Posts Tagged ‘penal substitution’

The blood of Abel and The blood of Jesus

September 2, 2009

cries out for vengeance (Gen.4.10).  speaks of God’s forgiveness (Hebrews 12.24)

The Cost of the Cross

August 26, 2009

In the film, The Green Mile, prisoner John Coffey heals people only by taking into himself the illness/evil into himself. Later he chokes it out, but the experience drains him.

The healing comes without a cost to the one healed, but is costly to the healer.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa.53.4). John Coffey did not die for anyone, but the Lord Jesus did so that those trusting in His death might live.

Can God forgive the vilest of crimes?

August 25, 2009

(Hamlet, having killed his brother and married his wife…)

O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t,
A brother’s murder. Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will:
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
And what’s in prayer but this two-fold force,
To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
Or pardon’d being down? Then I’ll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? ‘Forgive me my foul murder’?
That cannot be; since I am still possess’d
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?

Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 3

Forgiveness can only come without neglecting justice. Christ suffers that the demands of justice be met for the crime committed and yet mercy be extended to the repentant.

Forgiveness Demands that Justice be done

August 22, 2009

No words of mine can ever express the deep remorse and regret I feel for what I was involved in over a quarter of a century ago and for the unpardonable length of time it took me to find the courage and decency to confess my part in those crimes.

I shall forever carry the scars I sustained through the wounds I inflicted, whether in prison or outside.

But I do believe that God has forgiven me, and I try not so much to look at the past, but to the present and the future.

When Mrs Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett, wrote to me in 1986, I was devastated by the first realisation of just how desperately those families of the children still missing were suffering.

Followed as this was, by what I believe was a purely coincidental visit by Greater Manchester Police, I knew that I had no choice for the sake of those families and my own peace of mind – even for my salvation – but to confront what I had done and confess, and to attempt some kind of reparation in addition to my imprisonment.

Whilst I still feel the pain of my guilt, I also know I cannot turn back the clock, and that I can do no more than I have already tried to do.

I am still in contact with the family who, in spite of what the media would have people believe, know that I will never cease to help them in any way I can.

I can only say that it is my hope that I will be treated with the same fairness and justice as would any other life sentence prisoner, however difficult.

Myra Hindley, who died 15/11/02 BBC

It’s hard to read these words without considering whether she is sincere. And for Christian theology it raises the fact that forgiveness, not just hers but ours too, can never be a violation of justice.

If there is not justice for the despicable crimes she committed, then forgiveness is sentimentality at best – an obscenity at worst.

The Foolishness of the Cross

August 17, 2009

One of the country’s most controversial clerics was at the centre of a new controversy yesterday after saying that traditional teaching about the Crucifixion was “repulsive” and made God seem like a “psychopath”.

The Dean of St Albans, the Very Rev Jeffrey John, used a Lent talk on BBC Radio 4 last night to attack the Christian theory of penal substitution, which argues that God sent Christ into the world to be punished for the sins of mankind.

The dean’s comments in the run-up to Easter were met with outrage from leading evangelicals who said his comments verged on the heretical, even though he attempted to soften his message by adding extra lines on the eve of the broadcast.

Dr John, who was forced to stand down as Bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was homosexual, although no longer sexually active, said he had been taught that Jesus “took the rap” for our sins, but we got forgiven provided we said we believed in him.”

But even at the age of 10, he had thought this particular explanation for the Crucifixion was “pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical.”

“What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own son?” Dr John said.

“And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this, we would say they were a monster.

“Well, I haven’t changed my mind since. That explanation of the cross just doesn’t work but sadly, it’s one that’s still all too often preached.”

A BBC spokesman said that the dean, reacting to criticism, had added two extra lines to “pre-empt any further misunderstanding or misinterpretation”.

One of the lines was: “On the cross Jesus died for our sins; the price of our sin is paid; but it is not paid to God but by God.” Fellow liberals defended his view, saying that a key difference between them and conservative evangelicals was their view of God. The Rev Giles Frasier, the vicar of Putney in south London, said: “What is at the heart of salvation, punishment or love? Liberals, like myself, believe it is love.”

Evangelicals were furious, however, and the row will fuel their growing discontent with the liberal wing of the Church.

A number said yesterday that Dr John’s comments showed how unsuitable he would have been as a bishop, regardless of his homosexuality.

In a statement, the Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, and the Bishop of Willeseden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, said: “Jeffrey John is saying that the cross is not about anger or wrath or sin or atonement, but only about God’s unconditional love.

“There is, he says, nothing to understand in the cross which is anything to do with sacrifice or Jesus dying for our sins – and we say, No. You’ve got it wrong.”

Bishop Broadbent said: “Of course there are some very raw discussions amongst Christians about quite how Jesus died in our place and what that meant and how He suffered for our sins.

“But to ignore the entirety of the language about atonement and sacrifice and the cross is to nullify the message of what Good Friday and Jesus dying for us is all about. “Jesus Christ is sacrificed and he washes away the sins of the whole world and he completes the understanding of Scripture and fulfils it in a completely new way.”

He added that he was disappointed that the BBC was using its schedules to undermine the message of Easter.

“You cannot read the Old Testament and New Testament and blank out an entirety of language and concept and understanding that means that we are guilty sinners, we need our sins to be paid for and we need Jesus Christ to die for us.

“That is what the Creeds say, it is what the Bible says and you cannot rewrite them. You cannot understand Jesus Christ without understanding Old Testament atonement material.”

Bishop Benn added that “the truth that Jesus died as our sin-bearing substitute carrying the punishment for our sins on the cross is the glorious heart of the Gospel. It displays the love of God: Father, Son and Spirit, for us.

“To deny or vilify that is a tragic denial of the power and heart of the Gospel. I hope Jeffrey John will speedily reconsider and repent of his attack on apostolic Christianity.”

