Confused View of Atonement

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Introduction

The doctrine of atonement has been the center of theological debates since the years following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Many theories have been developed over the last two thousand years drawing many biblical facts to come into question. The depiction of the crucifixion of Christ that is told in the four Gospels, as well as prophetic writings in the Old Testament, has been documented with enough information that supports the truth pertaining to the how of the atonement. Looking through the many historical events in Theology leading up to the present day, we see a presence of liberal theology based on moral and social ideologies rather than looking with the proper hermeneutic at what Scripture actually tells us. Within many liberal and even conservative evangelical communities, we are seeing how this type of liberal theology and moral theory has distorted the truth of the atonement Weakening the actual definition of atonement by their views, the new modern outlook on the atonement has been widely popularized and many denominations and churches are openly welcoming the nonviolent atonement movement.

Throughout Scripture, atonement is explicitly defined and discussed from the Old Testament to the New Testament writers. From Genesis, the first book in the Bible, we see in the Old Testament which shows the very first example of atonement occurring after the fall where an animal sacrifice was required and made by God to cover the nudity of both Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). This requirement shows that God who is just must deal with sin in His manner providing a way of payment for the sin Adam and Eve fell into. In order for God to cover Adam and Eve from their shame there had to be a death or shedding of blood to “cover” the sins committed by Adam and Eve which having their eyes opened drove them into that shame of their nudity.

Atonement Defined

In Exodus, we see the Israelites being set free from their bondage in Egypt. In the Passover, Moses was instructed to communicate to God’s people to sacrifice an animal wiping the blood of the sacrificial animal on the doorpost to escape the impending death from the judgment that God was placing on Egypt (Ex. 12:5-7). The significance of the lamb without blemish stated early in the Old Testament will serve as the model for the ultimate sacrificial lamb Jesus Christ. Also of great significance is the use of blood. The blood spilled by the lamb and wiped on the doorposts depicts the sacrifice as a bloody act. The illustration of the sacrificial lamb here in Exodus shows the death of the body and bloodshed in order to escape the punishment of death.[1] In the Levitical Law, stated in Leviticus as given to man by God instructed man of the act of sacrifice (Lev. 16). The broken relationship between God and man required an act in order to reestablish that strained relationship and this was explained in Leviticus. Though sacrifices did not atone for all sins, the Day of Atonement ritual was designed to do so.[2]

In the Old Testament, the word “atonement” is used in many English translations taken for the manuscripts in that were documented in Hebrew. The Hebrew word “kipper” אֲכַפְּרָ֖[3] is the verb form that is defined as to cover over or propitiate and where the noun form of atonement is “kipporet” כַּפֹּֽרֶת is defined as propitiatory. The first uses of the word atonement are found in Exodus 25 where Moses was referring these words as to make an offering or the subject being an offering. The word propitiation is defined in theological terms as God’s wrath satisfied towards sinners.[4] The atonement is one of a propitiatory nature in which God’s wrath is satisfied by the offering that was made.

The nature of the atonement described in Scripture must be defined with the proper hermeneutic by Scripture with the proper authorial intent to establish the correct foundational understanding so it can serve to be the basis of truth in contrast to the theories that will be discussed. Atonement is the work Christ did in His life and death to earn our salvation.[5] This is a broad definition of atonement but there are several important terms that are related to atonement to fulfill the true definition by Scripture. Penal atonement pertains to the satisfaction of the wrath of God against sin. This is seen in the Garden with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:13-19), as mankind has fallen into the world system and has been blinded (Eph. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:4). Substitutionary is defined as Christ being a substitution for sinners to die in their place to cover their sins (Jn. 10:11; Mark 10:45). This is based on the Old Testament sacrificial system of animal sacrifice that was made for their transgressions. Christ’s blood was the propitiation of sin so that God would be just in His punishment of sin. Christ was the sacrifice on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21) that He gave up Himself (Luke 22:19). So we can deduce from Scripture that the atonement is a substitutionary penal atonement which was the Lord Jesus Christ dying on our place for us a shameful death, bearing our curse, enduring our pain, suffering the wrath of his own Father in our place.[6] Another term for penal substitution is vicarious atonement where Christ was the vicar or a substitute for another who are His elect.

Various Views on Atonement

Throughout theological history, there have been many liberal and conservative theological scholars involved in the debates over what exactly happened on the Cross. The biggest concern that astonishes many past historians and those of our current era, is the question of the violence of the atonement and the misunderstanding of “penal substitutionary atonement”.Theologians have gone outside the Scripture to develop their theories and have replaced the truth of Scripture with personal insight. The evangelical community alone has within it many who hold to the various theories that were developed in the previous generations. Hence, the conundrum or enigma we find ourselves in today.

