Edward White Correcting Misconceptions of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, Ed. Drake Thursday, Mar 31 2011 

Life in Christ, Chapter 19 Section 3

“(1) For example, it has been often said, as by Dr. Watts,— that Christ died to appease the wrath of God, and by Bp. Heber, ‘to meet His father’s anger;’ that the Second Person of the Godhead intervened, in compassion for sinners, to prevent the First Person, or Father, from executing His vengeance upon them. As Cowper expressed it, in a passage quoted by M. Sainte-Beuve, ‘God is always formidable to me, except when I see Him disarmed of His sting, by having sheathed it in the body of Jesus Christ.’ Now such a representation of mediation as this is not only directly contrary to Scripture, but it is essentially heathenish, and destructive of all real love to God. For this was precisely the idea of the sacrifices to the Gods of heathenism,—they were offered to propitiate and render placable wrathful divinities. But whatever the reason of the death of Christ may have been, assuredly it was not an act of the Son of God separate from an act of the Father: or designed to produce states of feeling in God not existent before. It was God who ‘so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish.’ It was God who ‘reconciled the world to Himself, or [False Explanations of the Atonement. 273] atoned it by Jesus Christ, not imputing our trespasses unto us.’ It is to offer violence of the most profane description to the character of the God of Love, to represent Him as excited with wrath against sinners, while the Son of God was lenient and merciful,—or to represent God as seeking to strike some one on earth, and striking an innocent person rather than strike none at all.

All such statements, however commonly made aforetime, or unfairly imputed in our time by Unitarian writers, are perversions of Scripture, and have led to much reactionary feeling against any doctrine of Christ’s atonement for the sins of the world. It has been thought justly that such views represent the Eternal Being as naturally adverse to His creatures, or as an Omnipotent Foe bought over to forbearance by the price of innocent blood. Words strong enough to express the loathing with which such teaching ought to be regarded are difficult to find. It is our God who has given Christ. It is God, whom we have offended, who has nevertheless ‘provided the Lamb for the burnt-offering.’ Whatever there is of mercy to sinners in Christ is all from the overflowing love of God. ‘We love Him because He first loved us.”



Edward White on The Juridical Nature of God and the Atonement of Christ;

“Life in Christ” Chapter 19 Section 2

“Why should it be so easy to understand what the Fathers teach, and so difficult to understand the Evangelists and Apostles?”

Eastern Orthodox Apologists need to take Maximus the Confessor’s Ambigua to heart.

“The Apostolic statements respecting the efficacy of Christ’s death as an Atonement for Sin.

In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’—1 John iv. 9, 10.

Such are the statements of S. John on the Atonement of Christ, with which agree S. Peter and S. Paul in all their epistles.

Nearly every reader understands that this English word, Atonement, signifies at-one-ment, or reconciliation ; and is used to denote the reconciliation of the world to Himself by God, through the death of His Son.

As commonly employed it signifies reconciliation effected by the sacrifice of Christ, whose death is regarded not so much as an ordinary martyrdom brought about by human wickedness, but as an act of God determined beforehand, who through wicked hands ‘gave his Son’ to die, to save us from death eternal.

To expiate signifies to make satisfaction or reparation for guilt by some suffering or loss. In this case it means to put 266 Is Chrisfs Death Expiatory?  away sin and its punishment, by the piety or self-sacrifice of Christ The idea is, that under the government of God it was impossible to forgive men by an arbitrary act of remission founded simply on their repentance, or on God’s compassion. It was necessary that some demonstration, or ‘declaration should be made (Romans iii. 26) of a nature to uphold the government of God in pardoning sin, while at the same time maintaining the gracious character of that pardon ;—and that necessity, we are taught, led the Eternal God to deliver up His Son to die ‘the just for the unjust’ (1 Peter iii. 18). His death is therefore termed a ‘propitiation,’ a ‘sin-offering,’ a ‘sacrifice,’ through which God can be ‘just and the justifier of Him that believeth in Jesus.’ This is the ancient and the prevailing notion of the Atonement.1 Is this revealed as a Fact in the Scriptures?

