26 October 2005

No punishment required?

Spurgeon and penal substitution revisited

PyroManiacA couple of Brit-bloggers, Steve and Sven, both noticed Monday's Spurgeon quote and voiced doubts about whether Spurgeon really believed in the penal-substitution view of the atonement.

Steve writes, "Pyromaniac digs up this quote by spurgeon, which he belives [sic] is talking about Penal Substitution. Aside from some amusement at the Victor Meldrewness of it, it’s an excellent, and typical spurgeon quote, talking about Jesus atoning (at-one-ment—reconciliation) death on the cross."

(For Yank readers who wonder what Steve means, Victor Meldrew was an elderly character in the Britcom One Foot in the Grave, known for his ill-tempered grousing.)

Steve then opines: "Interestingly while he talks about a recompence and substititution, he makes no mention of punishment or anything penal. In fact he seems to be fairly clearly talking about the satisfaction model of Atonement (Substitutionary Atonement) which Anselm devloped, before it was developed further by Luther and Calvin into the currently popular penal model."

Actually, in such a context, the recompense Spurgeon spoke of (the payment of which he "fairly clearly" says was "render[ed] to God's justice") is nothing if not punitive. I suppose if you don't understand Spurgeon and aren't familiar with Victorianisms, you might not catch that idea on your initial reading of this particular quote, but for the record, Steve has badly misread what Spurgeon is saying.

Anyway, in a note added after posting, Steve refers his readers to The World of Sven, promising, "Sven says this better."

Sven actually says it much worse: "Spurgeon himself seems to have gotten stuck halfway between Anselm and the classic Reformed position." Sven quotes a sentence from Spurgeon, ("My conscience tells me that I must render to God's justice a recompense for the dishonor that I have done to His law, and I cannot find anything which bears the semblance of such a recompense till I look to Christ Jesus.") and asks:

Doesn't this sound rather more like satisfaction theory rather than the popular version of penal substitution? This is of course slightly problematic, because Anselm (satisfaction theory) and the magisterial Reformers view Christ's death in two very different ways, because of course if Christ makes recompense to God's honour, no punishment is required. (Epmphasis added.)

I admit to some amusement at the Arnold Rimmeresque hubris contained in such pronouncements; but Steve and Sven really ought to investigate what Spurgeon actually believed about the atonement before lecturing their readers on the nuances of his view. Spurgeon's view on the atonement was no secret. His outspoken defense of penal substitution was a consistent theme—and not a subtle one—from the beginning of his ministry to his dying gasps at the height of the Downgrade Controversy (in which this very issue of penal substitution was one of the main doctrines in dispute).

Nor would Spurgeon ever have approved of paring back the definition of "at-one-ment" to reconciliation only.

It's extremely irritating that after more than two years of controversy, Steve Chalke and his aficionados still seem blithely ignorant about the historical debate among British Baptists over the doctrine of penal substitution. It's always annoyed me that Chalke, who ministered at Haddon Hall—a chapel founded by Spurgeon's own congregation and named for him—decided to champion this issue, and then has handled the ensuing controversy in such a clumsy and perfunctory way.

Here's a message where Spurgeon explains himself with absolute clarity and without the Victorian euphemisms. Whenever Spurgeon spoke of "substitutionary atonement," here, in his own words, is what he had in mind:

"The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that inasmuch as man could not keep God's law, having fallen in Adam, Christ came and fulfilled the law on the behalf of his people; and that inasmuch as man had already broken the divine law and incurred the penalty of the wrath of God, Christ came and suffered in the room, place, and stead of his elect ones, that so by his enduring the full vials of wrath, they might be emptied out and not a drop might ever fall upon the heads of his blood-bought people."

"Christ—Our Substitute" is one of my all-time favorite Spurgeon sermons, because Spurgeon's passion is conveyed in the words. You don't have to know what he actually sounded like to sense the fervor with which he defended the atonement against the Steve Chalkes of his day:

SpurgeonThese 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 his 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.

There's lots of picturesque and painfully blunt language in this sermon, but if I get started quoting it, I won't know where to stop. It reads like it was aimed at Steve Chalke himself. Read the sermon for yourself. It's a good one.

And, by the way, there are many more where this one came from. Fans of Steve Chalke need to face up to the reality that Spurgeon is no friend of anything Chalke stands for.

Phil's signature

34 comments:

Jeremy Weaver said...

Doesn't even the fact that Christ died, suggest a penal substitution? If there were no penalty for sin required, then why would He die?
Paul says that He was raised because of our justification, but only after "being delivered over because of our transgressions".

