I have just invented an important new acronym. FOPSA. The meaning is obvious.
Full-On Penal Substitution Atonement.
To be a FOPSA you need to demonstrate a commitment to Penal Substitution as the central and vital heart of the Christian gospel. You may do this in a number of ways and we have seen many of them in posts (some of which I have linked to), in comments here and many other blogs and in books such as Pierced For Our Transgressions.
Ok, maybe the term FOPSA may not catch on. However, I am trying to make a serious point. It seems to me that we are seeing a rise in aggressive support for Penal Substitution as the critical way to understand atonement, and not just atonement but everything about the gospel.
I do not believe that the arguments raging about Penal Substitution are about traditional understandings of Penal Substitution such as are articulated in scholarly works on the subject from the past. Instead the arguments are with FOPSA.
The question is not "Is Penal Substitution as traditionally understood and taught valid?" but "Is FOPSA valid?"
I started thinking about this in 42: PFOT Being changed by Penal Substitution, since then I have been thinking more.
The position of FOPSA advocates seems reasonably clear. PSA is the most important thing that we have to believe (at least that is how I understand Adrian's series and the Coffee and Bible Club blog) it is absolutely vital and central to everything that the gospel is.
In my post 42: PFOT Being changed by Penal Substitution I described a number of aspects of my faith which appear incompatible with FOPSA. You cannot believe both. Therefore, either all these beliefs are wrong or FOPSA is taking PSA too far.
FOPSA and Christian Pacifism are incompatible.
I am clearly not alone in finding this. I invite supporters of FOPSA (ideally who are also Christian Pacifists) to explain how these are not incompatible.
My understanding is that Christian Pacifism was universal until the time Augustine. If FOPSA is incompatible with the standard teaching and position of the whole Christian Church for the first few hundred years of it's existence then how can it be correct?
There are many texts in the gospels and rest of the new testament teaching non-violence. These make a strong case for pacifism. How can the Bible be demanding full and total commitment to FOPSA while demanding an incompatible pursuit of pacifism.
FOPSA and Masculine Christianity
I fully accept Pam's comment that not all PSA supporters are against women in ministry and that PSA does not demand discrimination against women and others. However, I do see a very high correlation between FOPSA advocates and those who campaign
- against women in ministry (women preaching, women being ordained, women as bishops)
- for male headship
- for a more masculine church eg Adrian's Blog: Mark Driscoll Banned Church Planting Video.
- against homosexuality
Do FOPSA advocates speak with one voice on these issues? Where are women speaking as FOPSA advocates? Where are women pastors of FOPSA Churches? ...
Conclusion PSA is not why FOPSA struggle to recognise me as Evangelical.
I now do not think it is because of PSA that Adrian and other FOPSA advocates struggle with the idea that I consider myself an evangelical. After all I have said (in 42: PFOT: My starting position on Penal Substitution):
I value Penal Substitution as one theory of atonement within a range of theories that have been considered orthodox teaching within the Christian Church, while recognising that different groups within the Christian Church have different views on various theories of atonement and that there is not total agreement (and probably never has been). I do believe that there is potential for penal substitution to teach us something about the cross and about God.
I suspect that a key problem for FOPSA advocates is that they cannot understand how you can be Evangelical and a pacifist. They do not believe you can be an Evangelical and not stand for their idea of masculine Christianity.
Whereas, I do not see how I can be anything but a Pacifist, Egalitarian, Evangelical in the Methodist tradition. If these things are incompatible with FOPSA then I cannot accept FOPSA.
In a comment on The Coffee Bible Club Blog: Mark my words I have pointed out the dangers of a world view that sees everyone polarised to the extremes. FOPSA is a polarising view that seeks an understanding based on extremist all or nothing, as such I reject it.