Monthly Archives: August 2013

Anselm’s HONORIAL theory of atonement actually DISHONORS God

Anselm’s perverse theory of “atonement” “satisfies God’s wounded honorby DISHONORING HIS TRUE HOLINESS AND TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESSBOTH RESPLENDENTLY REVEALED IN HIS REPAYING HIS BELOVED SON WITH RESURRECTION AND ROYAL GLORIFICATION!  IN ONE FELL SWOOP, OVERCOMPENSATING JESUS WITH THIS JUST AWARD FOR HIS UNJUST SUFFERING OF ABUSE AND ULTIMATE CRUCIFIXION BROUGHT RESTORED HONOR BOTH TO THE FATHER AND THE SON!  Whereas, to the contrary, Anselm’s medieval notions cast dark shadows on God’s bright answer.  For he further dishonors in the name of “honoring.”  This is totally unacceptable because TOTALLY UNSATISFYING either to God or to honest human consciences.  It is a fraud, albeit unquestionably pious.  [6/09/06]

The substitutionary theory manages, amazingly, to virtually shunt the unique function and divine meaning of the innocent blood of Jesus!  For it argues for an ostensibly “objective” assuaging or appeasing or “satisfying” of God’s wrath on the Cross, whereas the apostolic Proclamation insists always on the cleaning away of the sin–the recurrent cause of God’s indignation in each human heart.  Thus their much vaunted “objectivity” actually sabotages the “subjective” (and divinely appointed!) application of the objective blood of Christ which is the only means for turning away God’s indignation from human beings.  [6/09/06]

The “Reformers,” evidently feeling even themselves the inadequacy of a mere deflection of God’s wrath “at the Cross,” attempted to bolster their limping doctrine with yet another half truth (or, rather, misplaced truth), namely, that of “imputation of merits.”  Echoing the Roman Catholic doctrine of merits rather than further exploring the apostolic pattern of sound explanations, these partial reformers unleashed yet another theological novelty that had the baneful effect of stalling progress in wholesomeness among God’s flock (despite all their talk about “honoring God’s holiness”).  Scripture (Old and New Testaments alike) teaches nothing about such imputation, either of sin (à la “original sin”) or of Christ’s “merits.”  It is totally spurious and subversive of proper, diligent exertion against the remaining corruption of our flesh in the power of God’s Spirit.

In radical opposition to this whole substitute gospel is the stirring Truth of GOD’S GLORIOUS OVERTURNING OF THE GROSS MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE AT THE CROSS WHEN HE FINALLY BROUGHT JUSTICE ON THE THIRD DAY BY RAISING MESSIAH TO IMMORTAL LIFE–AN OVERCOMPENSATION WHICH INCLUDED A SUPERABUNDANT PROLIFERATION OF WHOLESOME SPIRIT TO ACTUALLY DO WHAT THE PARTIAL REFORMERS ASSERTED COULD ONLY BE “FORENSICALLY IMPUTED.”  By adding necessarily mystifying theological terms to the “inadequate” terms the Wholesome Spirit had made wholesome for inclusion in Wholesome Scripture, these partial reformers are exposed in their dishonoring of Scripture and their theological “wisdom” is destined to turn to dust.  [6/09/06]


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The medieval punitive theory of atonement, concocted long after the resurrectionary rationale for the Cross was obscured by Platonism (“immortality of the soul”) and an ecclesiastical hierarchy that forfeited the scandal of the Cross for comfortable livelihoods, even without pastoral duties (i.e., “sinecures”), lacked the active ingredient of God’s necessarily overcompensating righteousness answering to the wickedness of the Crucifixion. The psychological consequence of this obscuration was that the human conscience is not properly and completely cleansed of sin or wrongdoing, because THE PENAL SUBSTITUTION FOR THE AUTHENTIC RESURRECTIONARY ATONEMENT SIMPLY DOESN’T WASH! AND A HALF-WASHED CONSCIENCE DICTATES A HALF-HEARTED, DOUBLE-SOULED EXISTENCE. To imagine oneself clean from misdeeds because the Father vented His “righteous indignation” on His completely innocent Son to permit him to forgive us legally or rightfully catches in our craw. It gives no genuine, bona fide SATISFACTION OF CONSCIENCE, but instead leaves nagging suspicions about God’s goodwill and ethical confusion about how, exactly, we are to act toward our enemies, children, spouses, criminals, authorities, aliens, and even friends. The Vicarious-Satisfaction/Penal-Substitution (VS/PS) theory (along with “original sin” and its kindred notions of penally “forensic” justification) breeds only confusion, ethical uncertainly, when not actual violence, wherever it is taken seriously. It must not be taken seriously except as an error to be eradicated. [6/08/06]

