THE ATONEMENT DEBATE – Steve Chalke and Neglect of the Resurrection

In his arguments against penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), Chalke parodies what its advocates believe, claiming that, according to those who hold to PSA,

. . .it is Jesus’ death alone that becomes our “good news.” This approach reduces the whole gospel to a single sentence: “God is no longer angry with us because Jesus died in our place.” Indeed, that is exactly why evangelistic presentations based on penal substitution often do not even bother to mention the resurrection; for them it serves no purpose in the story of salvation (page 39).

We need not accept the accuracy of Chalke’s parody to be stung by its application, at least in part. It is a fact that at times evangelicals neglect to talk about the resurrection and other aspects of what the cross accomplished for us. In fact, Christians should believe that the gospel is about both the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that the work of Christ is about more than only satisfying God’s wrath. For starters, regeneration requires something to be done to us right here and now, and surely our gospel presentations need to explain this. And it is important to stress that there are other aspects of the atonement itself, and in this Mark Driscoll has served us well in his book, Death By Love, which outlines in letters to church members the different aspects of what the cross accomplished.

If Chalke was merely calling for us to remember to emphasize all the aspects of what Jesus accomplished for us, then I would say Amen! to that. Indeed, it was in part because of my own study of all these issues, which was in turn prompted by the Steve Chalke controversy, that I began to feel compelled to write about the resurrection. So perhaps in some sense this whole argument is the background within which the idea for my book, provisionally entitled The Resurrection Empowered Life, arose.

The key thing here is—even if we acknowledge some neglect of other aspects of Christ’s work for us—that is no reason to deny the truth of Jesus’ wrath-absorbing death on the cross. We should heed Chalke’s calls to look at everything Jesus has accomplished for us, but ignore his desire that we reject any notion that he was punished for us. I will continue to examine Chalke’s reasons for his rejection of PSA tomorrow.

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