Tag Archives: Intervasity Press

A Penal Substitutionary Doctrine of Atonement (Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview Pt. 1)

I just picked up the 2nd edition of William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland’s Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (PFCW) – I immediately flipped over to the chapters dealing with philosophical theology – and in some cases what I would call 5187Analytic Theology. The chapter I gravitated towards first was the chapter on Atonement. I’m currently in a seminar on contemporary theories of atonement and I know Craig has recently been busy working on the topic. So, I wanted to see what they had to say.

Unsurprisingly the chapter on the doctrine of atonement is primarily a defense of penal substitution (PSA). They define PSA as:

The Doctrine that God inflicted on Christ the suffering we deserved as the punishment for our sins, as a result of which we no longer deserve punishment. (613)

They helpfully nuance this position saying that this definition leaves open the question whether or not Christ was punished for our sins. They say that one option is that Christ was indeed punished on our behalf and another option is that the suffering Christ experienced, had it been experienced by us, would have been a punishment.

In other words, Christ was a not punished, but he endured the suffering that would have been our punishment had it been inflicted upon us.

With this definition in mind they treat two objections:

1)The Incoherence Objection

This objection states that given an expressivist theory of punishment, it is conceptually impossible for God to punish Christ for our sins.

There are several options one could take in light of this objection. First one could deny the expressivist account. Second, one could say that God does not condemn Christ himself, but that God condemns sin. Finally, one could say that God in fact censures Christ, propose that our guilt is imputed onto Christ. The contemporary analogy to this doctrine of imputation would be cases in civil law which involve vicarious liability. For example, a case in which an employer incurs liability for acts committed by her employee.

Craig and Moreland conclude that the advocate of PSA can agree Christ was not punished, deny an expressivist account, or argue for the compatibility between PSA and expressivist accounts.

2) The Injustice Objection

“It is always unjust to punish an innocent person. Christ was an innocent person. God is always just. Therefore, God could not have punished Christ.” Thus goes a standard critique of PSA.

Again, the defender of PSA has several options. First they could adopt a consequentialist account of justice. If so, the act of punishing one innocent person, is justified because it prevents the guaranteed damnation of the human race. Second, they might argue that issues of justice are determined by God himself. Third, they could argue that, given divine command theory, God does not issue commands to himself, so he ha not moral duties to fulfill. Finally one might want to argue that Christ in fact had our guilt imputed onto him, so it actually is just to punish Christ.

Review of the Chapter

I really appreciated the clarity that Craig and Moreland brought to the issues involving PSA. This includes their definition of PSA which allows for a version of PSA to obtain even if Christ is not strictly punished for our sins. However, one critique I have of this chapter is that for some reason (their conservative evangelical background) they decided to focus solely on PSA. Not only that, they state (not argue) that essential, and indeed central to any biblically adequate theory of atonement is PSA. They offer no argument for that claim. While I am inclined to believe in some doctrine of PSA, they offer no reasons for why we should think PSA is the essential or central model of atonement. There may be reasons for why this is true, but they don’t say why.

Finally, I am left wondering, what we should do with biblical passages which mention that we have died with Christ. If punishment for sin is death (2 Cor 5 & Gal. 2), then it seems like in our “dying” with Christ we have experienced some sort of punishment. Are these passages figurative? Or should we take them in some sort of realist fashion? I’m inclined to say that it is the latter. And if in fact, we have died with Christ, experiencing the punishment for sin, would we still be able to call such an account PSA? I’m not sure… That’s just some food for thought.

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(Review) Embodied Hope by Kelly Kapic

The problem of evil has been solved. Well, at least the logical problem of evil has been, which for the lived experience of most human beings is radically insufficient. Pain and suffering present a radically real problem for many people. People die, get sick, and deal with chronic pain. For some, these realities pose a major stumbling block to seeing God as good. Kelly Kapic, the author of Embodied Hope has experienced these realities first hand. His wife has dealt with the ravages and emotional toll of physical suffering. In light of this he has chosen to write a book which is both theological and pastoral, exploring the truths about God and ourselves which have bearing upon this problem of pain and 51a5lkxgr8l-_sx331_bo1204203200_suffering.

Naturally, the problem of evil is a really large topic, thus Kapic chooses to limit himself in two ways: First, he chooses to address Christians who suffer. Thus this book isn’t meant as a global defense against the existential problem of evil, or evil in general. It is aimed ad Christians who experience suffering. Second, he chooses to deal with suffering associated specifically with serious illness or physical pain.

