When I read this article by Benjamin L. Corey last year, I had an epiphany.
The year I became a Christian, one book played a huge role in my conversion: C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, I'll give a quick summary:
Four London children are sent to the English countryside during WW2. They're staying in a big old house, and one day, while playing hide-and-seek, they discover a wardrobe that is a doorway into a fantasy world called Narnia. Narnia is under the domination of an evil White Witch; but all Narnians are expecting to be liberated by Aslan the Lion. At some point, one of the children is seduced by the Witch and betrays his siblings as well as all Narnians. He eventually rejoins them, but the Witch then reminds Aslan that traitors belong to her by law, and that she has a right to demand the boy's blood.
Aslan does not deny that, but he offers his own life for the boy's. The Witch gleefully kills Aslan, not realizing that there is a "deeper magic" at work, causing "death to work backwards". Aslan then comes back to life and goes on to defeat the Witch.
Of course, this is clearly an allegory of the Christian faith and of Jesus' death, Aslan representing Jesus in the world of Narnia, and his taking the place of the boy is a metaphor of the Cross.
Coming back to Benjamin Corey's article: in many Evangelical circles, Jesus's death on the cross is explained as follows. God his perfectly just and cannot abide the evil things we do ("sin"). He loves us, but He cannot simply forgive us without punishing sin. Jesus, God's Son incarnate, dies a horrible death on the cross - and what He does there is take upon Himself the punishment for sin, taking on the wrath of God upon Himself so we can be forgiven. This is called penal substitution atonement. Corey wrote a whole series on why he thinks, based on his studies, that theology of atonement is not only incorrect and reductive, but toxic.
In the article I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Corey looks at the word Jesus Himself uses when talking about His death: a ransom. Corey then goes on to argue that a ransom is paid to, say, kidnappers by the parents of a child. The ransom is NOT paid TO the parents. A ransom is paid to an evil character, not to a just and good one. Therefore, he sees the death of Jesus as a ransom not paid to God, but to the devil.
And at that point, I had my epiphany. I remembered Aslan's death in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the thought struck me like a flash of light.
God is not the Witch.
It had been right there all along, in the one book that helped me understand Christianity. It had been staring at me in the face all along.
God is not the Witch.