Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Denying penal substitution

I came across the following comment on the rejection of penal substitution in Hugh Martin's commentary on Jonah first published in 1870. Martin is setting out to show the relationship between Jonah's experience as a type and its fulfilment in the work of Christ:
Now the bringing out of the analogy, in this respect, will be helpful in showing that the death and resurrection of Christ constitute a proper, real, perfect and proven satisfaction to the justice of God for the sins of His people;--a doctrine, which almost all the theological heresies of the present day are, with more or less subtlety and refinement, labouring to overthrow. (Martin, Jonah, Banner of Truth, p. 207)
I find the explanation offered by the late Harold Brown for the presence of the same errors across the centuries and in different cultures compelling: the presence of the same truth tends to produce the same reactions.

I have a brief article on B. B. Warfield's assessment of the flight from penal substitution at the turn of the twentieth century available here.


Marcus said...

Very pertinent comment in your brief article on Warfield: "Whenever there is a revolt against the particular theological conception of a doctrine, in this case of the cross as a penal substitutionary atonement, one can usually find a concomitant tone of rhetoric that casts that doctrine in as unfavourable a light as possible."

I agree. However it's possible to play the game both ways and for us to cast doctrine we disagree with - or worse, people we disagree with - in the worst possible light.

Whenever we play the game of comparing the best of what I think with the worst possible example of what I assume someone else thinks, I will always win the debate in my own mind and among my friends. But not impact or see transformation and correction in my opponents.

How important to do doctrinal discussion in ways that are robust but both nuanced and kind. How important to cast our opponents in a way that they wold recognise themselves. I love it when Edwards says of his Arminian opponents "won't you give up your wrong thinking and come with us, that we may do thee good." Not minimising his objection, not excusing what he thinks is error, but kind to a fault.

Martin Downes said...

I agree.


Paul has lots of sharp rhetoric language about endless genealogies and false teaching spreading like gangrene, stuff about the use of knives, people being puffed up, ministers of satan etc.

We ought not to misrepresent people, or their positions, but isn't the NT teaching about error and wilful errorists rhetorically loaded?

I should add the caveat that there will be people with incomplete understanding (Apollos with Priscilla and Aquila), those that sincerely misinterpret things, the temporarily inconsistent (Peter in Galatians, though it is behaviour not doctrine), the deceived who need mercy, and the deceivers whom we ought to tell congregations in danger of them are wolves in shepherd's clothing.