Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Anything other than endless punishment...

...actually lessens sin and lessens the God who has been sinned against."

So says Tim Keller at the beginning of a round table discussion on, you guessed it, Love Wins.

This begs the question, what punishment did Jesus take on the cross? If eternal punishment is the just counterbalance for a sin/sins, then wouldn't we expect Jesus to suffer eternal punishment in our place? To anyone more familiar with atonement theology than I am, how is this worked out? Perhaps the same line of reasoning is used as when people say that a sin against an eternal being is worthy of eternal punishment: punishment meted out on an eternal being is eternal punishment...??

I hate to turn the atonement event into a mathematical equation where one side must equal the other, but I would be interested to hear how eternal punishment is understood in relation to the cross as an occurrence of the wrath of God. If the wrath of God that we deserve is eternal, how can it ever be satisfied by a historical event?

My initial reaction is that Keller's statement is faulty and needlessly dismissive. It seems to make the wrath of God co-ultimate with the love of God, whereas I'm inclined to side with Barth who views wrath as penultimate and love as ultimate.

It's always smart to side with Barth, right?


  1. Nice post. I am interested in critiques of Tim Keller, both positive and negative. I have recently been distracted by what I feel is some misinformation in his 'The Reason for God' book. I am not well read on theories of atonement, so I'm not the one to comment on this thread, but I hope someone might chime in. I'm new to your site. I am enjoying it.

  2. Thanks anonymous! (Feel free to comment under a name if you so wish.) I'd be interested to hear what you feel is "misinformation" in The Reason for God. I've only read the book once and that was a couple of years ago, but I remember liking it at the time. In fact I couldnt put it down.

    I have found some of his latest books a struggle, though. There's just something, I dunno, safe about them. I can't get into them in the way I get into other stuff. I know I haven't given them a fair trial though, so to Counterfeit Gods/Generous Justice I shall return.

    Of course I don't want to sound like only the theologically risque will do. Maybe I just need to learn how to read books I wouldn't normally gravitate towards.

  3. Alway right to side with Barth!!. You are kidding I presume.