April 14, 2006
Filed under: Atonement — Scot McKnight @ 7:07 am

Mark Dever, a Baptist pastor in Washington, DC, is the author of the featured article in Christianity Today and it appropriately deals with the atonement. But, instead of being a positive description of what the death (and resurrection) is, Dever decided to defend penal substitution. And, instead of defending it by exegesis of specific passages, he decided to critique those who are (in his view) waffling on the center of atonement: penal substitution.

I beg to differ, not because I think penal substitution needs to be denied, but because the atonement is too important during this Holy Week to turn into the “atonement wars”. Atonement is more than penal substitution. And it all needs to be in front of us, especially today. Here’s what will go through my mind and heart and reflections today and tomorrow, but on Sunday we let go and utter “Christ is risen!”

First, I’m thankful that Jesus died for our sins (including mine). His life, his death, his burial, his resurrection, and his sending of the Spirit are all “for us” — not for himself, but all for us.

Second, in his death, as Paul says in Roman 6 and Galatians 2, he represented us — both exclusively (called substitution) and inclusively (called co-crucifixion). He both died for us and we die with him.

Third, as we find in Colossians 2, in his death and resurrection march into the presence of God, he liberated us. He conquered the systemic and demonic enemies, nailed them to the cross, and defeated them so we could live in the power of his resurrection. He is the ransom price paid for us so that we could be set free.

Fourth, overall, to use the language of Irenaeus and Athanasius, which are based on Romans 5, he recapitulated our life: he became what we are so we might become what he is.

Fifth, he identified with us “all the way down.” Phil 2:6-11 shows that Jesus came to earth to become like us and in doing so he died for us. By identifying with us, he is our substitution who takes on the very depth of our punishment, even death, even death on a cross, so that he might lift us into the presence of God.

Sixth, he not only dies for us but he gives us in his death a new paradigm for life: we are to die to ourselves, deny ourselves, and make the cross the paradigm of how we live — and that we means we enter into his life by making the cross our own.

All this and more: the death of Jesus is not a source for the atonement war, but a source of contemplation for how God has taken on our case, become like us even unto death, so we might be redeemed, justified, and liberated from our sinful condition. The CT article forces our hand.

84 Comments

  1. Scot,
    Thank you for this symphonic view of Jesus’ atoning mission. Why do the penal substitution gang want to reduce this expansive “music” to a “one note johnny” noise? Isn’t a lot of popular evangelical stuff the product of incessant reduction?

    Comment by John Frye — April 14, 2006 @ 7:47 am

  2. Thanks for the helpful post. It’s good to remember all that Christ’s death on the cross achieved.

    Comment by Mark Barnes — April 14, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  3. Scot,

    I don’t want to get into atonement wars either. I read the article in question and believe firmly in the penal substituion point, but the article does make a pitch for a many splendored atonement, which is where I stand. I believe there is a substitutionary component, but I also believes it shows the expansiveness of his love for us. I believe it shows in great clarity the way his followers should live. I also believe it has an element for healing emotional and physical. Let’s not reduce this mighty work by Jesus to any one element, let’s celebrate and be thankful for all that it does for us.

    By the way Scot, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it, but I want to thank you for your blog. I’m not really much of one to focus too much on theology. But you make theology interesting and understandable for those of us who are not seminarians.

    While I may not agree on every point, your posts are well documented with wonderful thoughts. Thank you. Have a blessed weekend and resurrection Sunday.

    Comment by john lunt — April 14, 2006 @ 8:33 am

  4. I think that the passion and positioning behind penal substitution is a “defense” to “the” gospel. When I’ve heard and still hear that “the” gospel can be summed up by the “Romans Road”, I believe alot of people are threatened by a “different” gospel. They hear Paul’s encouragements and proclaimations to guard the gospel. I know many who would die for “the” gospel. I think alot of people are afraid of a wider, deeper, more “embracing” gospel because they may not have been completely “doing their job” of proclaiming “the” gospel. Honestly, I struggle with communicating a wider good news that I have recently read about (just finished Embracing Grace). I want to sum up/”incessant reduction” what God has done so that they may “get saved”. I fear on selling God’s people and the world short. Fear raises mighty passions and deep entrenching. (I’ll try avoiding incessant quotes in further posts)

    Comment by Nace — April 14, 2006 @ 8:37 am

  5. Sorry, I aimed for “Shift” and pressed “Enter”. What I was going to go on to say was:

    John, I’m not sure your comment is fair. It’s true that the recent debate has reminded some evangelicals that there is more to the cross that substitutionary atonement. It’s been good to be reminded of that. But the “war” is not against those who think that there is more than substitionary atonement. It’s against those who think that there is less.

    But although there is rightly a war against teaching that denies substitutionary atonement, there is also a more friendly battle with those for whom substitutionary atonement is not central.

    Dever’s article aims to show that. He’s know trying to show all that the cross means. He’s simply defending one, crucial aspect. He acknowledges, “I don’t doubt that we have more to learn from Christ’s death than simply the fact that he died as a substitute for us… when we give attention and authority to all parts of the New Testament canon, substitution becomes the center and focus of the Bible’s witness to the meaning of Christ’s death.”

    Comment by Mark Barnes — April 14, 2006 @ 8:45 am

  6. Scot,

    Thanks. A great summary of what the atonement means for us. I don’t understand why Mark Dever (and others) cannot see the other stories of Jesus’ atoning work. Why they can’t acknowledge them. Why they think the gospel is at stake. Or being undermined. This must mean their interpretation amounts to the gospel, and whatever does not line up in march step with them is suspect. But people need to be helped to have ears to hear the full story of Jesus’ atoning work as given in Scripture. Their focus on penal substitution undermines that, regretfully (and even tragically), I’m afraid.

    Comment by Ted Gossard, — April 14, 2006 @ 8:46 am

  7. Ted,

    Dever’s article does embrace “the other stories” of atonement. He simply argues that penal substitution is the thread that ties them all together. This is very much in line with Tom Schreiner’s article on atonement, an article we have discussed more than once on this blog.

    Scot,

    I would be interested to hear you respond to Dever’s suggestion that you have rejected “Mark’s theologizing” of Jesus’s words in Mark 10:45.

    Thanks,
    Denny

    Comment by Denny Burk — April 14, 2006 @ 8:59 am

  8. Scot — I hear what you are saying, but I think you might have been a little unfair with Mark.

    First, I don’t think it was his intention to have an “Atonement War” on Good Friday. He may have been asked specifically to write a piece about how substitutionary atonement was being challenged. I don’t think it is fair to criticize him for when the article was published.

    Second, I don’t think he is trying to say that the cross is soley about substitution, since he says (and I quote):

    Rather than pitting these theories against one another, couldn’t they be evaluated together? A Christ who wins victory over the powers of evil, whose death changes us, and whose death propitiates God is not only conceivable, he seems to be the Bible’s composite presentation. Frank Thielman of Beeson Divinity School states a traditional view of the Atonement in his recent summary, Theology of the New Testament (Zondervan, 2005). But Thielman, a scholar who has focused his work more on Paul than on the Gospels, also presents the Cross as a defeat of those cosmic powers opposing God—Christus Victor. As Hans Boersma wrote of Atonement theories in Books & Culture (March/April, 2003), “By allowing the entire choir to sing together, I suspect we may end up serving the interests of God’s eschatological shalom.”

    I’m wondering if your reaction was due to him pointing you out as someone “against” substitutionary atonement. Did you feel like he misrepresented your stance?

    Thank you for the meditations on all the things that Christ accomplished on the cross. It reminded me of our wonderful Saviour. I enjoy your writing on this blog and am wondering: when I get around to reading one of your books, where should I start?

    Thanks,

    Comment by Alan — April 14, 2006 @ 9:13 am

  9. Mark,

    I’m not sure where the disagreement is. I believe the essential of substitutionary atonement. But I believe it encompasses more than that. My argument is for a celebration of all that Christ accomplished for us including substitutionary atonement, but not limiting it to only substitutionary atonement. Actually I would argue that substitutionary atonement, when Christ took God’s just wrath on himself is the beginning of all atonement. None of the rest matters without the justification that comes from that act. However, that doesn’t mean negating the other elements of atonement either. To me it’s a package deal. Sorry sound’s kind of like consumerism, but God’s grace is so extravegant that he gave all of these things to us with his sacrifice.

    Comment by john lunt — April 14, 2006 @ 9:30 am

  10. Alan,
    Yes, he does sketch this view, and I didn’t have space to summarize his article. So thanks for this.

    Here’s my big point: to use a Good Friday article in CT to polemicize is bad judgment. I think we should use the piece to explain the goodness of the atonement, in all its glory, instead of using the piece to criticize all those whose faith is somehow deficient. Furthermore, I tire of hearing conservative evangelicals say “we need all the stories” and then proceed to tell us one story, which is only part of the atonement, and that part invariably the penal substitution theory. Show me, I say, that you really mean business — I mean saving business — with ransom and liberation and recapitulation and exemplar — show me, and then I’ll listen to the point that we need all the stories. Show me that justice is inherent to the atoning work of God, as Tom Wright has clearly done and others too, and I’ll listen. But, if we keep saying that we need all the stories and then focus on individual redemption from guilt by double imputation through penal substitution, which has its own problems the way it is often explained, then I fail to see why we need the other stories.

