Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Immorality of "Letting" an Innocent Person Take Your Punishment

I have been having an interesting conversation with two non-Christians on the subject of the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement. It began when I responded to a comment by blogger "Wait What."

Wait What...
...This is why religion has caused so much pain. You can see based on your morality which is directed by an authoritarian system can be easily used to justify horrible things, b/c your moral authority commands it, it no longer becomes wrong. Of course you don't see anything immoral/sinful about letting an innocent man suffer the punishment for your crimes, b/c that was commanded by your Authoritarian God. Letting the innocent person suffer on your behalf is now moral??? June 22, 2010 7:20 AM
(emphasis added)

Actually the plan of redemption was agreed upon by both the Father and the Son, from eternity. Our "letting" has nothing to do with it.
Your theology needed a bit of a tweaking there; thanks for letting me help you out. No charge, btw.
8:16 AM

Blogger, BeamStalk then joined in, agreeing that the whole concept of penal substitution is immoral. The following comment is sort of a recap, with my responses, of what was said previously:

WW: Again you make the case, based on the "merits" of Christ

SSL: Yep. Good theology, WW.

WW:  This is cheating

SSL: Oops. Bad theology, WW.

WW:  This is "I passed the test based on the merits of another individual."..

SSL:  Not exactly. Only Jesus passed the test. But we receive the benefits by virtue of his being our representative.

WW: That is immoral

SSL: By whose standard?

WW: In order for you to have salvation, it requires that an innocent person have been punished.

SSL: Yes, Because the justice of God requires, that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin; but no man, being himself a sinner, could satisfy for others. (Heidelberg Catechism Q.16)

WW: ... also immoral...

SSL: God, the source of morality, does not seem to agree with you.

WW: You believe these concepts are not found in Bible?

SSL: The concepts ARE found in the Bible, except the part about being immoral.

WW: You can call [salvation] a free gift as I said you can call it anything you want, but it is not. A free gift is something given with nothing in return.

SSL: "Nothing?" Does a feeling of gratitude and saying "Thank you," suddenly make it "not a free gift?" It is free because the giver was under no obligation to give it to you. Something like a paycheck, on the other hand, has been earned by the receiver.

WW: But you have to have faith and trust in Jesus as your risen savior in order to obtain this "Free" gift..

SSL: Faith/trust as well as repentance are fruits of regeneration (regeneration = born again).

WW: ...It's not really free if it requires something of you [faith and repentance] in order for you to receive/accept it.

SSL: Faith (trust, belief) is the means by which one receives the gift, but faith is not a work. It is a hearty trust that the Holy Spirit works in the heart of an individual by the gospel.

WW: In the end, it is inescapable that immorality plays a role in Christian salvation.

SSL: I agree, immorality does play a role in Christian salvation. We did the sinning; Christ did the saving.

Just like being sick plays a role in being cured. (No need to cure someone who is not sick.) Being enemies plays a role in reconciliation. (No need to reconcile those who are already friends.)

WW: I think you are just trying to think of it in a way that makes it seem more acceptable... but the reality is different. This is a man-made concept. Only humans would create a system such as this, where you allow the innocent to be punished rather than accept justice to be done to the guilty.

SSL: So, I am putting a spin on something "immoral" to make it seem like something "acceptable?" That is what you think I am trying to do?
WW, I am acutely aware of the fact that the Gospel and the way of salvation will never be "acceptable" to any man. Not until that man has an idea of 1. The awesome holiness and majesty of God, and 2. The depth of his own sinfulness whereby he has egregiously offended a holy God.

The world is filled with religions and philosophies that are created by man (or the devil: [Rev.12:15-17] ) that are designed to be acceptable to our fallen nature. God's way is different. The Law slays us. The Gospel humbles us.

You have misunderstood my intention, WW. What I tried to do in my last comment, as well as my reply to your initial comment, was to correct your mistaken belief about what the Bible, and the church in it's public confessions, teaches about how we are saved.

That, in fact, is the primary reason that I participate on Ray's blog: to try to accurately represent what God says in His Word and through His church about Christ and salvation. That is my agenda, and it is not a hidden one. June 30, 2010

As I said at the beginning of this post, blogger, BeamStalk was also part of this (over a week long, now) conversation. Yesterday, I asked him to clarify exactly what his position was, since he had been using Liberal Christianity's arguments to refute the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Here is his reply to me:

I have stated my position many times before. I am an agnostic atheist. Yes, I am using an evangelical, Norman McIlwain, from England to make my point about penal substitution.

I think the Bible does point to Penal Substitution and that it is a major foundation of modern Christianity. I also think it makes no sense and is immoral. The idea of punishing and killing an innocent to save the guilty is not justice but a perversion of justice. It is not moral, no one would ever accept this as a right action, but special pleading makes it okay within Christianity."
June 30, 2010 5:47 AM

I found it interesting that BeamStalk thinks that the Bible points to Penal Substitution (which our Reformed confessions also teach). I then replied to BeamStalk, thanking him for making his position clear to me.

