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Untangling “Predestination” — Part 5

Those who have been following this blog site will already be aware of the fuller context concerning God’s premial justice and, in turn, the premial Atonement, into which this treatment of “predestination” is getting unceremoniously dropped. When I started this analysis back in 2008, I had not yet read the brief but trenchantly argued treatise from 1741, An Essay on Redemption: Being the Second Part of Divine Rectitude (104 pages), by John Balguy, who first coined the term “premial” (please see my “About” page at the top of this site, along with the first couple of blogs, where I quote at length the passage containing the only two instances of the new word). I first read the book in late January of 2011, so never used ‘premial’ in this exploration of predestination. Nevertheless, the contents were fully in accord with Balguy’s use of the word, so his label nicely covered the contents regardless.

Therefore, it will not be inappropriate to poise my results more precisely within the context of the premial Atonement perspective which I have already elaborated in this blog site. Readers will know that the apostolic take on the Atonement that I simply label “premial” is free of those several “penal” elements now so commonly assumed by conservative evangelical Protestants and gathered under the rubric “penal substitution” or “penal satisfaction.” This latter position was most fully developed within Calvinism, and is in fact its most characteristic doctrine, although other Protestant traditions share significant elements as well. However the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” have amplified them at greatest length. And among these, “the doctrine of predestination” was simply embedded within “Unconditional Election.”

I have tried to show on this blog site that Penal Substitution logic is stretched entirely on an economic framework of logic that is qualified penally. This is decidedly not the framework of the New Testament explanation of the Atonement, nor, for that matter, of Justification or Reconciliation either, which do, however, likewise draw upon legal language, and thus are jeopardized no less by penal pretensions and impositions.

The fact that every one of the Five Points bears the marks of abuse by stretching on this punitive ‘rack’ will raise the presumptive expectation that what Calvinists do with “predestination” will bear the same marks of torture. Sure enough. “Predestination” is said to be necessary because a “sovereign” God’s plan to pay/satisfy for the debt of sins incurred by a limited number of chosen/elect—for to pay for the sins of all mankind would be uneconomical, hence unfitting for a prudent Sovereign—can only seem plausible on the premise that sins/debts must be paid for by someone, in any case, without fail, in other words: by a Penal Substitute. Such “prudential” logic may be worthy of a for-profit, self-aggrandizing, client-deceiving insurance behemoth; it is unworthy of a God who is Our Rock, who indemnified the whole population without exception, for the sake of His own grand reputation and Brand Name!

We have shown throughout this site that this particular construal of economic metaphors and concepts is not to be found in the Bible. Sin (even as “debt”) is never said to be “paid [for]at all. Indeed, it is exclusively the saints or believers that are said to be bought and paid for. However, their faith itself is their own willful contribution to salvation, turning as it does on their natural (and not “fallen” as such!) human response to the necessary but not sufficient testimony of Holy Writ, which requires getting “blended together with faith in those who hear” (Hebrews 4:2) in order to achieve its intended beneficial outcome. To be sure, this evidence does powerfully evoke or induce faith, but does not “guarantee” faith. This process happily accords with God’s graciousness (Romans 4:16), which, in fact, enhances and fosters human sovereignty, authority, judgment/decision-making, and choice, even if it should happen to result in a rebuff of His gentle advances. God is all about “inviting” folks to the Party of the Kingdom.

Nevertheless, as we know, comparatively few are chosen—only those who exert their own self-authorized faculty of faith—which even as Calvin so validly declared, is simply the outstretched hand (not the laboring hand, mind you!), ready to receive the Gift God is handing out.  That Gift is most emphatically not faith; that Gift is the Holy Spirit itself, which could not consequently show up early (“preveniently”) in order to create the very faith by which itself is thereupon received. The logical incoherence of such a contention should be perfectly clear. My refutation does not exclude, however (as was the burden of my above paper), that a Book inspired by the Holy Spirit may precede faith and perform the honors, without any incoherence or contradiction. (That, in particular, was the burden of my preceding “Appendix.”)

The premial justice of God is directed upon the blameless Defendant to exonerate and then repay him due restitution for his painful labors of love on behalf of the whole blamed (!) world of sinful humanity. However, no quid pro quo equivalence of “pain for pay” characterized the transaction. It was purely gratuitous, which is not to say “wasted,” but simply rationally appropriate to the intended outcome, without overreach or shortfall. It hit its mark precisely: “Now if anyone is loving God, this one gets known by Him” (1 Corinthians 8:3).

This premial rationale relieves theology of any burden to “limit” the divine outlay of beneficence or graciousness to one that accords with alleged economic rationality, much less to economic penury! After all, what the Lord Jesus Christ procured was a prize, booty, spoils, winnings, judicial damages, just deserts, not an “equivalent payment” or “commercial exchange” of any sort, as I have been at great pains to establish in this blog site from the very beginning.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.                   —Annie J. Flint

This was in full satisfaction, if you will, of “the righteousness/justice of God,” as Paul was at even greater pains to establish in his epistle to the Roman believers, but which the Protestant Reformation, at yet more (and needless) pains accidently—let’s be charitable here—sabotaged in favor of a convoluted pretzel of a doctrine: Paul meant rewarding (premial) justice dispensed directly to Christ (who deserved it), thence graciously distributed for free to us (who did not deserve it) by our faith and baptism (i.e., by inclusion in Christ); Luther, et al, meant punitive (penal) justice distributed to us (who deserved it) indirectly through Christ (who did not deserve it) by his substitution. The difference between these alternatives for Christian behavior and mental stability is immense.

Perhaps we need to ponder more deeply the fact that a reward can be distributed at the good pleasure if its legitimate recipient, irrespective of particular “merits” possessed by any subsequent recipients chosen. A penalty/punishment, however, cannot be thus “freely” distributed; that would be immoral and illegal. Yet penal substitution doctrine is based squarely on this latter indefensible premise, and usually even glories in it!

The premial position, we can see, comports with a faith that is exocentric (focused on an outside object) and authentically voluntary, not an “act/work” at all, but simply proper reliance on credible evidence and testimony (so not coerced), and which ultimately comports with an election that is conditional on such faith and, by reflex, with a destiny that is potentially alienable. However, the divine ambience suffusing this perspective is as different from the effluvium of penal substitution as a loaf of bread is from a stone, or a fish is from a serpent, or an egg is from a scorpion, or a REWARD is from a PUNISHMENT.  That is, as opposite as might well be imagined.

The premial framework allows the weaving of a startlingly contrasting systematic pattern of salvation across the board. This, naturally, affects all the familiar “points” of Calvinism: all alike collapse in the absence of the mortar of penal economic necessity. The premial universe is one in which an inheritance in the Kingdom of God is free…but must be claimed with steady expectation as a right of believing children of God answering to God’s promises in His own Words, contracted by Covenant—the Bible.

The premial world is one in which sin is not passed along generationally (needing to be washed away in baptism, even from infants), nor so pervasive or perverse as to make faith impossible without the prosthetic of adventitious “regeneration” to trigger it.

The premial universe is one in which Atonement is universal and plenty powerful for its appointed objective of nurturing lovers of God, but without arm-twisting others. Élégance!

In a premial cosmos, graciousness, appealing and fetching as it may be, does not act so unseemly as to make its drawing influence irresistible as a magic spell. No spellbinding here, only the spell of unforced love. “Prevenient grace” is an encumbering artifice that ought to be perceived as an insult to the grace of Christ’s resurrection, the plain bold Report of which turned that ancient civilization upside down within decades!

A premial reality is one in which believers press on toward God’s impending Kingdom impelled by the covenantal promises and warnings of God’s living Explanation, producing rich fruits of Christ’s personality to encourage others in faith and, reflexively, secure one’s own confidence and delight in the faith once for all drop-shipped to the saints of planet earth.

In a premial creation, the dark oppressive clouds of graphically visualized punishment, wrath, and condemnation poured out on a perfectly innocent, though willing (as if he “needed” to be!) victim so as to satisfy the demanding justice of God (thereby impugning justice wholesale as exclusively penally retributive), is lifted and dispelled, permitting the cheering rays of divine benignity to burst forth and bless earth’s shores.

In a premial civilization, the repugnant spectacle of Christians playing in the dung heap of sordid pleasures, toying with the profane, venal options our culture places on the bottom shelf of easy accessibility with the click of a wayward mouse—all these pleasures of Egypt would lose their glamor under their deceptive marketing as “harmless diversions for the unconditionally elect” and be discerned for the mortal perils they are.

In a premial galaxy, the affecting sight of many a seasoned churchgoer manifesting pathological anxiety concerning their destiny as a child of God, presenting the watching world with an oddly ambiguous, if not highly unsettling testimony to the comforting certitudes of the Gospel as advertised, should be as rare as jellyfish fossils.

In short, the premial justice of God manifested supremely in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from among the mouldering dead to proliferating immortality, agrees to perfection with the heralding of an endless sparkling destiny as children of God, privileged to inherit a whole New Creation, starting with Christ’s resurrected body and proceeding to incorporate all others who believe and get immersed in him by his Holy Spirit. The fundamental heart of the New Testament Proclamation is not, therefore, “penal substitution” but “premial inclusion,” in an inconceivably marvelous destiny as “priests and kings” on the New Earth a comin’! Having announced such a future with abundant corroboration, God leaves the choice up to us whether we wish to join the Party or keep our unsafe distance and sadly perish.

