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Category: Atonement

Substitutionary Atonement: One of Many Perspectives

Substitutionary Atonement: One of Many Perspectives

I have often annoyed people by saying both that I believe in substitutionary atonement, though I prefer not to use “penal substitutionary atonement,” and also do not believe it is the sole reason for, view of, or metaphor to describe what God did in the atonement.

So it’s nice to link to Roger Olson, who may be a bit less critical of substitutionary views than I am, but yet explains both the positive in this theory of the atonement and also some of the misunderstandings. If nothing else, this may help us discuss serious presentations. Well worth reading.

Thinking about a Crucified God

Thinking about a Crucified God

My company, Energion Publications, recently released a book What’s God Really Like?. It’s endorsed by Brian Zahnd;

In What’s God Really Like?, S. J. Hill invites us to become fascinated by God and, in that fascination, to move beyond the fear-based themes that have so often distorted our image of God. With a focus on Jesus and Scripture, Hill paints a portrait of a God who is “holy wild” and overflowing with generous love and contagious joy. This book is a welcome and timely remedy to the unworthy portraits of God that have too often haunted our imaginations.

Brian Zahnd
Lead pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO
and author of

Another Energion author, Allan R. Bevere, posted the following video, a sermon by Brian Zahnd. I think all of these go well together!


 

Bloody Sacrifices and Salvation

Bloody Sacrifices and Salvation

One of the problems with understanding biblical talk about salvation is that we do not live with a sacrificial system. For many Christians, the whole idea of sacrifices is that someone sinned and a bloody sacrifice was required for atonement. Christians believe that because of one bloody sacrifice, that of Jesus on the cross, no other bloody sacrifices need be offered, and we’re very relieved. In Judaism, the sacrifices have been replaced by Torah observance, without sacrifices due to the absence of the temple. Despite the desire of some Jews to rebuild the temple, I suspect the majority are quite happy with its absence.

This was emphasized to me recently as I prepare for (never ending) episodes of my study on Paul, especially as I read Galatians, and even more as I read Hebrews. The problem is that every word needs to be defined, and we are, to a large extent, convinced that we already know what the words mean. In fact, we are so convinced that we can define ourselves right past the message of the scripture we’re reading. As Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” (Read more at BrainyQuote).

My purpose here is not to provide a new and perfect (I have been reading Hebrews, after all!) answer to the question of what sacrifice really means. The word means different things in different places. I has a range or ranges of meaning. In cultic terms, as opposed to the more personal,, it seems to grow out of the idea that one needs to communicate with the divine. That can be as simple as the need to present your petitions effectively or as complex as wanting to hear from God, or from the gods, what is the ultimate plan for the physical universe, always assuming there is one.

That’s why you have a complex array of sacrifices and rituals in any religious system. The actual sacrifices and rituals evolve as worship takes place, and as people believe they receive communications, or more specifically directions, from the divine. The actual rituals are a mix of what people expect such things to be (tradition), from what people perceive to have worked (accurately or not), what people have heard, and available options and resources. These rituals will also combine the perceived needs of people, secular authorities, and religious authorities in various measures.

It may seem somewhat irreverent to some to apply this kind of process to biblical rituals, but as I argue in my book When People Speak for God, communication involves at least two termini, and one of those, in this case, is human. The lesser (slower, narrower, less precise) terminus determines the quality of the received message. In addition, a culture does not turn on a dime. Even revolutions are actually evolutionary to some extent.

The result is that the cultic system serves a range of needs. In modern Christianity we’ve come to think of salvation in rather simple terms: Avoid hell, and go to heaven. The intervening problem is that we’re sinners (though that term can get complex too), and the solution is the sacrifice of Jesus. All of which can be quite helpful except that it leaves us living in this world with all the many and varied issues in our lives.

The biblical concept of sacrifice was not quite so narrow. Or, rather, I should say that the biblical concepts of sacrifice were not quite so narrow. There is no particular reason to assume that every author in scripture is going to use the word “sacrifice” (or rather, various words sometimes so translated) in precisely the same way. If you read the texts carefully, you’ll find they are quite varied and nuanced.

In Leviticus, the world is made up of sacrifices. That’s because, for the most part, Leviticus is a book giving instructions about the cult to priests who were to carry it out. In that book sacrifices speak to the continuous presence of God, to atonement for specific sins, to atonement for guilt perceived for unknown reasons, to thanksgiving for blessing, to rituals for healing and purification, and ever so much more. The sacrifices were an integral part of the way the community of Israel was to live in community with its God.

