Monthly Archives: June 2007


Homosexuality/Bible By Walter Wink (Professor of Biblical Interpretation, Auburn Theological Seminary, New York City)  is a must read.

Also an article linked to in the above post is Bridges-Across: Tony & Peggy Campolo which I also classify as a must read. In respect of honesty I’ll admit I don’t think Jane and I differ in any significant way on this issue.

Hat tips to Tolerance and homosexuality – bits of reading « Come to the waters and  Turbulent Cleric: Sex Wars.

This is particularly relevant given the comments on  connexions » “The Real Sin of Sodom”: A Sermon (some of them got my blood boiling as you will notice from my contributions). Oh and also see  Richard’s post connexions » It’s all about sex

More Good News

Another Mother-in-law update following 42: Good News a few weeks ago.

I fetched Mum home yesterday (Friday) after 5 1/2 weeks in hospital following a heart attack and a double heart bypass operation. That is major stuff when you are in your eighties so we are delighted that she is back at home.

Lots of TLC and prayers needed as she recuperates and regains confidence around the home.

Our grateful thanks to you all for your prayers that have brought her and us safely through this time. Also many thanks to all the many wonderful people who work in the NHS and who have given so much love and care. That is particularly to the staff at Kettering General Hospital and Glenfield Hospital (Leicester). Plus all the connected services such as the District Nurse who visited today and the care team for the next few weeks.

PFOT and Ephesians 2:11-22

I am preaching on Ephesians 2: 11-22 in a few hours. After I had prepared that service I was thinking of the sad difference between the Bible and the frenetic supporters of Penal Substitution (who uncritically love Pierced for our Transgressions).

In this passage we hear how Christ has broken down the barriers between Jews and Gentiles. How Jesus has brought them both near to God and brought peace between them. How he set aside the law and put to death their hostility.

We hear how we are invited to be fellow citizens with God’s people and part of his household.  How we are being built together into a temple.

This is one of 1,000′s of wonderful passages from Scripture that demonstrate how God includes people and how Jesus broke down human made barriers (and still does).

Fantastic! Wow! What a wonderful God we worship and serve!!!!

But so often we are not satisfied. The wall that kept gentiles out of the temple may have been destroyed but we keep building new ones. PFOT is another attempt to build a wall to keep those who do not believe the "right" things out. Sadly the supporters go even further. Instead of seeing the revolutionary inclusion that Jesus taught, died and rose again for, they see the need for division and exclusion.

Of the conservative blogs that I can cope with reading (too many is just too depressing) Adrian Warnock has been a champion of this division and exclusion. His recent play with words that attempts to call a spade an apple to dodge the charge of cursing those who do not accept penal substitution as the centre of the gospel just continues to dig the hole.

As you build walls higher and higher you can see less and less. You can interact with people on the other side of the walls less and less. Your view of the sky becomes smaller and smaller. You become cut off from the world. As you will notice from the comments on Adrians posts and from many of the linked posts many are rejoicing in the building of walls and the harsher the language the happier they are.

I challenge this view of the gospel. I challenge the mindset that

  • fears others
  • builds walls rather than bridges
  • celebrates God’s wrath rather than his love
  • curses those that disagree rather than loves & forgives
  • ignores grace
  • believes in Salvation by correct thinking
  • ignores Christian history
  • denies the faith of the majority of Christians in the world
  • that will not read anything they do not agree with

these things are not worthy of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, our Saviour.

If we take that mindset how would we have written John 3:16? "For God so loved the world that …". One thing that we can be sure of is that it would not have read "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Jesus says believe in me and you will not perish but have eternal life. Believe in him! Follow him.

I am just wondering how different our lives would be if all these enthusiastic Christians started tearing down the walls and started being part of the same temple (the one in Ephesians 2:19-22). How differently the world would see Jesus if we focused on him as the bridge between us and God & each other rather than building walls between us and God & each other.

Please join me in praying for Christian unity. Not uniformity, not some bland blend but a unity built on Christ where the walls come tumbling down and where his Kingdom is revealed.

Oh and you can pray for a larger dose of grace in me so that I don’t get so wound up by people cursing me. It might help avoid ulcers in the future :-)

PFOT: Atonement in History

Two great posts

These should be required reading for anyone tempted to take at face value the claims in Pierced for our Transgressions (PFOT) that the Church Fathers taught Penal Substitution.

