“We know that sin and suffering belong together, not as an accident, but by a necessary connection. They ought to belong together - and that is another way of saying that God punishes sin. That is not an Old Testament doctrine abrogated by the gospel. It is taught by Jesus in the Gospels with an absoluteness that is nowhere exceeded in the Old Testament.
“But it is just because we know and cannot escape from that fundamental certainty, that the cross is what it is to us, the demonstration that the God against whom we have sinned and who rightly punishes sin, Himself drinks to the very dregs, deeper than even the foulest sinner has to drink, the cup of punishment.
“The paradox reaches its climax when He whom we know as the Word made flesh cries out ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ God bereft of God that He might save those who have sinned against God.
“I know it is sheer paradox, but I firmly believe that the heart of the gospel is there, and that if you remove one side of the paradox, and say that in the cross belief in divine punishment was shown to be an error, I think you both undercut all real moral experience and also take the power out of the cross itself.”
“[By the word ‘gospel’] we don’t mean Christianity. We’re not talking about religious experience. We’re talking about a factual statement.
“Namely, that at a certain point in history, the history of this world, God who is the author, the sustainer, the goal of all that exists, of all being and all meaning and all truth, has become present in our human history as the man Jesus, whom we can know and whom we can love and serve; and that by His incarnation, His ministry, His death and resurrection, He has finally broken the powers that oppress us and has created a space and a time in which we who are unholy can nevertheless live in fellowship with God who is holy.”
(Check out the ongoing series entitled “Gospel Definitions” - the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the internet today.)