Friday, June 22, 2007

The weight of evidence is overwhelming

John Buckeridge reviews Pierced for our Transgressions in Christianity Magazine

The first thing that strikes me is that it's a bit of a unbalanced review - almost half of it is dedicated to a critique of a small section in the book on particular redemption, which the authors say they expect people will not have been expecting but that they wrote to get people thinking about how belief in penal substitute effects other beliefs. This is an annoying feature which makes you feel like the reviewer hasn't read the book carefully as he accuses them of opening a can of worms. That said - there have been plenty of conservative reviews of The Lost Message of Jesus that focus in on just one page of that book, which could be claimed not to be it's central theme either!

The review is broadly positive towards Pierced for our Transgressions. This is the magazine that Steve Chalke writes in so that's a bit of a surprise! However, when it comes to the detail it's not quite so clear. Chalke is identified as "inflammatory and ill advised" but noticably, not wrong. Buckeridge says:
"The weight of evidence is overwhelming that penal substitution is something that is foreshadowed and prophesied in the Old Testament, taught by Jesus himself and by the apostles, most notably Paul."
Buckeridge follows NT Wright's critique by saying that they neglect the gospels - though there are two sections on two of the gospels. Perhaps there could have been even more on the gospels but it is already a long book - and all scripture is God breathed not just the gospels. Someone else could write the book on "what the gospel's teach about penal substitution" - and Peter Bolt has done this very well on Mark in his The Cross from a Distance. Step up the writers who will do the same on Matthew, Luke and John.

So the discussion rolls on. I'm deeply struck by the need to get into scripture page by page, gospels and the rest, as I prepare to preach Hebrews this weekend. And all the more as John Risbridger (Above Bar Church & Keswick) spoke last night at Reading CU on Hebrews 9, and the need for the cross to be at the centre of all our lived and sung worship [mp3 to follow].

Christianity Magzine considers Steve Chalke to have brought a needed challenge for us to stop using poor caricatures. And that is fair - though Chalke clearly goes further by his own confession in his paper 'Redeeming the Cross' where he seems to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Meanwhile, the authors of the widely endorsed Pierced are however adjudged to have brought hard edges and unnecessary controversy to the table. One thing is clear, evangelical now describes a very broad church in which we're not all singing from the same songsheet on something very important.

This is an issue to be fought with love from the pulpits of our churches because the centrality of the cross is central to the health of our churches. The writing of books and blogposts may be of some assistance though I'm aware of the parallels between fighting in the new media and Christians taking one another to court. Above all this is a matter for pastoral concern and evangelistic clarity and we have to keep cross-centred.

More on this from Adrian Warnock
Tim Chester reflects on Leviticus


  1. For evangelical clarity looking forward to EMA "Defining times."

    See you there? (I'll be one on crutches!)

  2. no ticket and too much work on... :(