Many a reader will reply,—Undoubtedly it is! There is nothing plainer in all written language than that the Apostles teach that the death of Christ was an expiatory sacrifice,— was not simply the presentation to God of an obedient human life,—nor had to do only with making men holy in the future, but had relation to the ‘ forgiveness of sins which are past.” Many would say,—We can never hope to understand the meaning of any writing if we err in thinking that the Bible— and the whole Bible—some part by type and symbol, some part by prophecy, some part by explicit doctrinal statement,— teaches that there is the closest connection of means and end between our Saviour’s death and the forgiveness of sins. This teaching lies upon the surface, and penetrates the depths of Scripture. It is indeed the leading doctrine of revelation that Christ hath ‘washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God.’ If we are mistaken in this reading of the Bible, many would say, we cannot hope to understand rightly any part of divine revelation.

We agree with those who would from popular instinct thus determine; and fully believe that those who speak otherwise are not dealing with Scripture language by the same rule which they would apply to any other book. Yet it is known to all that it is earnestly denied by not a few able writers that such things are taught in the Bible. There are influential schools of thought, professedly Christian, and even Protestant, which zealously denounce the notion of an expiation of past sin by Christ’s sacrifice; affirming that there is no direct connection between His death and the forgiveness of sinners. They teach that Christ’s death was simply a measure in God’s providence employed to bring out the sinfulness of man; and so, by affording the noblest example of divine self-sacrifice, to influence men by example to abandon an evil life. As for pardon, — God being a Father, it is said, forgives sin freely, and without further consideration, as soon as the sinner, who is His son, repents. He requires no price, ransom, or satisfaction, whereby impunity may be purchased. Christ is our Saviour in this sense alone, that He leads us to repentance and a new life, and therefore delivers us by such change of character from the punishment due for past offences. The blood-sacrifice of Christ was His life-sacrifice ; and He gave Himself for our sins both bv life and death, in this sense, that He might ‘deliver us from this present evil world,’ by teaching us to do the will of God our Father. The man who repents becomes thereby righteous, and God gives Him eternal life accordingly ; reckoning righteousness to the man who becomes righteous in the root-principle of his being.

With this one-sided teaching accommodation is, I believe, impossible, so long as the apostolic writings are held as authority.

268 Christ dud for ‘sins that arc past?

The answer to be given to these statements rests altogether on interpretation. There is for us no hope of comprehending Christ’s religion except as explained by the New Testament writers. If Christ and His apostles did not understand, or could not clearly express, the divine message, no one else can hope to understand it. We hold, then, that such an idea of atonement as has been just described, not only fails to fill up the meaning of the apostles’ language, but offers to it the utmost violence. The apostles teach, as plainly as words can teach anything, that the death of Christ was an Atonement by expiation, or sin-offering, for ‘srxs That Are Past’ (Romans iii.), not simply a provision for preventing future transgression. They teach that God’s ‘Fatherhood’ was not of the nature of the demoralised fatherhood of the modern world; where the leading notion, on the part of bad children, seems to be that it is the part of a good parent to bear patiently any excess of rebellion or extravagance, to forgive it universally, and even to find means for these excesses, such a line of action being considered specially ‘paternal.’ But? the Scriptures teach that the Fatherhood of God rather resembles the primitive idea of fatherhood set forth in the law of Moses, and throughout antiquity, which included the judicial character ;— so that the father of a family, however loving to good children, was empowered and expected to act as a magistrate; and even to bring forth a ‘rebellious son’ to the gates of the city, and there, if he were ‘a glutton and a drunkard’ (Deut. xxi. 18), deliver him up to the executioner of vengeance; or even to decree the death by fire of a daughter-in-law who had committed fornication, as occurred in the history of Judah the son of Israel (Gen. xxxviii. 24).

The Scriptures, in accord with Nature and Providence, alike teach in every page the eternal authority of righteousness, of righteous ‘severity’ as well as righteous ‘goodness’ (Romans ix.). Revelation knows nothing of a God, forgiving sin without sacrifice or suffering,—nothing of arbitrary pardon, or of the abrogation of law, because the execution of penalty will be painful to the offender, or to the governor. In the physical world we see on all sides inexorable execution of law without regard to the feelings of the violator. In Revelation we find, notwithstanding the presence of mercy for all who comply with certain conditions, the same steadfast assertion of universal order and Divine Righteousness. ‘Thine eye shall not spare,’ is the key-note of the law.

