My interview with the authors of pierced for our transgressions seems to have created something of a stir. The comments section shows two very distinct reactions to the way I chose to close the interview. When one uses google blogsearch to track the way others have written about it on their own blogs a similar picture emerges.
Now, what is interesting to me is the strong reaction to me citing Paul’s curse on those who preach another gospel to him. I did not curse anybody myself, and have no intention of doing so, since I am not given the authority that Paul had. BUT, and this is very important, Paul’s words should give all of us cause to stop, and think very carefully about where we stand on the atonement – which is central to the gospel.
The facts are clear. There is an impressive body of people who have taught some form of penal substitution over the centuries. I recognise that there is some variation within that group – for example those who believe sin was punished in Jesus but are reluctant to say that Jesus himself was punished by God the father. But if the gospel is anything it is a message about the seriousness of sin, and what God has done to deal with it and allow us to be considered good enough to get into heaven.
There are some people in the comment section of this blog who have clearly rejected PSA and any form of justification by faith alone, arguing instead that the cross causes us to change, repent and live righteously and it is that change in us that allows God to forgive us.
The previous paragraph sure does not sound like the same gospel I was taught. Indeed PSA is so central to the presentations of the gospel I have heard that it seems to me at least that to deny it is to automatically be preaching another gospel to the one that I am preaching and that my current and historical heroes preach.
It is not as though I am alone in this view. The astonishingly long list of endorsements of the book pierced for our transgressions shows how important many people feel this is. Whatever else went on behind the scenes, the fact is that from next year there will be two Easter Christian conferences in the UK which will have different perspectives on what is essential to believe about the atonement.
In all this we are left with the bald facts. Paul curses those who teach another gospel TO HIM. In this day of different gospels being preached in the church, it is encumbant on each of us – me as much as anyone else – to ask ourselves “Am I preaching a different gospel to Paul?”
I would challenge each of my readers, whatever they believe about the atonement to join with me in examining what the bible has to say about it. Show us why – from the bible not mere deduction and human reason- you feel I am wrong, and what you believe really is the case about the atonement. If it is me that stands in the way of Paul’s curse, then you owe it to me to explain why I should believe in a different message of hope than I do. I implore you to show me the error of my ways and save me from my heresy if you believe I am so far from the true message of the bible.
It really saddens me that whilst those of us on this side of the PSA fence have written books and voluminous blog posts on the issue, there is a relative silence from the other side. Steve Chalke ought to be saying a lot more about the subject than he has if I and others are in danger of falling on the wrong side of Paul’s curse. His silence has been deafening, and to me speaks volumes about how he views this issue. For his organization to highlight N T Wrights article which claims Chalke believes in something he has himself called cosmic child abuse and then refuse to explain how to square that circle seems just plain wrong to me.
It is not for me to curse anyone, and I have not done so. But I will not apologize for highlighting Paul’s curse of those who disagree with him over the gospel. I really do not think it is possible for us to over-emphasize the importance of getting the gospel right. I hope you understand that I am seriously concerned for you my readers and anxious that we all ensure that what we are believing is really the same message that Paul and for that matter Jesus taught.