The sacrificial system was not universally loved. For the prophets, it was often a dead routine carried out in Jerusalem by a nation in rebellion. Even earlier we have Samuel’s comment to Saul:

22 And Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obedience to the voice of the LORD?
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed than the fat of rams.

(The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Samuel 15:22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

Or as Hebrews Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes Psalm 40:6-8:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Hebrews 10:5–7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Now the author of Hebrews puts Psalm 40:6-8 into the mouth of Jesus, and here emphasizes something that is often missed in Christian discussions of atonement. One of the claims made by various New Testament writers was that Jesus accomplished God’s will in a way that humans had failed to do. It’s not that we don’t have in mind the idea that Jesus accomplished God’s will. Rather, it is because that is not part of our view of atonement.

I think this is why we so often have trouble understanding something like John 3, in which yet another different view of atonement is presented, one in which we immediately “have” eternal life. The typical response to this is that I’m going to die. How is it that I can have eternal life? But that’s because we get off the track of a desire to create community here and to be in communion with God (and both of these concepts invite further discussion and definition), and have limited our idea to one thing. Where do I spend eternity?

That is a question that doesn’t work well in isolation. It makes faith, salvation, and atonement a narrow and selfish thing. It’s not that we shouldn’t want to care for our eternal reward. Rather, it’s because we shouldn’t try to plan our eternity independently and as a solely future event.

I’m mostly raising questions here, and providing way too little in pointing the way. The key thing I’d like to suggest is that we need to quit reading scripture in the elementary or high school sense of “look the word you don’t know up in the dictionary.” That’s a good starting point. But then you need to allow the context of one author’s work build a nuanced definition for you.

I recall reading Ludwig von Mises’s book Human Action back when I was in college. It’s more than 800 pages of rather intense prose. In that book von Mises creates his own vocabulary. He’ll say that a particular word (psychology, for example, which he replaces with thymology [but not precisely]) has problems of definition. Then he defines the word himself and proceeds to use it in further discussion. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll wind up completely baffled a few pages further. You can’t use the dictionary, because the word is not there. What you can do is develop your own understanding of the term as von Mises uses it.

Try that with your Bible. It can be rewarding!


(Featured image is from Adobe Stock [#126750439] and is licensed. It is not public domain.)
Sunday School: Thinking about Sacrifices

Sunday School: Thinking about Sacrifices

Sacrifice
Credit: Adobe Stock 46272514

I’m preparing to teach tomorrow, and the main text is Hebrews 4:14-5:10. The quarterly is kind enough to stop just before the author tells his readers/hearers that the topic is difficult and they’re not very bright!

Nonetheless, the idea of priesthood brings up the idea of “sacrifice” and “sacrifices,” and these are two concepts that I don’t believe modern audiences are prepared for. We tend to get locked into one of two unhelpful modes.

On the one hand, we may believe sacrifice is critical, and its primary, or even only purpose is to atone for sin. This feeds into the penal substitutionary atonement theory (or I prefer metaphor), in which the sacrifice of Jesus is specifically as a substitutionary death taking the punishment for our sins. The reason I prefer metaphor to theory here is that a theory should be an explanation that deals with the relationship between various facts. A good theory is a singular thing because it is the best explanation of the data. A metaphor, on the other hand, is one of many ways of looking at a set of events. In this sense I reject a substitutionary atonement as a theory, but accept it as a valid metaphor.

On the other hand, because the whole idea of substitutionary atonement, sometimes even referred to as “cosmic child abuse,” is so foreign to our way of thinking about things, that we reject everything that relates to it. But there is a least one really good thing about substitutionary atonement (and I believe there are others): A person convinced that Jesus died as a substitutionary sacrifices for his or her sins will be convinced that wrath and punishment have been averted.

This is not the place to cover this in detail, but I am doing so in my video series on perspectives on Paul. I started in Paul’s Gospel vs. Another Gospel, then went on to part 2, and this coming Thursday night I will be doing part 3. I’m thinking there may be yet more parts, because I’m looking verse by verse at some defining statements about the gospel in various Pauline and disputed epistles.

