My last post on Adrian’s apostasy was not to be taken seriously. But this one is. Apostasy is not quite the right word. But what is the right word for someone who pronounces a public curse on his brothers and sisters in Christ for disagreeing with him on a theological issue?
In fact I rather appreciated most of Adrian’s interview with the authors of Pierced for Our Transgressions. It helped me to understand better where these authors are coming from and why they felt the need to write this book – although I can’t entirely agree with them. It is only in the last few paragraphs of Adrian’s interview that he steps well beyond the mark.
Before these last paragraphs Adrian quotes the following from Pierced for Our Transgressions:
Thirdly, there is the ultimate example of guilt by association. Penal substitution is portrayed as ‘a form of cosmic child abuse.’ This sticks in the mind, tugging at the conscience, for there are few crimes more despicable than violence towards an innocent, defenceless child.
The fact is that none of it is true. Nowhere in Chalke and Mann’s book do they even attempt to argue that it is true. The above quotation amounts to a form of verbal bullying, a scare tactic calculated to coerce people into abandoning long-held beliefs out of fear of being associated with something nasty.”
Now I am not quite sure how fair it is to accuse Chalke and Mann of “guilt by association” tactics and “verbal bullying”. I understand them to be responding to popular misunderstandings of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) rather than to the doctrine as properly formulated. But I understand how the “cosmic child abuse” soundbite came to be associated with PSA itself – an association made not by Chalke and Mann but by their readers, but nevertheless an offensive association. So, less provocative wording would have been wiser. But my main point here is not to discuss the issue but to show what Adrian has done with it.
Here is what Adrian wrote in the final paragraphs of this post (his emphasis):
Where do you stand? Will you join arms with Andrew, Steve, and a whole generation of those of us who feel this issue is quite literally one of life and death?
Or will you seek to compromise, maybe downplay the importance of precisely how Jesus saves us, and adopt a gospel message that, whilst sounding more acceptable to the modern ear, is in the opinion of many of us nothing less than “another gospel.”
The stakes couldn’t possibly be higher.
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)
In other words, surely, he is saying that there are only two alternatives: “join arms with Andrew, Steve, and a whole generation of those of us who feel this issue is quite literally one of life and death”; or “adopt a gospel message that … is in the opinion of many of us nothing less than “another gospel.”” He leaves no room for a middle ground here, for those of us who accept PSA, as rightly understood, as a good and valid model but not that holding the right view of it is an issue of life and death. And by quoting Galatians 1:8 from ESV he pronounces a curse on those (or at least the males among them) who adopt what he considers to be “another gospel.”
This is what I just wrote in a comment on Adrian’s blog, which he might or might not accept:
Andrew, Steve and Mike are right to criticise “guilt by association” tactics and “verbal bullying”. So, Adrian, please avoid doing this yourself by implying, in your closing paragraphs, that anyone who does not entirely endorse their opinion is promoting “another gospel” and should be accursed as in Galatians 1:8. This is the ultimate verbal bullying: “if you don’t agree with us, you are going to hell”. Please refrain from this.
Let’s see how Adrian responds to this. Does he really mean what he seems to imply, that he wants millions of Christians to go to hell, whether opponents of PSA as he considers Chalke to be, or critics of Pierced for Our Transgressions like NT Wright, or those like myself whose main complaint is that the issue has been blown up out of all proportion? If he doesn’t intend to consign us to eternal punishment (something which fortunately he does not have power to do), he needs to apologise for the misunderstanding and explain what he does mean.