Proper Posture and the Great Commission

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

This is the Great Commission of Matthew’s gospel, given by Jesus as a final command to his disciples. It is a command to make disciples and uses three participles to designate the manner that is to be accomplished: going, baptizing, and teaching. This passage is extremely integral to the church, since it is a command to spread the good news of Jesus so that it may save souls and transform lives by making men and women into disciples of Jesus Christ.

However important the contents may be for the commission, though, the authority given to it is what determines its importance. It may be a good command, but if there is no authority behind it, it is not as important of a command. For example, If a young child tells another child not to eat a lot of sweets, that child is not likely to obey that command. By the same token, if that same child’s mother tells him not to eat a lot of sweets, he is likely (or at least more likely) to abstain from them. This is why Jesus prefaces the Great Commission with, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The weight of the command is determined and accentuated by the the magnitude of the greatness of the one proclaiming it. Therefore, since Jesus has been given categorically all power in heaven and on earth, his command bears immeasurable weight.

This is where the posture of the disciple’s heart enters consideration. Even if the weight of the command is immeasurably heavy, keeping it still requires submission. If a man desires discipleship under Jesus, he must submit himself humbly to Christ’s authority. I believe that the way a person submits to Christ is divided generally into two ways.

  1. Understand that Jesus is greater than you.

There are many people who treat Christ flippantly: “Jesus is my BFF.” “Jesus and I are tight.” This attitude shows a true disassociation with who Jesus is. He is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. He has been given all power in heaven and on earth. He will return to judge the entire world in absolute righteousness. He is mighty, and he demands worship. Yes, we have a friend in Jesus, but do not forget that he is God.

In Mark chapter 4, Mark writes of Jesus’ disciples meeting a great storm on the sea. They wake Jesus up, he rebukes the storm, and it ceases. The disciples respond thus: “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” They were filled with great fear. Jesus’ closest companions felt great fear when confronted with his greatness, yet we might have the audacity to treat him flippantly? God forbid.

This means you must realize that Jesus supersedes you. He is greater than you. He was sinless; you are sinful. He is powerful; you are weak. He is wise; you are foolish. If you want to fulfill the Great Commission, it is fundamentally true that you must submit to Christ and understand that he is greater than you.

  1. Value Jesus’ will as greater than your own.

This is an integral part of submitting to Christ. Valuing Jesus’ will this way is important, because it both reveals a true love for him (by keeping his commandments and valuing his word) and a respect for his wisdom by understanding the perfections of his will.

Submitting t0 Christ means surrendering your will, and Christ is clear about this. He says quite famously that anyone who loves their mother or father more than him is not worthy of him (Matthew 10:37). You must deny yourself of your own desires and your own view of perfection in favor of Christ’s. You cannot serve both yourself and Christ.

In fact, this is part of any real relationship. Wills between parties conflict in relationships, and part of the resolution to this conflict is that one party must show deference to the other. This is true of a Redeemer-redeemed covenant relationship too. Jesus’ words and ways will conflict with your will. Yet, this conflict is a true test of discipleship. Will you be stubborn, or will you yield to the immaculate Christ? If you will not, do not pretend that he is your God. Christ will not be bent to the will of men, perpetually permitting their behavior. If you will not bend to the will of Christ, he is not your God; he is an therapeutic idealization of a god, an idol of the mind.

Therefore, it takes both understanding Christ’s surpassing greatness and valuing his will over your own. If you do not think he is greater than you, his words are unlikely to inspire any real change in your thought or behavior. If you do not value his will over your own, you are unlikely to carry out any of those commands. But if you submit to him by realizing his greatness and valuing his will, his words will be like sweet honey and you will be in a great hurry to fulfill his commandments.

This summary returns us then to the Great Commission. It is obvious that there is a direct relationship between submission to Christ and following his commandments. This is a commandment of Christ. Now that you have evaluated your love for him and the value of his will, it is time to ask: Will you fulfill this commandment?


