CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

A review of The Truth of the Cross. By R.C. Sproul.

Feb 21, 2009

Reformation Trust, 2007. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)

Perhaps the most crucial and basic of Christian doctrines also happens to be the most neglected and overlooked. I refer to the doctrine of the cross – the saving work of Christ as enacted at Calvary. The Apostle Paul could say that he desired to know nothing except Christ and him crucified. Yet today, even in the churches, this fundamental teaching is often neglected, misunderstood or minimised.

R.C. Sproul is greatly concerned about this. He has written this book to correct the trend of a cross-less Christianity. There are of course other more lengthy, detailed and elaborate treatments of the cross available. But this volume very nicely covers all the bases in a compact yet clear presentation. The heart of the gospel is here concisely and thoroughly expounded.

Perhaps one must ignore four aspects to this book to appreciate its true worth: it is brief; it is written for a popular audience; it lacks footnotes and bibliography; and it is packaged in a gift-book format. All this might make one think that this is a lightweight affair – but it is not. Contained in these 168 pages is biblical theology at its best.

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The Truth of the Cross by R C Sproul Amazon logo

In ten brief but solid chapters Sproul lays out the biblical understanding of the cross. He begins by reminding us that the main reason why the atonement is downplayed so much today is because people do not see the need for it. They have little or no sense of sin and of the righteousness and holiness of God.

Therefore they do not recognise that they are “privately, personally, individually, ultimately, inexorably accountable to God for their lives”. The doctrine of the cross only makes sense if we have a proper understanding of who God is, and a proper understanding of who we are as lost sinners.

He examines the great and non-negotiable themes of the Bible: the justice of God, the destructive nature of sin, the need for atonement, and so on. For example, he details the various ways in which sin is depicted in Scripture. We are described as debtors, as enemies of God, and as law-breakers.

The work of Christ in dealing with sin is carefully explored. To cancel our indebtedness to God, Christ became our surety. To end our enmity with God and make reconciliation, Christ became our mediator. To deal with the crimes we have committed against God, Jesus became our substitute at the bar of God’s justice.

The penal, substitutionary understanding of the atonement is here elaborated upon. Sin demands payment. The wages of sin is death. By ourselves we cannot overcome our sin or its penalty. Thus the penalty we deserve is taken upon us by Christ. He takes our place. He becomes our substitute.

Both the mercy of God and the justice of God come together perfectly at the cross. God was under no obligation to any of us. We could have received the just penalty for our sins. But God has not left us in our desperate situation. He took our place, and paid in full the debt we owed.

Sproul looks at the various ways the Bible discusses this. Christ is our ransom. He is our redeemer. He is our saviour. And he is also our propitiation, taking upon himself the wrath of God against sin.

It is this last element that so many people – even within the church – find unpalatable today. But it is hard to escape the clear thrust of Scripture on this. A holy God must forever hate sin, and judge it. We are sinful, under the judgment of God. Jesus took that judgment upon himself, so that we can escape it.

The salvation provided cost Jesus dearly. Says Sproul, this placation of the wrath of God comprises “Christ’s supreme achievement on the cross”. But there is a positive dimension to the cross as well. Not only is the sin question dealt with, but so too is the issue of righteousness.

Another unpopular teaching today is the biblical view of the human condition. We like to think that we are really not such bad chaps. But the Bible clearly says there is none righteous. Indeed, all our righteousness is as filthy rags. But the work of the cross offers the imputation of righteousness. We are given by God what we could not become ourselves.

And this is no mere legal fiction: “God really laid our sins on Christ and really transferred the righteousness of Jesus Christ by imputation”.  Also, Sproul reminds us how the entire Old Testament is full of the foreshadowing of the cross, from the Psalmist’s cry of dereliction in Psalm 22 to the Suffering Servant songs of Isaiah.

Sproul is firmly in the Reformed camp, but he does not dodge the tough issues entailed in this theological tradition. Thus he tackles the issue of limited atonement. This is a hotly debated topic, and not all will be satisfied by his treatment of it. But Sproul does as good a job as anyone in trying to make the biblical case for it, answering various objections along the way.

