Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, January 04, 2009

They read penal atonement even when it is not there

A week or two ago I got the following comment on the post Jimmy Swaggart’s Distorted Bible Commentary as the comment has some significance in light of the recent Sabbath School lessons on the Atonement I thought I would use it here as a demonstration.

The comment says:

Hi, I also have a Jimmy Swaggart's Expositor's Study Bible and I am very well pleased with it. As to your comment that there is no biblical evidence of a sacrifical system mentioned to Adam and Eve, what about the Lord's displeasure with the "covering" of fig leaves, where He had to kill an animal for a covering that was acceptable to him. There something had to shed its blood in order for God to be pleased with a covering for Adam and Eve, which was a type of Christ, in that humankind has forever tried to cover up their sin with things that were unacceptable, but only the blood of Christ will satisfy the requirements that God made for the redemption of mankind. I respect your opinion, as I hope you do mine, but anyway we both have given each other food for thought. Keep in touch.

The point of that section on Jimmy Swaggart was just how much people read into the Genesis story to try and make sense of it. In this case God was displeased with the fig leaves? What the text says:

(Gen 3:7 NIV) Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

(Gen 3:8 NIV) Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

(Gen 3:9 NIV) But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

(Gen 3:10 NIV) He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

(Gen 3:11 NIV) And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

If you read the text does it appear that God is upset that they have created a new style of dress? No, He was concerned that they somehow found out they were naked and that they tried to hide from Him.

Then the comment is made that God had to kill an animal for a covering that was acceptable to Him. This is the same God who just a page earlier created the universe out of nothing. But now He has to become the first being recorded who kills a living creature, and for what noble purpose? To create a covering for the only two people in the world. Don’t forget that you simply don’t kill an animal and skin it and sew it together and have a garment, the skin has to be treated before that or it would be like wearing armor. So God has to kill the animal and then perform a miracle to make it workable as clothes. Actually the word used in the Hebrew just means a covering of skin, conceivably the skin of plant material such as a papyrus or some other material. They would all have the same problem in that just taken from a plant or an animal or an animal’s wool they would require something else done to them to make a decent garment or a miracle. But the assumption that an animal was killed by God to make clothes is not the only way of looking at the text.

God had to kill (shed blood) for God to be pleased with a covering for Adam and Eve. This the commenter asserts is a type of Christ, of course the Bible knows nothing of this first set of clothing being a type of Christ let alone record that Adam and Eve were told that the killing of the animal was to point to something that was to happen thousands of years in the future to please God, to satisfy God’s requirements.

This is what the Penal atonement theory has done to Christianity we have made God out to a good deal illogical and pretty cruel on top of that. It makes people seek to hide from God by claiming they are covered by the blood. The blood that God demanded, not the life freely given to show man the kind of person God is but the kind of person that God is who demands blood before He can forgive. Totally different from the Biblical idea of forgiveness and frankly totally different then the picture of God revealed by Jesus Christ.

But as long as people read their penal atonement theory into the Bible in places like Genesis they will always think they have a firm foundation. But the foundation is merely fantasy. But when the fantasy is accepted and embraced by tradition it tends to perpetuate itself. It would be helpful for many of these people to simply read the stories without out inserting all their preconception (the whole problem with Swaggert’s Bible) they should try to imagine themselves in the place of the people who originally heard these stories. Then they would see just how far different their interpretation is from what ancient Israel would have thought and then they can expand their horizons and ask how did we get to the place where we have inserted this particular meaning into the story, is it appropriate or not, does it make sense or not. That is what Bible study is about.

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