web analytics
service and gratitude

liturgy RSS feed liturgy on twitter liturgy facebook

God’s wrath – satisfied?

Wrath of GodI would like you to answer a question. In Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s song In Christ alone there are the words:

“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied”

What do those words in that song mean? What is the plain sense of those words?

I’m not asking you whether you agree with the idea in the words. I’m not asking you what you think the words should be. I’m not asking you what you believe is going on (theologically) as Jesus died.

For example, I think the answer to the question is (a) below. I don’t agree with (a), but (a) is closest to what the plain reading of the lines say to me. You may think otherwise, or you may agree with me. Please vote.


Have you voted above? OK – now you can read on.

I blogged last Friday on my worry that words like

“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied”

can too easily be understood as

God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

or, if you like, as

“God holding a cricket bat threatening to hit us and Jesus stands between saying, ‘Don’t hit them, hit me.’”

Peter Carrell’s good point in a comment was that my post was missing a key piece of evidence for my concern to be justified. I needed to survey what people actually understand by the words. It would be fun to do that at synod (the way I started that post), but I suspect we will be discussing post-quakes planning and would not take too kindly to a call for time to exegete a hymn. But that is hardly my primary point. My post isn’t primarily about our synod – it is more generally how people commonly understand these and similar words.

I have no idea how the vote above will go. I am not sure at what exact percentage we should be concerned about the song’s words, and words like them.

A 5% vote for (a) might be fine? Acceptable collateral damage for keeping a well-loved hymn which is 95% successful at conveying the message it intends.

20% or more voting for (a) and I think there’s a serious issue with using those words or similar words.

What about even 10%?

Some people (un)surprisingly could not read what, on Friday, I had actually written. They were predestined to be against whatever I wrote (even critical of my using the elsewhere-ubiquitous greeting “Christ is risen!” in the Easter Season! LOL!) Even though I stressed again, and again, and even yet again that the words themselves need not be understood as heresy, some commenters and bloggers seemed incapable of distinguishing between the words and their (mis)understanding. Yet it was the (mis)understanding I was focusing on!

So – if the result is 5% or less for (a) above, I apologise totally and unreservedly to the people defending those and similar words. My post was totally wrong. I was wrong. I’m sorry. If the result is 5% or less for (a) and you voted for (a) as I did – you are obviously thick, as I am. More than 95% can understand what it means correctly, plainly, and clearly. You and I are just being obtuse.

If it’s 10%… well…

But – if the result is 20% or more for (a)… maybe some apology could be forthcoming from those who attacked me so vehemently… Maybe some rethinking on your part… A lot of those who advocate for this song also advocate for immediately intelligible worship. Look at the percentage who misunderstand this song and, with it, the very heart of the Gospel.

If the result is 20% or more I hold firmly to my contention that whenever In Christ alone is sung it needs to be accompanied by teaching that what for many it seems to say, and what many people think it means, is heresy. An asterisk with an orthodox explanation should be a minimum.

*****

These are good related posts off this site:
An Orthodox approach: Therapeutic Substitutionary Atonement
Did Jesus’ Death Satisfy God’s Wrath?
More on an Orthodox approach (thanks to a contributor on facebook): The river of fire.

OK, if you cheated, and got to the end of this post without voting – go back and vote now. You are being watched!

Similar Posts:

Share

136 Responses to God’s wrath – satisfied?

  1. Just a poetical musical line. Perhaps doesn’t even make sense. Paul is recorded as writing post-Resurrection “the wrath of God is [still to]come on those who are disobedient” (NRSV Col 3:6). Then again Colossians is lovely prose, but is still psuedo-Pauline

      • Whoever wrote the Colossians text maybe suggesting that. Is trhe theology even Pauline? It is posited “We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other,” if that is wrath maybe, but we are redeemed not simply re-habiliated or even emansipated.

  2. Is it bad theology? Or just abbreviated wording to make the song scan, and therefore not entirely clear? I take it to mean that God’s wrath is with his people, but definitely not aimed at Christ – far from it, I think God’s ‘soul’ as such would have been torn in two watching his Son suffer. The ‘satisfied’ lyric is to do with Christ’s death achieving our forgiveness and His atonement for our sins, so we can have a relationship with God without sin getting in the way.

  3. I voted for the third option because I felt that while the song line meant both the first and last sentence in a), I wasn’t sure that the second sentence in a) was so clearly indicated by the song. To me it doesn’t necessarily imply that the wrath was satisfied by taking out this rage on Jesus. This goes against everything I have learned about the relationship between Jesus and God. I suppose I would bring that prior “knowledge” to my reading of the song. So I found the words both shocking and confusing. Actually I was so upset that someone would write a song describing a God I apparently believe in, in such terms, that I did not focus much on the implications for what this meant for his treatment of Jesus. Des that make sense?

    I think the whole crux of the long exchange of comments about your initial blog was summed up in one of your own comments, in that it depends on the lens through which a person reads holy scripture as to how they understand the actual words on its pages. If we see God as Love, and God’s creation as good, it surely influences our reading of scripture in a different way from how it might be viewed if we see God as some divine avenger finally putting the world right, punishing bad people and rewarding good ones (and even somehow punishing good ones as well by way of inadvertent collateral damage).

  4. Doesn’t the “‘Till” bit at the start imply that this “wrath of God” was satisfied before Jesus died on the cross, and that post Jesus dying on the cross it now has become not so?

  5. It seems to me the real problem is the word “wrath” esp. “wrath of God” which in the canonical text is only upon the unrighteous. Punishing an innocent to free the guilty (as PSA can be, to my mind, misportrayed) seems to me to be wrong precisely because it is unjust (hence out of keeping with the nature of God), but only if “God” in the equation is the only inflicting, rather than undergoing, the punishment. It is God who is “in Christ” reconciling (atoning for) the sinful with the sinless. “Wrath of God” makes that hard to hear, and makes God sound like He needs to be “satisfied” or placted, rather than worshiped and adored…

    • But Tobias, the entire Levitical cultus which foreshadows the death of Christ (as made explicit in Hebrews) is quite clear that sin is transferred to the guiltless substitute who is then punished in the place of the guilty sinner.

      • Indeed so, David. (From other comments here I think we largely agree.) My point (obscured through haste) is that the transfer of “wrath” to the innocent victim, which is otherwise unjust and insufficient, is in this case made by the victim himself: Christ offers himself on our behalf, so that this is a voluntary submission rather than an unjust imposition. (I’ve used the analogy of the difference between a suicide and a person who saves others by throwing herself in the path of a car, or a soldier covering a grenade with his own body. Not perfect analogies, but for me the principle has to involve Jesus’ choice and alignment of his will with the will of God.)

        In short, there is all the difference in the world between self-sacrifice and other-sacrifice. This is, I think, re Hebrews, why Christ’s “sacrifice of himself once offered” is so completely sufficient “for the sins of the whole world.” Unlike the blood sacrifices of the old cultus, the lives taken and blood shed were not freely given, but taken, and so could not really take away sin but had to be repeated year by year, &c.

        What about,

        Till on the cross God satisfied
        Himself in justice, as Christ died.
        ?

        That, to me seems to capture the doctrine without the possibly over-emotional baggage of “wrath.” However, it is always tricky editing poetry!

        Peace and a blessed Eastertide…

        • Easter Greetings Tobias!

          Thanks for emphasising correctly the dynamics of Jesus’ willing participation in the crucifixion (indeed, his entire mission) – a vital ingredient to the situation, often lost in faulty parodies that also misconstrue the necessary Trinitarian picture.

