Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

Theology Corner

1.)  CAN GOD'S WILL BE THWARTED?

2.)  DID GOD ELECT ONLY A FEW FOR SALVATION WHILE CONDEMNING THE GREATER PART OF MANKIND TO HELL?

3.)  FAITH OR SALVATION: WHICH COMES FIRST?

4.)  DID GOD THE FATHER BEGET JESUS CHRIST?

5.)  WHAT ARE THE TWO NATURES OF CHRIST?

6.)  WHAT IS ANTINOMIANISM?

7.)  WHAT IS SABELLIANISM?

8.)  WHAT IS PELAGIANISM?

9.)  DOES LOVE REALLY WIN?

10.)  IS YOUR WILL REALLY YOUR WILL?

11.)  CAN TWO THEOLOGIES BE TESTED FOR COMPATIBILITY?

12.)  WHAT IS THE FRAUD OF FIDEISM?

13.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES THEOLOGY?

14.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIAN SCIENCE THEOLOGY?

15.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH MORMON THEOLOGY?

16.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS THEOLOGY?

17.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH SCIENTOLOGY THEOLOGY?

18.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH UNIFICATION CHURCH THEOLOGY?

19.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH THE WAY INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGY?

20.)  IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD THEOLOGY?

21.)  IS REPENTANCE REALLY NECESSARY?

22.)  WHAT ARE SOME MUSINGS OF A METHODIST THEOLOGIAN ON LIMITED ATONEMENT?

23.)  WHAT ARE SOME QUESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO TEACH A LIMITED ATONEMENT PROVIDED ONLY FOR THE ELECT OF GOD?

24.)  WHAT WERE CALVIN'S ACTUAL WORDS?

25.)  WHAT IS GNOSTICISM?

26.)  WHAT IS THE UNPARDONABLE SIN?

27.)  IS CLASSICAL CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY COMPATIBLE WITH PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY?

28.)  CAN CALVINISM BE SENT TO THE DUST BIN?

29.)  IS YOUR FREE WILL AN ILLUSION?

1.)  IS CHRISTIANITY COMPATIBLE WITH POSITIVE TOLERANCE?

2.)  CAN WE HAVE A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENY THE POWER THEREOF?

3.)  WHAT IS THE GREAT WAR?

4.)  SHOULD PRESIDENT TRUMP HAVE BEEN IMPEACHED FOR IMMORALITY?

5.)  WHO SAID MOSES WAS HUMBLE?

6.)  COULD CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE BENEFIT FROM WOKE REVISION?

7.)  DID EINSTEIN BELIEVE ALL CHRISTIANS WERE CALVINISTS?

8.)  WHY IS MARXISM A MAGNET?

9.)  WHAT IS TRUE SCIENCE?

10.)  CAN YOU LOSE YOUR SALVATION?

11.)  WHAT ARE THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS?

12.)  WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS?

13.)  WAS PAUL ENTIRELY SANCTIFIED?

14.)  ARE YOU LIVING IN A WORLD AT WAR?

15.)  WHAT IS THE DIRECT METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

16.)  WHAT IS THE CONTRAPOSITIVE METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

17.)  WHAT IS THE CONTRADICTION METHOD FOR PROVING A CONDITIONAL PROPOSITION IS TRUE?

18.)  WHAT MIGHT A METHODIST THEOLOGIAN SAY ABOUT PURGATORY?

19.)  WHICH BIBLE PASSAGES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

20.)  DO SELECTED NIV VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

21.)  DO SELECTED AKJV VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

22.)  DO SELECTED YLT VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

23.)  DO SELECTED 'VOICE' VERSES ELUCIDATE CORE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIANITY?

24.)  COULD THE CONCEPT OF 'SALVATION ONLY FOR THE ELECT' HAVE BEEN ROOTED IN THE MIND OF AUGUSTINE BEFORE HE EMBRACED CHRISTIANITY?

