(concluding the series on the Cross by guest blogger Mick Taylor)
Finally, the doctrine of penal substitution is important because it underlines and clarifies a number of vital truths. Our fundamental problem is not only that we are victims of Satan’s power but that we are violators of God’s holy requirements. Sin is not simply missing God’s best for us but an act of rebellion. We are not just prisoners of war in spiritual conflict, we are traitors.
It is only as we see the depth of our plight, the bleakness of our situation and the unworthiness of our lives that God’s salvation is seen in all its splendour and the necessity of our guilt being dealt with is fully grasped. Other perspectives on the cross are vital for a full understanding of the gospel and enjoyment of all its benefits, but without penal substitution we are in danger, not just of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but of losing the bathroom along with the whole house because we will have fatally destroyed a strategic part or our foundations.
There is much to learn from present discussions. Controversy is not all bad. Church history indicates that it is often a sign of spiritual vitality. It shows that people think that truth matters and that theology has the power to shape our worldview and thereby our values, attitudes and actions. Current questions about the atonement are a stimulus to have our thinking refreshed by forcing us to think deeply and carefully about all that scripture teaches about Christ’s sacrifice for us. Such reflection can only lead to renewed power and devotion as we glimpse again all that He did for us.
And once again I look upon the cross where you died
I’m humbled by Your mercy and I’m broken inside.
Once again I thank You
Once again I pour out my life…
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/
The Atonement Debate within Contemporary Evangelicalism by Mick Taylor
The content of the above series of blogs on recent theological debate about aspects of Christ’s death on the Cross was previously published in the Newfrontiers magazine in 2008