Monthly Archives: March 2012

from humiliation TO EXALTATION

In order to lay down something of a power-line to energize this blog site going forward, I’d like to expose the fundamental “alternating current” dynamic cycling through the circuitry of the New Testament message and making it hum.

The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God encompasses the two stages of Christ’s own personal experience of humiliation/ EXALTATION:  1) abuse-suffering and 2) GLORY.  Christ himself “was surrendered because of our offenses and WAS RAISED because of our justifying” (Rom. 4:25) so that we might be regarding ourselves to be “dead, indeed, to sin, yet LIVING to God in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom 6:11).  A host of key Scriptures reveal the integral connection between these two stages of experience in the Kingdom of God–the present administration (oikonomia) and the future INHERITANCE (kleronomia)–through both of which Christ, the Inaugurator and Perfector of faith, has passed, in order to confirm its validity for us.  Following is a substantial sampling of the data (with the exception of the Gospels and Revelation):

1)  SUFFERING ABUSE:  Acts  2:38        3:15,21  4:10a,11a   4:27b-28

2)  GLORIFICATION:      Acts  2:32-36  3:18-19  4:10b,11b  4:26-27a

1)  5:30b,31b  7:52,60  10:39,43   13:28,38      17:3a,30-31a   20:21a  26:18e,22

2)  5:30a,31a  7:55-56  10:40-41  13:30,33-37  17:3b,31b       20:21b  26:18f,23

1)  28:23b,31   Romans  5:1,9a,10a   6:4a,5a,8a,18a,19a,20-21,23a

2)  28:23a,30  Romans  5:2,9b,10b  6:4b,5b,8b,        19b,22,23b

1)  8:17b,18a,34a      1 Corinthians  15:3,17       Ephesians  1:7  2:1

2)  8:17a,c,18b,34b  1 Corinthians  15:4,20-8  Ephesians  1:141:17-23

1)  Philippians  3:18-19   Colossians             1:13a,14,20-22a,24

2)  Philippians  3:20-21  Colossians  1:5-12,13b,15-19,22b-23,27

1)  2:11-12a,13a,14,20      3:2b-3a,5-9          2 Thessalonians  1:5b

2)  2:9-10,12b,13b,15    3:1-2a,3b-4,10-17  2 Thessalonians  1:5a  

1)  2 Timothy  1:10b,       12a  2:8b-10a,11a,12a   4:5-7,14-16,17b-18a  

2)  2 Timothy  1:10c-11,12b  2:8a,10b,11b,12b       4:8,            17a,18b          

1)  Titus  2:12a,      14a   3:7a  Hebrews  1:3b                   2:2-3a,9a,b,d,10b-18  

2)  Titus  2:12b-13,14b  3:7b  Hebrews  1:2-3a,c,13-14  2:3b-8,9c,      10a

1)  3:7-13    4:15  5:1-8  7:26-27  9:28a  10:12a,32-34a,35-36a  11:24-26a  12:1-2a

2)  3:1-6,14  4:16  5:9-10  8:1-2  9:28b  10:12b-13,34b,36b-37  11:26b        12:2b

1)  13:12-13  1 Peter  3:17-18a,c-21a   4:12-13a,14a  5:1a,6,10b  2 Peter  3:14b

2)  13:14       1 Peter  3:18b,d,21b-22   4:13b,14b      5:1b,7,10a  2 Peter  3:13-14a

1)  1 John  3:3b-5  Jude  20-21a,22-24a

2)  1 John  3:2-3a  Jude         21b,24b-25

[10/7/76]

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Proclamation of the Premial Gospel in Panoramic Context

Every now and then I get the urge to epitomize the whole scope of the creation-fall-redemption pattern that characterizes the Bible.  Maybe I’m strange that way.  Anyhow, what follows is one such attempt, written exactly six years ago, at the outset of  the proliferation of notes on the atonement that now provide the inspiration for this blogsite.  I simply may have needed to clear away some cobwebs of tradition and then reconnect the dots after my own fashion in order to prepare for a fresh initiative.  If so, it succeeded in achieving that aim beyond my wildest expectations.  (I have newly edited it for this blog—a practice I’ll continue for future blogs since there’s nothing on earth that can’t be improved!)

