14 April 2006

What's more worth fighting for on Good Friday?

by Phil Johnson

A hunk a hunk o burnin' blogHere's a bit of hypocrisy that is stunning indeed: Scot McKnight publicly scolds Mark Dever for getting polemical about the atonement "during this Holy Week."

Let me get this straight: The occasion is too "holy" for any arguments about the actual meaning of the atonement?

But it's not too holy for Scot McKnight to pick an argument with Dever regarding the timing and the propriety of Dever's article in Christianity Today?

Yet McKnight's own post and the long comment-thread that ensues turn out, after all, to be little more than McKnight's latest salvo in what he calls the "atonement wars."

Several things really irritate me about this: One is the insinuation in McKnight's statement "I beg to differ, not because I think penal substitution needs to be denied, but because the atonement is too important during this Holy Week to turn into the 'atonement wars.'"


How does the atonement's importance become an argument against defending it from those who are trying to dismantle it? How can a truth be "too important" to contend for? It seems to me that the truth embodied in a proper understanding of the atonement is something every Christian should be willing to fight for.

And the fight may be most appropriate today—of all days.

The atonement is certainly more worthy of an argument than incessant criticisms about someone else's "tone"; or useless strife about words to no profit (2 Timothy 2:14); or any of the other typical stuff people these days love to spend endless hours bickering about. As a matter of fact, the one and only thing Christians are commissioned and commanded to fight for is vital truth (Jude 3; 2 Corinthians 10:5). And what could possibly be more vital than the meaning of the cross?

The implication that it's uncouth or lowbrow to argue about the centrality and the true meaning of the atonement during "Holy Week" is probably the most disturbing thing about McKnight's morning meditation.

The fact that he himself goes ahead and makes a long post giving his side of the argument is almost as amusing as it is disturbing.

And then McKnight proceeds to milk the controversy even further in several comments following the original post. Obviously, the propriety of arguing about the atonement on Good Friday wasn't really the issue after all.

But his style of pretending to be an umpire rather than a participant in the "atonement wars" is what sticks in my craw the most. He claims he doesn't think penal substitution "needs to be denied"—but he always seems to stop just short of really affirming it. And when someone else defends the doctrine, you can count on McKnight to express his "disappointment" at those of us who find the truth glorious. So he doesn't think the doctrine of penal substitution needs to be denied; he just doesn't want to miss any opportunity to downplay its importance or post pedantic criticisms of those who defend it.

That, in my view, is a far more egregious molestation of the spirit of "Holy Week" than Mark Dever's clear and candid defense of the truth of Isaiah 53:4-10.

PS: Here's something you won't hear me say very often: kudos to Christianity Today for publishing Dever's article.

Phil's signature


Phil Johnson said...

Incidentally, in case someone wonders, the above link to Jollyblogger indicates my hearty agreement with the article at that link. His title and my link both may seem a little ambiguous, but the post linked above is well worth reading.

Mike Y said...

Phil, I guess I'm a bit out of touch with this and with the term penal substitution. Is this remotely close to imputation of our sin to Christ and the imputation of his righteousness to us? Is this exchange what's at issue? If so, it would seem sufficient to fight over. But perhaps I'm confusing things. I would appreciate some clarification from you or anyone.



Steve said...

Phil, you aren't the only one who was surprised that Christianity Today published Dever's article. When I first heard of that, I just about fell out of my chair.

But I take it this was very much an exception to the rule. Sort of like a faint glimmer of sunshine that hangs almost imperceptibly over the horizon before the sun sets completely and surrenders to the full darkness of night.

Phil Johnson said...

Mike: Penal substitution is the view that the cross represents a punishment for sin that Christ bore on our behalf.

Several critics in recent years have said that idea amounts to a kind of "cosmic child abuse." They cannot fathom any kind of "justice" that would punish an innocent victim (especially God's own Son) on behalf of the guilty.

They also claim the notion that God would demand a punishment for sin likewise makes Him seem harsh and unforgiving. The argument is that God could either "forgive" sins, or demand that they be paid for, but not both. If a payment is demanded as a prerequisite to remission, that's not really "forgiveness."