If we look at the history of the theories of atonement we will find a vast array of opinions that differ in their views causing serious implications to the reasons for the atonement driving a wedge, per se, between many theological camps. If one is to study what some of these theories they contend one will be able to see how the originators influenced many denominations and even the evangelical church today with deep-rooted fallacies on the doctrine of the atonement. All views are based on their personal understanding of the New Testament documentation and rendering of imagery or conceptual metaphors they have come to believe.[7] The history of the church and the changing historical and social atmosphere outside the church have also influenced these viewpoints to find its place in historical theology. Theories of atonement include Christus Victor, ransom theory, satisfaction theory, penal substitution, moral influence, moral government, scapegoat and vicarious repentance. Acknowledging the vast amount of theories that exist today, it is troubling to think that many will have their theology shaped by one of these theories. The various views are discouraging knowing the many false implications that indeed rob the truth that Scripture has documented from God Himself.

One such popular non-violent theory is the Christus Victor theory. This theory contends with the ideology that the atonement of Christ was required to pay a sort of ransom to the devil. Since the fall, Adam and Eve drove humanity into the devils’ dominion. Christ was the Victor against evil and God reconciles the world to Himself.[8] The Gustaf Aurlen’s publication of Christus Victor in 1931 coined the term and with it drew much attention in the church communities.[9] The Christus Victor view is rooted in the incarnation and how Christ entered into human misery and wickedness and thus redeemed it. Prior to Gustaf’s publication, the ransom theory was regarded the dominant theory for almost a thousand years. The Christus Victor theory is seen as a non-violent view of the atonement in many camps. Viewing the atonement through these lens distorts the very message of the Cross and what is truly required for the propitiation. This ideology fails to follow Scripture. It follows the societal worldview of violence during certain eras clouding their mind where they cannot make the connection with the true meaning of atonement. It is a man-made theory of atonement not based on any proper hermeneutical basis.

Growth in appreciation of the Christus Victor theory in Western civilization has been influenced by the moral model or the Moral Theory whose views on sin and evil have become shallow.[10] As social movements are popularized in society the view of the substitutionary atonement is taking a back seat, if you will. with the Protestant denominations incorporating personal and even spiritual dimensions to define the atonement. This unclear reasoning influenced by the world’s opinion has created a wrong anthropological view. It is as if humanity has been relieved of its true nature.

In 1961, there was a publication named Deceit, Desire and the Novel written by Rene Girard. Girard was a French historian, philosopher of social science in the tradition of anthropological Philosophy. This book had introduced a theory that has impacted the view of atonement. This ideology is called “mimesis” or better understood as imitation. This pertains to human actions and how imitative acts happen between people. Gerard believed that violence in society could be better understood by studying the patterns of humans. Gerard argument is that humans are competitive rivals who mimetically imitate one another because we seek the same goal, object or agenda. We do not know what to desire so we watch other people and imitate their desires.[11]  Seeing how the philosophical influence of Girard’s theories on doctrines of the Bible has shaped many of the beliefs of today’s theologians is alarming.

Girard’s theory has aided in reinforcing the nonviolent atonement theory. Citing that rivalries in relationships developed by the imitation of one another, they become so intense that murder spreads throughout the whole community.[12] As the mimetic rivalries escalate, to the point of irresolvable conflict the only solution is to redirect their violence against a separate victim, the scapegoat. The communities find reconciliation as the transfer all their hostilities on the one victim going from an all against all to an all against one. Girard’s view of Romans 1 about God’s wrathful judgment, he describes it not as God’s judgment as much as it is a result of human action upon themselves. The Cross was necessary for exposing mimetic violence ending inherent judgment on the violent structures of life. Jesus was the outsider, the marginalized and the victim. Girard, prior to his death, continued to write many publications supporting his view of Mimesis and developing a wrong view of God which has had a rather large impact on theology and Christian circles dividing denominations. His false views are shown over these works beg to ask “what kind of God is He if he is violent” quickly running to the popularized version of God stating that God is loving and merciful, how could He be violent?

View of Michael Hardin

Looking at Christus Victor, we can clearly see how this movement caused many to see God the Father as some evil governmental ruler where He is trying to prevent evil by violent measures and actions. As Christianity continues to clash with culture, it can be seen in the works of Michael Hardin in his publication “The Jesus Driven Life”. Hardin states, “Just as Hebrews 10:5-8 says, this coming was not to be a sacrifice but was the opposite, it was anti-sacrificial. Jesus did not come to fulfill the logic of the sacrificial system (either Jewish or pagan) but to expose it and put an end to its reign in our lives.”[13]

Hardin cuts way short of the passage to support his translation leaving out verses 9 and 10 which are the main points that highlight the ineffectiveness of the old covenant system which was being been replaced by the new covenant which will accomplish the propitiation once and for all.[14]