          What I found curious however was your continuing reluctance at “wrath of God” language. Personally, I have found it indispensable in the end. This IS the divine response to human sinfulness and evil. It is also utterly integral with divine love, which reveals the truth of the situation to all.

          • Thanks, Bryden. My reluctance about “wrath” is based on two things: the way in which it too easily elides over to the human emotions of anger and irrational rage, making God reactive rather than active; and the way in which “satisfaction” elides over into “appeasement” which also makes God reactive and subject to “passion” (in the Articles’ sense.) It is the “debt” which is satisfied, not God!

            Also, when applied as in this case, a drift into a slightly modalist view of the Trinity, as I think I mentioned upstream.

            However, I think “wrath of God” even in this hymn verse is well capable of a proper understanding… that isn’t my concern, or Bosco’s, for that matter. The concern is when the verse leads to a faulty understanding of the Atonement, which I think it too easily does by applying “satisfied” to “wrath.” (I would demur, as I did earlier, from “heretical” — but I think the hymn may mislead on the subtlety of the doctrine. I have to say I don’t find the PSA to be the most helpful way to understand the Atonment, but I acknowledge that many do, and that it is one way of reading the text, though not the only way. I rejoice that the mystery of God in Christ is that we are saved by grace through faith, and am not that concerned about the mechanism by which God did that great work. The fact that the church catholic never settled on a particular mechanism (though some Reformed churches have made such a settlement) is IMHO a sign that this is not an issue which need divide Christians.

            So, another option, fully in keeping with PSA and the scripture, might be:

            Till on the Cross, as Jesus died,
            The debt of sin was satisfied.

        • That could be a good PSA analog Father T, “God in God’s righteous wrath at sinful humankind lobs a WMD into the midst of humankind and Jesus in all his super powerful divinity throws himself upon the weapon and absorbs the blast saving humankind from animation.” ]:)

        • What about,

          Till on the cross God satisfied
          Himself in justice, as Christ died.

          It’s true, but it’s a different point being made. Townsend/Getty are arguing penal substitution. You, instead, point to the point being made in Rom 3:26 – that in the death of Jesus God can both justify and remain just/righteous.

          However the action that maintains God’s justice is the death of Jesus who is referred in 3:25 as the hilasterion.

          I’m with Bosco on his point that “hilasterion” is not best translated as “propitiation”. Since the hilasterion was the “mercy seat” over the tabernacle over which the blood of Yom Kippur was sprinkled I think a better translation is “locus of atonement” – ie Jesus is the one in whom atonement happens. But the referent for this atonement is Yom Kippur so the understanding remains one of penal substitution.

          • As I indicated earlier, I am in the midst of an exhausting week with many commitments, so may not express myself at my best, David, but I do want to say that I prefer these words you suggest over what is in the original. My point is that, whatever Townsend/Getty may think they are arguing, my poll (even I’m surprised as you would have understood from my notes as I launched it) shows that about half are reading something different. Your suggestion is far more obscure – and I count that in its favour. The appearing-to-be-not-obscure current words lead people not to pause, but to think they know what Townsend/Getty are getting at. Your words would be sung, but, like other hymn words that are not obviously understood on first encounter, invite, for those who wish, further explanation and exploration. I am preparing a post on copyright which lies alongside this discussion. Blessings.

          • Actually the “mercy seat” was over the Ark of the Covenant. The Tabernacle was Israel’s portable house of worship, prior to the first temple in Jerusalem, in which the Ark was housed.

          • Yes, David. See also my note above, on just what is being “satisfied” — not God but the debt. Atonement is the removal of an obstacle that divides one party from the other, in this case the debt of sin.

            Till on the cross as Jesus died,
            The debt of sin was satisfied.

    • Yes, I think the word “wrath” is the crux (?) of the matter. I see it occurs 181 times in the Bible according to a quick search at BibleGateway.com and many (but not all) references are connected to the wrath of God to ungodly people – but I think the relevant sense here is against sin itself (which surely is the sense in Romans 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…”), so I voted for option b.

      It may be that most people think in terms of God’s wrath being against Jesus and even being satisfied/happy at His death, but I think the meaning of the given words is:

      “When Jesus accepted death on the cross, God’s wrath (anger/ire that motivates response) against sin was satisfied (completed/quenched/considered enough was done)”

  6. Reflecting on where you are going with this, Bosco!

    If an outcome of your ‘campaign’ in this series of posts was the removal of the line (replacement with something ‘more acceptable’), then where in song in the 21st century church would we give voice to a cornerstone of the gospel?

    That cornerstone is that God is judge, seeks justice, hates sin, determines to punish perpetrators of sin, reacts to humanity’s inhumanity to one another, declares war on evil and determines that sin’s power will be overcome by all means necessary (= ‘God’s wrath’).

    Further, it is foundational to the gospel that ‘all have sinned’: the wrath of God is against us all as sinners. There is no world in which the wrath of God is rightly directed against Hitler, Stalin, and George W. Bush but a huge theological embarrassment for the rest of us nice people who vote social democrat, recycle, and give to Greenpeace.

    I vote for keeping the lines as a salutary reminder to all singers that we are sinners, by nature the object of God’s wrath, but by the grace of God now formerly that object as God in Christ has satisfied himself that justice has been achieved.

    • I’m even less sure, Peter, that all you suggest is contained in those two lines, and clearly so, and that your paragraphs are nowhere expressed in any other hymn, so that we might need to, at all costs, retain this particular text.

      Where I was “going”, Peter, was investigating a key piece of evidence that you asserted was missing from my previous post for my concern there to be justified.

      In my last paragraph of this post I have clearly stated what a positive outcome would be should the percentage be 20% or more.

      Ps. it is early in the day yet – but I have yet to see a single apology.

      Christ is risen.

      • “… contained in those two lines …”.

        Indeed! And maybe the proposed teaching could focus on how to interpret terse poetic lyrics, since this survey seems to discard standard approaches?

        When we read scripture we are urged to place it in context, so that material whose meaning is clear illuminates the more obscure. Poetry likewise. How then is it
        productive to slice a tightly-written emotional-loaded phrase (not even a whole sentence!) from context and attempt construct theological meaning … from just two lines??

        It had been a long while since singing this song, so I re-read (and listened to) the lyrics – as a whole, to make sense of “JDWG”.

        Having done so, I am left more impressed with the song, and less with the critique of its suggested propensity to heretical interpretation. Rather, it seems to me that JDWG read/sung after the lines
        “In Christ alone, who took on flesh
        Fullness of God in helpless Babe
        This gift of love and righteousness
        Scorned by the ones He came to save”
        implies an >internalised tranasaction< within the Godhead – the fullness of God's wrath meets the fullness of God's love in Jesus' life-releasing self-sacrifice – to which sinful humanity is both disdainful observer and wondering beneficiary.

        A lot of heat on this issue. Light, perhaps, not so much. Still – thanks for keeping alive my memory of this song. An oldie, but a goodie!

    • But wrath is not God’s main attribute. Love is – that is what ought to be emphasised as in ‘God so loved the world’ It is not ‘God was so wrathful with the world that he sent his Son as a penal substitute.’ PSA is a very late theory of the atonement 11th – 12th century. If Jesus paid a price it was a ransom not as penal substitute. The very word penal makes it a legalistic not a gracious solution.

  7. You cannot test what people understand when they sing the song if you are polling a group of people who don’t sing the song, or change the words in question when they do!

    • I respectfully disagree, Christopher.

