Editor’s Note — The editorial “Why Disagree About the Words of a Hymn?” published in the Aug. 8 issue received thousands of responses via Twitter, email, the website and phone calls in less than 24 hours. Because of the questions raised by the responses, the following clarification is offered.
By Bob Terry
Editor, The Alabama Baptist
Before I arrived at the office on the morning of Friday, Aug. 9, I received a phone call telling me the editorial “Why Disagree about the Words of a Hymn?” had generated a lot of response overnight. I was shocked when the caller added that I was being accused of not believing in penal substitutionary atonement — the teaching that Jesus paid the price for sin when He died on the cross in our place.
That anything I write would call into question the atoning work of Jesus Christ is inappropriate and to those who read this editorial that way, I apologize.
Let me be clear. I believe in and unapologetically preach: 1. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23); 2. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life (Rom. 6:23); 3. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19); 4. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8); 5. If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom. 10:9); 6. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:13).
Consistent with that belief I wrote in the editorial “…it is God’s grace that initiated the sacrifice of Jesus to provide covering and forgiveness for our sin and that His sacrifice satisfied the holy demands of God’s righteousness for sin to be punished.” I believe that is an affirmation of the penal substitutionary atonement understanding of salvation.
Again, sin separates us from God. Sin has a price that has to be paid before sinful man can be reconciled to a holy God. Jesus paid the price for our sin on Calvary and only because of what was done for us on the cross can we be reconciled to God. I understand that to be bedrock Christian beliefs.
For those interested in my writings about the atonement, let me suggest two examples: March 25, 2010, and April 5, 2012. Other references to the atonement can be found in numerous editorials over the years and most can be found on this website. But let me emphasize again, the Aug. 8 editorial was not about the atonement.
I am beginning to wonder if part of the confusion surrounding the Aug. 8 editorial relates to different meanings of the word “wrath.”
If the meaning is that on Calvary God’s punishment for our sins was poured out on Jesus, then that is certainly biblical and something I would never question. That is my understanding of penal substitutionary atonement and is what I have written through the years.
If the meaning of “wrath” is that God is vindictive and took joy in punishing His Son then that is not how I find God described in the Bible. As I understand the Bible, it was because “God so loved the world” that He was willing “to crush him and cause him to suffer” and become a guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10 NIV). Sin had to be punished to satisfy the righteous justice of a Holy God and only the Son of God could satisfy that demand.
The editorial in question was intended to call us to see the love of God at the cross and not a vindictive God.
To read the Aug. 8 editorial, visit www.thealabamabaptist.org.