CATHEDRAL SCHOOL, SERIES 1:
THE FALSE DOGMA OF ATONEMENT
This lecture introduces the competing soteriologies of atonement and redemption. Whereas “atonement” denotes the idea that Christ’s work on the cross is reparation for a wrong or an injury done to God, “redemption” denotes the idea that Christ’s work on the cross rescues mankind from a state of sinfulness. This stipulative definition of redemption forms the core of what will be called the restored-icon model throughout the rest of this series.
The listener will also be cautioned to approach theological authorities with discernment rather than veneration. Veneration of the physician Galen (circa AD 131-201) retarded the study of medicine until Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) proved by experimentation that Galen’s medical writings were wrong. This lecture applies this lesson to theology.
Run time: 13:14; Posted: 4/18/13
“Atonement” is the term referring to any theory answering the question, “Why did the forgiveness of our sins take Christ’s dying?” Since the time of Anselm, the traditional response among Catholics and Protestants has been that God the Father is enraged at mankind’s sins and God the Son must die in our place to appease that rage. Eastern Orthodoxy’s response represents the far more ancient understanding that mankind is an icon of God that has become damaged, so God himself assumes human flesh to repair it. This lecture examines the dogma of penal-substitutionary atonement as conceived by the medieval Catholic thinker Anselm of Canterbury (AD 1033-1109). Anselm's model of atonement comprises twelve claims, the first four of which are:
- Adam transmits the guilt of his sin to all his descendants (original sin).
- Original sin renders all men vicious and incapable of seeking after God (total depravity).
- Total depravity extends even to infants.
- Adam's sin and the resulting degradation of mankind infinitely offend God.
Run Time: 22:05; Original recording: 5/14/11; Remix: 2/23/14
This lecture continues our exploration of the dogma of penal-substitutionary atonement as formulated by the medieval Catholic theologian Anselm of Canterbury (AD 1033-1109). Having examined the first four of Anselm’s twelve claims in the last lecture, we now turn our attention to claims 5-8:
5. Mankind’s guilt is to be understood as a debt that we owe God for having offended him.
6. Not even infants are free from paying this debt to God.
7. Incapable of paying this debt, mankind can only hope for its cancellation.
8. But God cannot leave sin unpunished without offending his own sense of justice.
Run Time: 21:59; Recorded: 5/21/11; Remix: 2/25/14
This lecture examines the last four claims in Anselm of Canterbury’s model of penal-substitutionary atonement. Those claims are:
Of note in our discussion, we posit that claim #9 lurks behind the western Christian fixation on the blood and gore of crucifixion, Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” exemplifying this trait. You will hear an audio clip in which, remarkably, arch-Calvinist R.C. Sproul, Jr. takes the same contrary position on the blood-and-gore issue that we Eastern Orthodox take.
Run Time: 30:43; Recorded: 5/29/11
Anselm advanced his theory of the atonement in the eleventh century. His modern adherents have refined and elaborated PSA, adding to Anselm’s ideas of dishonor, penalty, and substitution an additional five ideas. This lecture examines the first two of those ideas:
These modern-day followers of Anselm—a body of thinkers that we will call “The Atonement School”—include such names as:
In this lecture, you will hear all of the above personalities articulating aspects of what has become the dominant understanding of Christ’s work—an understanding sharply different from that of Eastern Orthodoxy.
Run time: 18:17; Recorded: 6/5/11
This lecture outlines the last three of the Atonement School’s additions to Anselm’s medieval model of PSA. These claims are:
3. On the cross, Christ becomes a concentrated mass of sin.
4. God forsakes the crucified Christ, turning his back on him.
5. As the perfect, unblemished sacrifice, Christ obviates the need for any further blood sacrifice.
You will hear shocking audio clips of R.C. Sproul advancing claims #3 and 4 by calling the crucified Christ a grotesque, obscene mass of sin that God the Father forsakes (a blasphemous distortion of Gal 3:13 and 2 Cor 5:21).
Run time: 16:23; Recorded: 6/10/11
This lecture contrasts the competing soteriological models of penal-substitutionary atonement (PSA) and the “restored icon.” The first part of this lecture clarifies the meaning of the western Christian concept of “atonement” by providing both its lexical definition (an act meant to correct, redress, or otherwise expiate a wrong or injury) and its meaning in the context of popular theology (a catch-all answer for the question of why Jesus had to die). The second part defines the eastern Christian concept of “redemption” and articulates the “restored icon” model, which states that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ serve as a process by which mankind is restored to a state of righteousness.
The “restored icon” model consists of two main assertions. The evidence supporting the first claim—that human beings are living icons of God that become damaged by sin and must be restored—is drawn from Genesis and the Pauline epistles. Much of the case for the second assertion—that in order to heal mankind, Christ had to fuse every aspect of the human condition to his divinity—is derived from the famous insight of Gregory of Nazianzus: “For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his godhead is also saved.”