    I saw this in several pieces in The Glory of the Atonement, again written by conservative evangelicals. Several said we need all the stories and then they proceeded to tell us about one story: penal substitution. I wonder sometimes if there is something unhealthy in the need to keep telling us that penal substitution is the central metaphor.

    Show me an evangelical who accepts Luke 4:18-19; 6:20-26; 7; etc, as inherent to what atonement is all about, and I’ll say they are using all the stories. I’m sorry, Alan, but I don’t see it often enough to make me think they mean business.

    Which is why I’m writing a book on atonement that tries to do that. Whether or not I can pull it off, we’ll see, but I’m giving a try. And I do so through the lens of recapitulation, which is radically substitutionary, and which I think can embrace all the stories.

    To reduce the atonement to a central image has no biblical warrant whatsoever. Who says we need to reduce to a central metaphor? Does the Bible tell us that we need to do this? No, in fact, the NT writes just keep returning to the complext of life/death/resurr/Pentecost and exploring from a variety of angles. With no ruling metaphor. What rules is that God saves us in the Christ complex.

    Sorry to let go, but it irritates me (even on Good Friday when I’ve had plenty of good times in meditation) to see atonement reduced this way. The good news is bigger than that the Son absorbed the wrath of the Father.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 9:50 am

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    Pingback by SmartChristian.com » Blog Archive » — April 14, 2006 @ 9:58 am

  12. Scot,

    Being one who is im the midst of erxiting an (the?) Evangelical seminary, I understand your point more than many. Too often penal substitution has become a “bastion of orthodoxy” when in reality it is but one metaphor among many, and all of them incomplete at that! I am not sure why this one idea has come to dominate, but I find it to be unbiblical to demand the prominence of one concept over others in the atonement debate.

    I have to, unfortunately, enter into the conflict just a little in my dissertation. I hope that in the future atonement can be a many splendored thing.

    Comment by Ron Fay — April 14, 2006 @ 10:02 am

  13. Slight correction: It is true that the basic idea behind the Irenaean/Athanasian exchange formula is found in Romans 5, among other passages. The wording and structure, though, derive primarily from Galatians 4:4-6. This can be seen by examining different versions of the formula in Irenaeus where both the terminology and order of Gal 4 shows up.

    Comment by Carl Mosser — April 14, 2006 @ 10:35 am

  14. I think this discussion on the atonement is wonderful. This subject is so central to our lives that a full orbed discussion is long overdue. Giving the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement is only right and fair. However, these other theories need to more time for those of us in the evangelical realm to “catch up” on the perspective that they all offer.

    Comment by Paul H — April 14, 2006 @ 10:39 am

  15. Scot,

    I finished Dever’s piece wondering, is God the White Witch to Jesus’s Aslan? That’s how it seemed in way Dever presented atonement, at least in parts of his article.

    The weakness Dever’s argument for atonement–and the one he really ducked in the article–is that it assumes God has a problem.

    This sentence is where things went wrong in the piece:
    “A third set of theories assumes that our main problem is God’s righteous wrath against us for our sinfulness, which puts us in danger of eternal punishment.”

    So “God’s wrath” and not human sin is the problem. That’s the problem, as I understand it, that Waldenstrom had with the penal substitution of atonement. Human sin is the problem, which separates us from God.

    I haven’t read all of Waldenstrom’s writing on the atonement, but this section points out the flaw in the God’s wrath is the problem argument:

    “It ought to be self-evident to us that our fall into sin did not change God’s attitude to man from love to wrath, because the Bible states everywhere that God is unchangeable. He remains what he is whether man stands or falls. The Scriptures testify to this in definite words. John writes, ‘God is love,’ not only, ‘God loves’; no,in his own eternal unchangeable nature he is love, and he can never cease to be love without ceasing to be God. Similarly, the Lord himself says concerning the foundation for our atonement, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.’ But if he loved the world, the fallen world, so much that he gave his only begotten Son for its salvation, then he loved it in spite of its fall, did he not? And then no change had occurred in his heart because of the fall of man. By this it is evident that the obstacle to man’s salvation has never been any wrath against man in the heart of God.”

    Comment by bob smietana — April 14, 2006 @ 10:58 am

  16. Scot, I fail to understand why guys keep playing off representation against substitution against each other. I like what Tom Wright said in one lecture: “He can only be our substitute because he is also our representative.” I think your response was balanced and appropriate.

    Comment by Mike Bird — April 14, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  17. Scott, I would like to once again take up the point that it seems like you use the terms atonement and salvation as one and the same. For instance, Hebrews 9:27-28 says this,

    “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (NIV).

    Bruce Demerest, like you, one of our best evangelical scholars defines atonement this way, “The notion of substitutionary sacrifice, widely attested in Scripture, means that Christ died in the place of sinners. The perfect obedience God required from his creatures, Jesus fully gave. In bearing the penalty of human sin as our substitute, he made full payment to God for all our failures and misdeeds” (The Cross and Salvation, 175).

    He defines Salvation differently:
    “In sum, the word salvation in its theological sense denotes, negatively, deliverance from sin, death and divine wrath and, positively, the bestowal of far-ranging spiritual blessings both temporal and eternal. God freely conveys these benefits on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as mediator” (ibid., 171).

    An point might be made from this perspective, that Christ’s atoning death made it possible to for us to become part of the New Covenant. With admission into the New Covenant comes many blessings and with these we inherit the fullness of salvation (Hebrews 9:15). The atonement is what Christ has done to redeem us from our lost condition and salvation is all of the blessings of that work applied to a person’s life.

    Evangelicals believe that we can speak of salvation in different ways, we can speak of being saved (justified); we can speak of “working out” our salvation (sanctification) and we can speak of “awaiting” our salvation (glorification). The benefit of this is that we are able to speak about the relational and judicial aspects of salvation in a way that, we believe, the biblical text puts these concepts together. While you may believe we are being reductionistic, perhaps you are doing more with the concept of atonement than the Bible warrants? On another note, when your book comes out, I am definitely going to buy a copy! May the Lord bless you in a mighty way.

    Comment by Bruce Smith — April 14, 2006 @ 11:04 am

  18. Scott, I would like to once again take up the point that it seems like you use the terms atonement and salvation as one and the same. For instance, Hebrews 9:27-28 says this,

    “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (NIV).

    Bruce Demerest, like you, one of our best evangelical scholars defines atonement this way, “The notion of substitutionary sacrifice, widely attested in Scripture, means that Christ died in the place of sinners. The perfect obedience God required from his creatures, Jesus fully gave. In bearing the penalty of human sin as our substitute, he made full payment to God for all our failures and misdeeds” (The Cross and Salvation, 175).

    He defines Salvation, differently:
    “In sum, the word salvation in its theological sense denotes, negatively, deliverance from sin, death and divine wrath and, positively, the bestowal of far-ranging spiritual blessings both temporal and eternal. God freely conveys these benefits on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as mediator” (ibid, 171).

    An point might be made from this perspective, that Christ’s atoning death made it possible to for us to become part of the New Covenant. With admission into the New Covenant comes many blessings and with these we inherit the fullness of salvation (Hebrews 9:15). The atonement is what Christ has done to redeem us from our lost condition and salvation is all of the blessings of that work applied to a person’s life.

    Evangelicals believe that we can speak of salvation in different ways, we can speak of being saved (justified); we can speak of “working out” our salvation (sanctification) and we can speak of “awaiting” our salvation (glorification). The benefit of this is that we are able to speak about the relational and judicial aspects of salvation in a way that we believe the biblical text puts these concepts together. While you may believe we are being reductionistic, perhaps you are doing more with the concept of atonement than the Bible warrants? On another note, when your book comes out, I am definitely going to buy a copy! May the Lord bless you in a mighty way.

    Comment by Bruce Smith — April 14, 2006 @ 11:05 am

  19. Correction: 2nd quote from Demarest is found on page 27 of “The Cross and Salvation.”

    Comment by Bruce Smith — April 14, 2006 @ 11:08 am

  20. having just read Dever’s article in an e-mail forwarded by a friend, i am glad to read this more unifying and productive reflection on this day. thank you.

    Comment by Todd — April 14, 2006 @ 11:10 am

  21. Bruce,
    I’m using the term as it has been used in the history of discussing theories of atonement, and not simply as the term that describes how what happens to sin happens.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 11:33 am

  22. Mark in comment #5,
    I probably in my haste to respond was not fair, and that’s not good. I apologize. Yet, I am not aware that Scot was ever trying to make the atonement *less* than penal substitution. I think Scot’s questions in comment #10 still stand, “Who says we need to reduce to a central metaphor? Does the Bible tell us that we need to do this?” What is so CONTROLLING about the penal subsitutionary THEORY of the atonemment?

    Comment by John Frye — April 14, 2006 @ 12:12 pm

  23. […] Scot McKnight Nails It Again On the need to see the multi-faceted nature of our atonement in Christ and refusing to engage in fruitless controversy this week: Mark Dever, a Baptist pastor in Washington, DC, is the author of the featured article in Christianity Today and it appropriately deals with the atonement. But, instead of being a positive description of what the death (and resurrection) is, Dever decided to defend penal substitution. And, instead of defending it by exegesis of specific passages, he decided to critique those who are (in his view) waffling on the center of atonement: penal substitution. […]

    Pingback by PostReformed.com » Blog Archive » Scot McKnight Nails It Again — April 14, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

  24. I appreciate the time, effort and prayerful thought that so many have dedicated to a Biblical understanding of the Atonement - from J.I. Packer, to Pastor Dever and Dr. McKnight. I appreciate the discourse, and the love and grace of God that is shown by our brothers (and sisters!)toward each other, in this exchange.