Hebrews illustrates the atonement clearly describing the graphic details allowing us to grasp the actions that were delivered to Christ on our behalf. In the tenth chapter and verse twenty, it states that “by a new and living way He inaugurated for us through the veil which is His body”(Heb. 10:20). The word for “new” is πρόσφατον which carries the meaning of something newly killed.[15] This describes that Christ’s death as the veil was torn which was His body and was torn so that we would have access to the Holy of Holies (Matt. 27:51). The veil in the Old Testament Tabernacle was the object that was placed between man and God in His holy place in the Temple (Heb. 9:3). Christ symbolizing the veil was torn or ripped in two signifying the removal of the old way making a new way so that access to God through His death might be available by His death. This graphic representation describes the violent nature of the work on the Cross.

Making Scripture the source of all truth is the proper presupposition. Many of the issues surrounding false views of biblical doctrine are credited to not having the proper view of Scripture. The differences in the theories of atonement are based on flawed biblical interpretation. Not having the presupposition that the Bible is all truth and infallible creates a scenario that will negate any truthful conclusions on doctrines in the Bible. Many have and will continue to develop theological theories outside the Word of God. This problem has plagued proper theological understanding and shows no signs of slowing down. But there must be a presupposition on the violence of the Cross by Scripture and not by man-made assumptions based on social or moral thinking of Western society. As Hardin and many other nonviolent theorists elude to making God out to be a cosmic child abuser who allowed His Son to die for others, there must be a proper Christology formed by proper exegesis. A skewed presupposition will result in a skewed theology.

View of Joel Green

These views of nonviolent atonement as derived from social perspectives and not following the proper contextual analysis of Scripture. Many believe that the context of what is pertaining to the atonement through deep historical criticism As per the nonviolent theorists, the violence of the eras shaped the theology of the penal substitutionary atonement. As the Western cultural thinking has been shaped by freedom, the effectiveness of the false ideologies is thriving. Looking through history we see the violence-stricken cultures of the past and their view on the atonement. It is imaginable to see where those holding a nonviolent atonement can support their views of nonviolent atonement by social or moral influences.

Joel Green, the Dean of the School of Theology and New Testament professor at Fuller Seminary and a well-published author, has written several publications on the view of the Moral Theory and Christus Victor. In his opinion on the substitutionary penal atonement, Green is adamant about his disagreement with this doctrine of atonement. Green develops his view on atonement outside the Scriptures and more so by humanity and their worldview. Green states “one image or model of the atonement is simply inadequate to communicate all that God has done and continues to do on the Cross”.[16] He makes mention that we need to see the atonement in another light stating “that it has less to do with exegesis and historical theology and more to do with the cultural narrative in the West and its emphasis on individualism and mechanism.[17] Green also believes that the legal language of Scripture has been derived from the Western view of the judicial system.and has hampered the true view of atonement.

Green’s prejudicial use of Scripture to support his theories are common among those developing their own theology. The liberal theologians are usually looking for what is not in Scripture and implementing their interpretations instead of looking at what is in Scripture and following it. Dr. Farnell states it clearly “methodology determines theology and an unorthodox methodology will produce an unorthodox theology. Green uses several verses to prove his nonviolent theory in the way the New Testament writers portray Christ, such as how Paul and John refer to Jesus not using the term sacrifice. Paul, using (1 Cor. 5:7), calls Christ the Passover Lamb. John in his Gospel uses the term the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29; Jn 1:36; Rev. 5:6). The list continues as Green uses this technique to draw attention away from the truth. Using these verses, is it possible to look at these without any reference to the Old Testament? The Old Testament is explicit in the explanation of the atoning work of the Messiah in the Law, the psalms and by prophetic authorship.

Looking at Green’s use of Paul’s and John’s language omitting any vocabulary that would make any claims to the penal substitutionary atonement, we can see where Paul depicts Christ as an offering and a sacrifice (Eph. 5:2). Paul also describes Christ as our Passover being sacrifice where Paul uses the Passover ritual which was a sacrificial system that was celebrated since the exodus from Egypt. Green summarizes this verse including verses 1-13 as a whole telling that Paul’s allusion is that the Corinthians are set apart from the bondage of sin a distinct people of God. In Romans 8:3 Paul tells of how God offered His Son, speaking of Jesus, as an offering for sin in that for all Christians are considered by God to have fully met the law’s demand because of Christ’s obedience on our behalf.[18] Paul also expresses Jesus Christ as a servant to the Jew first then to the Gentiles. For Green to take this view is to say that he cannot make the connection from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The practices or rituals that were given in the Old Testament pertaining to sacrifice for atonement are seen in the New Testament. Wondering why such an intelligent scholar such as Green can make this simple deduction but most likely refuses to do so since it does not fit his ideology. His view on the use of “blood” in the Pauline texts ( Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col. 1:20) should be understood symbolically that the execution of Jesus was not markedly bloody.[19] He also makes the assumption that in these texts that Paul speaks of the efficacy of the terms as an exchange where sin and death were transferred to the sacrificial victim, following the nonviolent view supported by Girard’s mimetic theory of Jesus being a victim of an angry Father.Green believes that the metaphor here is more an economic (exchange) rather than penal (satisfaction).Joel Green asserts “that penal substitution “divorces Jesus’ life from the passion event, as though the only significant thing about Jesus was his death. Jesus was born in order to die.”[20] Green speaking on the penal substitutionary view says, “it neglects what we know historically, fails to account for the nature of the witness of the New Testament itself, diminishes the significance of the incarnation, and unacceptably truncates the portrait of faithful human life as the imitation of Christ.”[21]

