No. 25 on the list of the all-time most popular posts with readers of this blog appeared on July 2, 2007, and summarized some of my series on the atonement. It also included links to a number of other posts on the subject. There were many other posts within this series—the most popular of which was entitled “J. I. Packer on the Atonement.”
As we finally draw near to the conclusion of this long-running series on the atonement, it has struck me just how the lines are being drawn. On the one hand there are those of us who feel PSA is essential to the gospel. It’s not that we think it’s the only thing—or indeed that every gospel presentation must major on it. It’s just that we think it’s essential, and that gospel presentations can’t deny it.
Just yesterday I heard what, to me, was the best gospel message I’ve ever heard. In fact, it didn’t major on an explanation of the exact mechanism of the atonement, but there was a line about the coming wrath of God and how that had to be taken away. I was reminded as I was listening that the gospel shouldn’t become merely a battleground for us to fight over. It should, instead, be something we hold precious. I can’t encourage you enough to download and listen to Tope’s sermon on the prodigal son. Many Christians heard the impact of this message of God’s love and forgiveness with a fresh insight. Several visitors made a response to the gospel. I loved what he said at the close of the sermon—“It may be free, but it wasn’t cheap. It cost the life of his son.”
It seems impossible for those of us who love the gospel of the Savior suffering the punishment of our sins to simply agree to disagree with those on the other hand who claim it is “divine child abuse.” I suspect the divisions in the visible church over this issue will grow more prominent rather than less so. This is just one of several reasons that, as Andrew Cottingham spoke of today, makes ecumenicalism so difficult for some of us who really care.
Today the American magazine, Christianity Today, published an article about the recent UK controversies over the atonement online. They were kind enough to quote me in the article, acknowledging my role in breaking the Word Alive / Spring Harvest story.
9Marks has this month published a whole issue about defining the gospel. They were eager to point out that PSA is essential to it, and the controversy over PSA is mentioned in one of their editorials. Others (including myself) were asked to write 100-word contributions explaining the gospel. I would love to read such a brief outline by someone from the other side of this debate.
There has also recently been an article by D. A. Carson on Penal Substitutionary Atonement which, not surprisingly, comes down firmly on the side of the authors of PFOT and makes plain that PSA is at the heart of the gospel. . . .
Read more of . . . “PSA—Precious Gospel or Divine Child Abuse?“