Run time: 21:16; Recorded: 6/15/11
The Atonement School’s first claim is: Adam’s federal headship of mankind makes all of us guilty of his sin. This revolting concept goes under the name “original sin” and comes directly from a treatise written in the fifth century by Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430). Although original sin is a heresy in Eastern Orthodoxy, many Christians venerate its originator, Augustine of Hippo, as a saint. Consequently, before we refute original sin, we must spend this lecture examining whether Augustine is rightly called a saint.
Run time: 20:00; Recorded: 6/22/11
The Catholics and Protestants composing the Atonement School owe much of their thinking to the theology of Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) because he directly inspired the theology of Anselm of Canterbury (AD 1033-1109).
In the course of this lecture, we will discover that modern Catholicism comprises two camps: the Moderate Augustinians and the Strict Augustinians. Paralleling this, modern Protestantism also consists of two camps: the Reformed and the Non-Reformed. Although the Moderate Augustinian Catholics and Non-Reformed Protestants can boast some big names in their number, they play almost no role in the Atonement School. Penal-substitutionary atonement is an Augustinian concept to its very core.
Run time: 19:29; Recorded: 6/27/11
The first claim in the composite model of the atonement states that because Adam stands as mankind’s “federal head,” all human beings are guilty of his sin in the Garden of Eden. Theologians of the west call this the dogma of original sin. All Catholics—whether strict or moderate Augustinians—believe in original sin. Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church enshrines this as a mandatory belief (article 1, para 7, § 404). Original sin is also the majority view in Protestantism. All Calvinist Protestants believe in it and all non-Calvinist Protestants either believe in it or CLAIM that they believe in it.
The proof text most used to support this dogma is Rom 5:12. Amazingly, the Atonement School bases its argument NOT on the text of Rom 5:12, but rather on Augustine of Hippo’s interpretation of that text. This error in reasoning, known as the fallacy of hypostatized proof (when one mistakes a received construal of a text for the text itself), no doubt arises from the excessive veneration that western Christians afford Augustine.
This lecture consists of a close reading of Rom 5:12 and its surrounding verses. Comparing the original Greek underlying the text to the ambiguous Latin translation that Augustine used, this lecture demonstrates that Augustine (illiterate in Greek) misread the passage, thereby giving western Christianity the false dogma of original sin. Thus, this cornerstone of Catholic and Protestant theology comes not from the Bible, but rather from a quirk in the Latin of the late-antique period.
That western Christians would accept an interpretation based on post-classical Latin rather than on the Greek of the original texts is all the more stunning when one considers what Augustine himself wrote on the subject of translation:
When some difference occurs in the two versions, where it is impossible for both to be a true record of historical fact, then greater reliance should be placed on the original language from which a version was made by translators into another tongue. (City of God, Book 15, § 13)
Run time: 23:17; Recorded: 7/6/11
“All people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin. Without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.”
That definition of total depravity comes from the Synod of Dordt, a conclave held in Dordrecht, Holland between November, 1618 and May, 1619. Total depravity is the first point of Calvinism and the second point in the 17-point model of PSA that we are examining. Indeed, total depravity and PSA form an inseparable grid—human corruption necessitates atonement because it has provoked God’s wrath.
In arguing on behalf of the restored-icon model and against total depravity, this lecture outlines a convergent series of three arguments:
- Everything created by God is good, both before AND after the fall.
- The Word of God assumes a human nature in the hypostatic union. If human nature is totally depraved, then Christ’s human nature is totally depraved, as well.
- The fact that all civilized societies recognize natural law disproves the notion that humanity cannot incline by nature to that which is good.
This lecture is the first of three articulating why Eastern Orthodoxy rejects total depravity. We elaborate on argument #1 in this lecture. We will address argument #2 in the lecture after this one; argument #3, in the lecture after that.
Run time: 24:03; Recorded: 7/12/11
The Atonement School has to come to grips with three Christological facts:
- Christ is entirely God and entirely man.
- Neither nature is changed by its union to the other.
- Christ is without sin.
These three facts compose what is known as the dogma of the hypostatic union. Since every member of the Atonement School believes both in the hypostatic union and in total depravity, they must explain how Christ’s unmingled fully human nature manages not to be totally depraved.
Run time: 17:22; Recorded: 7/16/11
The Atonement Part 12—The False Dogma of Total Depravity (c)
In the lecture’s second half, we present our third argument against total depravity. The Apostle Paul (both directly in his own epistles and as he is quoted in the book of Acts) teaches that all human beings—both regenerate AND unregenerate—have the law of God clearly written on their hearts. What is more, the unregenerate are actually capable of OBEYING this law (Rom 2:14-16). Therefore, total depravity cannot possibly hold.