Proper View of Atonement

Looking at Scripture properly with the correct hermeneutics, we will be able to form a sound argument for penal substitutionary atonement. In the Old Testament, it is depicted in the fall in the Garden where Adam and Eve were tempted, sinned and disobeyed God, (Gen 3:1-24). The fall caused all humanity to be cursed with death as to the consequence of their sin against God (Rom. 6:23). All humanity was given a verdict of guilt and assumed the debt due to the original sin by Adam. As humanity in their wickedness continued to sin and by their disobedience, God’s judgment and wrath were imputed to mankind except for Noah and his family (Gen. 6). This course of action taken by God pouring out His wrath on all the earth by the flood shows His might in a violent partaking.

By God’s perfection of love, He made a way of escape from death by the sacrificial system He supplied for all mankind. Looking at Exodus we see the Passover which required a spotless sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered and the blood to be wiped on the doorpost of each Hebrew dwelling to escape God’s judgment and death on Egypt (Ex. 12:7-13). This signifies that there was a requirement of blood to be spilled and a death. The initial atonement model was given by God displaying an atoning power to this ritual.[22] Passover was commanded to be observed annually where the sacrificial system was still in place in remembrance of the freedom from the bondage from Egypt of God’s people. The sacrificial system became a part of the Israelites life embedded in the lives of the generations that followed.

The Levitical sacrificial system has expanded the ritual that was first shown in Exodus. There was a burnt offering and a fellowship or peace offering (Lev. 1:3-17). There was also the sin offering (Lev. 4:1-35) and the guilt offering (Lev. 5:14-6:7). In each offering, there were similarities in each instance. The animal had to have no blemish representing moral purity. There had to be the placing of hands on the animal’s head showing identification with the victim and the transfer of sins penalty. There had to be death as a required punishment for sin. The sprinkling of blood on the altar by the priest had to be done representing the life of the victim. Finally, the burning of the animal to send the fragrance to God as a pleasing sweet aroma. All this was executed to restore the relationship between God and man to propitiate God’s wrath. The term atonement used in the Old Testament was associated with bloodshed. It was a violent partaking where the death of an animal was certain to pay the ransom. God ordained this system in His love to restore man to Himself. A just and holy God cannot allow sin to go without penalty. Although the sacrificial system was a ritual that paid for sin it did not allow for salvation. The Old Testament salvation was still obtained by faith. These practices were moralistic but not salvific.

The Old Testament view of the Cross can be seen in Psalm 22 as David, the writer depicts the crucifixion. Some have labeled Psalm 22 the “Psalm of the Cross” since it has many references to the execution but more so the crucifixion. This psalm is not one of David’s pain but of Christ. In the days of David, there was no crucifixion taking place so it was a foreign act to him. This makes one think that David’s message here is a prophetic picture to illustrate the suffering to be endured by Jesus as He pays for our sins on the Cross making this not only prophetic but also messianic.[23]

In Isaiah 53, the prophetic depiction of what was to come in regards to Christ and the Cross were given in great detail. Verses (1-3) speak of His suffering as is noted in the third verse, we see the symbolism of Christ illustrated as being despised and forsaken by men who suffered for our transgressions. The verse also tells of Christ as being a man of sorrow knowing grief. To gain a greater understanding of the impact of this passage a look at the word for sorrow in the Hebrew original text is מַכְאֹב or “makav” which takes the meaning or sorrow or full of pain.[24] The verse gives a future view of what happened during Passion week where Jesus Christ was despised as an unwanted man not important enough that the nation did not esteem Him.