      Furthermore, I am not “polling a group of people who don’t sing the song, or change the words in question when they do” – the poll is public beyond the two categories you suggest it is limited to. Easter Season Blessings.

  8. Hi Bosco, if this line should be edited in this particular song, what about the potentially more misleading references to wrath and judgement in the psalms (still sung by many for praise and worship and part of scripture). Psalm 2 has a few beauties. Would they also need changing to avoid heretical understanding by the non-theologically trained worshippers? Bert

    • Thanks, Bert. Respectfully, I struggle to find a verse in Psalm 2 that is potentially more misleading than the understanding the poll is currently running a majority on in terms of plain reading of this hymn’s two lines. I still hold to the possibly old-fashioned view that the scriptures are inspired. Personally, I do not think the hymn we are discussing is. Christ is risen.

      • well, in one sense neither are misleading.

        The song is quite clear that there is a wrath of God that must be satisfied. And Psalm 2 is quite clear that the Anointed One (Messiah), also called the Son, is also angry with those who oppose Him.

        Both are clear, but will need to be called “misleading” if one is to avoid their plain meaning. Hence this thread and it’s predecessor.

    • The Roman Catholic breviary omits a number of verses from the psalms which are considered too prone to misunderstanding of a serious kind. There is a note in it’s introduction explaining why this done.

      God Bless

  9. I’d read the “wrath of God” as a scriptural term and turn to scripture to see how it is used and it ought to be understood theologically.

    It reminds me of the similar term “fear of God”.

    Neither are pastoraly helpful expressions.

    God Bless

  10. Hi Bosco,

    I do not think that anyone was “predestined” to disagree with you. I think your initial post was worded in a way that was both unclear and likely to generate more heat than light. Using the word heresy with regards to the work of two local theologians, regardless of your intent or meaning, was always going to generate heat, and for myself I found it hard to get beyond that and hear what you were saying.

    It was also unclear to me exactly what your concern was because you seemed to be saying that standard propitiation theology was itself heresy, and keep in mind that caricatures of that theology are so common to some if us in these discussions that when we see them we just assume, perhaps wrongly in this case, that they are being held up as examples of the actual theology.

    There is also a concern I have heard repeatedly being expressed by others that they feel you are not doing justice to their points or concerns and I have at times felt that myself.

    In short, not all responses from various critics of your posts are deliberately antagonistic, nor do I think they are always deliberately misreading you.

    For what it is worth I voted for B. However A is only wrong at one point, the claim that propitiation allows the Father to love us. Other than that, the Father punishes the Son in our place. That seems to me to be the clear teaching of Scripture.

    Thus the words in the hymn in question are perfectly fine. Sure there is potential for misunderstanding, but that is true of almost any doctrine. I would not suggest that we cease referring to the Trinity on the basis that some of the people listening might interpret what we say as Tri-theism or modalism.

    The answer to misunderstanding of any doctrine is more teaching on that subject from ministers.

    One of the many problems with criticisms of propitiation is the assumption that the Father and the Son are separate actors, when they are in fact one. God takes the punishment we deserve upon Himself. That is always an important point to remember.

    This seems unjust to us because Christ is innocent. But that’s the point. In this respect Girard is right. It is the innocence of the victim that reveals to us the depth of our sin and evil. But it also reveals God’s incredible love for us.

    • I repeat again, as I have to you before, Shawn, in my original, Friday post I explicitly wrote “Let me stress I am not saying Lynda and Peter are heretics.”

      I have explicitly stated, more than once now, that teaching come with this song.

      If you struggle to understand what is being said on this site, or find it unclear, the appropriate response in the culture around this site is to ask for elucidation.

      Christ is risen.

    • Surely the Gospel says Jesus is a ransom for sin not a penal substitute – that is the clear meaning of Scripture. That is grace! If it is the clear meaning of Scripture why was this theory of the atonement not developed until Anselm and Aquinas.

  11. A question, how many people have actually read ‘Pierced For Our Transgression’ or ‘God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom’ by Graham Cole?

    I ask because I am curious as to what degree critics of PSA are interacting with the responses from conservative evangelicals on this topic.

  12. Really Bad Theology, reeks of Paternalism and Divine Child Abuse! One drop of blood, from Jesus’ circumcision would have been sufficient …. Jesus freely
    trusting in the love and goodness of his Abba, followed through this belief by dying for what he believed in. Jesus reconciled us, with the consceipt of the Creator being “Loving” rather than “Vengeful”.

  13. I voted for C) because

    a)God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

    is not what authors mean, nor is it what Holy Scripture nor the Anglican formularies affirm, nor is it remotely close to what those who hold to substitutionary atonement believe. God’s wrath far from being capricious and/or conceited is actually the unyielding and terrifying opposition of the Holy God to all that is opposed to his holiness and is against all of us – because none but God is Holy. Yet it is out of God’s great love that he has acted to propitiate his wrath and save all who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    “Till on that cross as Jesus died,
    The wrath of God was satisfied””

    In one word…propitiation.

    In more than one word…God is wrath and love at the same time. All people are under the wrath of God because of all have sinned, but the wrath of God is turned aside, God has placated his own wrath against sin and sinners through his own action – the death of his Son.

  14. I think that it means that Christ bore himself the condemnation of sin. I am uncomfortable with making Jesus a third party, whipping boy. God chose to act graciously towards sinners and forgive them, but in doing so he could not leave sin uncondemned and remain just. God himself, in the incarnate Son, chose to bear the brunt of that judgement on our behalf. Thus, the wrath of God was satisfied. Its all in Anselm isn’t it?

  15. I don’t suppose anyone does see those lines without a theological background which would colour the interpretation considerably.

    I think those who do indeed hold that God’s rage against us was appeased by Jesus’ blood would read that approvingly as an intelligible statement of the heart of the Gospel. Those of another theological background wouldn’t be puzzled by it, because they’d probably understand it in that light too, but they would find it quite distasteful. Or, if they bothered to exegete the words of such a hymn at all, they might come up with your alternative (b).

    • I think half the problem is the consistent recasting of the doctrine of penal substitution by using terms such as “rage” which seek to misconstrue the portrayal of God’s wrath at sin as some form of almost incontrolable emotional knee-jerk.

      Despite regular correction, even in these last 2 threads, some will persist with it.

  16. what do you think, Bosco?

    In your previous post you argued that an incorrect understanding of those words could be heretical. So what do you think is the correct understanding of those words that is not heretical?

        • David, I’m sorry, you can write this up as another liberal attack or avoidance of difficult arguments, but your own lengthy response, and the various books people mention that they are certain I’ve never read, bear witness that this is more than deserving quick responses in the midst of my very busy (non-virtual) ministry. Blessings.

          • again, Bosco, that’s really up to you. You come across as allowing a full-bodied attack upon PSA to happen on your blog, you allow others to consistently misrepresent it and yet you act surprised when those who hold to it (as the church has done in the main for it’s entire history) want to take you up on it.

            You seem upset that some may point out you don’t appear to have read recent books on the subject but please do realise this is because you give every impression in your writing here that you haven’t.

            Call it an ad hominem if you like, I’m just being clear on how you’re coming across to those of us who love the fact that Jesus would willingly submit Himself, out of love, to God’s righteous and just wrath at sinners.

  17. No aspect of atonement “allows” God to love us, but it does enable God to forgive us and draw us to Himself free of the guilt of sin, and part of that is enabled because the punishment we deserve was poured upon the Son.

  18. And it would have been helpful bot to use the word at all.
    It is not just a case of not understanding. It is a case that the wording if the post was not helpful.

