Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday Quote: Atonement and the Love of God

As always, this year we have been treated to the spectacle of some apostate cleric contrasting the love of God with the cross. We at Free St. George's have therefore decided there is no better way of marking Good Friday than by giving the following quote from James Denney, the great Scottish Theologian of the Cross. The Cross, as James Denney quite rightly says, is the revelation of the love of God.

"Perhaps the most striking thing in the first Epistle of St. John is the manner in which the propitiation of Christ is related to the love of God. The connection of the two things is, as we have seen, universal in the New Testament. No one could teach more emphatically than St. Paul, for example, that it is to the love of God we owe the presence of Jesus in the world and His work for men. No one could contrast what the love of God has done for us in Christ more emphatically than St. Paul does with the utmost which men will do from love for each other. But St. John rises above all comparisons to an absolute point of view at which propitiation and love become ideas which explain each other, and have no adequate illustration apart from each other. He not only defines the propitiation by relation to love - God Himself loved us and sent His Son a propitiation for our sins (iv. 10); He defines love by relation to the propitiation - in this have we come to know what love is, that He laid down His life for us (iii.16). The emphasis in this last sentence is on the expressly contrasted works 'ekeinos huper hemon'. It is the contrast of what He is and of what we are, of the sinless Son of God and the sinful sons of men, in which the nerve of the proposition lies. So far from finding any kind of contrast between love and propitiation, the apostle can convey no idea of love to any one except by pointing to the propitiation - love is what is manifested there; and he can give no account of the propitiation but by saying Behold what manner of love. For him to say 'God is love' is exactly the same as to say 'God has in His Son made atonemennt for the sin of the world.' If the propitiatory death of Jesus is eliminated from the love of God, it might be unfair to say that the love of God is robbed of all meaning, but it is certainly robbed of its apostolic meaning. It has no longer that meaning which goes deeper than sin, sorrow, and death, and which recreates life in the adoring joy, wonder and purity of the first Epistle of St. John"

James Denney 'The Death of Christ' (Fifth edition, London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1905) P. 275-6

We would advise our readers to read the quotation carefully, memorise it if possible, and use its substance against the old canard that 'If God is Love then He wouldn't punish His Son in the place of sinners.'

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