For those who are theologically literate, there will not be too much new or unfamiliar material found here. But that is the problem – far too many believers are woefully unfamiliar with theology in general and the doctrine of the atonement in particular.

As a good, easy-to-read introduction to this most foundational of Christian themes, this slim volume is hard to beat. I recommend it highly, both to theological novices as well as to those who are theologically mature.

[922 words]

24 Responses to A review of The Truth of the Cross. By R.C. Sproul.

  • Half a century ago I read (in Java) an article by A.W. Tozer, “What has happened to the preaching of the cross?” He showed how the doctrine of repentance had been stripped; the uncomfortableness of hearing that we are perishing sinners, lost, heading for hell; and the lack of tears; and great songs such as “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of jesus”.
    Thank God for Sproul’s fine work and the critique which moved my heart. Let’s preach it!
    Harrold Steward

  • The language of ‘correctness’ in our understanding of the Scripture, that is we need to return to a correct understanding of the Cross, to get our Bible right, etc tends to rooted in the view that we need to get our theology right for if we dont we are in danger of missing Heaven’s gate. This in turn is rooted in a view of the Father that He is a God who dishes out punishment, as reflected in the penal view of the Cross. He is a Father of unconditional love but watch out he has another side to Him. I believe the that His love is so broad and wonderful that the Cross is His action in history that shows His love at its most profound, to return into His creation into fellowship with Him by ridding once for all in Christ all the blindness, foolishness and destructiveness that sin entails. Jesus died once for all, undoing Adam once for all. Limited atonement is not even a possibility. Limited or no response to Him certainly is but at the same time there is no possibility of ‘a Christless eternity’. He is all in all. In Him the Creation is sustained and has its being. I believe the view of the Trinity reflected in the work of Robert Farrar Capon, and C. Baxter Kruger, for example, is a true view of our God. But if I am wrong I can rest in Him who IS, Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Reformed Tradition is not my cup of tea. For example, there is none righteous etc. Thank God that is so for we have the right the righteousness of Christ, nothing ‘imputed’ here. I am clothed with Christ, my sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west, we are the ‘naos’ of God. Imputation – yuk! The Cross as placation of the wrath of God – paganism was about doing stuff to appease the wrath of the Gods, to get them on-side. The wrath of God is a reflection of His love, His wrath against the stuff (sin) that keeps from intimacy with Him. No placation here, just longing, desperation for fellowship with His Creation, the most profound, far-reaching reaching-out, the most profound, all-embracing death to life, in history-eternity.

    Eugene Moreau

  • Thanks Eugene

    Christians need not embrace Reformed theology, but they do need to embrace clear biblical teaching. Correct teaching is important. Even though you seem to take pride in the fact that you think theological correctness is unimportant, it is clear from your comment that you think you are correct in your assessment, and those who differ with you are incorrect.

    Too many believers are pushing the false dichotomy of love versus doctrine. They seem to think we have to choose one or the other. Scripture of course makes no such phoney disjunction. We are constantly told to aim for both right behaviour and right belief. Both are vitally important and one cannot stand without the other. Right teaching (orthodoxy) and right living (orthopraxis) are both urged in Scripture and we are never to divorce the two. 1 Tim 4:16 is just one of many such Scriptures. And contrary to your dismissive remarks, wrong beliefs clearly can lead to missing out on heaven. Try Gal. 1:6-9 for starters.

    And of course God does dish out punishment. This is also clearly stated in both Testaments. But given your apparent disregard for doctrine, it is not surprising that you make some disconcerting remarks. What do you mean when you reject the idea of a ‘Christless eternity’? Does that mean you reject the idea of eternal punishment (hell), or are you claiming a form of universalism?