Note that I could not have written either of these being woefully ignorant of the writings of the Church Fathers. So many thanks to Andrew.

Atonement Wars and Forgiveness

According to Atonement Wars and Forgiveness « A Brick in the Valley:

In the Bible, forgiveness is defined as,

Forgiveness – a commitment by the offended to graciously pardon the repentant from moral obligation or liability.


Let us consider the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-14).

9 "This, then, is how you should pray:
       " ‘Our Father in heaven,
       hallowed be your name,

    10 your kingdom come,
       your will be done,
       on earth as it is in heaven.

    11 Give us today our daily bread.

    12 And forgive us our debts,
       as we also have forgiven our debtors.

    13 And lead us not into temptation,
       but deliver us from the evil one.’

    14 For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Jesus does not say anything here about only forgiving the repentant. Or consider Luke 6:37

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

We forgive in order to be forgiven. It has to be an act of will not a response to repentance.

Paul, also taught that we forgive without requiring repentance, not only taught it but did it. See 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has
grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there
was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your
sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Not even waiting to be sure there was something to forgive.

I suspect that the role of repentance in forgiveness is getting confused here. My forgiving someone (if you like the offer of forgiveness) does not depend on their repentance. After all Jesus died so that I could be forgiven before I even offended, not just before I repented. However, the reception  of that forgiveness by the offender does depend on their repentance. There is a timing mismatch. The offer of forgiveness (ie the act of will by the offended) is not connected in time to the repentance of the offender.

In relation to God, thanks to Jesus, the offer of forgiveness is always there before repentance. Repentance is what allows the offer to be accepted. In human relationships the two things are far less connected. I should offer forgiveness, even though there may never be repentance, so that I can be right with God. I should repent of my offences, even though the person whom I offended may never offer me forgiveness, so that I can receive God’s forgiveness.

Now I entirely agree that the act of forgiveness is not centred on feelings. However, I do experience that making the act of will to forgive someone does result in feelings. Quite simply when I forgive someone else it is good for me. Should this be a surprise? That when I actually do what Jesus has commanded me to do that I feel better. Whoa dangerous stuff this feelings. Come on wake up, smell the roses.

I suggest going and reading some stories from Corrie ten Boom or other Christians from the past who have learnt the hard way that forgiveness as an act of will (an act only possible through Christ at work in us) does not depend on repentance and does change us (why should that be a surprise as Jesus makes clear our own forgiveness depends on forgiving others).

Now to get back to the article in question by Chris which he starts with:

The current atonement debate has implications far beyond the
doctrine of salvation.  We are beginning to see how a departure from
the Reformation understanding of the atonement will trickle down into
areas of practical theology such as forgiveness.

What we actually see is an association. When you take a view of atonement that stridently makes exclusive claims for a single theory (Penal Substitution), that calls down curses on Christians who reject this exclusivity, that focuses on the wrath of God in a way that Jesus never did, that ignores much of the teaching of Jesus (on love, on not condemning others …) THEN it may be associated with other problems such as re-defining forgiveness so that it no longer relates to the teaching of Christ.

As has been said before a danger facing these strong supporters of PSA is that they are teaching salvation by correct belief, a form of salvation by works, when they should be teaching salvation by faith.  Get that wrong and so much else will go wrong. You may even find yourself using Scripture to curse those who disagree with you (and huge swathes of the Christians through the centuries at the same time).

Caravans save lives

Last week was school half term, I had time booked off work. But with my mother-in-law still in hospital  (over 1 hours drive from home) after a heart bypass operation how could we manage a holiday.

Answer. Find a caravan site within 15 minutes of Glenfield Hospital and spend the week there. It meant we could visit mum at least once a day for as long or short a time as she needed while still being able to spend time together as a family. Oh and it also saved nearly 500 miles of driving.

Leicester proved to be a good place to spend time. We went to the Space Centre, got some cycling together and some shopping (nice cosmopolitan city centre). All despite a pretty wet week that would have been miserable in a tent.

Without a caravan it would have been a poor half-term for everyone so definitely a life saver for us all.

Getting bored

Richard has been writing about bloggers block. Clearly something I too have been struggling with, enough that last night my brother commented that part of the reason for phoning me was to find out what we had been doing as there was nothing on my blog. Hint: you can ring me even when I am blogging a lot (very unfair that as we do keep in regular contact).