The problem is, that opinion flatly contradicts many Scriptures, beginning with Hebrews 9:22: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission."

These are not new opinions or new debates. Anselm and Peter Abelard debated very similar issues. The Socinians attacked the Reformers on similar grounds. Whenever theologians have attempted to remove the offense of the cross, they have pretty much all taken a similar turn down the same blind alley.

I don't think the meaning of the atonement is fully exhausted in the principle of penal substitution. (Dever says the same thing in the article referenced above. It's an absurd argument being made by some of McKnight's commenters that penal substitution is a kind of reductionism. Their view, stripping the cross of that which most displays God's justice, is what's reductionistic.)

Our point, however, is that the idea of penal substitution--a sacrifice rendered to God as a propitiation--is very much at the heart of all that the cross signifies, and if you deny it, you gut the gospel of some of its most meaningful ideas.

In fact, my judgment would be that those who are utterly repulsed by this aspect of the cross and who are denying it most vociferously these days with pejoratives like "cosmic child abuse" are in effect denying the gospel itself.

I have posted a few times on that subject, including some material by Spurgeon, who dealt with the same issue in his day. Do a Google search here and at my former blogsite for "penal substitution," and you'll find that material.

But Dever's article itself is one of the best intros to the subject I have seen.

Mike Y said...

Thanks for that Phil. I guess in my circles, no one blatantly questions or denies the substitutionary atonement. But what I have noticed is the movement to remove any mention or discussion of imputation. This includes the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, the imputation of our sins to Christ on the cross and the subsequent imputation of Christ's righteousness to all who believe in him.

It appears that this battle is going on, then, at both a macro and a micro level with the micro being to obfuscate or dismantle the mechanism by which penal substitution occurs.

I'll take a look more closely at Dever's article as well as do the Google search as you suggest.

In a nutshell, I would tend to take the stand that this is paramount to Christian faith; and that believing a gospel apart from this is tantamount to believing a gospel of an altogether different kind (heteros vs. allos in Gal 1:6-8).

Thanks for your help with this. Definitely worth fighting over!

Sven said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phil Johnson said...

Sven: Is arguing for a propitiatory view of the atonement on Good Friday as bad a testimony as using offensive colloquialisms in a context where people have been expressly asked not to use such language?

Why is arguing for a particular truth about the cross deemed "a poor testimony" when using coarse language to attack those who care for the truth is regarded as something that just makes you seem cool?

Because it seems to me that Scripture commands us to do the former (Jude 3), but forbids us to do the latter (Ephesians 5:4).

I'm deleting your comment in accord with rule 2. If you want to repost without any words that offend my more delicate readers, feel free to do so.

Screaming Pirate said...

Boy talk about looking to pick a fight.
Scot commented on his own artical this:
"The weakness Dever’s argument for atonement–and the one he really ducked in the article–is that it assumes God has a problem.
This sentence is where things went wrong in the piece:
“A third set of theories assumes that our main problem is God’s righteous wrath against us for our sinfulness, which puts us in danger of eternal punishment.”
So “God’s wrath” and not human sin is the problem. That’s the problem, as I understand it, that Waldenstrom had with the penal substitution of atonement. Human sin is the problem, which separates us from God."

The thing he fails to realize is he is seperated a cause and effect. Essentialy we are separated from God because of the Sin we have commited. It offends God. God demands that there be payment for sin, so this causes a separation. So the cause of Gods Wrath and our seperation from God, is Gods Holyness. Gods wrath is derived from his Holyness. Part of Gods wrath is separation from Him. So yes Gods wrath is a problem, our problem, because of sin. How can God have fellowship with one that His Wrath abides in? Eph 2 winds though what the believer once was, "children of wrath", to how God and men were reconcieled, the pentical is vs 16, to what the believer is, one who now has access to the father . Paul makes the conncetion why shouldn't we?

Sven said...

What offensive language did I use that was coarse? I wasn't aware that I did.

The 'poor testimony' I had in mind was that atonement debates - particularly in relation to penal substitution - often have a rather nasty tone to them and are deeply unattractive. In short, they can be a poor reflection on Christianity at the one time of year when the Christian community tends to be more in the spotlight.