The book is roughly divided into three parts. Part one deals with the limitations of easy answers often given to the problem of suffering and he deals with the nature of biblical lament. Here he also explores what it means to be embodied creatures. Part two turns to Christology in order to address some of these issues. Kapic believes that “Only by looking to this man [Christ] can we reorient our experience of suffering in a way that is truly Christian.” (15) In part three Kapic relates ecclesiology to the problem of suffering. He says that in the body of Christ we “discover a pattern for Christian discipleship that allows for genuine struggle, communal support, and transformative affection.” (15)

As someone who would consider myself to be a “pastor-theologian” I can really appreciate the nature of this work. Kapic works hard to make sure that our theological reflections are not separated from our pastoral practice. I found Kapic’s chapter on the Incarnation to be especially strong in maintaining this bond. Here he examines the theology of Athanasius and Warfield and concludes that,

The physicality of the Messiah takes us to the heart of the gospel and God’s promise, not just of sympathy but of rescue. God has come, come near, come to be God with us and God for us!” (75)

This is a powerful truth with major pastoral implications. Much incarnational theology has swung towards saying that the most important part of the incarnation is that Christ now has solidarity with us. This is certainly true, and pastorally significant, but solidarity without rescuing doesn’t offer much hope!

His chapter on confession was also enlightening. I have rarely seen a chapter on confession in a book addressing suffering. If I have, they are often very poorly written, wrongly teaching that our sickness/suffering is always tied to some hidden sin. So what does confession have to do with healing? Confession before others can help us disentangle our pain from the idea of personal punishment, it liberates us from shame and condemnation, it allows us to meet Christ in the other, and allows us to make ourselves truly vulnerable to the healing presence of God. This is truly powerful stuff!

So who should pick up this book? Undoubtedly, pastors! I mentioned above that this is a great example of pastoral theology. Kapic doesn’t present anything “new” here, or anything particularly interesting to academic theologians. However, he does an amazing job of making theology “real” for pastors and laypersons. I often hear that systematic theology is irrelevant or that it’s a nice intellectual pursuit, but here Kapic shows us that is simply untrue. The sort of historical theology  and systematic theology he is engaging in this book is supremely relevant to the life of anyone who calls themselves a Christian.

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.

Rational Faith

Is Christianity rational?

When most people are asked that question its not coming from a neutral standpoint; it’s a loaded question. In our day and age the question is loaded towards the “NO” side. A lot of people have done hard work over the years to show that the answer to that question is actually “YES!” One such person who has worked towards explaining that rationality of Christian belief is Claremont philosopher Stephen Davis. In his new book, Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity, Davis tackles some important questions that have been leveled at Christians in order to show the irrationality of faith.

Consider for instance:

  • Can we believe in God?
  • Isn’t truth relative?
  • Is the Bible’s portrayal of Jesus actually reliable?
  • Doesn’t evolution disprove Christianity?
  • Can’t religious experiences be explained by neuroscience?
  • Aren’t other religions as valid as Christianity?

Aimed at college students (and supposedly Christian professors as well), Davis tackles these sorts of questions and more.

For the sake of the review I won’t go into detail about how he answers these questions, rather I’ll point you to a few chapters that are especially pertinent in our cultural moment, the chapters on Cognitive Science and Religious Pluralism. Most Christians interested in Apologetics will be used to reading about truth/pluralism, the problem of evil, belief in God, gospel reliability, and the resurrection; but the two chapters on Cognitive Science and Religious Pluralism bring something unique to the table.

Cognitive Science

Neuroscientists have attempted to argue that religion is “natural.” In other words humans have a tendency to believe in a god or gods or at least supernatural beings who provide moral guidance and also issue rewards and punishments to humans. What Davis does 040412_1341_canthecogni14which is quite unique to the subject is that he doesn’t examine the findings of Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) rather he distinguishes between meanings of the term “natural.” Natural can mean explainable, easy, or appropriate. Davis argues that Christian belief (unlike many other forms of religion) is not natural in the first or second sense. Here’s why: If critics of religion are correct in saying we created God rather than vice versa then the Christian God is not the sort of god we would create. A “god” made in our image would be legalistic, performance based, ritual based, maximally accepting and non-accusatory. However Christianity is neither of these, in fact Christianity is very costly, which has no evolutionary advantages that it bestows to its adherents. Davis argues that it is only natural in the third sense, i.e. it is appropriate, in the sense that it is rational.

Religious Pluralism

What should Christians make of other religions? Davis points out three views Christians have taken over the years: 1)Exclusivism, 2)Inclusivism, and 3)Pluralism. He goes on to point out some major flaws with (a John Hick inspired) pluralism. Davis then develops his own view which can best be described as a tolerant, non-imperialist exclusivism. His position is grounded in the concept that God loves all persons and wants all to be saved and that God is a God of justice. Davis says of holding these two points that we ought to hold them in eentions and “trust that God will be fair.” However what makes this chapter unique is that his criterion for a Christian view on religious pluralism is actually a very practical one, it is “evangelism.” He then makes a bold claim (which I applaud):

Any theory that in effect minimizes, belittles, discourages or rules out evangelism is to be rejected.