As the passage continues, verses (4-9) speak of His penal substitutionary atoning death. It is remarkable to see what unfolds in the fourth verse where to actions of God upon His Son were foretold. Isaiah 53:4 states, “Surely our 1griefs He Himself abore, And our 2sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.” This verse shows that Christ would be taking upon Himself our griefs, which are our infirmities and sorrows spoken of as Christ’s healing power. In the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew references Isaiah 53:4 about the healing ministry work of Christ (Matt. 8:16-17). The healing ministry has a view of how illnesses are the direct cause of sin. In the second portion of the verse, we see how the people viewed Christ as the descriptive word used is “stricken” which carries a deeper meaning in the Hebrew text as being touched and afflicted pictured as He was sickened or better translated to be touched violently. The rendering of this word  נגע [25]“naga”, has a nature of action that describes fierce and brutal treatment. Adding to the punishment picture, with the use of “smitten” of God, Isaiah uses נכה[26] “nakah” which shows a drastic picture of one being beaten or struck in the head. Rounding out the verse is the term afflicted or humiliated. The violence of this scene is clear and also being cross-referenced in the New Testament writers. The point that the people saw Christ as stricken has New Testament implications where they believe that Christ was carrying His own sins denying His innocence (Matt. 27:24; Luke 23:4, 14, 22; Jn. 18:38).

The climax of the passage pertaining to the violent substitutionary penal atonement is found in verse five in Isaiah. Verse five is very clear on the atonement of Christ and how this was completed. With violent language with terms such as pierced through, crushed for, chastening for and His encouraging. All terms used for the description of violent actions acted upon another. Tagging along these violent terms is the language of the reasoning behind the actions. Our transgressions and our iniquities are terms which describe the need, the requirement or the propitiation for sin. The penal propitiation, the payment or punishment of crimes committed resulting in the restoration of mankind to God is explained in this verse. It is the use of these terms that were carried over to the New Testament writers to describe the activities that surrounded the crucifixion of Christ (Rom. 4:25; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:28; 1 Peter 2:28, 3:18).

In verse six the term “fall” in the English translation does not give a good rendering of the Hebrew word פגע “paga” as it should be translated as to let something hurt someone. As this verse unfolds where it tells of how all of our sins that were placed on Christ by God taking the full weight of all believers’ sins upon the Son. In verse eight, there is another descriptive word in English “stroke” where the stroke was due as it is written should be understood as afflicted and tormented. As Isaiah brings the prophecy to an end, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah tells of how all the anguish and suffering that Jesus endured our behalf satisfied God’s wrath. The payment was accepted in full. A once for all sacrifice was satisfied and justified (Isa. 53:11).

The New Testament is vivid in its description of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Cross-referencing the Old Testament time and time again the writers of the 26 books of the New Testament are referencing the violent act of the blood that was spilled on our behalf. Looking at the word “blood”, it is used three times more than the word cross. It is a vital ingredient of the sacrifice. The author of Hebrews goes into graphic detail about the sacrifice of Jesus using the word “blood”, Jesus’s blood, in 15 verses in Hebrews (2:14; 9:7, 12, 13, 14, 18, 20, 21, 22; 10:19, 29; 12:24; 13:12, 20)  . The death of Christ was a sacrifice and this sacrifice was tailored from the Old Testament sacrificial system that was a bloody scene.

Conclusion

The New Testament writers were well versed in the Old Testament writings and looked upon these vital inspired Scriptures as the support to what they had witnessed in the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As the prophecy in Isaiah 53 comes to an end, the complete salvific plan of God is revealed as it came to pass in the New Testament. The crucifixion was violent and bloody as depicted in the Levitical sacrificial systems. It is this system that was carried out in the ritual manner which was prophesied in the Old Testament. The animal sacrificial system was not volitional, where the animals decided to be sacrificed but it was the volition of Christ to knowingly suffer the agonizing punishment that He knew was to come as per the Old Testament sacrificial system.

The atoning work of Christ on the Cross was penal and substitutionary. It was marred by violent actions. God’s wrath was poured out unto Him, with the weight of all sins committed by His elect, to bare. There are many scholars today that have taken the truth of Scripture and distorted the writings arriving at false conclusions of the atonement. By means of poor hermeneutics, exegesis and historical criticism a plethora of scholars has veered off the path of truth. They cite that we cannot assume that the penal system of the New Testament mirrored the Old Testament ritual sacrifices to the letter. They also hold to their view that how the Western world views the judicial system influences their understanding of the atonement leading to the penal substitutionary atonement. view. More philosophical and scientific analysis ideologies have crept into the Liberal theology mainstream causing the symbiotic relationship between the two worlds of study to produce unbiblical views. The influence of these scholars and theologians has made its way into the church and biblical teaching institutions which has damaged many minds producing bad theology.The greatest concern for the church today how this wrong view will continue to gain traction in liberal theology circles but more so, in the Evangelical community.

 

 

Bibliography

Abbott-Smith, G. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Forgotten Books, 2016.

Aulen, Gustaf. Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement. Translated by A. G. Herbert. Eugene, Or: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2003.

Baker, Mark D., and Joel B. Green. Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts. 02 edition. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2011.