  19. I voted A). I think this line of the song is an unfortunate theme in too much American Evangelical theology (and otherwise).

    It reminds of the “Deep Magic” that Aslan died to satisfy in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And while C.S. Lewis is compelling (as well as Anselm and Calvin), this notion misses something that Martin Luther was much more interested in stressing — God’s mercy.

    God’s sovereignty or justice is the wrong place to start. God must be merciful above all. If God has to get upset with us every time we sin, than God is not free and therefore not God. God becomes a puppet of our actions, and it is we who are acting as God in God’s place. In order for God to truly be free, free from getting upset with our sins ad nauseum, God must be free to forgive. And we are left to see that it is our wrath that is satisfied on the cross, so to speak. We are the ones who kill God so that we can be God in God’s place. But God who is free to forgive is also free to keep on living and keep on loving.

    It is a deep sadness for me that we persist in singing songs that seem to want to make us afraid of God, and God’s wrath, without the mental gymnastics to qualify the lyric. Who has time to be thinking through atonement theories and trinitarian theology in a systematic fashion while singing?

    • Thanks, Erik. Just one rushed side-note – Aslan dies to satisfy the requirement of the Witch. I have not had time to read it yet, but this looks like it might be an interesting read. Christ is risen.

      • That “River of Fire” reference (over 30 years old!) is pretty helpful here, I think. We have a chain of thought centred on the “Till” in the song – the cause and effect implied between death and wrath being satisfied, and then we have to overlay that with our concept of justice (“balance” and propitiation) that came from Greek thinking rather than the original Hebrew word tsedaka (“the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation”). So the wrath against sin is still there, and important, but the connection we make in our brian, due to Western thinking, is where it goes wrong perhaps?

      • Sorry, Bosco, but that is not correct. Lewis explicitly states in the chapter ‘Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time’ that Edmund’s death was necessary to satisfy the magic that the Emperor-over-Sea (Aslan’s father) put into Narnia at the very beginning. And when Susan asks if there isn’t something that they can use to work against the Deep Magic, Aslan turns to her with something like a frown on his face and says “Work against the Emperor’s Magic”? ‘And’, Lewis adds, ‘nobody ever made that suggestion to him again’.

        • Fascinating, Tim. This, then, becomes another example of how people can read a text quite differently. I do not read that as satisfying the wrath of the Emperor-over-Sea. The death of Aslan, certainly, is in accordance with the Deep Magic put into Narnia at the very beginning by the Emperor-over-Sea. And that makes perfect sense to me (sorry CS Lewis for seeing your work as allegory) when translated back to Christ and God the Father. Christ is risen.

          • Bosco, I agree with you that Lewis’ text does not mention wrath. It does, however, specifically mention that it was the Emperor’s magic that required the death of a traitor.

          • I’m getting lost as to what your point now is, Tim. You seem to have moved several steps or levels away from your original point. Blessings.

          • Bosco, I’m not sure where this reply will appear as there doesn’t seem to be a ‘reply’ button under your last reply to me. I have no ‘point’ other than trying to establish that, in Lewis’ story (which he refused to call an allegory), Aslan dies not just to satisfy the requirement of the White Witch, but also in conformity to the Emperor’s Deep Magic.

            OK I’m done.

          • Yes, I understand that, Tim. Tobias Haller is making good points in the comments IMO which bear on this very point. The debt, in Narnia, is to the White Witch. Certainly in Narnia conformity to the Emperor’s Deep Magic is followed by Aslan – as it is in our world. I have no idea what happened to the “reply” button. I consulted widely (I may have taken a poll!) and have comments in nested form. I think that is struggling with the level of discussion, but I think it is still a better way to run a conversation – especially one that, in some places, has become as complex as this. ps. I should have the copyright post up tomorrow. Blessings.

  20. Since you are now addressing the initial omission of canvassing opinion, as prompted by PC, I have had to vote (c) Bosco. Thereafter, I’d convey these two quotes (from among a number of other possibilities) from PT Forsyth’s admirable book from 1910, The Work of Christ. The first is from the Introduction, the second from the chapter entitled “Reconciliation, Atonement and Judgment”. I have to confess I am staggered how applicable this work of Forsyth’s is a hundred years on! But then his acute mind and pastoral heart were utterly forged by the Scriptures, even as he engaged with his own contemporary world and the wider Church.

    “We are in a time when spirituality without positive content seems attractive to many minds. And the numbers may grow of those favouring an undogmatic Christianity which is without apostolic or evangelical substance, but cultivates a certain emulsion of sympathetic mysticism, intuitional belief, and benevolent action. Among lay minds of a devout and social but impatiently practical habit, this is not unlikely to spread; and particularly among those whose public interests get the upper hand of ethical and historical insight and denude their religion of most of the reflection it demands.”

    “This holy order is as essential to man’s greatness as it is to God’s; and that is why the holy satisfaction Christ made to God’s holiness is in the same act the glorifier of the new humanity. Any religion which leaves out of supreme count the judging holiness of God is making a great contribution to the degradation of man. We need a religion which decides the eternal destiny of man; and unless holiness were practically and adequately established – not merely recognised and eulogised, but established – there could be no real, deep permanent change in the world or the sinner. The change in the treatment of us by eternal grace must rest on judgment taking effect. Man is not forgiven simply by forgetting and mending, by agreeing that no more is to be said about it. To make little of sin is to belittle the holiness of God; and from a reduced holiness no salvation could come, nor could human dignity remain.”

  21. The heresy in ‘a’ is subtle. But ‘a’ is a straw man, at least to orthodox christian thought. Christ’s death does not justify God loving us; it justifies him forgiving us.

    The cross is a crowning act of human rebellion. When God comes – in the person of his son and heir – calling for us to repent of our rebellion, we instead deny him and kill him. And yet, in his loving mercy, God is allows this to happen (as indeed he had planned before the creation of the world) in order to take the punishment for said rebellion on himself.

    Our sin matters, cosmically. We, one and all, are in treasonous rebellion against our Creator, the Lord of All, and have set ourselves up as our own mini-Gods in direct conflict with (and mockery of) him. The wonder is not that God is angry. The wonder is that he loves us enough to take his wrath upon himself, that we might be transformed from enemies to heirs.

    Remember that Jesus is not a third party – he is the Father’s Son and Heir. The Father and Son take the death and anger and rebellion that we – less than children – have willfully poured into the relationship between us and God – and place it instead into their own, unsullied, relationship. And so God’s anger falls on the Man who is God, so that it can be removed from the men who are less than men. And so God declares, “Behold, God has died in your place! The unpayable debt has been paid, by me. I have borne the horror of your rebellion upon myself, and transferred my righteous wrath against you to me.”

    So why involve Jesus, the Son of God? Because love and rebellion and justice and mercy and wrath and forgiveness can only be expressed in a relationship, between two parties. This is not the Father acting against the Son. This is Father and Son saying “observe, all the evil you humans have wrought between God and you. All the hostility and rebellion, all the anger you provoked by spurning and rebelling against our love, we take it and place it between ourselves”. The Father stands in the place of God, the Son in the place of Man, and so the debt is paid. The mechanics aren’t as important as God saying “All the suffering between I and you, we place between ourselves”.

    And once the debt is paid, the Son is raised as both Man and God to be king under the Father, in the proper place of unfallen Man. And he calls now-forgiven mankind to be kings over creation with him. Not little-kings against God, but kings and heirs ruling together with God the Son (cf bride/church imagery).

    There is a scandal here, but it is not that God is angry, but that – because of his loving mercy – God would take his anger upon himself rather than those who most justly deserve it.

