Years ago two liberal theologians coined the phrase cosmic child abuse.1 They used this term to express their disgust at the traditional doctrine of Penal Substitution. Those who oppose this motif of the cross see the notion of the Father crushing the Son (Isaiah 53:10) as barbaric. They see Jesus as a victim to the Father’s uncontrollable rage. However, a close look at the facts show that such was not the case. At the cross, a loving heavenly Father crushed an obedient, willing Son. Continue reading A Loving Father Crushes a Willing Son: How Penal Substitution Is Not Child Abuse
I recently posted about the Top 10 Best Books on the Atonement. There I mentioned my favorite book outside the Bible, The Death of Death by John Owen. This is Owen’s treatise on Limited Atonement. The entirety of the third section (book) is devoted to 16 arguments in support of Limited Atonement. Now each one may not be sufficient by itself (although some are) to prove the doctrine, but by the end we see that the overarching theme traced throughout the whole Bible is undeniable. Below is my summary of them. As the title implies, I’ll try to keep with Owen’s thought and Bible references, although I may at times fall for the temptation to add my own take and flare. All page numbers are from the 1983 reprint by Banner of Truth. Again, there is a free PDF version on CCEL
N.T. Wright, in his newest book, The Day the Revolution Began, asserts that an either/or distinction between the theories of the atonement must be discarded. These theories in fact are all truthful. They must be taken together to get a holistic picture of what the atonement is. The idea, in a nutshell, is that the atonement of Christ is a multi-faceted event containing elements of Christus Victor, Moral Influence, and Penal Substitution, an event which is ultimately about God reclaiming authority over the world through the reinstatement of humans to their God-ordained vocation as image bearers and vice-regents of the earth. Below, I will explain the deficiencies of each theory to show that they are not sufficient in and of themselves to explain the atonement. Continue reading The Multi-Dimensional Revolution: Theories of the Atonement, pt. 2
These are in no particular order!
The Death of Death by John Owen. The PDF can be found here
Apart from the Bible, this is my favorite book of all time. John Owen, the greatest of all Puritans, had already defended Limited Atonement in his first work, A Display of Arminianism. Here is an absolutely thorough treatment of the subject that to this day has not been sufficiently answered by the opposing side. Continue reading Theology Must Reads: Top 10 Books on the Atonement
The death of Jesus Christ stands as a central event in Christian theology along with the incarnation, resurrection, and ascension. Like the other three events, the death of Jesus is rich with meaning and significance. The New Testament, looking back at the crucified Christ, explains that the death of Jesus should be understood in terms of atonement (Heb. 2:17). Jesus, like the sacrificial animals offered by the Levitical priesthood in the Old Testament, is handed over to be killed on a Roman crucifix in order to make atonement for the sins of the people.
However, the nature of how this atonement works has been hotly debated throughout church history. Several different theories have been offered throughout the past two millennia to try to get at what is happening on the cross. Is Jesus’ death an ironic victory over the dark powers of this world, an inspirational illustration of the sacrificial love of God, or a legal transaction between God and Jesus in order to satisfy God’s requirement? This paper will present a middle way theory which navigates between the other atonement theories and discovers they are in fact parts to a multi-dimensional whole expressed in various metaphors in Scripture requiring a harmony of more than one atonement theory in order to be fully explained. Continue reading Ironic, Subjective, Just, or All Three: Theories of the Atonement, pt. 1
The Atonement and God
We must not think for a minute that God does not need to be appeased. Don’t be tricked into thinking that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) means that God is not angry with sinners. The Bible says that unbelievers are storing up for themselves wrath, indignation, tribulation, and distress on Judgment Day (Rom. 2:8-9). Those who disobey are under God’s wrath (John 3:36). God has indignation every day (Ps. 7:11). The Scriptures even go so far as to say that God hates sinners (Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5-6). The Bible speaks of God’s wrath frequently. According to Leon Morris, there are 20 different Hebrew words used to describe God’s wrath in the Old Testament, and over 580 references to it. Every single human being has broken God’s Law (Rom. 3:10-18) and has become His enemy (Rom. 5:10; Jas. 4:4). Continue reading The Cross and Salvation
What I want to address quickly is, the timing of the atonement. I wish to answer the questions, When did Jesus begin to bear the sins of His people? When was Christ abandoned? Namely, I wish to debunk the popular notion that the three hours of darkness, when Jesus says “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” (Matt. 27:46) was the period where God laid the sins of His people upon Him. They say that the darkness was God turning His face from Jesus, for “God cannot look upon sin” (Hab. 1:13 taken out of context).
Please note I am not at all denying the doctrine of Divine Abandonment! I believe Jesus was abandoned because Jesus says He was abandoned. But where I would differ is the starting point of it all. I believe that Jesus was bearing the sins of His people, and enduring the wrath of God in their place beginning not only the first 3 hours on the cross in addition to the latter 3, but even before the cross. I shall quickly go over four reasons why I believe this is the case. The first two are more implicit, but the latter two are conclusive. Continue reading Divine Abandonment: Was Jesus Only Bearing Our Sins For 3 Hours?
As it should be obvious to those who know me, I am an advocate of Limited Atonement. Though it may be the most controversial of all the “five points of Calvinism”, I find it to be the most clear logically speaking, as well as the most supported biblically. The main argument against it used by Arminians is that the Scriptures contain the words all and world when referring to the extent of the atonement. In response, the Calvinist would simply point out that those terms are seldom universal in scope (John 1:10; 11:48; 12:19).
There is, however, one argument used by Arminians called the co-extent theory which at first seems to turn the Calvinist view on its head. They reason from certain texts that if sin is universal in scope, so atonement must also be. Thus they reason that since Calvinists clearly believe that every human has sinned and is totally depraved, then every human must also have been included in Christ’s redemption. The following texts are used: Continue reading The Co-Extent Theory Examined and Critiqued