The Atonement


(About this series)



The Christian world as a whole believes in a substitutionary atonement. This has been its belief ever since it began to think. The doctrine was stated by Athanasius as clearly and fully as by any later writer. All the great historic creeds which set forth the atonement at any length set forth a substitutionary atonement. All the great historic systems of theology enshrine it as the very Ark of the Covenant, the central object of the Holy of Holies.

While the Christian world in general believes in a substitutionary atonement, it is less inclined than it once was to regard any existing theory of substitution as entirely adequate. It accepts the substitution of Christ as a fact, and it tends to esteem the theories concerning it only as glimpses of a truth larger than all of them. It observes that an early theory found the necessity of the atonement in the veracity of God, that a later one found it in the honor of God, and that a still later one found it in the government of God, and it deems all these speculations helpful, while it yearns for further light.


If we should ask those who hold this doctrine on what grounds they believe that Christ is the substitute for sinners, there would be many answers, but, perhaps, in only two of them would all voices agree. The first of these grounds Read more about The Atonement

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Mechanical Religion - Isaiah 58 and Matthew 6


A shofar ("trumpet")

In my first book, The Midrash Key, I argue that many of Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) teachings—including sections of The Sermon on the Mount—find their origin in Deuteronomy or Leviticus. Our Lord gathered a large crowd together for the Sermon on the Mount, so we know it was much longer than the eleven-minute summary found in the Gospel According to Matthew. Two hours would be the bare minimum, but He probably taught all day. We only have the summary the Gospel writers preserved.

Today I am suggesting that another part of The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:1-4, 16-23) finds its origin in Isaiah 58:1-8. I believe Jesus commented on and developed themes from this text. See if you agree with me.

The theme of this section is “God detests mechanical religion.” In other words, God does not want our lip service, He wants our hearts, our selves. He has no tolerance for mechanical religion; He will not be controlled or manipulated. We can obey Him, but we can do Him no favors. We owe Him total allegiance by birth.

How we live on a daily basis is also a spiritual issue. When it comes to being a follower of Yeshua, we are not allowed to segment ourselves. We may be more “secular” in our jobs or among our lost family members than we would be with fellow believers, but we still must adhere to Christian ethics and conduct. Read more about Mechanical Religion - Isaiah 58 and Matthew 6

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A Review of Robert Chisholm's Commentary on Judges & Ruth


Image of A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library)
by Robert B. Chisholm Jr.
Kregel Academic 2013
Hardcover 704
In the past Judges and Ruth have not been particularly well served by commentators (Leon Wood’s Distressing Days of the Judges being one notable exception). Many studies in the past were more homiletical than analytical. The Book of Judges presents some unique problems for the Bible interpreter. Such issues as the date of certain judges, the extent of their careers and influence, the numbers in the Book, not to mention the overall chronology of the period, offer challenges which can impact how one approaches the other historical books.

Thankfully that situation has changed in recent years with the publication of solid works by Butler, Block and Webb, supported by those by Younger and, to a lesser extent, Davis. Thus, the gap has been filled. How then does this new contribution from Robert B. Chisholm in Kregel’s Exegetical Library measure up? Read more about A Review of Robert Chisholm's Commentary on Judges & Ruth

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Separating from Our Enemies and Friends - Aphorisms for Thinking About Separation


Aphorism 6: Our patterns of application of separation need to include people to the left and the right on the group boundary markers—our “friends” and those who make us uncomfortable. Grace on believers who are like us or provide advantages to us but no or little grace on believers who are different is a sin (James 2:1; Luke 6:32-33).

Seven years ago, I became the pastor of a church that had a history of practicing second-degree separation. My exposure to the defense of such doctrine and the organizations enforcing it had been rather limited. And so I began reading, watching, and asking questions. Many of the conversations that I’ve had were decidedly cordial—some less so.

Allow me to share how one conversation about separatism with a representatives of a mission board went: Read more about Separating from Our Enemies and Friends - Aphorisms for Thinking About Separation

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The Dark Hazard of Atheism


Religion is one of the great evils of our world: So argued Karl Marx, the nineteenth century German philosopher and revolutionary socialist. Marx dismissed religion as an opiate that numbed the minds of common people to their pitiful social conditions. He maintained that the myth of an afterlife, in which the faithful are rewarded, was fabricated by oppressed people in their desperation to devise means by which to cope with their earthly sufferings.

Under the spell of this myth, the poor secured just enough contentment to weather their oppression at the hands of the wealthy. Marx challenged the lower classes to recognize that God is a fantasy and heavenly reward a fiction. If they would unlock the door on this conceptual prison of their own making, they would pave the way to their liberation from economic oppression and its array of attendant miseries.

