Thursday, March 12, 2009

Substitutionary Atonement?

In light of the content of the interview with William Young (The Shack) I posted yesterday, I thought I would share this book review that came across my desk today. A word of disclaimer; I have not yet read this book so I am not endorsing it. But this review had intrigued me enough that it is on order. I particularly like the comment about substitution at the end:

The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on chapter 6
Posted: 11 Mar 2009 01:43 PM PDT

When I received my assignment as editor for The God I Don’t Understand, I figured this would be another book about how we can believe in a good, righteous God and yet live in a world that is filled with horrible acts of evil. And Chris Wright does indeed deal with such issues in Parts 1 and 2. But what makes this book stand out from others on this topic is that he follows up those two parts with two additional parts that deal with mysteries on the opposite side of the equation. For example, how could God love a sin-filled earth so much that he was willing send his Son to die on the cross for its salvation? Why was he willing to do that? And how does that cross work; that is, how does six hours of one man on a cross pay for the sins of billions of people?

These are the questions that Dr. Wright probes in Part 3. Specifically in Chapter 6 he deals with the "Why?" and the "What?" questions. Think about this: Do you ever marvel about the mystery of why God sent Jesus into the world? We sometimes ask "Why me?" when tragedy strikes, but, as Chris writes, " ‘I don’t deserve this’ can be a response to bad new or [to] good news" (p. 112).

So what is the answer? "Why Bethlehem? Why Calvary?" There is no other way to explain why God should choose to offer the gift of eternal life to the human race besides the incredible love of God. "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." It is the very nature and character of the triune God to love the creatures whom he has made, with all their flaws. God is love; that says it all.

Do you ever spend time in the book of Deuteronomy? Read Deuteronomy 7:7–8 to discover why God delivered the Israelites from Egypt!
Then, in order to understand the What?—what is it that God offers us?—we can best grasp that through the power of metaphor. Every one of the words that the Bible uses to express what God accomplished through the cross—each of those words that seem so "theological"—derives from picture language: redemption, justification, salvation, cleansing, regeneration, forgiveness, reconciliation, payment of debts.

Dr. Wright goes through each one of these, briefly describes its background, and then applies it to the work of Christ. Which one of these terms touches your heart the most? And why?
Nevertheless, there is one element of the Christ story that not a metaphor: the term substitution. GIDU The act of substitution seems not to be a "something else" that we can use as one way of talking about a different reality—namely, what God did at the cross. Rather, there is something inescapably essential about this. Substitution is not a metaphor for what God did; it is what he actually did. God actually did choose to put himself in a place where we should be, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. (p. 125)

At the end of this chapter we are left with the mystery of "the God I don’t understand"; the only response one can give is to offer thanksgiving to God with a sanctified "Wow!"
- Verlyn Verbrugge, Sr. Editor-At-Large, Bibles and Theological Resources

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