Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Believing in penal substitution

Good article from Tom Wright (linked via Dave Walker) here, which contains this summary of Steve Chalke's position:

You could take [Steve] to mean (a) on the cross, as an expression of God's love, Jesus took into and upon himself the full force of all the evil around him, in the knowledge that if he bore it we would not have to; but this, which amounts to a form of penal substitution, is quite different from other forms of penal substitution, such as the mediaeval model of a vengeful father being placated by an act of gratuitous violence against his innocent son. In other words, there are many models of penal substitution, and the vengeful-father-and-innocent-son story is at best a caricature of the true one. Or you could take the paragraph to mean (b) because the cross is an expression of God's love, there can be no idea of penal substitution at all, because if there were it would necessarily mean the vengeful-father-and-innocent-son story, and that cannot be right...I have now had a good conversation with Steve about the whole subject and clarified that my initial understanding was correct: he does indeed mean (a).


I find this really interesting because I pretty much accept (a) - but I wouldn't call it penal substitution at all! Hmmm. Much to explore - particularly his own book Jesus and the Victory of God, which has sat on my bookshelf for about 18 months now.

As it happens, on holiday I bought the book which Tom Wright castigates so thoroughly as being "deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical." I also have on my shelf the book by Hill and James called 'The Glory of the Atonement' which Michael Jensen rates. Once I've finished this next learning church sequence (on the Eucharist) I'll be digging in to them thoroughly. I'll also pursue the links that Peter gave in his comment. In the meantime, I still stick with those four points that I wrote before....

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