Is it OK to comment on tomorrow's post?

Broken Messenger said...

"Christ—Our Substitute" is one of my all-time favorite Spurgeon sermons, because Spurgeon's passion is conveyed in the words.

Mine too, Phil, great post.

Phil, though we have had our disagreements in the past, one thing you'll most likely never see is a challenge from me splitting hairs over that which C.H. Spurgeon said and meant. It's disappointing to me that Steve and Sven didn't take a different approach here to find clariification.

Brad

Mike Garner said...

"The doctrine of Holy Scripture is this, that inasmuch as man could not keep God's law, having fallen in Adam, Christ came and fulfilled the law on the behalf of his people; and that inasmuch as man had already broken the divine law and incurred the penalty of the wrath of God, Christ came and suffered in the room, place, and stead of his elect ones, that so by his enduring the full vials of wrath, they might be emptied out and not a drop might ever fall upon the heads of his blood-bought people."

This is one of the most precious doctrines. This is something we must be willing to die for. I thank you Phil, beyond what you may see, for standing up for this! I find no credible reason to believe that Spurgeon denied Substitutionary Penal Atonement, the very doctrine that Paul laid out nearly 2000 years ago. Christ, our Lord, trully was the propitiation of the wrath of God that once loomed over my head.

In Christ alone,
mike

Carla said...

No big surprise that they "voiced doubts about whether Spurgeon really believed in the penal-substitution view of the atonement."

Casting doubt (on just about anything, and anyone) seems to be par for the course, in the ECM.

Phil Johnson said...

Yeah, Brad, it occurred to me that Spurgeon probably has more polemic material defending the doctrine of penal substitution in print than any other single author. Those who are unaware of his position on the matter probably haven't studied it carefully enough to be posting strong opinions on it.

In a test to see how much stuff Google would turn up from Spurgeon or about his position on on penal atonement, I found this excellent article by Tom Nettles.

Dox: Comment anytime.

Carla: point taken.

Mike: I agree. It's not a particularly auspicious time for the church to give up the clear proclamation of Christ from her pulpits in favor of sponsoring a "conversation," is it?

1 Corinthians 1:19-25

Sven said...

I'm not a die-hard Chalke fan, but merely pointing out that some of the criticism he gets, as in this case, is ridiculous. He doesn't deny that Jesus washed away our sins, or that he died a substitutionary death even.

In the context of his book, he was refuting a particularly skewed version of penal substitution that is popularly presented (and indeed the same kind of view that I H Marshall criticised as 'unfortunate' at the Evangelical Alliance symposioum on the atonement, whilst upholding a rather more biblical and sensible doctrine of penal substitution.)

There are sadly those who do present the cross as 'cosmic child abuse' by over-emphasising or mis-emphasising key elements in Christ's work and the nature of God, but this does not mean one has to make a wholesale rejection of substitutionary doctrines of the atonement.

Phil Johnson said...

Sven, don't give me that. I read Chalke's book. He cannot excuse his use of such over-the-top language by claiming he was only referring to a skewed "version" of penal substitution--as if his target was some fringe cult or minority group. He was expressly renouncing mainstream evangelicalism's historic teaching on the atonement. There's no honest way to interpret his remarks in their context other than as an emphatic renunciation of every penal element in the atonement.

NOWHERE in the book does he say one word "upholding a rather more biblical and sensible doctrine of penal substitution." His alternative interpretation of the atonement was fuzzy and ill-defined--as is the typical "emerging" treatment of most doctrines.

Darren said...

For what it's worth, it doesn't sound to me like Spurgeon is necessarily teaching anything other than the traditional Evangelical doctrine of penal substitution. We shouldn't really be surprised to see satisfaction language co-mingled with penal substitution language.

Thanks, Phil!

One Salient Oversight said...

It seems to me that in the past 10 years or so there has been some movement away from the Penal Substitutionary Atonement. I vaguely remember the old Propitiation / Expiation argument that sullied the Revised Standard Version, with Expiation favoured by more Liberal people.

In this modern rejection of PSA, where has it originated from? Are there any teachers / theologians / movements that have been responsible for this current situation?

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Libbie said...

Steve Chalke has been doing a little concilliatory back-peddling since the book. Articles in Christianity magazine and statements made in response to the EA. Closer to God bible notes even had an interview with him where he seemed a lot less strident about the issue.
I suppose it's like the theological equivalent of running into a crowded room and shouting 'fire!' and then afterwards saying you just meant you had some matches...