I think there’s a better background against which to think about sacrifice, and that is communication within a relationship. The priesthood and sacrifices were part of the way in which ancient people carried on communion within an ongoing relationship with their god(s). The Israelites had specific ways of offering various sacrifices, ways of representing their God, and expectations.

I like to think of gifts that I give my wife. One of the traditional gifts for someone with whom we are romantically involved is roses, often a dozen, maybe two dozen. I have only done that once in our relationship. I mean the dozen. There have been a scattered number of times on which a gift has included roses, but that is much less frequent than in other relationships.

So am I neglecting my wife and being unromantic by not giving her the traditional gift? I don’t think so, and she’ll surely read this post and let you know if I’m wrong. We’ve established a different tradition that fits her personality and mine. That tradition has to do with surprise and variety. I look at various places where I can buy flowers. The grocery store even works out frequently. I look for flowers of a different color or a different type than she has had recently. I often buy enough for a couple of arrangements in vases. More importantly, I try to bring the flowers into the house when she is not expecting them.

It is true that flowers are frequently a way of expressing regret for a wrong action, but that wouldn’t work all that well in our relationship. In fact, the only thing that does work is sincere regret, directly expressed (no weasely political apologies), and a discussion of how we can improve as we move forward. Flowers as a sacrifice for sin are not functional in our relationship, yet they are given.

I’d like to suggest thinking of the reason why you might do something for another person, or have something done for you and the various reasons you might give or receive a gift. Then start looking at the sacrificial system again. There are still many things that will not connect. For example, in those cultures that practiced human sacrifice, the killing of the human victim—the ideal one being a firstborn son—was seen as giving that child to God. So also with the animal sacrifices.

If you think of the sacrifices in this way I think it will be easier to follow how sacrifice was replaced by the “mitzvah” (good deed) in Judaism, and by a combination of giving and symbolic acts in Christianity. You might even start to think about the Sunday liturgy at your church and what it says about what God would like to see happening in your relationship to him. Is it possible God might prefer a “mitzvah” of some sort?

I’m going to build on this, but I think this is a good foundational metaphor to use in looking at sacrifice. Then we can adjust for the people involved and how they viewed what was good and bad in a relationship.

Penal Substitution is ONE of the Ways to Talk about the Atonement

Penal Substitution is ONE of the Ways to Talk about the Atonement

I think The Truth Is … Out There on the Wesley Bros. Blog did a good job of expressing this.

To my liberal brothers and sisters: Yes, I do believe in penal substitution.

To my conservative brothers and sisters: No, I don’t believe in it as the one and only way to believe in or discuss the atonement.

One of the ways. Your mileage may differ. In fact, I hope it does.

Atonement: The Error Adrian Warnock and Giles Fraser Share

Atonement: The Error Adrian Warnock and Giles Fraser Share

Adrian says it wouldn’t be Easter “without a row about the atonement” and he has promptly located one in a Guardian article by Giles Fraser, in which Fraser says:

Thinking about the celebration of Holy Week in my new adopted cathedral brings home to me quite how important it is for Christians to insist upon a non-sacrificial reading of the death of Christ. For too long, Christians have put up with a theory of salvation that has at its core the idea that God requires the sacrifice of his own son so that human sin can be cancelled. “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin,” we will all sing. The fact this is a disgusting idea, and morally degenerate, is obvious to all but those indoctrinated into a very narrow reading of the cross.

Adrian, in presumed response (I can’t find his precise quote in the article he links), says:

I am not surprised by the strong language used by the opponents of the view of the cross generally called “penal substitutionary atonement” but understood by millions of children simply as “Jesus died to be punished for our sin.” If millions of Christians are as wrong as Fraser believes then no wonder that he would speak the way he does.

But I would note here that for many, the word “punished” is not nearly so central, and the statement is that Jesus died for our sins, whatever that may mean. Most of us will admit that we don’t know quite precisely what it means.

So let me confess here right up front that I don’t really understand the atonement. But before all you knowledge-filled people jump up to tell me how you do understand it, and are thus in a position to set me straight, I’m going to refer you to 1 Corinthians 8:2, which I think applies here.

And that’s the problem with these views. Adrian points out that both those who find penal substitutionary atonement is “the most precious truth of the Bible,” and those who believe it is “cosmic child abuse” cannot both be right. I agree! But both of them can quite easily be wrong.