I have never heard this point made in a philosophical essay and I truly applaud Davis for making it. Given the fact that the Christian faith is evangelistic and grounded in Christ’s words in the great commission its surprising that such a simple criterion has been overlooked in many discussions of religious pluralism.

Recommendation

I teach undergraduates at a bible college and work in a college ministry so I’m always on the lookout for interesting books covering objections to Christianity. Though I’m not a huge proponent of Apologetics in the modernistic sense, I think apologetics is an important subject for Christians to cover mainly as a way to boost their faith. I.e. Apologe9780830844746tics is less for non-Christians and more for Christians. For that reason I recommend this book to most college students. Its filled with answers to questions they will likely hear in their General Education sociology, psychology, anthropology courses.

Congrats to Stephen Davis because he’s given us a book undergrads will find useful in many of their GE classes!

(Note: I received this exam copy thanks to IVP in exchange for an impartial review. It is an early review copy, and anything I say ought to be checked with the final version of the book.)

Book Giveaway – How I Changed My Mind About Evolution

This week I’m giving a way a free copy of Intervarsity Press and Biologos’ joint effort How I Changed My Mind About Evolution.

how-i-changed-my-mind-about-evolution

So who should read this book? I think there are several people who need to read it:

  1. People who don’t believe that evolution and Christianity can be compatible. I recommend this to them, not because they should read this and “believe.” Rather It would be helpful for them to see that genuine Jesus loving Christians can hold to evolutionary theory (whether or not they are correct).
  2. Those who feel the tension in holding their belief in evolutionary theory and robust evangelical faith. Such people need exemplars who can show the way forward in how to hold both views together.
  3. People who’s “last objection” to becoming a Christian is that they need to check their rational-scientific mind at the door when coming to faith in Christ.

So if you fall into any of those categories I would love to give you a copy of the book. To win a copy of the book all you need to do is one of the following:

  • Tweet out the link to this blog post or the review and mention @Cwoznicki
  • Retweet my tweet about the giveaway
  • Like this post
  • Comment below on how this book would benefit you

I will be selecting one winner soon. Good luck!

Note: You need to live within the US to be eligible to win a copy of this book.

How I Changed My Mind About Evolution

No, this is not a blog about how I changed my mind about evolution, however it is a blog about a book containing essays from many well known and well respected evangelicals about how they changed their mind about evolution.

This book, edited by Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump contains a numerous amount of essays from some significant names like:

  • James K.A. Smith
  • Scot McKnight
  • Ken Fong
  • Tremper Longman III
  • Francis Collins
  • Oliver Crisp
  • John Ortberg
  • N.T. Wright
  • Richard Mouw

Any book with a collection of new essays from authors like those – on any subject would already be incredibly fascinating, let alone on such a contentious subject among evangelicals, like evolution.

Most of the essays in this book are extremely personal, they recount the stories of the contributors’ journey toward accepting evolution as a viable Christian belief about creation. Many of the stories are quite typical, which some readers will find encouraging.how-i-changed-my-mind-about-evolution The story typically goes something like this: 1)I was taught evolution was a godless, anti-Christian theory. 2) I became very interested in “creation science” in order to defend Christianity. 3) I actually began to learn about science and evolution. 4) I was able to reconcile my faith and this belief. 5)Conclusion: evolution, contrary to what I was taught early on, is not a threat to the faith.

One essay in particular, that I found helpful (no surprise here) in understanding the logic behind most of these “evolutions” in belief about creation, was Oliver Crisp’s essay. In his essay he outlines three principles which have helped him reflect upon how faith connects to evolution. The first is that notion of faith seeking understanding. From a position of faith we are committed to understanding our faith. The second is that all truth is God’s truth. Because God is the creator, not truth will actually be a threat to who God is, so we shouldn’t be afraid to seek truth ruthlessly.  Also, this means that in principle our understanding of Scripture and since are compatible, even though we may not yet see how they are compatible. The third is that God is mysterious. Who can fathom God’s ways in providence and creation. He can create in any way he deems necessary.

So who should pick up this book? I think there are several people who need to read it. First, I think that people who don’t believe that evolution and Christianity can be compatible. I recommend this to them, not because they should read this and “believe.” Rather It would be helpful for them to see that genuine Jesus loving Christians can hold to evolutionary theory (whether or not they are correct). Second, those who feel tension in holding their belief in evolutionary theory and robust evangelical faith. Such people need exemplars who can show the way forward in how to hold both views together.  Finally, people who’s “last objection” to becoming a Christian is that they need to check their rational-scientific mind at the door when coming to faith in Christ. As Oliver Crisp’s essay so clearly articulates, all truth is God’s truth. If our faith is true, and evolutionary theory is true, then this poses no threat to God whatsoever.

