Here is a paper I wrote for one of my classes last semester. It could only be a short paper so I could not get that indept. Any how, I think it gets the main point of this debate.
Choosing to see and worship select attributes of God’s character can lead to truths of the Bible being denied. It is costly to preach only the attributes of God that you and your hearers want to believe and hear about. An example of this tendency is the denial of penal substitution because the doctrines if sin and God’s wrath are ignored.
An evangelical pastor made this statement about the doctrine of penal substitution (Jesus completely satisfying the wrath of God by His death for those who believe on Him) not to long ago,
"The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed…If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus' own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil." (Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003], pp. 182-183)
Such was the statement made by this pastor, the belief that Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself at the cross is equated with “cosmic child abuse.” The rejection of this truth, however, is not only coming from him. If one keeps an ear tuned to theological circles, he will come across more and more people who count penal substitution as a worthless or a offensive doctrine. Why is this happening?
Stand under most gospel presentations today and you will here a reduced gospel message about humanity. D. A. Carson sums up this gospel message preached today very well,
"In recent years it has become popular to sketch the Bible's story-line something like this: Ever since the fall, God has been active to reverse the effects of sin. He takes action to limit sin's damage; he calls out a new nation, the Israelites, to mediate his teaching and his grace to others; he promises that one day he will come as the promised Davidic king to overthrow sin and death and all their wretched effects. This is what Jesus does: he conquers death, inaugurates the kingdom of righteousness, and calls his followers to live out that righteousness now in prospect of the consummation still to come."(Why Is the Doctrine of Penal Substitution Again Coming Under Attack? by: D. A. Carson.)
Notice that missing from most gospel presentations is any mention of the offense that sin is to God and the wrath that He has against it. Sin has been reduced to pain and sorrow in this world. It is the troubles and grief that is brought on a person because of their bad choices. God’s response is simply to remove it from humanity. Sin is not a abominable act that insults the character of God. God’s view of sin is ignored or seen only in terms of it effect on humanity.
Added to this is the removal of the wrath of God upon sin. God is presented these days as a fixer of problems. No indignation from the rebellion that goes on before Him is even spoken of. No floods of anger and vengeance being stored up to be unleashed on God’s enemies is acknowledge. The infinite offense to God’s holiness that is caused by sin is a total stranger to the stereotypical evangelistic message.
So, what we get from this message is a reduced gospel. The problem is not that the story line is completely wrong. It is the fact that only half of God’s character is revealed. God’s justice and wrath are completely eclipsed by the intensification of God’s more acceptable, enjoyable, and delightful attributes. In essence, then, what we get from this selective message is no teaching on God’s wrath and justice. Thus, when the wrath of God is brought before people, it is a foreign and sometimes offense subject.
When one brings these facts to the penal substitution debate, puzzle pieces start falling into place as to why this doctrine is being denied. If the wrath of God is an unknown subject, no one would know that it must be removed? It would seem very odd that Christ would absorb the anger of God if God has not been angry at sinners. It would seem that Christ was given unnecessary affliction in His death. Thus, by the removal of the consideration of God’s wrath, the atmosphere for this doctrine to be denied has been made.
God’s attributes are not decorations of God that can be picked and chosen according to one’s preferences. God is all that He is. All his attributes make up His glorious character. This doctrinal debate is just an example of the consequences of only looking at the attributes of God that we like.
- The Reformed Pastor
- My real name is Charlie Albright. I am the pinnacle of evil who God has flooded with His mercy. Declaring my sinful self righteous and holy in His sight! Lavishing His grace upon me by the blood Jesus shed on the cross! Carrying me through this life and giving me satiatfing joy! Anything good about me is only because of His grace!