It is necessary, therefore, to explode resolutely the sentimental and wholly romantic notion of the Divine Character, derived from bad human models, on which those proceed who now offer violence to the scripture teaching on the Atonement of Christ. Nature knows nothing of a God who makes little of broken law, directly the breaker of it discovers that he is in trouble, or even professes to be sorry for his offence. It is, as all may see, an awful thing to oppose the physical forces of nature; yet the results of transgression abide, and often operate for generations. Similarly the scripture knows nothing of this false God of modern times—all-benignant, all-forgiving—who takes no account of past sin, immediately that the transgressor desires to escape the penalty. ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’ The most prominent lesson both in Nature and in Scripture is the immense difficulty of doing away with the consequences of law-breaking; for even when sin is forgiven, its secondary consequences remain for ever. Thus it is that the law of Moses… teaches that pardon can be obtained only through sacrifice, and this not eucharistic, but expiatory. The High Priest ‘lays his hand ‘ upon the victim,’confesses over him all the iniquities of Israel,”putting them upon the head of the goat,—and then the blood is carried into the holy of holies to be sprinkled before the Divine Judge, ‘to make an atonement thereby.’ This idea is impressed on the Israelites by every complication of the ritual,— the ‘exceeding sinfulness of sin,’—and pardon only through a sin-offering. This, however, it is said, is but symbol. Yes, but a divinely appointed symbol, whose signification is made clear by the words of our Lord Himself when about to die.

What explanation does the Son of God give to His disciples of the object of His own death? It must be admitted that no words ever spoken by those holy lips ought to receive more reverent attention than His when He was about to ‘offer up Himself.’ If His death were nought else than a representative burnt-offering of obedience to God on man’s behalf, an example of self-sacrifice, for the purpose of stimulating us to live and die self-sacrificingly, He will surely tell us now. If His death were a sin-offering, an expiation of ‘ sins that are past,’ He will surely tell us that also. Hear, then, His words. He ‘took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed on behalf of many, for the remission of sins‘ (Matt. xxvi. 28).

We will not multiply words over this dying utterance of the Son of God; much less offer perverse criticism with a view of explaining away its force. The ‘remission’ of sins, is the word used, in its verbal form, by the same Divine Speaker in the prayer which He taught His disciples. ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;‘ and there as here, it manifestly signifies not reformation of character, but the blotting out or remission or forgiveness of offences that are past. Here, then, at the Last Supper, our Lord declares that He died in order that sin might be forgiven unto men. His death was an atonement, an expiation, a propitiation, a sin-offering. ‘When he shall make his life (or soul) an offering for sin (asham), he shall see his seed’ (Isaiah liii. 10).

Thus also taught the apostles after Christ’s resurrection. S. Paul, in writing an exposition of the way of salvation to the church of Rome—the church of the chief city on earth,—after describing the guilt of both Jews and Gentiles, and setting forth the impossibility of obtaining justification by law, — declares that righteousness is the free gift of God to sinners through Christ, whom God hath set forth, a propitiatory sacrifice, through faith in His blood. The sense of this word may be learned in the Greek version of Numbers v. 8: ‘Let the trespass be recompensed to the Lord, even to the priest, beside the ram of the atonement or propitiation, whereby an atonement or expiation shall be made for him’

S. Paul further declares that this ‘ propitiation,’ or sacrificial expiation, so set forth, is for the purpose of ‘ declaring His righteousness with respect to the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God :— to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness (i.e., His righteousness in remitting past sins), that He might be just, and the justifier of him that bolieveth in Jesus.1

We need not add to these two declarations — one of the Lord Himself, the other of His chief apostle — writing his chief explanatory sentence, in his chief epistle, addressed to the chief church of Christendom. Neither of these statements admits of being justly set aside on critical grounds. And they are supported by the whole body of apostolic teaching ; as in the statements of the epistle to the Hebrews, that ‘He hath put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself ; ‘— that ‘by His own blood He hath obtained eternal redemption for us ; ‘— that ‘ the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, shall purge our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God ; ‘— that ‘ Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many ; ‘— that ‘this man has offered one sacrifice for sins for ever,’ having ‘ by one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified,’ — having (Col. ii. 14) ‘by Himself purged our sins,’ —’ blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us,’ and now ‘ having to make intercession for us.’

