Craig’s Atonement and the Death of Christ– Part Thirteen

Craig’s Atonement and the Death of Christ– Part Thirteen April 2, 2021

Q. One of the issues raised in your last exegetical chapter is the difference between someone being a substitute for another and someone being the representative of another. These ideas seem to be regularly fused or confused. Can you help the readers understand the importance of this distinction as it applies to the work of Christ?

A. A substitute takes the place of another person but does not represent him, e.g., a pinch hitter in baseball. A representative acts on behalf of another person but does not replace him, e.g., the baseball player’s agent who represents him in contract negotiations. Christ is both our substitute and representative before God. He is a like a proxy who attends a stockholders’ meeting in our place and casts a vote on our behalf. So Christ as our substitute bears our just desert and as our representative before God satisfies divine justice on our behalf.

Q. I found your phrase ‘faith culminating in baptism’ (p. 83) interesting, but problematic. It seems clear enough from 1 Cor. that Paul distinguishes water baptism (about which he says in 1 Cor. 1 that he is glad he didn’t water baptize more of them) and the sort of baptism described as administered by the Holy Spirit himself in 1 Cor. 12 anyone is spiritually joined to the body of Christ. These two things are not the same. This is why in Acts we have stories about water baptism before Spirit baptism, Spirit baptism before water baptism, and the two things associated close together in a series of events. Further, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 1, he baptized whole households, as Acts suggests as well, and there is no evidence of a faith pre-requisite in those texts (cf. also Acts 8). Finally, Paul in describing water baptism in Rom.6 associates it with death and burial, after which takes place resurrection. A moments reflection on the death and resurrection of Jesus will confirm that there can be a gap between such events. Baptism is not said to symbolize the whole process. The man who said ‘I thank God I did not water baptize more of you’ is also the man that says that the Spirit baptism is essential to being in Christ (and were it otherwise, there would be plenty of Quakers who are not water baptized whom would not qualify as Christians). I really don’t find anywhere in Paul where Christian faith is seen as a necessary prerequisite for water baptism. What convinces you otherwise? (See my Baylor book Troubled Waters—water baptism like circumcision is an initiation ritual not a confirmation ritual).

A. I follow G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the NT, in rejecting paedo-baptism in favor of believer’s baptism, though I don’t agree with him, on grounds such as you mention, that water baptism and Spirit baptism are coincidental (see my Defenders lectures on Doctrine of the Church https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-3/s3-doctrine-of-the-church/). But for the purposes of my book on the atonement, all that I’m saying is that water baptism is the culmination of one’s conversion-initiation to Christ. Faith that fails to express itself in water baptism is in some sense defective.


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