The notions of VS/PS theory, we might venture to say, are the toxic fruits of deranged thinking, deranged theology; for once the resurrectionary truth of the New Testament Gospel is out of mind, such derangements necessarily sweep in to fill the vacuum and substitute for it, and the mind becomes darkened. Deranged ethics and lifestyle lag but a few steps behind. [6/08/06; 8/19/13]

Christians have acted much too reverential and respectful toward the VS/PS theory of atonement and its consequences. They should have boldly challenged it, ridiculed it, exposed its absurdities, reproached its preposterous assertions, lampooned its extra-biblical patterns of explanation, popped its pretensions, and excoriated its hauteur toward every other attempt to actually get matters straight. This theory has been denunciatory, uncharitable, insulting, prideful, and otherwise oppressive. Chattering away in its own made-up language, it managed to become grandly forgetful about absolute essentials of the messianic climax of the Crucifixion/Resurrection/Ascension/Coming of the Spirit/Destruction of Jerusalem. (In oblivion of this last element, it has even spawned Dispensationalism, an indispensable political ally, ironically, of counter-messianic Zionism.)

It is past high time to start peacably redressing these crimes against Scripture and against God’s people. [6/09/06]

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Geerhardus Vos completely misses the overcompensatory character of God’s righteousness also in his argument against Albrecht Ritchl’s (1822-89) valuable observation that there is an “us ” (Israel) / “them” (Gentiles) interplay in Galatians 3:13-14.  Vos objects,

“If this were correct, then the redemptive transaction would after all be but a procedure by which God freed the Jews from a curse resting upon them alone, and would not have the significance of a comprehensive atonement necessary to salvation as such.  But this restriction cannot be allowed.  On such a veiw the teleological connection between the removal of the curse and the coming of the blessing upon the Gentiles remains entirely unexplained” (p. 369).

Ritchl may have left that unexplained, but the apostolic scriptures certainly do not.  The recompensing of the Messiah for his loving self-sacrifice MAGNIFIES the value of his suffering of abuses, including this purely Mosaic curse, by showing the degree to which God overpaid him in response.

Vos’s arguments therefore fall flat.  He didn’t see how the old, at the Cross, was rendered a mere chrysalis for birthing a new and much greater.

He goes on to dogmatize without any proof whatever that Galatians 4:5 refers not to the curse of the Law in its ceremonial aspect” (p. 370).  By this sleight of hand, of course, Vos means to preserve at least the “moral law” of Moses intact from Paul’s indictment.  It won’t work.  There is therefore good reason for suspecting that Vos’s treatment is a de facto defense, after all, of Reformed “legalism” (deriving from the English Puritan tradition?).

Vos concludes his article with yet more dogmatic flights of categorial legerdemain by implying without argument or evidence that “justification,” “propitiation,” “forgiveness,” and “grace” are all “forensic terms.”  To be sure, “justice of God was concerned in the transaction,” but not for the reasons he imagines, and certainly not because “the ransom was a ransom paid to Godnor because “the deliverance secured a deliverance especially from the bondage of guilt,” yet another category tossed out to bolster a penal, i.e., one-sidedly forensic depiction of the totality of redemption.

Vos proceeds yet further to torture the “Trinity” into his mold and whitewash the internal contradictions of the “twofold relation of love and wrath” that he pulls out of his hat.  If what he asserts “need not stagger us,” it’s only because he has a cartload of props at the ready to keep up appearances!  Such gossamers strain credibility, but it is certain that such cobwebs will gather whenever and wherever the Gospel truth about God’s positive, saving righteousness is thus similarly muffled, obscured, or actually denounced.  COME WHOLESOME SPIRIT AND CLEANSE THE FACE OF THEOLOGY!

[The above are comments on Geerhardus Vos, “The Pauline Conception of Redemption,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, edited by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1980), pp. 366-71, emphases added.]

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Despite his vociferous advocacy of Paul’s legal categories, Vos so minimizes God’s rewarding righteousness that he sadly deteriorates into an enthusiast for merely the  “forensic idea”!  He shows virtually no passion for God as a compassionate advocate (Himself!) of those who fear Him, rescuing them out of ardent love that brings a saving judgment by NECESSITY!  He never seems to catch THE OBLIGATORY QUALITY OF GOD’S REDEMPTION OF HIS FAITHFUL ONES.  HAS THIS MAN NEVER READ THE PSALMS?!

