Morgan Guyton wants to hold onto the Penal Substitution theory of the atonement. I’ll leave it to my astute readers to decide whether that is a wise move. In any event, he is decidedly unhappy with some of the claims some proponents of this theory make. He summarizes four of them as:
- God is allergic to sin.
- God sees Jesus instead of us when God looks at us.
- Since God is infinite, God is infinitely offended by the slightest of our sins.
- God poured out God’s wrath on Jesus on the cross.
He attributes these claims (and “cringe-worthy” is letting them off too easily!) to the juvenilization of American evangelical Christianity. He writes,
I really think that these problems in popular penal substitution theology might be a reflection of what Christianity Today has called the “juvenilization” of American evangelical Christianity. When church becomes youth group for adults, explanations that speak on a teenage level become the norm for everybody.
When I was a teenager, the purpose of being a Christian was to avoid punishment. I expected the rules to be arbitrary and incomprehensible. So it made sense to me to accept a savior who would rescue me from the clutches of the infinitely picky and thoroughly uncompromising High School Principal of the universe. That was the salvation I received when I asked Jesus back into my heart as a 16 year old (after I had already done believer’s baptism at age 8).
But I experienced the metanoia that is true repentance when God spoke to me in 1998 through a little girl selling dolls in the square of San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico. He told me I could never be a tourist again. That was when I gave my life to His kingdom. That was when my heart was filled with wrath against all the ways that the world dishonors a God whose image was reflected to me through a barefoot indigenous girl. I need God’s honor to be satisfied. I need the cross not only for the sake of my personal relationship with God but because I cannot live in a world where the crucified are not resurrected. Penal substitution is an important part of the rich mystery of the cross — just not in the oversimplified, canned version that has come to predominate our juvenilized evangelical church.
(H/T: Scot McKnight)