A spokesman for the BBC said: “Lent Talks are short individual authored opinions in which the contributor is invited to reflect on a different part of Christ’s passion.

“There will be those who agree with the points being made and those who disagree. They are a reflection of ongoing debates within the Church.”

Daily Telegraph, 5/4/07

Liberalism – Spurgeon’s View

August 1, 2009

Little, however, did I think I should live to see this kind of stuff taught in the pulpit; I had no idea that there would arise teaching which would bring down God’s moral government from the solemn aspect in which Scripture reveals it, to a namby-pamby sentimentalism, which adores a deity destitute of every masculine virtue. But we never know to-day what may occur to-morrow. We have lived to see a certain sort of men–thank God, they are not Baptists!–though I am sorry to say there are a great many Baptists who are beginning to follow in their trail–who seek to teach, nowadays, that God is a universal Father, and that our ideas of His dealing with the impenitent as a Judge, and not as a Father, are remnants of antiquated error. Sin, according to these men, is a disorder rather than an offence, an error rather than a crime. Love is the only attribute they can discern, and the full-orbed Deity they have not known. Some of these men push their way very far into the bogs and mire of falsehood, until they inform us that eternal punishment is ridiculed as a dream. In fact, books now appear which teach us that there is no such thing as the vicarious sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. They use the word atonement, it is true; but, in regard to its meaning they have removed the ancient landmark. They acknowledge that the Father has shown His great love to poor sinful man by sending His Son, but not that God was inflexibly just in the exhibition of His mercy, nor that He punished Christ on the behalf of His people, nor that, indeed, God ever will punish anybody in His wrath, or that there is such a thing as justice apart from discipline. Even sin and hell are but old words employed henceforth in a new and altered sense. Those are old-fashioned notions, and we poor souls, who go on talking about election and imputed righteousness, are behind our time. Aye, and the gentlemen who bring out books on this subject applaud Mr. Maurice, and Professor Scott, and the like, but are too cowardly to follow them, and boldly propound these sentiments. These are the new men whom God has sent down from Heaven, to tell us that the apostle Paul was all wrong, that our faith is vain, that we have been quite mistaken, that there was no need for propitiating blood to wash away our sins; that the fact was, our sins needed discipline, but penal vengeance and righteous wrath are quite out of the question! When I thus speak, I am free to confess that such ideas are not boldly taught by a certain individual whose volume excites these remarks, but as he puffs the books of gross perverters of the truth, I am compelled to believe that he endorses such theology.
Well, brethren, I am happy to say that sort of stuff has not gained entrance into this pulpit. I dare say the worms will eat the wood before there will be anything of that sort sounded in this place; and may these bones be picked by vultures, and this flesh be rent in sunder by lions, and may every nerve in this body suffer pangs and tortures, ere these lips shall give utterance to any such doctrines or sentiments! We are content to remain among the vulgar souls who believe the old doctrines of grace. We are willing still to be behind in the great march of intellect, and stand by that unmoving cross, which, like the pole star, never advances, because it never stirs, but always abides in its place, the guide of the soul to Heaven, the one foundation other than which no man can lay, and without building upon which no man shall ever see the face of God and live.
The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon vol.1 ch.32

plus ca change!

Offence of the Cross

February 7, 2009

Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to? Polly Toynbee

The cross is still a cause of offence to those who are perishing.

Charles Finney’s Defective Theology

October 25, 2008

Denying original sin, Finney asserted that we are only guilty and corrupt when we choose to sin, Christ’s work on the cross couldn’t have paid our debt but could only serve as a moral example and influence to persuade us to repent and be obedient. “If he had obeyed the Law as our substitute then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation?” So Finney goes on to write, “the atonement is simply an incentive to virtue,” rejecting the view that “the atonement is a literal payment of a debt” Finney can only concede it is “true that the atonement of itself does not secure the salvation of anyone.” Justification by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness Finney says, “is not only absurd, but undermines all motivation for personal holiness. The new birth is not a divine gift, but the result of a rational choice to turn from sin to obedience.” In fact, his most famous sermon was “Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts.” Christians can perfectly obey God in this life if they choose and only in this way are they justified. In fact, he adds, “Full present obedience is a condition of justification. No one can be justified while sin, any degree of sin, remains in him.”
Finney declared concerning the Reformation formula “simultaneously justified and sinful,” “this error has slain more souls I fear than all the Universalism that ever cursed the world. For whenever a Christian sins he comes under condemnation and must repent and do his first works or be lost. As I have already said,” he writes “there can be no justification in a legal or forensic sense but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to Law. The doctrine of an imputed righteousness or that Christ’s obedience to the Law was credited as our obedience is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption. For Christ’s righteousness could do more than justify himself, it could never be imputed to us. It was naturally impossible, then, for him then to obey in our behalf. Representing the atonement as the ground of the sinner’s justification has been a sad occasion of stumbling for many.” Referring to the framers of the Westminster Confession of Faith and their view of an imputed righteousness Finney writes, “If this is not antinomianism then I don’t know what is.”
Folks, this is exactly the heresy that we have identified from the church councils of the fifth and sixth centuries. It is remarkable that the catholic church in fifth and sixth centuries recognized these very positions as outside the bounds of the Christian faith, while Billy Graham can say of Charles Finney that he was the greatest evangelist since the Apostle Paul. And this is a concern that is hardly limited to a few grumpy Calvinists and Lutherans. “Self salvation is the goal of much of our preaching,” complains United Methodist Bishop William Willimon and he says in this respect, “we are heirs of Charles G. Finney who thought that conversion was not a miracle, but a purely philosophical result of the right use of constituted means.

Michael Horton, White Horse Inn