INTERVIEW – Wallace Benn on Penal Substitutionary Atonement

INTERVIEW – Wallace Benn on Penal Substitutionary Atonement April 19, 2008

Wallace BennThis is the second part of a three-part interview I did with Bishop Wallace Benn at the New Word Alive conference last week. You can read part 1 here.

In this segment, the Bishop discusses his total commitment to the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, and gives some reasons why PSA “is central to a proper understanding of the gospel.”

You just mentioned a high view of the cross. For those people who might not understand what all that means, would you mind unpacking that for a moment?

Wallace Benn
Those who founded Word Alive, and Word Alive through the years, and now New Word Alive, are totally committed to the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. That is, that Jesus died as our substitute and our sin-bearer—that you and I deserve to be on the cross.

One of the lovely things (I don’t know if you know this) in Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, he was asked whether he took any part in the film, having directed it. And he said, “Well, only one. It’s my hand that holds the nails that crucified Christ in the film.” That’s a profound and right insight—that he died, not just for the whole world, but he died for ME! And actually it was understanding that which was the means of my conversion.

So, not only did Jesus die as our sin-bearing substitute, but in so doing, he took the wrath of God against our sin. He actually took our place, and the righteous judgment of God against sin Jesus dealt with. Without that, you and I would be hopeless in a very literal sense—actually without any hope at all. So I have no sympathy whatsoever with people who want to water that down for entirely wrong reasons, in my opinion. I think that’s central to a proper understanding of the gospel.

We certainly haven’t seen any watering down of that here, have we?

Wallace Benn
No, absolutely not!

Speaker after speaker has been crystal clear.

Wallace Benn
I’m absolutely delighted to affirm it. It’s a great joy to me to see that done.

Yes, I think that’s right. There is obviously a joining of hands of people who all feel the same way. It’s not a minority position at all, is it?

Wallace Benn
Not at all!

When you have, for example, that list (I think your name is on it)—that list of people who affirmed that particular book, Pierced for Our Transgressions, it’s almost like a Who’s Who of Christianity. I know there were some people who didn’t affirm it, but the number of people who did, from all kinds of different backgrounds—you might say, “Surely those two groups aren’t even talking to each other!”— and yet they both would look up and say, “No, this is the gospel!”

Wallace Benn
It was a pleasure to be one of those whose name was associated with that magnificent book, truly. That’s great to see.

Absolutely. And it’s not as though that’s the only book either, is it? There are a lot of books out there that say the same thing basically.

Wallace Benn
I’m an old student of J. I. Packer, who thirty years ago wrote a magnificent defense of the penal substitutionary idea of the atonement. That view of the cross is the classic evangelical view, and if we move away from it, we move away from the teaching of the Bible. We move away from the teaching of our forefathers in terms of an understanding of the gospel. There are many other things you can say about the cross—there isn’t only one thing you can say about the cross. But those of us who are here believe that penal substitution is the glue that holds all the other things together.

That’s a lovely way of putting it actually, isn’t it?

Continued in part 3 . . .

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