Lunchtime conversations with minister friends in London indicates that the storm about Steve Chalke and penal substitution rumbles on in the UK. There are dark rumours of a certain well-known Christian book chain boycotting a popular presentation of the doctrine; there are whispers of other ministers being told by high-ranking figures in the UK evangelical establishment that to speak or write on the subject will “damage their ministries;” and, of course, there is the remarkable online review by N T Wright of Mike Ovey and co’s Pierced for Our Transgressions. This latter is stunning. Not only is the tone surprising from a person of Wright’s stature, the accusations he makes of what amounts to heresy not only against the authors but also (just for good measure) against the large number of those who provided commendations for the book (including not only pipsqueaks like yours truly but men of real stature, moderation, and biblical scholarship such as my old Aberdeen boss, Howard Marshall) are breathtaking in their unmitigated bluntness – a useful reminder that high-handed tone is very far from being a monopoly of the conservatives. I would be tempted to use the classic defence of `he just didn’t understand what we are saying’ but Wright’s a clever man and a remarkable scholar; and Ovey is a lucid and clear writer; the bishop knows exactly what is being said, and he doesn’t like it or find it biblical (`deeply unbiblical,’ in fact).
Strange – I was only reading this morning of how R V G Tasker, liberal professor of New Testament at King’s College, London, was brought to saving faith through the ministry of Dr Lloyd Jones who convinced him of precisely this truth, that of penal substitution. If it isn’t preached, it will be lost. O tempora, o mores. (though the one glimmer of hope is that Mike’s book is, apparently, selling like hot cakes in the UK – no publicity is bad publicity, after all).