Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Believe Ye Penal Theory or Be Ye Devils

In a recent comment posted on the For The Gospel Blog I saw the following from Stan

In particular this part:

I just read through it, and I agree that Graham Maxwell's theology is very similar in many ways to the New Age course in miracles. I personally believe you are correct, that Maxwellian theology is a doctrine of demons.

He makes of no effect the wrath of God. The crucifixion loses it's meaning and the true gospel is denied.

What he read through is an article whose supposition is that Graham Maxwell’s theology is spiritualism and is similar to the New Age philosophy of a “Course in Miracles”. Which is about as accurate as saying Hitler and Gandhi were vegetarians so their religious philosophies are the same. I am not posting the link to Eugene Shubert’s site or article because I think it is a repulsive site to any Christian. I have had contact with Eugene on various forums and he has even managed to be banned from the most open Adventist forum on the internet a site which ranges from ultra traditional SDA’s to Atheists yet all have an Adventist connection. So you have to be really obnoxious to get banned from that forum.

I have many times referenced or linked to For The Gospel Blog and as such I was really disappointed in Stan to see him support Eugene’s position which as he recently posted on an Adventist forum is that Graham “Maxwell’s Demonic theology”. Eugene uses Stan’s comment on the For the Gospel blog to support his presentation that Maxwell is a demon among us and if anyone thinks Maxwell is a “fine Christian gentleman” they are not fit to interpret the Bible.

The trouble is seen so often among the more fundamentalist of Christians that if one differs in an interpretation such as the atonement that difference is enough to declare another Christian as not merely wrong but as an agent of Satan. In this case the latter Middle Ages interpretation known as the Penal/Substitutionary theory of the Atonement. It is assumed to be the only possible view of atonement theories even though the history of the Christian church has gone through many different theories. Today the more fundamentalist minded have determined there is only one view and it is that God poured out His wrath on Jesus Christ (who is God) on the cross. Even though there is not one New Testament verse to indicate that the wrath of God was poured out on Christ and there is also not one New Testament verse to indicate that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. Tradition has taken the place of Biblical doctrine and when tradition rules it seems to become easier to declare those of different interpretations to be demons. The Roman Catholic Church gave us very dramatic testimony to this type of belief as it killed and tortured those who sought to bring the Bible into the language of the common man or those who disagreed with the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church whether in science or philosophy.

I had a good deal of respect for Stan over at For The Gospel but his comment has no place in the thinking Christians mind. We should not be defining fellow Christians as demoniac. Especially when his basis for the statements are so terrible misinformed. Christians should be free to disagree without the need to call someone so terribly hurtful. Not just personally hurtful but hurtful to the other Christians in the world; Hurtful also to those who know the person, and those who agree with the ideas or even just some of the ideas. As much as I disagree with people such as Neil T. Anderson, or Benny Hinn I do not doubt that they are Christians and they love God. They may hurt the cause of Christ but then I am sure that every one of us has hurt the cause of Christ by what we have done or said at times. That does not make us the servants of Satan. We all still see through the glass darkly we have no business judging other’s Christianity by our dark and distorted view through the glass.

The Penal/Substitutionary theory has internal problems and pleading to tradition does nothing to help solve the problems or grow in our Christian understanding. While I don’t agree with Maxwell’s views on the subject I do agree with his overall conclusion God is not the kind of person who says obey me or I will kill you. As such we can’t simply ignore the Penal view’s problems especially in the postmodern world. It is why I prepared the article entitled “What is Wrong with the Substitutionary Theory of the Atonement.”

If Stan would like to explore his view and my view of the Atonement I would be happy to offer my blog for the discussion. The view one has of the Atonement says a lot about the kind of God they worship. The kind of God one worships says a lot to the people of the world who we are trying to reach.


Stan Ermshar said...

I posted this comment on 4TG in response to Ron Corson:

Hi Ron,

First of all, thanks for reading our blog and finding the comment I made above.

As to my response to Shubey, I want to make it abundantly clear that I don't support Shubey or his blog or forum. I don't endorse his brand of right wing Adventism.

I did find it very interesting that new age and liberal views of God and the atonement are very similar.

