Are You Good Enough?

For as long as I can remember there has been a silent cultural message that “if you’re good enough” God will accept you as his own and secure you a permanent place at his side in eternity.  From Country and Western songs to Hallmark movie nights we are captured by the idea of a person realizing the error of their ways and making amends to a new status of a life well-lived.  This trend has been exacerbated in recent years by a multitude of teachers and preachers in the church who are attempting to remodel Christ as a life coach who desires to lead man to his true potential.  Turning from the old “you’re a sinner headed for judgment” model of reaching the masses, the new sentiment is “get on the wagon with Jesus and become something wonderful.”  I have to admit it has a nice ring.  It’s the stuff that after school specials were made for; grabbing oneself by the bootstraps and initiating the full potential of the human spirit in order to overcome the strongholds of one’s past.  Such stories are inspiring, entertaining and motivating.  After all, who among us could throw a stone at someone filled with good works, kindness and sacrificial service to others?  Indeed, these are the very characteristics that Jesus modeled and are the substance of the inner working of the Holy Spirit in the life of his chosen.

Such ideas represent the heart and soul of a moralistic gospel approach.  The model is simple: “Work hard, do better and God will accept you.”  And, the presumed merit of such good works is that they will somehow erase the stain of a former life that was decidedly “not good enough” in God’s eyes.  But will they really?

Several years ago I saw a news story on television about a woman who was discovered just miles down the road from where I lived.  The woman had been missing for many years.  She was not missing in the sense that she was lost, but in the sense that she did not want to be found.  This woman was an upstanding member of a nearby town.  She worked hard, had built a respectable life and was highly regarded by everyone who knew her.  She was active in her church and local schools and was known as a model citizen.  Yet, she had lived many years under an assumed name for fear of her past.  In fact, she had been convicted of horrible crimes at a younger age and had somehow escaped the custody of the state in order to assume a “new” life and identity as the person she wished she had been all along.  She had truly changed her ways.  Likened to the gospel of moralism, one might consider that she had erased her former sins by her current good life.

When this woman was discovered by authorities the television news became hyperactive about her story.  Some argued that she had lived a good and respectable life in the time since her heinous crimes and should be allowed to continue her new-found “good life.”  Others argued that this woman could not possibly have been guilty of the crimes that she had been convicted of, for she had proven her mettle publicly for so many years.  But, at the end of all such sentiment there was one thing that stood resolutely in the way of her freedom: the law.

The issue this woman had was not her inability to do well by her community.  Her issue was not that she was unfit to exist among the other humans in harmony.  It was not that she lacked the potential to fit in, be nice, get along with others or that she had failed to do any sufficient good works as deemed proper by the community.  Her issue was that she had resolutely broken the law in a major way and had been sentenced to punitive discipline by the law.  It frankly did not matter how good of a life she had lived the past number of years or how many people she had helped.  Her punishment was indifferent to her good works.  This woman had been formerly convicted of murder.  She owed a debt to society that could not be paid by simply “doing better from now on.”

This story illustrates perfectly the issue of a moralistic gospel.  The scripture says in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  You’ll notice the accusation clearly: “all have sinned.” The problem man has with God is not that “you have not been good enough.”  The issue is that “you have sinned.”

Sin is a specific crime with a prescribed penalty announced from the very beginning of time: “the day you eat of it you will surely die.”  The penalty for sin is reaffirmed throughout the scriptures, being clearly shown again in Romans 6:23, “for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In short, our crime of sin is so substantial to God that we have been prescribed the death penalty for it.  We can attempt to hide, rebrand our life and/or gain the sentimental approval of everyone around us, but we will never get away from the perfect law that condemns us as sinners. Our penalty will be paid– either by us or by a gracious intercessor.

Friends, the gospel message has never been that God loved you so much he sent Jesus to earth to show you how to live better.  The gospel message is- and always has been- that God loved you so much he sent his innocent Son to earth to die for your sins and pay the sentence that you owe.

