>Here’s a statement that will infuriate some, puzzle others, and perhaps cause a few to nod, knowingly:
“Perhaps Christians are leaving the church because it isn’t tolerant and open-minded. But perhaps the church-leavers have their own intolerance too—intolerant of tradition, intolerant of authority, intolerant of imperfection except their own. Are you open-minded enough to give the church a chance—a chance for the church to be the church, not a coffee shop, not a mall, not a variety show, not Chuck E. Cheese, not a U2 concert, not a nature walk, but a wonderfully ordinary, blood-bought, Spirit-driven church with pastors, sermons, budgets, hymns, bad carpet and worse coffee?”
–Church: Love It, Don’t Leave It – On Faith at washingtonpost.com
Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.
J.I. Packer, from “The Heart of the Gospel” in Knowing God (also in In My Place Condemned He Stood, p. 32):
Has the word propitiation any place in your Christianity? In the faith of the New Testament it is central. The love of God [1 John 4:8-10], the taking of human form by the Son [Heb. 2:17], the meaning of the cross [Rom. 3:21-26], Christ’s heavenly intercession [1 John 2:1-2], the way of salvation–all are to be explained in terms of it, as the passages quoted show, and any explanation from which the thought of propitiation is missing will be incomplete, and indeed actually misleading, by New Testament standards.
In saying this, we swim against the stream of much modern teaching and condemn at a stroke the views of a great number of distinguished church leaders today, but we cannot help that. Paul wrote, “Even if we or an angel from heaven”–let alone a minister, a bishop, college lecturer, university professor, or noted author–“should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (“accursed” KJV and RSV; “outcast” NEB; “damned” Phillips–Gal. 1:8). And a gospel without propitiation at is heart is another gospel than that which Paul preached. The implications of this must not be evaded.
>Since the gospel is “of first importance,” I prioritize on reading, in addition to the Word, books focused on the cross. Currently in “The Great Exchange” by Jerry Bridges & Bob Bevington.
Here’s a quote from the preface that is vital:
“Yet, in recent times it has become apparent that some in the church have drifted away from the historical gospel and ventured to redefine sin and redemption and even the meaning of the cross. Some have done this in a sincere attempt to make the gospel message more acceptable to today’s culture. Others have attempted to usher in an age of greater authenticity and depth of commitment. But regardless of sincerity, no attempt to reform the church can succeed if it departs in any way from the centrality of the message that our sinless Christ actually died on a real cross as the sin bearer for those who are united to Christ by faith in His substitutionary sacrifice and righteousness.” (emphasis added)
“Jesus, keep me near the cross”
“The curious paradox of the atoning death of a bloody Jesus rising above the plane of human history with a mocking crown of thorns is that he is offensive in an attractive way.
It is the utter horror of the cross that cuts through the chatter, noise, and nonsense of our day to rivet our attention, shut our mouths, and compel us to listen to an impassioned dying man who is crying out for the forgiveness of our sins and to ask why he suffered.
Tragically, if we lose the offense of the cross, we also lose the attraction of the cross so that no one is compelled to look at Jesus. Therefore, Jesus does not need a marketing firm or a makeover as much as a prophet to preach the horror of the cross unashamedly.”
—Mark Driscoll, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007)
Reading “Death by Love” by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.
The introduction addresses “Substitutionary Atonement,” which is, to some, controversial. To many, it is a pair of undefined words.
Let me try to whet your appetite for the book by the following excerpt:
What does ‘substitution’ mean?
“Substitution” refers to a person or thing acting or serving in place of another. Biblically, the concept of substitution was first practiced not by God, but by human beings. When our first parents chose to disobey God and believe the lies of our Enemy, they chose to substitute themselves for God in an effort to become their own gods. Subsequently, to save sinners God had to reverse that tragic substitution and did so by becoming a human being and dying in our place to atone for our sins.
In his marvelous book The Cross of Christ John Stott insightfully explains this fact:
The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices Himself for man and puts Himself where only man deserves to be. May claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.”
In a time when many are denying the fact that Jesus took the hit for us, this deserves a careful re-reading.
I heartily recommend the book (as well as Stott’s book!)
Ben Patterson in his book, “Theocentric Preaching,” writes, concerning the current phobia to be “relevant”:
“This particular temptation used to be the sole province of the liberal theological tradition. But in the past few years, it has gained a number of victims in the evangelical community . . . The sin courted in this temptation is the presumption that it is the Bible that is dead and we who are alive . . .
Is the Bible relevant? Dr. Bernard Ramm once remarked, ‘There is nothing more relevant than the truth.’ The longer I preach, the more convinced I become that the best thing I can do is simply get out of Scripture’s way.”
“The American church is so much seduced by being successful, by being powerful, that we look for power in programs, in experiences, in entertainment, in psychological applications – everywhere but where God has placed the power, which is in the gospel.”
R. C. Sproul