Geerhardus Vos’s theology bristles with extra-biblical categories used not incidentally or illustratively, but defended at every opportunity, adding yet another layer of dogma for the simple believer to have to struggle through in order to “really understand” Paul’s doctrine of justification, or whatever the polemical cause.  Expressions such as “covenant of works,” “revealed moral excellence of God,” “forensic transaction,” interpose themselves between the reader and the native power of biblical vocabulary to become lucid under the sole illumination of the Wholesome Spirit.

For instance, what can Vos mean by Reformed theology’s taking its stand “theocentrically in the supremacy of the glory of God“?  It is a cover for emphasizing their allegation of “sovereign” deeds of God construed in a wooden manner contrary to the whole counsel of God.  It is a smoke screen to cover tendentious exegesis presumable superior to the “raw material” of Scripture.  Vos is a willing lackey of Reformed sectarianism.  [6/04/06]

Geerhardus Vos in his expression “purely forensic justification such as Paul teaches,” actually means to denote his penally one-sided notion of God’s righteousness.  And insofar as he labors to pit this mono-minded half-truth against the liberal overreaction into an emphasis on God’s love, he only further aggravates that overreaction without ever attaining a true grasp of the relation of God’s love to His righteousness.  By not honoring (but in fact explicitly derogating from) God’s over-compensatory awarding of immortal life (plus a whole new creation!) to His Son, Vos inadvertently (one can hope!) became completely oblivious to the most obvious manifestation of God’s love IN ITS “LEGAL,” “FORENSIC” FORM AS:  GRATUITOUS JUSTIFICATION OF ALL, BOTH JEW AND ASSORTED ETHNICS, WHO MERELY BELIEVE JESUS AS MESSIAH AND MASTER.  FOR THE SAKE OF HIS FAITHFULNESS, OUR FAITH IS ACCOUNTED AS BEING RIGHTEOUSNESS BY THE CREATOR GOD WHO ALONE CAN CALL FORTH BEING OUT OF NON-BEING.

Thus by casting a blind eye toward God’s rewarding of the Messiah in accordance with divine righteousness, or certainly by his unworthy minimizing or its importance in comparison to God’s punitive urges and their speculative necessity,” Vos de facto loses the argument and never regains the advantage, though he undoubtedly deceived himself to the contrary.  [6/04/06]

That Vos, in his article on “The Pauline Conception of Redemption” is still trying to correlate in some one-to-one correspondence the curse that Messiah became on the Cross (Gal. 3:10-14) with “our curse” (p. 368), shows that he still doesn’t get what is happening in the “Crucirection” events.  This is confirmed by his dogmatic asseveration, “the actual ground [why Christ became a curse] was Christ’s vicarious exposure to the condemnation of the Law” (p. 368, my emphases).  On the contrary, Israel by their own hands lynched him on a tree to curse him with/by their own Law…wrongly! AND GOD HIMSELF, BY HIS OWN HAND, REVERSED THE CURSE, WITH A ‘VENGEANCE‘, AND AWARDED HIS CURSED SON WITH THE BLESSINGS OF ABRAHAM IN REPARATION!  ALL SUCH DECREES AGAINST US WERE SUMMARILY NAILED TO THE CROSS AND MADE AN EXAMPLE OF!  THE VICIOUSLY CRUCIFIED MASTER HAS TRIUMPHED AND HIS NEW LAW NOW SUPERSEDES.

The crucifixion of Israel’s Messiah by Israel’s own hand was a standing indictment of the old Mosaic covenant in the wilderness.  Once the healing power of God was poured out at Pentecost, the underlying wound of sin was healed and the protective scab of the old Law fell off, “getting old” and “being decrepit” as it was (Heb. 8:13).  [6/05/06]

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Much as I disdain to single out particular captives to the Vicarious Satisfaction/Penal Substitution/Forensic Justification chain of thought for special mention, it is necessary to illustrate what esteemed minds have done to degrade God’s Proclamation and what motives are operative that could lead them to such error.

Geerhardus Vos well typifies how a most eminent American Calvinist of unimpeachable credentials and sterling teaching gifts and distinguished career, surrounded by a galaxy of orthodox stars  during a high point of Princeton’s theological vigor could nevertheless articulate an especially obtuse  string of words that darken God’s counsel in the New Covenant regarding indisputably the most central and most essential matters of the apostolic proclamation.

