Much is being made of the idea that William Paul Young, author of the book, "The Shack," does not hold to the penal substitution view of the atonement of Christ. Whether this is an accurate statement of his position on the atonement or not I don't know for sure. I haven't asked him.
Some people say that interviews posted on the Internet show he doesn't hold to the penal substitution view. Some say those interviews are taking a few statements he's made out of context. I don't know the answer to that. I haven't read or heard all the interviews.
Some say his book shows he doesn't accept the penal substitution view. I've read the book twice and can't say that I found a statement that would answer that question at all. Besides it is a book of fiction using allegory. There is a lot in it that wouldn't fit into a systematic theology study. But it sure fits into life experiences and stretches me to view God relationally in ways that I can appreciate having grown to know Him in pain and suffering as I have in my lifetime.
All that said, I have two questions I wish to ask to prompt a discussion.
One question is...is one particular view of the atonement essential for salvation to be real and genuine?. A second one is, does holding a view other than penal substitution make the holder of such a view heretical?
To show the case presented by someone who does not hold to the penal substitution view, though the P.S. view happens to be my own view at present, I'm going to post an article I found on this subject. I will post another part or maybe two later and then show who said it.
I don't know whether Paul Young agrees with what this man says or not. I don't know whether you will or not. But this guy DOES articulate clearly a different view of the atonement than the one I hold. [I love doing this. Playing the devil's advocate is an art don't you think? :)]
Remember, say WHY you think what this man says about the atonement makes him a heretic or why he couldn't possibly know the Lord. [Or why you think he is NOT heretical and COULD be a true believer.] But whatever we say, in agreement or disagreement, I know we will use only words that edify. That's our custom here. Thanks for that in advance.
‘It is not good to punish an innocent man’
(Proverbs 17:26, NIV)
‘In his humiliation he was deprived of justice,’ Acts 8:33.
"This is what the Bible says happened to Jesus at His trial. He was deprived of justice. Yet, so often, theologians try to explain the crucifixion in terms of God’s justice. Why is this? The Bible nowhere states that Jesus was justly executed. On the contrary, it is the contention of Scripture that He died as the Lamb without blemish and without spot leaving us an example of how to endure when suffering wrongfully (1 Pet.1:19; 2:19-23).
Now, the phrase: ‘without blemish and without spot’ is not a reference to His physical condition, for He was marred more than any man (Isa.52:14), but to Christ’s spiritual condition. To the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote that the offering and sacrifice that Jesus gave to God was ‘a sweet-smelling aroma’ (Eph.5:2), that is—without any stench of corruption. The Lord Jesus Christ, in both life and death, was spiritually pure and untainted by sin.
So, what is the reasoning that leads so many to believe today that Christ atoned for our sins by suffering the penalty of death according to God’s justice? Basically, it is this:
1. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23). Even newborn infants are born with a sinful nature (Ps.51:5). This is due to the corruption that entered into mankind through sin, as illustrated by the fall of Adam (Rom.5:19).
2. Death is the penalty for sin against God (Rom.6:23). God’s law demands satisfaction.
3. Mankind cannot earn salvation from sin by good works (Gal.2:16).
4. Only by faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ can we be saved (Acts 4:12; Rom.3:24-26).
5. Jesus died to pay the penalty of death in our place, that we might live (Rom.5:8; John 3:16). Physically, He became a substitute and suffered the punishment that was our due and just reward.
6. On the cross, Jesus took all our sins and guilt upon Himself, becoming legally responsible for all the sins of mankind (2 Cor.5:21; 1 Pet.2:24; Is.53:6-12). Spiritually, He became a substitute; and, as such, God the Father turned away and left Him derelict during the crucifixion (Mat.27:46). He suffered the penalty of separation from God the Father, which is a consequence and penalty of sin.
It sounds convincing, especially when we are led to read certain Bible verses with this view in mind; but we must examine the Scriptures in context and analyze this teaching carefully in the light of God’s Word, to know if it is true. It is possible to have faith in Christ and be in error. Trust can be genuine, but understanding can be flawed. It is possible to come to a belief in Christ as personal Saviour and Lord without a true understanding of the atonement.
However, faith that has come through a flawed or false gospel will be limited in power and effect, according to the degree of accepted error. The Lord calls us by various means, but He expects us to overcome our errors as we mature in faith.
Surprising as it may seem, the above interpretation is not the only one given to these verses of Scripture—but it may be the only one you have heard so far. Now is the time to examine the Bible again, from a different point of view. Verses of Scripture never contradict each other. Too often, apparent conflicts are called ’mysteries’, when in fact they are simply problems of understanding that can be clearly resolved when the correct interpretations are applied.
Could God have done that which is not good? Could God have punished an innocent Man? (Prov.17:26, NIV). If the argument is that God made Jesus guilty for our sins, then we have another problem to reconcile: It is written, ‘The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself’ (Ez.18:20, NKJ).
The context of Ezekiel chapter 18 makes it clear that God’s justice does not allow for the transfer of guilt from one person to another. The responsibility for sin lies with the sinner. Even the conscience and reason testify that justice must be correctly applied and is not simply a matter of exacting a penalty—as though the issuing of the penalty is all that is important, even if it falls upon one who is innocent of the offence. True justice requires that the penalty for a crime be applied to the guilty alone, as it states in the Law: ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin’ (Deut.24v16, NKJ; cf. 2 Chron. 25v4). In ancient times, it was a practice to also punish close relatives of the guilty for serious crimes. The Lord loathes all injustice..17:15: ‘Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the LORD detests them both’ (NIV).
Jesus gave His life for us as a perfect sacrifice, without sin. Yet, in His body He bore our sins—the sins of man. He was bruised, lacerated, torn and pierced. The sins of mankind were plainly visible in His flesh. He also bore the pain of man’s sins in His heart. He was burdened by those sins, but He was never the One responsible for them. The sins were the sins of mankind. Justice demands that the guilty must answer for their sins, not the innocent. How then are we set free from the penalty of death? It is through the offering Christ made of His life. This He gave willingly to God for us—as the perfect offering and covering for sin—sufficient for all who truly believe and repent.
Christ’s forsakenness at the time of His trial was physical—not spiritual. The Father removed His protection and permitted His Son to be delivered into the hands of sinful men. God did not resist, but allowed His love to shine forth in the midst of suffering. Jesus gave the sacrifice to God of a sinless perfect life for our sakes. He gave what mankind cannot give, because of sin. His offering avails for all who now trust in Him as Saviour and Lord.
So, what of the penalty of death? Didn’t Jesus die for us? Yes. In death, He made the perfect offering of His life to God for our salvation. This is why Peter emphasizes the purity of Christ’s blood and offering. Christ’s gift of Himself had to be without spot and blemish, as symbolized by the Old Testament sacrifices. These were instituted to foreshadow the purity of Christ’s own sacrifice. That is why Jesus died—to be an offering, holy and acceptable to God for our sakes. Now, as we put our trust in Him, we are accepted by God along with Him. Jesus did not die to pay (as is supposed) the penalty of death. It was not God’s punishment, although He allowed His Son to suffer because of the good that would ensue. The judgment upon Jesus at His trial was the justice of man.
The justice of God was the justice of the resurrection, when the Father overturned the verdict of an earthly court and raised Jesus to a position of heavenly glory, giving Him a name that is above every name. It was to ‘Him who judges righteously’ that Jesus committed Himself (1 Pet.2:23), not to the justice of sinful man."
I will post more of what this man says later. It is obvious he and I might differ on the extent and even the purpose of the atonement. But does that make him heretical or unable to experience the Grace of God? What do you think?