The Core of the Gospel: A Resolution on Penal Substitutionary Atonement (Owen Strachan)
At the 2017 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting, a resolution was affirmed on Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement making up the core of the Christian gospel. Dr. Owen Strachan, Director of the Center for Public Theology and Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote on the importance of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement and the resolution made by Southern Baptists in the newest issue of Credo Magazine, “The Glory of the Atonement.”
Here is Dr. Strachan’s introduction to the resolution in his article.
There is no doctrine in Scripture more beautiful than penal substitutionary atonement. There may be no doctrine that is more hated.
Challenges to the burning heart of biblical soteriology are not only ancient. They are new. In a recent book, the gently-titled Lies We Believe About God, William Paul Young—author of The Shack—characterized the doctrine of the Son’s cruciform satisfaction of the just wrath of God the Father as “monstrous,” “evil,” and “a terrible doctrine.” In similar terms, popular musician Michael Gungor argued “that God needed to be appeased with blood is not beautiful. It’s horrific.”
It is stunning that sinners who cannot save themselves would reject this doctrine. The sad truth is that people do. For this reason, theologian Malcolm Yarnell and I coauthored a resolution for the 2017 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was our shared hope that this resolution help in some small way to promote and defend the biblical doctrine of blood-atonement.
This is no trifling matter. This doctrine is anchored in Scripture (Lev. 16; Is. 53; John 12; Rom. 4-5) and carved into the SBC’s core confession, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. To deny penal substitutionary atonement is thus to deny the teaching of Scripture and the confession of millions upon millions of Southern Baptists. We cannot say it too strongly: there is no salvation without full and final atonement for sin. There is no gospel without salvation. There is no church without the gospel.
The stakes are high—eternally high.
This resolution is not fundamentally an act of protest. It is a product of hope. Through fresh consideration of this precious teaching, we trust that Bible-loving churches will resolve once more to preach, teach, and love the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Our faith, and our only confidence, is found in this: Christ died to bring us to God. So we preach now, and so we will sing around the throne, beyond all the ages of the earth.
Let the church of Christ unflinchingly believe and joyfully proclaim Christ crucified, Christ raised, Christ first, Christ last.