Now I don’t want to make accusations regarding Giles Fraser. It’s possible that he might nuance his point a little more if he had more space than a newspaper column. Adrian, on the other hand, has convinced me rather thoroughly that he is clear on his view and intends what he says. My summary, which I make available for criticism, is that penal substitutionary atonement, the idea that Jesus took the punishment demanded by God for our sins, and that this is to be understood in a judicial sense, is the true core meaning of the atonement.

The response of some seems to be, “No, it isn’t. It doesn’t mean that at all. It means something else entirely.”

That’s the error that I think is shared. In fact, I’m going to suggest that any statement that says that the singular meaning of the atonement is X, is wrong for any value of X. Neither side seems to be able to handle metaphor. Oh, we’ll get acknowledgment that theological language is metaphorical, but the same persons who make such statements don’t behave as though the language is metaphorical.

To Adrian I would say that the language of penal substitution is a highly refined and narrowed form of one scriptural way of talking about atonement. It even deprives the sacrificial metaphors of much of their meaning, because sacrifice is not centrally about judicial penalties.

One of the problems with understanding the death of Jesus as a sacrifice is that most of us in the Christian world have a very narrow and superficial idea of what sacrifice was about in the ancient world. If we’re going to use the metaphor of sacrifice, we ought at least to use it in a Jewish context, and not emphasize the most pagan elements, such as appeasement.

But again, I would tell Adrian and those in his camp that if this particular metaphor suffices to make them believe that God forgives them, and thus is for them the most precious truth of scripture, then by all means see it as precious and cling to it. That’s what a good metaphor is about.

But at the same time, realize that this specific formulation isn’t all there is to it, and isn’t necessarily central. Others may find their understanding comes through other metaphors. Metaphors are useful that way–not everybody has to get cozy with every one of them!

But to turn to those on the side of Giles Fraser, don’t throw out the metaphor just because some people have grabbed it as a singular truth. You’re quite right to object to some results of the penal view of the atonement, and even the sacrificial view. But the penal view is only part of the sacrificial view, and the notion of sacrifice is an important part of how theology of the atonement developed and is understood.

It’s a metaphor; it doesn’t tell us everything. It’s not supposed to. But the beauty of metaphors is that you can use many different ones to describe the same thing, with each one giving you additional light and understanding.

In addition, one metaphor provides a corrective for another. When sacrifice or penal substitution leads us to see God as vindictive, we then need to look to other ones to help build our understanding of God.

There is a beauty in the cross, but it’s a beauty that comes through transformation. Jesus took what was disgusting, despicable, and evil, symbolic of the worst of human nature, and transformed it. A symbol can be transformed.

One way to understand that transformation is by the metaphor of sacrifice, but Jesus also transformed the very idea of sacrifice. Fraser alludes to this, but then proceeds to dispose of the metaphor itself. If you dispose of the metaphor of sacrifice, how can you see the transformation? If you dispose of the cross, how will you see God’s transforming power?

If you try to blot out Good Friday, how will you comprehend Easter morning?

Adrian and Dave Warnock on the Atonement

Adrian and Dave Warnock on the Atonement

So far as I know, no, they’re not related.

Adrian is concerned with the suggestion that anything in the Bible might be culturally conditioned. Wake up and smell the coffee, Adrian! Practically all of Hebrew scriptures is about leading people from here to there. The narrative is built around the exodus, about physically moving from here to there, and then that becomes a metaphor for spirituality. On what basis would one imagine that what God taught them would be anything other than culturally conditioned?

But there is explicit scripture for this as well:

I also gave them statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live. — Ezekiel 20:25, my translation

The whole context of that verse is worth studying, as is the entire book of Ezekiel. In fact, looking at Ezekiel and Jeremiah as they deal with the Babylonian exile is a theological exercise well worth the time. The exile did not occur with its theological context all ready to go. These prophets, and 2nd Isaiah after them, had to build that context in the people’s mind. The success of this enterprise is demonstrated by the survival of Judaism.

I think Paul reflects this somewhat with his concept of the law as a schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24). God’s revelation is not always intended to be eternal in the form in which it was given. Even Jesus, God in the flesh, had a temporal context in which he spoke and acted.

Dave Warnock, however, responds to this in somewhat more detail and with some excellent scriptures. I commend his post, Sub-Biblical arguments against Steve Chalke to you for study and thought.