Because it is our sin – our offense of the law – that condemns us before God, there is simply no manner of good works that we can live up to that will ever save us.  There is no statute of limitations on sin.  It is a crime punishable by an eternal sentence that must – and will – be paid.

The good works performed by we who are in Christ are symptomatic of our salvation, but can never be the substance of it.  Our issue before God is not a lack of good works.  It is our offense of sin.  For that reason alone, you will never be good enough.  Rather, trust Christ’s provision of atonement on your behalf to save you from the wages of your sin and you will be transformed to the worthy and “good enough” creation you need to be.

Yom Kippur: A Reason for Christians to Celebrate

Yes, you read the title correctly.  To many, Yom Kippur is merely a foreign word that appears on our Outlook calendar each year.  It seems that most believers do not even know what it is, where it came from or most certainly what it represents.  Yom Kippur is a good reminder of just how much rich heritage of the faith gets lost for modern Gentile believers.  Because we do not serve the Mosaic requirements for Holy Days each year, we miss the richness of the Old Testament Feasts; each of which point to and are fulfilled by our Messiah, Jesus, in some way.

Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement in English, falls each Hebrew calendar year on the 10th of Tishrei.  The 10th of Tishrei this year, on our Western calendar, is tomorrow, October 8, 2011.  The celebration of Yom Kippur, for Jews, begins at sundown tonight. Continue reading

The Gospel Truth: Christ Crucified (Vlog)

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series The Gospel Truth (Vlog)

(This is a continuation of The Gospel Truth video blog series.  This post assumes the prerequisite watching of earlier videos in the series.  Click the link above to watch the entire series up to this week’s installment.)

This week’s Gospel Truth teaching examines the very apex of the fulfillment of the law: the crucifixion of Christ.  As previous lessons have revealed how Christ’s death fulfilled the law of Moses, today’s will focus on the fact that Christ also fulfilled the prophets which spoke of his first coming.

The Gospel Truth – Pt 7 – Christ Crucified from Jeff Kluttz on Vimeo.

The Gospel Truth: Atonement in the Old Testament Pt. 2

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series The Gospel Truth (Vlog)

(This is a continuation of The Gospel Truth video blog series.  This post assumes the prerequisite watching of earlier videos in the series.  Click the link above to watch the entire series up to this week’s installment.)

Last week’s post examined the general nature of the Old Testament sacrificial system.  Yet, the heart and soul of the application of blood atonement rested in a very specific Holy observance: Yom Kippur, “The Day of Atonement.”

It was on this day, and only this day, that the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and made application of blood in the God’s own presence.  And, it is the understanding of this observance, which Hebrews will demonstrate in next week’s post, that best reveals how Christ’s actions both fulfilled the law and provided vicarious atonement – once and for all – to vindicate God’s wrath and uphold his just cause to punish sin.

The Gospel Truth: Pt. 5 – Atonement Pt. 2 from Jeff Kluttz on Vimeo.

Yom Kippur – The Foreshadowing of Christ

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(This is a continuation of the series entitled, “A Pastoral Soteriology.”  It assumes the reading of eariler posts.)

The culmination of the sacrificial system of atonement in the Old Testament Law was demonstrated and applied in the yearly observation of “Yom Kippur,” or, “The Day of Atonement.”  While the sacrificial system tirelessly went about its business of providing blood offerings – literally twenty four hours a day – this special holy day provided the principle application of the sin offering for the entire nation.  As such, Yom Kippur demonstrated more articulately the nature of Christ’s later work of redemption than perhaps any other requirement of the sacrificial system.  Continue reading

Atonement in the Old Testament Law

This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

Atonement in the Old Testament Law

As noted in the last post, the Penal Substitution Theory of the atonement is by far the best and most accurate understanding of the work Jesus provided on the cross according to the scriptures.  While the nature of the atonement has been observed, a true understanding of penal substitution requires a comprehension of the underlying principles which had been put into effect by God prior to Jesus’ work on the cross.  Continue reading

The Penal Substitution Theory: On the Mark

This entry is part 8 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

The Penal Substitution Theory

While all atonement theories examined thus far have failed at producing a biblically-based portrayal of the doctrine of salvation, Anselm had at least gotten close with his Necessary-Satisfaction Theory.  Building upon some of those very principles, the Penal Substitution Theory, proposed by John Calvin (1509-1564), rightly aligned the missing theological puzzle pieces to present an accurate depiction of the work Christ completed on the cross. 

