Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Critics - ancient and modern

(continuing the series on the Cross by guest blogger Mick Taylor)

What Paul writes in Romans 3:21-26 really should put an end to all the arguments about penal substitution. In his magisterial commentary C E B Cranfield writes:

We take it that what Paul's statement … means is that God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved. (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. 2 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark; vol. 1, 1975, p. 217.)

That’s why we can rightly sing in the words of the old hymn:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Seeing a penal aspect to the work of Christ has always had its critics; at the Reformation it was Socinius and some of the Anabaptists, in the modern period liberal scholars starting with Schleiermacher have similarly found such ideas anathema. One of the most surprising features in recent discussions is that similar objections are now coming from our friends, people some of us have studied with, evangelised alongside and cheered on in their mission. People we love and who are happy to be known as evangelicals.

There are a number of fronts on which they attack penal substitution - the most serious of course is that it is not biblical. An answer to that charge I have begun to outline above but all their concerns deserve detailed and informed responses rather than dismissing in a few sentences. Thankfully a number of writers have taken on this assignment.

Where Wrath and Mercy Meet by David Petersen edit.
The Glory of the Atonement by Charles E Hill and Frank A James III edit
Pierced for Our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach

(see also related web page http://www.piercedforourtransgressions.com/