Avery Thorn is from Belmont, MS. He is a junior at Blue Mountain College, where he is a Biblical Studies major and a History minor. He is a member of Belmont First Baptist Church. He has a passion for preaching and studying Scripture. Avery’s hobbies include exercising, music, politics, reading, writing, and making and enjoying coffee. You can follow Avery on Twitter @Avery_thorn.

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Intimate Love, Costly Grace, Wondrous Holiness: Navigating a ‘Boring’ Passage

road-sky-sand-street.jpgJourneying through the book of Exodus can feel a lot like wandering in circles through the Sinai wilderness—it’s easy to get lost in the details. Exodus is an exciting and enjoyable book to read and study through at least the first 20 chapters. But the last half of the book is rarely read, studied, and preached—except for a few stories (Ex. 32-34). One of the reasons is that the book shifts from narrative to lengthy descriptions and commands. The last half of Exodus, particularly Exodus 28-31, are a little boring to the casual reader.

In Exodus 28, there is a seemingly endless list of specific descriptions and commands from the Lord as to how the priests’ garments were to be designed. An instructional tone continues in Exodus 29 as the Lord explains how the priests should be consecrated (set apart for service to the Lord). In Exodus 30 we see more instructions regarding the placement and purpose of tabernacle elements such as the altar of incense and the bronze basin. Exodus 31 reinforces Sabbath commands while Exodus 39 is a lengthy description of the Israelites obedience to the Lord in making the priests’ garments.

From a bird’s-eye view, Exodus 28-31 and 39 are all about God’s love, grace, holiness, and glory. True, this is a very broad and general statement that could nearly be true of every biblical text. But there is something unique about this section of the Exodus in how it relates to the rest of the Bible and even to you and I today. Exodus is all about God’s glory extending to the ends of the earth through his chosen people who possess his indwelling presence.

By God’s grace alone, he chose a people for himself and dwelled with them. The tabernacle was constructed as a means for God to live with his people. One of the most glaring realities communicated in Exodus 28-31 is that God demands and defines how he will be approached and worshiped. Because of our sin, approaching God on our terms will always prove disastrous. He is too holy for his people to just waltz into his presence whenever and however they so please. In the words of pastor Landon Dowden, “You don’t just stroll into God’s presence.” If Exodus 28-31 teaches us anything, it teaches us that it is incredibly costly to dwell peacefully with the living God.

Ultimately, Exodus 28-31 points to Christ, our great high priest, who makes “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Only by being clothed with his righteousness can we fearlessly approach the throne of God (Heb. 4:14-16). The fact that we possess the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit every waking and sleeping moment of every day should leave us in awe of the work of Christ on our behalf.

I believe there are three important truths to draw from this often overlooked and seemingly obscure passage of Scripture.

1. God’s Love is Deeply Intimate

We see his deeply intimate love in the simple fact that he desires to live with us. Most of us are particularly careful in choosing who we live with. Whether in choosing a spouse, college roommate, or camp roommate, we don’t want to live with someone who will inevitably cause us harm. We choose who we live with based on their merits and their history with us. I’m so thankful God is not like us. He chooses to live with people who will inevitably cause him harm. He chooses to live with people who will deliberately turn their backs on him despite his unfailing goodness. It wouldn’t take long for the people with whom he has chosen to dwell to start worshiping a calf made out of gold. Yet, this God of deep, intimate love constantly pursues his people not based on their merits or history, but solely on the basis of his love.

2. God’s Grace is Costly

The only way for a God of infinite holiness and a people totally depraved with sin to live together is forgiveness. In any broken relationship, the party who is wronged must forgive the party who has wronged in order for the relationship to be restored. Well, the relationship between God and man is broken with a greater divide than any other relationship in history. Mending this relationship will require more than just blind acceptance. God would cease to be God if he allowed man into his presence without dealing with their sin. Grace and forgiveness that are in any way meaningful are always costly. And they are costly to the one showing grace and offering forgiveness.

