Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday Quote: Thomas Jackson Crawford - What Love is THIS?

The 'Moral Influence' theory of the atonement propses that God the Father gave up His Son to sufferings and death simply in order to demonstrate His love and thus to influence sinners to turn to Him. But does it work? In his excellent book 'The Doctrine of Holy Scripture Respecting the Atonement' (second edition, 1874) Thomas Jackson Crawford, Divinity Professor in the University of Edinburgh, explains:

"How should the sufferings of Christ be thus prominently and emphatically proofs of His Father's love to us? If they were not in any respect directly efficacious in securing for us forfeited blessings, or in exempting us from merited penalties; if they were not in themselves instrumental in obtaining for us substantial benefits which could not otherwise have been enjoyed, - how then should we regard them as affording us an unparallelled manifestation of the love of God? Or how then could we derive from them any better ground of assurance than we previously had, that God is willing to be at peace with us?

" Suppose - if it be possible to suppose anything so unnatural - that an earthly king should seek to conciliate his disaffected subjects by taking his beloved son, and depriving him of life before them, for no other reason than the avowed purpose of assuring the rebel multitude that his heart is full of clemency and kindness towards them - how would they be affected by such a spectacle? Can we imagine that it would have the intended effect? Even if the child were ever so willing a victim - cheerfully placing his life at his father's disposal - we cannot concieve that the taking away of that life, if no public benefit otherwise unattainable directly issued from the sacrifice, could, as an alleged proof of love towards the rebels, have the slightest tendency to bring them back to their allegiance. Rather we might suppose it to have a tendency to confirm them in their alienationfrom a sovereign whose treatment of his own son was as far as possible from being indicative of a kindly and conciliatory disposition towards his subjects. In like manner I am utterly at a loss to see how the humiliation and sufferings of the Son of God should be held to manifest or commend His Father's love to us, if they were not the procuring cause of our deliverance from forfeitures and penalties which could not otherwise have been averted."

Thomas Jackson Crawford, 'The Doctrine of Holy Scripture Respecting the Atonement' (Edinburgh and London, William Blackwood and Sons, second edition, 1874) Pages 297-298



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