Ten Myths About Sex and Relationships Among Emerging Adults

Social researchers Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker expose ten myths about sex and relationships among emerging adults in America (ages 18-23) in there book Premarital Sex: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, And Think About Marrying. Regnerus is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Research Associate with the Population Research Center at the University of Teas at Austin, and Uecker is a postdoctoral scholar with the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The publisher’s comment in the flyleaf of the book makes a grandiose claim: “[it is] the fullest portrait of heterosexuality among young adults ever produced.” What follows are their ten myths:

First, long-term exclusivity is a fiction (242).

Half of all marriages last a lifetime, and extramarital affairs are a small minority problem.

Second, the introduction of sex is necessary in order to sustain a fledging or struggling relationship (243).

The quicker sex enters a relationship the sooner the relationships fails, and most relationships fail.

Third, the sexual double standard is inherently wrong and must be resisted by any means (243).

The sexual double standard between men and women may not be liked, but it is true. Men and women pursue sex for different reasons. Women may enjoy sex as much as men, but they do not think and feel the same way about it. Generally they “set higher standards for their relationships” (244). Why accept the idea that women shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than men? Instead, why not rejoice in the fact that they do?

Fourth, boys will be boys. That is, men can’t be expected to abide by the sexual terms that women may wish to set (244).

Boys may want to maximize orgasms and minimize commitments, but this can change if, speaking in sexual economics terms, the going price for sex rises. “Men live up to–or down to–the expectations placed upon them” (244). Currently the price for sex is cheap, as a committed relationship is not always a requirement for sex, but if this changes since men want sex they will pay a higher price. “In other words, men will work for sex. But they won’t if they don’t have to” (245).

Fifth, it doesn’t matter what other people do sexually; you make your own decisions (245).

The actions and attitudes of others affect your decisions: “if a critical mass of men and women enjoy an extended series of sexual relationships and expect sex fairly promptly within them, it becomes quite difficult for a minority to do otherwise” (245).

Sixth, porn won’t affect your relationships (246).

Because more and more men are viewing porn regularly it “cannot but shape sexual market dynamics” (246). And studies have shown that the tandem of porn and masturbation actually “reduces the value of intercourse” because it is much more physiologically satisfying than masturbation alone (246). “Porn becomes easier, and so must women (on average)” (246).

Seventh, everyone else is having more sex than you are (247).

Actually you are less conservative than you think–“most still overestimate how much sex is actually going on around them” (247). The authors write about this phenomena of pluralistic ignorance, “it happens when individuals within a group begin to believe that their own private attitudes, beliefs, or judgments are more conservative and rare than the public norms they see displayed by others” (247).

Eighth, sex need not mean anything. (247)

This myth can occur broadly between the sexes, but exists especially among women. It is emotionally challenging for women to engage in casual sex and to experience a broken sexual relationship.

Ninth, marriage can always wait. (248)

Most emerging adults still want to get married–eventually. They put off marriage for years and years and thus the marriage market “does not grow deeper and more impressive with age” (249). Thus, the authors encourage “men and women who’ve met someone who is ‘marriage material’ to think twice before rejecting the notion that they’re just not ready yet” (249).

Tenth, moving in together is definitely a step toward marriage. (249)

In most cases cohabitation does not last. “It overwhelmingly leads to either marriage or breakup within a few short years” (250). It is also more advantageous to men than to women as it gives them “more stable access to sex, without the expectations or commitments of marital responsibilities” (250).

Rid of My Disgrace: Interview with Justin Holcomb

Rid of My Disgrace is a gospel-saturated book written for the victims of sexual assault. My friend and colleague at Docent Research Group Justin Holcomb and his wife Lindsey wrote this book to apply the good news of Jesus Christ to those sexually assaulted. I have mentioned it a few times on my blog in the past and reviewed it here. What follows is my interview with Justin on this rare and important book:

1. Quickly, what is sexual assault? How widespread is it?

Sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.

The number of occurrences of sexual assaults is staggering. It is much more common than most people know. At least one in four women and one in six men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. And these statistics are probably underestimates.

