Archive for May 11, 2013

Popular Arminian Versions of Penal Substitution Deny a “Perfect Balance”

May 11, 2013

from a review of Raised With Christ, by Adrian Warnock (Crossway, 2010)

The Arminian “evangelical middle-camp” (p205) assumptions of Warnock’s theology come into clear view in his chapter on Romans 4:24–raised because of our justification or raised in order to and for the purpose of our justification? Warnock asserts  that “Jesus’ resurrection was not a result of our justification” (p 121) because our sin was not a result of His death. But this misses the parallel. His death is a result of our (the elect’) sin, therefore His resurrection IS a result of the future justification of elect sinners.

On p 124, Warnock writes: “The answer is that God was displeased with the sin  that Christ was bearing but remained pleased with Jesus’ infinite goodness, which was greater than the sin.” This is NOT how the apostle Paul explains the requirements of justice. Sins do not demand some philosophical (and non-biblical) idea of some “infinity” or “equivalent balance”. The sins demand death. The wages of sin is death.

On p 126, Warnock writes: “The resurrection was necessary to allow the credit of Jesus’ righteousness to be shared with us, for it demonstrated that the credit was greater than the debt.” But to glory in the cross is to see that the death of Christ cancels the debt for all the elect when they are placed into that death. Romans 6:9-10 are great resurrection verses: “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has any dominion over him. For the death he died , he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. “

The reason that the debt of the sins of elect cannot hold Christ is not some “greater credit”. The reason that the debt of the sins of the elect cannot hold Christ is Christ’s death. Christ died to sin. This does not mean that Christ was born again. And Romans 6 is not talking about our being born again either.

This means (1) that Christ is no longer imputed with those sins, because He has died once for them and will not die again. It means (2) that it is not sinners (nor their faith nor their apology nor their discipleship) who give their sins to Christ. God gave the sins ofthe elect to Christ already, and God already did not give the sins of the non-elect to Christ.

Think of a parallel text to Romans 6:9-10. Think of II Corinthians 5:15: “One has died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

II Corinthians 5:15 is about Christ’s death being the death of those who will be justified.  This is the thing that the popular view of penal atonemn does not say, and cannot say. The popular view of penal atonement is not penal atonement, because it denies any “perfect numerical commercial balance” and makes the ” on the plus side of the credit” depend on ‘accepting it” and “showing that they accept it” by the way they live. Thus Warnock writes on p 124,  “so that our guilt COULD now be taken away, and we COULD be counted righteous.”  This “might or might not be” continues in the chapter on “union with Christ”.  On p141, Warnock explains: “Jesus suffered the penalty due our sins so that we do not have to.”

But see Romans 8:3—“What the law could not do, God already DID by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin-he condemned sin in the flesh.”

The popular view of penal atonement says that what Jesus did (in death and resurrection) sets up a plan which makes it possible for you to give him your sins and then for Him to save you.  And this is still the view of people like Warnock  even though he thinksof  himself as  being on the cutting edge of the young, restless and reformed.

II Corinthians 5:15 does not teach that Christ died for our sins so that we don’t have to; it says that those for whom Christ died also died with him.  That is substitution, and you cannot teach substitution without confusion unless you either teach that Christ’s death saves all sinners or you teach that Christ was a substitute only for the elect. If Christ died for every sinner but some of these sinners will perish,  then that may be a substitution but it not a saving substitution.

I think most popular advocates of penal substitution would rather live as practical de facto universalists then  dare talk about election in connection with II Corinthians 5.   They fear as antinomian any good news which teaches that the elect have already died to judgment when Christ died for them. (See John Fesko’s wonderful book on Justification).

Another advantage for these popular evangelicals in not talking about election in II Cor 5 is that they can take the phrase “live for Him who died for them” and use it to lay duties on every sinner they meet.  Warnock tells us (p141) that “we are saved not only by believing the fact that Christ died for our sins, but by union with the crucified and risen Savour.”  But it is NOT a fact of the gospel tells any particular sinner that Christ died for their sins.  The gospel  does not tell sinners who the elect are; the gospel tells sinners about election.