Building upon the theology of its forefathers Anselm and Augustine, the Atonement School advances this thesis as the third claim in its model of the atonement:
Even infants, innocent of actual sin, are guilty of original sin and are therefore depraved.
In this lecture, we refute the Atonement School’s use of proof texts like Ps 51:5; Ps 88:16-17; and such “sins of the fathers” passages as Ex 20:5b; Dt 5:9b; and Jer 32:18. Moreover, we also point out that Christ’s human genealogies list such gross sinners as Judah (on his mother’s side) and David (on his father’s side); yet Christ is not depraved.
Run time: 21:00; Recorded: 7/28/11; Remix: 3/2/14
Augustine saw that the Church baptized infants. From seeing that event happen over and over, he inferred three claims by inductive generalization:
- All infants are baptized for the washing away of sin.
- Infant baptism is for the removal of original sin.
- No infants dying unbaptized are saved.
These claims all come out of his book On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants. All three claims are false, but the refutation will come in subsequent lectures. The purpose of THIS lecture is to lay out the best possible moot case for infant depravity as it was understood by Augustine.
Run time: 22:16; Recorded: 8/6/11
The first of Augustine’s three inductive generalizations concerning infant baptism is “All infants are baptized for the washing away of sin.”
This lecture weighs that claim in the balance and finds it wanting. The Bible teaches that baptism serves THREE purposes:
- Initiation into the covenant community (Col 2:11-13)
- Identification with Christ (Rom 6:3-5)
- Purification from sins (Acts 22:16)
Augustine’s argument fails because it assumes that there is only one purpose for baptism (purification from sins). In fact, this is the one purpose that does NOT apply in infant baptism since Augustine himself admits that children have no actual sin.
Run time: 20:16; Recorded: 8/13/11; Remixed 3/3/14
This lecture concludes our refutation of the third claim in the Atonement School’s model: namely, that infants are depraved because they contract original sin. This claim is based on Augustine’s belief that infants are baptized to remove original sin, a belief resulting from his wrong assumption that purification is the sole purpose of baptism. In the course of refuting both the claim of infant depravity and the assumptions on which it is based, we pay especial attention to the fact that baptism also serves the purposes of initiation into the Church and identification with Christ.
Using the Bible—and even Augustine’s own arguments!—we also show that infant baptism is for initiation and identification only, purification being inapplicable. Because infants are not fully functioning rational moral agents capable of incurring sin, they therefore have no sins to wash away. The ancient Christian practice of infant baptism has always been seen as a means to initiate the child into the community and to identify him or her with Christ. It is only in the case of adults and older children that their baptisms fulfill the purification function in addition to the other two. The notion that infants need purification from sin is yet another of Augustine’s defacements of Christian thought and practice.
Run time: 20:12; Recorded: 8/21/11
What makes penal-substitutionary atonement (PSA) necessary is an angry, thin-skinned God whose creatures can actually harm and provoke him with their sins. Such a being is not the immutable, impassible God of the Bible. Such a being is the fantasy conjured by a faulty hermeneutic that takes literary devices in a woodenly literal sense.
This episode argues for the necessity to approach the Bible with a REASONABLY literal hermeneutic. Doing so, one can disabuse oneself of the angry-God problem and, by extension, the dogma of PSA.
In this episode, we explore the biblical authors’ use of such literary devices as anthropomorphism, anthropopathism, metaphor, personification, and simile. We will also hear clips of such conservative Protestants as Walter Martin conceding that a woodenly literal reading of the Bible renders it absurd.
Run time: 19:26; Recorded: 9/18/11
Because radicals in the academies have reduced Christ’s every utterance to the poetic metaphors of a sandals-and-beads proto-hippie, some Christians have swung to the opposite extreme in response, claiming that every word of the Bible must be understood literally. Both approaches are mistaken.
Wooden literalism (primarily a phenomenon among Protestant fundamentalists) produces three problems that were unknown in previous eras of Christianity:
This lecture looks at the first of those three problems. We also refute the common argument that one’s not using a woodenly literal hermeneutic makes one a liberal.
The first lecture on wooden literalism exposed how wooden literalism renders Bible passages absurd or unintelligible. The current lecture exposes how wooden literalism produces 1) a god that is changeable and, therefore, philosophically untenable, and 2) the pathologies of guilt-mongering and fear-mongering.
The two problems that this lecture discusses are actually symptoms of the theurgic heresy; that is to say, the idea that human actions can alter God’s emotional state.
In the course of this lecture, you will hear audio clips from a multitude of denominational perspectives:
- Kevin Schaal (Independent Baptist)
- James MacDonald (non-charismatic, conservative evangelical)
- Clement Machado (Catholic)
- R.C. Sproul, Sr. (Presbyterian)
- Walter Martin (Southern Baptist)
- Larry Richards (Catholic)
- John MacArthur (Independent Reformed)
We examine all of these perspectives in the light of Eastern Orthodox teaching.