June 2, 6, 8-9, 2017

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Filed under Calvinism, predestination, The Atonement

Reflections on Excerpts from *DOCTOR WHO AND THE DOOMSDAY WEAPON, by Malcolm Hulke

In celebration of this 5th Anniversary of the Premial Atonement blog site, my mind travels yet further back to 1974 (through the marvels of TARDIS technology) and the arrival of Doctor Who in Sector 27 of a planet being newly colonized by people threatened by the criminal encroachments of the Interplanetary Mining Company (IMC). Yes, it’s the same old same old story tragically repeating itself on one virgin planetoid after another—many a courageous community of settlers attempting a sustainable livelihood, being literally undermined by ravenous companies out only for outsized profits at any cost, including that of ‘mere’ human life. You know the routine…unless you’re a devotee of FOX so-called news:

‘The big mining companies don’t bother about people’s rights,’ said Leeson, full of bitterness. ‘They move in, rip the minerals out of a planet, and move on somewhere else. It happened to the planet we got our seed from.’…

…’If it happens here and we even have time to complain to Earth Government, there’ll be no decision from Earth till the miners have finished their job. There won’t be anything left to have rights about!’ [p. 29]

The plot unfolds with growing intrigue as forces of good and evil entwine and tension builds. In chapter 15, “Primitive City,” an instructive dialogue unfolds between the Guardian, a doll-like humanoid figure anciently charged with protecting some fateful structure inside the planet, and Doctor Who, along with his young female assistant, Jo Grant, who had been getting bored with her stalled career plans to become a spy. Their conversation gets embroiled in issues of personal sacrifice, condemnation of the innocent, just laws, the value and purpose of life, the right to continue living, etc.—just what you’d expect from a Time Lord desperately laboring to outwit the grim ratiocinations of legalistic security personnel. Thus a discourse is set up that will play out dramatically in the denouement.

‘I am the Guardian,’ said the little doll figure that seemed to float in the flames. ‘Why have you entered this place?’

‘I was brought here,’ answered Jo.

‘And I came to take her back,’ said the Doctor. ‘May I ask what it is that you guard?’

The Guardian ignored the Doctor’s question. ‘All intruders in this city must die. That is the law.’

‘The race who built this city,’ said the Doctor urgently, ‘were intelligent and civilized. Their laws would not condemn the innocent.’

‘The law must be obeyed,’ said the Guardian.

‘Surely all true laws must be based on justice?’ the Doctor argued. ‘We are strangers to this planet. All we ask is to be allowed to go.’

The Guardian seemed to consider this point. Then it spoke again: ‘You are of superior intelligence, so you may go free.’

Jo hugged the Doctor. ‘Thanks,’ she said to the Guardian.

‘But you,’ the Guardian said to Jo, ‘are of no value. I shall give you to the servants for a sacrifice. It amuses them.’

‘I refuse to leave without her,’ said the Doctor. ‘I am responsible for her safety.’

‘And I,’ said the Guardian, ‘am responsible for the safety of that which I guard.’

‘Does the amusement of your servants warrant the death of an intelligent being?’ said the Doctor.

Again the Guardian seemed to weigh up the doctor’s words before answering. ‘I was sacrificed, and I still live.’

‘Not all are like you,’ said the Doctor, ‘so that is no argument.’

‘I appreciate logic,’ said the Guardian. ‘Is this creature you protect of some value?’

‘She is life,’ said the Doctor. ‘That which is living is always of value. It cannot be replaced.’

‘Therefore,’ said the Guardian, who seemed to be enjoying this debate, ‘do you not eat?’

‘I regret, sir,’ said the Doctor, ‘I do not understand your question.’

‘If you eat flesh then the life of that flesh ceases to exist,’ said the Guardian.

Jo clung to the Doctor’s arm. ‘Tell him we’ll be vegetarians from now on.’

‘I understand your remark,’ said the Guardian. ‘But if one eats vegetation, that too dies. What is your answer to that?’

Jo whispered desperately to the Doctor. ‘Doctor, just plead for my life! I have a right to live!’

‘It’s no good,’ whispered the Doctor. ‘The Guardian only understands logic. Leave this to me.’ He turned back to the little doll creature that floated in the white hot flames. ‘I concede your point, Guardian. All nature kills to eat, but that is for the purpose of continuing life in another form. To throw this girl into those flames would be to extinguish life totally.’

The Guardian thought for a full minute before replying. ‘You make good argument. Both of you may now leave. You will not be harmed.’ Slowly the Guardian faded back into the flames. [pp. 119-121]

We pick up the thread again after events further complicate. Chapter 19 begins:

John Ashe [the acknowledged older leader of the colonists] lay in bed, trying to read in order to calm his troubled mind. He had brought two books with him from Earth: one was on agriculture, from the days before all Earth’s food was taken from the seas; the other was a copy of something written thousands of years ago, and was largely about someone called God. It was this second book he now tried to read, not because he really understood it, but because the strange language fascinated him. It contained four versions of a story about a man who sacrificed his own life for the sake of others. It was this part of the book that most interested Ashe, because it was so difficult to understand. Why, he asked himself, should anyone willingly give his own life for other people? [p. 137]

Hold that thought. After several more chapters, the plot brings us back to the underground chamber, facing the hatch of the white-hot electronic furnace where the Guardian first appeared.

The Guardian addressed itself to the Doctor. ‘Why have you returned?’

‘I was brought here against my will,’ said the Doctor.

The Master [a malevolent renegade Time Lord bent on ruling the universe] still couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘What is it?’ he asked the Doctor quietly. ‘How can it live in that heat?’

‘I think it’s the ultimate development of life on this planet,’ the Doctor whispered.

‘You,’ said the Guardian, looking at the Master, ‘what do you want here?’

The Master smiled. ‘To restore this city and this planet to their former glory. You have here a wonderful invention. With it we can bring peace and order to every inhabited world in the Universe. Your planet will be the centre of a mighty empire, the greatest the cosmos has ever known.’

‘This invention,’ said the Guardian slowly, ‘has destroyed us. Once the weapon had been built our race began to decay. The radiation from its power source poisoned the soil and even the upper atmosphere.’

‘Exactly,’ said the Doctor. ‘The weapon has only brought death.’ He pointed at the Master. ‘This man wants to spread that death throughout the Universe. Only you can stop him. You must destroy the weapon.’

‘I am the Guardian of the weapon, and its radiation gives me life.’

‘Then I am afraid,’ said the Doctor, ‘you must give up your own life so that others may survive.’

‘Don’t listen to such rubbish,’ said the Master. ‘You can continue to live, and I shall protect you! With the Doomsday Weapon, I shall protect all the Universe.’

‘Against what,’ said the Guardian, ‘will you protect the Universe?’

The question took the Master off balance. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘against anyone who tries to attack it.’

‘But the Universe is all matter in Space,’ said the Guardian. ‘So what can attack that which is everything?’

‘I…I shall protect it against itself,’ said the Master, desperately wishing to get out of this discussion. ‘I shall protect it against evil-doers.’

The Guardian said nothing for some moments. Then, it spoke again, ‘The price is too high, the risk too great. The weapon is too terrible to be under the control of any creature that might use it.’

‘Surely it is under your control?’ said the Master, who clearly now doubted whether the Guardian actually controlled the weapon.’

‘No,’ said the Guardian. ‘I am only the Guardian. I have the power, as you saw, to destroy that small metal weapon with which you menaced your companion, but I have no power to destroy you. The controls of the Doomsday Weapon are at your side, there for you to command.’

The Master looked at the control console. ‘Then I am now the master of the Universe,’ he said. He strode over to the controls filled with a sense of victory and total power. ‘That planet you so favour,’ he said to the Doctor, ‘the one called Earth, can become a cloud of ashes at my touch. Even the Daleks will tremble when they know my power!’

‘But this is not to be,’ said the Guardian. It turned to the Doctor. ‘This man proves you are right. The Doomsday Weapon is not only evil, but it creates evil in others. It must be destroyed. And therefore I must die.’

The little doll-like figure of the Guardian began to fade back into the flames. The Master swung round to the open hatch. ‘Just a minute,’ he shouted, ‘you and I can make an arrangement, I didn’t really mean to use the weapon, only to frighten a few worlds.’ The Guardian was already only half visible in the flames. ‘Please come back,’ screamed the Master. ‘I am very clever. I may be able to restore you to the creature you were before you get so small and lived in those flames.’ Only the head of the Guardian was now visible. ‘Let’s discuss this a little longer! Please don’t go away!’ But the image of the Guardian had now vanished completely. The Master turned away from the hatch, angry that he had shown himself so upset in front of the Doctor. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’ve still got the Doomsday Weapon. Do you wish to share it with me?’

‘I somehow think,’ said the Doctor, ‘that very shortly there will be nothing to share…’

The Doctor’s words were swamped by a terrible roaring sound from within the furnace. A blistering wave of heat swept out from the hatch. Then the first sheet of flame burst from the hatch. The whole room started to tremble! The Master stared unbelieving at the now belching furnace. ‘You fool,’ he screamed, ‘you’re destroying yourself! You’re destroying the Doomsday Weapon!’

‘And it’ll destroy us if we don’t get out of here,’ said the Doctor. Another great sheet of flame burst from the furnace. The room trembled violently and a huge crack appeared down one of its silvery-coloured metal walls. ‘If you don’t mind, I’m leaving before we get roasted to death. I suggest you do the same.’