This exchange of comments has been taking place for more than a week. To see the entire thread at Atheist Central click here. (You will see that we deviated from the original subject of the post, which was "Harmless Pedophilia.") Click: "show original post" then click "collapse comments." Then you can select individual comments by clicking the word "said" after the commenter's name.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jesus Came to Fulfill All Righteousness

"Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness (Matt.3:15). It is He who has kept God's law perfectly, so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes (Rom. 10:4). Christ was made to be sin for us, so that in Him we might gain God's righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21; 3:9). Only so God could be just and the justifier of the one who believes in Christ (Rom. 3:26)."

___Edmund Clowney (From an article titled: "What is the Bible About?")

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Please tell me that this isn't for the purpose of Evangelism!

(Photo from the WhiteHorse Inn Blog)

Monday, June 21, 2010


True blessings in this life are found in salvation, which Christ won for you through His perfect righteousness and approval by the Father.

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  (Galatians 4:4-7)

Listen to True Blessings, a sermon preached on the morning of June 13, 2010 at High Desert United Reformed Church by Rev. Tom Morrison. (28 minutes)
The message is from Job 1:1-5

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I Love The Lord

Psalm 116
I Love the Lord

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted”;
I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Men in white wigs all look alike to me.

It was several years ago, and I was preparing to do some work in a customer's home. The wall at one end of the dining room was filled with pictures of all kinds. My eyes fell upon one small black and white portrait. I recognized the inch-and-a half high image as that of Jonathan Edwards, not something one sees in many homes nowadays. Thinking that I had found someone of a kindred spirit, I later said to the lady who owned the home, "I noticed the picture of Jonathan Edwards in the dining room." She looked puzzled, and said, "Show me what you are talking about." We walked over to the wall, and I pointed to the picture of Edwards. She stared at it in silence for a few seconds, then she spoke. "I always thought it was George Washington."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"God has no origin," said Novatian, and it is precisely this concept of no-origin which distinguishes That-which-is-God from whatever is not God. __A.W. Tozer

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Little Context for my post: "Two Kinds of People"

On my post, “Two Kinds of People” Gregg left this comment:

"I have to think on this one very carefully. I have come across it before and dismissed it, but I wonder what the context was, maybe I might understand what he was trying to say. When God chose the elect, passing by those whom he didn't and as he left them in their sin, men do desire their sin and do not desire to come to God."

I understand Gregg’s concern; especially since we both hold to Reformed Theology, as does Timothy Keller, and the C.S. Lewis quote standing alone may seem out of place. Here is my email response to Gregg, slightly modified from its original form in order to reformat it into a blog post:

I ran across this C.S. Lewis quote in Timothy Keller's book, The Reason for God: Belief in an age of Skepticism. It is in chapter five: "How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?"

Let me give you a bit of context so we understand Keller's point, and why he uses this Lewis quote (from the book, The Great Divorce).

"The people in hell are miserable, but Lewis shows us why. We see, raging like unchecked flames, their pride, their paranoia, their self-pity, their certainty that everyone else is wrong, that everyone else is an idiot! All their humility is gone, and thus so is their sanity. They are utterly, finally locked in a prison of their own self-centeredness, and their pride progressively expands into a bigger and bigger mushroom cloud. They continue to go to pieces forever, blaming everyone but themselves. Hell is that writ large. That is why it is a travesty to picture God casting people into a pit who are crying, 'I'm sorry! Let me out!'...

A common image of hell in the bible is that of fire. Fire disintegrates. Even in this life we can see the kind of soul degeneration that self- centeredness creates. We know how selfishness and self absorption leads to piercing bitterness, nauseating envy, paralyzing anxiety, paranoid thoughts, and the mental denials and distortions that accompany them. Now ask the question: "What if when we die we don't end, but spiritually our life extends on into eternity?" Hell, then, is the trajectory of a soul, living a self-absorbed, self-centered life, going on forever."

Keller then quotes Luke 16:24-31, the rich man and Lazarus, to support the view of hell that he is presenting here. He then suggests that the rich man built his identity on his wealth rather than on God.

"...In short, hell is simply one's freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity. ... All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself."

(After that, came Lewis' "two kinds of people" quote that I used in my blog post.)

Keller was focusing more on tracing the characteristics of people in hell back to when they were here on earth, in this life, rather than on the the subject of reprobation from the point of view of God's eternal decree. His aim was to answer the skeptic's objection to a loving God's sending people to hell.

C.S. Lewis again states, "Hell is the greatest monument to human freedom." As Romans 1:24 says, God "gave them up to ... their desires."

I do not believe that man can over-ride what God has decreed from all eternity, and I don’t think Timothy Keller believes that, either. Thanks Gregg, good call.

__Craig Boyd

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Puritan Quote: Thomas Vincent

Many descriptions are given in the New Testament of this lovely person, I shall mention only one, Colossians 1:15-19.

Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature; for by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all fullness should dwell.

If we read, believe, and consider this great description of Christ, we must see and say that Christ is most excellent and amiable, and that no beloved is like the beloved of true Christians. Therefore it is true that true Christians love Christ because of His loveliness.

