- The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse -- a vengeful father, punishing his son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a construct stands in total contradiction to the statement "God is love." If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus' own teaching to love your enemies and refuse to repay evil with evil. The truth is the cross is a symbol of love. It is a demonstration of just how far God as Father and Jesus as his son are prepared to go to prove that love. The cross is a vivid statement of the powerlessness of love.
That isn't to say that Christ's suffering was pleasing to God, for if God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), he certainly would take no pleasure in the death of his only Son. No, the focus in scripture is on the removal of God's wrath from sinners: "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18). That is the joy of the cross.
Those who subscribe to the view that penal substitution is child abuse don't understand that joy. They also demonstrate a weak understanding of the Trinity. What do I mean by that? Well, Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, was he not? As Timothy Keller writes in his book The Reason for God:
- God did not, then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the cross absorbed the pain, violence, and evil of the world into himself. Therefore the God of the Bible is not like the primitive deities who demanded our blood for their wrath to be appeased. Rather, this is a God who becomes human and offers his own life-blood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that some day he can destroy all evil without destroying us.