Now that you did that (you did go and read Dave’s post, right?) let me just comment that one doesn’t honor scripture by pretending it is something it is not, and was never intended to be. One honors scripture, I believe, by taking it as it is, as much as one is able.

Idolatry of Theology and Liturgy

Idolatry of Theology and Liturgy

  • In a recent comment on my video Why I Hate the KJV, I received a comment that began thus: “You were saved by the KJV. . . .”
  • A young man visited my home and discussed with me for more than an hour. At the end, he said he was concerned for my salvation because of various details in the way I understand salvation by grace through faith.
  • A student asked me just what set of beliefs he needed to convey to someone and convince them to believe before he could be sure they had been saved.
  • A church member quits attending worship because he can’t stand the drums, the organ, the people raising their hands, the people not raising their hands, the way the pastor prays, ad nauseum.

All of these points do have something in common, I believe. There’s the theory of salvation by grace through faith (God does it), the theory of salvation by works (get working and earn it), and the wonderfully western theory of salvation by intellectual assent to correct theology. I would suggest, however, that this intellectual assent version falls afoul of Paul’s note “not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9, emphasis mine). I think that could justifiably be paraphrased “not of intellectual assent (or prowess) lest any man should boast.”

But no, there’s a substantial group of Christians who hold implicitly, if not explicitly, that without getting certain parts of their theology right, people cannot be saved. No thieves hanging on crosses need apply! One wonders just how many facts about atonement the thief on the cross grasped in the moment that he said “Lord, remember me”? Did he even know what “Lord” meant in that context?

Now I’m told that I put too much weight on the story of the thief on the cross, but I think it’s a tremendously important counter-example. That thief hangs there athwart the path of all those who want to make salvation difficult by requiring amounts of time, training, works, or even understanding. There’s nothing there but a cry for help and grace extended.

People frequently paint pictures of God from the theological prose of the Bible that contradict the God who appears in the stories. Personally I think this is reversed. As the thief on the cross hangs athwart the path of those who require intellectual understanding, so do Deborah (Judges 4 & 5) and Junia (Romans 16:7) stand in the way of those who want to claim that God can’t use women as leaders. At a minimum, those two examples should make one look carefully at each individual woman one meets in ministry and ask, “Is she one for whom God has made an exception?” Of course I think there are better theological reasons for rejecting gender exclusion in ministry, but that’s another post.

But what does all of this have to do with the last example I gave, a liturgical one, and with the title of the post which refers to idolatry? Quoth Paul again, “Much, in every way!” I use the basic definition for idolatry I got from reading Tillich: “Treating as ultimate anything that is not ultimate.”

  • The commenter on my YouTube video has made the KJV the ultimate thing, replacing God and Jesus as the agent of salvation, and replacing it with a book, a translation made by human hands.
  • The young man who questioned my salvation based on his theological propositions has made those theological propositions into his god. They are the idol of God before which he worships. I would note here, however, that in my view grace is sufficient for gossips and murderers, and yes, even idolaters!
  • The student who asked about what must be believed was a very sincere person who was nonetheless distressed by the idea that he might not present the right pieces of the puzzle and thus not reach someone. He was being tempted by idolatry.
  • The church member who quits over liturgy, well . . . see below.

I suspect that liturgy is the part of theology which tempts us most to idolatry. Many people ignore the atonement debates and simply believe that Jesus died for them. The idolatry is more frequently one of church leaders than church members. But everyone knows whether you raise your hands or don’t. Everyone knows what kind of music they like. Everyone knows whether they like a fixed order or a more spontaneous service.

Preferences aren’t the problem. In fact, it’s not a problem to seek to understand and believe correct theology. That is, until what you say about God and how you worship becomes more important than God. Worship is about experiencing and worshiping God in community with one’s fellow believers, the body of Christ. When you let your personal preferences keep you from corporate worship, at least some elements of that are lost. In fact, I would suggest that if you are in no sense giving up something to others in worship, you may not be fully experiencing corporate worship.

And when you let those individual preferences keep you from worship, then that becomes idolatry as well. Something that is not ultimate–the form of the worship service–has become ultimate for you instead of God.