Primarily, atonement theories are intended to illustrate how atonement was produced from Christ’s death on the cross.  As such, a sound theory must not only make some valid assertions concerning the nature of Christ’s work, but must illustrate the entire historical revelation of the atonement as defined in scripture.  Calvin’s Penal Substitution Theory does that with great skill.

A proper understanding of the Penal Substitution Theory requires a holistic approach to God’s revelation of atonement throughout scripture.  Jesus did not merely show up on the playing field and create something new.  Rather, he realized and fulfilled what God had already established; a substitutionary system of atonement.  As Jesus noted,

Matthew 5:17-18 (NIV)
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Clearly, Jesus himself understood his work to be complimentary to what had already been established.  His work was to be that which would fulfill the law and the prophets rather something entirely new and unrelated.  No system examined in this series thus far has expressed atonement in terms that related it as a fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.  The Recapitulation Theory disregards the Law almost entirely.  The Ransom Theory has God paying off Satan, which is dramatically opposed to the Old Testament Law in which God himself receives (or rejects) man’s sin offering(s).  The Moral Example Theory completely disregards the punitive nature of the Law; attempting to implement a works oriented salvation which disregards the penalty of former sins.  The Mystical Theory, in addition to being just plain weird, offers absolutely no hint of vicarious atonement as outlined in the Law.  And, the Necessary-Satisfaction Theory, while working off of good principles, still misappropriates certain legal aspects of atonement as depicted in the Law. 

A good atonement theory must adequately illustrate how God’s program of redemption in the Law was systematically fulfilled and completed by the work of Christ!  Otherwise, Christ cannot be understood as having fulfilled the Law. 

Calvin’s theory connected the proper dots.

Details of Christ’s fulfillment of the Law will be examined over the next several posts, yet at this point it should at least be noted that what Jesus “fulfilled” was a substitutionary system of atonement: the sacrificial system of the Old Testament Law.  

Overall, the Penal Substitution Theory can be understood as a more comprehensive fleshing-out of Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory.  Anselm had the basic idea, but missed key points which Calvin properly illuminated.

The Essence of the Penal Substitution Theory

The Satisfaction Theory rightly articulated that a debt was owed to God by mankind.  This debt required that satisfaction be attained by God.  Yet, it incorrectly defined man’s offense as the defilement of God’s honor.  While surely God’s honor became diminished in man’s eyes because of sin, it is not God’s honor which is in need of satisfaction according to the scriptures.  Rather, it is God’s wrath for sin which is in need of satisfaction, as has already been illustrated.  Jesus noted,

John 3:36 (NIV)
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

And Paul exclaimed,

Ephesians 2:3 (NIV)
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

Understanding the problem of sin properly- that it invokes God’s wrath- is key to understanding the nature of the satisfaction Jesus secured in the atonement.  It was God’s wrath over sin which was in need of satisfaction.  The atonement is oriented toward the securing of justice rather than honor.  God’s law had been broken, invoking his wrath.  And, being a just God, he demanded that payment be rendered for the broken Law.  Such payment is not a mystery in the biblical narrative.  God prescribed his punitive decision prior to the offense, clearly noting in the Garden of Eden that,

Genesis 2:17 (NIV)
17 … you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

With justice as a defining attribute of His nature, God cannot simply overlook one’s sin.  Sin is an offense to his Law; an illegal (penal) action requiring a just sentence, which God prescribed to be death to the offender.  What Jesus did on the cross was to quite literally apply the payment to God for the crimes of humanity.