The sacrificial blood-bath in Exodus 29 is not for the sake of religious rituals. These sacrifices are necessary for the possibility of forgiveness. And they point to the ultimate sacrifice, the divine sacrifice where the God who owns heaven and earth takes the greatest loss by sending his Son to bear his wrath against sin. God’s grace is indeed costly. But it is costly to himself. Oh, the lengths and depths of God’s grace!

3. God’s Holiness is Wondrous

Being overwhelmed by the mountain of details in Exodus 28-31 isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They speak to the wonder of God’s holiness. Remember, you can’t just waltz into God’s presence however and whenever you like. So, the details aren’t ritualistic. They aren’t for the sake of information overload. They are a testament to the grandeur and wonder of God’s holiness. One of the more sanctifying things you can do is meditate on God’s holiness or otherness. Just how different is he from you?

In all honesty, Exodus 28-31, and really much of the last 20 chapters of Exodus, is difficult to read. It is easy to miss the importance, meaning, and significance of these chapters. It is easy to get lost in the details. However, with the right lens, we will be able to see not only the importance of these chapters as inspired Scripture, but we will be able to see the deeply intimate nature of God’s love, the costly nature of God’s grace, and the wondrous nature of God’s holiness.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Sovereign Giver: Brief Reflections on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

giftsWe all have received gifts on special occasions, like birthdays and Christmas. When we receive special gifts it is easy for us to focus on the gift, but forget the giver of the gift. Too many times we forget to say, “Thank you.” When you were a kid, how many times did your parents have to remind you, “Say thank you” when you receive a gift from a friend? While it isn’t polite to just receive a gift without saying thank you, think about how crazy it is for us to receive so much from God and forget to say, “Thank you, Lord.”
Paul opens his letter to the Thessalonians by thanking God for them. He says that he prays for them constantly or without ceasing (v. 2). This means he makes a habit of praying, and when he prays he always mentions this church in his prayers. He then gives his reasons for why he is thankful to God in verse 3. He says he prays for them always “remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). Paul is saying, “I thank God for you because of your faith, love, and hope.”

Why is Paul thanking God if it is the Thessalonian Christians who are the ones doing the work? They are the ones with the “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope.” Yet, Paul gives thanks to God in his prayers for what these Christians are doing. Why? He does this because the faith, love, and hope of the Thessalonian Christians were gifts from God. It is impossible for us to have true faith, love, or hope without God working in our hearts first.

Without Christ being faithful to God in his life, we could not have faith. Without the Father first loving us, we could not truly love God and others. Without the Spirit giving life to our dead hearts, we would have no hope. When we trust Jesus for salvation, we need to see it as a gift from God and thank him for it. When we grow in love for God and others, we need to see it as a gift from God and thank him. When we have confidence in God even when bad things happen, we need to see it as a gift from God and thank him for it.

Faith, love, and hope are not just marks of a Christian. They are gifts for the Christian. What did we do to deserve these gifts? This is the crazy part. We did nothing to deserve these gifts. Absolutely nothing! In fact, we deserve the opposite of these gifts because of our sin. If God were like Santa Claus, giving us gifts based on who is naughty or nice, we wouldn’t receive anything because we are all naughty. But God is better than Santa Claus. In Christ, he offers us unbelievable gifts not based on how good we are, but on how good he is.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

The Sun Will Not Strike You: Reflections on Psalm 121:5-6

What follows is an entry from the Family Devotion Guide for the families at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. You can access all the Family Devotion Guides, including this week’s (Week 34) by visiting the First Kids page.


“The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.” –Psalm 121:5-6

Image Credit: Flickr | Soroush95

Think of your absolute best friend. You know, that friend who would do anything for you; the one you play with, hang out with, and maybe even have over at your house for sleepovers. Would you say this friend cares for your when you are having a bad day? Is he or she there for you when you need someone to talk to? It is good to have a friend like this. We all need someone to have our back in a tough situation.

Well, God is the ultimate friend to his people. He will always have the backs of those who trust in him through Christ. Psalm 121:5-6 say, “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.” This passage teaches us that God will always guard his people.

