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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, August 11, 2005
Substitutionary Atonement vs. New Model Evangelicalism
Phil Johnson in his blog post, "New-model Christianity, or old-model heresy?" mentions an article by Robert Brow entitled "Evangelical Megashift" which describes some of the fallout from rejecting a "punitive" model of the atonement.

Robert Brow asks in the closing remarks of his article, whether this new model represents a "different gospel" - my opinion is that it goes one better, and presents an entirely different (and less than biblical) God! Given this a priori conclusion on my part, I would suspect that whatever 'gospel' is tacked on to this new image of God is likely going to inherit that same taint.

I say a different God, because ultimately the new model boils down to a god who is more loving than just. In the substitution model of the atonement, God is both loving and just - eternally and infinitely both - and I think this latter model agrees more with God as described in scripture, than the former.

Nevertheless, for those who are unfamiliar with the concept of substitution atonement, we turn to scripture. Isaiah 53:5 says, "he [the Messiah] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (KJV) - here we see that the punishment received by Christ on the cross came about because of our sins, and that by His sacrifice our spiritual "waywardness" will be healed.

Likewise, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says, "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. " - Here we note that the death that Christ died was supposed to be ours - that is, the substitution nature of his sacrifice is indirectly highlighted.

1 Peter 2:24 again reiterates, "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed." We see the same message; Christ took our sins to the cross in His own body and bore the stripes that were meant for us - this he did for our spiritual healing.

At heart the heart of this doctrine is this foundation stone:

  • God cannot be just if He punishes one act of treason (sin) but fails to punish another treasonous act (another sin). In order for God to be a 'just' God He must punish every treason.

Anselm of Canterbury correctly reasoned that Christ's sinlessness was not 'meritorious' - that is, God was not obligated in any way to Christ on account of Christ's sinlessness (consider the parable of the worthless servant). Anselm further reasoned however, that there -was- merit in Christ's offering Himself for others, and that since Christ didn't need this merit, it could be passed on to others who did.

Hogo Gortius expanded this understanding in his "governmental model" - observing that by providing His own (God's the Father's own) sacrifice (that being Jesus Christ) God could be the justifier of fallen humanity while maintaining his own 'just' standing.

Men like John Calvin and John Miley honed the basic principles, highlighting the propitiatory nature of the atonement - that is, that God's wrath against sinners is just, and that Christ bore that wrath to satisfy this requirement - that is, we were justified when Christ bore our sins on the cross. The notion of merit evolved into grace - that is Christ death didn't produce merit, but was the channel for God's grace. Today we call this apology the "substitution" or "penal" or "punitive" model of the atonement.

In this 'model' God is the eternal and just judge and we are guilty. Our crime is high treason, and the punishment for this crime is eternal damnation.

Note: We reason that God is infinite, as such no sin that we commit grows dim in God's memory - but our treasons - every one of them, are eternally and ever before the fullness of God's awareness for all eternity - God can neither forget or ignore our sins, as His by his very nature He is 'condemned' as it were, to live in the continuing and eternal knowledge of our treason - never once growing weaker or dissipating as it might were God simply a temporal creature like ourselves.

Given then that God can never for one moment - throughout all eternity - forget even one treasonous act the only fitting and just punishment is an eternity in hell - let there be no squeamishness here, because God Himself deserves justice in the matter of our sin.
In the same way that Open Theism can be boiled down to a flagrant theology based solely on the rejection of predestination, likewise, this new model is a simply a rejection of God's justices.

There is no room it seems, in our post modern palsied culture, for absolute justice. God must be the God of our culture - and our culture rejects the notion not only of a just God, but also of the sinfulness of sin.

posted by Daniel @ 8:23 AM  
  • At 10:19 PM, August 18, 2005, Blogger FX Turk said…

    Daniel --

    I get what you're saying about the non-punative god being "more loving than just", but I don't think it is "more loving" to abandon justice from God's position.

    Let me put it this way: there is justice in a father disciplining his children, right? But there is also the manifestation of love in discipline -- punative measures are not just about "paying up" but about "setting right". If you love your son or daughter, you want them to know right from wrong and not be evil out of ignorance.

    Those people who argue that punishment is unloving do not understand love very well.

    However, since I have not yet been made Pope or Prophet of the blogosphere, I could be wrong. ;-)

  • At 9:48 AM, August 19, 2005, Blogger Daniel said…

    I don't think it is "more loving" to abandon justice from God's position.
    - Centuri0n

    Hey! :-) Thanks for pointing this out!

    I agree that the motive behind correction is a love that not only comprehends the benefits of a change in behavior, but requires that same change, not for the pleasure of the judge, as it were, but for the wellbeing of the one being corrected. I agree with you entirely in this - to abandon justice is definitely not 'more loving.'

    I read over what I had written, and think I found the place where I gave the impression that it was 'more loving' to be unjust: "I say a different God, because ultimately the new model boils down to a god who is more loving than just. "

    I agree, as I have said, that God's justice does not stand in contradiction to His love, but rather in harmony with His love. Here, therefore, I did not mean to suggest otherwise, but rather to say that in the "new model" - however we dress it up - God is portrayed as being so entirely loving that he can overlook sin.

    In the punitive model God does not overlook sin - but all sin is punished, either on the cross, or by the unregenerate sinner - but all sin is justly punished. In the new model, sin is overlooked on account of God being so loving. It is this fundamental difference that I was attempting to highlight.

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