Penal substitution revisited

Posted on 06 July 2007
The latest UCCF magazine ‘nb news’ contains a vitally important brief article by former Ferndale FutureFaith speaker, Prof. James I Packer. He notes the fact that ‘the penal substitutionary understanding of the cross of Christ has been a flashpoint of controversy and division among Protestants… throughout my 63 years as an evangelical believer’ as ‘liberalism keeps reinventing itself and luring evangelicals away from their heritage.’

However, he argues, there is ‘No hope without it’ and suggests recent attacks that have spoken of the theory as ‘like child abuse’ are ‘as a comment on the cross… supremely silly, and as irrelevant and wrong as they could possibly be’. Specifically, he suggests, it is a failure to grasp the ‘biblical mode of Trinitarian and incarnational thought’ and is a result of the lack of adequate focus on the ‘God’s justice as one facet of his holiness, and of human wilfulness as the root of our racial, communal and personal sinfulness and guilt’.

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