Joe Sixpack may not be able to discern theological nuances in the various models of atonement that the church holds to, but he can spot a bitter and divisive argument a mile off, and I think that was Scot's initial concern.

I'm not sure Jude 3 has anything to do with penal substitution either?

Apologies if I did use inappropriate language - I don't remember what I wrote exactly, but I suspect it may have something to do with different understandings of what constitutes unacceptable language on different sides of the Atlantic.

FX Turk said...

What?! KUDOS to CT?!

Phil's gone soft -- I'm calling an emergency meeting of the global calvinist conspiracy tonight to start the damage control ...

Yeah, no. I read the CT article and I was stunned. It was so unecumenical, so clear-throated. It made my heart flutter.

chamblee54 said...

“The 'poor testimony' I had in mind was that atonement debates - particularly in relation to penal substitution - often have a rather nasty tone to them and are deeply unattractive. In short, they can be a poor reflection on Christianity at the one time of year when the Christian community tends to be more in the spotlight. “
Hear, hear, this is so true. These doctrinal disputes are a black eye for jesus.
Of course, jesus worshippers are notorious for using ideas about life after death as a justification for verbal abuse.

Also, there is an ad on this site today for a post, “The murder of jesus”. The word murder is in bright red letters, and there is an image of a nail being driven into the hand of jesus. Gross.
Moslems are deeply sensitive about the image of The Prophet. Jesus worshippers, on the other hand, prostitute the image of jesus routinely.
I hope you are having a good time. You are creating ill will for jesus with these “debates”.

donsands said...

Mark Dever is a fine teacher/pastor. I appreciate his giftedness to the church. He is unashaned of the gospel. We need to catch his spirit, and go forth with the same boldness.

I went to my church tonight and we worshipped the Lord, and thanked Him, for the exact thing Pastor Dever was contending for in his fine article.

The Scriptures were read, and we prayed, and we sang hymns to the glory of the Holy Lamb of God.
Some of the songs we sang:
How Deep the Father's Love for Us,
Man of Sorrows'
Alas and Did,
Rock of Ages,
We Sing Your Mercies,
and others as well.
I was so blessed and honored to be able to come before our Lord with adoration and praise.

It's sad that so many are numb to what our Lord did at Calvary.
He died for me, I'll live for Him. What a Savior we have.

Call to Die said...

Phil Johnson said:
"Penal substitution is the view that the cross represents a punishment for sin that Christ bore on our behalf."

The statement above- "that the cross represents a punishment for sin that Christ bore on our behalf"- is absolutely essential to the Gospel message.

As the Apostle wrote of Christ and His work on the Cross:
"Because all the fullness was pleased to dwell in Him, and to reconcile everything to Himself through Him by making peace through the blood of His cross -- whether things on earth or things in heaven. And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him--" (Colossians 1:19-22 HCSB)

The Gospel is the Good News of the reconciliation of sinners to a Holy God (cf. II Cor. 5:18-21). In preaching the Gospel, we must- by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Law (see Jn. 16:7-11; Gal. 3:24)- convince people that they are sinners and that they are in danger of the judgement of God (see also Acts 17:30-31). It is only when these truths are shied away from that a problem with "penal substitution" arrises. If one is groaning under the weight of their sin before a Holy God, realizing that they deserve utter destruction, then the message that Christ has made "peace through the blood of His cross"- that He willingly has borne our punishment on the cross- will be Good News indeed. In light of God's Holy Law and His wrath against sin, there can be no talk of "divine child abuse" or cries that God is not really providing forgiveness when taking our sins on Himself through His incarnate Son.

If someone attempts to preach the Gospel without preaching penal substitution- (not necessarily those two words, but the doctrine they represent)- what are they going to preach? Will they preach that we are, outside of Christ, "alienated and hostile" to God and in need of reconciliation to Him, as seen in the verses quoted above? If so, when preaching that this reconciliation comes only through the cross of Christ, what view of the atonement will be represented? Will the atonement, at this crucial point, be held forth as an example? If so, then how will the message given to sinners be a call to faith rather than a call to works? In other words, if the atonement is primarily an example (for example), then won't we be calling those outside of Christ simply to some additional effort rather than to trust wholly in the completed work of Jesus on our behalf? Other views of the atonement proclaimed without a view of penal substitution lead to similar errors in which God's holiness- and particularly His holy wrath against sin- is minimized and natural Man- who is biblically viewed as utterly sinful- is exalted. These other views of the atonement, divorced from penal substitution, lack the Gospel power of breaking down our sinful pride so that in humility we must call out to Christ as our only hope of salvation.