    Your dislike of imputation is also problematic, given that it is so clearly promoted in Scripture. See for example Rom. 4:1,22-25; 5:12-21; 2 Cor 5:21; James 2:22-24; etc. And while wrath is a function of God’s love, it is also a function of God’s holiness and righteousness. God has a holy anger against sin, and a holy hatred of evil. Believers are called to have the same (eg., Rom 12:9).

    There is divine anger against sin which means punishment is necessary. So placating diving anger is a fully biblical concept. The good news is Jesus voluntarily agreed to receive the penalty (punishment) for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God.

    One could also ask whether you even bothered to read the book before you began all your criticisms of it. But it appears that we may have to agree to disagree on some of these issues.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, what we have today is a new repackaged christianity. The original old good news has been discarded as it does not appeal to the present world. Repentance, redemption,and glorious hope in eternity does not excite anymore. In fact heaven is a taboo word and almost regarded as a make believe place to console someone nearing death. The point that we are merely pilgrims passing through is least on the minds of Christians today and so we join the rest of the world to accumulate as much material and wealth as possible, and encouraged on by the health and wealth preachers. The marketer/preacher knows about the needs and wants of the world and therefore presents the gospel to meet those needs and as a result the true and original message of Calvary and the primary purpose of Jesus on the cross is sadly diminished. The church that refuses to change and continues to cling onto the old rugged cross fails to draw crowds while those that cater to health, wealth, as well as focus on sensual and felt needs soon turn into mega churches. Are we then surprised that even conservative evangelicals are now employing consultants to map out a new strategy to market their church? Will we still cling to the unpopular and despised old rugged cross?
    Barry Koh

    Barry Koh

  • Eugene, I was listening to a sermon from my previous pastor, Jim Graham. It is on the topic of the Father’s love. I do recommend it: http://www.goldhill.org:80/Media/Player.aspx?media_id=25466&file_id=27800

    But then the same unsettling thought came to me that you articulated: “He is a Father of unconditional love but watch out he has another side to Him.”

    Thankfully, C.S. Lewis gives the answer in chapter 5 of “Mere Christianity”: http://www.philosophyforlife.com/mc05.htm

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks Bill for the reply. You are quite right about the fact I havent read the book and am probably not going to. I have read some of Sproul in earlier days and I was not impressed then and what you wrote of the book sounded familiar. I think Galatains 1:6.. refers to the gospel of Christ. I was referring to the fact that on some biblical matters such as God’s wrath, placating an angry God, imputation of righteousness, a penal God..these views are open to challenge. Certitude on these is not as yet within reach. If doctrine was really so clearcut then why the multitude of books and disagreement? Hence my view is that it is not doctrine that sees us to Heaven but faith in Christ and an embracing, forgiving Father. It is His action in history that has reconciled all things to Himself. This is the heart of the Gospel I believe, the Father as Jesus portrayed Him in the parable of the prodigal son.
    Romans 4:1sq refers to Abraham, Romans 5: 12-21 cannot be seen the same as 4:1sq as it is talking of the free grace- gift of righteousness, not a ‘reckoning’. 2 Cor 21 speaks of us ‘becoming the righteousness’ of God which is a fair stretch from imputation. James is speaking of Abraham. Are we new creations in Christ or not? Are we in Christ or not? Has our sin been done and dusted (finished ) on the Cross or not? According to Paul my sin is ‘in my members’, not I who sin but sin in me, in my flesh…. By the Spirit this is put to death as He has put sin to death. This is not imputed righteousness but actual, in which I can live by the Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ in whom sin is dead, caput, finito. Divine anger is not about punishment but about reconciliation, ridding His creation of that heinous entity called sin, which He has finished off in Christ. My goal in dealing with my children, for example, has always been to maintain fellowship and the space for love to exercise itself, with all the ups and downs. They used to ‘sin’ for all sorts reasons and punishment was not a significant factor in my dealings with them. How much more is my heavenly Father’s love like that? A Christless eternity is not possible. I made my position on that abundantly clear I thought as Christ is all in all, in Him and Him alone the Creation lives. Even the lake of fire in Revelation is before the throne of God. This is not to deny hell but to say there is nothing, not one iota of His creation that eludes him or that He rejects as this is not possible. We can choose not to go into the Party, like older brother in the prodigal story. That’s got to be Hell!!, but is there more to Hell than that? Quite possibly.
    The grace of God, the work of the Cross is for all, if it were not then Adam still has his corner somewhere, but we are free to say no to it. Universalism? You mean there is some part of His Creation that He has overlooked, that has eluded the work of the Cross? Has Jesus totally undone Adam or not. There often seems to be no problem talking about Adam in universal terms. Is that where Hell is, somewhwre where Jesus, the Lord of all, bombed it?
    I tried to make it clear that as Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, that as I live by faith in Him I am not humbugged by the need ‘get my doctrine right’. That does not mean I have not been on a (rather long) journey with theology. My point is that if I need to get my doctrine right to enter into His presence then I, and, I would suggest all of us, are in serious do-do. There seems to be quite a lot of discussion in your site that says things like we need to ‘get back to’ true teaching, more teaching on the Cross etc..but true according to which interpretation? If it’s Sproul’s then I am happy to leave him with it and bless him. I attend a church where there are various views, (which often emerge in theological prayers), and that is ok, as it will be inevitably so. Theology has always been contested. I did not say ‘correctness’ is unimportant, but elusive and if it is the focus of what we do in church it, in fact, can become divisive – as evidenced by the umpteen breakaway churches over the years, usually over some point of doctrine. (The Spirit has moved in people over the years of course and this has led to new churches as well, one of the reasons cited at times is to escape a ‘dead orthodoxy’.)
    You may be right that we will probaly have to agree to disagree on this and I suspect a good deal else. I first heard of your site in a meeting the other evening with Patrick Sookhdeo when he spoke at the Baptist church in the city. It was a fine presentation I felt. His books are important for Christians to read. Somebody in the audience recommended your site. That is why I have had a look.
    Eugene Moreau

