Owen Strachan – Scandalized by the Substitute: A Response to Young and Gungor

The doctrine of atonement for sin is—or at least has been—at the center of Christian faith and practice since Jesus’s earthly ministry. But in recent days, various voices have raised objections to the cross. Musician Michael Gungor called the atonement “evil” and “horrific” on Twitter, decrying a God who would mandate blood sacrifice for sin. William Paul Young, author of the 20-million-copy-selling The Shack, concurs. In his new Lies We Believe About God, Young says of Christ’s death:

Who originated the Cross?…If God did, then we worship a cosmic abuser, who in Divine Wisdom created a means to torture human beings in the most painful and abhorrent manner. Frankly, it is often this very cruel and monstrous god that the atheist refuses to acknowledge or grant credibility in any sense. And rightly so. Better no god at all, than this one.

Don’t miss this: The most popular Christian writer in our time labels the biblical God a “cosmic abuser.” Ancient false teaching returns.

Gutting Scripture

Young’s scorching anti-God, anti-cross formulation comes in a chapter titled “The Cross Was God’s Idea.” According to Young, it’s a lie we believe about God that our Father sent his Son to die for us. We cannot miss how strong an attack this is on biblical theology. Young guts the cross of its sacrificial nature, though he maintains it’s a display of justice: “[W]hile evil is never justified, it is redeemed and rescued from its intent, thus becoming a statement of true justice.”

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William Reid – The Blood of Jesus

A Testimony of Conversion

“I have been religiously inclined from my earliest years. When quite little I was wont to say my prayers many times over, for I had heard it said that everything done on earth was written down in heaven, and I wished to have as much as possible recorded there in my favour.

“When about ten years of age, I heard that there were some who did not believe that the Bible was the Word of God, and that led me to surmise that it was not sufficiently clear that it was from God; for if He had given a revelation of His mind to man, it must have come in such a form that it would have been impossible for any person to disbelieve it. I pictured to myself that if God chose to do it, He could put up in great letters along the heavens, ‘I AM THE LORD,’ and everybody would see it and believe; and if the Bible were from Him, its revelation would be so unmistakably clear that it would be impossible to doubt its divine origin.

“But this was not a settled conviction, and my incipient skepticism was suddenly dissipated by a dream. I thought that I felt an intense heat; and so terrible did it ultimately become that the heavens were rent asunder and wrapt in flames, and in the burning sky overhead I saw in large letters of fire, ‘I AM THE LORD.’ But I had at the same time a conviction that it was now too late for the persons who had been unbelieving to profit by it, and those who had not believed the Bible, speaking to them in the name of the Lord, would now find to their everlasting misery that it was true.

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Louis Berkhof – The Cause and Necessity of the Atonement

The great and central part of the priestly work of Christ lies in the atonement, but this, of course, is not complete without the intercession. His sacrificial work on earth calls for His service in the heavenly sanctuary. The two are complementary parts of the priestly task of the Saviour. This and the following three chapters will be devoted to a discussion of the doctrine of the atonement, which is often called “the heart of the gospel.”

A. THE MOVING CAUSE OF THE ATONEMENT.

This lies:

1. IN THE GOOD PLEASURE OF GOD. It is sometimes represented as if the moving cause of the atonement lay in the sympathetic love of Christ for sinners. He was so good and loving that the very idea that sinners would be hopelessly lost, was abhorrent to Him. Therefore He offered Himself as a victim in their stead, paid the penalty by laying down His life for transgressors, and thus pacified an angry God. In some cases this view prompts men to laud Christ for His supreme self-sacrifice, but at the same time, to blame God for demanding and accepting such a price. In others it simply causes men to overlook God, and to sing the praises of Christ in unqualified terms. Such a representation is certainly all wrong, and often gives the opponents of the penal substitutionary doctrine of the atonement occasion to say that this doctrine presupposes a schism in the trinitarian life of God. On this view Christ apparently receives His due, but God is robbed of His honour. According to Scripture the moving cause of the atonement is found in the good pleasure of God to save sinners by a substitutionary atonement. Christ Himself is the fruit of this good pleasure of God. It was predicted that He would come into the world to carry out the good pleasure of God, . . . “and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand”, Isa. 53:10. At His birth the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased”, Luke 2:14. The glorious message of John 3:16 is that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Paul says that Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father”, Gal. 1:4. And again, “For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell; and through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself”, Col. 1:19, 20. It would not be difficult to add other similar passages.

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Francis Turretin – Atonement of Christ

Atonement of Christ

Chapter 1

The Necessity of the Atonement

The Priesthood of Christ, according to the Apostle Paul and the types of the Jewish ritual, is divided into two parts: the ATONEMENT which he made to divine justice, and his INTERCESSION in heaven. The necessity of such an atonement, which is the foundation of all practical piety and all Christian hopes, must therefore be firmly established, and defended against the fiery darts of Satan, with which it is attacked by innumerable adversaries.

Upon this subject, the opinions of divines may be classed under three heads:

1. That of the Socinians, who not only deny that an atonement was made, but affirm that it was not at all necessary, since God both could and would pardon sin, without any satisfaction made to his justice.

2. That of those who distinguish between an absolute and a hypothetical necessity; and (in opposition to the Socinians) they maintain the latter while they deny the former. By a hypothetical necessity they mean that which flows from the divine decree: God has decreed that an atonement is to be made, therefore it is necessary. To this they also add a necessity of fitness: because the commands of God have been transgressed, it is fit that satisfaction should be made, so that the transgressor may not pass with impunity. Yet they deny that it was absolutely necessary, because God, they say, might have devised some other way of pardon than through the medium of an atonement. This is the ground taken by Augustine in his book on the Trinity. Some of the reformers who wrote before the time of Socinus, adopt the opinions of that father.

3. That opinion of those who maintain its absolute necessity; affirming that God has neither willed, nor could have willed to forgive sins, without a satisfaction made to his justice. This, which is the common opinion of the orthodox, is our opinion.

Various errors are maintained on this point, by our opponents. The removal of the grounds upon which they rest will throw light upon the whole subject. They err in their views of the nature, 1. of sin, for which a satisfaction is required; 2. of the satisfaction itself; 3. of the character of God to whom it is to be rendered; and 4. of Christ by whom it is rendered:

1. Of sin, which renders us guilty, and binds us over to punishment as hated by God. It may be viewed as a debt which we are bound to pay to divine justice, in which sense the law is called “a hand-writing,” Col 2:14; as a principle of enmity, whereby we hate God and he becomes our enemy; as a crime against the government of the universe, by which, before God the supreme governor and judge, we become deserving of everlasting death and malediction. This is why sinners are expressly called “debtors,” Mat 6:12; “enemies to God,” Col. 1:21, both actively and passively; “and guilty before God,” Rom 3:19. We therefore infer that three things were necessary in order for our redemption: the payment of the debt contracted by sin, the appeasing of the divine wrath, and the expiation of guilt.

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Loraine Boettner – The Atonement

The Atonement

1. THE ATONEMENT

The two great objectives to be accomplished by Jesus Christ in His mission to this world were, first, the removal of the curse under which mankind labored as a result of the disobedience and fall, and second, the restoration of men to the image and fellowship of God. Both of these were essential to salvation. The work of Christ in reconciling God and men we call the Atonement; and this doctrine, we believe, lies at the very heart of the Christian system.

In the nature of the case we are altogether dependent on Scripture for our knowledge concerning this doctrine and can know only what God has seen fit to reveal concerning it. Human philosophy and speculation can contribute practically nothing toward its solution, and should be held in abeyance. Our present purpose is to give a systematized account of what the Scriptures teach concerning it, and to show that this fits in perfectly with the longings and aspirations of an enlightened spiritual nature.

In one of Paul’s most condensed statements of Christian truth we read: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” I Cor. 15:3. In this statement first place is given to the death of Christ. “Christ died for our sins” was the fundamental fact of the early Christian message, the corner-stone of its faith. But as soon as this simple fact is stated a number of vital questions are bound to arise. In order that we may have an intelligent understanding of this vital truth it is necessary that we know precisely what it was that Christ accomplished on the cross and how He did it. We cannot rest content with teaching that leaves the central doctrine of our faith shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. This does not mean that all mystery can be removed. But the Scriptures do supply the interpretation of the death of Christ that the inquiring mind legitimately asks for, and the salient factors concerning it should be known by all Christian people. Relieving that the Bible is God’s word to man, and that the statements of Scripture regarding the death of Christ were meant to be understood by ordinary Christian men and women, we shall not be deterred from this study by those who deprecate any “theory of the atonement.” Rather we hold it to be our task and privilege under the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit to “search the Scriptures” until we reach that understanding which satisfies the mind and heart and conscience, and leads to certainty and finality.