    By no means trying to skirt the issue, I must say that today (as every day), I am eternally thankful to Jesus Christ for His boundless love that led Him to the tree; that by His shed blood my name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life! Amazing Love! How can it be, that You, my God, should die for me?! Amen!

    Tom
    Doctrine Matters

    Comment by Tom — April 14, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

  25. Scot, it seems to me that if we use these terms in the way that Demarest uses them, lines can be drawn more clearly. If we use atonement interchangeably with salvation and follow this by making the argument that the Reformation view of atonement is penal-subst, than it does appear that the reformed (broad sense) view of salvation is reductionistic. Yet, I don’t think this characterization accurately reflects the reformed position. The reformation concept of salvation captures a much wider breath than its subst. atonement aspect.

    Comment by Bruce Smith — April 14, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

  26. I would like to add, perhaps this distinction would give us a good starting point for the discussion.

    Comment by Bruce Smith — April 14, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

  27. Dear Scot,
    I too don’t want to point any fingers or shoot arrows at brothers in Christ, but I must say that your description of Mark Dever’s article isn’t really fair. Mark’s article is more of an apologetic for penal substitution than a polemic against anything else, and its tone is irenic. To the extent that Mark criticized your work in his article, he did so in defense of substitution, not in derogation/diminution of anything else.

    As for your statement that the cross is about more than penal substitution, Mark evidently agrees:

    “Still, why pit these theories against each other and discount, ignore, or diminish biblical language that describes the death of Christ? While a victor may have moral influence on those for whom he conquered, may he not also be a substitute? While Christ’s example of self-giving love may also defeat our enemies, may he not, by the same act, propitiate God’s wrath? Each of the theories conveys biblical truth about the atoning work of Christ.”

    And in the same vein:

    “A Christ who wins victory over the powers of evil, whose death changes us, and whose death propitiates God is not only conceivable, he seems to be the Bible’s composite presentation.”

    So you are disagreeing with Mark . . . where? How? Sincerely, I don’t get it.

    Comment by David — April 14, 2006 @ 1:47 pm

  28. Here’s my big point: to use a Good Friday article in CT to polemicize is bad judgment.

    By bringing up your point by point response to Dever’s article on Good Friday, April 14….you differ from Dever….how?

    Comment by candyinsierras — April 14, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

  29. Dever’s article seems perfectly fair to me. I think you’re being defensive Scott for his warranted criticism.

    Comment by Trish — April 14, 2006 @ 2:17 pm

  30. David,
    Your question is fair,and I do say he does tip his hat in the other direction, but if you read my comment above at #10, you’ll understand my drift of thinking. It is fine to see the atonement in other categories: then work it out completely.

    I’ve heard this for a long time: we believe in a multi-storied approach to the atonement but when I see books on the gospel it is nothing but penal subst at work.

    Dever’s piece begins by surveying Packer’s three-fold breakdown (not Peter Schmiechen’s, which is the best thing going now). Packer reads atonement theories in light of penal substitution.

    Dever then goes to criticisms of satisfication/penal; not to criticisms of any other theory. So, the way I read it he’s all about penal right now. Most of that section is taken up with concern about Joel Green and Mark Baker, who famously critique penal subst.

    Third section is about subst scriptures, but he understands subst as penal subst, which are not the same.
    Then he goes back to problems, where he mentions my monograph.

    Then he goes to many-splendored — what I’d like to see is this many-splendored thing to show up before this spot.
    In other words: it may be many-splendored, but the focus is on penal subst; when that is the focus, it is no longer many-splendored.

    The conclusion is the same thing: that would have been a time to see a many-splendored thing.

    Here’s my point: when I see a many-splendored theory of the atonement actually made clear by the way it is preached and lived, then I’ll agree that these folks believe in one. Right now it is word only: the entire theory of atonement is wrapped up in one concept, penal substitution.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 2:19 pm

  31. John in comment #21,
    Thanks for your comment. I agree, I do not think Scot was ever trying to make the atonement less than penal substitution. In some ways that’s my point. Dever is not “at war” with Scott. But he is engaged in a more friendly battle because Dever sees penal substition as the most important of many aspects of the atonement, whereas Scott sees it as simple one of the many aspects.

    Dever’s position is not one of reduction. It’s one of understanding significance.

    Comment by Mark Barnes — April 14, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

  32. It seems to make sense that if penal substitution is a (the?) view of atonement that is coming under attack, and evangelicals view PS as one of many views of atonement (although an essential one), that Dever or others would speak out to defend it. It’s not ransom or propitiation that is under attack it’s penal substitution. So it makes sense for one to focus on that and its defense.

    What books other than Joel Green’s would be good to read speaking out against viewing atonement as substiutionary?

    Comment by Nick — April 14, 2006 @ 2:47 pm

  33. Dear Scot,
    Indeed, I did post my response without reading your prior comment. Appreciate the clarification. And it is clear that you’ve studied this issue far more than me (I’m a lawyer, not a theologian), so you surely pick up many nuances that I miss. So, between being specifically called out in Mark’s article, and being deeply involved in the study of the fullness of Jesus’s accomplishment on the cross, I can see why you would be a bit more touchy about Mark’s article than an outside observer (like me) would expect.

    Also, I have seen less charitable defenses of penal substitution (and I’m sure you’ve seen many more), so the nerves of those who spend a great deal of time studying and debating this subject would probably be pretty raw. But that was actually one reason why I liked Mark’s article: he was irenic, and he actually did give a nod to other facets of Jesus’s achievement on the cross, even stating that they were part of the composite Biblical picture of Christ.

    Perhaps the nod wasn’t sufficient; perhaps Dever et al. need to demonstrate a deeper understanding and appreciation of a multifaceted atonement before they talk the talk. But isn’t it at least slightly encouraging to see someone, while defending penal substitution, acknowledge that there is more to Jesus’s death than that, and to spend a fair amount of ink saying so? Is that not a sign that the multi-facetedness of the atonement is becoming more widely appreciated?

    I have spoken too much, but may God encourage and bless you this day, brother.

    Comment by David — April 14, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

  34. Scot,

    Your blog is a regular for me and I appreciate the substantial, thought-provoking, loving, and voluminous postings.

    I see your points and they are manifestly valid, but would tend to agree with Mike (#30) that Dever’s position is one of emphasis rather than disagreement.

    He is Risen!

    Dave

    Comment by Dave — April 14, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

  35. Scot,

    I have not yet read Dever’s article, but I resonate with your concern here and look forward to your book. From my perspective (and to state it with perhaps too much boldness) the contemporary Reformed doctrine of culpability/justification and its consequent emphasis on penal substitutionary atonement strips the resurrection of any instrumental role in redemption, thus often relegating it to the edges of evangelical soteriology. We focus much more on the cross then we do the empty tomb (I like you affirm this aspect of atonement–but also like you think it is overemphasized).

    For much of Reformed thought, the resurrection doesn’t do anything, but rather is evidence that something has been done. The resurrection, when noted at all by Reformed theologians in their discussion of justification, is most often appropriated as merely vindication of Christ’s satisfactory work of redemption (so Grudem). It is a proof of redemption, but does not serve as a means of redemption. That neither Calvin nor Hodge, when formally discussing the doctrine of justification feel any need to significantly mention the resurrection, is an indication of how little import the resurrection plays in their articulation of justification. Similarly, contemporary Reformed theologians such as John Piper (whom I respect deeply), James White, R.C. Sproul and Robert L. Reymond (but a few examples) also find little need (if any need) to mention the resurrection in their book length discussions of justification. The word “resurrection” does not even appear in the indexes of White’s, Piper’s or Sproul’s books. Simply stated, the Reformed doctrine of justification hangs upon the crucifixion, not the resurrection. This absence of a significant utilization of the resurrection is seen in the classic Reformed confessions as well. All of this seems tied to the Reformed emphasis on penal substitutionary atonement.

    But the resurrection is not merely a sign of God’s victory over sin and death–it is God’s victory over sin and death. It would seem to me that the “hinge upon which religion turns” should somehow more fully involve the resurrection–the event out of which the Christian faith was born.

    Comment by Gerald Hiestand — April 14, 2006 @ 2:58 pm

  36. David,
    I have no desire to be a curmudgeon about this, but when I see the other theories given their fair hearing and a multi-faceted story coming into play the whole time, then (and only then) will I be encouraged.

    Gerald,
    You are absolutely accurate here on the role resurrection plays, and I’ve noted this somewhat in Embracing Grace and will again in my book on atonement.

    Now let me up you one with this: thanks for adding resurrection. Now we need to add two more things; the life of Jesus itself (and not just as obedience to Torah for imputation of righteousness to us) and the Spirit of Pentecost to empower.

    Any statement of the gospel or atonement needs all of this. May God give us courage to work it all out.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 3:09 pm

  37. Denny, Yes. I did read the article before making my comment.

    Devers takes Scot McKnight and others to task for not lining up with his view of penal substitution in Jesus’ atoning work. He is not on the same page as Scot or others on this subject.

    And I think our emphasis on penal substitution, as evangelicals, fails to give proper place to the other stories in theological history that give attention to the full picture we receive from Scripture. I don’t think the other stories are understood or told, generally, among us.

    Comment by Ted Gossard, — April 14, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

  38. Denny,
    But yes, Devers mentions the other stories of the atonememt. So my comment was off a bit, though the point I made, I think is still accurate.

