When God Became the Devil

I thought I should share what Richard Beck wrote about the penal substitution theory of the atonement, which is very popular today, particularly among conservative Evangelicals: Prior to Anselm, the main atonement theory used by the church was Christus Victor. Specifically, humanity was being held captive by the Devil and Christ died to free us [Read More...]

In Christ Alone

David French blogged about the Presbyterian Church USA removing the hymn “In Christ Alone” from its hymnal, because its authors refused a proposed change to the lyrics that did away with the notion of Christ’s death as satisfying God’s justice. It isn’t often that I agree with French, but I do when he writes: The [Read More...]

Spinning the Cross

David Hayward's latest cartoon will probably be controversial in some circles. But on one level, it reflects a very mainstream understanding of what happened in the early church. Jesus' followers thought he was destined to be king and restore the kingdom of David. They were so persuaded that, when the Romans crucified him, their belief [Read More...]

Core Doctrines Between the Lines and on the Margins?

Has anyone else ever noticed that conservative Christians of various sorts tend to emphasize things which are either not actually spelled out in the Bible, or which are mentioned in passing or by lone authors and so arguably less than central to the faith and practice of early Christians? As a New Testament scholar, I [Read More...]

The Odious Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement

PZ Myers posted an entry on his blog with the title “Odious Christianity.” He is commenting on a tract that came his way which includes the following cartoon: After sharing it, he writes: Whoa, hang on there. How is justice served by punishing an innocent? So, with this judge, if I get a parking ticket [Read More...]

Galatians 3:13 and Romans 8:3 Without Penal Substitution?

Mike Bird posted on his blog Euangelion about a couple of my recent posts. Having addressed the first theme, inerrancy, in yesterday’s post, this one turns to the question of penal substitution. Since Mike asked specifically about Galatians 3:13 and Romans 8:3, I will make them the central focus of this post. Galatians 3:13 is [Read More...]

What’s Wrong With Penal Substitution? (From the Archives)

For many people, the title of this post may be meaningless. “What is penal substitution?” would seem to them a better question. But if I explain that it is the idea that there is a penalty for sin, and God punished Jesus instead of us, they will immediately recognize it and say “That’s what I believe!” [Read More...]


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