Bought by the Blood

February 3, 2009

Tough Questions – Chapter 7

This chapter is entitled “The Cross – How” and focuses on the doctrine of penal substitution.  The doctrine of penal substitution has come under attack in recent year and honestly, I have had trouble grasping the arguements of those that don’t agree with penal substitution, as I feel like all of those arguements have a disorted view of Scripture.  As I read this chapter, it was hard for me to feel engaged in it as this is an area that I feel like does not to be defended and find this doctrine to be one that is pretty common sense.  Wright defines penal substitution as:

God is the judge.  Sinners are guilty of having broken God’s law.  The penalty is death.  But God in Christ bore that penalty in our place, so that we can be pardoned by God, be declared in the righteousness of Christ, and gain eternal life instead of eternal death–wich would otherwise be the just penalty of our sin.

Many opponents to penal substitution believe that if God is love then he cannot be angry at evil or be a God who punishes those who do evil.  Wright presents a solid case that you can’t have the love of God without Him being angry at sin.

Miroslav Volf is a Christian theologian from Croatia.  He says that he used to hold to the fashionable view that dismissed the wrath of God, that the idea of an angry God was somehow incompatible with the love of God.  But then war came to his country.  Terrible attrocities were done.  He found himself exceedingly and jusitifiably angry.  Then he thought – if God is not angry at such injustice and cruelty, then he is not a God worth worshipping.  Only if God is angry at such evil is he worh loving, or being loved by us…

The wonderful paradox, which lies beyond our understanding, is that the cross was simultaneously the outpouring of God’s anger and the outpouring of God’s love.  For in his love for us, God was absorbing, in Christ, his anger against sin.

Another fallacy presented by opponents of penal substitution is God the Father and God the Son working against each other, making the cross a form of cosmis child abuse with the Father being vindicative and the Son being a victim so that sinful man can be redeemed.  This is a view that misconstrues the atonement.  “It portrays the atonement as a play with three actos (God, Jesus, and us), whereas in reality the atonement involves only two parties  (God and us).

Lastly, Wright deals with how penal substitution does not make sense in a culture wit a developed sense of personal and objective guilt.  In postmodern America people are more concerned with their own shame and how they are affected by their own sin.  The resolution in this is that our guilt must be tackled before we can deal with our shame.  When Jesus took our sin on the cross he faced the shame and humiliation that should have been ours.  He was innocent, but took our guilt upon Himself so that we can be innocent and righteous.



  1. The concept of associating “anger” with God is misleading. Anger is a human concept. Isaiah 55:8 (NIV) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” ….

    Go is disappointed — not angry — at our sins. The 2nd death (Rev 20:14) is an act of exorcism and retribution. It is similar to cutting out the cancer so that it doesn’t wreak havoc against the rest of the body – the church.

    Comment by Bob Lewis — February 5, 2009 @ 2:45 pm | Reply

  2. I am kind of confused by the verse you use to say that God doesn’t get angry. His wrath towards sinners is something that is both in the Old and New Testament. Colossians 3:6 and John 3:36 both attest to the wrath of God that those who do not trust in Christ will have to face.

    Anger doesn’t have to a bad thing either. When Jesus went to the temple and saw how the temple was no longer a place of worship, he turned over the tables and drove people out because of righteous anger.

    Comment by bloodbought — February 6, 2009 @ 1:14 am | Reply

  3. Difference is probably based on our own personal semantic differential. In the NIV Col 3:6 & John 3:36 uses the term “wrath” — i.e., ” likely to suggest a desire or intent to revenge or punsh” (re: Webester;s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1980). Anger — to me — suggests more emotion – e.g., ire, rage, fury.

    My only point is God’s exacting of exorcism and retribution are acts of judgement maded with compassion and disappoinment that one could not accept God’s will. I think God’s actions are based more on objectivity vis-a-vis the wellfare of the multitude rather than an emotion response to the acts of an individual.

    Comment by Bob Lewis — February 6, 2009 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

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