Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Wednesday, August 8

The lies of the Devil

In my previous post I responded to a post by Rev Sam that argued against Penal Substitution. He responded thus, and in the comments on that post Macrina said “The Christian God cannot be anything other than love poured out, endless compassion”

In my mind the Devil has two main lies.

The first is “God is nothing but a strict despotic tyrant

The second is “God is nothing but love

The first lie is used to trap people into guilt, rebellion, and sin. It is sometimes expressed as “You’re too sinful for God to forgive”

The second is to blind people to guilt, rebellion, and sin. It is sometimes expressed as “Don’t worry, God loves you anyway”

The most effective lies are 90% truth.

It is true that God is all-powerful, intolerant of rebellion, punishing those that disobey. He killed Uzzah for touching the ark. He killed Nadab and Abihu for offering unholy fire. He brought plagues on his people Israel, sent snakes among them, war, and finally exile, as punishment for their rebellions. He killed Ananias and Saphira for lying to the church. And in the end he will cast all those judged by their recorded deeds into the lake of fire.

It is true that God loves his creation dearly, and chooses not to hold our sins against us. The Bible’s case-book of forgiveness anecdotes is too long to list here.

The fact is, both these opposite perspectives are true.

Yet how can God be 100% intolerant of our sin, and also 100% tolerant of our sin?


God is trinity. Three in one. Father, Son, Holy Spirit – separate beings, yet one God. This kind of thing becomes possible when you are dealing with infinity – the normal rules we expect don’t apply (as any quantum physicist will tell you)

If God can be three/one, then he can also be tolerant/intolerant.

The fact is, both these opposite perspectives are true, and the real deep truth lies in the interface between them.

It is only in the cross of Christ – a brief moment in eternity – that these eternal characteristics of God meet. It is only in the cross that his love and mercy are congruent with his indignation and vengeance. It is only by the mystery of the cross, where I am in Christ and Christ is in me, that as God punishes me it falls onto himself. It is only in the cross that where God loves himself it falls on me. God takes onto himself my rebellion. And not thus tolerating himself God separated from himself-Christ who cries out for us all to hear that God has forsaken him – yes – impossible, but true. The cost of my sin was Christ’s separation from himself-God – the very fabric of the trinity torn asunder.

So let us not fall for the Devil’s lies.

You will not surely die” says Snake to Eve – he’s right because he knows God loves. But there is a death because God clothed them in animal skins in the first blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sin. The punishment promised by God – death – still occurred but fell on the substitute. And sacramentally that animal was Christ.

Yet the Devil is also the accuser. “You sinned, now you will die”. But we won’t. He constantly goes to God telling him that Christians have sinned. For God’s word is law, and when the law is broken there must be death, and the devil insists, demands, that God be true to himself and implement his law, implement execution. He’s right - and God does implement execution on those Christians because they are in Christ on the cross.

Brothers and Sisters – our forgiveness is not free. Our forgiveness is not outside the law. Our punishment is paid by Christ-God to himself-God, a terrible blood price, required by law, prosecuted by the devil but with Christ as our advocate. The Judge is satisfied. The devil is defeated, left speechless. Christ-God is Victorious, speaking words of Love.


Praise Him!

Monday, August 6

On being saved

Rev Sam has an interesting post On being Saved.

He raises soime good points about Salvation as an experience rather than a philosophy, saying this is why athiests don't get it.

Unfortunately, he also misses the point on sin and salvation.

To be fair to Sam, I have not had time to read in detail everything he has said together with comments, responses, and subsequent related posts. But I think I have got the gist right enough.

He follows the increasingly popular view that penal subsititution is not a good way to describe what happens. This starts off because his definition of sin neglects the fact that sin is primarily sin against God himself. He reduces it to sins against the self - the things that enslave us.

Once you have conveniently dispensed with the fact that God is the one we have offended, you can also leave out the notion of God being a little narked about it, and this leaves the door open for more socially acceptable doctrines of salvation.

In another post "Some notes on divine forgiveness" Sam goes further to misprepresent penal subsititution. He falls for the usual idea that this is cosmic child abuse. He can't understand that the forgiveness achieved for us by Christ through Penal substitution is a genuine forgiveness. He thinks that Penal Substitution means a trinity at war with itself, even though it is obvious that all members of the trinity collaborate through penal substitution to bring justice and mercy together, satisfying both of these inherent characteristics of God together in one act. Sam also misquotes that verse "Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy not sacrifice." Becasue in the place that this comes from, Hosea 6v6, it is clear that it it means "Don't think you can do evil and then get away with it just by bringing a token sacrifice. Following the letter of the law this way won't help - I want you to do what is right in the first place". Hence, following the detail of the law is not the point, which is why Jesus raises it in Matthew when speaking to cold-hearted legalists. And the verses quoted, even on Sam's blog, all speak of God's anger and judgement on those people for their sins. Where is the mercy in that? So that verse does not mean that God himself sidesteps his own prescription for a sacrifice to atone for sin - it just means that the system is not there to be abused.

