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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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JETS Volume 58, No. 3

The latest volume of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society is now out and in it you can find my first published article! (Yay for me!)

Here are the contents:

COUNTING STARS WITH ABRAHAM AND THE PROPHETS: NEW COVENANT ECCLESIOLOGY IN OT PERSPECTIVE . . . Jason S. Derouchie

DAVID V. GOLIATH (1 SAMUEL 17): WHAT IS THE AUTHOR DOING WITH WHAT HE IS SAYING? . . . Abraham Kuruvilla

A MESSIANIC READING OF PSALM 89: A CANONICAL AND INTERTEXTUAL STUDY . . . William C. Pohl IV

THE DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON IN ISAIAH 46–47 . . . Gary V. Smith

JESUS’ INTERVENTION IN THE TEMPLE: ONCE OR TWICE? . . . Allan Chapple

HAS THE CHURCH PUT ISRAEL ON THE SHELF? THE EVIDENCE FROM ROMANS 11:15 . . . Jim R. Sibley

THE SON IN THE HANDS OF A VIOLENT GOD? ASSESSING VIOLENCE IN JONATHAN EDWARDS’S COVENANT OF REDEMPTION . . . Christopher Woznicki

IS THERE A DEMON IN THIS STRUCTURE? LESSLIE NEWBIGIN AND ALBERT WOLTERS ON CREATION, “POWERS,” AND CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT . . . Christopher J.Pappalardo

BOOK REVIEWS

INDEX OF BOOK REVIEWS

OFFICERS OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY

If you are interested in reading this paper you can email me at christopherwoznicki@fuller.edu or…

Current members and subscribers can access current issues of JETS online.

Individual articles can be purchased, and copies of individual issues can be purchased while supplies last.

Jonathan Edwards’s Bible

I recently reviewed Stephen Nichols’s Jonathan Edwards’s Bible: The Relationship of the Old and New Testaments for the McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry. Here is an excerpt:

In the recent resurgence of scholarship on Jonathan Edwards nearly every facet of his complex ministry has been explored. Edwards has been studied as a philosopher, scientist, religious psychologist, and revivalist; however Jonathan Edwards’s ministry as an interpreter of Scripture has largely been left unexplored. Stephen Nichols’s study, Jonathan Edwards’s Bible: The Relationship of the Old and New Testaments, seeks to fill this gap in Edwardsean scholarship by giving attention the largely neglected, “The Harmony of the Old and New Testament…..”

You can read the rest of the review here.

Christ and Reconciliation

Training Leaders International is a missions organization devoted to training leaders in the global south who find themselves in need of formal theological education. TLI (as it is often called) just started a journal called Journal of Global Christianity (JGC). The journal was birthed out of three desires:

  • To provide the global church an opportunity to interact with each other on topics that impact them directly.
  • To spur on those in particular who have an overwhelming amount of access to educational opportunities to see the need more clearly and possibly be moved to even help meet that need.
  • To challenge and encourage readers throughout the world.

I had the privilege of being a part of the first issue of this very practical/pastoral and theological journal. In it I review Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen‘s Christ and Reconciliation. Here is my review:

Living in the third millennium we find ourselves in a world shaped by cultural, ethnic, sociopolitical, economic, and religious plurality. These are the sorts of issues that Christians cannot ignore while doing ministry in a globalized world, yet many Christians have been guilty of not paying serious attention to these realities. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen in Christ and Reconciliation attempts to address this problem. Christ and Reconciliation is volume one of a five-volume systematic theology project designed to address these issues while staying faithful to Scripture, the long-standing tradition of the church, and a broadly evangelical perspective. In this the first volume, he explains that this project is built upon two key convictions. First, it builds upon the conviction that systematic theology, or what he calls constructive theology, must be faithful to Scripture and to Christian tradition, especially but not limited to confessions and creeds. Second, this project is based upon the conviction that in order to coherently argue for the truth of Christian doctrine in our pluralized world, there is a need for Christian theology to engage in conversation and dialogue with those outside of our tradition (p. 24). Holding on to these convictions results in what he calls a “fresh innovative vision of Christian doctrine and theology” (p. xii). One might call this theological project “fresh and innovative” not because he deviates from Scripture and Christian tradition, but rather because he addresses various topics not normally addressed in systematic theology for instance: violence, race, ethnicity, inclusivity, colonialism, and the theology of other religions…..