Anita and Bruce Hensley said...

this just stuns me that it is considered an issue...what do they do with Isaiah 53:10? "It pleased the Lord to crush Him... NASB or "Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him...ESV"

Jerry Wragg said...

Chamblee 54 -
I can appreciate your desire to eliminate "ill will in these debates", but at what cost? However poorly represented you think some Christians may be to a watching world, we are still left with the content of these debates. In fact, you would (hopefully) stake your eternity on the atoning work of Christ---a work that included His violent death on a cross ("gross"). Satan desires to destroy the truth that rendered him powerless! He loves it when we spend much energy trying to superficially unify our relationships at the expense of clear, biblical doctrines.
I humbly offer the following excerpt for your consideration:

[The New Cross]

“From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life; and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique—a new type of meeting and new type of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as of the old, but its content is not the same and the emphasis not as before.
“The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into the public view the same thing the world does, only a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
“The new cross does not slay the sinner; it re-directs him. It gears him to a cleaner and jollier way of living, and saves his self-respect...The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
“The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of DEATH. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took the cross and started down the road has already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life re-directed; he was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise; modified nothing; spared nothing. It slew all of the man completely, and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with the victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
“The race of Adam is under the death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear, or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him, and then raising him again to newness of life.
“That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world; it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life to a higher plane; we leave it at the cross....
“We, who preach the gospel, must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, or the world of sports, or modern entertainment. We are not diplomats, but prophets; and our message is not a compromise, but an ultimatum.”

The Biblical Evangelist, November 1, 1991, p. 11

Yours for the truth...

Phil Johnson said...

By the way, the author of the long quotation Jerry Wragg just posted was A. W. Tozer. It's from an article he wrote in 1946(!) titled, The Old Cross and the New.

The whole piece is well worth reading, and it proves (like many of the Spurgeon quotations you will read here at PyroManiacs) that there is nothing new under the sun.

It also proves that most people who identify with the evangelical movement these days don't know the main lessons of their own history.

donsands said...

I was going to ask who The Biblical Evangelist was. Thanks.

That last paragraph was superb.

BTW Phil, I sincerely appreciate how you, with unpretentious confidence in the Word of God, stand within and for His grace and truth. Eph. 6:14

Mike Y said...

Jerry/Phil, thanks for that last posting. I must say that the user friendly gospel is ultimately not that friendly. The idea that people can choose Christ, but not repent of their sinful ways is foreign to the gospel of scriptures. Is the depiction of the atoning work of Christ a heinous one? Absolutely. But that magnifies the glory of it. God poored out his wrath upon his only begotten son, though he never sinned. Instead, our sins were imputed to Christ; and he withstood such wrath in our place. And I'm not just speaking of the physical nature of the crucifiction. For a time, he was separated from his Father as he forsook him. Never in eternity had such an event happened. On top of that, he was still righteous God and had to bear all of our sins upon him-- another act much worse than the physical ordeal of the cross.

No sir, I'll take the gospel that still declares man as the enemy of God and worthy of such wrath and ultimate destruction. And I'm happy to explain the nature and degree of the substitution so that one might possibly understand his dire need.

Again, thanks for the posting.


Rick Potter said...


Reminds me of another Tozer quote:

[Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and had taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord. It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!”
Today, we let them say they are saved no matter how imperfect and incomplete the transaction, with the proviso that the deeper Christian life can be tacked on at some time in the future.
Can it be that we really think that we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience?
We have owed Him our obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if we do not give Him that obedience, I have reason to wonder if we are really converted!
I see things and I hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch them operate within the profession of Christianity I do raise the question of whether they have been truly converted.
Brethren, I believe it is the result of faulty teaching to begin with. They thought of the Lord as a hospital and Jesus as chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that had gotten into trouble!
“Fix me up, Lord,” they have insisted, “so that I can go my own way!”
That is bad teaching, brethren.

