Christianity…just another pointless therapy? (part 1)

Back in April, I was privileged enough to get to attend Together for the Gospel where I received many books. We would find 3 or 4 books sitting on our chairs when we entered the conference center for each session. Many of those books were about the concept of penal substitutionary atonement. In particular: The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul, Pierced for Our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, In My Place Condemned He Stood by Mark Dever and J.I. Packer, and The Future of Justification by John Piper. I’ve read some of each of these books and some of these books I’ve read in their entirety. I would strongly recommend Sproul’s book for the less theologically minded person. I would recommend all of these books to pastors, elders, teachers, and lay church leaders. One in particular, Pierced for Our Transgressions – Rediscovering the glory of penal substitution, by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach is especially helpful. There is a section in that book especially dedicated to the biblical foundations of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. In that section they walk through the major texts that deal with the teaching of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross.

Why do they do this? Why did the T4G folks pay so much attention to this issue with the books they gave out and the talks that were given? In the halls of scholarship the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement has been under attack. Men, whom most of us have never heard of, have written books, which most of us will never read, attacking this doctrine. Most of this would fall into the category of Christian liberalism. H. Richard Neibuhr summarized the liberal position like this, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.” Outside of the halls of Christian liberalism, there is an even more subtle yet sinister attack upon the doctrine. Dr. Michael Horton makes this commentary on Neibuhr’s statement –

“Doesn’t this seem to be at least the working assumption of a lot of American Christianity across the board today. Is Christ and His saving work central in your church and its ministry? Is your faith regularly redirected back to Christ or is the church itself distracting you from Christ and Him crucified. More than anything else, the reformation of the church that we so desperately need, depends on the recovery of this message in our churches. Without Christ and his cross front and center, every week, Christianity is just another pointless therapy rather than the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.”

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