Romans 6:23 (NIV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God had always upheld the wages of sin.  They have never – nor will they ever change.  And, God’s sense of justice demands that wrongdoing be punished and that the offended party (himself) be compensated.  Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished both.  The sins of man were paid vicariously (more on that in coming posts) and God’s justice was upheld.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 The atonement was penal in nature, because it provided the means of payment for the breaking of God’s Law which man had engaged.  It was substitutionary in nature, because the payment was obtained vicariously by another: Christ.

Romans 3:22-26 (NIV)
22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

The substitutionary nature of Christ’s death will be examined in more detail in the following weeks.  One cannot truly understand how Jesus fulfilled the Law without first understanding the nature of the Law itself.  Suffice it to say at this point, however, that the Law provided a means of restitution for man’s sin through vicarious (substitutionary) means.  God, in his graciousness, offered a system of atonement by which an acceptable animal could be sacrificed on man’s behalf, thus paying the required death sentence.  Such is the nature of the Law; as it details the processes and requirements of such penal substitutions to be made.  When Christ fulfilled the Law, he became the final perfect sacrifice for sin; rendering the Law utterly completed.  Thus, “not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

The Penal Substitution Theory of atonement rightly identifies the critical components of redemption by faith in Christ Jesus.  God’s wrath was invoked by man’s sin.  His justice demanded restitution.  In grace, he provided a substitutionary system of atonement, which Christ completed – once and for all.

Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV)
5 … he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The Necessary-Satisfaction Theory of Atonement

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

Continuing our examination of numerous atonement theories which have circulated the church throughout history, it must be observed that thus far in this series there has not been revealed a tremendous amount of success in the packaging of such systems into understandable, yet valid theological thought.

The Recapitulation Theory misses the vicarious nature of Jesus’ death altogether.  The Ransom Theory essentially glorifies Satan as the one who was to be appeased for the wages of sin.  The Moral Example Theory is little more than a warmed over “good ol’ boys get in” mentality and the Mystical Theory relegates God to one of the plethora of pagan gods of yore; being reached via essential practices rather than his own initiative which is accomplished by grace through faith.  Furthermore, most of these theories place robust emphasis on man’s role in salvation; asserting that Christ’s work on the cross provided a means for man to complete the work of redemption rather than Christ completing the work himself. Continue reading

The Mystical Theory of Atonement

This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(A continuation of the series, A Pastoral Soteriology.)

Continuing the historical foray into the waters of poorly constructed atonement theories leads us to what can only be understood as a truly heretical contribution known as the “Mystical Theory” of atonement.  This theory has been contributed to by many philosophers and pseudo-theologians over the years.  Central among them was Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), who utterly denied any aspect of a vicarious atoning work of Christ.

Before diving into the nuts and bolts (loose as they are) of this theory, the nature of mysticism should first be defined clearly.  By definition, that which is “mystic” is that which is “of the nature of or pertaining to mysteries known only to the initiated.”  (“mystic.” Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 06 Jul. 2009.)  Thus, if you are a participant in a mystic encounter can you “hear” from God.  Such mysteries transcend ordinary human knowledge, by direct communication with the divine. 

To be perfectly clear, a mystical element does indeed exist in the life of legitimate believers in Jesus Christ.  Strictly speaking, any direct impartation of information from God to man is mystical by definition.  If a man hears from God in his spirit, then he has participated in a legitimate mystical encounter.  The Holy Spirit utters truths which are only revealed to the initiated- those who belong to him- through his own impartation.

John 14:26 (NIV)
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

It must be clearly pointed out, however, that this legitimately mystical aspect of our walk with the Lord is the result of atonement, not the source of it.  It must also be pointed out that such genuine mystical practices are taught in scripture to be subject to biblical testing, so that men are not misled.