According to the most recent statistics, every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, and approximately 80 percent of them are assaulted by someone they know (a relative, spouse, dating partner, friend, pastor, teacher, boss, coach, therapist, doctor, etc.). Researchers have estimated that sexual assault occurs in 10% of all marriages and that incest is experienced by 10 to 20 percent of children.

Regarding the age breakdown of sexual assault, 15 percent of sexual assault victims are under age twelve, 29 percent are ages twelve to seventeen, and 80 percent are under age thirty. The highest-risk years are ages twelve to thirty-four, and girls ages sixteen to nineteen are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault.

2. What practical advice do you have for the husband or wife who are walking their spouse through dealing with the effects of past sexual assault?

  1. Listen to their experience and do not ask probing questions about the assault. Let them divulge what they want to when they want to. Because sexual assault is a form of victimization that is particularly stigmatized, many victims suffer in silence, which only intensifies their distress and disgrace. There appears to be a societal impulse to blame traumatized individuals for their suffering. Research findings suggest that blaming victims is not only wrong but also contributes to the vicious cycle of traumatization. Victims experiencing negative social reactions have poorer adjustment. Research has proven that the only social reactions related to better adjustment by victims are being believed and being listened to by others
  2. Challenge the myths and misconceptions that promote self-blame. Self-blaming is a common behavior among victims. As a coping technique and to make sense of the assault, victims make attributions for why the assault occurred.  Self-blame is associated with more distress and poorer adjustment. Unchallenged sexual assault myths perpetuate feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blaming tendencies for victims. Refusal to accept these myths may help victims to assign different meaning to the experience instead of society’s stereotypical ideas regarding sexual assault.
  3. Learn what to say and what not to say. Reflect theologically when they are ready. Connect the grace of the gospel to the disgrace of sexual assault and the specific effects connected to it (denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair). It is important to address the effects of sexual assault with the biblical message of grace and redemption. Jesus responds to victims’ pain and past. The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace
  4. Fight against the lies for them.  Communicate frequently this message: “What happened to you was not your fault. You are not to blame. You did not deserve it. You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. Nobody had the right to violate you. You are not responsible for what happened to you. You are not damaged goods. You were supposed to be treated with dignity and respect. You were the victim of assault and it was wrong. You were sinned against. Despite all the pain, healing can happen and there is hope” (Rid of My Disgrace, page 15).
  5. Be sure to take care of yourself as a support person, so you can be healthy in your care-giving role.
  6. Encourage them to tell a friend or friends they trust.  It is a good idea for victims to have a broad support base as it can be exhausting for the supporting spouse if they are the only ones involved. The supporting spouse wont always be available to talk and at times it can be easier for a victim to talk to someone of the same sex about certain dimensions of an assault.
  7. Don’t ever pressure or whine for sex or physical intimacy.

3. Is there any additional practical advice for parents who are walking with a child through dealing with the effects of sexual assault?

#1-5 also apply directly to parents who are caring for their child.  Here are additional things to consider:

  1. Don’t minimize or deny or blame them for happened to them.
  2. Advocate for your child. This means pursuing justice by calling the police and finding a good counselor who know show to deal with sexual abuse of children.
  3. If the assault occurred because of your negligence, ask your child to forgive you.

4. For those who have been sexual assaulted and have not yet told anyone what is your advice to them?

  • Tell a spouse, family member, or friends you trust.
  • Find a trust and informed pastor or counselor to support you through dealing with this.
  • Contact your local sexual assault crisis center for legal advocacy, practical advice, and support groups.
  • Read Rid of My Disgrace, which is our book on hope and healing for sexual assault victims.

5. As a pastor, how do you counsel victims of sexual assault regarding the sovereignty of God over the event(s) of their assault?

First, we have no idea why God let it happen. Any attempt to answer why usually end up in spiritual platitudes or bad theology.

Second, we learn from the Bible and Jesus that God understands the pain you experienced, that he mourns and grieves for the sins done against you, and that he is angrier than you are for the sins done against you.