Anyway I have realised that part of my problem is boredom. I was reading yet another of Adrian’s posts on Penal Substitution (The Atonement – What Happened to Jesus on the Cross?) and realised that I have got bored with the need to continually point out basic failings in these arguments. Sadly, the arguments being made never seem to move on, they never address any alternative interpretations and they never recognise the leaps in logic that they make.

Adrian has two things which he says demand penal substitution. But sadly for him they do nothing of the sort.

The first is that the cross is absolutely essential in the purposes of
God to save us. We have hinted at this previously, but if the cross was
not an essential part of the plan of God for our salvation, allowing
His Son to go through such suffering would be shameful and would,
indeed, reveal a lack of love towards Him.

Absolutely correct. Nothing there about penal substitution of course. This is entirely compatible with every theory of atonement. (although I do wish that Adrian would include an acknowledgement of the trinity. Jesus is not separate from God.). Then he goes on to say:

Unless we believe that God’s
justice demands judicial death for sin, it is difficult to understand
why the cross was essential.

Why so difficult? Understanding why the cross is essential is at the heart of every other theory of atonement. In other words here we have nothing that HAS to point us to Penal Substitution.

Adrian’s second point:

As the cross looms before Jesus, we are also faced with another immense
problem if Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not true:- Why did it
seem such a big thing to Jesus? While Jesus was brave and chose to go
to the cross, many people throughout history have appeared to face
death with more confidence than the Son of God in the Garden of
Gethsemane. I believe we insult His dignity unless we understand that
it was not merely death from which Jesus was instinctively recoiling.

Huh?!? I have been trying to work out what this is about. Then suddenly the lack of dignity made sense. It is the macho gospel at work again. In the garden Jesus yet again clearly rejects any form of macho image and hence in the eyes of some loses dignity. Well given the lack of support elsewhere for a macho gospel it should come as no surprise that this invention should struggle with the enormity of Christ’s saving work. Jesus with insulted dignity unless everyone accepts Penal Substitution – ho my whatever next.

H’mm, feel a little less bored now. Can’t wait until the next exciting instalment of "Divisions: A howto guide" by Adrian Warnock.

On being cursed

Adrian uses a tactic I personally hate at the end of INTERVIEW – The Authors of Pierced for Our Transgressions. The tactic is to use scripture to curse those who do not agree with a particular position.

Where do you stand? Will you join arms with Andrew, Steve, and a whole
generation of those of us who feel this issue [Penal Substitution] is quite literally one of
life and death?

Or will you seek to compromise, maybe downplay
the importance of precisely how Jesus saves us, and adopt a gospel
message that, whilst sounding more acceptable to the modern ear, is in
the opinion of many of us nothing less than “another gospel.”

The stakes couldn’t possibly be higher.

even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel
contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
(Galatians 1:8)

Three great responses so far:

Sadly Adrian’s post attempts to

  • Bully (the threat of God’s curse if you do not agree with me is for me one of the worst kinds of bullying, sadly one that the Church has abused far too much through the centuries – as did some religious experts against Jesus).
  • Mis-represent (classic example of stating one extreme and then saying that by this extreme test you are all right or all wrong, Peter’s article makes this clear).
  • Create “salvation by correct doctrine” (as detailed by Henry)
  • Ignore plain speaking by Jesus eg Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will
    never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
    John 6:35

Note that I am not writing this to discredit penal substitution merely the presentation (that gives the impression of being the last actions of a dying dinosaur) that goes way over the top. Christ saves us is the important thing, accepting that and living as his disciples worshipping him are all so much more significant than trying to pin down exactly how he saves us (again Henry put that better then me).

Then with all this there is the ludicrous claim that anyone not signing up to this view is creating a gospel that is more acceptable to the modern ear. Ludicrous because Adrian divides his time between extolling those who rewrite the gospel to appeal to "real men" such as Mark Driscol and castigating those who challenge the world with the gospel of Jesus which lives by grace. As one example in the world today those who return to the traditional understanding of discipleship as requiring pacifism can hardly be described as making the gospel more acceptable to the modern ear. The idea that anyone not supporting a gospel of macho posturing over God’s wrath is pandering to the modern ear is just silly.

Oh and by the way, Bluefish, I think that Adrian provides a great example of what you were asking about in your comment "what’s extreme about penal substitution other than it’s reality, it’s effectiveness and it’s glory…". Cursing those who do not see it as all the gospel is about is pretty extreme by any standard.