Run time: 32:42; Posted: 12/26/11
The model of PSA that we have been examining is a combination of Anselm’s twelve claims and five additional claims made by Anselm’s modern adherents, a group we call the Atonement School. Claim #7 in this composite model is the first claim that comes from the Atonement School and not from Anselm. It asserts that God instituted the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament because His wrath against sin cannot be appeased by any means other than the shedding of blood.
In the process of disproving the theory of divine bloodlust to refute claim #7, we explain how the Atonement School’s conception of God’s wrath is based on a face-value reading of Heb 9:22 that lacks the necessary context. We address the wrongness of the Atonement School’s belief that God’s wrath is an emotional manifestation of contempt for human beings and point out that their assertion that God “hates” us contradicts the evidence we are provided in Jn 3:16 and 1 Jn 4:8.
Run time: 28:04; Recorded 1/14/12
This lecture continues our look at the series of arguments that converge in the Atonement School’s seventh claim—that God instituted the Old Testament sacrifices as a means for men of that period to placate his wrath. The sub-argument for which this lecture makes a moot case states that God has required blood sacrifice from all men in all eras.
Playing devil’s advocate, we evaluate in chronological order the biblical passages adduced by the Atonement School to show that God has accepted animal sacrifices in every historical era. God demands blood sacrifice from mankind in:
The Atonement School itself would be hard pressed to present a better prima facie case. We will cross-examine this case in the next lecture.
Run time: 19:32; Recorded: 1/30/12
Our devil’s-advocate case for claim #7 concludes in this lecture as we examine the remaining three of the five arguments underlying that claim. Those arguments are:
- God enjoys animal sacrifice.
- Blood sacrifice is an atonement transaction.
- The sacrifice of Christ is the final atonement transaction.
The Atonement School makes an extremely convincing prima facie case for the above arguments. One would be a poor advocate, indeed, if one could NOT make a convincing case from the Bible. The entire book of Leviticus and substantial portions of Exodus and Numbers concern nothing BUT animal sacrifices. Moreover, the text often tells us that God finds these sacrifices “sweet smelling.” And seemingly, the more animals that one slays and burns, the sweeter God finds the smell. For the first day of the annual Feast of Booths, for instance, God commands an astonishing sacrifice of thirteen bullocks, two rams, and fourteen yearling lambs (Nm 29:13).
In the course of this lecture, you will hear audio clips from such usual suspects as James MacDonald and John MacArthur. But our most interesting finds come as we make a foray into the crazy world of televangelist Jack Van Impe!
Run time: 30:53; Posted: 3/10/12
“Because God hates us, we have to placate him with blood offerings.” So says the Atonement School.
Our task in this lecture is to expose the faulty presuppositions behind this mindset. We begin by showing the Atonement School’s commission of two mistakes in reasoning: the pragmatic fallacy and the fallacy of semantical questions. Then—by paralleling their claims with the competing heliocentric and geocentric models of the solar system current in the early-modern era—we show that this camp has constructed a faulty model that does not account for all of the Biblical data.
Finally, we define the theological concepts of essence and energies. Thereby, we show that “hatred” is merely a phenomenological description of what happens when human sin interacts with God’s energies.
Run time: 23:16; Posted: 5/19/12 (originally 4/20/12)
While the Atonement School claims that the Old Testament animal sacrifices took place to placate God’s furious hatred of humanity, the Bible sharply differs. In fact, the Bible explicitly states that all of the following offerings or actions bring the same level of atonement as animal sacrifice:
- Flour offerings (Lv 5:11-13),
- Incense offerings (Nm 16:44-48),
- Spoils of war (Nm 31:50),
- Artwork (1 Sam 6:3-8),
- Acts of lawful iconoclasm (Is 27:9),
- Doing good deeds (Dn 4:27).
This lecture also exposes the Atonement School’s misuse of Leviticus 17:11 (“it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul”) and Hebrews 9:22 (“without shedding of blood is no remission [of sins]”).
Run time: 23:04; Posted: 5/19/12 (originally 4/20/12)
This lecture continues our examination of the seventh claim in the composite model of penal-substitutionary atonement (PSA); that is, that God instituted the Old Testament animal sacrifices because mankind’s debt to him must be paid in blood. Animal sacrifice is a type of temporal punishment that an “angry God” imposes on mankind.
Temporal punishment is the concept in western Christian (read: Catholic and Protestant) thinking that God sometimes punishes individuals on this side of the grave rather than waiting to punish them in hell in the afterlife. Although the Bible does record instances of God’s temporally punishing individuals or groups, the instances are so rare that one’s establishing a theology atop those passages is simply hermeneutic foolishness. In fact, the only purpose for God’s applying temporal punishment at all is to bring men to repentance and/or to save society at large from the consequences of gross sin. It has nothing to do with an angry God’s venting his wrath.
