The Atonement Must Not Have Been Mathematical

(Started August, 2000; revised August, 2008)

Here’s what happens when a computer scientist thinks too hard about theology:

To say that Jesus bore the wrath of God for the sin of all those he came to save has some interesting implications. For example, in a short amount of time, Jesus had to experience the wrath of God equivalent to the punishment of millions of people for eternity.

Since Jesus could endure an infinite duration of punishment for millions of people in a few hours of suffering by one person, perhaps he has an infinitely higher threshold of pain than other people. Maybe that short period of suffering was possible because it was infinitely more agonizing for him, as the Son of God, to be separated from God the Father by his wrath, than for an ordinary person.

So why a few hours of suffering? Why not half an hour? Or an instant? Is there an upper bound on intensity of suffering sustainable by a God-man? Did he choose the time of his death when he declared “It is finished”?

If all of his suffering from God’s wrath took place on the cross (as opposed to after his death and before his resurrection), then the duration of the suffering was partly determined by the mode of execution, although he did die sooner than the Romans expected him to.

Before I give in to the temptation to write an equation, I’d better go do something that’s either technical or theological. Mixing the two causes great confusion….


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