Third, I can tell you from personal experience in this issue that God is so creative and sovereign that he bends the evil intended for you destruction and uses it for your good (Gen 50:20 and Romans 8:28).

Fourth, God can handle your emotions. Don’t run from him in anger but toward him. The intent of the evil done against you is to create distance between you and God, the only one who can bring real healing to you.  Please realize this and bring your emotions and thoughts to God. The psalms are filled with a wide spectrum of emotions related to God: shame, fear, sadness, reverence, anger, love, joy, and doubt.  The psalms provide release, rationality, and relief for our emotions. You won’t find yourself blamed, laughed at, mocked, or punished. You’ll find yourself embraced by the love of a God who meets you in your pain.

6. As a pastor, how would you counsel the perpetrators of sexual assault in how they too can receive God’s redeeming grace? Any comments on the rehabilitation of sex-offenders?

I’ve said something like this before:

“Sexual assault is a sin and a crime.  You have committed a serious sin and crime.

First, for your sin, you need forgiveness.  Trust in Jesus because he died in your place and for your sin of sexual assault and all other sins.  On the cross, he was treated like a perpetrator so you could place your trust in him and be declared righteous and forgiven and innocent before God.  There is no sin beyond the grace of Jesus. You can’t out sin his abounding grace.

Second, for your crime you deserve justice and need to make restitution. This means you will need to turn yourself in to the proper authorities.  You should also repent and apologize to the person or people you sinned against. Offer to pay for the counseling they endured because of your crime.

Third, God makes sinners new creatures. If you trust in Christ, you are forgiven, but the consequences of your sin could last for a lifetime (having to register as a sex-offender, divorce, not being able to see your grand-children alone, etc).”

7. Most importantly, what does the gospel have to say to victims and the perpetrators of sexual assault?

Victims of sexual assault experience many devastating physical, psychological, and emotional effects. The most prevalent responses include denial, distorted self-image, shame, guilt, anger, and despair. If this is you (or someone you love), you need to understand that the gospel of Jesus applies to each of these.

1. Denial

Sexual assault makes you feel alone, unimportant, and unworthy of sympathy. It tempts you to deny and minimize what happened to you to cope with the pain and trauma. It might initially help to create a buffer while you start dealing with the difficult emotions, but eventually denial and minimization will actually increase the pain, because it keeps you from dealing with the psychological destruction and trauma of the assault.

God does not deny, minimize, or ignore what happened to you. Through Jesus he identifies with you, and he has compassion. He knows your suffering. He does not want you to stay silent or deny, but to feel and express your emotions, to grieve the destruction you experienced. The cross shows that God understands pain and does not judge you for feeling grief. The resurrection shows that God conquered sin—that he is reversing sin’s destruction and restoring peace.

Because of Jesus, you have the privilege to confidently go to God and receive grace and mercy. Your need and your cries don’t make God shun you. He has compassion on you (Hebrew 4:14-16).

2. Identity

Sexual assault attacks your sense of identity and tells you that you are filthy, foolish, defiled, and worthless. It makes you feel that you are nothing.

The gospel gives you a new identity through the redemptive work of Jesus. Through faith in Christ, you are adopted into God’s family. You are given the most amazing identity: child of God (1 John 3:1–2). God adopted you and accepted you because he loves you. You didn’t do anything to deserve his love. He loved you when you were unlovable.

The gospel also tells you that through faith in Christ, his righteousness, blamelessness, and holiness is attributed to you (2 Cor. 5:21). If you are in Christ, your identity is deeper than any of your wounds. You can be secure in this new identity because it was achieved for you by God—you are his, and he cannot disown himself.

3. Shame

Sexual assault is shameful and burdens you with feelings of nakedness, rejection, and dirtiness. Shame is a painfully confusing experience—it makes you acutely aware of inadequacy, shortcoming, and failure.

