Goroncy on Forsyth: post 3: Atonement

Chapter 3 is a very long and complex chapter concerning incarnation and atonement. I offer here just a few summary comments on some of its content.

For Forsyth everything is seen from the perspective of the cross and in the cross holiness comes into focus. Goroncy summarizes Forsyth's view on holiness and atonement as follows,
Christ in his cross (i) positively satisfies God's holiness from sin's side; (ii) negatively satisfies holiness by bringing holiness' antithesis under judgement, and (iii) creatively satisfies holiness by creating a new humanity wherein holiness is echoed, prized, and praised.
God redeems by bringing his kingdom and that kingdom is inaugurated in Christ; indeed, one could say that Jesus in his radical obedience — climactically his obedience even unto death — is the kingdom. It is on the cross that the redemptive kingdom of God is founded; a kingdom that is not of this world but that is for it.

May your name be hallowed: answering the prayer from God's side
God's name must be perfectly hallowed in creation or the moral fabric of reality is compromised. Sin lays siege to the order of reality and God cannot ignore it so there must be atonement. The problem is that humans cannot self-atone. Rather, "God alone can satisfy the moral order God never disturbed, and pay the cost God never incurred" (Goroncy). This he does on the cross.

May your name be hallowed: answering the prayer from sin's side
Jesus is holiness incarnate, "God's holiness in human form." As such he took on our fallen flesh (Christ made sin for us) and in the power of the Spirit offered the fitting human response to God's holiness.

Christ stoops down to the level of a servant in his divinity not from his divinity. This kenosis, this self-limiting, is a revelation of divine power (not weakness) and a demonstration of divine freedom and love. Indeed, the kenosis revealed in incarnation is the externalization of an eternal kenosis within the Godhead; it is a revelation of the nature of who God is in Godself. But God cannot set aside holiness and remain God and so Christ is holiness incarnate.

Forsyth's atonement theology weaves the strands of triumph, satisfaction, and regeneration into a single chord united in Christ's obedience. For it is Christ's obedience (which is both the divine obedience of the Son to the Father and the obedience of a human to God) that is the thing that atones in each of the three motifs. Jesus' whole life was a life of freely willed submission to God — he went to the cross with his eyes wide open. And it is the holy obedience of Jesus that atones, "that turns an execution into a sacrifice" (Goroncy). It was not some magical power in the act nor the amount of pain he suffered nor even his death per se that was salvific — it was his self-surrender to God in his suffering and death. "A holy God could be satisfied by neither pain nor death, but by holiness alone. The atoning thing is not obedient suffering but suffering obedience."

Jesus is thus the word of God's faithfulness and love to humanity and the pledge to God of humanity's faithful response to divine love. He is God's yes to humanity and humanity's yes to God. Human holiness is a result of Christ's human holiness; it is an "amen" spoken by us to Christ's hallowing of God's name.

"Christ's death ... is God's perfect recognition of God's own holiness, meeting God's own charge against us and bearing God's own judgement against sin" (Goroncy). On the cross Christ exposed sin in all its sinfulness and confessed the holiness that ruins sin. He draws sin to himself like a magnet, bears it, and carries it to its own execution. God makes himself identical to his antithesis (sin) in order to annihilate it. What God judged was not Christ but sin on Christ's head — "The Saviour was not punished, but He took the penalty of sin, the chastisement of our peace."
By confessing holiness of sin's behalf, as it were, Christ does not redeem sin or transform it into something else. . . . Rather, the confession itself is sin's suicide. The logic at work here is this: The moment that sin confesses holiness, sin is expunged. By equating (with both paradox and metonymy) Christ with sin (rather than only with the sinner), Christ's death is the death of sin. (Goroncy)

This is the climactic eschatological judgement day at the end of the age. "In the Incarnation, God took humanity, blessed it, broke it, and then gave it to himself sanctified" (Goroncy).


Tom Nicholson said…
This is the climactic eschatological judgement day at the end of the age. "In the Incarnation, God took humanity, blessed it, broke it, and then gave it to himself sanctified" (Goroncy).

I'm always trying to find new ways to give meaning to the Lord's Supper. This seems very promising. I wonder if Jason develops this further.

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