The Lord is our keeper. This is another way of saying, “the Lord is our guardian.” He watches over his people. He knows what we will face and he even guides us by the hand into tomorrow. Some people believe Psalm 121 was written after the people of Israel were rescued from exile. Many years ago, other nations invaded Israel and took the people back to foreign countries. They were taken from their homes. God rescued them from exile and they returned to Jerusalem. This psalm was a great reminder for the people of Israel that their God would be their keeper or guardian no matter what happened to them. Even through God’s judgment, he never abandoned his people.

We have that same promise in the gospel. Jesus died to rescue his people from the exile of sin. Sin put chains on our hands and feet and took us from our home with God. Through his death on the cross, Jesus rescued us by breaking the chains of sin. By faith in him, we are no longer slaves of sin, but sons of God. Because of Jesus, God is our keeper. He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:2). God will always have our backs and will never let us go (John 10:28).

The Lord is also our shade. When this psalm was written, the people of Israel knew how deadly the sun could be. In that time, a hot, sunny day didn’t equal a fun day at the pool. It meant you better find some shade or you will die. A journey to Jerusalem when the sun was out meant you had to have shade.

God promises to be our shade. He will not let the sun strike us. This means he will protect us from things that will do us harm. Does this mean bad things won’t happen to you? No. Because God is most concerned about your life in Christ. If you have trusted Jesus for salvation, God will not let anything kill your faith. He will guard you and protect you from temptation, Satan, and sin. No spiritual enemy will be able to defeat you. In Christ, you have been rescued. And by God’s grace, you will stay rescued forever!


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

What Does the Bible Teach About Demons?: 9 (More) Biblical Realities

demoniacWho are demons? Do they really exist? What are they like? What do they do? Should we fear them? Should we care about them at all? How should we respond to demons? These questions and more will be answered in this three-day series on what the Bible teaches about demons.
In yesterday’s post, I examined nine biblical realities about demons. Today I take up nine more biblical realities about demons from Scripture, though there are far more.

10. Demons can physically assault people

There are examples of demons causing physical ailments such as blindness, muteness, and epileptic episodes (Matt. 9:32-34; 12:22-24; Luke 9:39; 11:14-15). Jesus did heal those who were blind or mute who were not possessed by demons. All cases of physical affliction do not result from demonic influence, though it is possible that some do.

11. Demons inspire false wisdom

14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic (Jam. 3:14-15).

12. Demons energize all non-Christian religions

False worship is equivalent to demon worship, since falsehood is the M.O. of Satan and demons. Paul warned the Corinthian believers, “I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons” (1 Cor. 10:20)

13. Demons may have been partially responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus

6Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.7But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:6-8).

The interpretation of this verse lies in the phrase “rulers of this age.” Is Paul referring to human rulers like Herod and Pilate, or could he be referring to demons as well? Paul uses “ruler” to speak of both Satan and human rulers in his writing (see Eph. 2:2 and Rom. 13:3). Also, it is worth noting that the Greek verb katargeo (“doomed to pass away”) is key in understanding this passage. This same verb is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:24 to refer to Christ’s ultimate defeat of the principalities and powers, which is language for evil spiritual forces like demons.

So, while Paul could have solely been referring to rulers like Herod and Pilate, it is possible that he was referring to demonic rulers. Hence, it is possible that demons worked to crucify Jesus in ignorance of what his death meant for their future. I tend to lean toward this interpretation of this passage because of the phrase “doomed to pass away.”

14. Demons oppose and try to destroy every work of God

We see this in the initial temptation of Adam and Eve from Satan (Gen. 3:1-6). We also see demonic opposition to God’s work in this world in the temptation of Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11). How fitting is it that Satan tries to attack God’s work to fill the earth with his glory in the temptation of the first man and the God-man. Praise God that the second Adam resisted and fulfilled God’s purposes for man.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

The primary work of Satan is to destroy God’s work and to seduce mankind to join in this cosmic rebellion (Matt. 16:23; Gal. 4:8; Rev. 12:9).

