Sam Storms has written a two part review of PFOT. This is the must-read book of the year. It is not a light read, but it is on such a vital subject that every thinking Christian needs to get a copy. The review is in two parts. I will quote from the first, but the second part is also worth reading.
Let me begin with the Foreword. Count on John Piper to say it straight and true. He pulls no punches as to why this issue is necessarily at the forefront of evangelical dialogue: “For if God did not punish his Son in my place, I am not saved from my greatest peril, the wrath of God” (14). That may strike some as odd language, but only because we have lost sight of that from which we most need to be saved and delivered: God! We have only one hope, says Piper and it is “that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God” (14).
I suppose I should begin as the authors do with a definition of penal substitution. In the opening paragraph of the Introduction, they write: “The doctrine of penal substitution states that God gave himself in the person of his Son to suffer instead of us the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for sin” (21). You may find it shocking that this would even be up for debate, for “this understanding of the cross of Christ,” say our authors, “stands at the very heart of the gospel” (21).
There simply can be no Christian gospel apart from the truth that Jesus Christ has endured and suffered in himself, on the cross, the wrath of God due to sinners, thereby propitiating or satisfying said wrath on behalf of those for whom he died. Yes, indeed, it is shocking that professing evangelicals should call it into question or, worse still, describe it as tantamount to “cosmic child abuse.”
Among those who have questioned or utterly rejected penal substitutionary atonement (hereafter, PSA), thus calling for this book to be written, are C. H. Dodd (from a generation ago), Stephen Travis, Eleonore Stump, Colin Gunton, Paul Fiddes, Vernon White, Stephen Sykes, Timothy Gorringe, Tom Smail, Joel Green, Mark Baker, J. Denny Weaver, John Goldingay, Steve Chalke, Alan Mann, and Brian McLaren.
Those who in past years have come to the exegetical and theological defense of PSA include Leon Morris, Roger Nicole, John Murray, J. I. Packer, John Stott, Mark Meynell, Henri Blocher, David Peterson, D. A. Carson, Tom Schreiner, A. T. B. McGowan, Robert Reymond, and numerous others, all of whose books are mentioned in the Introduction. One volume in particular, written to honor the life and ministry of Roger Nicole, is especially important: The Glory of the Atonement, edited by Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III (IVP, 2004).
The focus of Pierced is summarized by its authors: “In brief, we argue that penal substitution is clearly taught in Scripture, that it has a central place in Christian theology, that a neglect of the doctrine will have serious pastoral consequences, that it has an impeccable pedigree in the history of the Christian church, and that all of the objections raised against it can be comprehensively answered” (31).