  • Thanks Eugene

    The fact that we are finite and fallen explains why doctrinal differences exist. But that should not lead us to despairing of any theological certainty, as is so often the case with those in the emerging church.

    As to Gal. 1 yes it refers to Christ, but that is the very issue: Paul clearly teaches that a faulty understanding of Christ (who he is and what he did, etc) has eternal repercussions.

    You do not seem to do justice to the various imputation texts I cite – most of which even use the Greek term: logizomai. There is no question that our sin was somehow imputed to Christ. It also seems that his righteousness is what justifies us, by being imputed to us.

    You might argue that the Calvinist reads the texts with his Calvin-coloured glasses. Perhaps so, But so too do those who embrace Baxter Kruger (or his spiritual grandfather, Barth – mediated through Torrence for Krueger). This becomes clear in your wishy washy view of both hell and universalism. Baxter Krueger and Barth have both been accused of universalism – and rightly so, it seems – although both are notoriously hard to pin down on all this. But universalism is the clear implication coming from both these men.

    Of course to push this view means that literally hundreds of biblical texts have to be jettisoned or suppressed. One can argue that the Baxter Kruger rendering leaves far too many texts out of the picture, than does the more traditional understanding. If I have to choose between Jesus and Baxter Kruger on this, I know who I will turn to. (BTW, I am not claiming to be a Calvinist here.)

    It is this universalist sort of misreading of the text that allows one to talk about how in Christ all things are reconciled. But that is the key: in Christ. Not everyone is in Christ. We effectively make Jesus and the other NT writers to be liars if we deny their clear teachings that many will not bend the knee, that few there will be saved, that narrow is the gate, and great is the wrath of God still reserved for those who don’t believe, and so on.

