A wintry reception for "Pierced for Our Transgressions"

Andrew from New Zealand reports his flatmate Reuben’s reactions to the book Pierced for Our Transgressions, so much hyped by Adrian Warnock, as well as by a whole string of well-known Christian leaders who probably didn’t have time to read it properly.

Here is part of what Andrew wrote about Reuben’s reactions:

After hearing him laughing regularly for a few hours while reading it I asked him what he thought of the book. From his summary it sounded like the most worthwhile thing about the book is its amusement value. He had arrived at the view that the authors lacked a basic grasp of logic… apparently they would discuss how all sorts of things about a passage were “unclear” then turn around and announce that it “clearly” proved penal substitution, and this was interspersed with baseless assertions, and they made totally random logical arguments that drew conclusions from unrelated premises, and they kept contradicting both themselves and passages they were quoting. He noted that what they lacked on logic and evidence they made up for with large amounts of rhetoric and assertions about how clear and obvious things were. He also was amused at the tiny amount of biblical evidence they were able to find for their view compared to the vast amount of non-biblical evidence. When I asked “so have they made even one argument that was at all worthwhile that merits discussion or a reply” he cracked up laughing and said “No. …”

Reuben’s response to the book reminds me of that of Bishop NT Wright, as quoted by Adrian:

it is deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical . . . it abstracts certain elements from what the Bible actually says, elements which are undoubtedly there and which undoubtedly matter, but then places them within a different framework, which admittedly has a lot in common with the biblical one, but which, when treated as though it were the biblical one, becomes systematically misleading. … it seems to me that it is the authors of this book who are not paying proper attention to Scripture itself.

Andrew expects the book to “crack me up on even a bleak wintry day”. Maybe I ought to read it to crack myself up on this bleak day in what is supposed to be summer here.

0 thoughts on “A wintry reception for "Pierced for Our Transgressions"

  1. Oh no, someone’s flatmate in New Zealand doesn’t rate the book. Oh well that is that then. If someone’s flatmate doesn’t like it it must be wrong!!!

  2. “who probably didn’t have time to read it properly.”

    oh pulllleeese.. talk about poisoning the well.

    if you’re going to say that at least give some reasons why and be specific as to which people you think didn’t rather than just throwing mud 🙂

  3. Dave, I see your point. I don’t have any specific evidence concerning these people and this book. However, it is very clear that well-known Christian leaders cannot possibly go through in detail all the books and other products which they endorse. Otherwise they would not have any time for their own important ministries. In practice they must rely on skim reading, recommendations from associates and assistants, and what they are told by the publisher. I fear that some publishers, in what can be an unscrupulous business, exploit this.

    As evidence for this kind of process, I quote from the same NT Wright review which I linked to in the post, but Wright is here writing about his commendation of Chalke and Mann’s “The Lost Message of Jesus”:

    I was prepared to say, in effect, ‘Well, I obviously missed that bit when I read the book, and if he said that I disagree with him,’ and to write it off as a warning to read a book extremely carefully before commending it.

    So Bishop Wright is admitting that he commends books without reading them thoroughly enough to be sure that he agrees with everything in them – although in this case, having re-read Chalke and Mann after the fuss, he writes “I stand by every word I wrote.”

    It would be very interesting to find out if everyone who commended “Pierced for Our Transgressions” actually stands by every word they wrote.

  4. Those are helpful words from NTW. I agree it would be a challenge for these people to read every book that comes their way – but then again, they are pastors – and they’re likely to read a lot of books – I probably read over 50 books a year in my personal and ‘ministry’ reading….

    Wright gives a good warning about taking care in that and I appreciate his honesty – I’d not seen that quote from him before.

    Likewise let’s not impune the reputations of fellow believers without knowing if they’ve read the book or not. If they haven’t and have still endorsed it then the problem is not with PFOT but with the endorser… the test for any book isn’t whether it has whatever number of positive or negative reviews but whether it’s true to scripture.

  5. Thanks, Dave.

    the test for any book isn’t whether it has whatever number of positive or negative reviews but whether it’s true to scripture.

    Indeed! That’s why I am concerned by the kinds of arguments I sometimes see, that PFOT must be a great book because so many people have endorsed it. In fact the main thing it means is that the publishers sent out an especially large number of review copies. Of course there may have been negative responses as well, but they would not have printed those – and might have edited mixed ones.

  6. Hi Peter,

    I have not read PFOT and I’m not sure I want to, but I have read the authors’ comments from the book’s website:

    Quote: ‘Some who believe in penal substitution have replied by pointing out that Christ suffered willingly, or by noting that God gave himself in Christ to suffer in our place. But while these things are gloriously true, neither actually answers the objection. If guilty sinners are acquitted and an innocent third party is punished, then irrespective of his willingness an injustice has been committed, and it is unthinkable that God would do such a thing.

    How are we to respond? The flaw in the argument is the unstated premise that Christ is unrelated to the believer, an unconnected third party. This is not true, for believers are in union with Christ — he is in us, and we are in him, indwelt by his Spirit (e.g. John 17:21; Romans 6:5; 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:27; Philippians 1:1). It is for this reason that the imputation of our guilt to Christ and his righteousness to us, his punishment and our acquittal, are just in the sight of God.’
    What’s all the fuss about? A Brief Introduction to the Penal Substitution Debate
    by Steve Jeffery, Andrew Sach and Mike Ovey (authors’ comment on website for the book)

    Response: It is well that the authors recognize that punishing the innocent in the place of the guilty is an act of injustice. However, their argument is that Jesus was imputed guilt as a result of His relationship and union with believers.