Jesus reveals God’s love for his people by covering their nakedness, identifying with those who are rejected, cleansing their defilement, and conquering their enemy who shames them. God extends his compassion and his mighty, rescuing arm to take away your shame. Jesus both experienced shame and took your shame on himself. Yet Jesus, of all people, did not deserve to be shamed. Still, he took on your shame, so it no longer defines you nor has power over you.

Because of the cross, we can be fully exposed, because God no longer identifies us by what we have done or by what has been done to us. In Jesus, you are made completely new.

4. Guilt

Sexual assault attacks you with guilt that leads to feelings of condemnation, judgment, and self-blame.

You are not guilty for the sin that was committed against you—and this realization alone can bring great freedom. Yet the reality is that your sense of guilt goes deeper than what was done to you. You know that you have sinned against God and others—both before your assault and in response to what happened to you.

The shocking message of grace is that Jesus was forsaken for us so we could be forgiven. God turned his wrath away from you and toward Christ on the cross. If you trust in Christ, all your sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven. All of them. All threat of punishment, or sense of judgment, is canceled. Through faith in Christ you are loved, accepted, and declared innocent.

5. Anger

Sexual assault creates anger at what has been done to you. While anger can be a natural and healthy response to the unquestionable evil of sexual assault, most victims express it poorly or feel they have to suppress it. You have probably been discouraged from expressing your anger, but suppressed anger holds you hostage and leaves you vindictive, addicted, embittered, immoral, and unbelieving.

God is angrier over the sin committed against you than you are. He is angry because what happened to you was evil and it harmed you. Godly anger is participating in God’s anger against injustice and sin, crying out to him to do what he promised: destroy evil and demolish everything that harms others and defames God’s name.

Anger expressed to God is the cry of the weak one who trusts the strong One, the hurting person who trusts the One who will make it all better. Because vengeance is God’s, you can be free from the exhaustive cycle of vindictive anger.

6. Despair

Sexual assault can fill you with despair. Feeling that you’ve lost something, whether it’s your innocence, youth, health, trust, confidence, or security, can deepen into hopelessness and despair. And then depression can add seemingly inescapable weight to the experience of despair.

The gospel gives you hope. Biblical hope is sure because God is behind his promise of a future for you. The hope you need right now is grounded in God’s faithfulness in the past and anticipation of it in the future.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, all threats against you are tamed if you trust in Christ. Jesus conquered death and evil, so evil done to you is not the end of the story and you can have hope. Because Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended to heaven and is “making all things new.” Your God is strong, and he, not the evil done to you, will have the final say about you. That hope animates the “groans within ourselves” that everything will someday be renewed. We will be delivered from all sin and misery. Every tear will be wiped away when evil is no more.

_____

Thanks Justin for taking the time to answer these questions so thoroughly!

For more on hope and healing for sexual assault victims: http://theresurgence.com/categories/sexual-assault

Three Evidences for the Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection – Holy Week #5

Closing out this week of blogposts with three historical evidences (of course there are more) for the resurrection of Jesus from Michael R. Licona’s recent book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010):

The Conversion of James, Jesus’ brother:

  • Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him during his ministry (Mk 3:21, 31-35; 6:3; Jn 7:1-10).
  • Jesus’ brothers taunted him (Mk 6:3; Jn 7:1-10).
  • Jesus’ brothers were apparently absent at Jesus’ crucifixion, where Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to one of his disciples, suggesting his brothers were nonbelievers at the time (Jn 19:25-27).
  • Jesus’ brothers were in the upper room with Jesus’ disciples and mother after the resurrection (Acts 1:14).
  • James was an apostle and leader in the Jerusalem Church (Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12; Acts 12:17; 15:13).
  • Paul reported his activities to James (Acts 21:28).
  • It would appear that at least some of Jesus’ brothers became believers (1 Cor 9:5).
  • James’s transformation from skeptic to believer is plausibly explained by his belief that Jesus had been raised and by a postresurrection appearance of Jesus to him (1 Cor 15:7).
  • James believed his risen brother appeared to him…

“With James, we have signifiacant evidence that indicates he and his brothers were not among Jesus’ followers. However, sometime after the crucifixion of Jesus, James became a follower of his brother, a leader in the church Jesus had started and finally died as a Christian martyr. The best explanation for this change of heart is that James came to believe that his brother had risen from the dead. It is problable that James had an experience that he perceived as being a postresurreciton appearance of Jesus.” (460, 461)

The Disciples Willingness to Die for their Faith in the Resurrected Jesus:

“The disciples willingness to suffer and die for their beliefs indicates that they certainly regarded those beliefs as true. The case is strong that they did not wilfully die about the appearances of the risen Jesus. Liars make poor martyrs.