    But again, we may have to admit that we will differ on things here – big time.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Bill,
    I thought that EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! I also thought that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save THE WORLD! Well did He or did He not? Who is the greater, the first Adam or the second? My money is on the second! So if the eternal purpose of God before the foundation of the world was to adopt us into THEIR family, has that been accomplished or not? My money is is on the Yes vote! Have we been given new birth in Christ or are we still waiting for that? Peter says we have been given new birth, born again in Christ! So, what is left to do? Believe and receive! That’s repentance(metanoia-complete and radical change of mind)! Can you refuse this free gift. Sure! But that does not mean you are not included in Christs’ universal work in His incarnation, life, death and resurrection. We all are, as there is no separation, no life outside the Father,Son and Holy Spirit! Luke 15 indeed shows this, and this is Jesus talking-not some theologian. I’ll believe Jesus thanks.
    Blessings in THEM,
    Lou d’Alpuget

  • Thanks Lou

    I am glad you acknowledge that people can refuse this free gift. Will every knee bow? Absolutely. But some will bow willingly, while others will bow only unwillingly – in defiance and in rebellion. That the atonement is sufficient for everyone is not in question. The question is, will everyone avail themselves of it? The Biblical answer is clearly ‘no’.

    As C.S. Lewis put it, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’. All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find; to those who knock it is opened.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • What ever happened to the cross? Simple — people got sick of stumbling over it so they got rid of it!

    Bill – have you read Jonathon Edwards’ “The wisdom of God, displayed in the way of salvation”? it is my all time most favourite of pieces. it is in his collected works — and here:
    http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/wisdom.htm

    Elizabeth Kendal

  • Many thanks Elizabeth

    I did read it many years ago, but following your comment, I have just now pulled out his 2-volume collected works, blown off the dust, and will reread it. Thanks for the tip. (For those who prefer curling up in bed with a good book instead of a computer screen, it is in vol. 2, pp. 141-156.)

    Blessings,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hello Bill and Eugene,
    Sounds a bit like Antioch v. Alexandria.

    With Eugene, I do appreciate Baxter Kruger. For many of his insights into the significance of creation, destiny, and adoption I am grateful.

    That said, I would also say that our conscience needs, and we can never remove the judicial aspects of the atonement, without distorting its meaning. (Kruger does omit co-crucifixion, I think).

    Sproul almost always deals with the legal aspects, however (a while back, he used to only speak of expiation, not propitiation. But I think he has since corrected that deficiency).

    Certainly the wrath of God’s love, is seen at the cross. The averting of that wrath, and the real dealing with sin, law and death, through grace is crucial. However, only to emphasize the legal aspects of atonement only (without seeing what Baxter calls the great invisible river of glory), is to pull up short of the needful proclamation.

    Few see it as clearly as P.T. Forsyth did. He said:

    “The Saviour was not punished, but He took the penalty of sin, the chastisement of our peace. It was in no sense as if He felt chastised or condemned (as even Calvin said), but because He willingly bowed, with a moral understanding possible only to the sinless, under the divine ordinance of a suffering death and judgment which was holily ordained to wait on the sin of His kin”.

    “The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin. The metaphor denotes the radicality, totality, and finality of the whole action in the realism of the moral world which even high sacrifice, not resisting unto blood, only slurs or shelves—when it does not toy with it.”

    And further on Forsyth’s insights, I wrote elsewhere that:

    P.T. Forsyth saw the biblical relationship between the cross and grace, in a way, that many others failed, and fail still to see and proclaim (that is why many abandon atonement theology). Robert McAfee Brown followed Forsyth’s corrective theology well:

    “God is willing to go to the length of suffering and dying to enter into fellowship with man. There is a misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of atonement that goes something like this: God is an angry God, angry at men because men have sinned, and he decides to condemn mankind; but Christ intercedes for man, and God’s vengeance is sated by punishing Christ instead. Although this is a travesty of the Christian position it has unfortunately been too often suggested by interpreters of the atonement as well as by their critics. But Forsyth, who said, “The doctrine of grace and the doctrine of the atonement are identical,” the true interpretation is that the atonement flows from grace, it does not “procure” grace. This extremely important insight means that our reading of the atonement is more like this: Because God loves men, he suffers on their behalf, bears himself the weight of their wrongdoing, and this restores fellowship, or reconciles. Grace is not something Christ earned for us from God; grace is rather something God gave us in Christ. “Do not say: ‘God is love. Why atone?’ Say: ‘God has atoned. What love!’

