A recent, thorough study of the American religious landscape conducted by the Pew Forum indicates that around 57% of self-labeled evangelicals now believe Jesus is not the only way to eternal life. This and other studies are showing the exact same thing: evangelicalism as a whole has lost, or is in the process of losing the Gospel as what makes it distinguishable from other “Christian” groups. This is saddening.
But it is no wonder when you have leaders, pastors and theologians in evangelicalism itself outright denying something that lies at the heart of the Gospel: the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross in behalf of sinners. Yes, evangelicals are beginning to deny this now! This excellent book, written by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach is a very welcomed, thoughtful, timely and Biblically engaging response to those very people in showing them they are defying the Scriptures as well as historically what the church, its fathers and its doctors, have believed concerning this.
Just to give a short synopsis of the book, the first three chapters give a good thorough definition of what the doctrine is saying, the Biblical background of it from both the Old and New Testaments with a plethora of citations and explanations of the texts, and finally bringing all of this together into a theological framework in defense of the doctrine, respectively. All of this helps us understand the depths of how far God had to go in Christ in taking our sin upon Himself, taking the wrath in Himself that was due to us for that sin, and how we gain His righteousness through that work, by faith. Essentially, through faith and trust in Him, Christ takes our eternal punishment, in our place, and in return we get His reward for His work and toil! Unfathomable!
The fourth chapter then deals with the pastoral implications which I won’t go into as much here. In helping gain a better grasp of what Christians have believed historically concerning penal substitution, the fifth chapter outlines from church history, chronologically, what those who have gone before us said pertaining to this wonderful truth.
And that’s all just Part I.
All of Part 2 deals with answering the modern day critics who state that penal substitution is unbiblical, defies good modern-day common sense, and defies logic/reason. Many critics are making the old theologically liberal argument that penal substitution makes God the Father out to be a child abuser of His Son if He willingly sent Him to the cross to bear the wrath that was due to us. Unbelievable. How do we answer these people and the many other awful accusations of this wonderful truth? This book is a great place to start to know exactly how to do that.
This is was a wonderful read and a great resource to keep going back to in the future. The clear thinking, counter-arguments and Scriptural citations on the matter are so plentiful that it is really hard to negate the reality of this truth. In addition, though I initially thought this was going to be a high-level argumentation for penal substitution, I found it to be quite an easy read and not that difficult to keep up with at all. It’s one of those books that the authors are so smart, they can not only comprehend the most difficult theology, but can then take that theology and make it easily understandable for the average lay person.
In the future, unless God in His mercy and intervenes, turning evangelicals hearts’ back to Him again, this doctrine will continue to be lambasted as outdated, primitive, and downright offensive. We must be ready for the attacks on the heart of the Gospel, unfortunately, within many of our churches now. Believe me, it is coming. If theologians, pastors, and teachers are beginning to say these things now, it is only a matter of time before their cunning and deceitful arguments filter down into the thinking of the average person.
We must stand up for the Gospel now, in all of its difficult and soul-cutting truths, for the sake of the glory of God. Penal substitution is just one of these truths. In fact, it is a linchpin doctrine upon which our salvation rests, because how is it we can be saved unless God’s justice against our wrong-doing was satisfied by Christ bearing our burden in Himself on the tree?
This book is a great place to start really understanding this timeless, Biblical truth and re-examining your own personal understanding of it even. In addition, if you really want to understand the apologetic defense against many of these arguments, this book is a must read. Regardless of where you are coming from, it will be well worth your time and help focus and concentrate you on the center-piece of our faith: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.