment He would else have inflicted on us, is to forget that " the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and yet They are not Three Gods but One God." The justice which required satisfaction and the mercy which provided it, are the justice and the mercy of the Triune God. In the language of St. Leo, which will be quoted again further on, " One is the kindness of Their mercy as the sentence of Their justice, nor is there any division in action where there is no diversity of will." It is only necessary to insist upon this, because it is so frequently forgotten.

In the next place, it must be always borne in mind that in speaking of the avenging justice, or the wrath of God, we mean by such language, which is necessarily more or less metaphorical, simply to express His holiness, in relation to sin. Righteousness is the best equivalent in our language for the theological term justitia, which has a far wider scope than is ascribed in ordinary usage to the English word justice, or giving everyone his due, though it of course includes it. It is not that we have done an injury to God for which He requires a quid pro quo, as in a case of injustice between man and man, or that He was angry as though we had defrauded him, and required to be appeased; it is no such unworthy and anthropomorphic conception as this that we mean, when we speak of a satisfaction to His justice, or a sacrifice to appease His wrath. It is the perfect holiness of God, which is one with Himself, that is outraged by sin, and then becomes what is frequently called in Scripture His indignation or anger, and expresses itself in the righteous chastisement of the sinner. It is that holiness which is satisfied by the spotless sacrifice of His Son; not, as St. Bernard says, by His death, but His will in voluntarily dying. In His perfect life, enduring meekly the contradiction of sinners, while He sternly rebuked their sin, He manifested the name of God to the world by revealing God's estimate of evil. In His bitter sorrow for the transgressions of mankind, His brethren after the flesh, He offered to God an act of perfect contrition, which He alone could offer, for the sins of those who slew Him, but whose nature He had made His own, as though He were Himself the criminal, not the victim.1 That act was consummated on the Cross. We need not doubt that He might, had He so willed, have pardoned us on our repentance, without any sacrifice at all; nay, the sacrifice offered was itself the provision of His mercy...

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