In our examination of this topic, we also draw illustrations from the life and music of Keith Green, Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, and Chris Isaak.
Run time: 23:19; Posted: 7/14/12
Continuing our examination of temporal punishment, we turn now to the story of Uzzah found in 2 Sam 6:2-7. An inexhaustible sermon generator for Atonement School exponents, this story tells of God’s striking down Uzzah after the latter touched the Ark of the Covenant. Although a surface reading of this story seems to show temporal punishment in action, that understanding actually originates in the Atonement School’s reading the story through a wrongly tinted lens.
This concept of one’s viewing the world through tinted lenses is called a paradigm. Religion is a paradigm, or, if you wish, a pair of glasses through which one views the world. Philosophy of religion is when one takes off one’s glasses and looks AT them rather than THROUGH them. When one has examined one’s glasses and, finding them wanting, replaces them with a different set of glasses, one has undergone a “paradigm shift.”
This lecture argues that once Catholics and Protestants undergo the proper paradigm shift, their theology of temporal punishment will also shift. In the process, they will also have to reject related concepts, such as the Catholic dogma of Purgatory.
Run time: 21:21; Posted: 8/5/12
This lecture concludes our examination of temporal punishment and repudiates the sanctimonious use that the Atonement School makes of the Uzzah story found in 2 Sam 6:2-7. The Atonement School has misread this story by assuming that God strikes Uzzah down as punishment for laying his hands on a holy object. In truth, God’s law against touching the ark was a safety regulation serving the same purpose as any other type of safe-handling instruction (e.g., do not smoke near propane tanks). Uzzah was killed by the ark because it had inherently hazardous physical properties, much like a live electrical line. He did not die because a thin-skinned deity “got mad at him.”
Sadly, the Atonement School throws aside this common-sense interpretation, imagining God as an arbitrary being who makes rules for no apparent reason and then punishes violators on the spot. In fact, if the Atonement School’s interpretation of 2 Sam 6:2-7 is correct, then the God of the Bible is little better than the loathsome gods of Greco-Roman myth and is not worthy of worship. We draw a comparison between the Atonement School’s god and the Roman goddess Minerva, who angrily transforms the beautiful Medusa into a Gorgon for an act over which Medusa had no control whatsoever.
Run time: 24:36; Posted: 8/26/12
This lecture continues our refutation of the seventh claim in the composite model of penal-substitutionary atonement (PSA). The seventh claim states that God instituted the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament (OT) because mankind’s debt to him for having stolen his honor must be paid in blood. One of the sub-arguments for the above is the claim that God has required blood from all men in all eras. In actual fact, OT worthies are far more apt to offer God sacrifices of oil, bread, or wine, or to honor him by erecting altars and memorial stones. This lecture’s first half proves this by a detailed examination of Genesis.
In the second half of the lecture, we confront the Atonement School’s atrocious misuse of the Cain-and-Abel story found in Gn 4:1-17. Lectures 26 and 27 exposed their abuse of the Uzzah story in 2 Sam 6:7, but their abominable handling of Cain and Abel is even more shocking. A lengthy audio clip from a 1980 sermon by Chuck Swindoll shows this esteemed Protestant pastor splicing a made-up narrative into Genesis—and then presenting it to his congregation as if it actually were the Biblical text!
Run time: 25:27; Posted: 9/15/12
Although in the early books of the Old Testament God demands that animals be sacrificed to him, he is very prone to rejecting these blood sacrifices. Sacrifice becomes invalid when offered with the wrong intent, something we would not expect were God the legalistic bureaucrat envisioned by Anselm and his Atonement School. Plainly, God desires man’s becoming consecrated through obedience, not through mechanical bloodletting.
By contrast, God names three things that he NEVER rejects as sacrifices: praise, justice, and repentance. This belies the Atonement School’s notion that mankind’s debt to God can only be paid in blood. But what destroys that notion once and for all is that the Bible indicates that God actually ABOMINATES blood sacrifice. Evidence of this can be found in Isaiah, First Samuel, Psalms, Micah, Hosea, and the deuterocanonical book The Song of the Three Holy Children, from all of which works we abstract in this lecture.
Run time: 19:18; Posted: 10/4/12
Having shown in the preceding lectures that God abominates animal sacrifice, we must now explain why God demanded it in the first place. Contra Anselm and the Atonement School, the answer has nothing to do with debt repayment. God institutes the first animal sacrifices in order to force the Hebrews to destroy the totems of Egypt’s gods. Thereby, Israel can cleanse itself from the idolatry in which it had been steeped for the 400 years that it sojourned in Egypt.
A particularly vivid instance of this totem destruction is the Passover sacrifice of Exodus 12. God orders the Hebrews to sacrifice male lambs and smear the blood on the lintels of their doors, a sacrilege to the ovine god Khnum. In Egyptian thought, this ram-headed god created children’s life force on his potter’s wheel and watched over their childhood health. So by killing a juvenile ram, the Hebrews are symbolically destroying the protector of Egypt’s babies, making way for the angel of death to kill all the firstborn of Egypt.
