Thursday, March 27, 2008

I was given the opportunity to review R.C. Sproul's book The Truth of the Cross. It is a well written explanation and defense for Substitutionary Atonement. Once again, Dr. Sproul is able to break down the complex into simple terms that the average layperson can understand. I know of no other person who is as gifted in this area as he is. He is a great teacher, both in person and in his writings.

Once we truly grasp the afwful and grotesque nature of our sin, the atonement is easier to understand. If sin is seen as "cosmic treason" then we will realize that the atonement is not unnecessary or only hypothetically necessary. It is absolutely critical that it was done in the manner it was done. No other means could ever be sufficient to redeem us without violating God's own character and standards.

Briefly, here is the logic behind Substitutionary Atonement. Because God is Holy and Just, our sin must be punished. Because of our sin we deserve death. Jesus came to earth and lived a sinless life that we could never live. When He was crucified on the cross, God took our sins and placed them on Jesus. God then took the wrath that was meant for us and took it out on His Son. He died and took the wrath of God in our place. The sinless life that Jesus lived was then counted for us. This allowed God to punish us (Jesus) and also be able to forgive us and redeem us.

This is the same atonement theology that I have heard all of my life. It is natural and second nature to me. I thought I had it all figured out. As I went through the book, I realized how ignorant I really am in this area. It is extremely deep and detailed. The significance of what happened on the cross is something that I have taken for granted. How we are made right with God is an essential part of the gospel.

I know that there are other atonement theories out there. Some see it as "primitive and obscene" or as "cosmic child abuse." Some of my previous posts have dealt with some of these. I also received some thought provoking comments and links. I appreciate these, even if they are not in agreement with me. They give me things to think about as I continue to learn.

However, know that this book is a defense of Substitutionary Atonement, as demonstrated below:

"A Substitute has appeared in space and time, appointed by God Himself, to bear the weight and the burden of our transgressions, to make expiation for our guilt, and to propitiate the wrath of God on our behalf. This is the gospel. Therefore, if you take away the substitutionary atonement, you empty the cross of its meaning and drain all of the significance out of the passion of our Lord Himself. If you do that, you take away Christianity itself."
From The Truth of the Cross (page 81) by R.C. Sproul

NOTE: I was given a copy of the book in exchange for this book review. It is available from Reformation Trust Publishing.


  1. Craig L. Adams said...
    Historically, Wesleyan views of the atonement have been (of course0 significant;y different then the Calvinism of Sproul, etc.

    For example:
    Brett said...
    Craig -
    The book really has me interested in different atonement theories, so I am somewhat familiar with the theories that you linked to.
    I don't have a big problem with the governmental theory that is discussed.
    I have bigger issues with those that say that the atonement is not necessary, (such as the moral influence theory) or only hypothetically necessary.
    As I said in my post, I thought I knew about the atonement, and the book made me realize how ignorant I really am. I still have a lot to learn.
    I am not to the point where Dr. Sprouls is where I can say that the penal substitution theory is core to the gospel. If some are convinced of other theories that don't make an atonement irrelevant, I can respect it, even though I don't agree.
    Craig L. Adams said...
    Thanks so much for the clarification, Brett. I think we are much the same place, in a way. Atonement is at the heart of the Gospel message. Christ effected reconciliation with God through the Cross. The theory is less important than the fact. But, the message of the Cross and Resurrection is indispensable. Different theories will / will not be appealing to individuals based on their views of Prevenient Grace, moral responsibility, the nature of God's sovereignty and so forth.

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