Substitute My Humanity

Jesus as substitution…a discussion I am having all over the place on blogs these days.


Substitutionary atonement is a doctrine in Christian theology which states that Jesus of Nazareth died – intentionally and willingly – on the cross as a substitute for sinners. This doctrine presents Jesus’ death as a supreme act of love for mankind, and a heroic act to save people from hell. It stresses the vicarious nature of the crucifixion as being “instead of us”.

I remember One Small Step discussing this idea of Jesus being God as that substitution – and how that was problematic. I couldn’t find that piece from her writing – but I wrote this the other day:

If Jesus is God then everything he did on earth was basically a sham and God is asking us to live up to something we cannot. Jesus was sinless and perfect – could not be tempted being God – could not die either (being God) – Jesus really shares very little in common with us if he is God on earth (it’s an undue advantage we do not have nor should be expected to have). So the sacrifice and everything makes little to no sense – it’s God and all God and nothing to do with humans at all.” (SVS on MetaLutheran – Trinity)

The substitution idea is a theology developed mainly from Paul’s works as the source than backed up by scriptures from other areas. I, however, see problems a plenty with this idea now – maybe I should have listened more closely to OSS or maybe I did?

But the point is – if Jesus is God then all the things he asks of us – we cannot do. Also, he is setting up a standard in his teachings he has undue advantage over – he was God and could do them. Top that off, no real temptation could occur – he is not really like us in that sense…actually I would say if he has God capabilities he is nothing like every other human on the planet today.

And that’s where this atonement theory comes in and finds its foothold – in humanity’s inability to follow the Law (unto perfection). However, we never could according to this atonement theory and now we don’t need to at all. Jesus plays substitute for us and does all the things we could not do – and also becomes our righteousness. Is not everything ‘finished or complete’ – what can we add to God’s perfect life and sacrifice? Nothing!

I would say if that theory holds water – then what do we need teachings, community, or even basics of faith for? Since we cannot do a single thing to ‘earn’ heaven – this is done on behalf of us by another. I would say the best thing we could do is honor that sacrifice – and even then – that means nothing.

What is our role in this system? What about our sinful nature? Isn’t that also taken care of – and if not – we have quite the convenient excuse for not truly dealing with it. I am not saying God is not gracious towards us – He is – but this theory is a little over-gracious don’t ya think? I can be the most irresponsible person in history and by accepting this atonement – well – I am ‘all good’ vicariously through someone else’ actions and because I am convinced this is true (that type of belief is the definition).

Does God promote vicarious ‘righteousness’? Are we responsible for anything we do after accepting the atonement? If so, how? We cannot add to God’s work in atonement according to the theory which leaves us ‘right out of the loop’. Humanity has been by-passed altogether in my opinion.

I like responsibility for my actions – maybe this is simply about integrity.