The Doctor ran to the doors, then realized the Master was not following him. He turned back to see the Master still staring at the furnace as though mesmerized. ‘Come on, man,’ he called, ‘you’ll be killed!’ The room trembled again as in an earthquake. Flames were now bursting from the furnace. ‘We’ve got to get away!’ called the Doctor.

The Master turned to him. ‘The Doomsday Weapon,’ he said, ‘it will never me mine.’ Then he followed the Doctor. As they left the room flames spewed out from the hatch engulfing the control console. [pp. 156-159]

‘Doctor?’ It was Jo, running down one of the corridors towards them, Caldwell [IMC’s mining expert, who had lost confidence in the legitimacy of its mission] behind her. ‘Are you all right?’

‘None of us is all right,’ said the Doctor, trying to read the map and understand it, ‘not while we’re down here.’

‘What’s happening?’ said Caldwell.

‘I think the whole place is going to explode,’ said the Doctor. He looked up from the map, ‘I think we may find an exit this way.’ He grabbed Jo’s arm and started running again. As they left the spot, the rock wall fell in. [pp. 159-160]

‘So much for your interest in science,’ said the Master, hurrying along behind the Doctor and Jo. ‘The most powerful machine ever created in the Universe, and you let that fool Guardian destroy it all.’

‘Science like that’ said the Doctor, ‘is something we can all do without.’

Captain Dent [Captain of the IMC spaceship] stepped out from behind a boulder, his gun raised. ‘Stop!’ He signaled with his free hand. IMC men carrying their high-powered guns appeared from all sides. Dent turned to Caldwell. ‘Thank you for leading them to us. Now stand over there.’

Caldwell stood speechless. Jo knew by his expression that he had no knowledge of the ambush. Resigned, he walked over to the spot indicated by Captain Dent. The Master walked up to Dent.

‘Congratulations, Captain Dent,’ said the Master. ‘You’re just in time. Put these people under arrest.’

‘Get back with your accomplices,’ ordered Dent, and pointed his gun directly at the Master.

‘You don’t understand,’ the Master protested, ‘I’m the official Adjudicator, sent here by Earth Government.’

Morgan [an ambitious younger officer] stepped forward, also armed. ‘You’re an imposter. Now get back.’ He pushed the Master back in line with the Doctor and Jo. Then he turned to the IMC guards. ‘All right, firing squad, step forward!’

Six IMC guards lined up in front of the Doctor, Jo, and the Master. They raised their guns, ready for the order.

‘You’re insane,’ said Caldwell, speaking to both Dent and Morgan. ‘You’re murderers!’

Dent turned to him. ‘Caldwell, if we didn’t need you as our mining expert, you’d be over there with them. So shut up!’ He turned to the IMC guards. ‘Take aim!’

Suddenly Winton’s [a young leader of the colonists] voice called out from somewhere among the surrounding boulders. ‘Drop those guns, all of you!’

Dent turned and fired wildly. All around colonists rose up from behind the boulders shooting at the IMC men. The Doctor grabbed Jo to pull her to safety. The IMC men fired at any colonist’s head they could see appearing over the boulders. But they had to fire from crouching positions in the open, whereas the colonists all had the protection of the ring of great rocks. Morgan fell dead as a colonist’s bullet hit him, and Captain Dent’s gun was shot from his hand. Within moments half the IMC men were either dead or wounded.

‘Surrender,’ called Winton. ‘You will not be killed.’

‘We give in,’ Dent shouted. He called to what remained of the IMC guards. ‘Throw down your guns!’

The IMC men dropped their guns, and raised their hands in surrender. Now, from all sides, colonists appeared from behind the boulders. Winton ran forward to the Doctor and Jo. ‘Are you two all right?’

Jo let Winton help her to her feet. ‘But the spaceship,’ she said, ‘it exploded.’

‘Captain Dent left one lookout to make sure no one should escape by leaving the ship,’ said Winton. ‘I stayed behind and knocked him out. That let all the others get out of the ship to safety before it took off.’

‘Did you make it take off by remote-control?’ asked the Doctor.

Winton shook his head. ‘No. John Ashe went up with it. He insisted on doing so. He gave his life for the sake of the rest of us.’ He shrugged. ‘Maybe he was a bit crazy.’

‘Perhaps,’ said the Doctor, ‘or a saint.’ [pp. 160-162]

The colonists stood in a circle around the big grave they had dug a little way from the main dome. Most of the IMC men had been safely locked up in their spaceship, ready to be sent back to Earth. But Captain Dent, Caldwell, and three guards were present at the ceremony to bury their own dead. Colonists and IMC guards killed in the final battle were laid side by side in the grave. Gentle rain fell from the clouds, soaking the colonist’s poor clothing and making the dusty soil turn into mud. When all the bodies were in the grave everybody turned to Winton, expecting him now to speak as John Ashe had done before. He turned to the Doctor. ‘You say something,’ he pleaded.

‘No,’ said the Doctor, ‘it has to come from one of you. This is your land now.’

Winton turned to face the colonists and the IMC men who stood sullenly as prisoners on the other side of the communal grave. ‘I don’t know how to make speeches,’ he said, ‘but I can tell you how I feel. Our people didn’t die for nothing. To get anything worth having, like freedom, sometimes you have to fight, and sometimes you have to die. So now it’s up to us to make this colony work, for the sake of the people who died.’ He paused, then turned to the five IMC prisoners. ‘Your people died for the wrong things, but I’m still sorry they got killed.’ He looked down into the grave. ‘There’s one man missing—John Ashe. We can’t bury him, but we can always remember him. He died so that we could live.’ [p. 164]

It was soon time for the Doctor and Jo to leave the brave pioneers to their tasks.

The Doctor thanked the man and then hurried over to Jo. “I know where the TARDIS is. I think it’s time to go.’

Jo was busy pouring tea for the others. ‘But there are so many things to do here, Doctor. Are we in a hurry?’

‘Stay if you want to,’ he said to her. ‘But I’ll never be able to explain it to the Brigadier [Lethbridge-Stewart, of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), at whose headquarters the Doctor operated a laboratory].’

Jo Smiled. “All right. I’ll just say goodbye to everybody.’

The Doctor checked her. ‘No. They’ll all start asking where we came from again. Let’s just slip out while they’re enjoying their victory.’ He took Jo’s hand and together they went out of the dome. The rain had stopped now, and the sun was shining brilliantly.

‘Look!’ said Jo in wonder. ‘It’s all green!’

As far as the eye could see the one-time impoverished land was shooting up tiny blades of grass. Even the little shrub plants had grown new leaves.

‘We’d better be quick getting to the TARDIS,’ the Doctor laughed. ‘The speed things can grow here, we may find ourselves having to cut through a jungle!’

They hurried away from the dome. [pp. 165-166]

*London: A Target Book/the Paperback Division of W. H. Allen & Co. Ltd, 1974. Based on the BBC television serial Doctor Who and the Colony in Space by Malcolm Hulke, by arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Ah, well, I suppose I should have issued a spoiler alert since I’ve given away the climax of this surprising book. My daughter dropped no hint about these plot elements when she gave me the used paperback, although she read it before passing it along. I hope I will be forgiven for giving away the ending of this old series of TV episodes, especially in view of its age. I confess, stumbling across a reference to the central theme of Jesus’ career in this extremely popular British science fiction/adventure/comedy series—the longest-running series in television history—was startlingly unexpected, and delightfully so. Many fine screenwriters have contributed to its success, including Douglas Adams (who, coincidentally was also born on March 11), originator of the outrageously funny The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

So why would a writer fetch way back to the first century for a theme? For one thing, it’s perennial. Western civilization is profoundly influenced by the New Testament narrative. This author gives it a fresh twist by situating his own story far into the future and by indicating that by then it had become forgotten out of memory as the common heritage of the colonists’ civilization. Science, exploitative industries, doomsday weapon—sure, these we know. But Jesus?

Malcolm Hulke (1924-1979), whose “scripts for Doctor Who were known for avoiding black-and-white characterization and simplistic plotting” and “were noted for providing a wealth of additional background detail and character depth” (according to Wikipedia), evidently saw an intriguing way of giving the old, old story a bit of a comeback. “Man Bites Dog”—now there’s a headline that might still make the news. But the heart of the Gospel may by now have become somewhat hackneyed even by comparison with that old cliché. However, I don’t have to try too hard to remind myself that multitudes of American schoolchildren are migrating through our educational system without even a passing acquaintance with the old Story. How is “The Bible as Literature” faring in schools these days? And that’s not even taking into account immigrants of Islamic heritage who may never be “forced” to confront the Bible firsthand in school. And if not there, then where?

So I’m cheered by Hulke’s venture into ancient recollection and re-framing. I’m one to cheer on further adaptations, too. Naturally, certain elements may get highlighted and others dropped for artistic purposes. This process raises questions about the motivational effects of any particular blend of narrative elements. Such attempts suggest interesting questions about the shape of the original narrative, and whether even traditional theological processing has really done that Story justice.

Hulke necessarily gives his own context for the “four versions of a story about a man who sacrificed his own life for the sake of others” that John Ashe reads “in order to calm his troubled mind.” He accomplishes this in the conversation among the Guardian, the Doctor, and Jo. The Doctor insists that all laws should be based on justice, so any arbitrary sacrifice of human life is out of the question. The Guardian alleges that he was sacrificed yet managed to stay alive, but the Doctor counters that the Guardian is a different form of life than most in the universe, so is an exception to the observation that sacrifice kills life.