You can read the rest of the review here.

 

The Journal Entries of Jonathan Edwards – Pride

The following is a Journal Entry from “Wednesday, Jan. 9. at Night.”

Decayed. I am sometimes apt to think, I have a great deal more of Holiness than I have. I find now and then, that abominable Corruption which is directly contrary to what I read of eminent Christians. How deceitful is my Heart! I take up a strong Resolution, but how soon does it weaken!

We have all had journals like this one (that is if you do journal.) Sometimes I start out with some expletive describe my personal state. I feel like ___________ fill in the blank. Its no surprise Edwards starts off like this. “Decayed.” But the feeling of “decay” doesn’t come because he feels so sinful. No it comes because he feels so prideful. He thinks that he is living way more holy than he actually is. He sees himself as a spiritual superman. I’ve been there. You’ve been there. We have all have those days where we feel like we are the greatest thing since sliced bread (I actually prefer whole loaves…) PRIDE. It’ll get ya.

Edwards recalls all the stories of other “eminent Christians” and sees that his pride is contrary to their ways. He is absolutely correct. Most people we admire for their faith were deeply humble people. We don’t look up to prideful people. It’s the humble ones that catch our attention (maybe not while they are around but after they have died). To tell you the truth, reading through Edwards I don’t see a ton of humility. He struggled with pride his whole life. But who doesn’t? At least he has the guts to admit it. I often don’t.

So there is this book… its fantastic, it’s called Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey. In it he argues that ambition is not necessarily prideful. Humility and ambition can go hand in hand. This is a very valuable thing to learn. The one caveat is that humility and Godly ambition go hand in hand. One cannot be ambitious to make a name for oneself or else one has fallen into the trap of pride. However one CAN be ambitious to make a name for God… or better yet to make God’s name famous. This is Christian ambition.

Dave Harvey’s book has helped me out a ton, because I will be the first to admit, I STRUGGLE with pride. Thinking back to when I first read the book I realized what the key to checking one’s pride is. Its remembering the Gospel.

Do you want to stay humble? Remember the Gospel.

Dwelling on the gospel you can’t remain proud. You are a jacked up sinner. You are unworthy. You don’t deserve anything you have. Yet God loved you enough to send his son to die to rescue you. Jesus suffered for your sake. The King of the universe gave his life for you. Without him you were toast…you deserved to walk around in your own filth. It sounds harsh but the beautiful reality is that He loves you even when you didn’t deserve it. If that fact that you are more sinful and broken than you could ever imagine but way more loved and way more accepted and way more valued than you can ever begin to fathom doesn’t keep you humble, then I don’t know what will.

The Journal Entries of Jonathan Edwards – Don’t Let Your Feelings Deceive You

The Following is a Journal Entry from December 18, 1722:

This day made the 35th Resolution. The reason why I, in the least, question my interest in God’s love and favor, is, 1. Because I cannot speak so fully to my experience of that preparatory work, of which divines speak; 2. I do not remember that I experienced regeneration, exactly in those steps, in which divines say it is generally wrought; 3. I do not feel the Christian graces sensibly enough, particularly faith. I fear they are only such hypocritical outside affections, which wicked men may feel, as well as others. They do not seem to be sufficiently inward, full, sincere, entire and hearty. They do not seem so substantial, and so wrought into my very nature, as I could wish. 4. Because I am sometimes guilty of sins of omission and commission. Lately I have doubted, whether I do not transgress in evil speaking. This day, resolved, No.