Bartlett, Anthony. Cross Purposes: The Violent Grammar of Christian Atonement. 1 edition. Harrisburg, Pa: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2001.

Boice, James Montgomery. Psalms Voume 1: Psalms 1-41. Pbk. Ed edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2005.

Demarest, Bruce, and John S. Feinberg. The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2006.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England : Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994.

Hardin, Michael, Walter Wink, Brian McLaren, Brad Jersak, and Tony Bartlett. The Jesus Driven Life: Reconnecting Humanity with Jesus. Second edition. Lancaster, PA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.

Holladay, William Lee. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Based upon the Lexical Work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1972.

Jeffery, Steve, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach, and John Piper. Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2007.

Jr, John F. MacArthur. Hebrews: New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1983.

Koehler, Ludwig, and Walter Baumgartner. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 Volume Set. Translated by M. E. J. Richardson. Study Guide edition. Leiden ; Boston: Brill Academic Pub, 2002.

Lane, William L., John D. W. Watts, and Ralph P. Martin. Hebrews. Edited by David Allen Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. S.l.: Zondervan, 2017.

MacArthur, John, ed. NASB, MacArthur Study Bible, Bonded Leather, Black. Updated edition. Place of publication not identified: Thomas Nelson, 2006.

MacArthur, John, and Richard Mayhue, eds. Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2017.

New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition by D. A. Carson/R. T. France/Alec Motyer/Gordon J. Wenham (Eds.) (29-Apr-1994) Hardcover. Revised edition edition. IVP, 1994.

Sanders, John, ed. Atonement and Violence: A Theological Conversation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006.

“Violence and Religion: Cause or Effect?” The Hedgehog Review. Accessed November 13, 2017. http://www.iasc-culture.org/THR/THR_article_2004_Spring_Girard.php.

Waltke, Bruce K., and Charles Yu. An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2007.

[1]Mark 14:22-24 mirrors this idea where Chrst offered Himself in body and blood as the new covenant

[2] Steve Jeffery et al., Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2007), 43

[3] William Lee Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Based upon the Lexical Work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1972), 163

[4] Bruce K. Waltke and Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2007). P. 382

[5] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England : Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994). P. 568

[6] Jeffery et al., Pierced for Our Transgressions, 21

[7] John Sanders, ed., Atonement and Violence: A Theological Conversation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006), viii

[8] Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, trans. A. G. Herbert (Eugene, Or: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2003), 4

[9]Aulen,.20

[10] Sanders, Atonement and Violence, 90

[11] “Violence and Religion: Cause or Effect?,” The Hedgehog Review, accessed November 13, 2017, http://www.iasc-culture.org/THR/THR_article_2004_Spring_Girard.php.

[12] Sanders, Atonement and Violence, 130

[13] Michael Hardin et al., The Jesus Driven Life: Reconnecting Humanity with Jesus, second edition (Lancaster, PA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015).

[14] Hardin reduces the passage in order to tailor his assumption

[15] G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Forgotten Books, 2016), 388

[16] Mark D. Baker and Joel B. Green, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts, 02 edition (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2011), 238

[17] Baker and Green, 42

[18] New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition by D. A. Carson/R. T. France/Alec Motyer/Gordon J. Wenham (Eds.) (29-Apr-1994) Hardcover, Revised edition edition (IVP, 1994). Accordance Software

[19] Baker and Green, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, 77

[20] Accessed November 13, 2017. http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/53/53-3/Williams_JETS_53-3_pp_579-599.pdf

[21]  Ibid 580

[22] Bruce Demarest and John S. Feinberg, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2006), 169

[23] James Montgomery Boice, Psalms Voume 1: Psalms 1-41, Pbk. Ed edition (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2005), 191

[24] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 Volume Set, trans. M. E. J. Richardson, Study Guide edition (Leiden ; Boston: Brill Academic Pub, 2002).Accordance Software

[25] Koehler and Baumgartner.

[26] Koehler and Baumgartner.

 

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What is Truth?

tpm

 

In today’s society we are experiencing the influence of postmodern views in all areas of life.  Postmodernism has thrusted its own ideology in current institutions such as schools and has effected the church today to the degree that many have fallen for their definitions in order to follow the secular view.  Search for the truth has become a never-ending task since the current postmodern view on truth.  This truth, as defined by culture today, impacts biblical truths in Scripture and its understanding and how theology is to be done from a pastoral position.  The current postmodern view has developed its own definition of truth and that definition is impacting the Evangelical church and the pastoral ministry.