    Grace and peace.
    Trevor Faggotter

  • I have studied under Kruger and enjoyed it… for the challenge of it, if nothing else.

    But I also love Paul and read him a lot, and I can’t adequately reconcile the two.

    Never mind the very specific approach taken by Kruger, for which I am no expert, but addressing any general flavour of “universalism”… how on earth do proponents of that read Romans 9-11… what gymnastics do they do with that?!

    I appreciate your efforts to point to the “full” record of Scripture, Bill. I don’t always like the conclusions I am drawn to by what you bring into the conversation, but I really appreciate your faithfulness to the full record of Scripture. It’s too easy these days for pastors, writers and theologians to miss or avoid unpleasant texts or themes, and come to dodgy conclusions as a consequence.

    I respect Kruger and Barth and others as sincere and heart-felt and they have done much to fan the flames of my own passion for truth, but they have not – to my mind – adequately dealt with wrath, as unpleasant as it is in their formulation of God’s nature and action in history.

    Back to the Word for more study…!

    Alister Cameron // Blogologist

  • Thanks Bill. I dont think the contention that Kruger or Barth are hard to pin down on the issue of universalism. They are hard to pin down on a view of the work of Christ as in any way limited for mankind, just as in Adam all died so in Christ all are redeemed. The choice for Christ or not is crucial in the Hell issue. Not everyone is in Christ? If that is so then He died for some? His atonement really is limited? The atonement is more than sufficient for everyone. It is the event and His incarnation, resurrection, ascension that has changed the world. Done. Your gospel is no good news at all except for a few, the ones who ‘make it’. You seem to treat the wrath of God with greater reverence than the love of God. Is God wrath? He is love is he not, and wrath is but an attribute so must be an outworking of His love. You believe in a God of conditional love yet you would also believe that God so loved the world that …….? To present such a God is to put forth a fear-based relationship with Him. Do I meet the conditions? Do I think the right things? Narrow is the gate you say and your view of the gate is surely that it is narrow, when it is Christ who is the gate, that is the narrowness. Your gospel seems to me to be sin-focused when the gospel of Christ is life, joy peace, rest in the Spirit. Your last sentence on wrath in your last comment on my comment characterises pretty well I think the poverty of your view of the work of Christ.
    Eugene Moreau

  • Thanks again Eugene

    But with all due respect, all your latest comment does is to reveal how little you understand what the other side is in fact saying on this issue. You have managed to mangle and massacre the theological position of just about all of your opponents here, including Sproul and myself.

    I could spend pages dissecting your faulty and jaundiced understanding of those with whom you differ. There is of course nothing limited about God’s love. And salvation has absolutely nothing to do with meeting the right conditions to merit it. And of course the gospel makes no sense whatsoever unless it is sin-focused. There can be no good news without the bad news. And so on. Setting up straw men and red herrings – and then thinking how clever one is in shooting them down – helps no one here.

    Perhaps this is all the more reason why you should swallow a bit of your pride, actually read the book in question, and then continue your criticism. You of course do not need do accept what Sproul says (I don’t accept it all). But you do need to know what he – and others – are actually saying before you offer your criticisms.

    And BTW, the last line on wrath which you so strenuously objected to was simply based on passages I had just been reading, namely, 1 Thess. 1:10, 2:16 and 2 Thess. 1:6-10. These and numerous other passages are fairly straight-forward in what they teach about coming wrath. It seems these are the sorts of passages you simply want to ignore. But we are called to wrestle seriously and honestly with passages which challenge our pet theologies, and not simply jettison them.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Eugene you seem to be against doctrine but if your posts here are not doctrine, I don’t know what are! You say that “it is not doctrine that sees us to Heaven but faith in Christ and an embracing, forgiving Father. It is His action in history that has reconciled all things to Him. This is the heart of the Gospel“
    But which Christ? It can only be the one revealed in scripture and the one that you speak of bares no relationship to the one revealed there.

