I heard Giles Fraser talking about justice and retribution on thought for the day this morning. I like Fraser's ideas and I wasn't surprised to hear that he rejects the whole idea of a wrathful God who must be appeased by his son paying the price for sin, or as Fraser says,
" retribution is the model of justice which underpins the way many Christians have understood Christ's death on the cross, or as the hymn says "there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin."
Fraser then goes on to reject this model as "wrongheaded" because Jesus himself rejected the idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth. A God of love, he says, operates out of forgiveness, and that is what the cross is all about.
The theology of the cross is certainly complex. I see it as a multi- faceted symbol which yields a number of meanings. Like Fraser, I am not keen on the idea of propitiation, of a wrathful God demanding blood, but I do not think that means that we should throw out the concept that Jesus "died for our sins" or "paid the price", because that is essentially what the cross is about. I do not understand why people perceive that Jesus "paying the price" on the cross is an act of vengeance on the part of God. If the Father and the Son are one, then when Jesus suffered, the Father suffered too. The cross is a symbol of God absorbing anger within the Godhead as an excruciating alternative to inflicting it on humankind.
The cross is about sacrifice, but it is the sacrifice of both Father and Son, not the sacrificing of one at the expense of the other. The cross offers a new type of sacrifice, or to paraphrase Star Wars, "It's sacrifice, Jim, but not as we know it." This is not the old blood price of more pagan thought, it is not the need to placate an angry and capricious deity but it is about the divine modelling a love so great that it would endure rather than retaliate and woo rather than demand.