With this understood, the mystical encounter defined by the Mystical Atonement Theory is not akin to the normal fellowship between the believer and the Holy Spirit.  Rather, this theory presupposes a mystical union which is more akin to the panentheistic and demonic doctrines of Zen Buddhism and other predominantly “eastern” originated mystic practices. 

The Mystical Theory shares one facet of its substance with the Moral Example Theory in that it presumes that the work of redemption stems from Christ’s influence rather than his substitutionary sacrifice.  In this belief system, Christ’s incarnation is of more importance than his death on the cross.  The idea is that Christ’s incarnation brought divinity to the human realm.  By Christ entering the human sphere at his advent, he elevated man to his own divine plane, making access to God achievable.  Salvation is attained through man’s entry into this open portal of access. 

Additionally, according to this theory, Christ – being human in nature – possessed all of the inherent corruption and sinful tendencies of man, yet without allowing such predisposition to lead him into actually engaging in sin.  He was in effect, one who successfully navigated the inborn sin nature, yet without succumbing to it.  At the moment of Christ’s death, then, he officially conquered and eradicated his original sin nature, thus completing his victory over sin.

As this theory has evolved into its modern form, a panentheistic (all is in God) element has been more clearly defined.   In essence, it is understood by many today that “God became man so that man could become God.”  The redeemed are elevated to the status of “God-men” through participation in the divine nature which Christ opened up to them.  Man is no longer subservient to God, but participants with him while sharing his attributes.  Those holding to this view today indicate that man’s real issue is not with his sin, but with his inability to connect to his “god-consciousness” and be thus freed from his human limitations.

(Please excuse me while I go throw up and take a shower.) 

There are simply too many issues with this theory to take them all to task in a singular post.  More is wrong with the theory than is right.  In fact, nothing at all is right with it. 

To begin with, Christ did not have a propensity to sin.  He was not born with a sin nature.  Rather, his nature was utterly contrary to sin from his advent by merit of his being the God who defines what sin is.  Perhaps oversimplified, one functional definition of sin is “disobedience to God.”  How can one be disobedient to his own nature?  Christ was God incarnate.  To that end, sin was not his propensity, but the exact antithesis of his will. 

Indeed, scripture does note that Christ was tempted:

Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.

However, to be tempted does not equate with one having a sinful propensity.  Jesus himself stated,

John 14:30-31 (NIV)
30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

And, the very same author of Hebrews notes,

Hebrews 7:26 (NIV)
26 Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

While being tempted on this earth, perhaps for the benefit of man’s recognition of his righteousness, scripture teaches entirely contrary to the idea that Christ had an inclination toward sin.

Secondly, the Bible unwaveringly attests to the work of redemption as having been carried out on the cross rather than through Jesus’ completion of a sinless human life.  While the sinless attribute of Christ’s life was essential, redemption came not from the fact that the Son of God never sinned.  Redemption came from the fact that He who never sinned offered himself on a cross as payment for those who had sinned.  As Paul notes,

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

And Isaiah prophesied,

Isaiah 53:6 (NIV)
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Certainly Jesus’ sinless life was a requirement of his ability to atone for the sins of man, but it was not the functional substance of that work.  The actual application of his righteousness to sinner’s account came from his death on the cross.  Paul notes,

Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV)
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Make no mistake, redemption was attained through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Had he only lived a righteous life- and had not died for man’s sins- there would be no salvation for man.  God’s wrath against sin would remain.

