Comments: Evangelicals worry about image

Thanks for another tip on thinking outside the legalistic-penal box. Anything that gets me outside that sand trap is most welcome. I must add Chalke and Mann to my reading list.

Real evangelical people are often much more diverse than their confessions or institutional conformities will allow us to perceive. Rather like Roman Cathlics, actually. In USA, I mean.

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 17 September 2006 at 1:21am BST

Cheer leader dancing with drums and trumpets!

This Episcopal News article came up on my google alerts overnight:

Fifteen Anglicans were elected as members of the 150-person World Council of Churches body. They come from many different churches and regions of the Anglican Communion, including Australia, Burundi, Canada, England, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Uganda, the U.S., Wales, West Africa, and the West Indies. The Anglican membership includes eight women and seven men, seven lay persons and eight ordained persons, as well as three youth.

The WCC's six focus areas for the next seven years are: unity, mission, evangelism and spirituality; public witness: addressing power, affirming peace; justice, diakonia and responsibility for creation; ecumenical and faith formation; and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.

It's wonderful to see souls looking outside of themselves and building alliances with others. It's a heartening to see diversity.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 17 September 2006 at 7:31am BST

Can we expect Tony Blair now to urge moderate evangelicals to exert pressure on the end-time extremists... like GWB?

Only half-mischievously.

Posted by David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) at Sunday, 17 September 2006 at 5:50pm BST

Edwards is quoted as saying: “Evangelicalism has become a synonym, in popular understanding, for moralising bigotry, fundamentalism and reactivity.”

And just why do you think this is?!

Well, maybe it might make a change in voting patterns (& just a little shift would have a huge impact).

Posted by Prior Aelred at Monday, 18 September 2006 at 4:06pm BST

I always thought that Penal Substitutionary Atonement was, at most, one particular way of contemplating the Crucifixion, certainly not the only one. I also side with the Orthodox (the real ones, not the modern Anglican posers) that it comes close to blasphemy:

How then did it become "a core article of faith"? This is of greater concern for me than most of the other issues. It speaks to our understanding of God Himself, and to how we relate to each other. I am unable to find in Scripture the God I see portrayed in PSA. Frankly, I have no trouble being a member of a Church where so many hate me. I would not be able to be a member of a Church which required its members to think like that about God.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 18 September 2006 at 5:29pm BST

The other thing about the Penal Substitionary Atonement is that the implications of Jesus' crucifixion.

There are those who perceive it was required to appease an angry God, but then argue we are still required to live by the rules, which in effect nullifies the point of the crucifixion. There are others (myself included) who argue that the crucifixion was done to allay humans' fear that God would forgive their sins.

Both models acknowledge the sacrifice, but one negates the sacrifice by insisting it was not enough and we must still live by rules or "face judgement" - aka bow to priestly intimidation and extortion. The other says we are to do our best, but not throw stones as we are all sinners and to seek to be reconciled (even with our enemies) so that we are not dragged off to the magristrate (Luke 12:57-58).

I prefer the latter, because it respects God's intentions for Jesus, whereas the former is the plea of a greedy child asking for more sacrifice. Plus when I read the bible, I see that God is against cruel and wasteful shepherds e.g. Isaiah 3:14-15 & 28:5-29 & 41 & 66:15-24; Zechariah 10:3, 11 & 12; Jeremiah 51:18-26 & 2:34-37 (where God says "But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned'").

And Isaiah 28:11-13 is God's opinion of those who refuse to trust in his forgiveness. "Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose” — but they would not listen. So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there — so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured." This passage could easily be a parable for Christianity - reaching out to the Gentiles in foreign tongues...

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 18 September 2006 at 10:19pm BST

Then there is the older, traditional view of Christus Victor, where Christ joyfully mounts the Cross to do battle for us with the forces that hold us enslaved. His victory is our victory. He has set us free to do the work of the Kingdom without fear, and His example of sacrificial love tells us how far we may be called to go to show that love in the world. We are not free to sin, but if we do the work of the Kingdom, we do no sin. A much healthier, and Orthodox, position.

Posted by ford Elms at Tuesday, 19 September 2006 at 2:01pm BST

Just a quick note on the Penal Substitutionary etc: my (admittedly limited) studies on this area suggest that it was an inconceivable doctrine in the early middle ages, for the simple reason that there is no devotion to the suffering Christ. Only with Candidus of Fulda does meditation on the suffering side of the crucifixion surface, and that would seem to me to be an essential part of the p/s system.

So far as I can tell, early Christian devotion (Fortunatus, Dream of the Rood, Elene, Andreas and the rest) assumed some sort of Christus Victor figure. That's not to say there aren't passages in the NT which can be interpreted in the blood and gore frame necessary to P/S thinking, but, hey, CHristians seem to assume Genesis 3 talks about the devil!

Posted by David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) at Tuesday, 19 September 2006 at 5:16pm BST


I like what you wrote, but it is impossible "to do no sin", even after being born again. We are all sinners in need of God's grace - and if the conservatives were without sin - didn't commit usery, aid and abet priestly pedophiles or adulterers or abusers, then I would bow to their exhortations on homosexuality. But they have set a standard for GLBTs that they can not even reach themselves.

The other thing is that the atonal sacrifice is a core paradigm for many of the violent mongerers - like there is going to be judgment day or the world being replaced after all us sinners have been expunged. To quote Jim Wallis - you can not defeat bad theology by ignoring it - what you need to do is have better theology. That means taking on why Jesus allowed the crucifixion to happen and its purpose and its implications. An ostrich approach means the only definitive answer is the violent interpretation - which negates the whole forgiveness purpose.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 19 September 2006 at 10:26pm BST

True, but I would argue that, even after baptismal regeneration, we are still subject to the brokenness of the Fall, so we can't perfectly do the work of the Kingdom, thus fall into sin. As to PSA and violence mongers, absolutely. It brings up topics like:
1. the linkage of PSA with a Christian culture that requires a dramatic conversion experience, and the self loathing that such an experience requires;

2. Christianity being about judgement, better be a Christian so you don't go to Hell. God is not mocked and I think He can tell the difference between those who love Him and those who claim His name just because they are afraid, and it flies in the face of Jesus's admonitions not to fear.

3. the need to follow the rules so that a)you can be sure of salvation, which is Justification by Works, or b)you can think yourself superior to those who don't follow God's laws like you do.

It's all very unhealthy and nasty. It is true though that sacrificial atonement imagery is to be found throughout Scripture, but Christians interpreted it very differently for quite a long time till arrogant Europeans decided they had to change everything. PSA as Reformation era innovation now being preached as core doctrine by those who denounce modern innovations!

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 20 September 2006 at 1:52pm BST


I agree with your concerns about nastiness. The other interesting thing about reading the OT is that Jesus and Pauls' teachings and their contempt for legalism is also consistent with God's vision e.g. Isaiah 28:13

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 21 September 2006 at 6:36am BST
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