However, it is interesting to note that the Guardian, having survived being sacrificed (which the novel does not explore further) is indeed an exceptional form of life that can endure the conditions of the electronic furnace. (In the excerpt that followed, the Doctor ventures the opinion, “I think it’s the ultimate development of life on this planet.”) Not exactly the sort of immortality we may wish for, but evidently a superior sort of survival than before. So although this is not resurrection in the fully Biblical sense, it is an artfully contrived demi-form that moves the narrative suggestively along to its finale.

The ‘logic’ of the Doctor finally prevails when he argues that the sacrifices of life we observe in the plant and animal realms are “for the purpose of continuing life in another form,” and not simply “to extinguish life totally.” This dialogue should be kept in mind as the plot unfolds.

John Ashe found it difficult to understand why anyone should “willingly give his own life for other people.” The supplied earlier context hints at why, but he was not in on that exchange. Yet the very difficulty of understanding the reasoning of the story is what makes it so intriguing for him. The following page of this chapter explains that the colonists had become alienated from Ashe, but he “believed that with patience he could win back the support of the colonists. He knew Winton meant well, but the colony needed Ashe’s calmness and maturity. He got back onto his bed, and tried once more to read his book” (p. 138). He was pondering how to conciliate his fellow colonists.

The third excerpt above brings the evil Master into the conversation with the Guardian. In the interests of his takeover of the Universe with the assistance of the Doomsday Weapon, the Master attempts to ingratiate himself with the Guardian, declaring his intention “To restore this city and this planet to their former glory.” Ah, yes. To make it “great again!” Where have we heard that before (well, if not before 1972, when this novel actually appeared, certainly before 2972, when this episode is fictionally set)? Fat chance of that happening during this guy’s watch!

However, here the Guardian reveals that the planet’s previous civilization built the weapon. But the leaking of radiation from it has actually poisoned the planet, including its former inhabitants, except for a few primitives and mutant priests, so that it only sustains most living forms with great difficulty. And although the Guardian itself thrives on this energy, it is eventually deadly to other forms. Accordingly, the Doctor issues a gentle and noble but unwelcome ultimatum to the Guardian” ‘[Y]ou must give up your own life so that others may survive.’ The Master’s response is faintly reminiscent of Genesis 3: ‘Don’t listen to such rubbish,’ said the Master. ‘You can continue to live….’

During the course of the ensuing dialogue with the self-aggrandizing Master, his dastardly intentions are betrayed when the Guardian unreels enough rope to let him hang himself by his own words. It then becomes all too evident that the Doctor was, strictly speaking, correct. And since the Guardian is a creature of strict logic, he faces the Doctor and unemotionally concludes, à la Spock: ‘This man proves you are right. The Doomsday Weapon is not only evil, but it creates evil in others. It must be destroyed. And therefore I must die.’ In short order, the Doomsday Weapon starts to self-destruct, and the others flee for their lives.

Meanwhile, the colonists, who had been forced by the IMC troops into their old spacecraft in preparation for staging a takeoff that would deliberately doom the occupants, had all been secretly rescued. However, it was deemed necessary for liftoff to occur as scheduled in order to mount a surprise attack on the IMC’s armed forces. John Ashe volunteered to undertake this diversion…at the calculated cost of his own life. His suicide mission accomplished, the colonists proved victorious and regained possession of the planet.

Now notice how the author handles this heroic deed:

‘Did you make it take off by remote-control?’ asked the Doctor.

Winton shook his head. ‘No. John Ashe went up with it. He insisted on doing so. He gave his life for the sake of the rest of us.’ He shrugged. ‘Maybe he was a bit crazy.’

‘Perhaps,’ said the Doctor, ‘or a saint.’

Ashe gave his life for the sake of the rest…so that they could live. He had determined to follow in the steps of the Man he read about in the old book. Such a deed may still look “a bit crazy,” especially if a remote-control takeoff could have been engineered to pre-empt its necessity. This is worth a bit more analysis.

Books on the nature of the Atonement will often criticize the so-called exemplary theory of atonement as deficient on the grounds that if Christ had merely intended by getting crucified to set an example of divine love for us to follow in his steps, such a deed still would not have actually “dealt with the problem of sin.” Such a deed is likened to a person plunging into a deadly rapids in order to demonstrate love…but without actually managing to save another person from otherwise certain drowning in those rapids. Something more is called for.

Point taken. It would indeed be “a bit crazy” to risk death unless it resulted in life for others. Lifeguards are trained (full disclosure: I was so trained) to save others without losing their own lives in the bargain. But the point, in any case, is precisely to save lives, not to die unnecessarily. If there is to be a crucifixion, it must be necessary somehow so as to save other lives, not simply as a gratuitous spectacle of self-immolation. It must be efficacious for the sake of others. Such a self-sacrificing deed would be worthy of a “saint.”

In the story before us, if the spaceship could have been launched successfully by remote-control, without compromising the ultimate mission of saving the colonists and neutralizing their enemies, then for John Ashe to pilot it to its fiery end was merely suicidal without being necessary. For him to “insist” on going up despite knowing it was unnecessary would have been truly “a bit crazy,” and not “for the sake of the rest of us.” A nagging ambiguity therefore attends the above quotation.

That said, I would give the author the benefit of the doubt on this point. Perhaps Ashe wanted this liftoff operation to be more fail-safe than the old rickety ship—for that’s how it’s described in the book—seemed to justify. That would make his risk more necessary.

In any case, if Ashe, realistically speaking, can be assumed to have had sufficient time behind the scenes to delve into the four versions of the story that so captivated him, he could have arrived at the answer to his question, “Why…should anyone willingly give his own life for other people?” For Christ well knew that by surrendering to the benign will of his Father, and accordingly surrendering to the murderous will of those he came to save, God would avenge him of that heinous injustice by doing him the justice of raising him from the dead to superabundant immortal life, first of all, and thereby supplying him with an overflowing bounty of the Holy Spirit to give away in graciousness to anyone who would believe this life-giving Proclamation! For the Gospel explicitly promises believers our own individual resurrection from the dead—this is the very essence of our salvation. This fact puts a rational spin on the sacrifice of this present life. And all the more so if it means that others can continue to live out more of their present lives rather than dying prematurely.

If this scenario be granted, then the force of Winton’s final solemn words at the graveside is preserved at full value: ‘There’s one man missing—John Ashe. We can’t bury him, but we can always remember him. He died so that we could live.’

However, significantly, I think, Malcolm Hulke does not end his story there. The final lines of my last excerpt above has new life overtaking the whole planet at record speed! Interestingly, although this seems more a result of the self-sacrifice of the Guardian, it fits hand-in-glove with the self-sacrifice of John Ashe. This elegant little novel has a double-barreled resurrectionary punch! Like the two goats on the ancient Day of Atonement, they unite to tell a singular story of PREMIAL REDEMPTION without a hint of penal subtext. Herein is love. Neither the Guardian nor John Ashe suffered punitively, but voluntarily, in expectation of a vivifying outcome for others. There was no penal substitution in this fine story—only premial inclusion. This, moreover, is my premial conclusion.

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“Double Jeopardy” Dissolved.

The Calvinistic boast of the “hard, clear logic” of their system necessarily evokes its dialectical opposite—the assertion of “mystery” wherever the system violates Scripture. This is an inescapable paradox of their violence to the clarity (“perspicuity”) of the Scriptures themselves. [8/10/09; from my note at the bottom of p. 357 of Robert Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (1961), annotated in 1985 or 1986, Pella, Iowa.]

The alleged problem of “double jeopardy” would be an authentic concern only if God “exacted judgment” at the Cross in the first place! But a premial atonement dispels that concern entirely. Since the Cross was an event of wrongful Satanic exaction of punishment on the Sinless One, God was justified in exacting a resurrection by way of REPARATION! The torrent of graciousness that ensued has the aim of winning FRIENDSHIP FROM SINNERS! But if they should reject the invitation, it’s no skin off Christ’s back, because he did not suffer from a discrete measure of divine wrath in penal judgment in economic exchange for “just so much” human sin. CHRIST WON A FAVORABLE JUDGMENT! The Judge RULED IN HIS FAVOR, so any divine punishment incurred by those who reject and resist the exuberant favor overflowing to us is certainly not a “second” exaction of “divine condemnation,” but only a first…and a tragically needless one at that. [8/11/09]

Pity the agonizing young dissenter from Calvinism who only disbelieves their harsh, errant dogmas, yet still believes them when they say “There’s nothing better out there.” Such a person is tormented by half-hearted disbelief. Their only salvation (and it must be hard won!) is in WHOLE-HEARTED DISBELIEF OF CALVINISM IN WHATEVER IT CLAIMS AS “UNIQUE” TO ITSELF IN DISTINCTION FROM HISTORIC ‘CATHOLIC’ CHRISTIANITY. [8/11/09]

Even a crucifixespecially a crucifix, with the Savior forever mounted and pinned in NON-AVENGING AGONY WHEN HE MIGHT HAVE SAVED HIMSELF THE TROUBLE BY A SPECTACULAR RESCUE is the very image of God’s love. A cross without a bleeding, thorn-crowned, stark naked Savior leaves too much to the imagination. Like, how did the cross become…“empty”? Or did his disciples steal his body? Or was he somehow resuscitated from a swoon?