Steve said...

Well, you learn something every day. I'm by no means a spurgeon expertand I'm happy to retract it.

Brad, I read the passage as it stands, it was a misunderstanidng, and my tone wasn't nasty, it was a comment. Infact it was considerably less 'strong' than pretty much anything here.

Doxobologist. The early church didn't bother thewmselves with many theorys about the mechanics of the cross, other than what the scriptures say - but when people did begin to explore it a range of theories developed. PS has become the main theory in modern evangelicalism, though for example I understand much of the RC or Orthodox church would hold a different view, as have many different sectiosn of the church thoughout the centuries. I'm guessing lots of people here will venemently diagree with that, or will have written off those churches anyway.

passthebread said...

I need to post on this but there is a very simple way to solve the anti-atonement folks problem. The problem is a basic historical one which is rooted in not knowing how to seperate "kerygma" from "didache". The apostolic preaching in Acts is the gospel preached to the uninitiated public (i.e. the missionary sermon). Romans and the epistles are teachings to elaborate upon and illustrate the gospel events. Both are equally God's word and revelation. The anti-atonement people are saying the didache is not the Gospel, but that is a big error. Instead it is more profitable to say that the atonement teaching is an elaboration of the meaning of the "kerygma" that "Jesus is the Lord" or "Jesus died for sin".

So, the desire to see the atonement everywhere is a false expectation. The missionary sermons will not contain elaborations on atonement. Nonetheless, the didache regaring the atonement is certainly a wonderful truth which eifies the church.

As for salvation, we are saved and reconciled to God by believing in the "kerygma" from the heart, and we are edified by rejoicing and trembling at the didache.

Steve said...

Pass the bread...

I absolutely agree that you would expect to see a different emphasis in teaching to the church community, than you would in Jesus teaching/preaching to the crowds or disciples (and other preaching), and that one should naturally lead on from the other.

I can only speak for myself, to say that I'm happy to consider both the teaching to the church and the teaching/proclaiming to everyone as the gospel.

The point of departure is on what the teaching indicates, and what it has been taken to indicate over the years and in other church communities. We may see one explantion as clear now, others see other explanations as clear.

May I say though that I would not for a moment consider myself, or anyone else anti-atonement. I have question about PS, and find other historocial models more useful in understanding Jesus atoning sacrifice, but I am no more anti-atonement than I am Jesus. Without Jesus life and his atonement, there would be no gospel for me.

I like your phrasing in that final paragraph.

I'm not sure why salvation came into this (and I think you answer that well). I think it's fair to say though that I'm confident about my slavation, if we use that language, I'm more concerned about living a Christ like life here and now. I'm guessing we all are.

Steve

Broken Messenger said...

Brad, I read the passage as it stands, it was a misunderstanidng, and my tone wasn't nasty, it was a comment.

Steve, I didn't imply that your tone was nasty, my disappointment was over what I perceived to be a knee-jerk reaction to Phil's post without considering Spurgeons other writings first.

Brad

Chris said...

Is there really such a big difference between Anselm and the Reformers? Seems to me like the satsfaction of God's honor and the satsfaction of his justice go together. George Smeaton was a big fan of Anselm, I recall.

Steve said...

Thanks Brad - I find myself dispointed at the harshness and/or diminishing of each other or each others views that is so easily slid into. I wondered if it was about that, and was suprised.

Chris - I would say that PS was a development of the satisfaction theory. Darran talks about that here http://nicea.blogspot.com/2005/10/did-spurgeon-teach-penal-substitution.html , in terms of the satisfaction langugage used in the spurdeon quote. Whether it follows on naturally, is I guess the quesion where opinions differ.

Phil Johnson said...

Steve writes, " I have question about PS, and find other historocial models more useful in understanding Jesus atoning sacrifice, but I am no more anti-atonement than I am Jesus."

1. I'm not sure why someone's perception of whether penal substitution seems "useful" would take precedence over the question of whether it is biblical.

2. If (as I believe) Spurgeon's point is right, and penal substitution is of the very essence of Christ's atonement, then to whatever degree you resist the idea of penal substitution, you are indeed "anti-atonement." I think that was Adrian Warnock's point a day or two ago in the post where a few people accused him of being "unloving."

3. By the way, that accusation is itself judgmental and unloving, and such a charge is credible only to the mind already poisoned with post-modernity--where nothing is really taken seriously and clarity and certainty are seen as undesirable. If (as I believe) Spurgeon and Warnock are correct on this point, the most LOVING thing they can do is exactly what they did: speak distinctly, and sound a clear warning about the serious and far-reaching danger of consciously and deliberately rejecting the vicarious suffering of Christ as a payment for the sinner's guilt.

