I just got a note from Chris Cowan, associate editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. It looks like the newest issue is going to be really good. It’s on the atonement, and all the articles favor a penal substitutionary view of the atonement.
In his opening editorial, Stephen Wellum writes:
“In the evangelical church today we are in danger of downplaying and even distorting the true meaning and significance of the cross. A number of examples could be given to demonstrate this last observation, but I want to focus on one disconcerting trend that is increasingly occurring in evangelical theology, namely, an effort to reinterpret the cross in non-substitutionary terms. . .
“In the end, understanding the cross in substitutionary termsâ€”indeed penal substitutionary termsâ€”is not only true to Scripture (which is reason enough to embrace it), but it is also essential in helping us grasp better the glorious gospel of God’s sovereign grace.
“But, sadly, this understanding of the cross is being downplayed, caricatured, and even rejected in recent theologyâ€”not merely non-evangelical theology where this has always been the caseâ€”but now, even within evangelical theology as well. In fact some of the standard objections to penal substitution outside of evangelical theology are now creeping their way into evangelical treatments of the cross. For example, many are now attacking the doctrine as unbiblical because, in their view, substitutionary atonement does not do justice to all of the biblical data. Or, others are saying that substitutionary atonement gives us a merely Western, mechanical, legal view of the cross instead of a more relational view. As many of the authors in this issue of SBJT point out, others are even embracing a typical, yet awful caricature of penal substitution, by arguing that a substitutionary view of the cross does not present us with a loving God but a sadistic one who delights in the abuse of his Sonâ€”a kind of divine child abuse. All of these criticisms are groundless and usually refl ect both a caricature of substitutionary atonement as well as the impoverishment of the critic’s own theology and understanding of Scripture. But what is truly unfortunate to note is that all of these criticisms, which have been leveled for hundreds of years by opponents of Christianity as well as liberal Christianity, are now being echoed in some form by many self-avowed evangelicals. In light of these trends, it is necessary”
Wellum is absolutely correct, and that is why you’ll want to get your hands on this issue of SBJT. Here is the table of contents:
“The Atonement in Focus”
Vol. 11, No. 2, Summer 2007
Editorial: Stephen J. Wellum
“Articulating, Defending, and Proclaiming Christ our Substitute”
“A History of the Doctrine of the Atonement”
Peter J. Gentry
“The Atonement in Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song” (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
“Songs of the Crucifi ed One: The Psalms and the Crucifi xion”
“The Cross and Substitutionary Atonement”
Barry C. Joslin
“Christ Bore the Sins of Many: Substitution and the Atonement in Hebrews”
The SBJT Forum
“The Atonement under Fire”