15. Demons have limited power

Make no mistake, demons clearly have power. But this power is limited by God. Satan had to ask God permission to afflict Job and Satan’s power was extended as far as the hand of the Lord allowed (Job 1:12; 2:6). The power of demons is also limited by their rebellion against God. They do not possess the same power they once did as holy angels. Sin has weakened them. Demons cannot read your mind or know the future (Isa. 46:9-10).

How would you then explain this to someone experiencing the influence of witch doctors and fortune tellers who claim demonic forces give them the ability to read your mind or see into your future? For example, how would a witch doctor or fortune-teller accurately know what you ate for breakfast this morning?

The power of demons is limited to observation and gaining insight. Demons can observe what we do and they have insight into what happens in the world, but they do not even begin to approach omnisciency.

16. Demons are subject to the will of God

This is similar to the previous point and is brought out primarily in Job 1-2. Demons fear God and shudder at the presence and power of Christ. They are not countering God’s moves, but rather are used by God for his glory. Demons cannot escape the will of God, which includes their ultimate defeat and destruction.

17. Demons can have influence on human sin

This is totally compatible with the fact that humans are still fully responsible for their sin. For an example of this, check out 1 Samuel 24:16-21 as it connects with Saul’s confession in 1 Samuel 26:21.

18. Demons are conquered in the cross of Christ

Pastor and author Sam Storms writes,

The defeat of the hosts of hell does not come by our efforts or energetic shouting or wild gesturing, or by turning up the volume when we worship, as if demonic spirits cannot tolerate loud music! (Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions, 165)

It is only through the demon-defeating work of Christ that demonic rulers and authorities are disarmed, shamed, and triumphed (Col. 2:15). Satan and his demons are very real and they carry power with a vile motive to destroy the work of God. Oh, but in the cross of Christ we have a victor who is far greater than any demonic power. Demons cower in the presence of Christ and are defeated in the cross of Christ.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The “Repulsive” Cross of Christ?–6 Reasons Atheists Reject the Atonement

Cross1As I walk in the small Sunday School room on a Wednesday night, ten young children sit at a table ready to be thrilled by God in his Word. I ask the question that I ask every time we meet:
“What is Christianity all about?”

In unison, they reply, “Jesus took my place.”

“Yes!” I reply. “High fives all around!”

 

The atonement of Christ is the central doctrine of Christianity. Volumes upon volumes of theological works are dedicated to this doctrine. Heart-wrenching and worship-inducing sermons and hymns have been written, preached, and sung by believers throughout the centuries. And while there are multiple legitimate theories of the atonement, essentially there are only two responses to the atonement that truly matter: either delight or disgust.

The fact that God the Son bears the wrath of God the Father for the justification of humans who have incurred the wrath of this holy God is mind-blowing and awesome. In fact, it is the highest act of love, grace, and mercy. “[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Sinners are saved because a sinless Savior was judged in our place.

Good news, right? No, GREAT news!

Right?

Well, not for everyone. It is understandable that non-Christians, religious or otherwise, take issue with the atonement.

They may reject its truth. “Jesus did not actually die on a cross or rise from the dead.”

They may reject its message. “It just can’t be that sinners are saved by the work of another and no work of their own is the basis of salvation.”

However, I have discovered that some deny, reject, and repel the most precious doctrine of Christianity on the basis of its morality. In other words, some people reject the atonement of Jesus as being immoral of evil. This is surprising, shocking, and even dumbfounding for the Christian. How could anyone call what we view as the greatest act of love as immoral? Immorality and evil most certainly do not coincide with love. At the very least, this is a very serious accusation.

Farewell, God

In Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy’s recently released book, The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw: Exposing Conflicting Beliefs, the authors engage with multiple atheistic God-in-the-Dock arguments against the existence of God. In chapter six, the authors show how atheists argue against the existence of the Christian God by showing his pardon of sinners to be immoral. After explaining how the atheist takes issue with God’s justice and wrath against sin and sinners, he shows the atheist’s inconsistency. Not only do atheists despise God’s punishment of sinners, but they also despise God’s pardon of sinners. While it seems immeasurably good news for God to “take all that wrath, every bit of it, and ingest it back into himself,” the atheist responds to such news by saying “Thanks, but no thanks” (89). God bears the wrath that sinners deserve to bear, and at this prospect, the atheist replies, “Ugh! Farewell, God!”

