Wow! A quick blog run has brought me an embarrassingly rich number of things that really, really need to be addressed, each of which can be made into an edifying blog article. But I don’t have time to do them all!
First, I note Paul Owen has shown he thinks himself much wiser than his far better known namesake (John Owen) in reference to the atonement. His words speak clearly:
The whole notion of “double jeapardy” [sic] is misguided, for (largely based on a misreading of Isaiah 53:4-12) it depicts the cross as a passive reception of punishment by God on the part of Jesus. Since Jesus was punished for our sins, we cannot be punished again. But the cross is not a place of punishment. It is a place of Jesus’ offering up to God a pure and selfless sacrifice, a sacrifice consisting of his willingness to suffer with and for us in our state of death and alienation. As the embodiment of the benevolent God, Jesus’ desire was to be with us (Matt. 1:23), and to identify with us (Isa. 53:12), wherever that might take him (Phil. 2:8). God was pleased with the death of Jesus, not because it quenched and satisfied his anger, and provided an occasion for him to rectify the demands of strict justice, but because the innocence and purity of the sacrifice of his Son was simply of more weight than the gravity of our sin. His merit outweighed our demerit, so that the whole world has now been objectively reconciled to God (i.e., God is willing to actually wipe away their sins through Jesus’ blood on the condition of faith and repentance), and now the world has to choose whether to remain outside of the household of God, or to come and enjoy the benefits of the reconciliation secured for them.
The cross is not a place of punishment? This kind of shredding of basic biblical truths (we are not told why seeing God’s wrath and punishment in Isaiah 53 is a ‘misreading’) is nothing new for Paul Owen, of course, and we have come to expect it. But please note how it is done, and what it costs: it is done by taking one truth (the pleasing nature of the offering of Christ) and using that as a basis to deny plain biblical teaching (the Father was pleased to put Him to grief). All the substitutionary language connected to atonement, propitiation, wrath, etc., is dismissed in favor of another stream of biblical truth. This is a very common methodology and given how often it appears in false argumentation today, should be something we spot quickly.
But consider the cost: God’s wrath, and the punishment of sin, is left off to the side. Where is the demonstration of God’s wrath and power and the fulfillment of His holiness in reference to those who are saved, unless we have, in fact, that substitutionary atonement of Christ? Does God simply sweep these sins under the rug, or is His holy law satisfied in the sufferings of Christ in behalf of His people? It is hard to figure out just what Owen believes (his position keeps changing so you can’t go back to whatever view he had in his last denomination and use that as a benchmark), so leaving him aside, let’s consider the vital importance of the demonstration of God’s justice in the sacrifice of Christ. This is a topic to which my mind has been turning a good bit of late for the obvious reason that Islam denies this very foundational truth. They assert that God can forgive sin without the holiness of God’s justice being fulfilled. Here is a tremendous example of this concept found in the hadithliterature. In a story narrated by Abu Said Al Khudri (Sahih Al-Bukhari 4.676), we read:
The Prophet said, “Amongst the men of Bani Israel there was a man who had murdered ninety-nine persons. Then he set out asking (whether his repentance could be accepted or not). He came upon a monk and asked him if his repentance could be accepted. The monk replied in the negative and so the man killed him. He kept on asking till a man advised to go to such and such village. (So he left for it) but death overtook him on the way. While dying, he turned his chest towards that village (where he had hoped his repentance would be accepted), and so the angels of mercy and the angels of punishment quarrelled amongst themselves regarding him. Allah ordered the village (towards which he was going) to come closer to him, and ordered the village (whence he had come), to go far away, and then He ordered the angels to measure the distances between his body and the two villages. So he was found to be one span closer to the village (he was going to). So he was forgiven.”
Shabir Ally cites this particular text as an illustration of Allah’s willingness to forgive transgressions, and that without sacrifice. Ironically, while Calvinists are often accused of holding to a form of fatalism similar to that of Islam, it is just here that the massive differences are seen. In Christianity, God’s eternal decree not only forms the fabric and pattern of time itself, but the fact that God has a purpose, His own self-glorification in the redemption of a particular people in Christ Jesus, gives direction and consistency to the entirety of His work in time. And it likewise points to the fact that if it is God’s purpose to display the full spectrum of His attributes in creation, we have a firm basis upon which to understand why He has chosen to save some undeserving sinners but not all such sinners. Remember this highly unpopular Scriptural statement: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth'” (Rom. 9:17). God desires to show His power and have His name proclaimed in all the earth. In the case of Pharaoh, this involved Pharaoh’s destruction. In the case of the redeemed, it involves their redemption. In both cases, God’s power is displayed, but not in the same fashion. In one, His power in wrath, doing justice, fulfilling holiness, and punishing sinners, is seen. In the other, His power in grace, in mercy, in lovingkindness, is displayed. If universalism were true, God could not display an entire spectrum of His attributes to His own glory, for His wrath and justice would be diminished and obscured (which is, in fact, the case with Islam’s view as well, which allows God to dismiss justice without fulfilling its demands); with Arminianism, God’s glory in His freely saving sinners is obscured for He is pictured as the often trying but just as often failing “Savior” who fails to to save those He is trying, at times desperately, it seems, to save.
Now, in a somewhat related topic, Greg Stafford really seems to have been stirred up by his sorta-debate with Robert Morey on The Narrow Mind. He has gone on an anti-Calvinism crusade, and I must admit, it is somewhat instructive to see one of Jehovah’s Witnesses mustering some of the same objections that have been refuted for literally centuries but that keep coming up over and over again. But, there’s quite a twist when you throw in the willingness of followers of the Watchtower to engage in the most unique and, honestly, amazing, forms of argumentation and interpretation. Stafford has developed an amazingly complex concept of “the beginning,” first in an attempt to keep Jesus from being truly eternal, but now he is using it to attempt to make God’s decree time-bound and, in essence, changeable. The lengths to which he will go are remarkable. Here’s the most recent installment. (ht: SS)
The next thing I ran into, this time on Jimmy Akin’s blog, is so important it needs its own entry, to which I shall turn as soon as time allows today or tomorrow.