Simon Barrow was one of my first contributors to this blog when it launched in June 08 and I have followed his thinking and thinktank (Ecclesia) ever since. In his essay 'The Cross, Salvation and the Politics of Satire', he is candid about how people assume that if you do not subscribe absolutely whole-heartedly to PSA you have no faith. I keep changing my mind about PSA as I read, fickle creature that I am. One minute I am won over by the plain sense, no-nonsense approach of John Stott and concerned that offense has been generated by a caricature of the theory rather than the theory itself, and the next minute I am recoiling at what I'm being told are the possible side-effects of such a doctrine for Christians who I'm reading have aligned themselves with state over faith, imperialism over the margins, aggression and violence over and against peace, wrapped up in talk of just war ethics and retribution rather than pacificism. I'm ashamed of my Christian heritage and what has been done to others in the name of Jesus. I am concerned when I read letters like this one to a blog I follow:
I thought that I had read somewhere that the relationship of husband and wife was modeled on the trinity, that it was an asymetric submission. Something like this. "The relationship of man to woman is to parallel the relationship of God the Father to Jesus Christ." I thought that some people teach that the wife is equal in being and different in role, just as the Son is equal in being and different in role in the godhead and that there is an authority - submission relationship between husband and wife that parallels the relationship between God the Father and the Son.
But this is worrisome if the role of the Son is to submit to punishment, because then what is the role of the wife and why is this comparison made?
The theology goes something like this. The atonement is the central defining act of the trinity, headship in marriage is based on relationships in the trinity, therefore...
I have not read a good description from those who promote the trinity/marriage parallel...
PS I am a former battered wife, battered in the name of submission by an ostensibly Christian husband, and these images [PSA] are very powerful. The more one talks about God's bruising of his Son along with talking about the wife in submission to the husband's authority, as Christ is to the Father, the less Christianity seems like an viable option to a woman who has been physically bruised.
Maybe this kind of Christianity is not for battered women.
Simon Barrow writes that he expects PSA subscribers' thinking to go like this:
'You people only have a difficulty with penal substitutionary atonement - the idea that God requires the death of his innocent son in order to appease his wrath and be in a position to forgive sinners - because you are faithless. If not, you'd have no problem.'
For the last two days I have manned the cross for our Easter Experience in church which has been visited by children from the local schools. They are taken through the events of Holy Week. I had some interesting questions and reflections from the children, many of whom asked why Jesus died. One boy gave the answer that he died for all our sins, another boy said he died because the Germans killed him !?!
I didn't give them very deeply theological answers to their questions. I explained that the authorities didn't believe Jesus was the King and Son of God he claimed to be and they punished him like a common criminal.
It was very revealing that I didn't say he was punished in our place to satisfy the anger of God. What would you have said to a class of six year olds from schools with no religious affiliation? Did I do the right thing?
Simon Barrow describes how 'only God can establish God' not some theory and Christ's is 'a sacrifice whose purpose is not to shore up some sacrificial system (as so many Christians want, with their retributive 'satisfaction' ideas), but to demolish it...'
Atonement theories. So I keep swinging back and forth. In Church this morning as I waited for my little visitors I read Leviticus and just worried about how I am ever going to communicate whether a defence can be made of PSA in the light of contemporary criticism.