Run time: 21:57; Posted: 10/30/12
As we continue with our refutation of claim #7 in the composite model of PSA (the claim concerning animal sacrifice), we turn to the task of identifying the oppressive Pharaoh described—but not named—in the book of Exodus. In this lecture, we posit that Ramses II is the Pharaoh in question. Our reasons are four:
The next lecture will show how all of this relates to the first blood sacrifices that God requires of Israel.
Run time: 24:52; Posted: 11/11/12
This lecture emphasizes the legal bifurcation that occurs in Exodus 32, the golden-calf incident. Prior to this apostasy, God had only demanded five sacrifices of the Hebrews:
What one notices about these sacrifices is that they are comparatively few (three of them take place only once a year) and none of them has anything to do with penalties or substitutions. They are all designed either to cleanse the Israelites from their 430-year exposure to Egyptian idolatry or to remind their descendants that the God of Israel is supreme over the false gods of the heathens.
That state of affairs changes radically after Exodus 32, and will be the subject of the next two lectures.
Run time: 20:31; Posted: 12/6/12
When discussing the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, one must distinguish between those established prior to the golden calf and those established thereafter. God established the animal sacrifices pre-golden calf for the purposes of iconoclasm. Destroying sacred Egyptian totems served both to insult Ramses II and to debase the gods of Egypt in the eyes of the Israelites.
God established the animal sacrifices post-golden calf as punishment for the Aaronic order’s allowing the golden calf to be worshipped. Since Aaron (who had been given a special priesthood) betrayed God by making the golden calf for the Israelites, God imposes a special punishment upon him and his sons: namely, the bewildering cycle of animal sacrifices described in Leviticus and Numbers. Since Aaron was willing to return the Israelites to the worship of the Apis Bull (represented by the golden calf), God arranges that Aaron and his sons shall have to sacrifice this totem animal on an almost daily basis. In essence, God is sticking Aaron’s face into the animals’ blood.
In the course of this lecture, we also distinguish between the Aaronic and Levitical orders and touch briefly upon the Lutheran heresy of Sola Fide.
[Erratum: At 16:38, Paul identifies the Didascalia Apostolorum as a work of the second century; it is actually a work of the third century.]
Run time: 23:41; Posted: 12/20/12
Whereas the Jews must approach God with animal sacrifice, the Gentiles are exempt from this burden.
- The Philistines may draw near to God with artwork.
- The Chaldeans may draw near to God with good deeds and kindness to the poor.
- The Assyrians may draw near to God by simple repentance.
- The Persians may draw near to God with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
- And the Romans may draw near to God by almsgiving and obedience to natural law.
This lecture explains this situation as God’s object lesson for a stiff-necked, rebellious, and ultimately wicked people. In the process, we also touch upon the bizarre novelty known as Christian Zionism.
Run time: 26:29; Posted: 12/29/12
One of the load-bearing walls in the structure of penal-substitutionary atonement is the idea that God cannot forgive a sin without first punishing the sinner. This wall comprises the eighth and ninth claims made by the Atonement School and gives rise to a concept known as the strict-justice theory. This concept is ubiquitous across both strict and moderate Augustinian Catholicism and across both Reformed and non-Reformed Protestantism. In short, the whole Atonement School accepts it. When applied, the strict-justice theory leads to four major errors.
In beginning our examination of the strict-justice theory, we first show how this assumption—that forgiving a sin without punishing the sinner harms God and robs him of honor—reduces him to the status of an exalted but finite man who needs things from humanity to avoid being diminished. Second, we critique the assumption that God is an automaton who is programmed to mete out retribution every time human sin pulls his handle—which reduces Him to the status of an exalted machine built to exact temporal punishment. Third, we expose the false dichotomy that the strict-justice theory erects between justice and mercy. Last, we explore how this theory underlies the heretical Catholic teaching of Purgatory.
Run time: 17:43; Posted: 1/21/13
The strict-justice theory avers that God cannot forgive a sin without first punishing the sinner. This has posed a problem for western theologians for centuries because the books of Genesis, 2 Kings, and Revelation depict people either in heaven or being assumed into heaven. It is impossible that the persons depicted lead sinless lives because 1 Jn 1:18 states that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. Why are these sinners not being punished in hell if God is strictly just?
To circumvent this problem, Catholic theologians posited a place between earth and salvation where God can punish otherwise good souls who left this life still sinning venially. Once the souls have expiated their sins in this place, known as Purgatory, they can be admitted into heaven.