    Comment by Ted Gossard, — April 14, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

  39. It would be unbiblical to discount the significance of the resurrection in our redemption. One wonders, though, if post 34 would fault Paul, in 1 Cor 1-2, for identifying the gospel (1:17) with the “the word of the cross (1:18), “preach[ing] Christ crucified” (v. 21), and “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (2:2)? One wonders if the the fact that we “focus much more on the cross then we do the empty tomb” doesn’t reflect the emphasis of the NT itself.

    I am sure that all would agree that the two cannot be separated from each other, so why take even the mildest step toward pitting them against each other?

    Comment by Dave — April 14, 2006 @ 3:34 pm

  40. Scot,

    Yes, at least certainly in regard to Pentecost.

    And I am skeptical regarding double imputation, which is how Christ’s life is primarily used in atonement theories. I just don’t see it in Scripture (I’d follow Seifrid here, I suppose).

    But I’m not certain how to incorporate Christ’s life beyond an “example” sort of thing. Is this where you would go, or do you see it as more than this? (I assume by “Christ’s life” that you mean his “manner of life” and not his “ontology”).

    Comment by Gerald Hiestand — April 14, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

  41. Gerald,
    Recapitulation is what I’m talking about, but that as understood in Athanasius (et al). What is not assumed is not healed. That sort of thing: he came down and swept us into himself.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  42. Dave,

    Good point–And the fact that Paul can speak of the gospel without metioning the resurrection (as you noted) as well as speaking of the gospel without mentioning the cross (Ephesians 2:1-10) causes me to wonder if both are connected in ways that we haven’t yet fully explored. Perhaps they are the same, much like “driving out darkness” and “turning on a light” are really the same. Perhaps one is positive expressin of atonement and the other a negative expression of atonement. I don’t know, just an offhand thought that I haven’t really chased down yet–but i still stand by my previous post that any lenghty treatment of justificaiton that doesn’t need to incorporate or even mention the resurrection probably is out of balance.

    Comment by Gerald Hiestand — April 14, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

  43. Scot,

    Recapitulation! I’m certainly with you on this. Thanks for the clarification.

    Comment by Gerald Hiestand — April 14, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

  44. Hi, Scot.

    You wish to ensure that the fullness of the atonement receives its due, that the other scriptural understandings of it are honored and not neglected. So you’re not pleased with Dever’s article, because it only deals with the other aspects in passing. You don’t like the fact that Dever’s focus on penal substitionary atonement comes on Good Friday, thus polemicizing the atonement on the very day of that atonement.

    Yet, I just don’t think that’s what Dever’s article is meant to do, if it is read generously.

    Dever actually does a good job of pointing to other aspects of the atonement and he does not reject or deny them. His focus on penal substitionary atonement as central can be understood not polemically but pastorally: the other aspects of the atonement are not under attack. In fact, they are, thankfully, quite fashionable where once they weren’t. [I don’t dispute that Protestantism has, in the past, often tended to be incorrectly unifocal in its treatment of the atontment.]

    Penal substitionary atonement, on the other hand, is very much under attack to the point of being unfashionable. I think Dever is right for his understandable concern about this.

    I understand how his article can push your buttons, particularly since he disagrees with some of your writing (was he fair to you, BTW?). But Dever is not addressing himself primarily to those who are exasperated at unifocal views of atonement. He is addressing himself to those who seek to overcome the problem by regaining all the other aspects of atonement while discarding penal substitutionary atonement.

    Put yourself in Dever’s shoes for a moment. Better yet, put yourself in mine. Whenever I encounter a denial of penal substitutionary atonement, I feel sick at heart. I don’t say this to score points on those who disagree me. It’s just a phenomenological statement of what happens to me.

    I believe in a multi-stranded, multi-valenced atonement that is about many things and accomplishes many things. But when penal substitionary atonement is taken away, I feel crushed. Why? Because it denies an aspect of Christ’s saving work that is so magnificent and glorious. To deny this aspect is to take something huge away from Christ and what he did [if it were possible to “take” something from Christ]. If someone came along and said that Christus was not Victor, I’d feel similarly. Christ is not the triumphant king who defeated evil powers? And this held by a fellow Christian? Heart-breaking. Christ is not the one who enables us to participate in the divine life? Heart-breaking. Christ is not our example? Heart-breaking.

    Such denials are understandable from those who do not have faith in Christ. Then I am not so bothered. But from those who believe in Christ as our magnificent king who has accomplished such great works on our behalf, it makes me feel awful. Why take away from his work?

    Now, in the context of, say, a Catholic/Protestant or Orthodox /Protestant divide I understand the reasons why this portion of Christ’s work is understood differently. There I find myself needing very much to hold on to the idea that we can be Christian brothers and sisters even if we differ in our full understanding of his work. But even there it makes me downcast, because this gets toward the heart of much of that divides us, and at the heart is what I perceive to be a lessening of Christ’s majesty and work. (Obviously, my brothers and sisters on the other sides, would not agree).

    I narrate all of this just to give a sense why someone who believes in a full picture of atonement would be particularly focused on penal substitionary atonement. The other aspects aren’t under threat in the same way (certainly not in Catholicism, certainly not in Orthodoxy, and, these days, thankfully much less so in Protestantism). To the extent that Protestantism still crowds out these other aspects, that’s just plain wrong. But the danger I see today is that penal substitionary atonement is being dropped altogether.

    Yet it is, in my view, Protestantism’s greatest and enduring contribution to Christianity: the recognition that Christ’s work on the cross was so magnificent and full that it paid all penalties of sin (not just the penalt of original sin, not just the guilt of subsequent sin, but also rendering all possible satisfactions to the Father for all sins). A Protestant view that takes all aspects of atonement seriously uniquely adds the fullest possible take on the extent of Christ’s bearing of punishment on our behalf. A Protestant view that does not listen to the other aspects needs to start listening to the other traditions (and, primarily, scripture). But a Protestant view that drops this is dropping the treasure at the heart of Protestantism’s understanding of Christ.

    Now, for someone who feels this way about all of this, is it polemics to, say, write an article on the penal substitionary aspect of atonement?

    I do hope my way of putting this provides a possible other way of reading Dever’s article (or understanding the spirit in which such an article might be written).

    Comment by David Wright — April 14, 2006 @ 4:02 pm

  45. Dave,
    The Cross Paul preached was empty, therefore resurrection is implicit. Almost always.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 4:09 pm

  46. David Wright,
    I liked your comments, and think you have said a lot in your comments. Very heart felt. I wonder if you could check out my original post today, and look at my “fifth.”

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 4:24 pm

  47. Scot, thank you.

    I did read the post and really liked the fifth, particularly “he is our substitution who takes on the very depth of our punishment” In fact, I thought all six were excellent statements of scriptural aspects of atonement. I’m particularly partial to four (recapitulatio), because it’s the one I see dealt with the least in my particular slice of Evangelicalism, particular in its cosmic dimensions.

    Comment by David Wright — April 14, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

  48. Hmmm. Through these postmodern (or whatever) eyes, something tangential jumped out at me. It has nothing to do with rightness or any similar, but is nevertheless a glaring question.

    Dever refers to penal substitution as the clear meaning (which I understand to mean something like obvious or self-evident) of certain biblical passages. That immediately stopped me and led me to wonder, if penal substitution is so clear in those passages, why did it take the church 1500 years to come up with that understanding? If penal substitution is, in fact, the central thread that ties it all together, wouldn’t we have needed to come up with it sooner?

    Or was it rather another way of relating the mystery and wonder of the atonement to a particular culture in a way that spoke to them? So therefore it seems like an essential, central element to that culture?

    That constitutes nothing more than a guess because I don’t understand the fixation on this particular theory at all. It seems to lead to the elevation of the cross above all other central aspects of the gospel as Scot noted elsewhere. It seems to lead to a more negative and violent picture of God. Moreover, it somehow seems bereft of the fullness of the gospel. It is often (unfairly I know, but it is very common) reduced to something like, “Jesus suffered the punishment (from God) for my sin so I can go to heaven when I die.”

    All I can say is that the story of recapitulation is the one I saw in scripture and which appealed to me long before I formally discovered the theory. And after that I most identify with the drama of the ransom story. (Undoubtedly colored by the story of Aslan, read initially as a child without any knowledge of its Christ allegory, in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.) If you have any desire to relate the gospel to people like me then tell the story of Jesus living the life I should have had and in turn allowing me to share in it after freeing me from the powers. Or don’t.

    But don’t fight over the atonement, especially on Good Friday! I’m uncomfortable with the penal turn to the satisfaction theory and it doesn’t really speak to me, but I’m still unwilling to dismiss it. It has clearly served the church well in its proclamation of the gospel, so it has a seat at the table of theories. But these are all just human theories attempting to explain something beyond our language. None of them get to sit at the head of the table. Our risen Lord has that seat. At the end of the day, HE is the atonement, not any theory.

    Comment by Scott M — April 14, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

  49. Scot,

    In post 10, you mention a book you are working on that will attempt to capture the various stories that are encapsulated in teh atonement. I look forward to it.

    Comment by John Lunt — April 14, 2006 @ 6:21 pm

  50. Scot, just looked at your post #10 again. You end with “The good news is bigger than that the Son absorbed the wrath of the Father.”

