Tony Jones, an Emergent Church guru, questions the necessity of the cross and the death of Christ for the sins of the world:
- I do not think that a bloody, violent death of a divine being was the only way to save the world. I believe that God has more freedom than that.
Perhaps Jones has an incorrect understanding of “freedom.” Biblically speaking, while God can do anything He wants, He does not want to do anything. Some things would contradict His promises; other would contradict His character.
For one thing, God will not sin. This might seem like a limitation to His freedom. However, freedom loses all of its meaning if God is totally free to do anything. The game of chess loses all its meaning if we can move the pieces however and whenever we want. In light of this, freedom only has meaning in the context of limitation.
Jesus understood this. He didn’t want to go to the cross and therefore prayed:
- Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Could not the omnipotent God have done it another way, as Jones suggests? Evidently, it was necessary that Christ die for our sins. But why? God’s holy character required this:
- God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)
God must act justly! Do we understand this? Not really! There is no way that we can fully understand the character of God. Rather, those of us who know Him accept it!