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The Creator of the universe imposed laws for life, fruitfulness, and prosperity on the works of His hands.  His highest and noblest creature, mankind, was placed in a governing and administering role over all these diverse creations in order to bring them to even greater glory.  To fulfill this mandate, mankind was made in the very image and likeness of the Creator Himself—possessing sovereignty and authority, including the capacity for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of these created products that would be requisite for their task.

However, equipped accordingly with the pristine authority over their personal desires—such sovereignty and authority over the whole creation necessarily included that—Adam chose to disobey the divine directives that embody the Creator’s wisdom, which is environmentally friendly to life.  The structural result of that disobedience necessarily followed:  death of the organism.  For the right to the Tree of Life stems purely from obedience to the truth, which in turn brings wholesomeness and staves off the entropy of decay.

Furthermore, God also created another kind of beings, spirits who had their own special tasks to perform in the total economy of the universe.  The highest of these beings, whose administrative role in relation to human salvation also entailed a great measure of sovereignty and authority, had ominously rebelled against God, bringing vast ranks of these spirits down with him, who, in turn, became agents of temptation to mankind in their hostile takeover of earth’s rule.

Nonetheless, God’s ultimate blueprint details a created realm of pervasive righteousness and abounding wisdom where agelong life can prevail and thrive.  In order to reach that goal He needs a race of administrators who similarly love uprightness and wisdom and therefore willfully stay in the truth, come what may.  In order to sift the bad from the good, He would need to test them.  But since only evils can test the resoluteness of faithfulness, and since God himself could only inspire them with a right and true spirit, another being was needed for that unenviable task—an Adversary whose wisdom had been compromised so as to  exemplify precisely what God did not want to remain permanently within His universe, and so that God could conveniently educate mankind in what not to do, handily showing them the consequences of heading that direction.  Yes, this Adversary was “perfect” for the job.

However, since God himself is completely just and wise, He would, at length, dispose of both this Adversary and all other beings (whether angelic or human) who persisted in rebellion against His law of love and its developmental wisdom for created life.  Whoever remained would by then have learned faith and obedience in the very face of temptations to commit lawlessness, persist in foolishness, and proliferate viciousness.  They would be, in a word, mature in love, ready to inherit allotments prepared specially for them in God’s realm of uprightness, harmony, and joy.

However, in order to save all the faithful from the fate of agelong destruction and death that still remorselessly gripped their education process, due to inheriting mortal flesh from Adam in the wake of his ban from the Tree of Life, God gave the Devil enough rope to hang himself.  The Father allowed Satan to ply his viciousness against His own perfectly sinless and ever-obedient Son, whose death would accordingly be unjust in the highest degree.  It is this injustice that was irresistible to the Adversary, whose impulses toward lawlessness by now knew no bounds.  He was, ironically, ensnared by his own habit-formed vicious character into doing “what comes natural” to the One Person whose slaying would evoke the Creator’s virtually immediate counteraction…yet not by destroying the Destroyer but by reversing the crime and supercompensating the Victim with overwhelming, superabundant legal damages.  Thus the resurrection from the dead of God’s own Son, crucified  publicly, excruciatingly, and totally unjustly, evoked God’s ultimate demonstration of His righteousness-and-justice, including exaltation to the throne of the created universe.

Thus was the Adversary’s doom sealed and superabundant graciousness let loose within the created order when the promised Holy Spirit fell from heaven at Pentecost–the legacy of all who endure in trusting God and hence incline to keeping all His directives, whatever the cost.  God’s own Spirit of wholesomeness is His surety for our ultimate inheritance of allotments in the new earth.  So, with this taste of what is to come if we remain faithful to God’s Explanation, we can endure shame, reproach, humiliation, hardship, abuse, hate, oppression, persecution, and even painful death with our trust intact, awaiting an inheritance sealed and all but delivered.