Book Giveaway

Book Giveaway: I would love to give out a copy of this book to whoever believes it would be helpful to their faith. In order to be eligible to win a copy of this book you can do one of several things (each will constitute one entry).

  1. Tweet out this blog post and mention @cwoznicki
  2. Like this post.
  3. Comment below on how this book would benefit you and your faith.

I will choose one winner very soon. The winner must live within the US in order to be eligible to receive the book.

(Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review)

Strong and Weak

Strong or weak? Which would you rather be? The answer seems like a no brainer – DUH – strong of course! Andy Crouch, author of the classic book Culture Making, says that if we want to truly flourish (and if we want to be effective leaders) we must embrace both. We must be Strong and Weak.

davidandgoliath
Strong vs. Weak – Big vs. Little – Young vs. Old

Crouch’s thesis is quite simple, weakness and strength are not opposites. They are actually meant to be held together simultaneously. When we learn this forgotten truth, then we will truly be able to be the people we were made to be. This is a countercultural message. Most people would say embrace strength and hide weakness. On the other hand there have been some that have recently been calling for a return to “vulnerability” masked as public weakness (though this is often a power play trading on the act of manipulation).

If you look at the life of Jesus you will see both strength and weakness. Exaltation and humiliation. Ascension and crucifixion. In fact when we celebrate Easter we actually celebrate this paradox of weakness and strength. It was in the moment of greatest weakness and vulnerability (the cross) that the almighty Son of God was coronated. Easter celebrates the King’s Cross.

In this short book Crouch explores cultural conceptions of strength and weakness. He exposes false weakness and authoritative strength. He encourages hidden vulnerability, that is the willingness to bear burdens and expose ourselves to risks that one one else can fully understand (25). He shows us that if we want to truly be strong we need to be willing to enter into brokenness, whether our own or the suffering of others. Only once we embrace this hidden vulnerability and descent into suffering will we be able to be the kind of people who can be entrusted with true power. Power that is both vulnerable and authoritative – weak and strong.

41xwtnbrpyl-_sx343_bo1204203200_The book is filled with powerful stories, the story of Angela is brought me to tears – especially since my wife and I just had our first daughter. Stories of racism and of Crouch’s own selfishness really bring the message home. But the story that underlies all of this, though its never made too explicit, is the story of Jesus – the Gospel. The Gospel is what shows us what it means to be both Strong and Weak….

Overall I would highly recommend this book for leaders. Embracing both of these “virtues” is critical to leadership. In fact there are a few leaders in my ministry to whom I will have them read some of the chapters in this book.

Preventing Suicide

You are a practical theologian. That is the premise that Preventing Suicide is built on. As a pastor, chaplain, or counselor its is important for you the reflect upon your own theology of suicide. Why? Well because what you belief affects what you do, because there isn’t one Christian position on suicide, and finally because most people in the church have no clue what to do when it comes to dealing with people who are suicidal. Karen Mason, in Preventing Suicide, attempts to address these three issues.

People who do vocational ministry have the privilege of being able to discuss theological issues regarding life, death, suffering, and community – all issues that are very important to those who are at risk of self-harm or suicide. Ministers also deal with people who are undergoing great amounts of suffering. Whether it’s a broken relationship, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or depression pastors often deal with people who are going through things that put them at great risk for suicide. According to Mason,

“Pastoral caregivers have unique competencies necessary in suicide prevention. They offer their primary discipline of practical theology as well as faith beliefs and behaviors that protect against suicide. Pastors, chaplains, and pastoral counselors need to be prepared to be involved in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention because suicide already exists in the faith community.

This book covers a wide range of topics including:

1) People who are at risk for suicide

2) Myths about suicide

3) Christian views regarding suicide

4) Theories of Suicide

5) How to help someone in a suicide crisis

6) How to help those who have survived suicide attempts

7) How to help those who help people who are suicidal

8) How to help the friends and family of those who have committed suicide

9) How to help your church deal with a suicide

I found this book to be extremely helpful. Not once in seminary did we cover the topic of suicide – thus everything I know about it I have picked up along the way. Most helpful for me were the chapters one who is at risk for suicide and also the chapter on how to hep someone who is suicidal. The chapter contained some very practical steps that everybody should know regarding suicide prevention. In fact, it is so helpful and practical (and important) that I will make it required reading for all of the small group leaders in my ministry. I know reading one chapter and discussing it isn’t enough training for dealing with suicide, however I believe it can be a really good starting point to begin the conversation.

This book should be required reading for anybody in ministry. I highly recommend that you get a copy and put it into the hands of anybody who does ministry, whether it’s a pastor, counselor, or even small group leader.

(Note: I received this book free of charge from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)