We cannot expect to give a full explanation of the Atonement any more than we can give a full explanation of the nature of electricity, or of the force of gravity, or of our own mental and physical processes. But the main outlines of the plan of salvation are clearly revealed in the Scriptures, and it is both our privilege and our duty to acquaint ourselves with as much of that plan as God has seen fit to reveal. We are told, for instance, in broad terms that we are members of a fallen race, that God has given His only-begotten Son for our redemption, and that salvation is through Him and not through any works which we ourselves are able to do. Certainly anyone who accepts these facts and acts upon them will be saved. Yet, accepting these facts and acting upon them would appear to represent only a minimum of faith, and God has made it possible for us greatly to enrich and expand our knowledge of the way of salvation if we will but give careful attention to His word.

By way of background for this subject we are to remember that after God had created man He established certain moral laws by which man was to be governed, and solemnly announced that disobedience to these laws would bring an awful punishment. As a pure test of obedience man was given permission to eat of every tree of the garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In regard to that tree he was told: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But man deliberately and defiantly disobeyed that command. Through that disobedience he not only corrupted his moral nature, but made necessary the infliction of the prescribed penalty. In view of God’s previously expressed good will toward man, the large degree of liberty granted to him, and his full knowledge of the consequences, this disobedience was especially heinous; because through it man in effect transferred his allegiance from God to the Devil.

Moreover, by his fall Adam corrupted not only himself but all of his posterity, since by divine appointment in this test he acted as their federal head and representative. Had man been left to suffer the penalty alone, he would have experienced not only physical death, but spiritual death as well, which means eternal separation from God and therefore endless progress in sin and suffering. Like the Devil and the demons, who also are fallen creatures and who have been abandoned to their fate, man was morally polluted and guilty and had neither the desire nor the ability to reform himself. Furthermore, it is very evident that no member of this fallen race was capable of paying the debt owed by any other, since each one was preoccupied with his own sin. Even if it had been possible to have found a truly righteous man who was also willing to bear the penalty for others, he could at most have delivered but one other person since he himself was only a man. Nowhere outside the Trinity was there a person either capable or willing to take the place of another, no one capable of suffering and dying, the one for the many. Nor had man the slightest grounds on which to base a request that he be excused from the penalty of the law. Hence his condition was truly desperate.

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Francis Turretin – The Necessity of the Atonement

Francis-Turretin The Priesthood of Christ, according to the Apostle Paul and the types of the Jewish ritual, is divided into two parts: the atonement which he made to divine justice, and his intercession in heaven, (1 John 2: 2. Heb. 9: 12). The necessity of such an atonement, which is the foundation of all practical piety and all Christian hopes, must therefore be firmly established, and defended against the fiery darts of Satan, with which it is attacked by innumerable adversaries.

Upon this subject, the opinions of divines may be classed under three heads: 1. That of the Socinians, who I not only deny that an atonement was made, but affirm that it was not at all necessary, since God both could and would pardon sin, without any satisfaction made to his justice. 2. That of those who distinguish between an absolute and a hypothetical necessity; and in opposition to the Socinians maintain the latter, while they deny the former. By a hypothetical necessity they mean that which flows from the divine decree, God has decreed that an atonement is to be made, therefore it is necessary. To this they also add a necessity of fitness; as the commands-of God have 1 been transgressed, it is fit that satisfaction should be made, that the transgressor may not pass with impunity. Yet they deny that it was absolutely necessary, as God, they say, might have devised some other way of pardon than through the medium of an atonement. This is the ground taken by Augustine in his book on the Trinity. Some of the reformers who wrote before the time of Socinus, adopt the opinions of that father. 3. That of those who maintain its absolute necessity; affirming that God neither has willed, nor could have willed to forgive sins, without a satisfaction made to his justice. This, the common opinion of the orthodox, is our opinion.