So, may every crucifix-honoring Roman Catholic take heart that this piece of religious art indeed represents, against the backdrop of the worst that Satan could do, the true, non-vindictive love exhibit of our Savior enduring torture, however long, until God Himself showed up to save him with enough salvation for all his enemies too!  True grace with true grit!  [8/11/19; 8/13/09]

It is always notoriously easy for Evangelicals to fall back into one or more prickly points of Calvinism, because so long as they continue to hold on to Calvin’s invention of penal satisfaction, all the other points follow consistently—but the more consistent the less Biblical. And the tension can be paralyzing! Not even Calvin could cross the final hurdle of ultra-Calvinism—limited atonement. By the time people convince themselves, over all the objecting testimony of the apostles and early church, that strict Calvinism is correct, their conscience is seared. Can such Calvinists be ‘redeemed’? [8/11/09]

A penal atonement must be substitutionary for the simple reason that Jesus DID NOT DESERVE the treatment he received, leading to his death. By the same token, a premial atonement cannot be substitutionary, precisely because Christ DID DESERVE his resurrection and the premium/reward that followed necessarily from God’s avenging the wrong of the Cross. That resurrection was certainly not ‘substitutionary’, of course. However, it was FOR (huper) US! Yet even the Cross was not ‘substitutionary’ since each of us too must carry our own cross! [8/11/09] Both of these epicenters of the Gospel narrative are accordingly—in diametric opposition to the popular substitutionary spin—INCLUSIONARY. And it is this unifying feature of PREMIAL INCLUSION that baptism so precisely depicts. It is this act that pictures us safely IN CHRIST when we believe the Gospel. [4/27/17]

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An OPEN LETTER to Jesse Morrell and FRIENDLY CRITIQUE of The Vicarious Atonement of Christ (2012), part 25

Sin destroys life.  This is why a demonstration of bringing life back from the dead was so absolutely decisive as a sign of salvation and an identifier of the true God.  Only the God who created all life forms could obviously know enough and have enough power to restore life forms to being fully operational even after experiencing certifiable deathHoliness is the quality of whatever is fully alive, with no taint of decay or deterioration.  The supreme sign, therefore, of the genuineness of Deity is the power to give life in the wake of its demise, in addition to giving life in the first place.  In other words, true Deity has the power to make life forms holy or wholesome again, even after they have deteriorated due to sin.  The solution to sin, therefore, is intrinsically linked to the power to atone for sin, in other words, to counteract its evil consequences, not only affecting its perpetrator, but also affecting all else that has become harmed by it.  This is a tall order, to be sure, but is there any short cut?  To overcome the wrong of sin a display of right or justice had to be made that, in effect, proved how life itself could be regained, and under what conditions.  The identity of the true God would simultaneously get affirmed in the process.  This is theodicy in a new key!

 This is precisely what the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are all about.  A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad execution of a sinless man was rectified by a wonderful, marvelous, no bad, very good resurrection to a life even more full than before, in fact, overflowing to others in wholesomeness.

THE HERDING BEHAVIOR OF PENAL SATISFACTION THEOLOGIANS

If you wonder how Penal Substitution pundits (whether of an economic satisfaction or a governmental exemplification variety) can be so nonchalantly lumped together under a single broadside rubric—“wrong”—my answer would be that they do it to themselves.  They suffer from herding behavior by all falling prey to the identical erroneous assumptions about the Atonement:  “it must be penal.”  They play follow-the-leader like lemmings.  The same suppression of exegetical cues.  The same systematic bulldozing of informed objections.  The same mislabeling of opponents.  The same linking of scriptures that are not properly parallel.  The same tacit agreement to recognize, endorse, and parrot lame arguments.  It’s a stampede to raise a cloud of dust, a choking smoke screen, and a frightfully intimidating din of proof text references.  It’s really all quite impolite—a collective stiff arming of the Christian public, not to mention honest seekers.

For their part, Calvinists traditionally have proudly claimed to deplore their detractors’ appeals to “reason” in critique of Reformed soteriology, yet no one can outdo the Calvinists’ exhibit of rationalizing their earmark penal-satisfaction bullying of sound exegesis, even going so far as to sacrifice it on the altar of “systematic consistency.”  How very carnal, yet all too human!  But it disrespects Scripture—holy Scripture by its unholy manhandling of God’s authentic, Resurrection-endorsed way of justice and peace.  Only in the apostolic version of the Gospel do justice and peace embrace and kiss.  Only premial justice is up to the rigors and tenderness of lovemaking with peace.

Calvinists may argue that penal satisfaction is “necessary” because of “the doctrine of sin,” i.e., their doctrine of “original sin”!  So when premial inclusion is posed as the authentic apostolic teaching instead, they may claim it has an insufficient doctrine of sin.”  This stock tactic of theirs reveals that Calvinists have slipped off the Gospel long before they lay their hands on the Atoning Sacrifice.  Their Augustinian legacy of logic about sin had set them up for their deception and moves them to further manhandle soteriology in order to make it serve their false doctrine of sin.  Here is the tale wagging the dogma.  But the whole beast needs to be reformed!  Calvinism itself needs a thorough housecleaning—a “reformation.

Orthodox Calvinists can be some of the most sectarian—which is to say, “heretical”—of all Christian traditions, even going so far as to doubt that others are even Christians unless they dot their “Ts” and cross their eyes like Calvinists do.

“…THOUGH YOU WERE CAST OUT TO THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE HEAVENS”—Nehemiah 1:9

This promise, echoing Deuteronomy 30:2-4, essentially pledges a comeback from a curse!  How hopeful is that?!  The return from Babylonian captivity was nothing less than that.  Curses are not irreversible, given a change of heart, turning of stony hearts back into hearts of flesh.  But what the world had never seen prior to the first advent of Jesus, the Messiah, was a return from the abode of the dead.  The unjust curse of Galatians 3 handily shoehorned Christ’s precipitous descent into Hades where he proclaimed his explosive conquest of death to the “undead” hosts of earlier generations.

So, penal satisfaction defenders like to inquire, “Wasn’t Jesus cursed by God?” and expecting an orthodox “Yes.”  We must query in return, “Was Joseph?  Job?  Jeremiah?  Or how about Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego?  Or all the faithful martyrs?”  And what about our own circumstances that may occasionally seem to line up with those dread lists of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28—do they allege that we must have been cursed?  Well, if they do, we may still point to Jesus, who bore a “loophole” curse in the favor of God…and lives again to tell about it for our comfort and consolation.

RESTORING THE PREMIAL ATONEMENT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS:  STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

Restoring the apostolic truth of God’s premial justice and the surprising (although it shouldn’t have been!) way it was worked out in the Atonement, has not been the maverick brainchild of a Lone Ranger.  Whole crowds of thoughtful, earnest, circumspect, and courageous Bible scholars have led the way through the overgrowth of prickly, penal vocabulary, concepts, metaphors, and illustrations alien to apostolic patterns of sound explanation.  Creeds, confessions, catechisms, and stout volumes of dogmatics often barred the way through the wilderness of overwrought orthodoxy.  But the outcome—the final destination—was never in doubt, at least not from the vantage point of the concordant integrity and unalterability of the New Testament documents.  Their native vocabulary, conceptuality, proportionality, and narrative structure kept course without wavering.  Our whole duty is simply to get in line with that Pole Star and follow, despite the pushes and pulls of cultural preferences, individual biases, sacred traditions, or, of course, threats to position, livelihood, life, and limb.  No small challenge, to be sure.  But God’s Spirit has no other agenda than to testify nonstop to What-Is-Written and will not be put off by our even centuries-long wayward departures from the straight and narrow, but is divinely determined to shepherd us back Home regardless.

~to be continued~

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An OPEN LETTER to Jesse Morrell and FRIENDLY CRITIQUE of The Vicarous Atonement of Christ (2012), part 8

Before I continue, I should issue a heads up about the growing length of this blog series. I had originally guessed that a week’s worth of installments might cover the notes I had written by Reformation Sunday. Not only did I underestimate the number of installments required to upload them, but I have also continued to study and write about this governmental view of the Atonement ever since. I do apologize for my miscalculation. And still I have not gotten around to my specific comments on The Vicarious Atonement of Christ! At this rate I had better not make any more projections about when all this might get wrapped up! To say the least, the subject has absorbed my interest far more than I expected. I don’t regret a moment. I only hope and pray that others may find this undertaking to be worthwhile reading. May God bless the patience of every diligent reader who ventures yet further with me in this exploration.

Jesse, you may have noticed how Hugo Grotius remorselessly reads in (“eisegetes”) his own penal/punitive assumptions into passage after passage of Scripture, and how he edits out the contexts that would have forced him to acknowledge and deal with the premial or rewarding aspect of justice. The very first chapter of his Defense holds enough evidence to convict his theory wholesale. He need not have written another chapter, for every further move he makes only sinks him further into the quicksand of punitive exclusivity. So I put it to you: if we concede the need to rid ourselves of such punitive overlays on Scripture concerning the Atonement, what further need is there for the remainder of Grotius’s system either? For only the premial side of justice answers and meets the challenge of the Atonement, and single handedly at that.

Your republication of Wiggers is circumstantial testimony to your break with Grotius’s underlying Augustinian doctrine of “original sin” and its reflexive penalism (which pervades his exegesis quite irrationally if judged strictly by his own hermeneutical principles). Moreover, you have, as I acknowledged earlier, happily rejected his interpretation of David’s numbering Israel’s troops. In fact, your approach to “free will” and individual responsibility seems to give alternate interpretations to most if not all of the verses Grotius marshals in his fourth chapter to justify its title: “Whether It Was Unjust That Christ Should Be Punished for Our Sins; and It Is Shown That It Was Not.” If your rejection of his interpretation reflects the New England Theology’s creative adaptation of Grotius’s theory of Atonement, then I, for one, cheer its courageous advance and look forward to exploring it further.

