Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Divine Substitute

Colin and I recently picked up a copy of The Divine Substitute: The Atonement in the Bible & History, by Brian Edwards & Ian Shaw. As the doctrine of the atonement has been the subject of intense controversy, this book explores the belief that Christ died in the place of sinners, bearing their sin and guilt and the just and holy punishment that they deserved from God.

For those who seek to contend for biblical womanhood, a correct understanding of why Christ died must remain of utmost importance and central to all else. Here is an excerpt from the foreword to the book.
"John Wesley once claimed that nothing in Christian teaching 'is of greater importance than the doctrine of the atonement.' This book is based on the conviction that Wesley was right. It begins with a statement of the biblical doctrine of the atonement, followed by a survey of the broad Christian tradition from the early church to the present day. The deliberate focus is upon one specific aspect of the atonement: that of Christ's death as a divine substitute for sinners.

In days when immediacy is everything, and when instant solutions are demanded, there is a great danger that in an effort to appear contemporary, Christians in the present generation will lose sight of the rich heritage of church teaching in this area. Rediscovering this tradition helps to counter views, both from within and outside the church, that would destabilise the faith of Christians and lead unsuspecting believers down routes that could prove spiritually harmful.

Viewing the issue of Christ bearing the punishment in the place of sinners, through the lens of Christian history, helps us to appreciate why the church has come to understand the teaching of the bible in a certain way, and why some approaches have been rejected in the past, and others retained. It raises fundamental questions about new developments - why has this not been adopted by the Christian church before? Many modern views of the atonement are a reworking of long rejected ideas, simply presented in contemporary packaging.

The richness of the way in which the Bible refers to the work of Christ upon the cross has been reflected in Christian writings throughout the history of the church. However, at the heart of Biblical teaching about the atonement is the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, bearing the just penalty for sins. This profound truth draws together all the ways of speaking about the atonement; it is the operative principle that lies behind them. What this book shows is that this teaching on the penal and substitutionary death of Christ is not simply the product of one particular time or context. Although distinctive contributions have been made in certain eras, it is a glorious theme that has been taught at every period in the history of the church."
This is a must read book, a vital contribution to recent controversies and one that contends for (what should be) the non-negotiable truth of substitutionary atonement.

"This the power of the cross
Christ became sin for us
Took the blame, bore the wrath
We stand forgiven at the cross!" Getty & Townend

1 comment:

Kevin Sorensen said...

Great to make your acquaintance. I just picked up a copy of this very book from one of the DayOne representatives at the Desiring God Ministries Conference a couple of weeks back. I've been working my way through it and couldn't agree more with your assessment.

I look forward to checking out your blog more frequently.