Various errors are maintained on this point, by our opponents. The removal of the grounds upon which they rest will throw light upon the whole subject. They err in their views of the nature of sin, for which a satisfaction is required; of the satisfaction itself; of the character of God to whom it is to be rendered; and of Christ by whom it is rendered.

1. Of sin, which renders us guilty, and binds us over to punishment as hated of God. It may be viewed as a debt which we are bound to pay to divine justice, in which sense the law is called “a hand-writing,” (Col 2:14) as a principle of enmity, whereby we hate God and he becomes our enemy: as a crime against the government of the universe by which, before God, the supreme governor and judge, we become deserving of everlasting death and malediction. Whence, sinners are expressly called “debtors,” (Matt. 6:12); “enemies to God,” both actively and passively, (Col. 1:21); “and guilty before God,” (Rom. 3:19.) We, therefore, infer that three things were necessary in order to our redemption; the payment of the debt contracted by sin., the appeasing of the divine wrath, and the expiation of guilt.

2. From the preceding remarks, the -nature of the satisfaction which sin requires may be easily perceived. That which we are chiefly to attend to in sin being its criminality, satisfaction has relation to the penalty enacted against it by the Supreme Judge.
But here we must attend to a twofold payment, which is noticed by jurists. One which, by the very deed of payment, sets at liberty the debtor, and annuls the obligation, whether the payment is made by the debtor in his own person, or by a surety in his name. Another in which the bare fact of payment is not sufficient to liberate the debtor, because, the payment is not precisely that which is demanded in the obligation, but all equivalent. In this case, though the creditor such payment, has a right to refuse the acceptance of yet if lie admits it and esteems it a payment, it is a satisfaction. The former of these takes place in a pecuniary, the latter in a penal debt. In a pecuniary transaction, the fact of the payment of the sum due frees tile debtor, by whomsoever the payment is made. Respect here is bad, not to the person paying but to the payment only. Whence, the creditor, having been paid the full amount due, is not said to have treated with indulgence the debtor, or to have forgiven the debt. But in penal matters the case is different. The debt rewards not things, but persons; not what is paid, so much as him who pays; i.e., that the transgressor may be punished. For as the law demands individual personal obedience, so it demands individual personal suffering. In order that the guilty person may be released through an atonement made by another in his stead, the governor or judge must pass a decree to that effect. That decree or act of the judge is, in relation to the law, called relaxation, and in relation to the debtor or guilty person., pardon; for his personal suffering is dispensed with, and in its place a vicarious suffering accepted. But because, in the subject under discussion, sin has not a relation to debt only, but also to punishment, satisfaction is not of that kind, which by the act itself frees the debtor. To effect this there must be an act of pardon passed by the Supreme Judge, because that is not precisely paid, i.e., a personal enduring of the penalty, which the law demands, but a vicarious suffering only. Hence we discover how perfectly accordant remission and satisfaction are with each other, notwithstanding the outcry made by the enemy respecting their supposed discrepancy. Christ made the satisfaction in his life and at his death, and God, by accepting this satisfaction, provides for remission. The satisfaction respects Christ, from whom God demands a punishment, not numerically, but in kind, the same with that which we owed. Pardon respects believers, who are freed from punishment in their own persons, while a vicarious suffering is accepted. Hence we see how admirably mercy is tempered with justice. Justice is exercised against sin, and mercy towards the sinner; an atonement is made to the divine justice by a surety, and God mercifully pardons us.