That said, I would like to probe further the puzzle concerning why we would need to commit ourselves to the rest of Grotius’s position regarding his non-Kingdom-of-God-based “governmental” theory of the Atonement. For having ably exorcized the incubus of “original sin,” “total depravity,” and false imputation, it would be a pity to have labored over so much housecleaning only to allow the demons (or their doctrine) of resurgent penalism to come sweeping into the church for another term of residency. I heartily commend this for your reconsideration. Grotius is still too Calvinistic. Governmental theory is but a mutation of satisfaction theory, therefore is but another weed that will choke out the resurrectionary Gospel of the New Testament documents.

Governmental penal substitution (i.e., rectoral acceptilation) is no less fallacious at the core than commercial penal substitution (i.e., economic satisfaction). The first is Grotius’s, the second is Calvin’s theory. They both play off limiting concepts or metaphors not endorsed by Scripture in connection with the Atonement. I submit that what we really need is premial inclusion, i.e., getting immersed in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, so that his very blood/soul/“person” becomes our protective-shelter (kapporeth/hilasterion) around our sins. Contention between the previous alternate sets of arguments really only comes down to the kettle calling the pot black. Only premial justice can actually ascend through the menacing horns of that dilemma with resurrectionary success, unscathed.

I’ve set the stage to return for a moment to the thought of Paul Peter Waldenström concerning the Atonement (see part 2 of this blog series). Waldenström doesn’t stop at refuting penal satisfaction/substitution; he doesn’t stop short of dismantling and disposing of every substitution theory, and that includes governmental substitution of One’s suffering/punishment for others’. It is not necessary, in fact, not possible (at least not justly or atoningly). It amounts to needless, excess theoretics, superfluous verbiage, encumbering complication, fleshly overgrowth. This theory needs circumcising in order to attain hallowed service for God.

So my question to you is, after publishing Waldenström’s book (and Andersson’s splendid summary), how could there still be a market for so many additional books on the Atonement, especially ones that presume to add extra-biblical language and concepts? How could such a niche even exist anymore? I suggest that a premial Atonement renders absolutely superfluous any such scaffolding. It seems an imposition, even an imposter (if I may be so bold). Further elaboration only cheapens, dishonors, and derogates from the elegantly simply and complete system of the apostolic gospel. Any further complication serves only to dilute, muffle, or even negate the exclusive value and claim to truth of Waldenström’s remarkably non-penal explanation. (I’ll have a bit more to say later about how he might have expanded on the role of Christ’s Resurrection to good effect, and how not doing so left him open to unnecessary misunderstandings and perhaps accounts for his comparative obscurity today.)

But if you still urge a place for a “governmental atonement,” then how do you integrate Waldenström’s presentation of the Atonement with this theory that he never taught at all? How do you think he would have responded to your “further” elaboration of governmental concepts? I would encourage you to carve out some quality time to read more of Waldenström (soon to be more readily available, as I mentioned in part 2).

I am extremely grateful that you have put these two books back in print. However, their position and “governmental atonement” seem mutually exclusive, in fact, even mutually repellant conceptually. And if they actually prove to be mutually incompatible, it seems to me you will have to make a choice between them. Nevertheless, please push back here if you think I’m overstating the case.

Jesse, you and Waldenström both speak of “personal wrath,” but seem to mean something different by it. He means “personal hatredof the sinner’s person, to distinguish it from hatred of sin, and denies that God has any of the former. God’s personal wrath against or hatred of sin does not exclude His personal love for the sinner’s person. Thus he need not propose a “governmental” alternative to such (nonexistent) “personal” wrath. Yet God’s “personal” wrath against sin cannot be appeased or “satisfied” by any means whatever. And, please note, this exclusion would apply equally to any conjectured “governmental satisfaction” of wrath. You can see where I’m going with this. Waldenström’s definition makes superfluous the entire “governmental” scaffolding with which the Atonement has been burdened. God’s abundant love simply supplies outright the necessary means for cleansing sinners of their sins, namely, His own Son, slain but risen from the dead. Christ’s blood, shed—his soul anticipating and demanding resurrection—is the means that God made available, out of love, for this cleansing function. Waldenström’s approach is Atonement streamlined!

Trying to scramble and mush together Grotius (and, from what I have seen so far, what’s left of him in the New England Theology) with Waldenström can only lead to “feet of clay” mixed with iron(y!)—an unstable amalgam, to say the least—and maybe more centuries of darkness. Governmental atonement still tries to exploit the dark side of justice no less than penal satisfaction does. If we dare to perpetuate the former, then we ourselves have “turned to the dark side” no less than our alleged opponents, penal satisfaction advocates.

The admittedly often more penal cast of the Old Testament is transformed from the inside out in the New Testament by the wondrously surprising premial denouement of Messiah’s resurrection! Governmental theory does not acknowledge this turning on of the lights by Christ. It’s still grimly fixated on punishment. Grotius was boycotting too much of Scripture, so he never quite comprehended the Atonement. That is now clear also from those unpublished glosses he wrote in later years within the margins of his refutation of Socinus. Jesse, since you have learned so much from the early 17th century jurist, Hugo Grotius, aren’t you curious why he started leaning toward Socinus in those final days?

~to be continued~

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I Have Good News and Bad News

June 29, 2013

Today is my daughter Karis’s BIG 21st BIRTHDAY!  So I decided to celebrate, in part, by publishing here the up-to-the-minute result of the incipient ideas she planted almost two months ago when we went out for breakfast.  She asked me on the drive there, “Dad, when we get to the restaurant, can you please explain to me in just a few paragraphs your view of the Atonement?”  She was just finishing her junior year at Calvin College, so I thought I’d start with Calvin.  I gave it the old college try, and here’s what I came up with, in the guise of a “news” report.  Okay, it turned out to be more than a few paragraphs!  But I did try to take her other strong editorial suggestions, for which I am extremely grateful.  Verily, there’s nothing human that can’t be improved.  I await your comments for improvements.

BY RON ROPER

RELIGION WRITER

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Perhaps the most widespread account propagated in recent centuries concerning the meaning of the climactic events surrounding the last days of Jesus of Nazareth has lately been exposed as a corruption of earliest doctrine.  We have been fed a line.  A fresh and candid look at the original documents reveals a radically different rationale behind the story.

The original written reports about the unusual origins and public career of  Jesus — birth, teaching, miracles, trial, execution, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven — during the era of ancient Israel’s imperial Roman occupation, contain their own interpretation of this extraordinary course of events.  These four ‘Gospels’ of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John build upon the prophetic foundation laid by the ancient Hebrew Scriptures.  ‘The Gospel’ was understood as the ‘good news’ that God had finally fulfilled His ancient covenanted promise of a Savior to Israel, and thence to all other nations as well.  Accordingly, these unique historic events and their implications ought now to be proclaimed to the whole world.  Luke further elaborated the original interpretation in The Acts of the Apostles — his recounting of key incidents and apostolic speeches over the next three decades or so.  The remaining documents developed the apostolic interpretation through occasional letters (‘epistles’), a theological treatise (‘Hebrews’), and a prophetic vision (‘The Revelation’).  All these writings expounded the “new covenant” that Jesus the Messiah founded, so were eventually collected into what became called the “New Testament.”

First, the bad news

What many of us have traditionally been catechized and taught about the meaning of the final climactic events of Jesus’ life on earth, ought to be held suspect as misinformation, and in that sense, ‘bad’ news.  More specifically, the explanation we have been led to believe about the theological meaning of Christ’s cross and resurrection appears to be a severe declension from apostolic doctrine.  Let’s consider the matter more closely.

We’ve been told that when Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate in 30 A.D., he simultaneously came under God’s condemnation.  He suffered God’s wrath in order to both demonstrate God’s holiness and hatred of sin before human eyes and also pay God our debt for sins.  Out of love, Christ identified with sinners by actually being ‘made sin’, substituting himself at the cross in the place of sinners who, by their sinful conduct, properly deserved God’s wrath.  In this way, he satisfied God’s law and justice, thereby propitiating or appeasing God’s wrath.

By suffering vicariously and dying in the place of sinners, even experiencing the eternal torments of hell, Jesus paid the eternal penalty they deserved.  This satisfied God’s justice so that He could then be righteous in showing grace to forgive sinners of their transgressions.  Also, He imputes Christ’s own personal righteousness to them so as to count them legally righteous in God’s eyes, even though they are actually still sinful.  Being hereby justified, they are given the right to eternal life.  Thus Jesus paid God the ransom price of his shed blood to redeem sinners from the latter’s righteous indignation against wrongdoing.

However, it is insisted, Christ could not have paid for all sins, or all sinners would necessarily be saved.  And since we know that all are not saved, Christ could only have suffered, and thereby atoned, for a limited number of sinners — the elect, who had been, by an eternal, sovereign, gracious divine decree, particularly predestined for salvation.  All others have been reprobated, or passed by, and must suffer the divine wrath of eternal conscious torment on account of their own sins.  So although the redemption is sufficient for all mankind, it is efficient or effective only for the elect.

