Is God the bad cop?

Is Jesus the good cop? is the question which Adrian Warnock asks as he continues his long series on the atonement. He argues correctly, and importantly, that we should not see the Old Testament God as the “bad cop” and Jesus as the “good cop”. Rather, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in character and purpose. But I would have liked to see less emphasis from Adrian on the shared wrath of the Father and the Son, which makes it sound like they are both bad cops, and more on their shared love; in fact not “more”, because astonishingly Adrian does not mention at all in this post God’s love or any of his related positive attributes.

But how does this relate to the penal substitutionary model of the atonement which Adrian is continuing to promote above all others?

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Canon and church

This post is in part in reply to John Hobbins’ and Doug Chaplin’s comments on my post Canon and Spirit. But I will start in what might look like a very different place: Tim Chesterton’s review of a 1957 book The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision. I will then bring the discussion back to the issues of canon.

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Canon and Spirit

John Hobbins’ blog Ancient Hebrew Poetry is no longer very accurately named, for in recent months John’s interests have ranged much more widely than this, covering various areas of interest to me, although maybe not to many of my readers. John’s posts have almost always been rather long and rather scholarly, as perhaps suitable for their intended audience of academics. His series Thinking about Canon, just completed I think, is no exception: interesting to me, but a long and technical read.

John also identifies himself with me as “a fellow-charismatic”. So I was all the more surprised when in his latest update on the debate about his series he launched into a personal attack on me. What was my fault? Apparently simply that I had put forward, in comments on a previous post, the standard evangelical position on the canon of Scripture, that is, on which books are to be considered authoritative parts of the Bible. In response John wrote things like the following:

Said facts require no reflection, no soul-searching, of any kind. … a deleterious theology of history and a restrictive understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit … Peter’s stance is anti-traditional, anti-historical, and anti-intellectual.

I answered John’s more specific charges in my comment in response. But what is really happening here? What prompted this astonishing attack from someone who is usually such a careful scholar?

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UCCF Director contradicts the Bible and the Apostles' Creed

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

I thank Hugh for his comment on my post in which I quoted Richard Cunningham, director of UCCF, as saying

God never forgives – he punishes.

This version of Cunningham’s words came from a blogger called Cat. Today Hugh has provided an alternative and very likely more accurate version of Cunningham’s words:

God doesn’t forgive sin, he punishes it.

Well, there is a small distinction here. I can see how it makes sense to say that God punishes sin but forgives sinners, especially within the framework of penal substitutionary atonement according to which God is understood as punishing Christ for the sin of others, so that the others can be forgiven.

Unfortunately for Cunningham, this version of his words is all the more clearly in flat contradiction to the Bible and the Apostles’ Creed, which clearly teach about the forgiveness of sins. (Fortunately for Cunningham, God does not condemn people eternally for false doctrine, but that’s another issue which I want to blog about separately.)

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More on forgiveness

There has been a brisk debate about my post on What it means to forgive, and about Dave Warnock’s related post, including helpful responses by Chris Brauns whose post got both of us writing.

Thanks to PamBG for pointing me on her own blog to an article on forgiveness by Rev. Dr. Myron S. Augsburger. I agree with Pam that this article helps to clarify some of the issues we have been discussing. Here are some extracts, with my comments:

Forgiveness is not easy; it is hard … The cost of this resolution is to the innocent one, to the one doing the forgiving. In forgiving you resolve the problem within yourself, and you don’t even make the other feel it. That is never easy for us, nor is it easy for God.

So, forgiveness is mostly an issue for the one who forgives, and does not depend on any response from the one forgiven.

Peter writes that Christ bore our sins in his own body on the tree. (1 Pet 2:24) That is to say, Jesus literally absorbed into himself all of our sin, all of our hostility, all of our negativism toward God. … He literally experienced the intensity of our sin, and in doing so he could resolve his own wrath on sin and let us go free. There is justice in forgiveness because he did not dodge the issue. Nor can we, for we must actually enter into the problem; we must look sin squarely in the face and recognize it for what it is.

Note that Peter does not say that Christ bore the guilt of our sins. This is not the same thing, as Andrew has clarified.

When Paul says in Romans that God set forth Jesus as the expression of mercy (of propitiation, the mercy seat), on behalf of our sins, that he might be just in being the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus (3:23–26), he does not say that God justifies the one who apologizes for his mistakes. Rather, he justifies the one who believes in Jesus!

So justification does not depend on repentance in the sense of accepting forgiveness with an apology, but on faith.

I will leave it for you my readers to read the last part of the article, in which Augsburger puts forward his own model of the atonement. It is not precisely PSA. Nor is it incompatible with PSA. By recommending Augsburger’s model to you I am not rejecting PSA, but simply suggesting that in this particular context of forgiveness this model is a more helpful one.

What it means to forgive

I have recently discovered Chris Brauns’ blog A Brick in the Valley. Chris has been writing several interesting things on forgiveness. This is the practical and pastoral outworking of the doctrine of the atonement, on which there has been such controversy recently.

It was apparently an unbalanced doctrine of the atonement which led Richard Cunningham of UCCF to declare, in direct contradiction to explicit biblical teaching, that “God never forgives”. Chris Brauns, like Cunningham, is a supporter of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), but Chris realises that this doctrine if properly understood does not conflict with the biblical teaching that God forgives repentant sinners.

But I have a small disagreement with Chris: I believe that God forgives sinners whether they are repentant of not, and that similarly we should forgive those who sin against us whether they are repentant or not.

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Are you an ornamental orange Christian?

Eric Jones just asked me to add his blog Transformed Daily to my blogroll. So I started looking through it and came across this wonderful illustration here:

I was what I call an ornamental orange Christian – I looked great on the outside, but when the shiny peel was removed it uncovered a spiritually dry and bitter inside. I did not passionately seek God’s face in sincere prayer and meditation on his Word. I was actually living for myself and not for God.

Are you an ornamental orange Christian? Am I? I certainly have been, and at times I still find myself drying up like this – although when this happens I don’t usually care too much about looking great outside. Read how God put things right for Eric, and how he can do the same for you and me. As we pursue an intimate relationship with God, we can become not ornamental oranges but tasty and juicy ones which, even if they don’t look quite so perfect, have a lasting attractiveness.

Eric, welcome to my blogroll!

Adrian curses Chalke, Wright and me

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.

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