reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Friday, April 27, 2007

Questions about penal substitution...

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
...the topic likely to make you scream and run away from the computer if you are following church politics in Britain at the moment.

I'm not going to say any more about Word Alive. I'm sick of "who said what to whom" discussions really, and sick of people writing books and then acting all surprised and "who, me?" when they say horrible things about other Christians and said Christians get upset.

Nevertheless, much as I hate all that is going on, I am committed enough to PSA to think it is worth it. In fact, the truth that Jesus died to take God's just punishment for my sins is one of the ones I'd die for. Gun to the head I couldn't (I hope) deny that one.

Adrian Warnock is blogging through an excellent series on the doctrine and I won't be able to say much better than him. More interesting still because his theological standpoint on other issues shows that this whole thing is miles away from being a conservative/charismatic battle.

But people have some real questions I have come across, and so I am going to post my answers.

Is the victimised Son placating an angry Father? Easy one to start. No. All members of the Trinity are acting together to save us from the wrath of God: God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

Harder one next: Why can't God just forgive us? Now there's a standard evangelical answer to this, that I think is partially right. Because God is just, and hence can't just stick sin under the carpet. The (perfectly reasonable) reply, is "how is it just for him to find a totally random person and put all the punishment on him?" I think that's an excellent question, which we have been too slow to answer.
Several answers:
1) Depends what you mean by justice. Is justice just people getting what they deserve? It's more than that in God's terms, it's a cosmic proclamation that sin is sin, that wrong is wrong, that in a universe where the holy God reigns it is not right to rebel against him. Justice is defined by the crime - which is God being pushed out of his rightful place: God declares that is wrong in the horror of the cross. If God is God, God must declare (or rather act to declare, as God always revelas himself through actions) in the most graphic terms that wrong is wrong.
2) Jesus isn't just our substitute, he is our representative, to quote one of my favuorite pieces of literature, the UCCF doctrinal basis. Jesus just doesn't stand in our place as a substitute randomly chosen out of nowhere, but as the one able to represent humanity to God. Why? Well, union with Christ and the incarnation. No time for all that at the moment. Nevertheless the Bible teaches it: in the same way Ireland's rugby team represent me in rugby, so I can truly say "we won" when they won, Jesus represents me before God because, in the Gospel I am united to him.
Brain about to explode yet? We've hardly started.

To be continued....


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