Blurry Lines in the Sand

v & mWith a vamped up effort to read everything ever written in tow, we set our sights on the ever elusive understanding of the dividing lines in the sand between Protestants, Catholics, the Orthodox, and etc., etc., etc. OO-ee!

temperatures rise as you see the whites of their eyes…

No, we speak not of those boogey-man stories told in backwoods Baptist Sunday school rooms. You know, as in “the praying to Mary” stuff. Should you be of mind by the way, it’s an interesting take to understand how and why this intercessory prayer is enacted… it’s a whole lot different than my childhood teacher said.

Rather, we allude to the penal substitution versus pleasant sacrifice fracas. Most of my protestant brethren would say here, “what fracas?” That’s because we hold to both teachings… well, at least in a certain direction. Across the aisle however, the doctrine of penal substitution is foreign and even considered repugnant.

it’s like a relic from a different age… could be; oo-ee…

Penal substitution is, put rather crudely, the teaching that on the cross, Jesus endured the wrath of God on our behalf for our sins. Why would some take issue with this teaching?

It is because these who disagree see the work of Christ on the Cross as a fulfillment of the Old Covenant shadow sacrificial system. Yes, yes, I understand that every good protestant claims the same thing, but hear me out here.

behind the stacks… you glimpse an axe…

Bryan Cross submits his understanding of the Catholic teaching on atonement by asking, in a condensed version of my own words, “Where do we find the picture of God’s wrath being poured out against the sacrifices in the Old Testament? Rather, He is pleased by the pleasant aroma that ascends into Heaven.”

Those who object to penal substitution teach that Jesus willingly obeyed His Father’s plan and went to the Cross as a pleasant and permanent sacrifice for which God was pleased, not angered. They see no reason to conclude that God poured His wrath out on His Son.

This, in conclusion, probably slaps the “limited atonement” doctrine in the face. We would hear instead, that Jesus paid the sin debt of the entire world, beckoning whosoever will to come to His Father through His finished work.

venus and mars are alright… tonight…

My side of the aisle sees the doctrine of penal substitution as perfectly compatible with that of a pleasant sacrifice. What we have been taught is that Jesus indeed endured the wrath of His Father on the Cross for our sake, and is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. For that, the Father is well pleased, and demonstrated His pleasure evidenced by the Christ’s resurrection.

venus and marsSo, is this dividing grounds for the saints? If the end result is a satisfied debt, and the door is opened for sinners to be reconciled to their God, is this discrepancy large enough to draw a line in the sand? It would behoove me here to turn the floor to you.

it’s a pity there’s nobody here to witness the end… save for my dear old friend and confidante mademoiselle kitty… kitty? kittay, kitti…

Bazinga! You’ve hit RIHG at just the right moment to enter our “name that tune” giveaway! So what are you waiting for? Name the tune and the author (okay folks… it’s those lines thrown in quotes throughout the post) to begin your entry form. In upcoming days, two more tunes will show up in posts here, and should you correctly give us the titles and singers for all three, you’ll be the proud recipient of one of the booklets from Tim Keller’s “Encounters with Jesus” series. Oh yeah, should you find two or more songs quoted, you’re going into the grand prize drawing… more on this coming.

About mtsweat

Seeking the rest that is only promised and found in Christ Jesus, along with my treasured wife of more than twenty-five years, we seek to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, walk with the Holy Spirit as He moves our hearts, loving others always as Jesus loves us, and carry the news of His glory, the wonderful gospel, that gives light and life where there once was only darkness.
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22 Responses to Blurry Lines in the Sand

  1. Pingback: Substitutionary Commotion | The Lonely Pilgrim

  2. Great post Michael. I have been reading “The Faith” again by Chuck Colson, and have just finished “the Reason for God,” by Tim Keller. I never want to take redemption issues that separate believers lightly. But I have to walk in the light given to me, and love the brethren, protestant, orthodox, catholic. In both of these books, the point is made that we defend the faith once delivered regardless of the differences in specific doctrines. That means defend each other.
    In recovery meetings, namely AA, the unity of the believers in Jesus has a certain dynamic understanding of our brokenness, only Christ can fix. We know we disagree on many doctrines, but do not feel these hold us back from serving one another….and God is present, and God blesses our effort!
    I love the discussion. The topic here causes each one of us to get our research hat on and get busy finding out where we stand, what we believe. We must allow discussion, but in in love, thus fulfilling Christ’s prayer to the Father that we be one. No stumbling blocks permitted.
    Keep up the great posts old friend!