This error is so paradigmatic in orthodox Protestantism that it bears the most careful scrutiny lest we ourselves mistakenly find it conformable to our tastes, whereas it shows profound lack of sympathy with, and comprehension of, the sine qua non of Christianity!  What follows is a textual extract from one of Prof. Vos’s journal articles, followed by the most relevant part of the footnote that elaborates.

Ritschl has in vain tried to prove that Paul conceives of the curse of the law as detached or detachable from God.  And if it is God’s curse, then the mere fact of Paul’s insistence on it stamps the whole scheme of man’s treatment by God on the forensic basis with the apostle’s approval.  For it should not be overlooked, that the right of God to curse in case of transgression of the law is, from Paul’s point of view, after all but the reverse side of His prerogative to bless and reward with the gift of eternal life where the law is obeyed.  [emphasis added]6

6 The above statement is not intended to deny that a distinction may be drawn between the two directions in which the forensic principle works, as to the necessity with which the principle is set in operation by God.  Dogmatically it is a much disputed question whether the function of rewarding the good is as essential to the righteousness of God as the opposite function of punishing the evil.  Paul coordinates the two without intimating a distinction (Rom. 2:9, 10).  Nevertheless it is possible to assume that he believed the latter necessary, the former a matter of choiceRomans 4:4 does not disprove this, for here the obligatory character of the reward belongs to it in contrast with the gift of grace when no work precedes.  A ‘reward of debt’ in contrast with ‘grace‘ may yet be ‘a reward of favor,’ if the position of the creature before God be considered.  Perhaps Paul found fault with the Jewish principle among other reasons for this, that he conceived of the reward as absolutely and in every relation ‘a reward of debt [sic].’” [emphases added]

            These words, if at places obscure (especially the ending), make clear enough that Vos does not view the love of God in quite the “constraining” way (II Cor. 5:14-15) that Paul does, nor the vindicating impulse of God’s justice/righteousness with a conviction equal to His “vindictive” impulse.  Such a construction on the part of an honored teacher of the church can properly strike us as astonishing if not dumbfounding!  For this tendency must, with remorseless necessity and obligatory force desensitize us to the transcendent love at work behind God’s righteousness.  Psalm 136 should have cautioned Vos before penning such dubious words.  He both impugns God’s high motives and numbs human sensibilities to them.  I cannot judge Vos’s heart, but I can and must condemn his words unsparingly, lest others land in his tanglefoot.

Notice how Vos grasps at the slightest excuse—in this instance from some straw man of Albrecht Ritschl’s, a conveniently whipping boy—to lather up a wholesale exoneration of “forensicone-sidedness, and throws in an ostensive apostolic approval for good measure.

Notice, further, how God’s “prerogative to bless and reward” finishes a poor second to His “essential necessity to punish evil.  The cards are stacked; the die are weighted.  The game is fixed!  This travesty of the truth as it actually is in Jesus must be exposed and convicted for the lie it actually is.  With theology like this, who needs heretics?!

For many long generations the enthusiastic message of salvation has been dulled and crimped by just such “orthodox” pretensions.  May God, in His love and mercy, feel constrained by the “necessity” of clearing His own good name to re-reveal the awe-inspiring simplicity of apostolic Proclamation undiminished by such ratiocinations.

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“…faithful and just to forgive us our sins…”—1 John 1:9

What’s going on here? These are covenant-keeping virtues. It is our duty as covenant partners of God to admit our sins as the Wholesome Spirit exposes them to us when we keep Messiah’s directions. It is God’s duty as Divine covenant partner with us to pardon or release our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness so that He can account us righteous covenant partners. We can’t rightly or truthfully deny that we have wrongdoings, but we can make steady progress against them. In the meantime, there is no condemnation for us as we stay in Messiah, i.e., walk in his Spirit, for thereby we are continuously being protected or sheltered by the faithfulness in his blood, which ever cries out, “Forgive them” (Rom. 3:21-26), which even the blood of just Abel could not do (Heb. 11:4, 12:24). [6/03/06]


Any manifestation of the love of God to the human race in the climactic events of redemptive history will seem only as genuine as His expression of love to His Son Jesus. But according to the vicarious satisfaction/penal substitution theory, God’s wrath against sin was expressed against Jesus, consequently it is constrained to somehow fold this ingredient into the recipe for “love.” For this reason, satisfaction/substitution theory of the Cross rings hollow or, rather, with a clink. Preachers pulpitize it and pew-sitters nod politely, but passions burn ever so low. It simply doesn’t spark! However, by a funny irony, if we are willing to turn it into scrap, we just might get a fire going with it yet!