25.)  DID AUGUSTINE RECEIVE PUSHBACK FOR HIS TEACHING OF 'SALVATION ONLY FOR THE ELECT' DURING HIS LIFETIME?

WHAT IS THE SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT OF JESUS CHRIST?

A panoramic view of the creation, the enslavement and the redemption of all things is mapped out in the home page of this website.  It is reproduced here for reference.

 

A theme that underlies the entire ministry of Jesus Christ is the apocalyptic assumption that God is battling Satan for all creation and the souls of all mankind.  Jesus understood Himself to be the one in whom this battle was to be played out in a decisive way.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and establish God’s domain.  This objective was accomplished when God the Son allowed Himself to be crucified (Heb 2:14) as the only possible sacrifice to generate the reconciliation, expiation and propitiation that took place between God and His creation and God and the souls of all mankind.  The death of Jesus Christ occurred at a specific time and place (John 19:30); but the consequences of this substitutionary atonement instantly exploded throughout Heaven, Hell, and the universe, throughout all that has been, all that is and all that ever will be.

By the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, all creation was redeemed from the bondage of evil and each soul was offered redemption from the bondage of sin.  But Satan was not a willing seller and is at war with God to retain possession.  The outcome of the struggle was completely decided by the substitutionary atonement.  Yet few would claim Jesus has set His corrupted creation free from the influence of Satan or set redeemed souls free from the influence of sin.  Evil continues to rage; the world, at every level, is at war.  Christians are on the front lines of this Great War between good and evil whether we like it or not.  As we stand side by side with Jesus in this war, the suffering of the Christian soldier has a meaning and value to God commensurate with this titanic spiritual struggle of the ages.

God created the universe with such precision that the slightest change in any one of its properties would preclude our existence and God designed the earth as a home for man.  God placed certain powerful angels in charge of His creation and instructed them to be good stewards.  Some angels began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels.  Satan exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence, on whatever he touches, which caused all creation to be captured by the bondage of evil.  That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor.  “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw.  Man had not yet been created.

God set aside some real estate for the Garden of Eden and restored it to its condition prior to Satan’s diabolical influence.  He then created Adam and Eve to live in this Garden.  In full view of all the angels in Heaven, Satan demanded unrestricted access to Adam and Eve and, although they were created sinless, Satan won them over.  Evil had taken up residence in the soul of man, that particular evil called sin.  The will, intellect and heart of Adam and Eve had been possessed and permeated by sin.  But what about us, the descendants of Adam and Eve?

God is just.  God does not impute to us the individual sins of Adam and Eve.  But He knew it would be pointless to allow the offspring of Adam and Eve to be born sinless.  He knew they would follow exactly the same path as their created ancestors.  So He allowed the generations of Adam and Eve’s offspring to be born with a sin nature.  We are all born corrupt, averse to God and inclined to evil.  However, for this depraved nature we are not responsible and no guilt or demerit attaches to it.  We become responsible for this sin nature only after attaining the age of accountability and ratifying it as our own.  The age of accountability is not the same for all persons and, for many, it may be very young indeed.

God knew, before the creation of the universe, that all this was going to happen.  On one hand, God knew sin would prevent Him from fellowship with man; on the other hand, God knew He would love each individual unconditionally and would not want eternal separation to be the inevitable consequence of sin.  But sin could not simply be overlooked; a price had to be paid for every crime.  Unfortunately, if you and I paid the price for our own crimes, our souls would spend eternity in Hell.  Before the universe began, God chose an incredible, astounding and magnificent solution to this dilemma.

Although God could have simply restored and repossessed His corrupted creation and the corrupted souls of mankind, His purity of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth demanded a punishment for every evil, particularly that evil called sin which resides in the human soul.  Only one punishment, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, was great enough to redeem all creation from the bondage of evil and offer redemption from the bondage of sin to all mankind.  But Satan will never acknowledge the efficacy of that punishment.  He is battling God to retain possession of that which was given to him (Luke 4:5-7).  The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare.  It marked the denouement when God the Son redeemed all creation from the bondage of evil and began the process of setting creation free from the influence of Satan himself.  That denouement also marked the instant when God the Son offered redemption from the bondage of sin to all mankind and began the process of setting redeemed souls free from the influence of sin itself.  For a time and within limits, God continues to permit certain consequences of rampant rebellion and the brutal corruption of all life.  But He expects His people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.