Furthermore, because human beings are dead in sins, or totally depraved, it is impossible for them even to believe the Gospel unless they additionally receive the gift of faith.  No human act can be a condition of salvation, not even the act of faith.  God bestows faith as a gift exclusively on those whom He previously selected from eternity, by His sovereign grace, for salvation.  This gracious choice is unconditional and cannot be revoked or altered by human beings.  Therefore, whenever God’s efficacious call to faith comes to them, they cannot resist, for God’s grace is invincible.  They are at that moment regenerated by the Holy Spirit, which only then enables them to believe.  All others sinners will necessarily resist the Gospel, to their own eternal damnation, yet for the glory of God.  If Christ had suffered for their sins, too, God could not exact eternal punishment from them or He would be subjecting them to double jeopardy, exacting the same payment from them that He had already received from Christ, which would be unjust.

In a nutshell, there’s the disinformation, the bad news that has been passed off as good news for nearly half a millennium.  Yet unless we clearly grasp the inner logic of the apostolic original, the above corrupt departure will retain its credibility to many minds.  So instead of analyzing it piecemeal first, I offer the following retelling of the basic New Testament position in order to provide some holistic leverage against it.  Thereafter, I will highlight the differences more particularly, in several ways.

Now for the good news

When Jesus was condemned to the cross in A.D. 30, he was experiencing the bruising of his heel of Gen. 3:15 — the fury and wrath of “the Great Dragon . . . the ancient serpent called ‘Adversary’ and ‘Satan’” of Rev. 12:9-17.  Israel’s Messiah, unlike any human being before him, was under the grace of God nonstop — a status he came to earth to confer on others.  In fact, especially when he was under severest opposition from his murderous foes, reeling from the cup of diabolical affliction, God was decidedly on his side and would, by an ideally timely maneuver, lift him up, victorious over all enemies, with extraordinary rewards.

However, a perfectly just and holy person — one qualified to receive sovereignty and authority — poses a distinct threat to political establishments of earth.  Self-interest and self-survival drive these regimes.  Their liquidation of potential opposition becomes simply a cost of doing business — the business of graft, bribery, misappropriation, even trafficking in human lives — while devoted to the worship of mammon.

Predictably, then, after Jesus finished his celestial assignment of testifying on earth to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from Heaven about immortal life, so help him God, the establishment summarily convicted him for plotting to overthrow both sacred and civil establishments.  They could hardly have been more correct, in spite of themselves!  And God did help him, not only with miraculous powers and narrow escapes, but also by entitling him to become the ultimate escape artist.

Besides, the power of love, Christ’s strategy for cosmic subversion, needed some ultimate proof so that people could really believe it.  Accordingly, the plot to dispatch Jesus ran afoul of the incomparably more potent, life-making truth that he dared to submit to the test of falsification — a life-and-death toss for the daring challenger.  He surrendered to his enemies and allowed them to inflict torment and even shed his blood.  However, in consideration of his flawless loyalty to God, he ipso facto invoked his Father to do him justice and save him out of his fatal fait accompli, ex post facto and pronto!  This would prove him correct. Thus his trainees would have fresh courage to strike out yet further along his Way of worldwide conquest.

Jesus’ lifelong faithful obedience to God’s desire rendered him wrath-proof, and ultimately invincible even in death.  This is how his innocent blood, unjustly shed, would become the active ingredient for giving protective cover to believing sinners, after God’s resurrecting power justly and peaceably avenged the cross.  Alive again, he would qualify to rule as the promised Messiah of Israel, and much, much more.

It worked, too!  Jesus, having suffered death, even the official, public, disgraceful, excruciating, and certain death on a cross, although absolutely innocent of any sin whatsoever, shot back to life on the third day, just as he had predicted many times, without the dubious aid of any human contrivance or needless fanfare.  Why?  Simply because it was right!  This climactic sin of his cross — the ancient sin-offerings prophetically depicted this sin-to-end-all-sins — was immediately redressed by the justice of God in the judicial decree to raise him immortal from his abject death to the pinnacle of glory!  Being thus justified by his faithfulness so as to win superabundant life, he was authorized by God to relay it as a sheer gift to whoever would simply believe he was who he claimed to be — the Messiah, Son of God.

The short-term payoff:  sinners who believe may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit seeks to convey the very justness of God’s Kingdom to earth, cleansing believing hearts from all sin and making them holy and fit for divine service in this world, in preparation for the next.  Long-term, they benefit by inheriting an allotment within that peaceful Kingdom:  a personal abode, for which the Holy Spirit is the down payment in kind.

The power to believe this Good News resides in the very news report itself, which is designedly the power of God for human salvation.  The story of God’s exalting Jesus through wrongful crucifixion to rightful resurrection, and beyond, vibrates with divine magnetic energy to induce the spark of faith in the human breast.  It is accompanied by corroborating eyewitness testimony and crowned with the added inner witness of God’s Holy Spirit, plus confirming signs and miracles.  Yet this Benefits Package can still be spurned by any human being in virtue of God’s primal gift of inherent self-determination.  This capacity reflects God’s own image and likeness of mastery, control, and authority over one’s environment, including oneself.  This gift is irrevocable and unregretted on God’s part, effaceable only by death.

What’s the difference?

A.  The logic of “penal satisfaction”

  1. The Atonement must be limited, otherwise Christ’s satisfaction would entail excessive penal suffering of God’s wrath.  Therefore Christ died only for a select number of sinners, not for all.
  2. Election to salvation must be unconditional, otherwise some of Christ’s penal suffering would have no redemptive effect or payoff, so would be pointless.  But if unconditional, then God must predestine those chosen without consideration of any choice they themselves might make to believe or not, which might jeopardize its certainty.
  3. Human depravity from sin must be so total that human beings cannot even believe the Gospel, otherwise God would not get all the credit for giving faith purely as a gift without any human decision, disposition, etc.  Christ’s sufferings must have purchased even that gift of faith.  If people, to the contrary, have the inherent power to believe or not believe — to receive salvation or not receive it — then  they are capable of resisting the power of God.  This would be an intolerable affront to God’s sovereign will.
  4. God must therefore be sovereign, that is, none can resist his decisions.  He foreknows all things because he predestines all things.  Hence God’s grace is likewise irresistible or invincible so that all whom God elects actually end up saved, otherwise God’s economy would collapse, bankrupt.  God’s grace is sovereign.
  5. The pre-chosen saints must persevere in the gift of faith and the enjoyment of God’s grace, otherwise God’s economy of salvation is fatally destabilized, and He reveals incompetence.  If any whom He predestined to salvation were able to fall away, that would indict God’s wisdom as fruitless and His power as feckless.  God would lose face.  It would ill befit His glory, making Him look like a fool in the eyes of the universe.
  6. All non-chosen people remain under God’s wrath, which is consummated when they pay the eternal debt of their own sins by eternal conscious punishment in hell.  It follows that Christ could not have suffered the pains of hell on their behalf, otherwise that suffering would have overshot its goal and hence be foolishly uneconomical and unproductive, which is unthinkable.  To the contrary, God maintains a strict balance of payments so that his economy of salvation is preserved.

In this “penal satisfaction” model, the Savior must necessarily play the role of a “substitute” who suffers God’s wrath in the place of sinners; he cannot be experiencing God’s justice on his own behalf because justice is exclusively penal, and he did not deserve that on his own account, being sinless.  This is why penal satisfaction is often equated with “penal substitution.”

However, if in those climactic salvation events of Christ’s career God was in reality enacting or ‘satisfying’ a rewarding or restorative justice, instead of a penal justice, then substitution, in the proper sense of the word, was not present or necessary in the event.  In fact, the idea only confuses the issue and misleads our thinking about Christ’s mediation.  We might better speak of “premial inclusion” (via baptism) instead of “penal substitution.”

B.  The logic of “premial inclusion”

Premial justice exposes the preceding novel system of salvation as guilty of fiction in the first degree.

First of all, God brought salvation to earth by doing justice directly to one man, Jesus.  Thereupon, God channeled Christ’s own just deserts to believing sinners through him.  The justice due him was extraordinary in God’s reckoning because of his faithful obedience under the most severe trials of faith.  His sinless perfection alone qualified him to win the prize of the Kingdom from God.

Moreover, God’s graciousness to Jesus was super-compensatory and thus capable of extending to every individual in the whole world, without exception.  There is no limit to the Atonement in extent, application, or operation.  Whoever wants protective cover from their sins can have it simply by faith in Christ and baptism for remission of sins.  Thereupon, they obtain the gift of the Holy Spirit.

God makes this superabundant graciousness available to whoever trusts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, without favoritism, exception, or exclusion, yet it is not irresistible or invincible.  Grace can be resisted by any creature fortunate enough to have been made in the image of God.  In fact, God’s graciousness can be resisted as easily as His Holy Spirit can . . . but not without similar harmful consequences.

Human depravity is by no means total, nor is any living human being declared in Scripture to be “dead in sin” except by a guilty mistranslation.  The capacity to believe is an inherent human faculty that remains intact and only awaits sufficient testimony or other proof for its persuasion.

God designed the Gospel with inherent power of persuasion.  For good measure, He threw in credible human testimonies plus miraculous corroboration by the Holy Spirit to induce sturdy faith.

God chooses to save all who choose to concur with the solid but non-coercive proof that the Holy Spirit has collected between the covers of the Bible.  Yet if we subsequently unchoose God, He remains free to unchoose us, as well, yet without discomfiture or disgrace to Himself, although not without sorrow.  In the final analysis, God leaves our own choice up to us.  Thus He honors His own likeness reflected in our good created structure.

