Defending Penal Substitution
Ultimately, every single sin ever committed is against God (Ps 51:4). If God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, decides to take the punishment for the crimes committed against Him, who can object?
Penal substitutionary atonement is difficult to understand, in part because we fail to conceive of the parties involved properly. Matters are complicated when the likes of N.T. Wright hyperbolically refer to “justification” in the traditional sense as a mysterious “gas” that passes through the courtroom. Others imagine God is like a judge who condemns his son to prison because another man stole someone else’s car. If Sam steals Bob’s car, it makes little sense to imprison little Joey, the judge’s son. Many see here “cosmic child abuse.”
However, this is not the biblical picture. Rather, it is not Bob who has been sinned against, but it is God. Ultimately, every single sin ever committed is against God (Ps 51:4). If God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, decides to take the punishment for the crimes committed against Him, who can object? The analogy of Sam, Bob, and Joey then is faulty. Instead, we should imagine the judge’s own car being stolen. In response, the judge serves the jail sentence instead of Sam, the thief. He does this because he wants to forgive the thief, but he also wants to uphold the law. Serving the sentence is the only way to do both.
Surely this would be unconventional, but who could object to the judge’s actions? Some, to be sure, would scoff at him but is he not perfectly within his rights? The car belongs to him and him alone, and no one has more say in terms of the resolution of the matter than he does. Furthermore, he has been given the authority—and solemn responsibility—to arbitrate in matters of theft. Therefore, he not only has the right to make a legal decision as a judge but also to absorb the repercussion as the car owner.
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Book Review—”Angry with God: An Honest Journey through Suffering and Betrayal,” by Brad HambrickBy Dave Deuel — 3 weeks ago
What we conclude about our grief-anger at or with God and how we act upon it is critical to our healing process and, ultimately, our spiritual growth. The effort we give to understanding our grief-anger may well bring a solution for our own good, not only because we may manage our suffering better, but also because we can find our pleasure with God, even though in pain.
Is It Right to be Angry?
As the incensed Jonah watches the wicked Assyrian city of Nineveh repent and turn to God, the Lord asks the prophet, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). When it comes to understanding anger in Scripture—God’s or man’s—the crucial question is what kind of anger?
Angry with God offers guidance specifically for when pain leads to grief that gets stuck in the anger phase. For this review, let’s call it grief-anger. The author explains, “Anger with God is often stunted grief with the loss or destruction of something good” (p. 39). He explains the book’s title and purpose: “This entire book is an invitation and a process for sharing your pain with God as a means of processing what you currently experience as anger at God” (p. 25). Intentionally understanding anger as a part of the grief process can move us forward in our pain and suffering.
Grief-anger can be toxic and pernicious. No one gets angry with God for something small. When we direct our anger toward God, it is because we’ve faced something difficult. Anger is an often-overlooked part of grieving and, as such, is a predictable response to painful experiences. The author aims to demystify pain and suffering as it relates to grief-anger toward God, which he reclassifies as with God. Grief-anger progress is made and measured by “restoring order and hope” (p. 12), which may not come easily.
The Book’s Message
The book offers a framework for viewing and treating grief-anger. Grief must not remain unassimilated. In the book’s first section, “It’s Safe to Talk about Your Anger,” the author focuses on the distinction between the prepositions at and with in our anger toward God. He explains, “Whether our anger is with or at God is largely determined by how we believe God responds to us in moments such as these” (p. 22). It’s okay to respond to pain and suffering in grief-anger. After all, God manifests righteous anger.
You can distance yourself from God in your grief-anger or walk closely with Him. It’s a choice, and it need not remain an unresolved riddle. The second section, “Articulating Your Pain,” reflects on how to view our faith through the lens of emotions. It encourages dislodging stuck grief-anger by articulating it. Biblical lament illustrates God’s patience with us when we wrestle with our pain and suffering through prayer. Talk to God but also talk to people.
Handel’s “Messiah,” A Prophetic Masterwork—An IntroductionBy Kim Beazley — 7 months ago
When you think of a work that has Jesus the Messiah as its sole subject, you would reasonably assume that the text is heavily dependent on the New Testament, and primarily the Gospels. But when you look through the text, roughly two-thirds of the passages used are Old Testament. That alone suggests its prophetic nature.
We [The Daily Declaration] present the first of a series on the prophetic voice inherent in Handel’s musical masterpiece, Messiah. This piece of sacred music presents God’s word to listeners, speaking of comfort, strength and ultimate victory for those engaging in spiritual battle.
A few months ago, Warwick Marsh asked me if I would write an article on Messiah, the Sacred Oratorio composed by George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), as we both felt that it was relevant to Daily Declaration readers, not merely as a celebration of one of the greatest musical masterworks in history, but primarily for the fact that we both felt it possesses a powerful prophetic anointing, which I’m not sure that the man who compiled the text entirely from Scripture, a rather vain and pompous aristocrat, Charles Jennens, was at all aware of.
But I realised very quickly that the subject simply couldn’t be covered in just one article, that the whole piece is so steeped in prophetic power. So, this will be the first in a series.
Reverberations Through the Ages
Before I get started, I want to appeal to those of you whose eyes just began glazing over when you saw this is about classical music, as though it’s just so stuffy and boring, especially when you compare it to the wonderful and inspiring contemporary worship music we’re blessed with today, or the secular music you may listen to. How can you possibly compare such out-of-date stuff to that?
The fact is that, without the music of Handel, and every great composer before and since, modern rock and other contemporary genres simply wouldn’t exist, and to listen to the masterworks of classical music with fresh ears will reveal why that is the case.
If any evidence were required, I can even go to the extreme of Heavy Metal, which my son loves in all its variants. He once loaned me a DVD series on its history, and the director of the documentary, who was also the “talking head”, first charted its origins to three particular classical composers: J. S. Bach (a direct contemporary of Handel — 1685-1750), Richard Wagner (1813-1883) and Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), the first two being the inspiration for Hard Rock and Metal’s modal “Gothic” sound, and Paganini the violin virtuoso, whose showmanship is the model for every Rock guitarist, and whose style is a distinct influence for virtually every rock guitar solo.
If any proof were needed, here it is. First, compare the first three minutes of the Bach Toccata and Fugue for Organ with this clip for rock guitar.
Then listen to Wagner’s famous Ride of the Valkyries followed by its rock adaptation.
And finally to Paganini: (1) (2)
So much for “stuffy and boring”!
So, if you listen to the music clips from Messiah in this series of articles in the same way as you do the latest worship songs you will find that music is music, that there are many similarities, but they’re using different instrumentation and vocal techniques. To draw an analogy with speech, it’s not a different language, like English and French, but merely a different accent, like Aussie and American.
That’s because great music, of whatever genre or time period, has a paradoxical effect: it is both anchored in its own time, and yet timeless, all at the same time (actually, the same thing can be said in relation to the Bible).
So, in one sense, it is identifiable as belonging to the time and place it was composed; yet it can still profoundly impact us today — and that in a powerful way, body, soul and spirit (actually, the same thing can be said in relation to the Bible).
That fact holds whether it’s the secular music of Beethoven, Mozart or Schubert (my favourites), or in my own era growing up: The Beatles, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Pink Floyd, Yes, Cat Stevens, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, The Moody Blues (also my favourites), or a hundred and one other great singer/songwriter/composers/bands of that time right up to the present.
The same holds for the sacred works of the past four centuries, the traditional hymns of Wesley and Watts and so many others, and those modern worship songs, some of which we’ve been singing for a few decades, and more that we’ll be singing for decades to come.
As Bill Muehlenberg noted in his recent article,
When it comes to things like the arts (painting, sculpture, music, poetry, literature, and so on), there can be ungodly and immoral art, and there can be godly and moral art. The answer to the dark side of culture and the arts is not to say no to all these things, but to create good and godly versions of these things…
We can glorify God just as much in enjoying one of His beautiful sunsets, or by being enraptured by Handel’s Messiah, as by sharing our faith with others or by singing worship songs in church.
In short, the same Holy Spirit who inspires our contemporary worship songs equally inspired the works of the past. This is all worship music! That’s why Handel, at the end of Messiah, wrote the letters “SDG” for the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria”, which means, “To God Alone be the Glory”.
My plea, therefore, is that you will listen to be inspired in the same way as you do when you listen to hymns or contemporary worship songs.
So, now that I have your attention, a little background is required on Messiah as a whole.
Handel composed the music for Messiah in a feverish burst of inspiration in just 24 days in August and September 1741, after Jennens had compiled the text during July of that year.
When you realise that the whole work takes around two and a half hours to perform, and Handel was writing with a pen which had to be regularly dipped in ink, and that he had to compose separate music for vocal soloists, a four-part choir, five-part strings, trumpets, horns, oboes, bassoons, organ and harpsichord, you can understand how enormous a task this is.
As music commentator Miles Hoffman estimates, there are roughly a quarter of a million notes in Messiah. At a little more than three weeks of 10-hour days, Hoffman said that means Handel would have had to keep a continuous pace writing 15 notes a minute!
The Slowness of GodBy Joni Eareckson Tada — 6 months ago
Does it seem to you that God’s pace for your life has slowed down to a crawl? The important thing is to walk with him, whether that pace seems slow or suddenly speeds up, as it often does. In Galatians 5:25, the Apostle Paul had the best advice of all: “Keep in step with the Spirit.”
Methuselah, a California Bristlecone Pine tree, is coming up on its estimated 4,789th birthday. Squat, twisted, weathered, and storm-battered, it stretches its jagged fingers toward the blue skies over the White Mountains in eastern California. It is alive and growing, although very, very s-l-o-w-l-y. It was already ancient when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and it may very well last until he returns.
Looking at a picture of this amazing tree made me think of a passage I once read in a book by Frederick Faber, an English hymn writer and theologian who lived a couple of centuries ago. “In spiritual life,” wrote Faber, “[God] vouchsafes to try our patience first of all by his slowness…He is slow: we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and he has been from eternity. Thus grace for the most part acts slowly…He works by little and by little, and sweetly and strongly he compasses his ends, but with a slowness which tries our faith, because it is so great a mystery…We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and the lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and he will come.”
Yes, from our perspective God’s grace sometimes moves slowly. Paul remained in a Caesarean jail for two long years before he finally arrived in Rome. God’s people waited in Egypt four hundred years before they were ready for the next challenge. The Israelites sometimes camped in one spot in the wilderness for a year at a time, waiting for the cloud of God’s presence to signal a resumption of their march to the Promised Land.