No one questions the sincerity of the Muslim terrorist who blows himself up in a public place or the Buddhist monk who burns himself alive as a political protest. Extreme acts do not validate the truth of their beliefs, but their willingness to die indicates that they are sincerely convinced of the truth of their beliefs. Moreover, there is an important difference between the martyred apostles and those who die for their beliefs today. Modern martyrs act solely out of their trust in beliefs passed along to them by others. The apostles died for holding to their own testimony that they had personally seen the risen Jesus. Contemporary martyrs die for what they believe to be true. The disciples of Jesus suffered and were willing to die for what they knew to be either true or false…

We must also keep in mind that there is an absence of any hints that any of the Twelve (other than Judas) had recanted or walked away from the Christian community. If the news had spread that one or more of the original disciples had recanted, we would expect Christianity to have been dealt a severe blow…

It may likewise be suggested that to claim that the disciples suffered because they believed in the risen Christ is to claim too much, because they suffered for Christian teachings, of which the resurrection was only one. However, if the original disciples had not believed that they had seen the resurrected Jesus, their firm commitment to the Christian faith after the death of their leader is not easily explained.” (370, 371)

The Witness of Women:

“The main argument posited for the historicity of the appearance to the women, and the empty tomb for that matter, is that the early Christians would not have invented the story, since the low view of women in first-century Mediterranean society would raise problems of credibility. Bauckham provides evidence that in the Greco-Roman world educated men regarded women as ‘gullible in religious matters and especially prone to superstituous fantasy and excessive in religious practices.’…

Precisely because of the low view of women in antiquity, many see the appearance to the women, and to Mary Magdalene especially, as historical given the criterion of embarrassment. It seems unlikely that the Evangelists, especially Mark, would either invent existing testimonies to make women the first witnesses of the risen Jesus if that is not what was remembered in the earliest traditions. Why fabricate a report of Jesus’ resurrection that already would have been difficult for many to believe and compound that difficulty by adding women as the first witnesses?…Thus, as Bauckham assess the reason for the report’s lack of credibility in the first century is a reason for its credibility in the twenty first: ‘Since these narratives do not seem well designed to carry conviction at the time, they are likely to be historical, that is, believable by people with a historically critical mind-set today?'” (349-351)

Jesus’ Resurrection is a Knockout Punch to Fear – Holy Week #4

Jesus’ resurrection is a knockout punch to fear for Christians because it is the evidence that Jesus has paid for our sins in full through his death and risen again for our justification. When the devil or your own conscience points out your sin–point them to the resurrection of Jesus. What follows is an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon “The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus” preached April 9th, 1882:

Listen! ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.’ It is a knockdown blow to fear when the apostle says that we cannot be condemned because Christ has died in our stead, but he puts a double force into it when he cries, ‘Yea rather, that is risen again.’ If Satan, therefore, shall come to any believer and say, ‘What about your sin?’ tell him Jesus died for it, and your sin is put away. If he come a second time, and say to you, ‘What about your sin?’ answer him, ‘Jesus lives, and his life is the assurance of our justification; for if our Surety had not paid the debt he would still be under the power of death.’ Inasmuch as Jesus has discharged all our liabilities, and left not one farthing due to God’s justice from one of his people, he lives and is clear, and we live in him, and are clear also by virtue of our union with him. Is not this a glorious doctrine, this doctrine of the resurrection, in its bearing upon the justification of the saints? The Lord Jesus gave himself for our sins, but he rose again for our justification. [The Charles H. Spurgeon Library Version 1, No. 1653 (AGES Software: CD ROM), 248]