    “On the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied. Now I am his, and he is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ”. Amen!

    • There is a scandal here, but it is not that God is angry, but that – because of his loving mercy – God would take his anger upon himself rather than those who most justly deserve it.

      “On the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied. Now I am his, and he is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ”. Amen!

      Amen indeed! What amazing grace.

  22. If I understand St Thomas Aquinas correctly (always a big ask !), he argues that God does not, properly speaking, get angry because God is not subject to human passions or emotions in the way we are.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that all our theological understandings of God are inherently limited and partial and this is especially so when we attempt to attribute human passions like anger/wrath to God.

    We’re probably pretty much stuck with trying to conceptualize God via analogies with human behaviour, but we need to understand this is always very much a partial and limited metaphor and not a complete picture of God.

    Aquinas put it this way:

    “Anger and the like are attributed to God on account of a similitude of effect. Thus, because to punish is properly the act of an angry man, God’s punishment is metaphorically spoken of as His anger.”

    Summa Theologica, First Part, Question: 3, Article: 2, Reply to Objection 2.

    http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/FP/FP003.html

    God Bless

  23. Hi Erik,

    I don’t understand God’s wrath as “getting upset every time we sin.”

    God’s wrath is His opposition to all sin and evil. A God who is not righteously wrathful towards all evil, especially with regards to say child abuse or genocide or mass starvation, is not much of a deity.

    Scripture describes wrath as an expression of a holy God. Nowhere as far as I can tell is the cup of wrath described as our wrath, rather than God’s.

  24. My first reading of those words when you first posted was along the lines of Romans 8: the wages of sin is death etc. I then proceeded to get mightily confused in the ensuing discussion as to whether my interpretation was heretical or not. I support your call for clearer teaching all round, and in the meantime I’ll go bury myself under a lumpy rug.

  25. I voted (c). I think that it is unfair to lift two lines out of a poem and expect them to bear the weight of a whole theology the poem did not set out to describe. The entire poem is a hymn in praise of the work of Christ. It’s imprecision is a feature of poetry, not necessarily a flaw in the theology of the hymn-writer and/or the singers.

    • “It’s imprecision is a feature of poetry”

      What a bizarre concept. So we can never really trust poetry, because unless we are first well learned in a topic addressed by poetry, we could never be sure if the poetry was teaching an imprecise/faulty concept or truth.

      That’s very un-Anglican in my book.

      • Not bizarre, in my view.

        Apparent uncertainty (imprecision), created by carefully-chosen words, can direct us to a deeper meaning to address paradox, and allows expression of emotion beyond words.

        But maybe I am an un-Anglican … 🙂

  26. Nice one Chris (Sullivan)!

    Here’s another fuller Aquinas reference that is more germane however to many a comment re this topic, not dealing with composite matters of form! STh., III q.49 a.4

    Whether we were reconciled to God through Christ’s passion?
    We proceed thus to the Fourth Article:—
    Objection 1. It seems that we were not reconciled to God through Christ’s Passion. For there is no need of reconciliation between friends. But God always loved us, according to Wisd. 11:25: Thou lovest all the things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made. Therefore Christ’s Passion did not reconcile us to God.
    Obj. 2. Further, the same thing cannot be cause and effect: hence grace, which is the cause of meriting, does not come under merit. But God’s love is the cause of Christ’s Passion, according to John 3:16: God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son. It does not appear, then, that we were reconciled to God through Christ’s Passion, so that He began to love us anew.
    Obj. 3. Further, Christ’s Passion was completed by men slaying Him; and thereby they offended God grievously. Therefore Christ’s Passion is rather the cause of wrath than of reconciliation to God.
    On the contrary, The Apostle says (Rom. 5:10): We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son.
    I answer that, Christ’s Passion is in two ways the cause of our reconciliation to God. In the first way, inasmuch as it takes away sin by which men became God’s enemies, according to Wisd. 14:9: To God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike; and Ps. 5:7: Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity. In another way, inasmuch as it is a most acceptable sacrifice to God. Now it is the proper effect of sacrifice to appease God; just as man likewise overlooks an offence committed against him on account of some pleasing act of homage shown him. Hence it is written (1 Kings 26:19): If the Lord stir thee up against me, let Him accept of sacrifice. And in like fashion Christ’s voluntary suffering was such a good act that, because of its being found in human nature, God was appeased for every offence of the human race with regard to those who are made one with the crucified Christ in the aforesaid manner (A. 1 ad 4).
    Reply Obj. 1. God loves all men as to their nature, which He Himself made; yet He hates them with respect to the crimes they commit against Him, according to Ecclus. 12:3: The Highest hateth sinners.
    Reply Obj. 2. Christ is not said to have reconciled us with God, as if God had begun anew to love us, since it is written (Jer. 31:3): I have loved thee with an everlasting love; but because the source of hatred was taken away by Christ’s Passion, both through sin being washed away and through compensation being made in the shape of a more pleasing offering.
    Reply Obj. 3. As Christ’s slayers were men, so also was the Christ slain. Now the charity of the suffering Christ surpassed the wickedness of His slayers. Accordingly Christ’s Passion prevailed more in reconciling God to the whole human race than in provoking Him to wrath.

    NB the word “appease” (derived from the Latin “to placate”) has wrath as its normal object; interestingly, “wrath” is once “indignation” and then “irascibility” in the Latin text here.

  27. “In the pioneer days on the prairie lands, people would sometimes find themselves about to be consumed. They would be in the middle of a field and a fire would catch in the tall, dry grass. Stiff winds pushed the flames towards them, so fast not even horses could outrun them. There was no time to escape. Instead, they took a match and burned a patch of ground where they stood. Then they waited on the burned-over earth. The prairie fire swept up to the edge of the patch and, finding nothing there to consume, passed by.

    And later, the fire proved a gift to the earth: it burned what was already dead, and it’s ashes nurtured new life.

    Jesus Christ burned the earth with his cross. God poured out his wrath on His Son. If we take our stand there, the wrath to come will pass us by, and in it’s time will renew the very earth it devours.”

    From ‘The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God’ by Mark Buchanan.

  28. This seems to be the most popular version of the atonement. I think people like it for a couple reasons. Of all the atonement theories this seems to be the most human and is the basis for our legal system (and lots of parenting). We make up lots of rules and when you break them, you are punished. As posted above, Jesus stands between God and humans and volunteers to take the punishment. It is the easiest for us to understand.

    The other reason is that by holding the key of forgiveness, the church became the gate to salvation. Abelard who advocated the love of God and the Moral Influence theory of atonement, used by the very early church, was rejected. What would it be like to be a Christian and in a church that believed in God’s love and followed the teachings of Jesus just because it was the right thing to do?

    • Mmmm… Interesting reading of the very Early Church’s theology of the atonement, Elaine. I’d love to see the references, please.

      • Go study the writings of the early church fathers up through Augustin. The PSA view of the Atonement that you advocate is rather late in the life of the Church, it is a Reformation construct.

          • David, this topic by Father Bosco isn’t about responding to links that you make to outside papers. In fact most of your participation hasn’t been to what Bosco actually wrote, but your falsely perceived insult and attack on PSA. You go out of your way to misunderstand and to be offended, as you do time and again throughout the internet.

        • No Bro David.

          You are the one who claimed “The PSA view of the Atonement that you advocate is rather late in the life of the Church, it is a Reformation construct.”

          I merely pointed out that you are incorrect in your assertion and pointed to one piece that demonstrates your error.

          In return, rather than either acknowledging your error or demonstrating why you are correct you resort to false accusations of insult and offence.

