A while ago I wrote on the incoherence in the way many Christians understand the relationship of Father and Son in the crucifixion of the Christ. It was and is my opinion that we should retain the word propitiation to describe an important aspect of the event, but it must be thoroughly refined and defined through a creedal, and thus properly properly Trinitarian, lens.
Reading Gilles Emery’s The Trinitarian Theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I came across a nice statement from Aquinas that substantiates the point I made before. Thomas says this, “By infusing him with charity, the Father inspires Christ with the will to die for us” (ST III, q. 47, a. 3).
The propitiation of God through the cross cannot be understood as Jesus’s changing the Father’s mind towards us, as the word “propitiation” would generally connote, but as a manifestation of the Father’s very love for us. The love of Jesus for those he died for is a manifestation of the Father’s love itself. This is writ large across the New Testament and is the gist of 2 Corinthians 5, John 3:16, and Romans 5:8.
God did not give his Son so that he could love the world: he gave his Son because he always already loved the world. Christ did not die for us so that God could love us: God loved us, always already, while we were yet sinners, and therefore Christ died for us. This truth does not detract in any way from the dire, destructive, and abhorrent significance of sin – on account of it we literally and irrevocably live in a reality where the eternal God has been slaughtered and killed (O felix culpa).
The takeaway here is that the mystery of the Trinity is the crux of the matter. Our understanding of the Trinity quite literally affects everything else we think. Let us be humble where we do not understand, but constantly strive to better know the Mystery behind the world.
One thought on “A Quick Note Propitiation and God the Father’s Relationship to the Suffering of Christ”
Great thoughts as usual, and concise! A skillful effort, for sure.
Glad to hear from you. I’ve missed you. Hope I can see you sometime soon.
Karl A. Gurney Master of Arts, Theology firstname.lastname@example.org (916) 521-0458