I spent a lot of time listening to Provonsha, whose theology is similar to Maxwell's while I was in medical school, and I have spent too much time reading Maxwell's disciples on

Graham Maxwell teaches that there is no literal lake of fire that will punish the wicked. He simply denies the doctrine of the wrath of God, and this is a gospel that Satan would love. If Satan can get people believeing that there is no just punishment for their evil deeds, then folks will see no need of a Savior and salvation. Frankly, before I was converted, I wished that there was no such thing as a lake of fire as taught in Revelation 21:8, and if I could be convinced of that, then I could just go about my merry way really living it up. I certainly wouldn't have bothered with any time worrying about religion or even caring about the things of God.

It was only when God drew me irresistably one night while partying on a cruise ship to a Gideon Bible in the drawer, that I was led to the gospel of Matthew and after several nights of reading I came to the story of the crucifixion, and God brought me to faith when I realized that Christ took the penalty I deserved, and that Christ suffered the second death in my place.

Jesus makes this statement in Matthew 26:

26) Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my BLOOD of the covenant, which is poured out FOR MANY for the FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

What would be the point of Jesus own statement saying that His blood will be poured out for many for forgiveness of sins, if this were not a substitutionary act?

Then we have the whole Levitical system which pointed to Christ's sacrifice, and this is explained so well in the book of Hebrews "Without the shedding of blood is no remission of sins".

The obvious and plain sense of so many texts in the NT clearly point to the substitutionary model for the atonement.

I know from observation and experience that the gospel of Maxwell and Provonsha will not have the power to truly save sinners. We had a week of prayer at college where one of these teachers gave the sermons. There was no moving of hearts toward repentance and salvation when that gospel is preached, but other weeks of prayer where the gospel was taught in the terms of the substitutionary atonement, then God honored that type of preaching with evidence of salvation.

Most evangelical and Reformed scholars regard the traditional penal doctrine of the atonement as an essential of the Christian faith, and anyone denying the substitutionary atonement is regarded as teaching a false gospel.

The title of this thread is Piper's Christ exalting grammar, and John Piper has written extensively on the doctrine of the atonement and his web site

He comments on the blasphemous statement of Stephen Chalke who called the traditional doctrine of the atonement "cosmic child abuse".

God chose to take the punishment due us and take this punishment on Himself in the person of Christ, so we could be saved. I am eternally grateful for this.

I think it is a dangerous thing to fight against this doctrine that has stood the test of time and is clearly supported by scripture.

What is it about the crucifixion of Christ and the message that Christ died for us that causes such a violent reaction in so many people?

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 tells us why this is:

18For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

The message of Christ and Him crucified can only make sense in the context of the whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and then applied in the context of Christ being our sinbearer.

What sense does it make for Christ to die just as a demonstration of the love of God only?

It is very offensive to the natural man that Christ would bear the wrath of God for sinners--a righteous man suffering for the guilty. This concept is very offensive as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians.

The bloodless atonement and a gospel that denies the wrath of God and punishment on the wicked is definitely a false gospel and I must assume that those teaching this gospel are teaching a different gospel, and I can have no confidence that these people are Christians.


Ken McFarland said...

Hello, future heavenly neighbors...

Ron, I too am dismayed by the tendency to judge anyone who doesn't see eye to eye with us theologically as an "agent of Satan."

Only God is our Judge. Our mission is lifting up Jesus, not blasphemously assuming His role of Judge.

Let me quote a bit from Stan's response to your post:

"If Satan can get people believing that there is no just punishment for their evil deeds, then folks will see no need of a Savior and salvation."

This followed a reference to the lake of fire. Now, it is not this great controversy...who employs fear. Fear entered as a companion or byproduct of sin.

To say that God cannot save us without fear of punishment is to attribute to God a primary motivation employed by Satan himself. Perfect love....and God IS love...casts OUT fear!

Our motive for salvation can never be that we are scared to death of God's anger. It is the far more powerful motivator...the only one God ever uses: His saving, life-transforming, forgiving love.

That love, as best seen on the Cross, is what saves....not the fear Satan employs. We sense our need of salvation, not when we become petrified enough of punishment, but when we see our own sinfulness in contrast to Christ's perfection and find in the Cross the release for that burden and our only hope of heaven.

We can see the terrible results of fear-based motivation even in our nation these days.

By the way, Substitution is, yes, only one possible view of the Atonement. Another that means more to me is what might be called the "Inclusive" view: that Jesus did not die "for" us...but "as" us. Paul in Romans says Jesus is the "second Adam" and that we were all included "in" Him at the Cross. So there on Calvary, we died in Him, just as now, we live in Him.

Let the discussion and debate go on till Earth ends....but we do well not to assume to know human hearts and motivations....a province known ONLY to God