(Thomas Vincent -- from The True Christian's Love to the Unseen Christ)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two Kinds Of People

There are only two kinds of people -- those who say "Thy will be done" to God or those to whom God in the end says, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice it wouldn't be Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. __C.S. Lewis

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind...(Romans 1:28)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Double Comfort Safari Club

As I am still in the process of reading Alexander McCall Smith's newest novel in his delightful and thought provoking No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, I don't suppose this  properly counts as a  "review" of The Double Comfort Safari Club. I am almost at the mid-way point in the book, and wanted to share a few thoughts here before reading on and seeing how it is all going to turn out.

The backdrop for this series is Botswana in Africa, home to the main character, Precious Romotswe. Mma Romotswe established the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" with the modest amount of money inherited from her father. She had absolutely no previous experience in that profession, but with the information and advice she read in a book,  The Principles of Private Detection, a good deal of common sense, and wisdom gained from her life's experiences, she set up shop.

Some of the characters who regularly appear in the series are:

Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is Mma Ramotswe's "Good Husband" (she previously had a very bad one), automobile mechanic and proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. His employees include Charlie, who is known for his talking or acting first, and thinking later.

Grace Makutsi, secretary and assistant detective to Mma Ramotswe. Mma Makutsi has "difficult skin," wears glasses that are "too large," and had received a typing score of ninety-seven per cent at the Botswana Secretarial College, an achievement of which she is constantly reminding everyone.

Mr. Phuti Radiphuti is Mma Makutsi's kind and generous fiancĂ©. Phuti suffers a debilitating injury in this story, and the relationship with Mma Makutsi becomes complicated when his overbearing aunt with a watermelon-shaped head shows up to care for him during his recuperation.

And then there is the "arch-Jezebel," Violet Sephotho. Violet will use her beauty and charm to try to steal another woman's man, or to trick a man into giving her his house.

Alexander McCall Smith is a master at weaving into his stories revelations of human nature, good and bad. In this excerpt, Mma Ramotswe reflects on the background of a friend who is helping her with a case:

Hansi's father was one of a tribe of Afrikaaners that had trekked there in the nineteenth century and had stayed. They were tough people, burned dry by the sun, leather-hard in their determination to eke out a living from the land, followers of a Calvinist church, a long way from their Dutch roots - so long a way as to have become African in their souls. This father of his had produced Hansi by a local woman, a Motswana, and then disowned his tiny son, sending the woman away with a pittance. Hansi knew who he was, and knew his farm, but knew too that he was not welcome there. Yet he was, for some complex reason, proud of this farmer who denied him, and of his lineage, and spoke of his father with the same air of pride as Mma Ramotswe spoke of hers. She thought, though, If I could speak to that man and tell him how much his son loves him, and shake him until he acknowledged this love and how stupid he was to turn his heart against it. If I could speak to him ... But some of us cannot see love, she said to herself, even when it is there, right before us, asking us to invite it in.

The Double Comfort Safari Club, copyright © 2010 Alexander McCall Smith,  is published by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Photograph of author © Chris Watt

Monday, June 7, 2010

Two Great Commandments And One "New Commandment"

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first and great commandment; and the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

Matthew 22 & John 13

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A LAUGH FROM THE PAST from Calvinistic Cartoons

Last year, checking out a link from Pyromaniacs' blog roll, I discovered Calvinistic Cartoons. It instantly became, and remains, one of my favorite blogs. I enjoy the "Just for Laughs" features where blogger Eddie Eddings posts a picture and invites readers to provide a religion-related humorous caption.

Here is a Calvinistic Cartoons Just for Laughs from July 1, 2009. I have selected out the caption submitted by Pilgrim Mommy followed by comments between herself and Eddie. This had me laughing out loud. (It still does.) By the way, Pilgrim Mommy is celebrating the 500th posting on her own blog, Tried With Fire, which I also recommend.

The Bible Algebra Man

The lesser known "Bible Algebra Man" struggles to answer the age old question:

The Israelites' average walking speed was 2.87 mph and the Egyptians' average horse and chariot speed was 14.7 mph. The Israelites fled Egypt at 2:36 AM and had an 5.37 hour head start on the Egyptians. What time would the Egyptians have caught up with the Israelites if they had not been wiped out in the Red Sea and not lost 1.64 hours on the trip due to the encounter with the large nest of vipers and the bum wheel on Pharaoh’s chariot?

Eddie Eddings said...
I wonder if the Bible Algebra Man could tell me what the speed of laughter is?

Pilgrim mommy said...
According to the Bible Algebra Man,
speed of laughter = 3.35hc - (Vtf/87.93) - (0.2ad)

hc = humor coefficient of joke
V = volume of liquid in mouth if one is drinking a beverage while laughing
t = temperature of beverage in degrees Celsius
f = viscosity of beverage
a = angle of trajectory if beverage spews from mouth
d = distance of spew

Eddie Eddings said...
That's what I thought

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Only Two Times the Word Should Be Preached:

1. In Season

2. Out of Season

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)

From: "Facets of Grace"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel!

Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.