Denise said...

The Emergent Church movement's "virtue" of casting doubt on God's Word, Its doctrine, and the work of Christ, not to mention solid biblical teachers of old, is nothing but ultimate rebellion toward God. Period.

Isaiah 53 is clear (as is the book of Hebrews like chapters 8-10) about the penal substitution for the elect's sin:

Isa 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isa 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth...

Isa 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isa 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Isa 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Amen.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Steve,
I'm not sure what part of my comment required the history lesson.
My point was that since death is a part of the curse that Christ must suffer that part of the curse in order to free us from the curse.
Furthermore, in the legal language in the blessings and cursings of the Mosaic covenant, breaking the law required death. Therefore, Christ must also suffer the curse of the Law in His body to redeem us from the Law.

Steve said...

Well, it seems that I'm poisened by post-moderninty, missing the gospel entirely, and inevitiably rebellious against God!
*
I believe that a number of the ideas are biblical, and the idea that one model can sum up what Jesus did on the cross is nonsense. I recognise the historical models available, and choose not to belive that the modern evangeliclal church is the only one to have it correct.

I don't belive I called Adrian unloving - in fact I emphasised that I believed his intentions to be good. Rather I suggested that he had a lot of Gall, to dismiss such a wide range of the church for a different understandin of Christs atonement.

I think clarity and certainty are wonderful things, but I don't believe that the evangelcial church is the only one to have a claim on truth, though the whole of Christ's church.

I have not cast doubt on God's word, it's a wonderful thing. I have not cast doubt in Christ's work, I am confident of the grace of Jesus, and his atoning sacrifice.

Any one of us will disagree with varius teachers of old, simply in agreeing with another. That's not a rebellion.

As for the quotes - I've read Isaiah - throwing bible verses at me isn't a conversation - it's like an attack. I've read these before, and I've read them in the context of atonement. If you belive I am of the rails, that's your choice, please don't treat me as if I've not read the bible though.

It's sad that this discussion moved so quickly to a point where I'm called poisened, unloving and rebellious.

As to the idea that a misunderstanding of atonement could affect my salvation. We really do seem to believe in a different gospel. I can't say I'm altogether sad about that.

Steve

LeeC said...

I've read all of this with interest, but to be honest I have found nothing here as disturbing as your quote here Steve.

"As for the quotes - I've read Isaiah - throwing bible verses at me isn't a conversation - it's like an attack. I've read these before, and I've read them in the context of atonement. If you belive I am of the rails, that's your choice, please don't treat me as if I've not read the bible though."


I have never encountered a Christian that considered simply quoting Scripture as offensive before.

Mike Garner said...

As for the quotes - I've read Isaiah - throwing bible verses at me isn't a conversation - it's like an attack.

Isn't it sad how verses can be sitting there on the page. One of us can read the verses and should Amen after them all. Another thinks that it is an attack. If scripture is attacking you or your view, then I seriously suggest that you reconsider your view.

As to the idea that a misunderstanding of atonement could affect my salvation.

There is quite a difference between a view not being fully articulated and out and out denying an articulated view. Your appeals to history, more often than not, cast you in no better light. Similarly, we could address the issue of the Trinity. Simply because it was not articulated does nothing to save the 21st centruy believer who denies Orthodox Trinitarianism.

Mike Garner said...

I had a typo in there.
I apologize.
Should say Shout* rather than should

Denise said...

Steve,

God's Word is clear and final. It is the standard by which we test all things and it is the source of where we find absolute and knowable truth.

Isaiah 53 goes directly to the heart of this matter and you need to deal with Scripture. As of yet, you've said a lot of things but haven't dealt with Isaiah 53.

But your response that posting Scripture which directly deals with the penal substitution of Christ on the elect's behalf,shows what you *REALLY* think about Scripture.

If you think posting appropriate Scripture is *attacking* you, then consider this:

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

I stand by what I said.

2Co 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ....

Here's Is. 53 that deals with the substitutionary penalty:

Isa 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isa 53:8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

Isa 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isa 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Isa 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

xopher_mc said...

As the blogger adrian was refering to in his post on the atonement. I am pleased how many people care for my soul. Though I thought I would clear up my position. And as the debate has moved here I thought I would also post my response here.