Thus Satan’s injustice at the cross justified God in avenging Jesus by raising him from the dead, i.e., by overcompensating that seemingly irreparable injury and awarding damages incalculable!  This is the ultimate payoff of God’s premial justice to our most worthy Savior.  His just due included having sisters and brothers—daughters and sons of his Father!  Thus, “In him we were allotted” (Ephesians 1:11a).  [3/25/06]

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The Rationale for a Premial Redemption

For my second blog post, I share the stage with John Balguy (1686-1748), who appears to have coined the word “premial,” although it never caught on.  He derived it from the Latin verb premiare, “to stipulate for a reward.”  I have Timothy Gorringe to thank for citing Balguy in his superbly engrossing, though dauntingly documented, God’s Just Vengeance:  Crime, Violence, and the Rhetoric of Salvation (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 170-72.  It makes a vital contribution to our understanding of the societal effects of the penal substitution doctrine of atonement.  (See my link to Gorringe in the long list at the right.)

Briefly, Balguy was born in Sheffield and educated at Cambridge.  He regretted wasting nearly two years reading romances before coming across Livy’s history, which prompted his pleasure in serious studies.  After graduation he taught a while before entering the Anglican ministry in 1711.  He was a talented writer (no thanks to romances?), which he directed at first to sermons and soon to controversial defenses of religious freedom amid ecclesiastical disputes.  He wrote a number of esteemed defenses of contemporaries, then more philosophical works about moral virtue and the role of Christian Scripture.  In 1730 he published his substantial Divine Rectitude; or, a brief Inquiry concerning the moral Perfections of the Deity, particularly in respect of Creation and Providence, in which he argued the superiority of “rectitude” to “benevolence” in explaining God’s governance of the universe.  Then he indulged in polemical writing against deists, as was common during that era.  Finally, in 1741 he published An Essay on Redemption:  Being the Second Part of Divine Rectitude, of barely a hundred pages (and after that a single volume of sermons, among which “Of Revenge” has insights bearing on atonement).  A second edition appeared posthumously in 1785 with a valuable preface by his son, Thomas, that tackled certain objections arising during the intervening four decades.

Balguy’s philosophical treatise on rectitude well prepared him for introducing his elegantly balanced articulation of double-faceted justice–premial as well as penal.  His view of atonement, or “redemption,” proved appealing enough to recur in somewhat altered form in the able work of Dr. John Taylor of Norwich, later in the century.  But enough of history; now down to riveting theology!

In the following excerpt, I’ll quote the context of Balguy’s only two uses of “premial” (which I put in boldface).  This exercise, of course, is intended to highlight the value of reviving the term for contemporary discourse.  I’ll venture some adjustments toward current American capitalization, spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, verse citation, etc.  With apologies for its length, I commend this remarkable passage for its advance toward clarifying the nature of God’s restorative justice or premial “rectitude” on behalf of our redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ.  As should be clear, although a bare start, this approach has resounding implications for our re-understanding of both atonement and justification.

“I shall…return to the pursuit and discussion of the main point….  I mean the manner and method of our being redeemed from the guilt, or to speak more properly, the penalties of sin….  As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous [Rom. 5:19].  Made sinners, and made righteous, in more senses than one:  but in whatever sense the words be understood, the correspondence holds, and the contrast is visible.

“The former of these dispensations has been already explained and vindicated, and the latter remains to be now set in a clear light, which perhaps is all that is needful to be done in its defense and justification.  Vicarious punishment appears an utter impossibility.  And if vicarious suffering does not imply or amount to the same thing, it is to me altogether unintelligible.  That by a supposed commutation of persons Christ should become our substitute for proxy and, as such, endured evils inflicted on account of our sins, seems to me at least running into needless obscurity and wrapping up a plain doctrine in clouds and darkness.  If Adam was our substitute, our representative in sinning, then might it be allowed that Christ was the same in suffering.  Or if we could be punished for Adam’s transgression, then Christ might be supposed, by the same rule, to be punished for ours.  But whoever disowns the former of these doctrines will unavoidably be obliged to give up the latter.