    Amen. Maybe I can put up a sermon manuscript at some point, in which I dealt with Col 1:15-20 to the effect that Christ as king of creation and king of redemption is the heart of the good news. Propitiation and substitution are benefits of the good news, but they are not the extent of the good news. The fullness of good news is Christ himself.

    At the same time, the Son’s suffering the wrath of the Father is a precious part of the whole. I don’t think doctrines such as the treasury of merits and purgatory or the development of indulgences were just crazy aberrations, they were logical outcomes from not understanding just how complete the Son’s absorption of punishment is.

    Nor do I think that penal substitution is merely spoke to some cultures at some points in time. From a perspective of Biblical theology, it is, like other aspects of the atonement a clear fulfillment of much of the typology of the Old Testament. Yes, in the history of the church it emerges in full in a certain way at a certain time, but scripturally it was there all the time and it was there in the apostolic proclamation.

    One way of looking at this is to ask? If God permitted it and ordained it, why was the Reformation necessary? The injury to the church and the breach was great. What, in the history of the church does Protestantism add to the church when considering what it subtracts? I think there is more than one answer, but a full understanding of penal substition is one of the strongest answers. By the time of the Reformation God’s people were desperate to be freed of the impossible requirements of making satisfaction for their sins. God’s grace had been channelled and dammed up so intricately, people were dying of thirst for it.

    Fast forward to the present day and we have arrived at a time where at the tail end of much that was Protestantism people are similarly thirsty for God’s grace in its fullness. The “say the sinner’s prayer and you’ve made it to heaven” mentality has had a similar effect of damming up God’s full grace in Christ. People are once again dying of thirst. What exact aspect(s) of the good news is/are most needed and will emerge as God’s and scripture’s particular theological gift to this generation has yet to emerge. But is it such a tragedy that everything looks poised to drop or obscure what the Reformation accomplished. The treasures the church receives need not be temporary. Who knows why it took 4 centuries to draw out the Trinitarian implications of the 4th century? Should we abandon the doctrine of the Trinity just because it arose in a particular historical context, speaking to a particular culture at a particular time?

    In this light, what Dever said about clear meaning looks pretty. Penal substitionary atonement certainly is present in scripture in clearer formulation than the Trinity.

    In any case, I do hope it doesn’t seem like I’m fighting on this day. On my blog, I posted a a href=”http://blog.nelmezzo.net/2006/04/14/prayer-for-good-friday/”>prayer and thought that are perhaps more in keeping with the day.

    Comment by David Wright — April 14, 2006 @ 7:20 pm

  51. Arrg. Posted too quickly. Many typos. Sorry.

    Towards the end, that should read “what Dever said about clear meaning looks pretty good.”

    And sorry that link is wrong. But it can be cut and pasted and made to work.

    Comment by David Wright — April 14, 2006 @ 7:24 pm

  52. David,
    Thanks again for your comments. I think we are beginning to go round and round a bit. But, I’ll think about your comments.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 7:31 pm

  53. Let me just say that I continue to find this whole discussion fascinating, along with the related previous posts. And special thanks to Gerald in #35 - wow: you put words to an uneasy sense I’ve had and really got my wheels turning - thank you!).
    I wholeheartedly agree that there are many facets to how one understands atonement as spoken of in Scripture and laid out in the church, and I might even go so far as to say I understand the basics of the major theories. But here is a question (maybe a frustration) I have: how to really work out - in thought, speech, and practice - the other views rather than just penal substitution? The latter is what I grew up with, was trained in, and operates as my “default” mode for speaking about the reality and significance of Christ and his work. I absolutley do not want to repudiate it, for I cherish it and would arge for its validity along wiht the others. But I am wanting to think through - and talk about, and manifest in ministry - the others (esp. Victor and Recapitualtion), but find myself at a loss of how to do so. To go off the comments above, I feel like one who calls it a many-splendored thing but sounds a one-note line most of the time. Almost all my vocabulary, scripture in memory, habits and phrases, go back to substitutionary sacrifice. It’s like me wanting to communicate in Spanish but only knowing basic plesantries and how to ask where the bathroom is. So where do I go to hear this? To drink from this strem? To See it lived out and modeled in ministry? What does it look like to live this, teach this, make it part and parcel of daily life? I’m sure some of you know or can give me some landmarks - so jump on in!
    Perhaps my lack in this area leads me (or you) to conclude that I really don’t understand the other views in any depth.
    I have definitely wrestled with this in the weeks leading up here to Easter, knowing I would talk about Jesus but really wondering what to say to the students I’ll serve. I know many of them don’t know the richness and depth of Scripture, have a vague (if any) sense of their own sinfulness, and have heard probably many times that Jesus died for them. If this comment goes to far afield of the present discussion, may apologies for getting off track - but since it is Good Friday - it’s what’s reveberating right now in my heart.
    Andy

    Comment by Andy Cornett — April 14, 2006 @ 8:30 pm

  54. Andy,

    You might not know just how important the question you are asking really is. What you are actually groping to say is that you don’t know how to conceptualize and think of the gospel in anything other than penal subst categories. And what I am saying is that this is the whole issue: our gospel is such that we can’t think of it in any other terms, and hence any other theory just turns our minds and hearts into chaos.

    I wrote Embracing Grace to work out how I see the gospel in light of a broader understanding of both sin and atonement.

    What we need to do is look at each theory (say ransom) and see what it says about the work of God — and then reconstruct the gospel around that image — do this with all the theories and then see what we can make of the gospel. That is exactly what I did in Embracing Grace, and I’m not tooting my horn but telling you what I did.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 14, 2006 @ 8:54 pm

  55. Scot,

    One issue nags a bit. You said at the beginning of this post that Mark Dever did not provide “exegesis of specific passages.” I realize that the treatment of the verses were not in depth (mitigated for sure by the CT venue), but several passages with attendant comments were made.

    So I guess I am a bit baffled by that particular criticism.

    Best,

    Dave

    Comment by Dave — April 14, 2006 @ 11:34 pm

  56. Thanks, Scot, for a great summary of some of the many splendours of the Cross, and a reminder that as we are united in Christ by his death and resurrection, so we should be united with each other in praise to our Great High Priest, Saviour, Redeemer and Friend.

    Picking up John Frye’s comment, I don’t think responsible presentations of penal substitutionary atonement want to reduce the Cross to “one note”; rather, extending John’s delightful metaphor, we see penal substitution as the key in which all the other themes are being played!

    Comment by Phil Walker — April 15, 2006 @ 4:13 am

  57. Dave,
    Fair enough; to make a case it is better to take one verse (He was made sin so that we might become the righteousness of God) and show indisputably that the saying demonstrates the point than list verses, some of which do not support his point. Rom 3:25 means “mercy seat” not “propitiation.”

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 15, 2006 @ 7:07 am

  58. I find it funny that Scot’s critizes Mark for critizing others. I for one applaud Mark’s essay on the atonement. In fact I blogged about it.

    Comment by Jeff — April 15, 2006 @ 7:35 am

  59. Scot (post 45) I recognize that the statements about the Cross refer to an empty cross and therefore carry an implicit statement about the resurrection. In fact, that seems to be the answer to the complaint made about books on justification that tie the resurrection into the discussion–the authors are operating with the same mindset that you just explained. Or, as Gerald pointed out (post 42), both concepts are affirmed when either is affirmed.

    Either way, it seems to be a stretch to criticize these books for that reason.

    Comment by Dave — April 15, 2006 @ 8:05 am

  60. So if Romans 3:25 means mercy seat, not the propitation.

    Why do ASV, NASB, NKJV, ESV, and HSCB all translated it propitation? Were all these men wrong?

    Jeff

    Comment by Jeff — April 15, 2006 @ 8:45 am

  61. Jeff,
    Sad to say, yes, they are inaccurate, and many today (from many parts in the theological spectrum) will say the same thing. This is not to say that some sense of wrath is elimninated from the context; it is to say that this term does not mean “propitiation.” It means “mercy seat,” the place in the Temple inner sanctuary.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 15, 2006 @ 9:38 am

  62. Dave,

    I wonder if you meant “[fail to] tie the resurrection into the discussion.”

    I still think my criticism that “book-length, Reformed treatments of justification fail to meaningfully mention or incorporate the resurrection” is fair (per post 35), even if each concept (the cross and the resurrection) implies the other. Though Paul may speak one dimensionally in a given passage, the entire Pauline corpus clearly contains both elements. It is clear that his soteriology as a whole is tied to both Good Friday and Easter. But when Piper, Reymond, White, Calvin and Hodge, et al., can discuss the lynch pin of their soteriology–the doctrine of justification–without seriously incorporating the resurrection (or without even mentioning it in some cases) in an instrumental way . . . well something seems rather un-Pauline about that. I have yet to read a Reformed writer make significant instrumental use of the Resurrection in his soteriology–and I consider myself a Calvinist! (or at least an Augustinian Calvinist). Surely the resurrection is more than “proof” that the cross was efficacious.

    Comment by Gerald Hiestand — April 15, 2006 @ 10:25 am

  63. Dave,
    If we ask what the resurrection does for us in the embracing act of God’s saving grace, it boils down to this: it gives us new life, power, and capacity to be God’s people in this world. Until that gets smack-dab and front-center to our understanding of the gospel, we’ll not have a biblical gospel. This does not deny penal etc, but it makes the death part of the work of God’s grace instead of all of it, or instead of most of it. New life is at the heart of Book 3 on in Calvin’s Institutes, thereby showing that justification is not the whole story.