Regarding Phil's statement
"His concerns, clearly, had to do with those who have considered the question, claim to have studied the history of the debate, and still reject the vicarious sufferings of Christ as a satisfaction of God's righteous anger against sin."

I believe with all my heart, (though i do not think my belief in a particular model of the atonement nessesary condition of salvation)that Christ Satisfied the Wrath of God with his vicarious sufferings. Though not with pain as pain. Or because Christ was punished by the Father.

His satisfaction was the perfect amen to the judgement of God on sin- which is his own judgement because of his perfect oneness with Father. He enacted the judgement of God on the Cross. We cannot, therefore, talk of God the Father punishing Jesus. Though, as P. T. Forsyth states, it is perfectly acceptable to say "Christ bore the penalty of our sins" but not that he was punished. The pouring out of the Wrath is not the role of the Father, as Wayne Grudem suggests. Neither is it the rearangement of attributes ala Stott But Christ truly was the Judge judged in our place; as the one enacting judgement on sinful humanity. He condemed sin in the flesh!

One of the most surprising comments adrian made in the discussion with him was that "So you mean the whole of the incarnation was atoning!"

That is precisely the point Christ IS, his person is, the propitiation, he does propititiate God. It is his make up as the God-Man. The joining of divine holiness and human sinfulness (though Christ never sinned) in the person of the mediator which makes up our atonement. The incarnation and atonement cannot be divided


Christ made satisfaction by answering the wrath of God in a more superior way than punishement, but by agreement, by the tearful sorrow as the head of humanity before the Wrath of God. Which is but the aspect of God's Holy Love. God's 'No' to sinful humanity is contained in his 'Yes' toward it. A 'Yes' which can never treat sin less than it is.

Regarding the forsakeness of Jesus on the Cross. We cannot talk of God forsaking Jesus in any sense of Rejection. But in terms of Christ willingly entering the forsakeness of the human Condition.

ps-please be aware that I am dyslexic. So read sympatheticaly-don't pick the grammar apart but the argument.

passthebread said...

Steve and Sven,
OK..Is it possible that if we all agreed on say for example "Kingdom theology" and adopted a highly realized eschatology in line with the new testament church that you would find more agreement with the evangelical church? In other words, is the lack of realized eschatology your contention and you are blaming this on penal substitution. I for one do not think there is a relationship to the true problems in the church that is rooted in a nuanced opinion of the atonement.

By the way i beleive the bible teaches that there are penal elements in the atonement.

My point is are you looking for a solution via a nuanced understanding. I think this is not the cure to what ails the church.

If you try to convince everyone of a nuanced approach to a teaching of the church, you are simply bound to create division. The focus is to simply do the kingdom and discipleship well. Why not simply emphasize your points as opposed to saying there is no penal element in the atonement. That is simply too difficult for plain readers of scripture to understand, and it certainly is not the source of some big problem in the church.

Libbie said...

I'm so dense Phil.. I only just got the Arnold Rimmer thing this morning...smeg!..

jigawatt said...

Rumor has it that Dave Hunt read "Christ-Our Substitute" and is now quoting it to show that Spurgeon actually believed in Grotius' Governmental theory instead of Penal Substitution.

Hunt quoting Spurgeon:
"'I had no idea that there would come out a divinity, which would bring down God's moral government.'"

Darren said...

Steve, I for one appreciate your position and your contributions to this blogosphere-wide discussion. (I also happen to agree with it.)

I don't think that Steve has ever said that penal substitution is a false teaching. Far from it! It is a concept that Paul uses quite explicitly to describe the work of Christ on our behalf.

Steve's point, I think (and now I should stop speaking for Steve and start speaking for myself), is that the penal substitution theory is not the full and complete expression of what Christ has done. The doctrine of the atonement is rich and multi-faceted, and Scripture and the historic Church have employed many concepts that supplement and contrast one another.

Some examples:

* Jesus was the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice offered under the Mosaic Law for the sins of God's people (Hebrews)
* Jesus recapitulated the perfect human life of living to God rather than to self (Irenaeus)
* Jesus engaged the devil in battle and defeated him
* Jesus's death paid a ransom to the devil for humankind
* Jesus's death paid a ransom to God for humankind
* Jesus's death satisfied the injury that man in sinning had done to God's honor (Anselm)
* Jesus provided the example par excellance of life in surrender to God (Abelard)
* Jesus's selfless death earned an immeasurable treasury of merits, to which God allows us access (late medieval Catholicism)
* Jesus took the penalty due to the sins of humankind, leaving us with a "Not Guilty" verdict (Calvin)
* Jesus removed the shame that alienates us from God and from others

This is but a sampling of the many ways in which the Bible and the Church have tried to express the saving significance of Christ's work. While we may not agree with all of the above, the doctrine of the atonement is properly found in the rich chorus of Scripture and history.