The authentic apostolic teaching concerning the climactic events of Golgotha and the Garden Tomb reveal a Father who loves His Son so much that He swoops down in vindicating righteousness on Sunday morning to rectify and make amends for the vindictive unrighteousness that prevailed exclusively on the previous bad Friday. In other words, GOD’S AVENGING HIS SON’S MALTREATMENT BY RESURRECTION WAS THE FATHER’S SUPREME PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION OF LOVE, IN TROTHFUL, COVENANTAL RESPONSE TO THE SON’S SUPREME DEMONSTRATION OF LOVE IN SUBMITTING TO CRUCIFIXION.



Without the unique need that the violent death of Jesus, the Just One, posed, the Wholesome Spirit of life which raised him from the dead, immortal, via God’s just judgment overcompensating him with graciousness for his enduring the crime, could never have been PROLIFERATED IN SUPERABUNDANCE TO SUFFICE FOR PENTECOST AND SUBSEQUENT HISTORY.  For the gratuity of the Spirit was part of the prize won by Messiah, the champion, on behalf of his brethren who trust him.  Jesus distributes the winnings.  [6/04/06]

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The best laid plans for Israel’s “National Security”

Jesus was sacrificed by sinners on the altar of national security and self-preservation.  There is in this undeniable circumstance an unmistakable irony, for on the cross Jesus deliberately, voluntarily, and publically RENOUNCED in no uncertain terms SELF-PRESERVATION ITSELF, wherever and whenever it clashed with the explicit desire or directions of the Creator.

His brazen execution by Israel’s national leaders and would-be “preservers” was rendered a supreme example of ethnic hubris and hypocrisy when, in only a couple of days, the precipitous decision of the rump court was mocked from High Heaven by an open reversing not only of the verdict, not only of the sentence, but EVEN OF THE ALREADY EXECUTED CAPITAL PUNISHMENT in an unheard of ACQUITTAL BY RESURRECTION!

What’s more, the mercy and graciousness thereby extended to his very enemies, tormentors, revilers, and murderers actually preserved the vicious nation–which then and there deserved to get wiped out without a trace!–for a reprieve of another forty years.  Whereupon, all those who still refused to repent and submit to the Prince of Peace and obey his directives for flourishing life were beseiged within Jerusalem-after-the-flesh to prey upon one another in a grisly exhibit of internecine cannibalism and atrocity beyond polite description.  And ancient national Israel was no more!  Caput.

So much for “national security.”  [6/03/06]


The “vicarious satisfaction/penal substitution” composite picture of the Atonement is single-minded about the necessity of an eemphasis on penal justice.  This mono-minded outlook is completely blind to anything beyond vindictive judgment in the climactic events of the Gospels.

In startling contrast, the New Testament witness knows nothing other than reparative, restorative, remedial justice in those same climactic events.  Once both our eyes are opened to God’s vindicative judgment, we will never rest satisfied with “vindictive satisfaction.”

And right here we see that the very locus of justice, as such, has and must be switched from the Cross to the Tomb.  The sole purpose of the climax of redemption is to highlight the Father’s wholesale vindication of the Son for the sake of our SALVATION.  In those stirring events, the Father more than compensates the Son for his staggering (but temporary) losses to Satan.  To be sure, Jesus paid the ransom of his own soul to Satan…only to be OVERPAID by his soul’s salvation plus compensatory amends…which included, most significantly, US!  To make satisfaction for Messiah’s treatment at the hands of Satan and sinners, God awarded him a people to be his brethren and co-heirs–gave him the right to have royal seed, adopted sons.

In the meantime, God’s vindictive judgment waited in abeyance until a full generation later than this vindicative judgment, and it fell precisely on those who were most privileged to know all about it yet rebuffed it.  [6/03/06]  We must remind ourselves, in the face of dominant but faulty tradition, that Jesus’ declaration from the cross, “Father forgive them for they are not aware what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), was addressed to the Romans who crucified him and cast lots for his garments, not to the people of Jerusalem, to whom he had just prophesied the wrath to come within one generation (Luke 23:27-31), for they should have known that a greater than Moses, a greater than Solomon was among them.  That was no wholesale pardon.  [8/04/13]


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