  3. I am soooooooo thankful that “the wrath of God was satisfied” as the line of Stuart Townend’s song “In Christ Alone” states, and more importantly, as Scripture teaches, for if God had not poured out His wrath on my sin in Jesus, I would still have to bear it. He paid the price and triumphantly declared “It is finished!”

    • mtsweat says:

      That’s right amazing you mention this song Angela, as I was just listening to a report on the radio of a particular denomination removing it from their hymnals… for just the reason you offer. They want no part of the imagery of the Father pouring His wrath out upon His Son. I honestly had no idea theologians were this divided on atonement. Thanks for mentioning it and the comments, it speaks well for a personal testimony on this matter. Blessings.

      • I believe they asked for permission to change “the wrath of God was satisfied” to “the love of God was magnified”. The latter is true, but only half the story. Penal substitution is essential. I’m thankful the request was denied.

  4. I would love to join this conversation but it would be too long to limit to a comment. I may not be able to give doctrinal argument, but I can give living testimony of my journey of where God brought me from and to the Truth I hold dear today. Woven in the testimony is doctrinal Truth from somewhat both sides of the coin. I would love this conversation because it brings insight into how many denominations believe the main things the same. I may share my testimony in a blog, after vacation and I have more time. We may be able to dispute each other’s doctrines but it is harder to dispute someones testimony of their journey. That is why there is power in the testimony!
    Thanks Mike for the dialogue and I appreciate it comes from a heart that seeks to understand and not from a place that is looking to be proven right. It is what I appreciate the most about you, friend. When we seek Him, He will be found by us, and it is His job and good pleasure to lead us into all Truth.

    • mtsweat says:

      Thank you Gayle… for many gracious and encouraging words. I will look forward with anticipation of your testimony, and may vacation bring much needed rest and strength… have a great time and many blessings.

  5. RJ Dawson says:

    Thanks, Mike. Please allow me to sandy the waters:

    Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:19]

    “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” [1 Corinthians 3:17]

  6. Now, I am still a new Catholic, but I have no idea what this big deal is about. As far as I can tell, it is a disagreement about semantics. I would in no wise say that Catholics “[find] the doctrine of penal substitution is foreign and repugnant.” Most probably don’t understand the difference — I know I don’t, and I claim to study theology! Just as you say you can hold both doctrines comfortably, I think most Catholics would accept some form of “penal substitution” — that is just not a term Catholics use. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins — not just ours, but those of the whole world (1 John 2:2). God put Christ forward as an expiation for us by His Blood, redeeming us by His grace (Roman 3:24-25). Such is Scripture, and is indisputable. Now, what are we arguing over?

    • mtsweat says:

      Your new and I’m no… yet, directly from EWTN, this site is recommended
      that according them is the Catholic view of atonement. Semantics it may very well be, but Bryan Cross refutes penal substitution as very wrong theology. At the site is a neat picture describing the opposing views. In his own wording, “Nor did the Father pour out His wrath on the Son.” Still, I like your question, “Now, what are we arguing over?”

      • It seems to be a niggling question for theologians. I don’t think — at least, I seriously hope not! — that anybody bases their faith on “the wrath of the Father being poured on on His Son.” What a horrid thing to believe! Reading the description, I wholeheartedly reject the Reformed view, and would have even as a Protestant if I’d understood it. It’s but one more aspect of Reformed theology that I find frightening and offputting and contrary to believe in a God Who is Love (1 John 3:8). Do Reformed people really emphasize this? It seems, to me that the disagreement, as it is in nearly every case, inflamed more by Reformed people’s insistence than by anything the Catholic Church does. With most issues of the Reformation, we have been trying to bury them for 500 years, but the Reformed keep digging up the rotting carcasses.

        • mtsweat says:

          Described as Mr. Cross does in his article, you are right, it appears a horrid thing. I quite sure the Reformed would bring a little more explanation to the table however. We’re grateful for your added input, for as stated, my only desire is to come to an understanding of why we are so divided and ask if the reasons so are valid. Guess I need to go wash my hands… me and my shovel.

          • I would be very glad to hear a Reformed explanation of it. I do trust Bryan (if you don’t know his other blog, it’s really swell), and believe he knows what he’s talking about, but I know things have a tendency to sound much worse coming from the other side. And no, I’m glad you pointed this out. I really been shrugging every time the term “penal substitution” was mentioned, not understanding what the big deal was — so thanks for the heads up. I also learned only yesterday what “antinomianism” is, while defending against an opposite charge of “works’ righteousness.” I guess this is the week God decided to expand my theological vocabulary. 🙂

        • mtsweat says:

          In high hopes that some of our Reformed brethren will choose to chime in here… ya’ll come!

          Your and my vocab too… 🙂

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