3. This reasoning is greatly fortified from a consideration of the relations in which God stands to the sinner. He may be viewed in a threefold relation: as the creditor; as the Lord and party offended; and as the judge and ruler. But though both the former relations must be attended to in this matter, yet the third is to be chiefly considered. God here is not merely a creditor, who may at pleasure remit what is his due, nor merely the party offended who may do as he will with his own claims without injury to any one; but he is also a judge and rectoral governor, to whom alone pertains the infliction of punishment upon offenders, and the power of remitting the penal sanction of the law. This all jurists know belongs to the chief magistrate alone. The creditor may demand his debt, and the party offended reparation for the offence or indemnity for his loss; but the judge alone has the power to compel payment, or exact punishment. Here lies the capital error of our adversaries, who maintain that God is to be considered merely in the light of a creditor, who is at liberty to exact or remit the punishment at pleasure. It is however certain, that God sustains the character of judge and ruler of the world, who has the rights of sovereignty to maintain, and professes himself to be the guardian and avenger of his laws; and hence lie possesses not only the claims of a creditor, which he might assert or remit at pleasure, but also the right of government and of punishment, which is naturally indispensable. We must, however, in the punishment itself, distinguish accurately between the enforcing of the penalty, and the manner and circumstances under which it is enforced, as they are things widely different. Punishment may be viewed generally; and in this respect the right of Heaven to inflict it is indispensable, being founded in the divine justice. If there be such an attribute as justice belonging to God, then sin must have its due, which is punishment. But as to the manner and circumstances of the punishment, the case is altogether different. They are not essential to that attribute. They are to be arranged according to his will and pleasure. It may seem fit to the goodness of God that there should be, in relation to time, a delay of punishment; in relation to degree, a mitigation of it; and in relation to persons, a substitution. For although the person sinning deserves punishment and might suffer it with the strictest justice, yet such punishment is not necessarily indispensable. For reasons of great importance, it may be transferred to a surety. In this sense, it is said by divines that sin is of necessity punished impersonally, but every sinner is not therefore of necessity to be punished personally. Through the singular mercy of God some may be exempted from punishment, by the substitution of a surety in their stead.

But that we may conceive it possible for God to do this, he must not be considered as an inferior judge appointed by law. An officer of that character cannot remit anything of the rigour of the law by transferring the punishment from the actual offender to another person. God must be viewed in his true character, as a supreme judge who giveth account of none of his matters, who will satisfy his justice by the punishment of sin, and who, through his infinite wisdom and unspeakable mercy, determines to do this in such a way as shall relax somewhat of the extreme rigour of punishment, by admitting a substitute and letting the sinner go free. Hence we discover to whom the atonement is to be made; whether to the devil, (as Socinus, with a sneer, asks,) or to God, as sovereign judge. For as the devil is no more than the servant of God, the keeper of the prison, who has no power over sinners, unless by the just judgment of God, the atonement is not to be made to this executor of the divine vengeance, but to the Supreme Ruler, who primarily and principally holds them in durance. We may add, that it is a gratuitous and false supposition, that in the suffering of punishment, there must be some person to whom the punishment shall be rendered, as in a pecuniary debt. It is sufficient that there is a judge, who may exact it in order to support the majesty of the State, and maintain the order of the empire.

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The Atonement

lloyd-jones-in-study_2 We have come in our consideration of these biblical doctrines to the point at which we find ourselves face to face with the great doctrine of the atonement. We have seen that there is only one way whereby men and women can be reconciled to God and that is in and through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and we have started our consideration of His work, having first considered His person. The work is divided, as we have seen, according to the Scriptures themselves—Christ is Prophet, Priest and King. We have considered the teaching concerning Christ as Prophet and we are now considering His work as Priest. We have seen that He satisfies the desiderata which were laid down so clearly in Hebrews 5:1–5; He fulfils all those demands. And we saw that the two main functions of the Priest are to present offerings and sacrifices and to make intercession. I ended that lecture by saying that He has an offering to offer and a sacrifice to present that God has accepted. This brings us inevitably to the consideration of what it is our Lord does offer, and did offer to God, as our great High Priest. And at once we come face to face with the doctrine of the atonement. This concerns primarily, but not only, as I shall be at pains to emphasise, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore our main subject now will be a consideration of the biblical teaching with regard to that.

Now the great question is: What exactly did happen when our Lord died upon the cross? Obviously this is a most vital question, indeed, the most vital question we can ever face together. It would be vital even if we were to look at these things merely from the prominence that is given to this truth in the New Testament itself. It is an actual fact that the death of our Lord upon the cross is mentioned directly

175 times in the New Testament and indirectly many more times. That in itself is staggering and arresting, and it shows the importance which is given to it in the New Testament Scriptures.

Or look at it like this: take the four Gospels; we realise that they are but four portraits of our Lord; they do not tell us everything about Him. John, you remember, ended His Gospel by saying, ‘And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written’ (John 21:25). But these are written; they are samples, if you like, they are books, they are portraits. And, of course, they are short. Each one of the Gospels is a comparatively short book and yet the striking thing is that in each of them practically one third of the space is devoted to the death of our Lord. It is exactly one third of Matthew; it is nearly one quarter of Luke; and in the case of Mark and John it is over one third.