Defining truth has been a daunting task since the beginning.  In the Garden of Eden, the serpent asked Eve “did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1)  This caused her to stumble on the truth of the statement that he made.  Did the serpent ask her a truthful question?  He just twisted something in a way she did not come to the proper conclusion before falling.  Move ahead into the New Testament, we can see where Pilate, when he was interrogating Christ, made the statement “what is truth” with a hint of sarcasm (John. 18:38).  Pilate’s statement sounds like what a postmodern would say today concerning truth.  The desperation that Pilate had is shared by postmodernist where their view on truth has no absolutes.  Without God there cannot be absolute truth.[1]

In, today’s culture truth is being twisted to fit their view that all truth is relative.  This view of relativity in truth holds to the fact that there is no universal standard for right and wrong.  This view also considers that truth is unknowable and unobtainable but limited to what each individual thinks.  There is no method or measurement that the culture can use for the absolute truth and have devised their method of relativity of the truth.  In Evangelical Christianity, the absolute truth is found in God’s inerrant Word.  That is the standard in which we base truth.

Postmodernism is a movement of belief that each person’s view on truth is deduced by their own personal experiences.  Each person has their “own” truth and for the sake of tolerance, we should never question them but just accept their views.  The all-inclusive and all tolerant view is postmodernism at its premier character.  The postmodern person rejects an absolute truth view where the Christian holds of an exact opposite view where we believe in an absolute truth given to us by God.  The postmodern does not accept a biblical view holding to their own meanings of Scripture with their own personal interpretations and each personal interpretation is correct in their own mind.  With a distorted hermeneutic of Scripture, it is impossible to hold that Scripture is the inerrant word of God.  So, if each postmodern holds their own individual truth of Scripture, then how many different views exist today within the religious circles?

In the current postmodern culture, Christians are being pulled in various directions due to the vast amount of “personal” views of the truth of Scripture.  Having a postmodern view of Scripture has developed in the development of many heretical church movements that call their views as truth and not using the truth of Scripture to guide their congregants.  They have pulled the truth away from the center of their ministry and have polluted the minds of the church goers into believing a different truth away from what God has written in His Word.  Tolerance is the primary jab at the Christian way of life where tolerance tells the Christian to compromise the truth of Scripture and not follow what God has mandated for us in His Word.  Many use Ephesians 4:1-3 in defense that the church must be tolerant and all-inclusive.  Again, a wrong hermeneutic allows for this misinterpretation of Scripture to take place.  Paul was explaining that Christians have to have a quality of humility.  1 Peter 4:8 also gives us a picture of how we are to love in a way of being stretched out or stained putting other spiritual good before their own.  The argument is simple to defend that as a Christian believer, they must repent from their sins.  Of the church allows unrepentant sinners to attend and become members of the church then the church is not God’s church but man’s church.

An excellent example of a postmodern effect on church today is the Emergent church.  The Emergent church has followed in the footsteps of the postmodern in their desire to multiply numbers and church growth.  Pragmatic methods have developed in hopes of reaching the people by using methods to stimulate growth by way of power points, slides, video clips and popular music centering on relationship, community and traditional values.  They have taken away the church service from being God centered into a man centered service.  For the sake of church growth, they have adopted the postmodern mentality of inclusion and tolerance allowing for sinful actions to take place in the arena where God is to be worshipped.  Those involved in sinful lifestyles are allowed to partake in worship and other holy sacraments for the sake of tolerance.   Brian Mcleran has authored books on this subject with an activist role with the intent to welcome postmodern thinking in how we do church.

In Mcleran’s book, The Church on the Other Side, he proposes that postmodernism is the road to take in order to move on from the current stalemate between evangelical and liberal Christians.  In stark contrast to what Mcleran belief system on postmodernism and the church, Kevin Vanhoozer said this about postmodernism and the church,

In the past twenty years or so, postmodernity has become a concept that is as indispensable for understanding contemporary Western thought and culture as modernity has been for understanding the past three hundred years.  For some, postmodernity marks the end of theology; for others, it is a new beginning.

With the Lesbian Bisexual Gay Transsexual (LBGT) movement in full swing and the United States Government ruling of same-sex marriage, many churches are under pressure to allow these people to attend and become members of church.  Clearly, the events of relativity in the postmodern culture today has affected the church and has dismantled the foundations of many denominations.  For the sake of tolerance, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, churches, just to name a few, have started welcoming these groups into their congregation.  It is not just a putting up with or disagreeing with their lifestyles but tolerance in postmodern view is a new tolerance or social commitment to treat all people and their views as equally right.[2]  Faithful members, sad to say, begin to question their own beliefs since their church caved into the pressures of the culture.  Many find themselves either searching for a new place to worship or caving in themselves under the pressure of being tolerant because they are being told it is the right thing to do, culturally not Biblically.