    Yes, believers are in union with Christ — He in us and we in Him. We are made at-one with God, indwelt of the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason we are righteous — covered by the righteous life He gave as a sweet smelling offering and sacrifice for us at the cross (Eph.5:2). An impure offering God will not accept. This ‘oneness’ is the outcome of the atonement Jesus made. We share in His righteousness through faith and consent to the Law of the Spirit in Christ. We are atoned with God — reconciled to God in the righteousness of His Son.

    It is not the other way around – that God became reconciled to us and that Jesus became atoned to sinners! For Jesus to have become legally guilty for the sins of believers, He would need to have consented to their crimes. Mere relationship to those who sin does not impart guilt: ‘The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son’ (Ezek.18:20, NKJ). The ‘union’ that is required of one to be imputed criminal guilt is that of complicity in the unlawful acts. Legally and biblically it was not possible for Jesus to have been made guilty for sin. The punishment He suffered was an act of injustice, as the Bible states: ‘His justice was taken away’ (Acts 8:33, NKJ). ‘He submitted Himself to Him who judges righteously,’ Peter wrote (1 Pet.2:23, NKJ). The resurrection was God’s act of justice – overturning the verdict of an illegal court, whilst proclaiming the righteousness of the One who died.

    For those who truly repent God promises life, not death — forgiveness and healing, not wrath and punishment. Forgiveness is part of God’s Law; and, when God completely forgives, the beneficiaries are completely absolved from all the penal consequences of all past guilt and sin. In other words, when sinners repent and turn to Christ, condemnation is taken away. God’s response is to forgive, not to punish. The wrath of God remains for those who do not repent; it is not for those who do. Jesus did not die for the sake of the incorrigibly wicked — for whom God’s wrath is justly reserved.

    Norman McIlwain

  7. Peter, I have debated nutty fundies who claim that the books of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien are full of occult magic.

    It didn’t matter how much I quoted from Lewis’s theological books or defended Tolkien’s Christian worldview. I was on a hiding to nothing. They KNEW, these folk, they KNEW that neither Tolkien nor Lewis had been a practising Christian. Don’t ask me how they knew, because they’d never actually read anything by either author!!

    But they KNEW, you see. They KNEW.

    Even though they clearly didn’t know what they were talking about.

    I’m just sayin’. 🙂

    Personally, I think it’s a really bad move to critique a book without actually reading it. I am reminded of Tim Challies’ negative review of Philip Yancey’s book ‘Prayer’. I’m right in the middle of reading ‘Prayer’, and I’m loving it, it’s a TERRIFIC book, a really encouraging and biblical book! But all these Calvinists in Tim’s comments thread began to slag Yancey and his book off, saying they would not read it. Because Tim had dissed it. 🙁 That made me very sad.

    Honestly. Why do we evangelicals do this to each other? Who died and turned us all into mini-Popes?

    It seems to me that you’re doing a similar thing here. It’s irrelevant what some bloke in NZ thinks of PFOT. If you haven’t read the book yourself, you’re not really in a position to judge it, are you? 🙂

    Just sayin’. 😉

  8. Philippa, I see your point. But I am not passing judgment on the book without reading it, only making available more widely the comments of those who have read it.

    Norman, thank you, I agree with you. I could just about understand this idea of Christ being guilty of our sins if it referred to sins of Christians, as Christ is in us and we in him – although I think this grossly misrepresents the work of Christ in us. But Christ is not in unbelievers, nor are they in him, and so he cannot be held guilty for their sins. The only way this can possibly work is to say that all humans are in Adam, and that Christ died for all the sins of all who are in Adam. Also this formulation retains “Christ died for all” and avoids the limited atonement error. But this is not the argument of Romans 5.

    I was interested in a discussion by Hebrew experts of Isaiah 53:8 here and in a few previous posts, which implies that this verse should be understood as referring to the punishment of “them”, i.e. “my people”, rather than “him”, the servant. In other words, this verse means that the people of Israel were punished for their sin of unjustly putting the servant to death.

  9. I can understand maybe someone like Piper looking it over, agreeing with its conclusions, and having too much to do to examine it carefully. I can also imagine someone like Piper reading the arguments and not noticing gaps in them.

    On the other hand, Carson writes so few blurbs on other people’s books that I’d be very surprised if he didn’t read it carefully, and he’s much more inclined to anticipate objections from those who disagree, so I’d be surprised that someone I don’t know who is not a scholar will be a better judge of the argumentation than Carson would be.

    I’ll stick with my initial expectation (from Carson’s recommendation) that it will be at least a pretty good book until I have a chance to see it myself.

  10. Pingback: Speaker of Truth » Kiwis respond to “Pierced for Our Transgressions”

  11. Thank you, not so incognito Reuben of Christchurch, New Zealand (a great place, I visited four years ago). I will post about your review and Andrew’s comments.

    Coincidentally, your name is also the anti-spam word for this comment!

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