Geisler and McCoy then move to show six reasons why the atheist believes the cross is “unacceptable, even revolting.” While these reasons given by the atheist may be alarming to the Christian, it is important to see that not everyone approaches our most precious doctrine with the same gratitude and delight. Each reason given is unconvincing, but they are very enlightening and helpful when it comes to understanding how atheists view the atonement. If you ever plan to share the gospel with an atheist, you would do well to know what many of them believe about the cross of Christ. As a Christian, if your heart doesn’t break when reading these reasons, you need to check your pulse.

6 Reasons the Atonement is “Repulsive” (pp. 89-91 of The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw)

The following are the six primary reasons why atheists (obviously not all atheists. This mainly refers to those atheists who put God on trial for contradicting his own nature) reject the atonement of Jesus.

1. Christ’s Redemption is Barbaric

Sam Harris: “The notion that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that his death constitutes a successful propitiation of a ‘loving’ God is a direct and undisguised inheritance of the superstitious bloodletting that has plagued bewildered people throughout history.”

2. Christ’s Redemption is Incoherent

Baptist-turned-atheist, Ken Pulliam asks why only the Father “needed to be propitiated when the three persons of the Godhead are allegedly equal. Moreover, did Jesus’s atonement temporarily sever the unity of the Godhead, which is impossible?”

3. Christ’s Redemption is Impossible

Christopher Hitchens: “We cannot, like fear-ridden peasants of antiquity, hope to load all our crimes onto a goat and then drive the hapless animal into the desert.”

Ken Pulliam: “[I]t is logically impossible to punish an innocent person.”

4. Christ’s Redemption is Unnecessary

Dan Barker: “It does no good to say that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. I don’t have any sins, but if I did, I wouldn’t want Jesus to die for my sins. I would say, ‘No, thanks. I will take responsibility for my own actions.'”

5. Christ’s Redemption is Obnoxious

Richard Dawkins: “[Redemption] is a repellant doctrine.” Dawkins has also said the atonement of Christ is “almost as morally obnoxious as the story of Abraham setting out to barbecue Isaac, which it resembles.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Sacrifice for sin, and in its most obnoxious and barbarous form: sacrifice of the innocent for the sins of the guilty!”

6. Christ’s Redemption is Immoral

Christopher Hitchens: “I can pay your debt…But I cannot absolve you of your responsibilities. It would be immoral of me to offer, and immoral of you to accept.”

Elizabeth Anderson: “The practice of scapegoating contradicts the whole moral principle of personal responsibility. It also contradicts any moral idea of God.”

Dan Barker: “I do understand what love is, and that is one of the reasons I can never again be a Christian. Love is not self-denial. Love is not blood and suffering. Love is not murdering your son to appease your own vanity.”

There is No Middle Ground

The God of Christianity causes many problems for humans. Atheists reject God and his intervention to save humans because of what it says about them–namely that they are reduced to sinful beings, while God reigns as a supreme holy being. Atheists have a major problem with the first question/answer of the Baptist Catechism: “God is the first and best of beings.”

These statements from the atheists themselves leaves me with a two-fold feeling. Firstly, I cringe at the obvious and unapologetic blasphemy. Secondly, however, I am deeply saddened by these various positions on the atonement. Spiritual blindness abounds in such distaste for the bloodshed love of Christ.

I am sympathetic to these reasons for disregarding the atonement, even though I disagree with each of them. I always appreciate the brutal honesty of most atheists. Only from honest positions can any measure of discussion be held. If you find agreement or sympathies with any of these reasons or if you hold any of these atheistic beliefs concerning the atonement, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. Decisions made on the atonement of Christ may be the most important decision you will ever make. One thing is clear from this post: Either total delight or total disgust comes from Christ’s cross. There is no middle ground.


Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.