What’s True of Christians if the Resurrection of Jesus Never Happened – Holy Week #3

If Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, the following is true of every single Christian who ever lives:

  • Preaching is vanity (1 Cor. 15:14). Every sermon you’ve ever preached or ever listened to is a massive waste of your time.
  • The Christian faith is false (1 Cor. 15:14). Without the resurrection of Jesus the Christian faith is without good news (gospel) and Jesus is a colossal failure. To be a Christian is to take the name of a dead man who died naked, crucified on a cross, in front of his family, friends, and enemies two-thousand years ago. No Christ–no royal Messiah–would ever die this way. Therefore your belief is meaningless, foolishness, and without validity.
  • You are bearing false witness against God (15:15). In other words, you’re saying the God of the universe did something he never did. How dare you speak of God in such a way! Who do you think you are?
  • All of those who have died before you trusting Christ–are just that dead, dead, and dead (15:18). If there is no resurrection their end is the grave. Quit comforting yourself with after-life foolishness if Jesus did not rise.
  • You live a pitiable life (15:19). Pathetic, really. You testify to a mythical legend.  The monetary, familial, and physical sacrifices you have made for the advance of the gospel have been wasted. Your striving against sin and your resistance to temptations is just unnecessary psychological pressure you have placed on yourself. You may even die for your faith, if it comes to that, for nothing.
  • You should indulge in as much sin as possible (15:34). Enjoy all that this world offers. Get on with your life. All that “God’s word” said to avoid–experience. In fact, sin isn’t really sin at all. You don’ t need to be saved from anything let alone saved from some kind of fictional internal religious defilement called sin.
  • Death was stronger than Jesus, and Jesus’ claims are false (15:20-28). The last enemy–Death–has not been defeated but remains the end of every human being. Even someone like Jesus of Nazareth, thought of by many to be a great and ethical human being, is simply dead. Death is it–the end for everybody without exception.

But. If Jesus did rise from the dead–and there is credible evidence that he did–therefore the reverse is true. Jesus reversed the effects of sin and death by dying in the place of sinners in accordance with the Old Testament, was actually buried, physically rose to life three days later, and vindicated this by physically appearing to his closest friends and more than 500 people at one time (1 Cor. 15:3-6).

Since Jesus has risen from death, therefore as a Christian you can live this kind of life: “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Why? Because Jesus rose from the dead, and, someday, so will you (1 Cor. 15:22).

The Work of the Trinity in the Sacrifice of Jesus – Holy Week #2

The crucifixion of Jesus as the sacrifice for sinners has led some to misunderstandings about the persons of the Trinity. Is Jesus an unwilling victim? Is the Father a purely wrathful and bloodthirsty God? And what in the world does the Holy Spirit have to do with Good Friday? Also, what about the nature of the sacrifice itself? Is it primarily a martyr’s sacrifice for humanity to model as the chief example of self-giving love or did Jesus’ sacrifice actually accomplish the salvation of sinners? Theologian Michael Horton clears up some of this in his recent systematic theology The Christian Faith:

“Throughout the Gospels and Epistles we discover references to redemption through ‘the blood of Christ’ (Mt 26:27-28 and parallels; Ac 20:28; 1 Co 11:25; 1 Pe 1:2, 19). As the only atoning sacrifice that truly avails in the heavenly courtroom it is not only sufficient but final…It is successful becuase of the superiority of the one who offers and is offered (Heb 1:1-2:18; 3:1-6; 4:14-5:10). ‘Where there is forgiveness of these [sins], there is no longer any offering for sin’ (Heb 10:18). While Christ’s sacrifice provides an example of self-giving love, it is a unique and unrepeatable event, bringing to an end all scapegoats, all bloody sacrifices, all substitutions, and all attempts to reconcile ourselves to God by our own efforts.