A. W. Tozer, I Call It Heresy! (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1974), 18–19

Thanks for the quote Jerry. I'll save it to my notes.


Screaming Pirate said...

That by Tozer is AMAZING. Thanks for it it did my soul well.

Steve said...

Thanks, Jerry, for sharing those words from Tozer. As donsands said, that last paragraph is superb.

donsands said...

"brethern, I believe it is the fault of bad teaching to begin with."

I am convicted. I pray that I would learn to be a better disciple, and better discipler with the Word, which is truth.

Gordon said...

Great article, Phil. I personally am very glad that Jesus bore my punishment.

DJP said...

Yes, surely "Holy Week" is a better time for arguing about arguing about the atonement, than for actually arguing about the atonement.

< /sarcasm >

Good point, well-made; thanks, Phil.

Matt said...

I agree with much of what is being said here. So Phil, I have a hypothetical for you. IF it was true that penal substitution was not under attack (of course, it really is) would you concede that there is at least an incomplete understanding of all that Christ's death and resurrection accomplished, outside of just forgiving our sin? If so, what should be the remedy for our churches?

ZF said...

I personally think the whole obessesive "tone watch" category can be laid on the pile with other seeker techniques that have found their way into evangelical churches. If getting the message (the Gospel) correct, especially the Cross and Incarnation, is such a poor testimony and therefore to impress observers the Gospel must be replaced by warm and friendly conversations....I can't see how the approach differs from 40 Days, Jabez, light-law, non-Gospel and other such techniques to attract "seekers".

donsands said...


I loved that. That's a picker-upper. Sarcasm can be good for the soul.

Anonymous said...

The section of Dever's article titled "Problems with Problems" is a perfect example of how the EC community is attempting to throw out the Epistles. In a blog entry from the past week, Challies writes about "boldness" and Brian McLaren's penchance for pitting the "red words versus the black words" in the NT.

In an (unplanned) illustration of Challies' point, Dever observes: "Further, McKnight uses Christ's words to interpret Atonement passages in Paul, Peter, and Hebrews—even though the Epistles provide the most sustained discussions of Christ's Atonement." This is a good example of how the EC folks have tried to deconstruct and minimize Paul and the other "black words" of the New Testament. Dever further illustrates this with his statement: "Stephen Finlan also seems to pit one portion of Scripture against another. He writes in Problems with Atonement, 'It is a mistake to identify Atonement as the central Christian doctrine, although it is central to the Pauline tradition, to First Peter, Hebrews, First John, and Revelation. But these books in their entirety compose only 39 percent of the New Testament.'"

The issue of penal substitution is yet another symptom of a larger problem of the disregard and "deconstruction" of Scripture in deference to "new and improved" interpretations of the Gospels, in (intentional or unintentional) disregard of the words of the Apostles.

Phil Johnson said...

Matt: "I have a hypothetical for you. IF it was true that penal substitution was not under attack (of course, it really is) would you concede that there is at least an incomplete understanding of all that Christ's death and resurrection accomplished, outside of just forgiving our sin?"

That's a loaded question.

1. The penal-substitution theory itself doesn't limit the effects of Christ's death to "just forgiving our sin." Bare forgiveness would leave us with nothing but a blank slate. I would insist that a proper understanding of the principle of imputation entails a positive reckoning of righteousness to the sinner's account.

Oddly enough, some of the same people who seem wobbly on penal substitution are also attacking the idea of positive imputation.

And if you came to me arguing that penal substitution and justification by faith are all about forgiveness only, apart from the imputation of a positive righteousness to the believing sinner, I'd say the idea you are proposing is a serious error bordering on heresy and you seriously need to rethink it.

But I doubt that's what you were asking.

2. No intelligent, rational, serious-minded student of theology would insist that we have a "complete"—i.e., perfect—understanding of any doctrine.

Postmodernism—No, strike that....

My sock-puppet caricature of a postmodernist (and let's face it: a real-life person or two who might deny being a postmodernist) claims this admission is fatal to all knowledge.