In this brief journal entry Edwards explains why he questions God’s love and favor in his life. He lists out four things 1-He can’t give a good account of God’s preparatory work towards his regeneration (this was a typical Puritan worry), 2- He doesn’t “remember” experiencing regeneration, 3-he doesn’t “feel” the Christian graces enough, i.e. he doesn’t “feel” as though he has faith, he doesn’t feel as though he has really been growing spiritually, and 4- sometimes he is guilty of sin….

The first two problems that Edwards battled had to do with the Puritan standards for giving one’s own testimony. These are probably issues that don’t concern us as much in the church today. The fourth issue is a “duh” issue. Hey Jonathan you still struggle with sin? Wow you must not be saved… No that isn’t the way things work. We keep on struggling and sinning all of our lives. The fact that we are “sometimes guilty of sins” shouldn’t lead us to question our love towards God and God’s love towards us.

Its apparent that Edwards was a bit off the mark with some of his struggles…however for most of us we tend to be off the mark with our struggles. A lot of times when we struggle about whether or not God loves us or we really love God its because we are believing lies that the enemy is feeding us. One of these lies is that the way we feel is the way things actually are. It’s the lie of subjectivity. We tend to believe our feelings, or lack of feelings, over and above God’s truth…

Edwards says that he couldn’t remember his experience of regeneration. Would an “experience” have convinced him that he is regenerated? What about others who can’t point to an “experience?” I know a ton of people who didn’t “feel” anything when they got saved. Does that mean they aren’t saved? Certainly not. Our feeling of being saved, or being able to point the exact minute when we got saved, isn’t what saves us. It is Christ himself and his declaration of our righteousness in him that justifies and hence saves us.

Edwards also says that he doesn’t “feel” the Christian Graces enough. He says that “they do not seem to be sufficiently inward, full, sincere, entire and hearty.” If you have been a Christian for any amount of time you can resonate with this. I am sure that at some point you have felt as though you didn’t FEEL God and his work in you enough. Maybe you thought there was something wrong with you. I want to tell you don’t worry. Its part of being a Christian to feel that way at times. If Jonathan Edwards himself felt this, I’m pretty sure that you will feel it at times too. Don’t be discouraged! Your feelings don’t dictate reality! In his little book “The Cross Centered Life” C.J Mahaney talks about this. I want to leave you with some things that he said:

 “’We Think with our feelings, Ferguson has said. It’s true. We allow our feelings to guide our thinking, and we shouldn’t. Emotions are a wonderful gift from God, and our relationship with God should bring strong godly affections to our lives. But our emotions shouldn’t be vested with final authority. This should be reserved for God’s Word alone. Let me ask you: Where do you consistently direct your faith? What does it rest on? Is it your emotional state… or the objective realities that the Word of God and the Spirit of God have revealed?….Do you plan on continuing to submit everything ultimately to your feelings? Or will you instead trust God’s testimony?[1]

So today, if you are struggling with a lack of feeling God’s love in your life or if you feel as though you are stagnant, turn to God’s word and see the objective truth of how God really feels about you. Turn to God’s word and see that you have been justified by faith then hold on to that truth because your feelings don’t dictate your status before God.

_____________________________________________


[1] C.J. Mahaney. Cross-Centered Life, pages 41-42.

The Journal Entries of Jonathan Edwards – Introduction

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know by now that I love Jonathan Edwards (for great reasons)…. However I feel as though I have done you, the reader a disservice. I have made him out to be much more than he really is. Edwards was an ordinary believer, like you or me, with lots of problems and issues. At times he dealt with a lack of trust in God, he often dealt with bouts of depression, and at times he strayed towards legalism.

I hope to correct my overly enthusiastic view of Edwards in this blog by balancing it out with some of his journal entries. Over the next few days/weeks I will post a journal entry and comment on it a bit. In writing this series, my hope is that you enjoy reading about Edwards’ life from his own point of view. And I pray that you are encouraged by the fact that even the great Jonathan Edwards struggled to follow Jesus faithfully.