Monday, April 10, 2006
What was accomplished at the Cross?
(1) Considered from a Teleological Perspective: Christ the second Adam is the fountainhead of a new humanity and the true manifestation and realization of the Imago Dei.
The event of the Incarnation -- considered comprehensively as the paschal mystery of Christ’s assumption of human nature, his perfect life of obedience, his death by crucifixion, his resurrection and ascension -- constitutes both the reparation and the realization in Christ of the intended purpose of humankind. At the Cross and Resurrection, Christ defeats our mortality (manifested in sin and death) by putting to death the “old Adam,” and by raising it anew on the third day, and then ascending as the second Adam to the Right Hand of the Father. Humanity now reigns in heaven with God in Christ.
(2) Considered from a Legal Perspective: Christ our representative removes the liability of the flesh by fulfilling the creation covenant, thus restoring rectitude (i.e., righteousness) to our nature in his Person.
Just as through rebellion and disobedience our Adamic nature is implicated in and made liable to sin and mortality, so through Christ's obedience the liability of our mortal nature is removed and humanity is restored to a right standing and given the gift of life. This righteousness, however, is no mere declaration of a legal standing rooted in the fiction of imputation. Rather it is a righteousness truly effected in humanity in the Person of Christ. Those who are in Christ are made participants in his new humanity.
(3) Considered from a Juridical Perspective: Christ our vicar assumes our place in judgment, and thus exacts the propitiation and expiation of our sins.
All sinners merit wrath, judgment, and rejection (eternal separation from God), but Jesus the Lamb of God is chosen from the foundation of the world to bear this judgment in his Divine Person. However, this propitiation is not to be considered in terms of “third-party substitution,” where it is supposed that God (the first party) is victim, Humankind (the second party) is the guilty criminal, and Christ (the innocent third party) is the recipient of the judgment justly due to the criminal. Rather, the legal basis upon which this substitution takes place is that the Divine Victim (God in Christ) assumes all costs of reparation for the crime, rendering the atonement an act of pure mercy and grace rather than the exacting of a “just” punishment.
(4) Considered from a Moral-Influence Perspective: Christ our exemplar demonstates God's disposition towards humankind.
The Cross of Christ demonstates the depths of human sin and the judgment due to sin while at the same time demonstrating to humankind the depths of God’s mercy by forming a radical contrast between judgment and God’s disposition to humankind realized in the forgiveness of sinners. This demonstration is rooted in the love of God for humankind, and is thus a potent force to move our hearts, touch our consciences, and reform our lives.