John Stott announces his retirement

I thank Adrian Warnock for the news that John Stott is to retire at last, at the age of 86.

Adrian also clarifies Stott’s position on penal substitutionary atonement. I don’t think I can fully accept this position. But at least this confirmation that Stott’s view of PSA is clearly different from Chalke’s spares Stott from a danger of severe embarrassment: the invitation for his final speaking engagement at Keswick will not be withdrawn because he is perceived as taking a “soft” position on PSA.

I greatly appreciate Stott’s ministry, despite our relatively minor differences over PSA and also some different opinions on charismatic issues. It is now over 30 years since Stott’s book Christ the Controversialist (IVP, 1970) played a major part in bringing me from a rather vague Christianity to a committed evangelical faith. The book is still on my bookshelf.

Stott will be greatly missed. I wish him a long and happy retirement.

More from Broadbent on UCCF – Spring Harvest split

Bishop Pete Broadbent, Chairman of Spring Harvest, who commented on this blog a few days ago, has had more to say about the split between Spring Harvest and UCCF in this discussion forum, where he goes by the name “pete173” – two posts on the first page, one on the third, several short ones on the fourth.

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Illogical condemnation of Steve Chalke

In a comment philosopher Jeremy Pierce challenges my claim about people who condemn Steve Chalke, that

they show their confusion when, in blog comment after blog comment, they simultaneously accuse Chalke of describing a straw man caricature of PSA and condemn him for rejecting PSA.

Jeremy writes:

Your dilemma seems to me to be a false one: …

I haven’t read the blog posts you’re talking about, but here’s what I suspect they’re saying (because it’s what I’d say). They’re saying is the following. He has described a caricature of penal substitution to tear down, and then he has ascribed that view to all who accept penal substitution by simply calling that view penal substitution …

Therefore, he has set up a straw man and torn it down.

Here I want to defend my claim and demonstrate that it is rational and correct.
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Steve Chalke's other marathon

Rev Steve Chalke has reclaimed the world record for the most money raised by running in a marathon, nearly £2 million (or US $4 million) – news from the Church Times, tip from Adrian, but nothing else in this article is new. See also this article.

Yes, this is the same Steve Chalke who is still being vilified by many Christians for calling a distorted view of the atonement “cosmic child abuse”. The money he raised shows how many people still support him and his ministries. Chalke completed the London marathon in less than four hours, but his atonement marathon has been running for nearly four years, and still looks set to run and run.

What is Penal Substitutionary Atonement?

Adrian Warnock has posted his definition of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), and also the definition in the book Pierced for Our Transgressions. But these definitions are by no means the only ones; for example Bishop Tom Wright‘s understanding is quite considerably different. Much of the recent unfortunate controversy has in fact been based on misunderstandings, because different people are working from different understandings of this doctrine.

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Tim Chesterton, a Canadian Anglican priest on sabbatical in England, has written the thought-provoking (especially in the last third) first part of a review of the book Post-Christendom by Stuart Murray. It leads me to ask myself and my church leaders, how far are we keeping up with vestiges of Christendom and how far are we disentangling ourselves from it? Do we “concede that Christendom inoculates people against real Christianity rather than evangelizing them”? I look forward to a review of the strategy suggestions in part two.

UPDATE 27th April: part two is now here, concluding the book and still well worth reading.

UPDATE 1st May: Tim has now posted his own reflections on this book.

The Maltese Cross, or the Christian one?

Maltese CrossLatin CrossThis post is not really about the visual difference between the Maltese Cross (left) and the shape with a longer lower part, the Latin Cross (right), which is more standard at least in western churches. I could argue that equal-armed crosses like the Maltese Cross are originally pagan, and that only unequal ones like the Latin version are truly Christian. But that is not my point here. Nor is this at all about the modern country of Malta or its inhabitants. But I am using the difference in cross shape as a symbol of a difference between two fundamental theological outlooks which affects the theology of the cross and the atonement.

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UCCF Director: "God never forgives"

UPDATE 4th July 2007: I am now withdrawing these charges against Cunningham with my apologies. See this post for an explanation.

I interrupt my normal programme to bring you this shocking quote. Yes, the news is going round that Richard Cunningham, director of UCCF, said

God never forgives – he punishes.

Apparently he said this during a talk at the recent Word Alive conference, the same one which is separating from Spring Harvest.

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Maintaining a good witness about the atonement

In a comment Dave Warnock reminded me of the importance of Christians maintaining a good witness to outsiders as they disagree about the atonement. Dave believes that the split between Spring Harvest, UCCF and the Keswick Convention is a bad witness. In my comment in reply I did not disagree, but noted:

Perhaps here the marketing, if not entirely open and honest, is managing to avoid too much of a bad witness.

In other words, it can only be a good thing in terms of Christian witness that the organisations involved are not publicising their disagreements, but presenting this more positively as an opportunity for God’s work to be broadened.

But in that case perhaps those of us who are blogging about the split, such as Adrian, Dave and myself, are being the bad witnesses by opening up this issue in public, by washing Christian dirty linen in a public forum. Should we keep quiet?

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