Thursday, June 07, 2007

Anathema sit?

Adrian Warnock comments here on further developments in the "penal substitution debate". (If you're not familiar with the debate, I posted something about it here).

The question Adrian addresses now is simply this: isn't there a point where we have to recognise that there are people preaching a gospel which differs so substantially from the one that we have discerned in Scripture that we pronounce it to be "another gospel" - i.e. a message quite distinct from what we recognise as the gospel? And if we do so, is it not inevitable that we consider those preaching it to fall under the apostolic curse of Galatians 1:8?

Many people are up in arms about the very idea of Christians pronouncing curses. But the apostle Paul does it. He does it because the truth of the gospel is threatened. He does it because he believes that truth matters. He does it because he is confident that he has heard from God, and therefore confident that those who contradict him have not heard from God.

Now, if there are people out there who don't believe in penal substitution - who don't believe that Christ bore the penalty for human sin on the cross - then they presumably look at Adrian, and me, and many others as preaching a gospel which is different from theirs. If they believe that they have heard the gospel they preach from God in the pages of Scripture, then they must have the courage of their convictions to place us under the apostolic anathema. Then we would know exactly where we stood. We would have two gospels, both claiming to derive from Scripture, and we would be driven back to exegesis and theology to resolve the issue.

But if the other side will not utter the anathema, how can we believe that they seriously believe that they have heard their gospel from God in Scripture?

The anathema is simply this: a serious assertion that we have heard God's Word in Scripture and must obey it, and therefore necessarily we must issue a call to the rest of the church to hear and obey. Far from being arrogant, this is humble obedience and submission to the voice of God. If our opponents are sure that they hear God's Word, let them tell us so. But we must announce the message we have heard, and therefore we must place those with whom we disagree under the apostolic curse.

It is serious. One party is misrepresenting God. One party is preaching their own words as God's Word. One party therefore stands under the anathema. Let us carefully listen to the voice of God in Scripture, and then let us seriously and solemnly (and not without much sadness) take sides.

To do otherwise is to despise the truth.

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