          If you can’t deal with the fact that your assertion has been demonstrated to be false, so be it – but don’t take out your frustration on others by lobbing the accusations around.

          • It seems to me, if I can also interject here, that the linked article is not conclusive demonstration of one position, but a scholarly response to another that has Br David’s interpretation. In that sense, then, both of you are correct – the lenses that one brings to this material affects what one sees.

            As to your latter points in this comment, David, I think it describes better what you have done to me, far and wide on the internet, than what Br David has done to you.

            Blessings.

          • Bosco, the article lays out in detail how early Fathers believed in and articulated Penal Substitution. As such it demonstrates that Bro David’s claim cannot stand.

            As my for own writing, I stand by it. These two threads, as others have noted, have done nothing at all to demonstrate that you wish to defend Penal Substitution and yet in so many ways they serve as classic examples of those who seek to deny Penal Substitution.

            Your continued reluctance to clearly state that Penal Substitution is a valid understanding of the atonement merely confirms this. Indeed, it is my observation that this is a classic theologically liberal response recognised not so much in outright denial (since few are foolish enough to hoist themselves up on their own petard in this way) but in the continued reluctance to affirm.

            All of this is merely observation of manner and content. The last observation would be this – theological liberals are regularly and vocally “outraged” at suggestions that they deny orthodoxy. One might come to the reluctant conclusion that they fear if they were completely transparent about their position any claim to authenticity in their chosen denomination would be under severe challenge.

            You don’t see conservatives on this thread demanding apologies from those who claim their beliefs are not authentically Christian – rather they defend their position and press back. And then, of course, the complaints come from the other side. It’s an interesting dynamic and I suggest that rather than engaging in another round of seeking to demonise your opponents about their “manner” you actually take their own analysis seriously. If, of course, you’re really committed to open engagement.

          • I’m sorry, David, I have no energy for the sort of ways that you proceed in conversations. When I do not give one of the two binary options you are prepared for, but rather approach the question differently, your response, again, is to fit me into your own binary definition of possible people: liberal or conservative. I, in no way, accept either your description of me, nor of your summary of what the focus has been of the two posts to which you have been contributing. Nor am I going to keep repeating over and over the points I am actually making, nor the points where my responses illustrate the falsity of what you write, including stating on the internet that I am no longer allowing your comments through moderation, and that in doing so I am doing precisely what you expected. Maybe I should do precisely what four days ago you suggested and not allow your comments here. That way, at least, your own good name would not be so clearly besmirched by your continuing to post (14 comments since then) here since stating that. Blessings.

          • “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

            David, you are so determined that you are right, that you have no concept of just how offensive you are.

          • [Edited so that specific references from comments on third-party websites are not repeated here. Rev. Bosco Peters, blogowner, Liturgy]

            I note that those comments have been helpfully removed now. Must be a coincidence given that the post I just made referring to them didn’t get past moderation and yet somebody has managed to let you know you should delete those comments.

            An excellent way of hiding your double-standards, Bosco. Love and openness indeed.

          • I have sought advice and been counselled (in case this accusation now turns up elsewhere on the web) to allow this comment through moderation with my assurance that this suggestion is totally false. No one else has seen Rev. David Ould’s list of links that were not allowed through moderation. No one has received from me the sort of information being suggested.

            Furthermore, I have received the accusation, repeated publicly on the internet, that on or previous to May 5 I received “a good number of comments…[from Rev. David Ould which were] not passed through moderation.” This is also false.

            I will not be publishing comments either for or against the points made in this comment, or the one to which this is responding.

  29. Kia ora Bosco,

    This is essentially about communication. The message sent is only as good as the message received. Whatever the intent of the writer, the understanding of the reader determines the outcome. Inaccessibility of an idea is not necessarily bad, but it is worth questioning. When (translated) words and concepts become barriers to understanding, it is good to review them.

    Thank you for doing this.

    • I suggest such an understanding and model of communication is inadequate when we enter the realm of Christian theology, Mike. How so?

      Firstly, the Christian Faith is based on revelation; it is not something we humans conjured up. In fact, it is often something we precisely reject! [Re the central topic here: “wrath of God” language finds its necessary place right at the start of Paul’s magisterial summation of the gospel, in Romans 1, indicating such rejection.] Secondly, as TF Torrance insists throughout his writings, revelation and reconciliation need to be completely tied together.

      Re Christian “communication” therefore, any “outcome” is actually achieved by God’s own gracious initiative, in revealing to “unrighteous sinners” who “suppress the truth” what their situation actually is: that divine “wrath” is the “just” divine response – but not the final word. For the “mercy” of God has precisely provided for both such “justice” and “justified” sinners who have faith; so Romans 3:21-26. For finally, such “faith” and turning towards as opposed to ‘running away’ from God is all itself a gracious work of the Spirit.

      Ordinary communication theory has no means of parsing such a dynamic as this revelation-cum-reconciliation. This only means that such language as we use in trying to communicate the Gospel of Jesus needs to adhere to certain basic truths even as the vocabulary and grammar requires a certain clueiness. Even Jesus’ parables both reveal and yet also veil, as they necessarily challenge, for example.

        • Thanks Bosco for this link. In itself it makes no reference to TFT that I can see … His name eventually pops up in the comments as an understanding – “take” – of the take that is Adam’s own piece. So why the reference …?
          As for TFT himself. I think I’d be happy to say his understanding of the atonement is just this: The atonement is an act of God as God and man [sic], in which God is himself always the subject. God himself expiates sin and guilt, bears sin and guilt and bears it away, reconciles himself to humankind and humankind to himself, and endures his own wrath. In which case, in utter grace and mercy God gives himself a propitiation for humanity and freely restores humanity into complete fellowship with himself. BTW – I quote!

  30. I understand that this hymn was sung at the recent Enthronement of Archbishop Justin in Canterbury, but that the text printed in the Order of Service changed the word “wrath” to “Love”. However, I am reliably informed that a large number of people sang “wrath” anyway, ignoring the printed version.

  31. I don’t like the wrath of God is satisfied because it can be misunderstood and it emphasises legalism not grace and wrath not love. It is a late theory of the atonement and ransoming humanity from darkness and sin into light and grace s a more Biblical version of atonement. We ransom those we love and God loves the world – all of it/us. The word wrath is so easily misunderstood as from this discussion was Aquinas!

  32. Also the lines of the song emphasises the death of Christ. God’s work is not complete until the resurrection! Christ is risen indeed!

    • No, THAT ONE line of the song emphasizes the death of Christ. This debate is like saying that “Amazing Grace” is all about how we should be perpetually terrified of God because it has the line “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear”.

  33. God has 2 responses to the fallen world we live in: utter hatred of sin and unbounded sacrificial love for sinners. These two seemingly irreconcilable responses meet at the cross of Christ, where God’s wrath at sin was satisfied by his act of sacrificial love for us.

  34. I particularly like “In Christ alone” as a hymn because it combines 2 atonement models which I believe do justice to the bible’s overarching narrative of salvation. One is penal substitution, much discussed in this blog post. The other is Christus Victor:
    “Then bursting forth in glorious day,
    up from the grave he rose again.
    And as he stands in victory,
    sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
    for I am his and he his mine,
    bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

    We need both atonement models to do justice to the biblical narrative and we need to sing all 4 verses to do justice to the hymn.

    • Thanks, Matt. Just picking up on your last sentence – this is an area that I think requires its own post. The practice of altering hymns and omitting verses has become a discussion point on and off the web in connection with this post. (ps. as to your point that there is a second atonement model in the hymn – the essence of my posts being that currently on the poll more than 50% do not find the first there – I’ve just been sent this interesting link). Christ is risen.