Penal substitution is not wrong. But those who attempt to limit the expression of the atonement to penal substitution are cutting themselves off from huge portions of the testimony of Scripture and from the Christian tradition.

Is penal substitution the center of a broad collection of metaphors and categories? Perhaps. There is a terrific exegetical study waiting in there somewhere.

Continual blogging on the atonement at Papercut Theology.

Denise said...

Still no address of Is. 53 yet. Hmmm. Shouldn't we be addressing what God has actually said?

graham old said...

"It's extremely irritating that after more than two years of controversy, Steve Chalke and his aficionadoes still seem blithely ignorant about the historical debate among British Baptists over the doctrine of penal substitution. It's always annoyed me that Chalke, who ministered at Haddon Hall—a chapel founded by Spurgeon's own congregation and named for him—decided to champion this issue, and then has handled the ensuing controversy in such a clumsy and perfunctory way."

I'm not really sure that throwing around terms like "aficionadoes" [sic] is particularly helpful for a conversation such as this. Are you? I'm also not sure that either Steve or Sven "lectured" anyone. (In fact, knowing Steve personally, I can;t imagine him doing such a thing on any subject!)

Most folks that I know, Baptist or not, supporters of penal substitution or not, are ignorant of the historical debate over the doctrine of penal substitution. (Though, I think the way you've worded it slightly exaggerates the case.) I for one am grateful that Baptists have often entertained and discussed different models of the atonement.

Incidentally, Chalke did not decide to champion this issue. I don't know where you got that idea from. Chalke merely wrote 1 paragraph on how things look when this is poorly presented. The Christian media and heresy hunters then jumped on that. Why they didn't do the same when Nigle Wright (president of Spurgeon's College) wrote similarly is more to do with public celebrity than championing.

Finally, as neither Steve or Sven are baptists I guess they can be forgiven for not being aware of Spurgeon's wider thought and work.

Phil Johnson said...

Graham: Forgive me if I don't take your advice on what's "helpful" to advance a debate on a vital point of theology.

I recall that your approach to the pacifism issue was to have lay people draw cards to see which side they would debate, and observe the ensuing debate as an item for entertainment. My perspective would be that the actual truth on matters such as these is more important than that.

That would especially apply to the question of the meaning of the atonement. And one of the very things I find most offensive about the way Steve Chalke, his devoted aficionados, and his casual defenders try to make their case is their tendency to portray the whole issue as fairly unimportant and not really worthy of strong feelings.

You deride those who criticize Chalke as "heresy hunters" who jumped on one isolated paragraph. I ask: 1) Why does that expression seem more "helpful for a conversation such as this" than "aficionados"? and 2) Have you actually read either the book or the criticisms?

Because it is not one paragraph, but the whole gist of the book that is problematic.

graham old said...

Feel free not to take my advice! :-) I'm not even sure that I really meant it as advice, as much as a question. Either way, forgiveness is not needed.

I'm not sure if you just misunderstood my discussion in the post you've linked to, or if you're just being facetious. In short, it was about learning better by exploring an issue together, but if that turns out to be entertaining I'm not gonna complain.

I have very strong feelings on this matter and I think that our understanding of the atonement is hugely significant. I don't know where you got the idea that Chalke doesn't think it's important, but it's certainly not from anything he has written. I do hope your primary sources in all of this aren't bloggers!

"You deride those who criticize Chalke as "heresy hunters" who jumped on one isolated paragraph."

No, I didn't. I didn't deride anyone and I wasn't referring to anyone and everyone who criticises Chalke. I was simply reporting how and why this became such a massive issue so quickly (which wasn't the case when others questioned the doctrine). I don't know how much you keep up to date with the British Christian media, but that's simply how things seemed to be, to me. However, it was probably still an unhelpful term to use, for which I apologise.

Yes, I've read the book. I've attended theological consultations that sprung up as a result of it. I've talked to a number of people involved. I continue to study the topic as I was before it all "broke" and as I was doing before I studied it at Spurgeons College. I've read many of the criticisms of Chalke, which are mostly rubbish and unkind and I continue to study defenses for penal substitution, which vary from proof-texting to all-but-compelling.

I agree that the whole book is troublesome. It almost compelled me to get off of my chair and live my faith! ;-)