Easter Wouldn't Be Easter Without A Row About The Atonement

Easter Wouldn't Be Easter Without A Row About The Atonement April 11, 2009

The battle lines continue to be clearly drawn despite the best efforts to be “charitable” to both sides by those who try to occupy the middle ground. In an outrageous newspaper article which only cites one Bible verse and even that out of context, Giles Fraser declares “What vicious God would demand Jesus sacrificed for our sins? We should ditch this view of Easter”

I am not surprised by the strong language used by the opponents of the view of the cross generally called “penal substitutionary atonement” but understood by millions of children simply as “Jesus died to be punished for our sin.” If millions of Christians are as wrong as Fraser believes then no wonder he would speak the way he does.

Fraser does not grapple with the issues of the seriousness of sin, of the hundreds of mentions of the wrath of God in Scripture, or of the just requirement that sin should be punished. In short the gospel is removed. As usual the alternative explanation of what happened on the cross is not at all clear. These vague descriptions attempt to remove the very offence of the cross which Paul describes as “Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

To be honest this Easter I am not angry at Fraser, nor am I angry with Steve Chalke (see my posts on the Atonement Debate). At least these people are clear about what they believe and understand. No, the people I am angry with this year are the ones in the Evangelical hierarchy who want to brush these debates to one side in the name of “unity.” There can be no real unity between those who believe that to declare Jesus was punished for us is “cosmic child abuse” and those who believe it is the most precious truth of the Bible. One side of this debate has to be wrong, and badly wrong. They cannot both be right; even N.T. Wright cannot perform such theological magic! The minute anyone tries to make this truth a debatable matter over which evangelicals can legitimately disagree is the moment they lose the right to call themselves evangelical at all in my opinion.

One of the joys of last weeks New Word Alive event was that this debate was totally unnecessary there. The main thing that held the speakers together was that they all believed this was the essential center of the gospel. You can read more about this in my Atonement series.

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