But subsequent history revealed a dark hazard in atheism. Former atheist, Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) saw this menace up close and exposed it. Milosz studied law, was fluent in five languages, and distinguished himself as a poet, translator, and author of Polish prose. Born in Lithuania, he lived much of his life in Poland under Nazi oppression and embraced atheism and leftist views before defecting to France from communist Poland in 1951. He spent many years teaching literature at the University of California, Berkeley, received the Nobel Prize for Literature, the U.S. National Medal of Arts, and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. Read more about The Dark Hazard of Atheism

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The Tightrope of Separation: Four Contrasts


From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission. Read the series so far.

In that crucial New Testament passage on separation, 2 Corinthians 6:14, God gives us four areas of contrast. Note that there is nothing in common in any of these areas.

The first contrast is the matter of principles and standards. Verse 14 asks: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion hath light with darkness?” What possible fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? If it is righteous, it is not unrighteous; and if it is unrighteous, it is not righteous. These utterly contradict each other. It is just like light and darkness: if it is dark, it is not light, and if it is light, it is not dark. It is just the same thing as saying that God has learned to live in peaceful coexistence with Satan (which is impossible). Or that righteousness can stand unrighteousness—impossible. They cannot be together in any sense of the word. Read more about The Tightrope of Separation: Four Contrasts

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From the Archives: Why We Need Dads


Conventional wisdom these days seems to quietly concede that dads are not all that necessary anymore. Just watch a sitcom. One mom (or two) is sufficient for a healthy upbringing. Dads may be great, but are most certainly dispensable.

Due to the mercies of God, dads are sometimes unnecessary. Kids who grow up without a father in the home can develop into strong, successful people. Having said that, principles should not be constructed from exceptional cases. Broadly speaking, kids prosper uniquely when they are afforded the privilege of growing up under the influence of an involved, loving father who acts like a man.

For a somewhat distinct set of reasons, children equally need moms. I’m not denying overlap between the two subsets; nor am I suggesting all dads must fit a precast mold. But qualifiers aside, engaged fathers bequeath unique benefits to the nurture of healthy, well-rounded children. And it’s okay to say so now and then.

Why do kids need dads? The question could be answered from any number of angles—physiological, philosophical, sociological, theological, etc. Permit here a less formal response. Why do kids need dads? Bear hugs. Wrestling matches in the living room. Launching toddlers into the air and catching them on their way down—even if only by one limb. Responding triumphantly to the bloodied knee of a quivering-lipped munchkin looking for pity: “Way to go, kid-o, nice work!” Discussing what’s under the hood of a car and why it matters. Tackle football in the back yard. Demonstrating the fine art of mowing the lawn and cleaning out the garage. Initiating, then providing the calming presence on a scary amusement park ride. Watching a ball game and analyzing it afterwards. Playing with knives. Demonstrating a love for sweaty, dirty work. Telling a kid pointedly: “Get over it,” or “No, you can’t do that.” No monkey-business enforcement of consequences for children who break rules. Teaching the craft of using power tools, raking the lawn, changing a tire, and building a bike ramp. Pedagogy on shaving and tying a tie. Leading hunting, fishing, and camping trips, and adventurous hikes in nature. Teaching teenagers to park the car in the garage. Teaching teens to take responsibility when parking the car in the garage doesn’t go so well. Gruff warnings to the young man showing interest in your daughter. Gruffer words when warding off sleaze balls interested in the same daughter. Enlightening your daughter to the reality that what she sees as a cute outfit strikes guys differently. Warning sons about the destructive powers of pornography. Handling failure and trials with a steady spirit and steely resolve. Showing confidence and faith in God during tough times. Demonstrating the grace and strength of saying, “I was wrong, please forgive me” and “I love you.” Showing appropriate affection to the kids’ mother. Protecting and honoring that same woman before their eyes with persistent fidelity. Bequeathing to the kids the stabilizing roots of family culture, of faith in God, of hope and love. Read more about From the Archives: Why We Need Dads

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"Imminent" May Not Mean "Soon" - Aphorisms for Thinking About Separation


Aphorism 5: No one knows when Jesus is coming back or how long it will be before Jesus comes back, and so application of separation passages cannot be dependent on how close or far the return of Christ is.

The words are startlingly clear—“the Pope of Rome … is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” This statement is found in The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 (26.4) as well as in unmodified versions of the Westminster Confession of Faith (25.6). Currently most modern Presbyterians and Baptists using these confessions have changed the wording or do not enforce this section. However, some stalwarts still remain.

Let’s unfold the exegesis a bit. There are about a dozen passages of Scripture in play, and application has been made. The “man of sin [has been] revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3, KJV). The “falling away” has occurred and the person bearing the title “the Pope of Rome” is the end time’s figure of the final antichrist (cf. 1 John 2:18). Of the 7 billion people on the planet currently, only one man or his successor can be the antichrist. There is now no possibility of salvation for some future pope, because he is the antichrist. And there is no point in continued exploration of the meaning of Daniel, Matthew 24, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Revelation on this issue. Read more about "Imminent" May Not Mean "Soon" - Aphorisms for Thinking About Separation

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