Glad You Asked: Did Jesus have to die for our sins?

On this episode of the podcast, theologian Elizabeth Johnson discusses alternate ways of thinking about Jesus' death on the cross.

Listen on: Apple | Google | Spotify

In the early days of the church, death by crucifixion was still seen as something scandalous and shameful. It is generally believed that the cross was not widely used as an image of the Christian faith until the fourth century. Today, however, we have grown quite comfortable with using different representations of this torture device as a sign of our religious identity. We have grown comfortable, too, with the idea that Jesus’ death on the cross was good, necessary, and willed by God.

But what if it wasn’t? 

Did Jesus really have to die on the cross? Was it absolutely necessary for someone to die, in order to atone for humanity’s sins? Was this the only way God could work out the salvation of God’s creation? Or might there be other ways of thinking about Jesus’ death on the cross, without imagining it as an unavoidable sacrifice, the only chance to appease an angry God?

On this episode of the podcast, hosts Emily Sanna and Rebecca Bratten Weiss discuss this question with theologian Elizabeth Johnson. Johnson is a Distinguished Professor Emerita at Fordham University and the author of numerous books, including She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, and Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril, which explores the idea of cosmic redemption in light of ecological crisis. Johnson has served as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and has been called one of the most “prominent and respected” living Catholic theologians. She is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood.

You can find out more about this topic and read some of Johnson’s work in these links.

Glad You Asked is sponsored by the Claretian Missionaries.