Thursday, July 26, 2007

The same cup

One of the arguments made in Pierced for our transgressions that caused me to roll my eyes in despair a bit more than usual was the claim the use of the word "cup" in the gospels in reference to Jesus' death proves Penal Substitution. Their alleged logic behind this is that the Old Testament uses the word cup in the content of God punishing people and being wrathful. They quote a few passages and apparently this therefore proves by the use of the same word in the gospels that God is being depicted as wrathful toward Jesus. (God is actually never described in the Bible as wrathful toward Jesus, hence why the authors of PFOT need to go to such extreme lengths to find proof for their idea) Thus, Jesus' bears the cup of God's wrath poured out on him as a substitute for sinful humanity etc. Anyway, at the time of reading I just dismissed it as yet another one of their E-grade arguments and mentally bucketed it with Goligher's stellar argument that mention of the herb hyssop proves penal substitution.

But in Brondos' Paul on the Cross he has an extended discussion of how in the bible believers are said to suffer the same sufferings that Christ himself suffered, dying "with" Christ etc. His aim is thus to demonstrate that Christ's sufferings weren't thought of as unique among humanity's but rather that Christ suffered in the course of trying to achieve certain things and subsequently his followers suffered for those same goals. Among other passages, he mentions this:
But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; (Mk 10:38-39)

That cracked me up. If you use the PFOT logic of "cup" meaning PS, then this says the disciples are also penal substitutes for the sins of humanity! They drink from the same "cup" of God's wrath as Jesus in their death, and are "baptized" like Jesus in God's wrath. ~snigger~

I was impressed though at Brondos' demonstration of just how strong the theme of us dying like Christ for the same things as Christ is in the New Testament. Not only the (in)famous passage "in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24) but heaps of others as well speak of believers suffering like Christ for the same causes as Christ in order to attempt to achieve and further the goals Christ was trying to achieve.

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Blogger Reuben said...

Indeed, I noticed the theme of suffering for the same things Christ suffered for in this book too. It fits within a martyrological framework.

Blogger Bryan L said...

"but heaps of others as well speak of believers suffering like Christ for the same causes as Christ in order to attempt to achieve and further the goals Christ was trying to achieve."

Can you point to some of these passages? Maybe we can discuss them.


Blogger Andrew said...

A few instances of other passages mentioning us suffering like Christ include:
co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we co-suffer with him in order that we may be co-glorified with him. (Rom 8:17)
I have been co-crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)
the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives (2 Cor 1:5-7)
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, (2 Cor 4:8-10)

Blogger Bryan L said...


I'm not so sure how that these verses you cited actually speak of us suffering for the same causes and goals of Christ. Some of them speak of us suffering for sure (not the Galatians passage), but they don't seem to imply that what Christ’s death accomplished, our suffering and death accomplish as well (especially since the majority of Christians don't suffer for Christ and even less actually die for him). In fact some seem to be rather ambiguous in what the effects of our suffering are.

A lot of the verses seem to be predicated on being united with Christ (through faith and the symbol of baptism) so that our life is in a sense an imitation of his, but they (the verses) don't seem to imply that our suffering actually has the same effects as his. What I mean by this is without Christ's death and resurrection enabling us to be united with him and empowered by his Spirit to live like him (and suffer as well if need be), then the way we live our life and however much we suffer really mean nothing. The meaning of it all is dependent on Christ’s prior action and our then being united with him.

I could be misreading you in what you mean by saying “believers suffering like Christ for the same causes as Christ in order to attempt to achieve and further the goals Christ was trying to achieve.” But it just seems like the goals Christ was trying to achieve through his suffering and death were achieved, and although we imitate him, we don’t actually accomplish the same things he did when we suffer or die.
I hate to have to ask this of you but could you elaborate a little more on your position and offer a defense of it. I know how you feel about proving or disproving beliefs on the atonement, but the reality still remains, if a particular belief system cannot stand up to the exegetical scrutiny then it should probably be abandoned. It must first be defensible biblically before we can really compare it to other models and ask whether it makes the best sense out of all the biblical data. I only ask because you seem very sure of your position and I would like to see what it is exactly that you see and what convinces you so much. Thanks Andrew for your patience and being so cordial.

Bryan L

BTW just so you don’t get suspicious I’m not trying to defend PS, although in the end I do believe if the biblical data overwhelmingly points that direction then it should be adopted. At the least I do believe that when I was united with Christ my sins were forgiven (or washed away or forgotten or whatever, so long as I don’t receive the wages for them), I received his Spirit and I became a new creation no longer enslaved to sin. I don’t know if this is necessarily PS or not (or if it overlaps some). I also believe that Jesus' death also accomplished a number of other things (the defeat of Satan and sin, reconciliation).


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