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Mahaney and the Atonement March 27, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes, Random Musings.


I’m not sure if you plan to get back to me on that Christianity Today article I posted yesterday. In the meantime, I hope I don’t lay too much on you but I thought I would send some recent musings of mine your way.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I just finished re-reading C.J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross-Centered Life. What a great book! This is actually the third time I have read it, and upon this reading I decided to make this book a quarterly read. I don’t mean to elevate the book too highly, so as to exalt it above Scripture by any means. But the book’s length, readability, vividness and practicality make this book’s message one that I believe I need to be inundated with on a regular basis. Even in the Church, we are not Gospel-saturated, and that is a great shame. So I’ve already written in my day planner for July 1st, ‘Read Living the Cross Centered Life’.

That said, I thought I would post a couple of quotes from a chapter in the book that I was confused by. Either I am confused, or Mahaney did not choose his words carefully enough, or I may just disagree with him. I thought it would be good for the two of us to kick around these two quotes so I can try to come to a better understanding of what Mahaney is saying. They relate to his understanding of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross.

On page 91, Mahaney writes, “[On the Cross, Jesus] is being made to experience the full fury of the wrath of God — the intense, righteous hatred of God for sin, a wrath that has been stored up beginning with Adam’s sin and extending to all of your sin and mine, and to all the sin to the end of this world’s history.”

Here’s what I am questioning: is Mahaney saying that on the Cross Jesus bore God’s wrath against all the sin that has ever been committed in the world’s history? If so, then it seems like he is including the sins of unbelievers as well. But if Jesus bore the wrath of all the sin in the history of the world (for both believers and unbelievers), then it’s my understanding that no one would go to hell. Because the only thing that will send them to hell is unforgiven sin. What do you think? Am I mis-reading Mahaney, or does he seem to be suggesting that all of God’s wrath against human sin was absorbed by Jesus on the Cross?

Had it just been this one quote, I may have suspected that I simply was not tracking with Mahaney’s thought process. But on the next page Mahaney says something else that I’m unclear about: “[Jesus is] experiencing on the Cross what no one in human history ever has or ever will experience. He’s receiving what you and I should be receiving — His Father’s full and furious wrath.”

Again, I am unclear of what Mahaney means when he says that on the Cross Jesus experienced what no one in human history ever has or ever will experience. Jesus bore God’s wrath on the Cross to rescue people from the pouring out of that wrath on them in hell. So my understanding from this quote is that Mahaney is saying that no one in history (believer or unbeliever) will ever receive God’s full and furious wrath. But isn’t that exactly what all unbelievers will receive in hell?

Obviously I know that C.J. Mahaney is not a universalist, believing that all people go to heaven. He believes in hell and knows that all who do not receive Christ will go there. So help me, brother, to understand what he may mean by these quotes. What am I not understanding? Or do you thinking that I am understanding him, and I simply disagree with him on what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. Because I do not believe that Jesus bore the punishment for all the sins committed in the history of the world; rather, I believe that He bore the punishment of all the sins of those who believe on the Cross…leaving the unbelieving to justly bear God’s wrath against their sin in hell.

These are incredibly weighty matters, ones that need more engagement than mere intellectual understanding. But I am writing this first to try to come to a correct understanding of these things, so that my emotions can be shaped by Truth.

And let me closing by stressing again that even if I disagree with Mahaney about this point, I love this book and would not hesitate to recommend it. Nevertheless, because I do love it so much, I strongly desire to understand what he means on every page.

Curious to hear back from you on all this,




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