Question about Christian Theology--Christ as Sacrifice to Whom?

The traditional idea of course is that Christ was offered as a sacrifice to God to satisfy his wrath etc etc.

I’m wondering whether there have been any theologians who ever suggested that it wasn’t God whom this sacrifice was meant to satisfy, but us?

If not theologians, then has this idea been presented in any other context?

“Wrath?” Where did you get that from?

That’s the traditional idea, within Protestantism anyway. I think in the Catholic tradition as well. What exactly it means to “satisfy God’s wrath” is up for debate, but the general traditional idea is–God is angry at sin, this is bad for us, and Christ’s sacrifice in some way makes that anger not have its otherwise-expected effect.

Not a Christian myself, but cite?

Here’s a wikipedia article on the Substutionary Theory of the Atonement, which as you can see from the first paragraph in the article, is the mainstream position.

Though the description in the heading of the article doesn’t use the term “wrath” you can see that it refers to our sin as “an affront” etc. And while Aquinas denied that the satisfaction involved was of God’s wrath per se, Calvin affirmed it and it became the traditional Reformed doctrine at least–from which evangelicals have inherited much of their religious speak. As to what the Catholic tradition is here, as I said in the OP, I’m not sure.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary is pretty definitive of the traditional way of talking about these things, in the sense that, in my experience, lay protestants talking about theology will feel perfectly justified in simply quoting Vines to authoritatively define some term or other. And in it we find this sentence in the article on the sense in which the sacrifice is a propitiation: “…he who believes upon Him is by God’s own act delivered from justly deserved wrath…”

Read any “what we believe” statement from a church in the Evangelical tradition (i.e. churches with the phrase “Bible Church” in the name usually count, as well as conservative Presbyterian, Lutheran, Reformed, and Baptist denominations, among others,) and you’ll almost certainly see a statement of the Substitution theory, which is basically what I was referring to. If you have some problem with the word “wrath” in this context, please replace it with “whatever it is about God’s relation to us that is supposed to make a sacrifice necessary.” But “We are saved from God’s wrath by Christ’s sacrifice” is, as far as I can tell, practically axiomatic for the Christian tradition I was raised in and which is (aside from Catholicism) the mainstream among those, I’ll say in the US at least, who think it’s worth spending any time over theology. Not universal–mainstream. At the prior link you can find both agreement and disagreement with the statement–but in every case, the assumption is that the statement is in some sense the standard view.

Since this actually seems like a serious discussion, I’ll link in from theopedia.

Christ’s atonement raises a good many questions, and imaginative scholars have diligently tried to answer them.

In a shorthand, you may have heard something along the lines of the Old Testament God and the New Testament God being somewhat different.

OT God is perfectionist and demanding and judgmental and demands blood sacrifices, and no human is worthy of his blessings. That’s why the Israelites had such a strong culture of animal sacrifice and of destruction of their enemies - they believed that God demanded it of them in order to tolerate them being upon the earth. See also the Flood, the exile from Eden, all of the “and we slew them and their animals” - not a forgiving sort, God, and more than a bit bloodthirsty.

NT God is STILL perfectionist and demanding and judgmental, but he’s realized (perhaps in therapy) that he isn’t going to get anywhere with all these animal sacrifices, and he is presented as *wanting *to have a relationship with humans, so he splits off part of himself to become human, be perfect (which regular humans can’t be) and act as a uber-blood-sacrifice to **permanently **become a necessary filter between perfect God and imperfect humanity (or at least the applicable subset) to prevent the need for permanent and continuing animal sacrifices (that didn’t entirely work anyway).

The “wrath” is specifically referring to God’s inability as a perfect being to tolerate being in the presence of imperfect humans without instantly smiting them to remove the imperfection from his presence. And no, I never got an answer as to why that was the case, just that it was. The sacrifice provides humans with the necessary filter to present a “perfect” face to God, thus allowing the mutually-desired relationship.

Cite is Lutheran confirmation classes.

EDIT - So, halfway between the Satisfaction and Penal-Substitution theories presented above. Excellent summaries.

As for the OP, no I’ve never heard a CHRISTIAN theology proposing that the sacrifice is for humanity’s perspective, but I have heard several *other *religious and non-religious groups propose the idea. From a Christian standpoint, the sacrifice concept HAS to be related directly to God’s needs, and necessary for salvation, or the whole idea of the sacrifice becomes tangential = therefore not fitting within one of the central tenets of Christian theology.