Thus, a Catholic holding to the strict-justice theory (plank #9 in the structure of penal-substitutionary atonement) has a consistent theology. The clever, albeit heretical, dogma of Purgatory gives him cover. But for the Protestants of the Atonement School, there is no way out of this dilemma. Either souls are punished in Purgatory before being admitted into heaven, or God is not strictly just. To the Reformation-minded, these are wicked alternatives, indeed.
Run time: 16:25; Posted: 2/4/13
This lecture concludes our examination of the Atonement School’s ninth claim: “God cannot forgive a sin without first punishing the sinner.” The previous episode demonstrated that this claim leads to the heretical doctrine of Purgatory. In today’s lecture, we add three more arguments to the convergent series undermining claim #9.
First, we adduce biblical evidence exploding the Atonement School’s false dichotomy between God’s justice and his mercy. In fact, God is neither strictly just nor all forgiving; he is equitable. This can be seen plainly in the parable of the unforgiving servant, the parable of the Prodigal Son, and several other passages from the Gospels.
Second, we show that God does not need to recoup a sinner’s “debt” from an alternate source prior to God’s forgiving or healing the sinner. God simply forgives human sin because no human being can possibly steal from God—hence, no human being can possibly owe God anything.
Finally, the claim requires that one hypostatize sin, a maneuver that should simply be laughed out of court. The Atonement School must provide us with serious arguments, not excerpts from Paradise Lost.
Run time: 28:20; Posted: 2/19/13
Anselm claims that Christ’s blood must be shed on mankind’s behalf to repay God for mankind’s having harmed the divine honor by sinning. Anselm then claims that Christ’s blood must be shed by means of crucifixion because God demands that this debt be paid in the most painful manner possible.
The byproducts of this bizarre understanding of Christ’s death are equally horrifying. First, it means that the Catholics and Protestants of the Atonement School worship a god who is little more than a glorified dungeon master. Second, it turns the Gospel narratives into Quentin Tarantino-style “torture porn.” And third, it easily leads one into the heresy of aphthartodocetism (a species of Monophysitism that deems Christ’s body and blood divine rather than human).
Gospel music is correct when it joyfully proclaims, “There’s power in the blood!” However, the restored-icon model of redemption reaches this conclusion from completely different premises. The power of Christ’s blood stems not from its supposedly being divine, but precisely from its being ORDINARY HUMAN BLOOD. The fusing of human blood to the Word of God’s divinity within Jesus of Nazareth is what heals our own blood and enables the icon of God within humanity to be restored. THAT is the real power of Christ’s blood.
Run time: 27:32; Posted: 4/9/13
Our camp agrees with the Atonement School that in order for mankind to be saved, Christ must die by execution and not by natural means. We also agree that the means of execution must be crucifixion, not any other means. That is where the agreement ends.
Drawing heavily upon the writings of Athanasius (AD 296-373), this lecture shows that the necessity of Christ’s execution by crucifixion has nothing to do with God’s supposedly wanting to exact from Christ the most punishing death possible. Rather, it is necessary for Christ to die by execution because his mission is to overturn “natural death.” His dying by natural means would have been completely inappropriate symbolically and actually. As for the manner of his execution, it is necessary that Christ be executed by crucifixion for three reasons:
- It proves his divinity, because he is able to rise victorious over the worst death his adversaries could impose upon him.
- Christ enters death high in the air, which Eph 2:2 identifies as Satan’s domain. Thereby, Christ shatters Satan’s control over the air, blazing a heavenward trail for mankind.
- The cross fittingly symbolizes Christ’s healing mission, mirroring the brass serpent that Moses raised up in Num 21:4-9 to heal the Hebrews of their snakebites.
Because Eastern Orthodox Christians often approach patristic sources with simpleminded credulity, we also take a moment in this lecture to expose the sometimes overly Alexandrine Christology of Athanasius. The purpose of this side trip is to show that one must use discernment even when examining revered Church Fathers.
Run time: 27:55; Posted: 5/17/13
Claims #11 and 12 of the composite model of PSA read as follows:
#11—The only commodity valuable enough to recompense God for his infinitely offended honor is the shed blood of a god-man.
#12—Thus the Son of God becomes incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth so that his human nature can suffer and die as our substitute.
These two claims can be refuted singly on their lack of biblical merit, or refuted together on the basis that the truth of one renders the other false. Consider: Christ’s infinite divine nature, being impassible, can neither suffer nor die. Therefore it is his finite and passible human nature that must suffer and die as mankind’s proxy. However, God’s infinite offense must be satisfied by the sacrifice of an infinite being. How, then, can the death of a finite human nature satisfy God’s infinite offense? Here we have the oxymoron of the “infinite finite.”