This ultimately leads to the next major failure of this heritical theory, which is the annoying tendency of humanistic philosophies to attempt to relegate the atonement to something which enables man to overcome his sin through properly guided human efforts.  According to this theory, sin is not atoned for by Christ at all.  Rather, Christ grants man an opportunity to somehow “rise above” his sin by his mystical union with the deity.  (How can one purport to define an “atonement theory” for which there is no atonement??)  If Christ’s death were not vicarious – in man’s place – how then is man to pay for the sins committed before his magical elevation?  Does not the scripture say,

 Romans 3:25 (NIV)
25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–

Even if man were enabled (through mystical union with Christ) to utterly conquer his sinful nature from the moment of conversion throughout the remainder of his life, who pays for the sins he committed prior to that magical encounter?  If one becomes righteous through a mystical communion with God after a life of sin, does his previous sin no longer count against him?  This theory makes no provision for such payment.  Yet, even proponents of this seriously flawed theory recognize and admit that man is infected with a sinful nature from birth.  How does a mystical elevation eliminate the sins of one’s previous existence if Christ’s death was not substitutionary in nature?

These issues alone identify the Mystical Theory as an utterly unbiblical – and ineffective- remedy for man’s problem of sin.  Yet, one cannot possibly give this theory a serious theological once-over without also pointing out the gross error of its message of mystical elevation.  The underlying postulate of such will ultimately lead back to a panentheistic view of God.  If taken to its logical conclusion, all who are redeemed – according to this theory – become participants in the overarching fellowship that is God.  Such false elevation promises in this theory relegate man back to his most base sinful tendency: the desire to be (his own) God.

There was, and will only ever be ONE God-man.  He was and is the person of Jesus Christ.  The atonement is not a means to elevate man to God’s level of consciousness, insight or authority.  it certainly was not the means by which God would share his glory with His creation.  Such aspirations, in no uncertain terms, are a demonic pursuit.

Isaiah 14:12-14 (NIV)
12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Most faithful readers of would quickly have relegated this flawed theory to the heresy that it is.  One may even wonder why time was taken to write against such an obviously erroneous postulate.  Sadly, the answer to that question is that it is very necessary in the body of Christ to reveal the error of this particular theory; for it is being reconstituted, rebranded and diligently served before our very eyes as daily table fare of several modern neo-Christian movements.

The Word of Faith movement is seriously committed to the idea that man becomes a “little God” through the atonement.  They do not subscribe to the Mystical Theory, per ‘se, but the god-man element of this theory fits perfectly into the theology of Hinn, Hagin, Copeland, Crouch and the rest of the high-roller preachers club.  The mystical elevation of man according to their (false) gospel includes man’s full power over the very elements of nature through his properly utilized “word of faith.” 

More frightening is the Emergent movement, perhaps the fastest growing subculture in the church today, which seems to have a literal disdain for valid atonement theory.  From the outside, Emergent congregations seem merely a post-modern “trendy-church” model by which the next generation may be reached.  From the inside, their mentors and un-official leaders are teaching doctrines which are actually defining the cutting edge of Mystical Atonement Theory.  They teach that atonement is not substitutional in nature.  They whole-heartedly affirm and teach a mysticism which is consistent with the views of the Mystical Theory.  As panentheism will tend to lead to, they have furthermore attempted to erase the lines between Christianity and other world religions, claiming that Christ is anything but exclusive in his work of atonement. 

The Mystical Theory of Atonement is one which will unconditionally lead to an apostasy which misrepresents God’s character, purpose and glory.  As obviously flawed as it is, this theory is being adopted at alarming rates – right from within the church itself. 

May the reader be inspired to contend for the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints.  We have been warned in scripture that apostasy will come.  We have been challenged to accurately handle the Word of truth. 

2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)
3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Unsound Theories of Atonement

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Pastoral Soteriology

(A continuation of the series, A Pastoral Soteriology.)

Understanding that sin carries the penalty of death, separation and God’s extended wrath toward the sinner brings one to the natural yearning to understand the nature of the provision God has made for the restoration of man from this condition.  Obviously, this series is concerned with such illumination; God has made atonement available.  The details concerning God’s provision of atonement is both something so simple that a child can grasp it, yet so complicated than a man can spend his entire life attempting to systematize it fully.  The child can understand that “Jesus died for my sins,” yet the theologian may spend years trying to fully understand how exactly the provision of Christ was applied to the account of the sinner. Continue reading

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