  35. Having never believed in PSA, I find that those who argue for that concept of atonement fail to comprehend a number of facts. They speak of Jesus as the Passover/Pascual Lamb because according to the Gospels the crucifixion occurred during Passover. That is true, but the passover lamb isn’t a sin offering. And Passover is an anamnesis celebration of liberty and freedom, setting the captive free and escape from death. The work of the passover lamb was to identify the elect of God, so they would escape the wrath of God against unbelievers wrought by the Angel of Death. If there is symbology in the crucifixion at Passover, it is that the Cross of Christ is the post & lentil of the world and the Blood of Christ is smeared across them to signify the presence of the elect of God, marking eternal victory over death and separation from God.

    I think that to find the symbology of Jesus as a penal substitution, then the crucifixion would need to be relocated into the High Holy Days, culminating in Yom Kippur/the Day of Atonement. And Jesus would not have been the Passover Lamb, but instead the Lord’s Goat, the one that was the sin offering on the Day of Atonement.

    • Once again, I think your argument falls apart here. Nobody claims that the Passover is the exclusive means of understanding the atonement. Yet, when we look at the Passover it is clearly a substitutionary act (the lamb dies in the place of the household) that provides salvation from an otherwise unavoidable death.

      It may not be penal (although the actions of the Destroyer are, indeed, in one sense penal since the death he brings is the last of 10 judgements upon Egypt.

      I think that to find the symbology of Jesus as a penal substitution, then the crucifixion would need to be relocated into the High Holy Days, culminating in Yom Kippur/the Day of Atonement.

      And, of course, that is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews makes explicitly clear. It is, of course, not “relocated” as much as the writer shows us yet another way in which Jesus fulfils the OT types.

      Jesus, the New Testament affirms, can be understood as the fulfillment of BOTH the passover AND Yom Kippur. His death is therefore not least a penal substitution and yet so much more.

  36. I assumed the poll was tongue in cheek.

    A blog poll has a far too small and self selecting pool of voters to say anything valid at all.

    So far I see no rational reason for the level of hysteria this has created, though I know that this only a small number of people on this blog.

    Avoiding any part of Scripture because it is difficult or because their may be potential for misunderstanding is lazy theology and a failure of the responsibility of ministers to do their job.

    The wrath of God is clearly taught in Scripture. Vicarious sacrifice is clearly taught in Scripture.
    And PSA can reasonably be seen in Scripture and has been taught consistently in the Church from the Fathers to the Reformers.

    Finally, the potential for misunderstanding seems largely to be a concern of those who oppose PSA to begin with. I have seen little evidence that this is a widespread problem.

    So, no heresy, no need to change the words of any song, and no need for the over the top hysteria of the

    • The only hysteria Shawn, was when promoters of PSA became aware that this topic was here. They came out of the woodwork to defend their precious belief making false accusations with regard to what Father Bosco did or did not write in his post and further comments. And you are chief among them. You brought the hysteria. Perhaps Hysteria is thy name.

      • I sense Bro David, judging by the rebuttals to many of your own assertions, a wee lesson in historical theology might not go amiss re atonement theology in general. This is not an hysterical reaction on my part, but a desire to enable yet another brother to become mature, as Paul would have us all mature in Christ. To that end, I’d truly recommend an investment in Tom Torrance’s posthumously published lectures entitled, Atonement (Paternoster, 2009). His grasp of the patristic material is astounding, just as his grasp of 20th C culture is likewise profound.
        Every blessing!

        • Can I, as the blog owner, just interject so that we maintain/work towards an ad hominem safe zone. Recommending a book, summarising its content is very helpful, thanks. Adding that Br David needs a wee lesson, or is not as mature as others, or could be, etc. is not going to add anything usefully to this discussion. Ps. I suspect in the case of Br David that he has already had more than a wee lesson in historical theology, atonement theology, etc. Easter Season blessings.

        • Bryden, having posted here for a few years I am aware of Padre Bosco’s desire to maintain a friendly community. As to my schooling, I have a 4 year academic masters degree from the US. And as you likely know, there may be many more of we Christians who do not subscribe to PSA, than you Christians who do. Hopefully you don’t truly believe that we are all in need of a little lesson.

          My issue is that Bosco’s post isn’t about PSA, it is about a common misperception of PSA that he feels is promoted by the lyric of the hymn. And yet many promoter’s of PSA have descended here and attacked him as if he had attacked PSA. A clear reading of his post and subsequent comments would show that was not what he wrote, but many persist in picking a fight with him and one known Aussie continues to bait him.

          • [This comment of Rev. David Ould has not passed moderation. This is an exceptional step for me to take. Five days ago David Ould claimed his comments here were not allowed through moderation. That, five days and more than a dozen of his comments later, is now the case. Rev. Bosco Peters, blog owner of Liturgy]

          • I am not allowing heated comments and links to places and comments on third-person sites where other topics are being discussed. I am not even going to give energy to exploring what was said by whom, where, why, or when. Do not bring those debates from there here.

          • Bro David, mindful of our host’s desire for “safe zones” and even more mindful of St Paul’s line in Phil 3, which parallels verbally notably Phil 2:1-13, I will not get into a slanging match regarding qualifications. What I will do is point out the following.

            Popularity is not necessarily an indication of the truth. Did not Jerome famously remark, “the whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian”. More pointedly still, as I indicated below, the de Régnon thesis (that the Trinitarian theologies of the Greek East and the Latin West were not just complementary to each other but were rather to be contrasted) was once popular, even de rigeur, yet it has now been effectively debunked. [i]Mutatis mutandis[/i], likewise atonement theology. And so, based on some of the faulty claims you’ve made with regards to PSA on this thread, I would humbly suggest you check on your old professors’ credentials.

            Do not misunderstand me at this point either: a final example. I know of a recent D Phil candidate at Oxford who was failed, not on the grounds of her scholarship but simply on the basis of her ‘politics’ – at least, on the basis of the conflict between hers and those of the final board of examiners. And this, mark well, when the emeritus professor, under whom she had begun her studies, had remarked to her that such was the cogency of her scholarly argument that he would have to now revisit his very own conclusions, long held, on her topic! So much for the present credentials of the members of this board of examiners!

          • Thanks, Bryden. Your comment, at least prior to my morning coffee, is opaque. If the essence is there’s new scholarship regarding atonement theology – great. Some of the rest seems more open to misunderstanding. Blessings.