So we can say that on average, of the space that is given to the coming of the Son of God into this world and all that He did and said, one third is devoted to His death and the events immediately leading up to it. So obviously the implication is that the Gospels are thus bringing us to see that while His incarnation and His life and teaching are of vital importance, the event that exceeds all others in importance is His death upon the cross. So there, again, is another reason why we should consider this very, very carefully and especially, let me remind you, when we bear in mind that the people who wrote those Gospels, under the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit, knew very well that this very thing that they were so emphasising was, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, a ‘stumbling block’ to the Jews, and ‘foolishness’ to the Greeks (see 1 Cor. 1:23). Though they knew all that, they put it in the forefront.

Then when you look at the book of Acts, you will find that His death is given the same prominence. The apostle Paul’s method, wherever he went, was that he went into the synagogue and he did two things. He proved and established that ‘the Christ must needs have suffered’, and, second, he said that ‘This Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ’ (Acts 17:3); and when you go on to the epistles the same thing is made abundantly clear. The apostle says, ‘I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2); and he goes on repeating it: ‘I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures …’ (1 Cor. 15:3); and there are other similar verses.

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Book Review – Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul

Defending Substitution As Christians, we believe that the death of Jesus on the cross accomplished something, namely dealing with the sin and death problem that has faced all of humanity since Adam’s fall in the Garden. With that said, what exactly was accomplished, for whom, when, and how it all plays out has been a source of debate among biblical scholars. Some aver substitutionary atonement while others support a more representative approach to Christ’s sacrifice. Professor Simon Gathercole in his helpful book Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul unpacks a difficult theological subject in an effort to demonstrate the validity from a biblical perspective of substitutionary atonement.

The focus of this book is not to provide an in-depth or exhaustive discussion of this topic not to interact with every single argument present over the years in favor of or in opposition to substitutionary atonement. Conversely, the purpose is to provide a definition of substitutionary atonement, to show its importance in particular in two key Pauline passages, to interact with some representative criticisms and alternative viewpoints, with again the underlying purpose being to show that substitutionary atonement is an essential and vital element for grasping what Christ did for us.

Gathercole provides valuable interaction with three specific alternative viewpoints to what Christ did, namely the Tubingen View, Hooker’s Interchange View, and finally the Apocalyptic Deliverance View. I found the discussion of these views to be quite valuable and Gathercole does a great job of noting their respective positions as well as their merits. It was interesting to note that portions of these views are valid; however as Gathercole aptly summarizes, “they adopt a particular view of the atonement in Paul, and this theory tends to take on the role of a dominant or all-encompassing explanation.” Those dominant explanations seem to focus on sin collectively while failing to interact with the reality that Paul does deal with specific sins in relation to the atonement.

Chapters 2 and 3 provide some excellent theological reading as Gathercole interacts with two key Pauline passages – 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Romans 5:6-8. He keys in on some specific portions of both passages that speak of Christ doing something for us. This is by definition an act of substitution, the action of one on behalf of another. The discussion provided by Gathercole on the examples from classical literature that reveal the concept of a friend willingly dying for another was quite interesting. What this discussion reveals is more than the fact that substitution was an act understood prior to and during the time of Paul. The real point of importance Gathercole drives home is the fact Christ did far more than what was demonstrated in classical literature. Unlike those examples, “Christ’s death creates a friendship where there had been enmity” meaning even though we showed ourselves not to be friends of God, even though we have failed our marriage vows, and even though we have rejected relationship with God, Christ dies for us. Such love was unknown in the classical literature examples, thus revealing the true nature of Christ’s sacrifice, one of love for those who were an enemy of God.

Written in an easy to read lecture style that is accessible to both scholars and laymen, this book is an important read. While Gathercole does not engage every minute detail of substitutionary atonement, that is not his intention. He set out to show that substitutionary atonement is indeed taught by Paul and forms an important element of the Pauline discussion on this topic. To some degree, substitutionary atonement can co-exist with representation and other perspectives; however, there can be no doubt that substitutionary atonement is aptly defended by Gathercole in this book and rightly so. I highly recommend this book as a valuable resource. It will prove to be a relatively quick read but it will also be a text the reader will refer to in future studies of substitutionary atonement.

