Continuing from yesterday, here are my thoughts:
Miley’s weak conception of atonement illustrates a confusion between God’s forgiveness, and our forgiveness, which are actually very different from each other. In a very real sense, God does not forgive sins.
We Christians are commanded to forgive, for at least two reasons: because we have been forgiven (Mt 6:12, Lk 11:4, Mt 18:21-35), and because we ourselves are sinners (Mt 7:1-5, Lk 6:37-38, Rom 2:1-5). But neither of these reasons to forgive applies to God.
One thing that is similar between us and God, however, is that in general sin against us cannot be undone. There are no returns and no refunds when we purchase death from God with the coin of sin; and when my #1 punches my #2 in the head, there is no amount of punching himself in the head that will actually undo the harm caused. But the biblical example for how we are to forgive those who trespass against us is not to demand propitiation, but to just let it go (seventy times seven times)!
But (contra Miley) God’s justice cannot “just let it go”. See how these two principles are juxtaposed: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”
You see, God always punishes sin. Every sin. With respect to “just letting it go,” his hands are tied (so to speak), by his perfect and holy justice. To continue to speak of God in lowly, human terms, in Rom 3, I can almost visualize the trinity in a huddle:
[The Father:] Confound it! I love these people, but they have sinned! It would be nice if I could just arbitrarily declare them righteous, but I can’t just look the other way — I must leave no sin unpunished, otherwise I am not just! Hmmm, if only I could think of a way that I could be completely just, and yet still be their justifier…
[The Son:] I’ve got it — you can punish me for their sin! I will humble myself and become flesh, and live the perfect life you require. Then you can give me the justice they deserve, and give them my perfection!
[The Father:] Well, son, it’s a good plan, and it might almost work. But they are so blinded by their sin, they wouldn’t even sign up for such a gracious offer, because it would mean submitting their autonomy to my authority.
[The Holy Spirit:] I can take care of that! I will bring Word of this free offer to them, and regenerate them so that they are aware of their sin, and they will repent and take hold of this offer of salvation.
[The Father:] Excellent — we are agreed then in this Covenant of Redemption! Break on three: 1, 2, 3, Who deserves all glory?
[All:] We do! Trinity! Trinity! Yeaaaaah!
The Bible is clear; every sin is punished. Punishment for the sins of the elect fall on Christ, and the non-elect receive their due penalty themselves. When the Bible says that God “forgives” us, that is just language of human accomodation. But if we remain confined in our own perspective, we forget that the “forgiveness” that we experience comes at a terrible cost, which diminishes our gratefulness.
Surely you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says “Not perfect, just forgiven.” If I thought that anybody would get the point, I would get a bumper sticker that said “Not forgiven, just perfect.”