In their attempts to avoid the self-contradiction of the “infinite finite,” Atonement School grandees only make the situation worse by falling into such brambles as the Eutychian, aphthartodocetic, and theopaschite heresies. Necessarily, this lecture devotes much time to an examination of proper Christology. In the process, you will hear audio clips from:
- R.C. Sproul,
- Jack Van Impe,
- John MacArthur,
- David Jeremiah,
- Norman L. Geisler, and
- Robert Godfrey
Run time: 27:05; Posted: 5/26/13
This lecture continues our critique of claim #12—the idea that the Son of God becomes incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth so that his human nature can suffer and die as our substitute. Unfortunately for Anselm and his defenders, this claim does not even pass the laugh test.
Conservative Christians agree that the Bible neither contradicts itself nor yields absurdities. Yet claim #12 makes the Bible do exactly that, resulting in “Substitution Silliness.” For example, Ephesians 4:32 admonishes us to forgive one another “even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” But according to the substitution theory, in order for God to be freed from his sense of justice, he first has to kill his own innocent Son. So if one is to forgive someone as God forgave us in Christ, then that means one first has to punish a totally innocent party in order to be made propitious enough to forgive the offending party.
Furthermore, if by taking our punishment on the cross Christ thereby paid for everything that we have done wrong, then why does God have to punish sin a second time by sending sinners to Hell? The escape hatch that the Atonement School uses here, limited atonement, does not adequately account for verses such as John 12:32; 2 Peter 3:9; and 1 Timothy 2:3-4.
Finally, claim #12 should be laughed out of court because it does not even measure up to generally accepted principles of natural law and human positive law. “Blackstone’s ratio” states: “The law holds it better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent party suffer.” Yet Anselm’s god intentionally kills the innocent.
Run time: 25:58; Posted: 7/2/13
God pours out his wrath on the crucified Christ, pretending that Christ is we, the ones who actually deserve to be punished.
So goes claim #13 of the composite model of PSA. This is the second of the 17 claims that comes from the Atonement School, rather than from Anselm. Anselm certainly taught the concept of Christ’s substituting himself for us, but the AS adds to it the idea of God’s actually venting his anger on his own son. Christ having gone to the cross to be our substitute, God may now chastise him with the punishment that is due us.
The Atonement School infers this claim from a face-value reading of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, a text known commonly as the Suffering Servant passage.
By inferring claim #13 from the Suffering Servant passage, the Atonement School violates two hermeneutic principles that it scrupulously observes in other contexts. The first principle states that when interpreting a text, one may not ignore other texts on the same subject. The second principle states that no interpretation may be accepted if it renders a passage absurd. Claim #13 violates the first principle because it flies in the face of a number of passages that forbid the execution of the innocent in place of the guilty. It violates the second principle because it shows God expressing displeasure in the Son in whom he is well pleased—and even demanding that his Son’s innocent blood be spilled.
Run time: 23:30; Posted: 7/6/13
Continuing our examination of the Suffering Servant passage (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), this lecture begins by turning our attention to Mt 8:14-17. In this scripture, Matthew states plainly that Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled when Christ heals the sick and the demon-possessed. Thus, the Suffering Servant passage pertains to Christ’s healing mankind, not to his being vicariously punished therefor.
Because even advocates of the restored-icon model miss this obvious refutation of penal-substitutionary atonement, fairness dictates that we exonerate the Atonement School for also missing it. So the bulk of this lecture concerns itself with describing concepts that one must grasp before one can construe the Suffering Servant passage (or any text) rightly. These concepts are seven in number:
The Atonement School’s failure to grasp these concepts accounts for its misinterpretation of the Suffering Servant passage.
Run time: 26:49; Posted: 9/1/13
Run time: 31:14; Posted: 12/1/13
Matthew 27:46 and parallel passage Mk 15:34 record Christ’s crying out from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” According to mainstream Protestant thought, this indicates the point at which Christ—having become incarnate sin—is deserted by God the Father, whose eyes are too holy to behold sin. The idea that God the Father “turns his back” on the crucified Christ is the third of five claims that modern Protestants add to Anselm’s medieval Catholic model of atonement. When one mixes those five claims with Anselm’s original twelve, one gets the composite model of atonement known as penal-substitutionary atonement (PSA). This “God turns his back on Christ” idea is the 15th of the composite model’s 17 claims.
In this lecture, you will learn that Christ’s seeming cry of dereliction is actually a reference to a Psalm about a suffering servant who nonetheless is NOT abandoned by God. Hence, the proof text that the Atonement School uses to advance the idea of an abandoned Christ actually points to a Christ in full communion with his Father, even during the crucifixion.
Moreover, in Jn 8:28-29 and Jn 16:32, Christ prophesies that though the disciples will abandon him at the hour of his arrest and crucifixion, the Father will yet be with him. These verses alone are enough to render claim #15 incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial. But for good measure, we also point out that claim #15 requires a divided Trinity—a theology unacceptable even among PSA’s most hardened advocates. Yet you will discover that these partisans cling to PSA even when it causes cognitive dissonance with their other most firmly held dogmas.