    The heart of all this is be found in 2 Peter 2 ….. “if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. ………For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. …..For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
    But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
    Or
    1 Corinthians 5: 5 “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”
    Or
    1 peter 4:18 “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear.”

    I find your our question regarding the party or banquet truly confusing. You say, “We can choose not to go into the Party, like older brother in the prodigal story. That’s got to be Hell! But is there more to Hell than that?”

    There sure is Eugene; in Matt 22:11 it says, “but when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
    “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
    “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

    It seems to me Eugene that yours is a “Take it or leave it” gospel and that there are no real consequences from leaving it apart from missing on out on the extras, like a naughty child denied going on school trip with the other kids. – no big deal.

    Does this verse no meaning anything either?
    Matt 10 28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell“.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Bill,
    This morning I spent time with a group of 200 or so people in Kona, Hawaii, praising the LORD. During the time, we sang the hymn, “When I survey the wondrous cross” at least twice, just to emphasise its importance. Most of the 200 people were young people, which was thrilling to a 60 year old’s heart. A young man led us in a prayer applying the truths of the cross to our lives. Yes, most have forgotten the wonderful truths of salvation through the atonement wrought on the cross but here was a gathering of people walking inthe Way and committed to those truths, and to making them know to every person, in every nation, in every sphere of influence.
    Greg Brien

  • Thanks Bill. Nicely avoided everything I actually said.
    I listened to the sermon by Jim Graham as recommended by David Skinner. It was very enjoyable. It mentions being a child of God (Sonship) and presents the love of God quite movingly. Sonship is an uncommon theme these days?
    Eugene Moreau

  • Eugene, Praise God that you listened to this faithful Bible expositor. May I now, however, urge you to listen to a sermon he gave a fortnight before that one? http://www.goldhill.org/Media/Player.aspx?media_id=24960&file_id=27277
    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks again Eugene

    I will leave it to others to decide if I “avoided everything” you said.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Umm, Eugene, sorry this is a lot later than various other replies. You said:
    “Thanks Bill. Nicely avoided everything I actually said.
    I listened to the sermon by Jim Graham as recommended by David Skinner. It was very enjoyable.”

    I notice that you have clearly avoided responding to Bill’s challenge to read the book so as to make informed comments.

    Unfortunately, that puts you into the “you know naught of what you speak” category, which will lead you to a billabong, not to the mainstream.

    John Angelico

  • I think more is happening here for Eugene than what has been touched on so far. I sense he is caught up in the post-modern epistemology. The reader has become the authority rather than the text. Just because there is much disagreement in the Christian church over doctrine, it does not prove it is unimportant, nor does it prove that the “real” truth cannot be found. What it means is that we make the text the authority and in the words of Carson, gain distanciation from the text. In other words, distance ourselves from our bias’ and preconceived leanings and enter the biblical world to understand what was said according to their day and in it’s context. It is true that we can fail in our understanding of the text, but as we study and seek out what the author meant at that time, then we will gain greater understanding and be more faithful in our interpretations. This has been labeled the “hermeneutical spiral”. Deconstructionism has caused great distrust in authorial intention and for Christians to ever have a hope at grasping the true revelation of God as recorded by Scripture, one much identify and acknowledge this influence over them and this goes not just for Eugene but for all of us.
    David McAllan

  • Dear Bill,

    Thank you for reviewing this book, without which I wouldn’t have known about it. I bought it shortly after I read your review and have already read it. It definitely puts Jesus’ crucifixion into perspective, and prompted many questions which I’m seeking answers for (already found some). I’m grateful for this book, it’s something I’ll be lending to my Christian friends. I’ve also become interested in reading more weightier discussions on the crucifixion, and will be looking for those.
    Thanks for your review!

    Olivia Tan, San Diego, USA

  • Many thanks Olivia

    Glad I was of some help here. Blessings,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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