Monday, August 9, 2010

Gandalf And The Atonement (Part 6)

Today concludes my series of responses to Gandalf's critique of my emphasis on the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. In the previous posts of this series I have answered these objections and re-emphasised the critical importance of teaching and understanding the atonement correctly as it strongly affects our view of God, our view of ourselves, and thus how we approach God. Today, as a closing footnote to this series, I want to take a look at an example of a how wrong views of the atonement can infiltrate the "Christian media". It also serves as an example of how these things can sneak under our radar of discerning true and false gospels.

At the end of part 5 of this series I asked the question regarding a major theological flaw in the first Narnia movie that affects the Gospel. Do you know what it is? Watch this video and see if you can figure it out . . .

Who killed the lion? Who did she represent - Satan! This is an example of the ransom theory of the atonement where God has to pay a ransom to Satan. the ransom theory undermines human depravity in that it portrays sinful man as an unwilling and helpless captive of Satan awaiting a deliverer. This is contrary to Scripture where Paul portrays fallen man as:

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18)

What about Jesus, did he have a higher view of man. Most know John 3:16 but few know what follows:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:18-20)

It is true that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. But the only accusation Satan can raise against a Holy and righteous judge is an appeal to his perfect justice and the consequent need for Him to deal with our sin. The only way God could reconcile sinners without compromising His righteousness was for Christ to die as a substitute under God's wrath:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief (Isaiah 53:4-10 emphasis mine).

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)

I'll leave it to rapper Shai Linne to close out this discussion on Penal Substitutionary Atonement:

Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1


StinePreben said...

I appreciate your godly defence of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross, which i agree with you is of immense importance if youre not going to make the gospel to a false human gospel. But one thing i don't understand, both in the comments on your blog and that on Rene Vesters's is why you narrow the meaning of the cross to only this important element of Jesus work on the cross for those who believe. On the Cross Jesus took the wrath of God that we deserved and paid for our sins, but his dead on the cross was also a ransom as the bible clearly states, it was also a victory over sin, death, satan and the powers of evil and brought me over from the kingdom of death to his beloved son's kingdom and it was also a demonstration of God's overwhelming love for us. If we wan't to be true to the word of God we need to be tru to all theese aspects of the cross. Off course we need to take clear notice of which elements the bible set as most important, but i really think it is a problem that you leave out the other meanings of the cross. It frustrates me especially since the agenda of lifting up the central importance of the substitutionary atonement, in a time where the people don't want to be confronted with their guilt and sin, and the fact that God hates sin, seems so important to me. Therefore i really thank you for your defence of this important doctrine and reality, but i hope you understand my ambivalence with your approach to what Jesus did on the cross.

I apologize for my broken english, but hope you understand it

God bless

Preben Højgaard

gandalf said...

Hi Cameron,

seems you've found it first;-)

However, this example only tells how movies can get it wrong with what was originally told differently.

In the book the White Witch demanded that Edmund should be brought back to her because of a law that gave all traitors to her. Aslan instead offered himself in Edmund's stead so that the law would not be violated and Edmund could really be free from her.
Also, in the book Edmund was not portrayed as only an unwilling and helpless captive.

You see there is no basis for ransom theory here, and while still the narrative might not be totally correct in theological categories it is far closer to it than the movie.

Also you've got the allegory wrong with the White Witch, she clearly does not represent Satan, although she acts as an accuser in the book.

This comes from many discrepancies but above all, she is not the ultimate villain in the whole Narnia Chronicles, that title would probably go to Tash (only mentioned in some lesser known books of the Narnia Chronicles, especially in "The Last Battle").
Also noteworthy in "The Last Battle" is the fact that one of the four children (Susam) is portrayed as having lost interest and affection for Narnia and Aslan and therefore did not enter "Aslans country" (New creation?) together with her siblings.
This I know only because it's a really hot topic for some Narnia fans and is often discussed among them on the internet.

Once again, the movie may suggest something completely different from what was written in the books.

As I wrote in my previous posts you should not expect too much of his fairy tales, such books have because of the very nature of that genre different artistic limits and freedoms.

If you would like to have a look on his real views on a certain topic you should better go to his more philosophical and apologetical works like "Mere Christianity", "The Great Divorce", "A Grief Observed" or "The Four Loves".

Cameron Buettel said...

Stinepreben, thanks for your comment and your english is doing just fine. You are largely correct in what you say. If you were a regular reader of my blog you would know that I also affirm the theories of Jesus triumphing over the powers of darkness, Jesus being our example, and Jesus identifying with us. But the important point is that these theories are dependant on penal substitutionary atonement and cannot exist without Christ's propitiation. This is one of the big problems with NT Wright who says he affirms PSA but that his version submits to the Christus Victor model. That is not an affirmation of PSA.

I thoroughly recommend the book "Pierced For Our Transgressions" which contains an excellent discussion on this in chapter 3. I have also written on this to some degree in my series':
NT Wright v The Gospel
Anatomy Of The Gospel
Exhilaration Of Double Imputation

To find these series scroll down in the right hand column and you will find my series archive down at the bottom.

Thanks again, and I am always happy to talk more about this with you on the phone or in person.

Anonymous said...

You bring up some interesting points about the Chronicles of Narnia. I was rereading in "The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe" the part about when the queen demands Edmund's blood to appease the Great Magic. She says' "He [Aslan] knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water." Then I went to the part where Aslan sacrifices himself (the part from above) and the queen says "And now who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased." (The Emperor is the writer of the Deep Magic)

I guess you could say the waters are muddied in the book. So while Aslan is a Christ-like figure in the book he is not the best representation. After all there is a mention of the Emperor (As in God the Father) but there is no representation of the Holy Spirit. But I have read his other books and know he believed in the Trinity. I would also say from what I can remember that he also believed in the substitutionary atonement.

I will continue to read the Chronicles of Narnia just because I enjoy the story.

Your point though should show people that it was and is foolish to write "Bible studies" using the Chronicles of Narnia and the like.