(By Viola Larson, Naming His Grace blog). Traci Smith, a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor, who several weeks ago complained that the Reverend Tim Keller should not receive a theological award because of his beliefs about ordaining women and members of the LGBTQ community, is now making some rather confusing remarks about the atonement provided by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Smith’s posting, “Protect Children from the Violence of the Cross and What to Do Instead During Holy Week,” broadens her perspective about Keller’s theology and all evangelical/orthodox Reformed theology. No, she doesn’t mention Keller here but the reader begins to see two faiths emerging in her writings—one is progressive, the other orthodox—and Smith seems to be pushing away from the faith that is orthodox.
In an essay meant to help parents and leaders dealing with children during Easter and Lent, Smith, insists that the cross and suffering of Christ and what that means, put in what she calls a simplistic manner, can frighten and offend children. She writes:
“When we reduce the crucifixion story to a simple soundbite digestible for young children, we are actually presenting complex atonement theories that will shape their theologies their whole lives long. “Jesus paid the price for our sin.” (ransom) “Jesus saved us because we couldn’t save ourselves.” (penal substitution). “Jesus conquered death to set us free” (christus victor). … When we look closely at each of these theories, however, we realize that it’s not quite so simple. Did God really send God’s only son to be tortured and killed because God demands payment for sin? That does not sound loving. Did God simply not have the ability to rescue Jesus and spare him from all of that pain? If so, God must be very weak.”
And toward the end of her posting, Smith suggests that her readers “re-evaluate” their theology of the atonement. She asks “Did God kill Jesus?” and answers, “I don’t think so.”
Well no, some of the Jewish leaders, the Roman leaders in Jerusalem and all of us because of our sin killed Jesus. But, yes, his death was necessary. Smith’s question and answer is simplistic in the extreme.