All three persons of the Trinity are involved in this sacrifice: the Father gives his only Son out of his love (Jn 3:16); the Spirit sustains the Son in his grief and vindicates him in his resurrection. The Son himself is not an unwilling victim of divine or human violence. Rather, Jesus, ‘for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb 12:2). He is a willing sacrifice (Jn 10:11, 18; cf. Mt 16:23; Lk 9:51; Jn 4:34; Heb 10:5-10), knowing that his suffering will lead to glory not only for him but for his people. And yet it is an agonizing struggle (Lk 12:50; Mk 10:38). Jesus sees it as a baptism (Lk 12:50). ‘He learned obedience through what he suffered,’ even with ‘loud cries and tears’ (Heb 5:7-10). Yet in spite of his grief, he determines, ‘Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?’ (Jn 18:11). His obedience undoes Adam’s disobedience….

God’s simplicity resists our temptation to identify a single attribute, including love, as more definitive of God than others. God cannot exercise love and mercy at the expense  of his righteousness and justice. But this works in the other direction as well: God’s wrath is not arbitrary or capricious but is the necessary response to the violation of his justice, righteousness, holiness, and goodness. God is not essentially full of wrath, but is only stirred to anger in the presence of sin. God is not ‘bloodthristy,’ like the violent deities of ancient paganism. Rather, he is righteous, and his law requires that ‘the wages of sin is death…’ (Ro 6:23). ‘But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and th Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.’ Although ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ Paul adds, they are now ‘justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation…by his blood, to be received by faith’ (Ro 3:21-25.)” [(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 497, 499.]

The Cross Stands at the Center of the Gospel – Holy Week #1

It’s holy week. I’ve decided to do a brief meditation or quote everyday this week on the ‘ole blog. The following comes from Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics:

The suffering of Christ, which begins with his incarnation and is completed in his ‘great passion,’ is the will and command of the Father (Matt. 26:39, 42; John 10:17-18), proof of his absolute obedience (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8), an example to be followed by his disciples (1 Pet. 2:21), a ransom for their sins (Matt. 20:28; 26:28), a victory over the world (John 16:33; Col. 2:15). The purpose of his condemnation, not only by the [Jewish] Sanhedrin but also by the secular Roman judge Pontius Pilate, was that he would not die in secret as a result of an assassination or in an insurrection but that he would be publicly and legally killed, after being properly examined, in accordance with a verdict from the then best and most thorough system of justice, and that in the process his personal innocence (Matt. 27:18-24) as well as the basis for his condemnation, namely, his confession that he was the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah (Matt. 26:63; 27:11), as well as the will of God (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28) and the character of his death as a dying for others (Matt. 20:28) would be clearly and incontrovertibly made manifest before the eyes of all. The death by crucifixion, ‘a most savage and monstrous punishment,’ and usually inflicted only on slaves and dangerous criminals, meant that Christ, having been condemned in the name of the law to the most terrible and disgraceful punishment, satisfied the most rigorous demand of the law, as one hanged, became a curse to God but thereby also removed the curse of the law from us (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13), and completely delivered us from all evil to which the law condemns us on account of our sins. The cross, therefore, stands at the center of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; Gal. 6:14). The blood that Christ shed demonstrates that he voluntarily consecrated his life to God, that he gave it as an offering, and by it brought about atonement and peace (Matt. 26:27; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:12, 22). Finally, Christ’s burial has special significance as well. It is mentioned repeatedly (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 12:40; 27:59-60; Luke 11:29; 23:53; John 19:40-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). It is not only proof that he really died and hence rose again from the dead but particularly means that Christ, though committing his spirit into the hands of his Father, who took him up into paradise (Luke 23:43, 46), nevertheless spent three days in the state of death, belonged to the realm of the dead, and thus fully bore the punishment for sin (Gen. 3:19). To that state of death, Hades, he was not abandoned; his flesh saw no corruption, for he was raised the third day; yet from the time of his death to the moment of  his resurrection, he belonged to the dead and therefore spent a period of time in Hades (Matt. 12:40; Acts 2:27, 31). [Reformed Dogmatics, Volume III, Sin and Salvation in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 409-410]