Pomo the sock puppet: "If we don't know anything perfectly, we cannot ultimately be certain about anything."

My reply is that while we may not know the truth of any doctrine exhaustively, we can nonetheless be confident that what we do know accurately is true. That's the beauty of propositions. They recognize that truth by definition includes facts, and even though no finite set of facts or propositions ever exhausts all truth about God, we can know lots of true facts about God, and we can even know God himself (albeit through a glass, darkly) because those facts, and God himself, have been revealed to us by God Himself in Scripture.

So (lo and behold!) I can actually affirm penal substitution without being guilty of reducing the gospel to only that one point.

Dever said that very thing in the article McKnight objected to. According to Mcknight, Dever could not possibly have meant what he said, or he would not be so fixated on penal substitution as to defend it on Good Friday.

FX Turk said...


You're riot. We're going out to riot against the use of the images of Jesus tomorrow -- you wanna come?

Oh wait -- by "deeply sensitive", you don't mean "start riots over", do you?

Somebody clown that clown ...

chamblee54 said...

Thank you for your support, Centurion.
People like you give jesus a bad name.

Phil Johnson said...

Give it a rest, Chamblee. Anyone who wants to can search this blog (and my previous blogsite) for all the comments you have left here. You often make comments that are deliberately insulting, taunting, or demeaning to Christians in general. Or you say outrageous things designed to provoke strong reactions, and then when anyone answers you sharply, you cite that person's "lack of love" as "evidence" against the truth of Christianity.

I don't believe I have ever answered you in kind. Very few people here ever have. Search and see.

But your game is getting tiresome. Seriously. Most of us get it that you hate Christianity. I'm very sorry about that. I wouldn't deliberately give you cause to salve your tortured conscience by using my treatment of you as an excuse. If you have ever felt I was deliberately unkind to you, I apologize.

But if you think Christians owe you the kind of "support" that automatically agrees with (or cowers at) your every disparagement of what we believe, you're mistaken. You've been reading my blog too long to think I would fall for that.

Momo said...

zack flummerfelt, I haven't read all the comments on this one yet, but yours was right-on. Have you commented before. here's my hearty Sunday morning . . .


for that great comment.


chamblee54 said...

Phil, I don’t feel that YOU have ever been unkind or “mean”. Of course, Pyro is now a group effort, and Centurion is one of your teammates.
If you can’t say anything good about someone…
I appreciate the work you do to provide an audience for whoever wants to comment.
Now, as for the ad that I commented on, I maintain that it was in bad taste. Often, Christians get so carried away with their Jesus Party that they fail to see how vulgar and unpleasant they are to outsiders. Quoting reams of scripture and other texts may be amusing for believers, but it does not make the noise any more pleasant for the rest of us.
And, yes, this does create ill will for Jesus.

Rebekah said...

Often, Christians get so carried away with their Jesus Party that they fail to see how vulgar and unpleasant they are to outsiders.

Christ is lovely only to those who have submitted their lives to Him, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, even His death--including the torments He endured--is beautiful to us. It's not about how it's perceived by outsiders. When they, too, are changed by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, what may now seem ugly or "vulgar" will become of immeasurable worth and beauty.

May God have mercy on your soul and open your eyes.

FX Turk said...

I am crushed by Chamblee's criticisms and I'll never be the same again.

Somebody hold me. [whimper]

FX Turk said...

As I sit here weeping over my use of Scripture to support my beliefs, I figure that Chamblee must have the answer to how Christians can be more relevant.

Hey Chamblee:

What, exactly, should Christians base their beliefs on if not the Scripture? The next bar of music in your kazoo symphony against "Christians" seems a little flat in light of your obvious admiration for Muslim "disdain".

Turns out that the Mulsim who is rioting in the street bases his "disdain" on ... what he believes to be Scripture! I know, I know: it's not the same text that the Christian has leather bound and packed with notes from Zondervan, but as far as he's concerned the Muslim is doing what Scripture tells him to do, and telling others (like you) that thus saith Scripture is part of his mad effort.

It's astonishing! Somehow you find the Christian use of Scripture -- which does not result in violence but t-shirts and jewelry -- offensive, and the Muslim use -- which results in threats and violence -- comforting.

