Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Evangelical markers

Where do you draw the line between those whom you could call 'evangelicals' and those who are not?  I have tended to call myself a 'conservative' evangelical on the basis that some who call themselves evangelicals no longer believe those doctrines which are traditionally associated with evangelicalism?  Personally I don't like the term 'conservative' because it hints at a rigid mindset.  I wonder if the term 'confessional evengelical' might be more helpful, implying a belief that being an evangelical involves subscribing to a given set of doctrines.  One of those doctrines that I see as drawing a line between those who are evangelical and those who are not is that of penal substitution.

I am really enjoying reading Greg Gilbert's little book What is the Gospel?  In it he writes the following:
Sadly, this doctrine of substitution is probably the one part of the Christian gospel that the world hates most.  People are simply disgusted at the idea of Jesus being punished for someone else's sin.  More than one author has called it "divine child abuse."  And yet to toss substitutionary atonement aside is to cut out the heart of the gospel.  To be sure, there are many pictures in Scripture of what Christ accomplished with his death: example, reconciliation, and victory, to name three.  But underneath them all is the reality to which all the other images point - penal substitution.  You simply cannot leave it out, or even downplay it in favor of other images, or else you litter the landscape of Scripture with unanswered questions.  Why the sacrifices?  What did that shedding of blood accomplish?  How can God have mercy on sinners without destroying justice?  What can it mean that God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, and yet by no means clears the guilty (Ex. 34:7)?  How can a righteous and holy God justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5)?
The answer to all these questions is found at the cross of Calvary, in Jesus' susbtitutionary death for his people.  A righteous and holy God can justify the ungodly because in Jesus' death, mercy and justice were perfectly reconciled.  The curse was righteously executed, and we were mercifully saved.

No comments: