Wright’s essay: The Cross and the Caricatures
Alastair has already linked to the article and shared his own thoughts, but I also wanted to heartily recommend to my readers Tom Wright's recent essay, "The Cross and the Caricatures", which takes a look at some of the current debates flying around the matter of penal substitution.
Wright believes that penal substitution is biblical, even if not all 'penal substitution' models are. I entirely agree. Alas, sadly many have thrown that baby out with some undeniably stinky bathwater, and now carelessly castigate 'penal substitution' as an outdated and even barbaric doctrine. Some formulations are, but others, whether we like it or not, are biblical. At least in my view.
The essay is a scintillating read with some especially spot-on and timely rebuking of the sad and ill-informed witch-hunting going on in some evangelical circles. I for one have just about had enough of the next Mr Big Conservative Name making yet another terribly serious (yet -uninformed-because-totally-unsympathetic) statement about how those not entirely matching their doctrinal programme are 'infecting the church', 'betraying the faith' or 'negating scripture'. While real discernment of course has an important place, the lack of perspective, shallow use of scripture, cry-wolf tactics and misrepresentation elements tend to make me think much evangelical fuss is just a load of bull. I have come to think that discernment should first and foremost be concerned with what teachings do or do not facilitate healthy gospel living. I know more could be said, but I'll leave it at this: discernment is primarily about what is healthy! Otherwise matters can degenerate into one camp throwing their proof texts at the other camp who are doing the same, while both manage to stay trapped in the paper world of prooftexting swordfights and miss the bigger picture of God's concern for the world.
I'm an evangelical and I love the various evangelical traditions, but some of the matters Wright touches on in critique of certain strands of evangelicalism make me terribly sad as I know that he is hitting the target. Volltreffer.