A Better Soteriology?


Here is a quote from Dorothy Sayers,

No language, however strong, violent, or emphatic will expunge from the mind of the average anti-Christian the picture he has formed of Christian Soteriology, viz: that Jehovah (the old man with the beard) made the world and made it so badly that it all went wrong and he wanted to burn it up in a rage; whereas the Son (who was younger and nicer, and not implicated in his Father’s irresponsible experiment) said: “Oh, don’t do that! If you must torment somebody, take it out on me.” So Jehovah vented his sadistic spite on a victim who had nothing to do with it all, and thereafter grudgingly allowed people to go to heaven if they provided themselves with a ticket of admission signed by the Son… This grotesque mythology is not in the least exaggerated: it is what they think we mean.

Dorothy L. Sayers to Rev. Dom Ralph Russell, October 28, 1941 in Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, vol. 2, 316. Quoted by Laura K. Simmons in ‘Creed without Chaos: Exploring Theology in the WRitings of Dorothy L. Sayers (Grad Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, , 2005), 68.

I think it is a great quote… except that I think that the so called “anti-Christians” commonly are not misunderstanding what Christians say. I have heard enough speak of the death of Christ turning away God’s wrath (propitiation viewed without any sense of metaphor). Often tied to this seems to be an assumption that there is an awful lot of difference between God the Father and the Son. After all, if God cannot look on sin without becoming enraged, while Jesus seemed to have no problem with this, it seems to suggest that the Father is very different and the one needing appeasing.

It seems to me that we need not only a better presentation of Soteriology (presentation of our theology of salvation), we need to go back to some first principles. For example, so many Christians claim their favorite verse is John 3:16. It is rather remarkable how much that verse really SHOULD challenge the above narrative.

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