    The gospel is more than Good Friday, brother, cuz Easter mornin’s acomin’. And we need to have a gospel that embraces the whole weekend, not just Good Friday.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 15, 2006 @ 10:48 am

  64. All,

    And I would also point out—in further development of my previous post (#35), that it is not simply the Reformed emphasis on penal-substitutionary atonement that tends to obscure the significance of the resurrection. Rather (at least from my perspective) it is its limited one dimensional understanding of culpability. As Scot has pointed out many times in previous posts—one’s doctrine of culpability drives atonement/justification theories. Reformed thought, particularly following Calvin and later Hodge, has tended to view culpability as strictly a legal affair—the Law has been breached, payment must be rendered. This in turn gives a decidedly forensic emphasis to the Reformed articulation of justification. Ontological renewal (more commonly associated with regeneration, the indwelling Spirit and the resurrection) remains on the periphery.

    From my perspective, the problem with only focusing on one atonement theory is that one atonement theory is not capable of accounting for the multiple ways in which we are culpable. It’s not as though each differing atonement theory is simply another “perspective of the same elephant” but rather that each one addresses a different point of need. The need for penal atonement is real, but penal atonement alone cannot deliver us from the “wrath to come.” We need to be recapitulated, ransomed from Satan’s kingdom, etc., as well. I wonder though if it is possible to place these differing elements of atonement into a logical sequence, such that they build off of each other in a logical progression. So rather than being “two sides of the same coin” that lay next to each other as equals, the various atonement theories would relate like the “foundation and framing of a house,” one being built off of, and dependant upon, another. Paul seems to do something like this in Galatians 3:13-14 and Ephesians 2:11-17, where Paul he sees Christ’s death paving the way for participation in the spiritual regeneration of the Abrahamic promises (both of which are necessary elements of atonement). Just some thoughts.

    Thanks Scot.

    Comment by Gerald Hiestand — April 15, 2006 @ 10:52 am

  65. […] Mark Dever wrote about the meaning of the atonement in Christianity Today. Scot McKnight commented on Dever’s article, taking issue with the idea that the meaning of the atonement is so narrow that we would have a debate about it’s true meaning during Holy Week. Phil Johnson emerged to flame McKnight for what he says and how he says it. […]

    Pingback by internetmonk.com » Blog Archive » My Atonement is Bigger Than Your Atonement — April 15, 2006 @ 12:10 pm

  66. Scot-
    As a preface to my comments, I don’t know you or Mark Dever, am not a regular at this blog and am totally unfamiliar with both of your particular theological positions. I am on a journey to enter into the conversation myself, have no paricular church baggage or banner that I carry, and am attempting to be as open as I can regarding new thought and ideas regarding what it means to follow Christ. I read the article by M. Dever and I read your response. If I may be blunt: I think you overreacted to Dever’s article. Your response seems to focus entirely on 7 sentences of a 6 page article where your name is mentioned and work is criticised. I believe Dever characterized your position as one in which the substitutionary / penal satisfaction aspect of the atonement is not the central emphasis. This seems consistent with what you have written (”atonement is more than penal substitution.”) Did Dever accurately represent what you’ve written in your book regarding your interpretation of Mark 10:45? Did he accurately represent what you have written in your book regarding your interpretation of atonement passages in Paul, Peter, and Hebrews as referenced in his article? (I’m asking, sorry but I haven’t read it yet.) If that’s the case, then obviously you would be justified in responding to clarify your position. I may be wrong, but I don’t think you addressed these particular points at all in your response, so I would assume that your position was accurately represented in Dever’s article. On the surface, it seems that you took Dever’s criticism personally and this motivated you to respond. It is not my intention to be unduly harsh, but your objections to Dever’s article seems less about clarifying your position and more about splitting theological hairs - something that I thought people were trying to move away from . . .

    Comment by BJ — April 15, 2006 @ 1:17 pm

  67. […] I write AtoneMEnt like that intentionally (obviously) because it seems that people are so focused on the ME aspect of it (which of course it has it’s place) that we also can easily forget how God should receive ultimate glory through the atonement.� My friend and fellow friend in the faith pointed me to Scot McKnight’s blog where he responds to Mark Dever.� Just a quick few thoughts come to mind: […]

    Pingback by Samshua » Blog Archive » More on the AtoneMEent and Scot McKnight — April 15, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

  68. BJ,
    Thanks for writing; my response is in part reactive, but I hope not to what he says about me. He represents what I say about Mark 10:45 correctly (I don’t think it is easy to prove as authentic). He misrepresents me about my own views, which can be found in both Embracing Grace (which he does not quote) and less so in Jesus and His Death (which is more about what I think Jesus said and about what the NT teaches, with all kinds of nuance). Even then, he doesn’t deal with the important clarification I make between inclusive and exclusive representation, which I believe in. And the latter is nearly the same as penal subst.

    My response, which is indeed reactive, is to his thinking that the atonement theory can be centralized in penal substitution, which it can’t be without doing violence to the NT’s variety of images for atonement.

    Other have said this, so I’m trying to see what I’m really doing here. But, if you read my other comments in this thread, which is getting too long, you will see that I think Dever uses penal subst at every turn — when he uses Packer’s breakdown, when he analyzes the other problems, and when he concludes at the end. It is all penal subst; the NT is bigger than that.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 15, 2006 @ 1:31 pm

  69. With all due respect, Scot, I think that Dever’s section on “Many-Splendored Atonement” refutes the contention that “It is all penal subst” with Dever. Although Dever is defending the centrality of penal substitution, to say that by doing so he is reducing atonement to that alone is to miss his point and reduce his view to a caricature.

    Comment by Timbo — April 15, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

  70. Thanks, Scot.

    ‘…the atonement is too important during this Holy Week to turn into the “atonement wars”.’

    That’s the case every week, as far as I can see.

    Bless you.

    Comment by graham — April 15, 2006 @ 3:08 pm

  71. Timbo,
    Thanks; I’m hearing this. Some see the same thing I do; others don’t. Please read what I say in #30 for that is influencing my response to Dever.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 15, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

  72. “My response, which is indeed reactive, is to his thinking that the atonement theory can be centralized in penal substitution, which it can’t be without doing violence to the NT’s variety of images for atonement”

    Why would it do violence to the variety of NT images?

    I’m struck by the close proximity of sacrificial language to victory language in the NT (Heb 2, Rev 12, Col 2). I’ve referred to this in previous atonement discussions I know but I do think that Blocher makes an intelligible and biblical case for Christus Victor being Agnus Victor (that Satan is defeated because of the penal substitutionary work of Christ). I read Aulen’s book on a trip to Boston and thought it was a huge disappointment.

    Comment by Martin Downes — April 15, 2006 @ 4:08 pm

  73. Getting the Point this Easter

    We have been in a series at evensong called Adventures in Missing the Point (with obvious thanks to Brian McLaren & Tony Campolo for a great title!). We have been exploring for several weeks now what salvation and atonement really…

    Trackback by uconnchurch.com: BLOG — April 16, 2006 @ 9:13 am

  74. No substitution = no justification.

    I am a missionary in an Eastern Orthodox dominated country. Despite historic precedent and teaching in EO fathers, the EO around me do not understand substitution. They accuse Protestants of proposing an unacceptable horror–that the Father would punish His son in our place. They are horrified at the notion of the Father’s wrath, and they have a Dostojevskiesque (SP?) notion that one must atone for oneself–it would not be fair for God’s Son to be our substitute. Some of their arguments sound painfully similar to what Mark Denver is addressing.

    A central EO understanding of atonement and Jesus’ work on the cross is that in the resurrection Jesus conquered death so those united to Him have life–this is true in part, this is part of the richness of Jesus’ work–reformed Christians believe this But, unjustified sinners CANNOT be united to a most holy Christ–they must be justified. A sinner’s guilt must be removed and this is done in the substitutionary atonement. Of course there is much more in the atonement and in Jesus’ work on the cross, but substitution is central (I know this sounds decretive, but this is just a short post). Since substitution under attack more than other aspects of the atonement and Jesus’ work on the cross and since substitutionary atonement is so central, it must be set forth and defended.

    Comment by Stanisa Surbatovich — April 16, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

  75. Stanisa,
    Thanks for this, and esp coming as you do from an EO perspective, where both justification and subst are not given their proper role at times.

    No one, at least as far as I can see, is denying substitution. If Christ is not our subst, then we are left to ourselves. The gospel has always had to do with Jesus doing something for us that we could not do ourselves.

    Did you read my fifth point? Here it is: Fifth, he identified with us “all the way down.” Phil 2:6-11 shows that Jesus came to earth to become like us and in doing so he died for us. By identifying with us, he is our substitution who takes on the very depth of our punishment, even death, even death on a cross, so that he might lift us into the presence of God.

    The issue has to do with the propriety of defining an evangelical theory of atonement by using “penal” as the defining term for substitution. I contend it is not enough; and you will see why on Monday and Tuesday of this blog.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 16, 2006 @ 3:22 pm

  76. RESURRECTION SUNDAY, 2006
    Scot,
    At risk of violating blog e-tiquette, I’d like to debut in this rousing and refreshing e-merging conversation on Atonement by introducing the following broadsides as gentle blogbusters. In this way I hope to engage a host of the full spectrum of concerns repeatedly voiced here and place them in another light that may prove more satisfying.