“The great question then remaining to be considered is how redemption was practicable according to the principles and concessions here laid down.  It has already been granted, and even maintained, that neither sin, nor demerit, nor punishment can possibly be transferred, because they are personal.  And are not righteousness and merit and reward equally personal, and therefore equally nontransferable?  I both own the premises and allow the conclusion and yet cannot find any just cause to be in pain about either.  I readily acknowledge that, strictly speaking, it is altogether impossible that men should be either made sinners or righteous by the act and deed of other persons, and no less repugnant to truth that they should be either punished or rewarded for good or evil actions in which they themselves had no hand.  The great purposes of redemption may, I hope, be fully answered without any recourse to such suppositions.  Let it but be allowed that the first Adam deserved the sentence and punishment inflicted on him, and that the last Adam, the Lamb that was slain [Rev. 5:12], merited a high reward and was truly worthy to receive honor, and power, and glory, and blessing, as we find them ascribed to him in Scripture, and I apprehend these data will be sufficient for the vindication of either doctrine.

“By submitting to take our nature upon him, even under the greatest discouragements and disadvantages, in the lowest form and the most unwelcome condition; by humbling himself still lower and patiently enduring the greatest hardships, indignities, and distresses; by indefatigably seeking and promoting from first to last the glory of God and the benefit of mankind; but more especially by becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Phil. 2:8], our Redeemer was unquestionably most meritorious, in the sense above explained.  To perfect innocence he joined the most extensive benevolence and the most exalted virtue, and thereby became entitled to the highest honor and most distinguished reward.  So far, here is a perfect agreement with truth and rectitude, without all question and beyond all objection.  That the reward conferred on him no way interfered with right and truth but, on the contrary, was most proper and suitable in all respects, most worthy of the Giver and most acceptable to the Receiver, will be my business to show after we have inquired wherein it consisted.

“Besides the exaltation of Christ and the accessions of power and dignity expressly mentioned in Scriptures, there is clearly implied, and sometimes expressed in conjunction therewith, a reward of a different nature.  I mean that very remission of sins, or release of sinners, which is the subject of our present inquiry:  their deliverance from the bonds of sin and death, and the restoration of immortality.  This we are apt to miscall our reward, and to look upon it as such;  but I must beg leave to assert and maintain that, strictly speaking, it is not our reward but our Redeemer’swhom God hath exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins [Acts 5:31].  He merited by his obedience and suffering this glorious and sublime reward, and obtained it accordingly, and that with the utmost truth and propriety….

“That our redemption is really the effect of Christ’s sufferings or, in other words, that Christ’s sufferings are the real and meritorious cause of our redemption, I acknowledge and maintain.  And it must be allowed that this is the very substance of the doctrine and all that can be reputed essential to it….  The present question is whether the accomplishment of our redemption is to be considered as penal or premial, whether as resulting from a vicarious punishment, or a personal reward….

“….When it is said that on him was laid the iniquity of us all [Isaiah 53:6], what occasion is there to understand anything further than that he suffered as really for our iniquities as if they had been his own or, in other words, that to indemnify us he endured those evils which we only had deserved?  Where we read that he was made sin, or a curse, for us [2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13], nothing more seems intended than that he, though entirely sinless, underwent an accursed death for our sakes and suffered as deeply on our account as if he had been a sinner, even the greatest of sinners.