So God the father loves us and wants to forgive. In the form of Jesus, he takes onto himself his own frustrations at our sins. And he gives us a full and free forgiveness through this mechanism.

Sam wants an Islamic type of forgiveness that occurs without sense at the whim of God. he calls this 'out of the box' - I call it 'black box' - you can't see what is going on. But in penal substitution you see the strong evidence for your forgiveness and you also see the cost of it. What Sam is proposing really doesn't make any sense to me.

Apart from anything else, If God wanted to simpy forgive in the way that Sam describes, then there is no need for the cross at all. All his stuff about defeating the devil is all there, but doesn't need the cross, it could have happened differently. The cross is not fully explained by these ideas. It was for our sins that Christ died (1 Cor 15 v3). Penal Substitution fully explains the cross, why we celebrate Eucharist, how we are saved, what it cost, etc.

Sam says:

"This is a salvation issue. That is, it seems to me - and I have seen much too often - that if the doctrine of penal substitution is heartily believed then salvation is prevented. The believer in this doctrine does not experience redemption and the forgiveness of sins. They may feel better for a short while - the ways of the human heart are undoubtedly mysterious - but this underlying rottenness will come to the surface eventually.
For the diabolical doctrine states: God doesn't really love you. He hates you because you're a sinner. But he's been bought off by the bloody sacrifice on the cross. He's like an abusive parent kept at bay by a restraining order. There is always the fear that one day he'll come back. And so the soul remains crippled. God's true character is obscured and occluded."

As a hearty believer in Penal Substitution, I say:

1 My salvation is not prevented - it is enabled.
2 I fully experience redemption - permanently
3 I fully experience forgiveness - permanently
4 there is no underlying rotteness -i am washed by the Holy Blood of Christ, i am a new creation.
5 God really does love me
6 He does not hate me because of my sin - he loves me despite it and has washed my sin away
7 he has not been 'bought off' - he has devised an ingenious plan to miraculously reconcile the apparently conflicting aspects of his nature
8 he is not an abusive parent, but a loving, caring and providing one.
9 he is not kept at bay by a restraining order - of his own loving initiative he has sorted out the issues, within himself, without recourse to external parties
10 he will come back as promised, and I look forward to the joyful union
11 my soul is not crippled; it is healed, restored, forgiven
12 God's true character; a just and merciful God who by his grace loved me and found a way to forgive me while I was still a sinner, is revealed and made visible.

13 Sam, sometimes you are great but sometimes you talk bollocks

14 If you call this a 'diabolical doctrine' - I point you to Matthew 12 v 24-32 - If you attribute the work of God to the devil you could be in serious trouble.

And while i am ranting, please drop this idea that we must do good work for our salvation - that is true slavery - good work is the fruit and goal of salvation, not the path to it. If we do not do good work, clearly we have not been saved. No good work, no salvation. But the salvation itself comes from forgiveness, not from the good work.

Acknowledging that Sam's work is eloquent and mine is garbled, I rest my case.

too much on

Full time job
Running a business through a minefield of tax laws
6 kids
Neurotic wife failing on a divine mission to conceive
Licensed reader (including ongoing training)
Trying to negotiate the contract for my baement improvements

Great holiday, but came home depressed

Just come back from a great holiday.

I am a 'sad' man in that my greatest pleasure is to dam and divert water channels on the beach as the tide goes out. This time I went equipped with a bigger spade than usual. Over ambitious, tried to divert a major stream through a sand/shingle bank requireing a trench 1m deep and 10m long. Only managed 40%, but had great fun anyway.

thoughout the holiday Mrs was late for her period, with just minor signs of bleeding. by Thursday we had convinced oursleves that finally we were pregnant. This meant of course that on Friday moring the period came in a rush.

Now OK, I don't subscribe to 'get rich quick' prosperity gospels, but I do beleive that becoming a christian involves hearing his voice and doing what he says. so if you are convinced he has told you to have another baby, and then in obedience you go and try, but 18 months later you still have nothing to show for it, then you are entitled to have something of a crisis of faith. At least doubt about your own ability to hear God. And if I am wrong on this, who is to say that the whole Christianity thing is not wrong also? In the Bible the preaching of the gosple was confirmed by signs and wonders. They seem absent from my life at present.