Should pastors, church leaders, and liturgists not strive for a good worship service? Absolutely they should do their best in this area. I am not advocating sloppiness either in theology or in liturgy. I am advocating the correct priority. When a pastor presents the Eucharist carelessly and thoughtlessly, for example, it may make it harder for people to experience the presence of Christ in their midst. I very much enjoy the Eucharist. There have been times, however, when I have had to work to experience the presence of Christ because it was so clear that the pastor was not experiencing it, and didn’t care.

On another occasion I recall a minister who I thought might ascend from before the altar at any moment because he was so thoroughly engaged in the liturgy he presented. The simple fact that his worship was so completely directed at God, and so engaged his entire being, made it easy for the worshipers to join him.

It is not good liturgy and good theology that I’m challenging here. Good liturgy and good theology help bring one to God. But no liturgy or theological proposition that stands between God and the person can be truly good.

A tree is a good thing, but when one bows down and worships it, it becomes an idol. It is the same in our theology. A good doctrine, a good worship service, or a good deed, placed above the one in whose service they should stand, has become an idol.

Friends, keep yourselves from idols. Amen! — 1 John 5:21

Coolness and Complacency

Coolness and Complacency

OK, I’m going to try for three short notes at a time. In this case I’m helped by Dave Warnock, who already wrote on the topic.

It seems that Adrian Warnock doesn’t like people to be “cool-headed” about the atonement. He says:

To be honest, when I heard this book was going to be “cool-headed” I was already concerned about it. I’m not sure the atonement is a subject that it’s possible to be terribly cool about. That’s because another word for cool is lukewarm. Jesus hates us to be lukewarm about crucial issues, even threatening to spit the lukewarm from his mouth (Revelation 3). I much prefer interacting with someone who is either hot or cold about important issues like this.

Dave correctly points out that Adrian is using a questionable definition of “cool-headed.” But I would like to make a few more remarks.

There’s a tendency among many religious or spiritual people to believe that the more belligerent and confrontational one is, the more truly one believes and is committed to one’s beliefs. I would suggest that just as frequently the one who is belligerent and pushy is quite insecure about those beliefs and makes up for confidence with bluster.

I’m frequently told that my self-designation as a passionate moderate is an oxymoron, as one cannot be both passionate and moderate at the same time. There’s a grain of truth to this, if I accept that the meaning of words is determined by usage. But many people who self-identify as moderates would also regard themselves as passionate about their moderate beliefs. Having determined on a position that is not at either extreme on a particular issue, I can be quite passionate about opposing either of the extremes.

But there’s another point here. Often being cool-headed is the best way to advocate for a particular course of action. You stir more people up by being confrontational, but you don’t necessarily persuade anybody that you’re right.

Having said that, I’m not sure that I’m as cool-headed as Dave on this one. Frankly I do find the hard-line position of penal substitutionary atonement, when it includes the idea that this is the meaning of the atonement, rather than one (only slightly) helpful metaphor amongst many, is not just wrong, but dangerous. It is a position that drives people away from God’s grace, not toward it in many cases. I also believe it is scripturally wrong.

Often the liberal or moderate position is argued as an OK, not so tense, alternative to the conservative position–acceptable, rather than more correct. That is unfortunate. I believe what I do because I believe those positions to be better than, not merely an OK alternative for more relaxed people. I regard the teaching of PSA as the meaning of the atonement as wrong. I regard exclusion of women from positions in ministry as wrong. It is not that I ask tolerance from my more conservative brethren for my sake. Rather, I believe tolerance would be good for them.

So perhaps I’m not the best person to argue for cool-headedness in this case.

Guilty of Pastoral Malpractice

Guilty of Pastoral Malpractice

Thom Rainer posted an article on Lifeway’s Web Site claiming that pastors who did not preach penal substitutionary atonement (he didn’t use the term, he described the doctrine in very strong terms) are guilty of pastoral malpractice. He used the word “treasonous.”

Will, a United Methodist pastor and blogger pleads guilty in that case. I know a few other United Methodist pastors who would join him in that. I was talking to one the other day who regards PSA as a serious heresy that leads in turn to a heretical view of the trinity. Not being as interested as others in just what “heresy” is, I won’t go there.

A commenter on the Lifeway post cheers on Mr. Rainer, and comments on how people are tired of a “watered down gospel.” What I’m wondering is this: Why is it OK to water down God’s love, but it’s somehow “treasonous” to water down his wrath?

I wonder which is more important.