Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Is Penal Best part 1

I am going to take this opportunity to discuss some of the comments that Stan of the Blog For The Gospel made in my previous blog post. I thought I would address his major points. His points are fairly representative of those who have accepted whole heartedly the Penal/Substitutionary theory of the Atonement. As I once asked my Pastor at a previous church I attended what did he know of the other Atonement Theories. His answer was that he thought they may have read about them in the seminary. Most Christians are in that same category they don’t know the Church History of the Atonement or the Atonement theories themselves. This leads them to think that the only theory in Christianity is that of the last couple hundred years and known as the Penal/Substitutionary theory. So I will be going over the ideas involved in these different theories with major emphasis upon the Penal theory and the Moral influence theory.

From the first part of Stan’s comments:

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.

Are Progressive SDA’s (since we are not really dealing with Liberal Christianity per se) views of God regarding the atonement similar to the New Age views of God. No in fact they are very different. However the New Age is famously known as a eclectic mix of ideas from many other religions it is very likely that there will be similarities between some things just as Adventism has similarities with Roman Catholics, Jews or Latter Day Saints. In most ways the New Age movement has no need of atonement theory because their belief is that everyone is part of God if they will only recognize the Christ consciousness inside them. The person who wrote the article trying to say that Graham Maxwell’s atonement view is the same as that supposedly channeled in the book “A course on Miracles” does not really do an adequate job or research. He merely finds a few similar sounding ideas and then proclaims Maxwell’s views as doctrines of demons. Research is not done by assuming one’s presuppositions and then arranging documentation together while the subjects are largely unrelated.

I do share Stan’s view that the contents of is made up of many ill advised statements. They along with Graham Maxwell have a tendancy to rely upon certain Ellen White ideas while completely ignoring contrary Ellen White ideas. For instance Ellen White is very clearly Penal/Substitutionary in most of her comments. Yet these statements are largely ignored or they will say that she was reflecting the thoughts of her day. Yet that is not the case when they look at other Ellen White statements such as the idea that Jesus felt on the cross like sinners will feel at the second death. Then they simply assume prophetic status for her statements. If one were to look at their rather inconsistent views it makes it hard to hold their views in high regard. So I understand Stan’s views but that does not mean that by default the Penal view is the winner.

Like Graham Maxwell I do not believe in a literal lake of fire. In fact the book of Revelation is very doubtfully meant to offer us literal explanations. It is a book of symbolism and allegory. What fire in the Bible often represents is complete destruction as in the ancient world fire destroyed material more fully then anything else known. The symbol is destruction of the wicked it is hardly necessary to restrict God to one particular method simply because the book of Revelation uses a particular term.

Tomorrow I will go over the rest of the last paragraph of Stan where he says: He simply denies the doctrine of the wrath of God, and this is a gospel that Satan would love. Because it is an intriguing idea that Satan would love the idea of God’s wrath not against man rather then God’s wrath against man.


Anonymous said...

There's a strange juxtoposition between the Calvinist's seeming zeal for the wrath of God against unbelievers (i.e. those other people) with the Calvinist's view that believers (i.e. themselves) are not and cannnot be subject to any judgment or accountability at all but are awarded a free pass from God, and cannot in any way lose their salvation regardless of what they do.

In the case of the belief in a literal, eternal lake of hell fire, the only safety for the believer is to believe that they can never lose their salvation and thus be subject to God's wrath.


Anonymous said...

So could one then assume that if it were not for the fear of what God will do to you at the end, you would much rather "live it up" than do it God's way? Do you find God's way of doing things restrictive? Does God's law have any merit in and of itself or is it just something God made up and we have to do it His way or else... It puts us right back in Genesis at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and Eve's conversation with the serpent. Can we live better outside of God's laws, but are forced to obey them through fear and threat of death?
If I were your neighbor in heaven, would I be able to leave my door unlocked, because you might still have the wish to break in, restrained only by the fear of God (or someone else) catching and punishing you?
Maybe what God is looking for is people born again (John 3), who would do things simply because they see sense in them and agree with them. If fear of God is the only thing keeping you from the things you really want to do - it's gonna be a miserable eternity for you my friend!