The fact of atonement for sins made by the death of the Son of God is then plainly and repeatedly asserted in the New Testament Scriptures.”

Six Arguments Why Justification Cannot be Understood as Infused but Forensic in Edward White, ed. Drake Thursday, Mar 31 2011 

Edward White, Life in Christ Chapter Chap 18 sec. 1

“(1) Prov. xvii. 15. ‘He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, they both are an abomination to the Lord.’ To infuse righteousness into an ungodly man cannot be an abomination to the Lord. The abomination is for a judge to declare innocent a wicked man persisting in his crimes.

(2) Luke x. 29. Of the lawyer who wished to work for salvation it is said, ‘He, willing to justify himself Did he wish to infuse righteousness into himself? He thought himself righteous already. He desired to have himself accounted as righteous, reputed innocent.

(3) In Genesis xliv. 16, Judah exclaims on behalf of his brethren, ‘How shall we clear ourselves?’ Not, how shall we make ourselves into good men? but, how shall we obtain acquittal from guilt, and be regarded as righteous?

(4) In Luke vii. 35, it is said, ‘Wisdom is justified of her children.’ Is righteousness infused into Wisdom? Is wisdom made righteous by her children? No. But wicked men bring charges against wisdom. Of these charges her children acquit her. They all declare wisdom to be righteous.

(5) In 1 Tim. iii. 16, Christ is said to have been ‘justified by the Spirit.’ Was Christ made into a good man by the Spirit? No. But He was crucified as a wicked impostor, false prophet, and sinner; and by His Resurrection He was declared righteous.

(6) In Luke vii. 29, the Saviour speaking of God says, ‘All the people and the publicans justified God.’ Surely publicans and harlots did not infuse righteousness into Him. By receiving John, they declared themselves to be sinners, and God to be righteous.

In these passages—all the undisputed ones—in which the verb to justify is mentioned, we see clearly that to justify does not mean to infuse righteousness, or in any way to make just, but that it means to pronounce innocent, to declare righteous, to account or reckon righteous, to treat as righteous. In short, that, in the Bible, the forensic sense is the true sense.”



The Establishment Principle and Scripturalism Friday, Mar 11 2011 

It was reading Chapter 6 of Free Disputation by Samuel Rutherford that convinced me away from Van Tilism which I was taught in seminary to Scripturalism.

It was the libertines who were arguing that the Bible is mysterious and paradoxical, therefore, we should not establish any religion or punish alleged heretics by the sword because we can never know for sure what the Bible teaches.

Rutherford says,

“9. It argues the word of God, of obscurity and darkness, as not being able to instruct us in all truths, and renders it as a nose of wax in all non-fundamentals, histories, narrations, etc… in which notwithstanding the Scripture is as evident, plain, simple, obvious to the lowest capacities in most points, except some few Prophecies, as it is in fundamentals, and lays a blasphemies charge on the Holy Ghost, as if he had written the Scriptures, upon an intention that we should have no assured and fixed knowledge, no faith but a mere probable opinion, a conjectural, dubious apprehension of truths, with a reserve to believe the contrary, as if the Lord’s purpose had been that we should all be skeptics, and die doubting: and how then can God in justice punish any man, for not believing and doing the will of our Master and Lord? If it be impossible even by the light of the Spirit to know his will in whole (as some say) and in the most part ( as others say) yea it must not be our sinful darkness in that we cannot believe most of the matters of God, but with a reserve, but it is the will and command of God we do so: and how shall we know the second faith contradictory to the former to be the mind of God, and not the first, and the third, and not the second, and the fourth, and not the third, and so the end? since we are to believe all the four with a reserve, and all to our dying day with a reserve for the word is alike dubious now as in Paul’s days: and since the Apostles charge us to believe and be comforted in believing the truths which they believed, not as Apostles, but as Christians, and as fellow Citizens with us, we must say that the apostles also believed with a reserve, which is blasphemous.”

Imagine Samuel Rutherford attending a lecture by James Anderson on the paradoxical nature of Scripture. Rutherford would label him an anabaptist.


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