In these last days, Satan is making a ferocious attempt to demean God, discredit man and destroy God’s relationship with man in full view of all the angels in Heaven!  Satan’s all-consuming purpose is to drive an irremovable wedge between God and man, to affect an alienation that cannot be reconciled.  Satan claims the concept of salvation by faith, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is a sham.  God the Father should not have attempted it, Jesus Christ could not have legitimately paid for it and you and I, driven by our sin nature, could never receive it.  According to Satan, it’s all smoke and mirrors so that God can save his wretched humans without appearing to compromise His own character. The accusation, once raised, cannot be removed, not even by destroying the accuser.  If the salvation offered to every man and woman can be exposed as a perversion of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth, then a chasm of alienation would stand between God and man that could not be bridged.  Reconciliation would be unthinkable.  God’s whole enterprise in creation would be radically and irrevocably flawed; He could only sweep it away in awful judgment as He nearly did once before (Gen 6:5-7).

As integral players in this Great War, the course of our Christian lives must never elicit the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms to question the manifold wisdom, holiness, justice and truth of God. 

Christians eagerly anticipate the next denouement but the struggle is relentless!

 

Embedded in this apocalyptic story is a particular view of the substitutionary atonement (See Sections 1.5 and 13.3 of Theology Corner).   This view merges two of the more than one dozen theories proposed over the past 2000 years.

 

  • Theory 1: The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ secured God’s victory in the great war between the forces of good and the forces of evil.  This atonement satisfied God’s requirements for redeeming all creation from the bondage of evil and offering redemption from the bondage of sin to all mankind.  This atonement guaranteed the ultimate victory foreseen in 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

 

  • Theory 2:The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ was a vicarious sacrifice that satisfied the demands of God’s justice upon sin. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for the sins of mankind, bringing redemption, forgiveness, justification, adoption, regeneration, sanctification, reconciliation, unification and glorification to all who will receive the great gift of salvation.  The intellect, will and heart, of every person, have been corrupted by sin and we are all totally depraved and spiritually dead. Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sin and, through confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience, we can accept Christ’s substitutionary atonement as payment in full.

 

These are called theories because only the will, intellect and heart of God grasp the full significance of the atonement.  We should avoid claiming to understand all its ramifications. The bodily death of Jesus Christ on the cross may be impacting a multitude of issues far beyond our understanding.  But here is a glimpse of insight assuming Christ is the ultimate victim of our sin (See Section 3.3 of Theology Corner).

 

The guilt, penalty and pain caused by one individual’s sin against another can morally be borne either by the sinner through justice or by the victim of sin through forgiveness; either the sinner pays the price of justice or the victim pays the price of forgiveness.  The victim cannot forgive the sinner without paying a price.  In other words, there is no serendipitous land of cheap forgiveness where we simply forgive one another by overlooking a few inconsequential faults at no cost to us.  While forgiveness usually brings a sense of peace and relief to the victim of sin, the victim can also bear great burden and pain.  The consequence of sin may last a lifetime.

The penalty of sin cannot be transferred to a third party.  When we say that Christ died as our substitute, we do not imply that He was simply a third party who stepped in between God and man.  Christ was not a third party in the affair at Calvary.  He was God against whom every sin is committed.  When God the Son said, at Calvary: “Father forgive them” instead of saying “Angelic hosts, destroy them,” He, as the victim, bore the guilt, penalty and pain rightfully due every person who will ever live.  Jesus not only bore the guilt and penalty for your sins but He took a step further.  Since your guilt is canceled and your punishment remitted, He said that you can be accepted before God as righteous.  You can, therefore, stand before God as if you had never sinned; you are thereby justified.