This book is available for purchase from Baker Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Mike Riccardi – Theories of the Atonement: What Happened on the Cross?

Atonement-300x226 Throughout church history, there have been various views and theories that conceptualize the nature of Christ’s work on the cross. Because the atonement runs to the very heart of the Gospel, it’s important for us to know how people throughout the history of the church have understood the work of Christ, and to be able to test each by Scripture. Today, I want to briefly survey and evaluate some of the main theories of the atonement.

The Ransom Theory

First, there is what is known as the ransom, or classic, theory of the atonement. Also termed Christus Victor, this theory regards Christ’s atonement as accomplishing a victory over the cosmic forces of sin, death, evil, and Satan. Proponents of the ransom view believe that in the cosmic struggle between good and evil and between God and Satan, Satan had held humanity captive to sin. Therefore, in order to rescue humanity, God had to ransom them from the power of Satan by delivering Jesus over to him as an exchange for the souls held captive. Proponents of the ransom theory often appeal to Jesus’ statement that He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45).

Though Christ did give His life as a ransom for many, and though His death did indeed disarm the powers of darkness (Col 2:15), rendering powerless the devil who had the power of death (Heb 2:14), this view of the atonement affords more power to Satan than he actually has. Satan has never been in any position to make demands of God. Instead of this, Scripture makes it clear that Jesus paid the price on behalf of sinners to ransom them from the just punishment of God’s holy wrath (Rom 5:9). In the deepest sense, Jesus saved us from God, not merely the power of sin and Satan.

The Satisfaction Theory

Second, the satisfaction theory, championed chiefly by Anselm of Canterbury, supports the idea that Christ’s death made a satisfaction to the Father for sin. However, taking a cue from the paradigm of feudalism that characterized society at that time, Anselm focused more on the notion of making satisfaction for God’s wounded honor rather than the appeasement of His righteous wrath.

Now again, it is certainly true that God’s glory is belittled when sin is committed. Indeed, sin is synonymous with failing to honor
God by giving Him thanks (Rom 1:21) and falling short of His glory (Rom 3:23Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Thus, any adequate theory of atonement will vindicate God’s righteousness and restore His honor.

But Christ accomplished this vindication of righteousness in a particular way: by becoming a substitute for sinners, vicariously enduring in His body the punishment that was justly due to us (1 Pet 2:24). By setting forth Jesus as a propitiation of holy wrath, God has displayed Himself as both just and justifier of the one who has faith in Christ (Rom 3:26).

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Michael Horton – Is This Good News?

In his Wednesday Mass homily this week, Pope Francis attracted considerable media attention. According to reports, the message drew on Mark 9:40, where Jesus says, “He who is not against us is for us.” Like the disciples, we can be intolerant of the good that others can do—even atheists. Because we’re all created in God’s image, there is still a possibility of doing good. So far, nothing particularly controversial in terms of classical Christian teaching. The most ardent evangelical would affirm that although our works are so corrupted by sin that they cannot justify us before God, they can help our neighbors.

However, the pontiff added, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!…We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

Reports from major outlets, including the Huffington Post, express astonishment at the pope’s comments. What is this strange new teaching? Of course, it’s not new at all. It has been an emphasis ever since the Second Vatican Council, where the previously shunned speculations of Karl Rahner, S. J., became official teaching. There is no way to reconcile the previous councils and papal pronouncements depriving non-Roman Catholics of salvation with the idea of the “anonymous Christian.” Nevertheless, there it is. Not the development of dogma, as Cardinal Newman formulated, but the flat contradiction of dogma.

Before Vatican II, the standard teaching was that ordinarily no one can be saved who does not submit to the magisterium and papal authority in particular. Especially in trouble were those who had been reared Roman Catholic and yet explicitly rejected the pope’s headship. Although they were consigned to everlasting punishment by papal decrees, the Protestant Reformers never applied the same rule to their Roman Catholic opponents. Calvin even said that although Rome has excommunicated itself according to the criterion of Galatians 1:8-9, “There is a true church among her.”

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