The seeker friendly or church of easy believism has also shared the postmodern culture view.  They are delivering messages that do not offend or single out sinners or sinful living in order not to cause anyone to feel uncomfortable or convicted.  With the same motivation as the Emergent church of filling the pews, the seeker friendly church has banished any hint of properly preaching God’s Word.  The impression left on the congregants is that everyone should be accepted and we need to overlook their sins and not be judgmental.  Evangelicals would turn their backs on their proper theological view to a pluralistic and worldly view on Christianity accepting the universalistic movement.  The false postmodern views welcomed by the church can distort the salvific process of the Gospel delivering a false Gospel that has no saving power.  Without the proper truthful view on what the thru Gospel requirements are, a false sense of salvation will be ushered into the church.  Postmodern beliefs do not have an absolute authority on the truth but Christians have the Word of God, which is the absolute authority on truth.

The pastor has a tough and long road ahead of him during these days of postmodernism views in the world culture today.  The authority of God in His Word is truth and that is the foundation on which all pastors need to stand.  The Biblical definition of truth, as told by John MacArthur, is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory and being of God.  Basically, the self-expression of God.[3]  The Bible shows throughout the books, chapters and verses that God is truth.  Deuteronomy 32:4 tells of His perfections, John 14:6 Jesus makes the statement that He is the truth……

Truth is hard to deliver to the people God has given the pastor to shepherd.  As an antagonist, truth offends, cuts deep and hurts.  The Word of God has to be delivered in the proper teaching for the protection of the flock.  Hebrews 4:12 gives us a picture of the power of the truth in God’s Word.  The writer says that the word is sharper than any two-edged sword. Scripture is to teach and to convict us of our sins by piercing the heart.  No wonder not many people want to hear what God is telling them.  Today, people want to feel good about themselves even in Christian circles showing what a self-centered and narcissistic culture the West has produced.  Timothy 3:16 gives us the foundation we use to deliver the truth of what God’s Word.  Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit explaining that God’s Word is good for teaching, for rebuking, for correction and for training in righteousness.  The pastor cannot bow down to society and culture but he must stand for the truth of Scripture as an ambassador to the Kingdom.

As penetrating to the souls as Scripture is, the pastor must stay on point to his calling and deliver the truth of God’s Word to His followers.  No matter how unpopular God’s truth is in today’s culture, it must still be delivered in full context.  There is no watering down or dumbing down in order not to offend people in order to win them over.  Pragmatism creeps in ever so slowly and it must be watched very carefully.  There is an overwhelming tendency to be liked by the congregation.  In order to keep them happy and feeling good about themselves, many pastors feel that they have to give the people what they want and dislocate themselves from the very foundation that will keep them safe and honoring God.  Church growth is up to God.  The pastor has to focus on the delivery of the truth of Scripture and by being diligent and faithful to that task.  By doing so, the flock will grow and be protected from any postmodern views that may creep into the church.  Success in ministry comes down to one thing and that is the faithfulness in service of the pastor to the calling to which God has called.[4]

Proper theology is required to lead the church on the proper path that honors God.  Not wavering to every little cultural whim under the sun, the pastor must maintain focus on proper theology.  Proper theology is based on the proper application of the different layers that are comprise truthful theology.  Exegetical Theology, Biblical Theology, Natural Theology, Historical Theology, Polemical Theology and Practical Theology are the foundational bricks that build a proper theology.  Knowing these things is not enough.  The proper delivery of proper theology is only done by expository preaching.  Having a proper theology will assist the pastor in developing an exceptional path to expository preaching.

The primary job for the pastor is to feed and protect his flock.  With expository preaching, the pastor can deliver the absolute truth of Scripture in a systematic and organized manner that will teach God’s people who He is and what His will is.  With a diluted theology and preaching that has no structure, caving into what the culture deems acceptable material for preaching, the truth of God’s revelation in Scripture will not be told properly.  The pastor must keep the pulpit a sanctuary for worship to the Lord.  It is a place where the pastor is the voice of God.  He must always be cognizant of the weightiness and fear involved handling God’s Word.  The Bible is the basis of preaching and it is the power that fills the pulpit.[5]

The truth is known and available to everyone.  God’s Word is truth but since the beginning truth has always been an object that man feels that an absolute cannot be found.  Through the history of man, many philosophical views have been developed in regards to defining the truth.  Today, the postmodern view on truth has the most dangerous implications on the church.  Tolerance and acceptance to everyone’s view on any issue has defiled the integrity of many denominations bringing into the church the world view.  As the challenges meet face to face with pastors holding to proper theology many are falling away from their first love and trying to meet the unbiblical needs of the people who hold postmodern views.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] John F. MacArthur, John 12-21 MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Moody Publishers, 2008). P. 331

[2] D. A. Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance, Reprint edition (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013). P. 98

[3] John MacArthur, The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, First Edition (Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2007). P. 2

[4] R. Kent Hughes and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2008).

[5]John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel (3rd Edition): When the Church Becomes Like the World, 3 edition (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2010).  P. 196