Theological Reflections: the Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Does God allow doctrinal problems in the church so that Christians will study God’s Word carefully and defend it more accurately against unbiblical ideas? Maybe so. There does seem to be some evidence of this in church history. But whether this is true or not, it does seem that several serious doctrinal deviations have arisen in our generation—one after another—even within what has been considered generally conservative Christianity. From the fifties on, evangelicals debated among themselves the doctrine of the inerrancy of the original writings of Scripture. In response to those evangelicals who were arguing that Scripture was not inerrant in the scientific and historical sections of Scripture, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy was formed in 1977. These biblical scholars planned a ten-year strategy of education, study, and publication. Over the course of ten years, they and others published several important and helpful books, along with the notable Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The battle is not over, but much has been accomplished through careful biblical responses to those compromising the doctrine of Scripture.

Then around the turn of the century, a new approach to the doctrine of God was submitted by those known as Open Theists. Open Theists argue that God does not have detailed control of the universe and that He does not know for sure the future acts of free moral agents. In the words of Al Mohler writing in the end of the twentieth century: “My argument is that the integrity of evangelicalism as a theological movement, indeed the very coherence of evangelical theology is threatened by the rise of the various new ‘theisms’ of the evangelical revisionists.”1 The ideas of Open Theism have been answered by those in support of the classic doctrine of God,2 and the debate has seemingly quieted just in time for another major doctrinal deviation to be proposed.

Now we are hearing that the penal substitutionary view of the atonement should be replaced by some other theory. Seemingly the left side of the Emerging Church has been in the forefront of this grave development, though there is no unified agreement in what the correct theory is. In fact, some, in typically postmodern style, seem to be arguing that there really is no one model of the atonement that gets to the essence of Christ’s death on the cross. The value of the atonement might depend on each individual’s understanding.3

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The Destiny of Those Who Die in Infancy

Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (May/June 1999), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA). It appears here with some slight editing.


In this paper an attempt will be made to show what the Bible teaches about the destiny of those who die in infancy. In order to accomplish this purpose, the major views on this subject will be presented followed by an examination of the biblical material.

The Major Views:

Infants who die in infancy unbaptized do not go to heaven: In Roman Catholic theology there is no official dogma on the destiny of dead unbaptized infants. Nevertheless, the weight of tradition teaches that they go to a place called limbo, which is neither heaven nor hell, a place of natural happiness but without full communion with God. Cf. Limbo: Unsettled Quesion by George J. Dyer (NY: Sheed & Ward, 1964) or Encyclopedia of Theology, edited by Karl Rahner (NY: The Seabury Press, 1975), pp. 850-851.

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Book Review: Salvation Belongs to Our God

Wright, Christopher J. H. Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2007. Paperback, 202 pp. $16.00

(Review copies courtesy of IVP Academic.)
Salvation Belongs to Our GodPurchase: IVP Academic | Amazon | WTS | CBD

Series: Christian Doctrine in Global Perspective series, edited by David Smith and John Stott.

ISBNs: 0830833064 / 9780830833061

Features: Questions for Reflection or Discussion (at the end of each chapter), Endnotes, and Scripture Index

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Book Review: Pierced for Our Transgressions

Jeffery, Steve, Michael Ovey & Andrew Sach. Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. Forward by John Piper. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. Trade Paperback, 373 pages. $25.00.

(Review copies courtesy of Crossway Books.)
PiercedPurchase: Crossway | WTS | CBD | Amazon

ISBNs: 1433501082 / 9781433501081

Special Features: Bibliography (pp. 337-351), Index of Names, and Index of Biblical References

Table of Contents

Excerpts (includes ten pages of Endorsements, Forward by John Piper, Acknowledgments, and Chapter 1: Introduction)

Subjects: Theology, Soteriology, Atonement

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Book Review—Assured by God

By Anthony Hayden

Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace. Parsons, Burk ed. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2006. Hardback, 224 pages. $ 18.00

(Review copy courtesy of P&R Publishing)

Purchase: P&R; WTS; CBD; Amazon

Special Features: Notes, Index of Scripture, Index of Subjects

ISBNs: 1596380292 / 9781596380295

LCCN: 2006930537

DCN: 234

Subjects: Perseverance of the Saints; Eternal Security; Assurance in Salvation

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