  37. To be sure now Bosco, I shall endeavour for my part to contribute to the safest of zones, in as much as they also tend towards the truth of the matter to hand – which is in this case nothing but the nicest of hermeneutical distinctions between the supposition that your thread “isn’t about PSA, [but its being] about a common misperception of PSA, that [you] feel is promoted by the lyric of [a] hymn”. For surely again, this is a supreme ad hominem itself! Prompted initially by a supposition on your part, in a previous thread, to know how people viewed the lyric, which you attempted to rectify by this additional poll thread, asking for bloggers’ views on the lyric. While perhaps a reasonable exercise in itself (canvassing views), as a mathematician yourself, you can hardly say this actual process is anything like statistically significant! All this by way of preamble …

    My last point. The language re “wrath of God” and its deemed “satisfaction” is abundantly shown in the Scriptural texts, from the OT leading into the NT, the canonical witness to the foundations of the Christian Faith. As some have already pointed out, not in a fully blown form perhaps; but then neither is any full doctrine of the Trinity as we have it in, say, the Nicene Creed. Hermeneutics reigns in both domains, atonement theology and doctrine of God. So; just as there was once, to some minds, something of a complementary – even contrasting – take on this essential Trinitarian doctrine between Greek East and Latin West, even as the de Régnon thesis, once popular, has now been modified even effectively debunked, so too is there far greater consensus amongst Biblical witnesses and the Early Church fathers as to the roles of such divine elements and their integration as “wrath”, “propitiation”, “expiation”, “love”, “sacrifice”, “mercy”, “forgiveness”, “victory”, et al, all leading to “deification”, than many commentators on these two threads have asserted. The sad but important thing, Bosco, I’d point out, is actually not ‘lay’ perceptions of certain lyrics; it is rather the pooling of piecemeal ‘knowledge + ignorance’ on a matter as crucial as humanity’s recreation by the triune God. No wonder the Western Church is in such dire straits …

    • Thanks, Bryden. Statistical significance is a very technical term, one I am not claiming for the poll. I put it there, as you understand, to rectify the deficiency in the Friday post as pointed out by Peter Carrell. I regard it, as you do, as a reasonable exercise. I am surprised by the results, particularly noting the pointing to this post by pro-those-lyrics websites. Christ is risen.

      • Morning Bosco; I’m sorry the espresso failed to make it through cyberspace. I shall have to have a word with Scotty about the serviceability of the warp drive. Failing that, I’m sure Mr Spock will have an answer for you.

        As for “new scholarship”: you’re onto it! Although I’d rather call it a closer reading of very old, tried and tested theology. Good Lord deliver us from novelties! To that end, a closer reading of Bro David’s first para above might enable enlightenment of my own comment. If still in doubt, as I say, consult Mr Spock. Rich explorations for today; may the force be with you – oops! Apologies; wrong story!

        [PS – no reply button below immediate thread]

        • My being a bear of little brain [changing stories once again], Bryden, has meant that I have been stretched, as I suspect you will have noticed in the last few days’ discussions, in my moderating skills. This level of bearness also bears on the set-up of my site. There is much I wish I had (/made) time for to improve this site. That after several responses to responses to responses the system just finds it is stretched beyond its capacity is a new one I am now aware of. But am unclear how to remedy. And am not sure that I need to really spend much time researching. Christ is risen.

  38. Bro David,

    Please allow me to make a few points in response to your concerns.

    “Hysteria” was a poorly chosen word on my part, so I apologize to other commentators for that. I do however think the initial reaction from Bosco seemed to me not to be commensurate with one line in one song, or the teaching of the Lenten meditation, but, that is just my opinion, and I admit that my reaction was colored by the fact that the authors of the Lenten are both personal friends. It may be that I failed to check my emotions and sense of loyalty at the door before giving Bosco’s initial post a fair hearing.

    That said, it is still not at all clear to me that the concern here is about potential misunderstanding of PSA rather than PSA itself. As Bryden has said the distinction between these two has not been made clear, suggesting to me that PSA itself is being critiqued.

    As others have pointed out, PSA cannot reasonably be labeled as a late doctrinal development, but can be found in the early Fathers.

    And for those of us who self-identify as Reformed the insights of Calvin and Classical Refirmed theology are important as the Reformation is part of our tradition, a tradition which has a long history within the broader Anglican Church.

    That said I do not consider PSA to be a test of orthodoxy. Nor do I think PSA should be taught exclusively. It needs to be balanced with other Biblical models of atonement so as not to lead to an unbalanced theology and spirituality.

    I am partial to the use of the offices of Christ, Prophet, Priest and King, for understanding the atonement.

    As Prophet Christ on the cross proclaims and reveals God’s love. As Priest He offers a vicarious sacrifice on our part, both propitiating God’s wrath and expiating our sin. As King Christ is victorious over sin, death and evil. And all of this needs to be set in and understood within the mission of God to bring shalom to all creation.

    Finally, all atonement theology needs to be tied closely to adoption theology, that the Father has loved us from before the world was created, and through the cross invites us into His family as beloved children.

  39. It seems to me the conversation, and the reply system, have lapsed into a meta-conversation about the conversation. FWIW I want to add that after thinking a bit more about PSA, and reading William Law’s robust deconstruction of it in The Spirit of Love, Dialogue 2, I find it to be far from compelling, as a way to understand the scriptural witness. That others find it helpful to their devotional life notwithstanding, I rejoice to be part of a church which has not settled on this particular mechanism to explicate the Atonement.

  40. I should also make clear that my apology for the use of the word ‘hysteria’ is too Bosco as well as commentators.

  41. The lyric is always troubling me whenever we sing that song in our church. It does seem to be consistent with the theology of other Townend lyrics that I have heard: ‘That He should give His only Son, to make a wretch His treasure.’ Here it seems that God views us as ‘wretches’ until Christ stands in for our wretchedness.

  42. Is it possible that the Father was not angry at us but that His sense of justice could not be satisfied unless Jesus paid the price for our sins with His death? Perhaps the word “anger” should in some way be replaced with “justice”.

    • Just wondering why the subterfuge? I think, knowing you John, that you aren’t really wondering at all, and have an opinion about this article of some people’s belief not found in this form in the Bible. Blessings.

  43. I am about were Fr. Bosco is, wondering why you are not offering an opinion?

    In any event, I see the lines from the hymn as an expression of a particular view of substitutionary atonement.

    There I think I answered the initial question without expressing any judgement of it.

    Peace and blessings!
    Jim

  44. God = Jesus
    The love of God was magnified in His death, and His death was atonement for our sins.
    The line in the hymn is not accurate enough to be placed there, no matter how we try to imagine or argue it.
    There is no division in the Trinity as this line implies (might imply).

  45. Two things Ed by way of response:

    1. Penal substitution is only one form of substitutionary atonement theory – and personally I go with NT Wright who suggests the NT HAS to run with some form of substitution. Pauline theology cannot work without it.
    2. On the systematic front, I go with Eberhard Jüngel, who as a Karl Barth interpreter speaks of both wrath and das Nichtige finding their due ‘topos’ within the Being of God through the Cross. I agree.

    Just so, the line fits perfectly well enough!

    • Thanks, Bryden. I wonder if many singing “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied” immediately think of Karl Barth’s God’s wrath and das Nichtige finding their due ‘topos’ within the Being of God through the Cross. Blessings.

  46. To be sure now (after all we did celebrate St Patrick recently), few as we both know are adequately formed in the Faith to even know:
    1. Why substitution is needed to ‘read’ the NT adequately;
    2. Why the God of Love had better find a due ‘topos’ for das Nichtige – if we are to survive the violence of 20th C let alone the 21st C …

  47. Thanks Bosco for your posting all this. For only today did we have a totally packed out St Christopher’s, Avonhead – standing room only in the foyer – for the untimely funeral of a very dear parishioner, whose sacrificial service has been way beyond the ordinary, in countless spheres of life.
    And guess what Hymn began the service? Yup! “In Christ Alone”. With THAT line to boot. And no; I was merely one of the “great crowd”; not the one choosing the hymns/songs. He and his family arranged it all. Sorry; but could not suppress a delighted smile during the course of that second verse (amidst a few welling trickles, I must also confess …)
    May you have a Glorious Holy Week and Blessed Pascha!

    • Thanks, Bryden. It has some excellent images and a catchy tune – I associate it most with a video about Nick Vujicic. Blessings.

Leave a reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.




About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

You are visitor number shopify analytics tool since the launch of this site on Maundy Thursday, 13 April 2006