Last year a new book hit the American market. It is titled "Stricken by God" and it is a collection of essays that challenge the view that on the cross the Lord Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God due to the sins of his people. It has been hailed as a "wonderful book" and "must reading" for thoughtful Christians. This collection of essays is by well known writers from a variety of backgrounds-Anglican, Roman Catholic, Anabaptist, Evangelical and Eastern Orthodox. In other words Stricken by God represents a thoroughly ecumenical new look at the doctrine of the Atonement.
Its main purpose is to debunk the idea that Christ was stricken by God, that He "bore the wrath of God that was our due," or that His suffering was from any hands but the hands of violent men. It is a book that deals with the subject of the Cross from many angles but one uniting theme is that violence and wrath come only from sinful man and never from God. It therefore proposes to remove the commonly believed doctrine of penal substitution and replace it with a theory of the cross that emphasizes "non-violent atonement."
That professed evangelicals should be involved in such an endeavor is reprehensible. There really is nothing new in the substance of the essays. Relating the cross to postmodern theology and deconstructionism may make it sound as if we were here dealing with something new but that is not the case. The only thing that differs is the jargon. What the writers of these essays are advocating are the same tired old theories that better theologians in bygone days examined and exposed for the heresies they were.
To deny the doctrine of penal satisfaction-that is, that on the cross the Lord Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God in the place of His people-is to deny the heart of the gospel. It is to fly in the face of the plain statements of Scripture. The writers of these essays escape the witness of Scripture by constructing "theologies" (really theories) and by sidestepping the meaning of the Biblical text in favor of their view of the cultural packaging in which they allege it comes down to us. Thus it is not a matter simply of what the text says but of what the writers conceive the message to be if freed from the cultural norms of its time. With consummate arrogance such writers have no difficulty in explaining the meaning of the cross in terms of their own cultural framework. In this day of peace movements, they see a "peaceful" atonement as God's rejection of human violence not as a vindication of His own justice or a satisfaction of His own law.
The entire idea is an exercise in apostasy. It is God, not man, who says that Christ was "smitten of God and afflicted." It is God who insists that He "made Christ to be sin for us." It is the uniform teaching of Scripture that God instituted sacrifice for sin, because "our God is a consuming fire," and that Christ is "the lamb of God," the ultimate fulfillment of all Old Testament sacrifice. Contrary to the notion that God has no wrath, the Lord Jesus spoke clearly about "the wrath of God," which He bore when the "chastisement of our peace" was laid on Him.