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‘Reconciliation through satisfaction’ – theology or Scripture?

24-05-2017 - Posted by Andre Piet

In the Nederlands Dagblad (a Dutch, christian, daily newspaper) reverend Marten Visser takes a stand for the classical dogma of the ‘reconciliation through satisfaction’, also called ‘the satisfaction doctrine’. This dogma entails that Jesus died as a consequence of Gods punishment for sin. In our place. Hereby, Jesus paid the debt (satisfaction) so that God and man could be conciliated to each other. On this site the case has been made many times, that this representation is totally strange to the Scriptures. The defence of Marten Visser in the article mentioned is a striking demonstration of this. The two arguments he mentions, are not derived from the Scripture but from theology and tradition. Visser:

(…) Jesus died in our place. This is a bit more of a theological construct, although many theologians say that when it reads in the new testament, that Jesus died ‘for us’, it may be read as ‘in our place’. Anyway, in the western church there is agreement about this, for a thousand years already.

The idea that Jesus died in our place, namely in order to carry Gods punishment which is resting on man’s shoulders, of this Visser admits it is a “theological construct”. By which it is said that nowhere in Scripture it is taught explicitly. That a Biblical expression as “Christ died for us” (1 Corr. 15:3) may be read, according theologians as ‘ in our place’, doesn’t improve the matter. That is not explaining  the Bible but implying. Projecting a self-developed idea into the Scriptures. The fact that the Western church agrees on this concept for a thousand years already, might be imposing, but to a ‘Berean’ it is not a bit convincing (Acts 17:11).

The (…) thought is that Jesus was punished for my sin. Despite the fact the contrary is often claimed, (…) the reformers were not the first who said it like that. Eusebius, de writer of the first great church-history, already wrote around 300: ‘The lamb of God was punished in our place. He received a punishment He was not guilty to, but to which we were guilty because of the multitude of our sins’ This became a central theme in the time of the Reformation.

These are non-arguments. Whoever wants to prove that Jesus was punished for our sins, needs to present unambiguous texts from the Bible. What Marten Visser does is quoting the reformers who, in their turn were quoting the church-fathers. By this Visser might have proven that the teaching of the reformers has respectable credentials from church history. But in order to prove that ‘reconciliation through satisfaction’ is a Biblical idea one should not look to Calvin, Luther or Eusebius, but to Paul, Peter and John! And they remain totally silent…

The sadness of the idea of ‘reconciliation through satisfaction’ is, that it totally distorts the Biblical truth. That Jesus had to be punished on the cross, so that God would be able to forgive us, is a reversal of the Biblical presentation. It was the world that convicted Jesus to the death of the cross while at the same time it was God who forgave the world despite this crime. In this way Jesus’ prayer for his enemies became visible: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. God is not demanding the cross in order to forgive. God proves to be forgiving through the cross…

Being enemies we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, Paul writes in Romans 5:10. And elsewhere (Colossians 1:20): through the blood of the cross he reconciles all to Himself. Thát is a Biblical sound. Pay attention: not God reconciled Himself to the world. As if He would be an enemy. Nowhere we read such. No, the world was hostile. And because God was not reckoning their offenses to them, he was conciliating the world to Himself (2 Corr. 5:19). Through the cross God proves: no enmity is a match for my love (Rom. 5:8)! Thát is “the word of conciliation” (2 Corr. 5:19).