    THE RADICALLY UNJUST AND VIOLENT CRUCIFIXION OF THE SON OF GOD JUSTIFIED HIS FATHER IN RAISING HIM FROM AMONG THE DEAD AND VASTLY OVERCOMPENSATING HIM FOR HIS WILLING SELF-SACRIFICE; THE RESURRECTION AND EXALTATION OF MESSIAH JESUS JUSTIFIED HIS CRUCIFIXION BY THE CHIEFS OF THIS AGE, BEHIND WHOM STOOD SATAN AS CLUELESS PERPETRATOR, WHOSE HABITUAL CAREER OF VICIOUSNESS FINALLY ENSNARED HIM INTO THUS SHOOTING HIMSELF IN THE…HEAD. HIS FUTURE TORMENT FOR THE AGES OF THE AGES, BY WAY OF JUST AND PROPER OVERCOMPENSATION, IS THEREBY ASSURED. THE CROSS AND THE BLOOD ARE THEREFORE FEARFUL SIGNS TO SATAN OF HIS OWN IMPENDING DOOM.

    GOD NEVER HAD A WRATHFUL MOMENT AGAINST HIS HUMBLY OBEDIENT SON, WHOSE LOVE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD LED HIM TO THIS INCOMPARABLE DEED; IT WAS WE WHO MISTAKENLY REGARDED HIM AS SUFFERING ABUSE AT THE HAND OF GOD’S OWN ANGER AT SIN, AND EVEN WRONGLY IMPUTING SIN TO THE SAVIOR. SIN WAS NOT–CANNOT BE–PAID FOR; IT WAS WE WHOM THE SAVIOR PAID FOR. SIN, BY CONTRAST, MUST BE WASHED AWAY, CLEANED OFF, RELEASED, ERASED. THIS IS THE FUNCTION OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS, WHICH SIGNIFIES BOTH VIOLENT DEATH AND, SINCE PERFECTLY INNOCENT, AGELONG LIFE AS WELL.

    BECAUSE OF ADAM’S SINGLE OFFENSE, HE STARTED TO DIE, SO DEATH PASSED THROUGH INTO ALL MANKIND BY NATURAL GENERATION, WHEREUPON ALL SINNED. FOR DEATH BRINGS DECAY AND ITS EFFLUVIUM–CRAVING, COVETING, LUSTING. THIS MOVES US TO INJUSTICES–VIOLATING THE AUTHORITY OF OTHERS. THEREFORE, UNLIKE ADAM, ALL HIS DESCENDENTS WERE BORN IN SIN WITHOUT CHOICE. FROM SUCH SLAVERY THE ONLY LIBERATION COULD BE GRATUITIOUS RESTORATION OF LIFE ON SOME OTHER GROUNDS THAN PERSONAL RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH HAD BEEN RENDERED IMPOSSIBLE. FOR THAT RESCUE, GOD CONSPIRED AND CONCEIVED AN ANSWER WHOSE WISDOM TRANSCENDED ALL HUMAN IMAGINING.

    THE TOTALLY UNJUST, UNSPEAKABLY VICIOUS, SHAMEFULLY PUBLIC SHEDDING OF THE BLOOD OF HIS OWN EVOKED GOD’S TACTICALLY IMMEDIATE REVERSAL BY WAY OF JUST OVERCOMPENSATION. THEREFORE MESSIAH’S BLOOD ALONE FIGURES THROUGHOUT SCRIPTURE AS THE AGENT OF SALVATION, RESCUE, PROTECTION, JUSTIFICATION, WASHING, SANCTIFICATION, CLEANSING, ERASURE, LIBERATION, FREEDOM, PARDON, PEACE, CONCILIATION, PURCHASE, NOURISHMENT, AGELONG LIFE, GLORIFICATION, ETC.

    FURTHREMORE, MESSIAH DESCENDED INTO THE UNSEEN, NOT TO SUFFER YET FURTHER ABUSE, BUT TO PROCLAIM THIS FRESH-WON LIFE EVEN TO THE DEAD SO THAT THEY COULD LIVE IN SPIRIT AWAITING THE RESURRECTION AND BE SAVED. AS PROOF OF HIS EFFICACY, SOME OF THESE ROSE TO LIFE AFTER JESUS’ OWN RAISING, AND WERE SEEN IN JERUSALEM AS A TESTIMONY OF THE COSMIC POWER OF HIS LIBERATION.

    THE FATHER, FOR HIS PART, WAS ABSOLUTELY SATISFIED BY HIS SON’S ACQUIESCENCE AND DETERMINED TO REPAY IT IN SPADES. JESUS THUS BECAME A SINLESS SIN-OFFERING–NOT A SIN–WELL-PLEASING TO GOD. GOD RUSHED TO THE RESCUE IN COVENANTAL RIGHTEOUSNESS IN A MIGHTY HISTORIC DEMONSTRATION OF HIS ULTIMATE WAY OF AVENGING THIS PARADIGMATIC INJUSTICE: BY REVERSING THE WRONGFUL DEATH SENTENCE AGAINST THE COVENANTAL VICTIM, NOT BY IMMEDIATELY DESTROYING THE CRIMINALS. THIS WAS THE PARADIGMATIC REVELATION OF THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF GOD’S JUSTICE: AWARDING BY JUST OVERCOMPENSATION OF BOTH GOOD AND EVIL.

    IN THIS MANNER WAS COMPLETE PARDON AND SUPERABUNDANT GRACIOUSNESS EXTENDED RIGHTFULLY EVEN TO MESSIAH’S MURDERERS, NOT TO MENTION THE REST OF SIN-ENSLAVED HUMANITY BEYOND ISRAEL. THOSE IN JERUSALEM WHO REMAINED STUBBORN TO SUCH A GRACIOUS EXHIBIT OF UNSUSPECTED DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS WERE DESTROYED IN AN UNSPEAKABLE HORROR OF DIVINE AVENGING IN 70 A.D.–THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION, A MODEL FOR UNIVERSAL INSTRUCTION OF THE NATIONS CONCERNING GOD’S JUDGMENT TOWARD THOSE WHO REFUSE HIS OVERWHELMING GRACIOUSNESS IN THIS AGE. THEY DIE IN THEIR SINS, WHICH MUST ULTIMATELY BE EXTIRPATED–NOW OR NEVER. ONLY MESSIAH’S FOLLOWERS WHO BELIEVED HIS PROPHECIES OF THIS DREAD JUDGMENT ESCAPED. AND THE COVENANT WITH THAT NATION WAS TERMINATED.

    BUT GOD OVERCOMPENSATED MESSIAH WITH MUCH MORE THAN THE LOST THRONE OF ISRAEL; HE GAINED THE THRONE OF THE CREATED UNIVERSE AND AN INHERITANCE AMONG ALL NATIONS. THUS DID GOD HIMSELF PROVIDE THE PROTECTION, SHIELDING OR INDEMNITY CONCERNING THE SINS OF ALL MANKIND. MOREOVER, HE BEQUEATHED HIS GLORIFIED SON THE RIGHT TO HAVE DESCENDENTS AND FELLOW-HEIRS TO JOIN HIM IN RULING OVER A NEW EARTH WHERE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE ARE FINALLY SUPREME.

    YET MORE, EVEN NOW, DURING THIS PRESENT VICIOUS AGE, EVEN IN THE MIDST OF OUR ENEMIES, WE HAVE A TANGIBLE DOWNPAYMENT OF THAT FUTURE INHERITANCE AS PARTIAL DAMAGES FOR MESSIAH’S WRONGFUL ABUSE: THE COVENANTAL PROMISE OF SUPERABUNDANT WHOLESOME SPIRIT FROM GOD HIMSELF, INCLUDING MIRACULOUS CREATION-RESTORING POWER FOR HEALING AND SIMILAR EXHIBITS OF GOD’S FUTURE KINGDOM, AS TESTIMONIES FOR THE TRUTH OF ITS PROCLAMATION AMONG ALL NATIONS.

    ALL OF THIS IS AVAILABLE BY MERE FAITH–A FAITH GENERATED BY THE VERY TELLING OF THE WONDERFUL STORY, ALONG WITH ALL ITS NARRATIVE PROOFS. AND SO, NOT ONLY WERE THE FATHER AND THE SON JUSTIFIED, NOT ONLY WERE THE CROSS AND RESURRECTION JUSTIFIED, BUT WE SINNERS ARE LIKEWISE TOTALLY JUSTIFIED BY GOD’S EXHIBIT OF OVERCOMPENSATING JUSTICE TO JESUS, THE MESSIAH AND SAVIOR OF ALL, IN PRINCIPLE, BUT ESPECIALLY OF THOSE WHO TRUST.

    Documentation forthcoming, as necessary or desired.

    Comment by RLR — April 16, 2006 @ 4:58 pm

  77. RLR
    Two suggestions:
    First, include your name if at all possible.
    Second, using caps like this suggests you are screaming at all of us. Can you re-do this in normal type face?

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 16, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

  78. Scot,

    In post 61 you say to Jeff that a specific Greek word means mercy seat instead of propitiation. I am assuming you refer to hILASTHRION. We both know that is quite the disputed term, and while you might argue for the concept of “mercy seat,” it is certainly unfair to say it definitely means that.

    For one thing, even if the proper gloss is indeed “mercy seat,” that does not rule out a metaphorical significance such that mercy seat stands in the place of the act of propitiation.

    Second, the uses in the LXX point in both directions (21 of 27 occurrences refer to the mercy seat, but not all do).