Perhaps riots are the answer to clear the good name of Jesus! Or maybe just threats of riots would work. Because as I review the record, making fun of those who make underinformed criticisms of Christianity, and ridiculing their one-note indignation, apparently doesn't work as well.

chamblee54 said...

I stand behind my original comments in this thread.
Yes, doctrinal disputes are ugly. While they may be satisfying to some of the participants, they are gross to many observers.
One of the problems of doctrinal disputes is that they tend to devolve into personality clashes, as has been the case with centurion and myself here. This is one reason why the Easter weekend is not a good time for a “feel good” clash over how to interpret the bible.
Yes, the ad I criticized is in bad taste.
Yes, Moslems do have a different approach to religious images. This seems to offend Mr. Turk for some reason.
Yes, many Christians are careless in their use of images of Jesus.
And yes, this is ugly for Jesus. Of course, he has a lot of mud on his face these days, courtesy of his believers.
Also, posting at 6:02 am is not a very good idea. Maybe if you eat breakfast, and finish your coffee, you will make a bit more sense

Rebekah said...

Oh, Frank. *snap* ;o)

Anonymous said...

Time to invoke Rule 4.

SJ Camp said...


Good post here brother.

One thought for your consideration:
Could the source of Scot's angst be not a purely theological one? Do you think it has any thing to do with the fact that Mark mentioned Scot in his article in what Scot would deem an adversarial way (as one denies penal substitution); and that is spark what is causing him to write with an unwise and/or unsober pen against Mark and his article?

I just felt like Dr. Phil all of a sudden... :-).

2 Cor. 4:5

Anonymous said...

For those who didn't see it, Phil, Michael Spencer and Scot McKnight have had an (amiable) exchange about this at the iMonk blog: click here...

Matt Gumm said...

trying to wipe the image of Jon Bon Jovi singing "You Give Jesus a Bad Name" out of my head

Am I a product of the 80's or what?

SB said...

sorry I deleted the above comment due to my incredible lack of grammatical acumen or lazy proofreading or both.

What I meant to say:
I honestly think that what Campi said is right. I kinda felt that's what it was.(i have a feeling phil will disagree) Both articles(Dever's and McKnight) were fairly irenic and calm. Scot just seemed like he was doing a little academic(HT:DJP) venting.

I honestly don't believe Scot was trying to rebuke Mark Dever I think he was just annoyed cuz he got called out for deemphasizing the epistles in his book.

I would be curious to hear more conversations between Phil and Scot to bring some good cross examination to the points that Scot is making and allow him to clarify. The convo on the imonk and the Spurgeon post just whet my appetite.

I feel like alot of these controversies would be alot less salacious if the opponents actually talked to each other clearly till the actual positions were fairly delineated(i'm not trying to be dialectical here) I think when we hear an offhanded comment that we dont like there is a tendency to blog about it instead of asking the person is this what you really meant - please clarify etc.

Is Scot intending on devaluing penal substitution due to his higher criticism sympathies or if he is trying to expand evangelistic endeavors and bring a more fully orbed understanding of the gospel or what?

Sometimes I think we treat our christian brothers like Jw's or Mormon's because we are desiring to contend for the gospel. Instead of turning out like Paul to Peter we end up looking like Peter with Malchus.

donsands said...

I wonder if Malchus didn't later thank Peter for hacking his ear off? Not that I want to go hacking ears off people.
There might be a sermon in there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I loved the article so much, I quoted from it in my Easter Sunday morning message. How's that for a testimony? I had people there Sunday who probably haven't been inside a church for twenty years. I don't think they were offended.

graham old said...

I just can't see it. I've read and re-read McKnight's post and I can't see anything close to a public scolding or a milking of the controversy. Those kind of comments seem to question his integrity and motives in a way that strikes me as uncalled for.

But his style of pretending to be an umpire rather than a participant in the "atonement wars" is what sticks in my craw the most. He claims he doesn't think penal substitution "needs to be denied"—but he always seems to stop just short of really affirming it.

McKnight does affirm penal substitution. However, again, I'm notsure that he is "pretending to be an umpire".