“But why does every thing relating to our Savior’s sufferings run so much in a sacrificial strain, and in so exact a conformity with the legal expiations?  May we not infer from thence that his sufferings were strictly penal, and that he was actually substituted in our stead?….I have already acknowledged that Christ offered a real and proper sacrifice.  I own and contend that he gave himself an offering to God [Eph. 5:2] in order to accomplish our redemption.  He was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world [1 John 2:2], that is, by his meritorious death and sufferings he procured for all penitents the remission of their sins and their reconciliation with God.  But I cannot see the necessity of supposing that in all respects, and in every circumstance, the Christian sacrifice must answer the Jewish, however it might be signified and prefigured thereby.  In one point they are and must be essentially different.  For how is it possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should afford a just representation of the meritorious and all-sufficient sacrifice of our Redeemer?  Hence we find the apostle distinguishing so strongly between them and expressing himself so fully in diminution of the one and exaltation of the other.

“Neither can I think it reasonable or safe to lay so great a stress on typical correspondences as is frequently done on this occasion.  A much greater stress ought, I think, to be laid not only on the reason of the thing, but on the original type and the doctrine which we have been considering, since, according to a foregoing observation, the two dispensations stand in direct opposition, and the one is represented in Scripture as the reverse of the other.  Thus, the first Adam disobeyed and transgressed, the second Adam was all innocence and obedience; the first highly demerited, the second highly merited; the first was punished, the second rewarded.  And as the effects of the former’s punishment fell upon his descendants, and occasioned the corruption of their nature as well as their mortality and misery, so the effects of the latter’s reward redounded to his subjects, producing the renovation and sanctification of their nature, immortality, and salvation.  I might have added that the former was fixed in a joyful, prosperous, and glorious situation, and yet incurred sin and guilt; the latter was placed in a scene of adversity, ignominy, and sorrow, and yet was perfectly blameless and even most meritorious.  And indeed there is scarcely any particular relating to our purpose wherein the same correspondence is not observable.  To say it holds quite through every circumstance is neither agreeable to plain fact nor to the apostle’s observation.  But it holds in so many, and the opposition is so general, as I believe affords us the best help and the clearest light for the explication of either doctrine.  And if this be true, here is an ample confirmation of the account before given.  For to suppose both the first and second Adam punished breaks in upon the rule in one of the main points and destroys the opposition.

“Before I quit this remark, I beg leave to add, in support of some foregoing observations, that as Adam’s transgression, demerit, and punishment, being all personal, could not be transmitted, so Christ’s obedience, merit, and reward, being alike personal, could not be communicated.  Nevertheless as we sustained great damage through the demerit of the former, so we might and did receive inestimable benefit through the merits of the latter.  However we might be affected by the punishment inflicted on Adam, it was really not our punishment but his; however we may be advantaged by the reward conferred upon Christ, it was truly his reward and not ours.  The benefits of redemption being supposed the same, whether it was accomplished in a premial or a penal way, it may seem perhaps, to some, a frivolous controversy that is raised about them; but if the one is repugnant to reason and rectitude, and the other perfectly consistent therewith, I presume nothing more need be said to show the importance of the inquiry.”  (Pp. 64-75.  Accessed through Early English Books Online [EEBO].)

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Welcome to the launch of “The Premial Atonement” blog!

I bid you a hearty welcome to a brand new blogsite, “The Premial Atonement,” this Sunday, March 11, 2012!  I’m delighted you paused a moment in your web search to visit a site with an unfamiliar word like “premial” in the title.  I especially hope you will feel well rewarded by your curiosity.  Coincidentally, “premial” (as in “premium”) comes from the Latin word for reward, even as “penal” is derived from the word for punish.  So why do we need another new word?  I’ll explain a moment.

This site will be devoted to exploring the many facets of the great Biblical teaching about salvation that the Lord Jesus Christ was sent by God to achieve for mankind.  The heart of that salvation has generally come to be known as the “Atonement.”  The dominant Protestant version of this doctrine is commonly called “penal substitution” or “penal satisfaction.”  It is based on a view of God’s justice that is predominately penal or punitive, maintaining that atonement for sin was accomplished by God punishing Christ as a substitute to pay or satisfy our debt of sin through expressing His wrath against it at the crucifixion.