    Third, later literature (i.e. post LXX) uses the word expressly to refer to propitiation by bringing to mind the place (see Moo’s list in his “Romans,” 232 n. 65).

    In any event, I find your statement to be at the least unnuanced.

    - Ron

    Comment by Ron Fay — April 17, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

  79. Ron, how would you translate it?

    I go with “mercy seat” and with it one can say it is merciful either because it placates wrath or expiates sin.

    Comment by Scot McKnight — April 17, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  80. I would tend toward “means of forgiveness.” It is a bit NLTish rather than NASB, but I think this is one time I care more for clarity than for literalness.

    Comment by Ron Fay — April 17, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

  81. Scot, thanks for your opinion on this issue, I guess I’ll have to disagree.

    Comment by Jeff — April 17, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

  82. […] I have taken a step back from blogging for a few weeks now, and during that time I have thought allot about the atonement. I really started thinking about this because of the current cover story of Christianity Today and some concerns that were raised about a small view of atonement… and of course, there were the responses to peoples thoughts on the article. […]

    Pingback by NEO.Vive » Blog Archive » What the atonement did — May 14, 2006 @ 9:46 pm

  83. The error in the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is that the method required to prove the doctrine’s correctness is an accountable offense. The taking of a male human life by bloodshed is an action by PRIOR mandate that is unilaterally accountable. Gen. 9:5b NIV. Since each man is required to give God an accounting the act of crucifying Jesus is a unilateral sin. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement reverses the truth about Jesus’ crucifixion in that there is no recognition that the cross is an OFFENSE. Gal. 5:11. It seems to me that you people miss that the post issue relative to Jesus’ crucifixion is unilateral guilt, Jn. 16:8, rather than unilateral exoneration required by the theory of substitutionary atonement. Substitutionary atonement seems like a fine way out until you realize that murdering the only begotten son of the living God is not a hot idea with God,but repenting of this one sin for the forgiveness of ALL sins……….”he became sin for us” to repent of, not in place of as you errounously think. The only Way to obey the command of Acts 2:38 is by repenting of the sin of Jesus’ murder. Every other way you choose to get to God fails to give God the accounting he demands. If you think there is a better Way let me know.

    Comment by T. A. Jones — May 30, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

  84. RESURRECTION SUNDAY, April 16, 2006
    Scot [McKnight],
    Here is the re-submission, with revisions, of the comment I sent originally on Easter Sunday. The original all-caps was not screaming, it was HERALDING. Close enough.

    * * *

    The radically unjust and violent crucifixion of the Son of God justified his Father in raising him from the dead and vastly overcompensating him for his willing self-sacrifice; conversely, the resurrection and exaltation of Messiah Jesus, in retrospect, justified even the towering evil of his crucifixion by the chiefs of this age, behind whom stood Satan as clueless perpetrator, whose habitual career of viciousness finally ensnared him into thus dispossessing himself of his control of the world. His future torment for the ages of the ages, by way of just and proper overcompensation, is accordingly assured. Messiah’s cross and blood are therefore fearful signs to Satan of his impending doom.

    However, God never had a wrathful moment toward his faithfully obedient Son, whose love for the whole world led him to this incomparable deed; Jesus suffered this totally unjustified abuse under the aegis of God’s undiminished graciousness. Yet we mistakenly regarded him as suffering abuse at the hand of God’s anger against sin, and even wrongly imputed sin to the Savior. Rather Jesus bore the sins of his people instead of avenging himself. This was Messiah’s supreme victory—absolutely refusing, even under extreme provocation, to revile his enemies, repay them in kind or use his Messianic prerogatives to protect himself. He absorbed the loss in its entirety. Sin was not and can not be paid for; Jesus paid for us. Sin, by contrast, must be washed away, cleaned off, erased, released. The blood of Jesus signifies to God the unjust taking of absolutely innocent life by premeditated violent death. God’s righteousness could be satisfied by nothing less than a public reversal of the verdict and overpayment for the humiliation and execution. Hence resurrection to immortal life and eventual glorification soon followed, i.e., the just award for taking such abuse and waiting for God’s own righteous judgment.

    Because of Adam’s primal offense, he started to die, and death passed through to all mankind by natural generation, whereupon all sinned. Along with decay came its behavioral effect—craving, coveting, lusting—which incites us to injustice, i.e., violating the rights/authority of others in attempts to gratify the corrupt needs stemming from our mortality. Therefore, unlike Adam, all his descendents were born in sin without choice. From such involuntary slavery the only liberation could be gratuitous restoration of life on some other grounds than our own flawless righteousness, since that was now rendered impossible. For this rescue, God’s love conspired a solution whose wisdom transcended all human imagining.

    The totally unjust, unspeakably vicious, shamefully public shedding of the blood of God’s Own provoked his tactically immediate reversal by way of just overcompensation: resurrection to agelong life, immortality and exaltation to an inheritance of and benign dominion over all things. Therefore Messiah’s blood figures throughout Scripture as the agent of salvation, rescue, protective covering, justification, wholesomeness, washing, cleansing, erasure of sins, liberation, freedom, ransom, purchase, pardon, conciliation, peace, nourishment, agelong life, etc., for speaking better than the blood of Abel, it evoked God’s immediate, surprising and overwhelming righteousness/justice that decisively reversed his plight. For this reason, the provision of His innocent blood sprinkled on our hearts when we believe frees us from God’s wrath against sin, for it evokes God’s similar vindicating response—His sending of new life from heaven to reverse the death in our spirits and enable us to contend successfully against the cravings still resident in our mortal flesh.

    Furthermore, Messiah descended like a scapegoat, taking our sins far away into the barrenness of the unseen, not to suffer yet further abuse, but to mount the heights and herald this fresh-won life even to the dead so they could live in spirit, awaiting the resurrection, and be saved. As proof of his efficacy, some of them rose to life after Jesus’ own raising and were seen in Jerusalem as testimonies of the universal power of his liberation for all who trust him.

    The Father, for his part, was absolutely satisfied by his Son’s humble acquiescence and repaid it stupendously. In this manner, Jesus became a sin-offering—a flawless, unblemished lamb, an innocent victim, perfectly faithful and well-pleasing to God, whose sacrifice constituted the most aggravated and vicious sin ever perpetrated by Israel and yet played perfectly into God’s gracious hands. In response, God rushed to his rescue in covenantal righteousness with a mighty historic demonstration of his ultimate avenging of unparalleled injustice: by reversing the wrongful death sentence against the covenantal victim and adding reparative damages of transcendent magnitude, but not by immediately destroying the victimizers. Thus was demonstrated on a world stage the fundamental principle of God’s true justice: awarding both good and evil by righteous overcompensation, even against impossible odds, in due time. Thus true peace makes its advent.

    By such vindication and restitution complete pardon and superabundant graciousness were extended rightfully even to Messiah’s murderers, in addition to the rest of death-frightened and hence sin-enslaved humanity beyond Israel. Those in Jerusalem of that generation who remained stubborn to such an unprecedented and gracious exhibit of the previously unsuspected nature and misapprehended demonstration of divine righteousness were destroyed in an unspeakable horror of divine avenging in 70 A.D.—the prophesied abomination of desolation—a model for universal instruction of the nations concerning God’s righteous indignation toward those who harden their hearts by repeatedly refusing to change their minds even after experiencing his undeservedly generous mercy, kindness, patience and longsuffering during this age. They die in their sins, which must ultimately be extirpated. Salvation is now or never. Only Messiah’s followers, who believed his prophecies of this dread judgment, escaped. And God’s covenant with that nation was terminated. Its blessings then transferred to all who would walk in the Spirit and directions of Jesus as Master—a new nation unified beyond all physical differences.

    Accordingly, God reimbursed Jesus with much more than the sacrificed throne of ethnic Israel; he gave him a throne over the whole earth and an inheritance among all nations. In this magnificent way, God himself provided the protection, shelter or indemnity concerning the sins of all mankind. Moreover, he bequeathed his glorified Son the right to have descendents and fellow-heirs to join him in ruling over a new earth where righteousness and peace will finally be supreme. Jesus won the right both to save all humanity from God’s appropriate anger at sin and to endow us with marvelous gifts of the coming age.

    Therefore, even now, during this present vicious age, even in the midst of enemies, we have a rich, tangible down payment of that future inheritance as partial damages for Messiah’s wrongful abuse: the new covenantal promise of superabundant Wholesome Spirit from God himself, including miraculous creation-regenerating power for healing, expelling demons and similar royal foretastes of God’s future restorative reign, as testimonies for the truth of its proclamation among all nations at present and as incentives to endurance in the obedience of faith. This faith conquers the resistant, violent world by peaceful nonresistance, by returning good for evil and by the force of faith-in-miracle-working-action.

    This grand salvation is available not by any human action but by mere faith—a faith generated by the very recounting of this powerful and wonderful story, along with its narrated testimonies and evidences. So not only were the Father and the Son both justified by these destined events, and not only were the crucifixion and resurrection mutually justified by their staggering results, but we sinners are likewise justified to receive agelong life by God’s historic demonstration of overcompensating justice to Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of all, but especially of those who endure in trust so as to keep getting cleansed and hence regarded as righteous and thus win the prize: inheriting an allotment of the immortal life of God’s kingdom on the new earth in the age to come.

    (Sources available on request.)

    Comment by Ronald Lee—April 16, 2006 @ 4:58 pm (revised May 3-June 3, 2006)

    Comment by Ronald Lee — June 3, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

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