New Year’s Resolution – Less video games and more good books

This resolution is more for readers of this blog than for me, since I don’t play such games and read a ton of good books and review them. Speaking of which, I have a great book you should read on the subject of the atoning death of Christ and it is very short!

A good place to start is the interesting dialogue between Tom Wright and Simon Gathercole that took place at the last Greer-Heard Forum at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. There is also a useful essay on the Lord’s Supper as a performative form of theologization on the death of Jesus Robert Stewart that has animated all of these interesting forums. The title of the book is What did the cross accomplish. A conversation about the Atonement, (Westminster / John Knox, 2021). The dialogue between Wright and Gathercole is lively, but it is a great tragedy that Westminster / John Knox did not also agree to publish the lectures of Doug Moo and Edith Humphreys and others that were given then. It was a posting error and by no means the fault of Bob Stewart who organized the Forum himself.

Since there were no Wesleyans in this discussion, it often takes a more Reformed approach to these matters with Simon saying things like God does all of these things ultimately to glorify himself and his name (which sounds more like John Piper with a British accent) which is problematic because it is human beings that these passages are about glorifying God, not so much about describing God as a narcissist. Wright makes some interesting and useful comments on the initial and final justification, but does not seem to realize that the initial justification concerns forgiveness of a anybody for sins committed, and the final justification involves judgment on the works even Christians who must appear before the judgment of the bema seat of Christ to give an account of the acts accomplished in their life. 1 Cor. 3 suggests that even a negative judgment on the works of ministers could still leave them saved, but as by fire. Wright and Gathercole are clear about the notion of substitution involved in the death of Christ, but also that God is not punishing Jesus for his own sins, but like 2 Cor. 5 says ‘he was made sin … so that we might be made righteous’. At one point, Gathercole pointed out that the Mosaic Law was for the Jews, and the Jews did not assume that the Gentiles were subject to it. This makes Paul’s statements about the law of God written in the hearts of the Gentiles in Rom problematic. 2, not to mention Rom’s statement. 8.1ff. that mankind in general has been freed from the guiding principle of sin and death, by the guiding principle of the Spirit, which includes that Christ is the end of the Mosaic law as a means of righteousness like Rom. 10 goes on to say, a passage (Rom. 9-11) in which Paul addresses himself particularly to the Gentiles.

Another big advantage of this slender volume (less than 100 pages) is that it contains an excellent bibliography on the treatment of atonement in church history and in the present (thanks to Bob for the helpful annotations of inputs). I warmly recommend this little book as a good start to the conversation about the atonement. Afterwards, reading William Lane Craig’s great recent study on the Atonement titled Christ’s Atonement and Death (Baylor U. Press, 2020 – see review and dialogue on my blog in 2020) will increase your familiarity with the discussion from a philosophical perspective.

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