By contrast, I will argue that atonement was achieved by God raising Christ from the dead.  The blood of “flawless” sacrificial victims prophetically signified “life from the dead,” i.e., the power of Christ’s resurrection–this amounted to a compensatory outpouring of God’s own life-making Holy Spirit–made freely available to cleanse from sins, accordingly providing protective cover concerning them.  Of course, this means that whatever happened at the cross was not justice at all but rank injustice, and that it demanded compensation from God’s rewarding, restorative, or premial justice.  It follows that God did not express his wrath or anger at the cross in the least.  That was exclusively an exhibit of Satan’s fury against the Son of God.  But by enduring in faithful obedience to his Father through both life and death, Jesus’ sinless blood demanded the spectacular show of God’s premial justice that simultaneously made him victorious over the Adversary as well as Messiah of Israel and Lord of all nations.

So how does that victory save anyone other than Jesus, you may ask?  Answer:  God’s rewarding justice was actually overcompensatory, or what I call “super-compensation.”  Another new word.  (Sorry.)  This was a common element of justice throughout the Old Testament.  Injustice demanded restitution by offenders to their victims.  For most offenses, this requirement brought restoration not only to the victim but, in another sense, also to the offender.  The degree of super-compensation depended on the type of crime and motive of the offender.

In the case of Jesus of Nazareth, the unjust sentence was death by crucifixion–public, brutal, and utterly decisive.  Since he just so happened to be the Son of God Himself, and perfectly sinless, this amounted to the official murder of one who should never have died at all–ever!  This was a crime of the first order and worthy of severe avenging.  Yet Christ did not invoke his princely prerogatives to immediately do so against the envious Jewish perpetrators, and he even requested God to forgive the Roman executioners outright, in view of their ignorance.  God honored His Son’s grievously impugned innocence by exerting Himself in an unprecedented act of justice:  raising Jesus from the dead and exalting him to His own right hand on the throne of the universe.  Obviously, then, it was needless to demand the death even of the murderers since the results had been totally reversed, and some!  Pardon and peace were graciously proclaimed instead.

That super-compensatory just award of rightful damages included Christ’s inheritance of the whole created universe.  Some reward!  This judicial judgment not only stopped Satan in his tracks, it entailed a down payment of that inheritance for any other human being who wished to become a daughter or son of God, namely, the unspeakable gift of His very own Holy Spirit of life that cleanses us from our sins and makes us children and heirs in His Kingdom.  God mercifully specified the condition to be an enduring faith in the simple proclamation of Jesus as Lord, who conquered by his cross and resurrection and deserves our loyal obedience to his directives.

Thus God did a magnificent end run around penal justice altogether, when it came to atonement.  What we are left with, accordingly, is not “penal substitution” at all, but what we might call “premial inclusion.”  This is depicted in the Christian practice of baptism–immersion into the (wrongful) death and (rightful) resurrection of Messiah Jesus, now Lord of all.  In other words, our own rightful death as sinful descendants of Adam thereby gets exchanged for the destiny of our Savior.  He was slain as a Ransom to the totally clueless Devil, suffering his abuse even to the savage death on a Roman cross.  But his absolutely innocent blood cried out to God for a true justice such as the world had never seen and could scarcely imagine.  Such a deal!

There is so much more to be said….  But that must be left for future blogs.  If this teaser leaves you hungry for more, by all means stick around.  You are most welcome, not only to read my posts but to respond with your own comments and, as time allows, engage in discussion.  Be alerted that I may indulge in various genres to relate these wonderful truths recorded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  Expect also some variety of theological discourse, whether so-called biblical, exegetical, historical, systematic, or philosophical.

However, whether in the guise of prose or poetry, parable or parody, proverb or puzzle, etc., and whether by my own writings or excerpts from others’, my single aim will be to announce and explain with clarity and candor the redemptive message about Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.

May God be pleased to accompany these musings and discussions with His Spirit of wholesomeness, graciousness, and peace.  In that spirit, I look forward to learning and communing together with you under the tutelage of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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