Not saying it isn’t out there - Christian offshoots throughout history have come up with pretty bizarre interpretations of everything (as have some major Christian traditions themselves), but I haven’t heard of this specific idea as a mainstream Christian proposed idea.

I think when you start talking about “God’s needs” or “God’s inability” to do X, you start running into extreme difficulties with the entire concept of God.

(Not to mention the Immaculate Conception, which torpedoes all of it.)

Oh I’m right there with you. Not that I don’t *remember *a good deal of it, but I no longer believe any of it. Makes for interesting conversations with insistent evangelists. :smiley:

However, I think that makes this a hijack, so I’ll head back to the OP:

Frylock, why were you interested in this topic? Did it come up in conversation, or something you thought about?

I don’t even remember what verse or passage it was, but I came across something in Paul that could, at least out of context, be taken to mean that the sacrifice was to satisfy us so that we would finally accept God, rather than (as I believe is traditionally taught) the other way around. Found the concept intriguing, and wondered if any past thinkers have ever had the thought and taken off with it.

You’re right. Sorry for the hijack in GQ. Mea culpa.

It seems to me that, in order to understand the idea of Christ as sacrifice, one has to understand the idea of sacrifice as it was understood by the Jews in Biblical times, since Christ’s sacrifice was likened to these.

So, question for Old Testament experts: whom were those sacrifices (e.g. the Passover lamb) meant to satisfy? God? The sacrificee? The rest of the community? Some other supernatural power/being (like Satan, or the Angel of Death)? Abstract cosmic justice? or what/whom?

It has something to do with the Jewish Paschal lamb, does it not?

Prof. Pepperwinkle, once again I am grateful to have you as part of the SDMB community. I was all set to point out that penal substitution is only one (though the most well-known) theory of the atonement, but your answer went way above and beyond what I was prepared to offer. Thank you!

“. . . he sacrifice was to satisfy us so that we would finally accept God.”

To me, that kinda sounds like something close to the Declaration Theory from what the Professor posted. “. . .Christ died to show men how greatly God loves them.”

I personally subscribe to the “he got executed, so they decided to make something up to explain how the Son of God could be executed by man” theory. I guess that’s the Accident Theory.

I’m not sure if our Jewish scholars will be participating here since tomorrow evening starts Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The following is, obviously, an oversimplification:

Sacrifices in the OT were meant to cover several functions. It could be as atonement for an individual’s sins, or for a family’s, or for a tribe’s, or for the nation’s. In these cases it would be a sign on the sacrificers that they realized they had not followed the Torah, and were offering up of their livelihood as a show of good faith that would try to keep the Law. In addition, a sacrifice could be considered a bonding between an individual, family, tribe or the nation, between them and God, giving thanks for the Lord’s protection. It could also be as a way of asking for God’s protection. A ceremonial sacrifice could also serve to provide a sense of community for a tribe or the nation.

Note that in some places in the OT an individual (such as the head of a family or a king) could offer up a sacrifice, and in others only the appointed Priests were allowed. The latter was, in many cases, a question of political control over the people.

The vast majority of NT interpreters consider Jesus’s sacrifice as an atonement for mankind’s sins, and hence, no further ritual sacrifices were needed by Christians.

I hope that approaches an answer to the question.

So God’s all like: “These humans, they are such sinners. They just won’t do what I tell them. I was nice, I even gave them free will and they still won’t do what I want! It makes me so mad, I really want to make them suffer. … . Oh, hang on, they have gone and tortured and tried to kill my son, whom I love. OK, I guess I had better let them off then.”

Romans 5:8-10:

Well, one beneficiary of the sacrifices was the priesthood, who got to eat a substantial part of most (some? it’s been awhile since I read those verses) sacrifices. This was a significant perk. But if I remember correctly, some of the folks studying the bible propose that in the earliest times, it was the head of each household making the sacrifices and a specialized priesthood came later. If that’s true, it can’t have been part of the original motivation.

Based on the story of Cain and Abel, I’d go with the idea that Jehovah just liked the smell of cooking meat.

God sacrificed Himself to Himself in order to save us from Himself.