God predestines no one to salvation or to damnation.  Much rather, He destines everyone who believes His story about the cross and resurrection of Jesus to become His own beloved children.  He further bequeaths them, as His daughters and sons, an inheritance in His impending Kingdom.  That delightful future is their destiny if they stay faithful, otherwise that destiny is aborted and, sadly, they get redestined to termination in the Lake of Fire.  Whoever persists in faith to the end of their present life will be saved for agelong life.

Protestant insecurities about salvation were triggered and aggravated by its punitive image of God.  Get rid of that and the relationship normalizes.  Then we can return to authentic, rugged early Christian teaching (which, however, does not resemble the usual mediating variations of “eternal security” — by comparison, sadly threadbare eternal security blankets).

The phrase ‘sovereignty of God’ never occurs in Scripture.  This idea is a Trojan horse that has smuggled a horde of deterministic evils into Christian theology and practice.  The Lord Jesus Christ was given sovereignty, authority, and more, as tangible fruits of his successful obedience.  It is this true Sovereign who declares, “Let him who is thirsting come.  Let him who wills take the water of life freelyRev. 22:17.

The back story about the differences

As you can see, the good news and the bad news are worlds apart in vocabulary, concept, and ambience.  It may be helpful to provide some account of the historic background to the emergence of the latter.

The approach to salvation that I have dubbed ‘bad news’ will be broadly recognizable as Calvinism.  Its famous principal points all turn on a single bipolar axis — that of woodenly commercial economic metaphors in combination with exclusively penal ideas of justice.  This pivotal doctrine is commonly known as “penal satisfaction” or “penal substitution” and was assembled in its classic form by the genius of John Calvin (1509-64).  He was an ardent devotee of Aurelius Augustine (354-430), and all too often emulated him at his worst, when he was echoing the gnostic theology of his Manichaean pre-conversion training — impulses that surfaced like shingles under the stress of his famous controversy with Pelagius (c. 354-418).

Calvin’s soteriology (doctrine of salvation) is daunting, not to be underestimated in its persuasive impact, despite its irresolvable contradictions and repugnant effects.  That said, I would argue that, generally speaking, all those elements by which Calvinism distinguishes itself from other streams of Christian soteriology are flatly false and harmful.

The main distinctives, usually summarized as “the Five Points of Calvinism,” were distilled at the Synod of Dordt in 1618-19 as the official response to the five criticisms articulated by the Remonstrants, whose most able champion had been James Arminius (1560-1609).  The heart of these distinctives is the notion that Jesus paid for or “satisfied” (in its secondary, economic sense) the debt of human sins by suffering the wrath of God that they deserved.  Every one of the Five Points flows directly and rigidly from this single compound error.  However, both of its elements — that Jesus paid the debt of sins, and that he suffered the condemnation and wrath of God — are foreign to the Bible and were foisted onto it unnaturally.  Nevertheless, their compound penal-economic logic is so seemingly rigorous that it has overshadowed and suppressed the actual New Testament system for explaining salvation.  Mounting human traditions had over the centuries already obscured its central thesis.  The Lord explicitly warned of such dangers from accumulating traditions.

The New Testament assumes the Old Testament position that God’s justice is two-fold, both penal (punishing) and ‘premial’ (rewarding; adapted from Latin by Anglican pastor and theologian John Balguy in An Essay on Redemption, London, 1741), each executed toward appropriate objects in God’s pedagogical wisdom and timing.  Accordingly, His justice both punishes evil (penal) and rewards good (premial), as circumstances may require.  God’s punitive wrath is revealed in destructive judgments, after long patience, with those who stay resistant to doing what is right.  His restorative graciousness is manifested toward those who stay upright, and more so in the face of extreme provocation.

Historically, and most tragically, the doctrine of the Atonement fell prey to attempts to explain its operation as dependent on God’s penal justice.  Such an idea was reinforced by linking it with economic metaphors concerning discharge of debts, satisfaction of obligations, fulfillment of conditions, payment of reparations, and so forth.  These comported well with prevalent theories of criminal law (Calvin was trained in law).

At an earlier milestone, Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) had explained the Atonement in terms of the feudal metaphors of his own day concerning repaying infractions of honor.  He thereupon elaborated his famous theory of “vicarious satisfaction,” whereby Christ, being sinless, repaid God by his undeserved death for the debt that sinners owed instead.  His excess sufferings were said to be supererogatory (exceeding his own needs) and vicarious (for the sake of sinners, who did need them).  Thus Christ satisfied the human debt vicariously, in place of sinners.  This Anselmian economy of salvation was itself far removed from that of the New Testament, but it was not yet “penal satisfaction/substitution.”  Worse was to come.

When these economic concepts of medieval civil law were transposed into the context of criminal law contemporary with Calvin, their character was altered in the direction of much greater severity.  Anselm had articulated such a penal option clearly enough, yet he as clearly repudiated it.  Calvin, however, by deliberately transferring the debtor from a civil to a criminal court, rendered him liable to the death penalty under divine wrath as the only sufficient satisfaction for sin.  So the work of Christ was interpreted as paying that death penalty in order to repay God for human sins.  And since Christ did not deserve to pay that penalty on his own sinless behalf, his suffering was said to be substitutionary (subject to the punishment that others deserve, in exchange for their release from the penalty).

In accordance with such a system, however, this payment needed to be economized in a rational manner so as to eliminate waste, which would reflect badly on the wisdom of God.  Did Christ pay only for the sins of those who would eventually be saved, or did he pay on behalf of every sinner, regardless of their eventual destiny?  So long as penal justice and commercial economics alone provide the leading analogies, they perforce catapult Calvinism into this dilemma and its consequences, from which there is no real escape.

The post-Reformation morphs of Calvinism by Calvin’s epigones, Theodore Beza (1519-1605), Johannes Piscator (1546-1625), William Perkins (1558-1602), William Ames (1576-1633), John Owen (1616-83), Francis Turretin (1623-87), et al, were even more consistently wrong than he was, especially concerning the limits of the Atonement and whether or not the wrath of God could actually be said to have fallen on His beloved Son.  Here, Calvin, at least, mightily equivocated and was not completely overwhelmed by the undertow of his own penal satisfaction theory.  Not so his zealous “followers” of later generations, right down to the present.  Toward serious objectors to his contradictory reasoning, Calvin would simply have launched his customary withering vituperations and public censure.  Toward those who dared more insistently, he would have commenced proceedings to prosecute and banish, if not execute.  Subsequent generations of Calvinists likewise used civil authority to make their creedal opinions official, disestablish opposition, and persecute dissidents.  The turmoil has never fully abated, either within the ranks or outside, so influential has been this penal payment paradigm.

Penal satisfaction atonement logic creates dilemmas that can never be surmounted or harmonized with Scripture.  Every option fails.  Most were played out within a century after Calvin’s death by such worthy scholars as Arminius, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Moses Amyraldus (1596-1664), Richard Baxter (1615-91), and eventually John Wesley (1703-91).  But that’s another story.  Only to say that none of them, nor any of their followers, ever overcame the internal dilemmas of the fundamental theory of atonement that, ironically, they all, in principle, agreed on.

By a further irony, only Faustus Socinus (1539-1604) — the key scholar they one and all anathematized — had it right that penal satisfaction was misconceived from the start and should be jettisoned.  However, even he, whose powerful arguments literally kept theological students busy for centuries performing vain exercises in refutation (collected in massive volumes by their professors), although never successfully vanquished, yet did not achieve the needed breakthrough to the high ground of premial justice.  Thus his atonement theory was scarcely more valid than theirs, although it could legitimately boast often worthier ethical fruits in significant spheres of life, with its more endearing image of God (unitarian though it was) and more imitable image of Christ (merely humanitarian though it seems to have been).

During the intervening centuries, numerous theologians and Protestant leaders exerted further strenuous efforts somehow to ameliorate the severity of Calvinism.  Consequently, many people now label themselves, for example, “two-point” or “three-point” Calvinists.  This is because they still adhere to penal satisfaction, the continuous font of all five points (plus a few others).  It is impossible, in principle, to cast off the incubus of any of these points for long without dismantling penal satisfaction first, otherwise the same old points, or at least their ghosts, will forever return to haunt.  Thus dissenters may claim disagreements with Calvin or later Calvinism, after a fashion, holding out against the “points” they dispute.  Yet for their part, Calvinists often respond by claiming to be “more consistent.”  And they actually are, but more consistently wrong.  The partial objectors are less consistently wrong.

So pick your poison or, in a more salutary vein, prepare to reevaluate penal satisfaction/substitution root and branch, including the sum of its prickly points.  This vagrant TULIP will not wither by simply plucking its petals; its bulb must be eradicated . . . or abandoned like tares to grow up amid the grain, awaiting the angels of judgment to sort out.

All these classic and mediating positions alike remain enmeshed in mutual conflict and needless animosities.  The time is long overdue to get reconciled by returning to the native, integral rationale of God’s positive, rewarding justice — ‘the rest of the Story’ proclaimed by Christ’s apostles so variously yet unitarily.  Only restorative justice can bring lasting peace to the perennial ‘atonement wars’ that still smolder.  Only premial justice can put the ‘good’ back in the Good News.

I conclude with queries:  Is “penal substitution” inerrant, or is the Bible?  Then what about “The Five Points of Calvinism”?

(May 6, 9, 12, 16-17, 19, 21, 24, 27-30, June 1-6, 10-13, 15-17, 25, 29, July 7, 10-11, 14, 21-22, 2013)

© 2013, Ronald L. Roper

With initial inspiration, invaluable advice, and some copyediting by Karis.

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