Raised For Our Justification: The Resurrection And Penal Substitution -- By: Lee Tankersley

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 18:4 (Winter 2014)
Article: Raised For Our Justification: The Resurrection And Penal Substitution
Author: Lee Tankersley

Raised For Our Justification: The Resurrection And Penal Substitution

Lee Tankersley

Lee Tankersley received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Tankersley is Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Jackson, Tennessee and has written a number of articles for Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

What seems to have happened is that Western theology has allowed itself to be dominated by a legalistic view of sin and a forensic model of atonement which leaves little room for resurrection. When the atonement is thought of chiefly in terms of merit and the law, the cross becomes central, but the resurrection drops into the category of subjective redemption. [This] idea of atonement does not have much room for resurrection which can go almost unmentioned because it is not required.1

That charge came from the pen of Clark Pinnock. It is no secret that Pinnock departed over the course of his life from numerous tenets of evangelicalism. Therefore, it is not surprising to hear his voice among the myriad of self-proclaimed evangelicals attacking penal substitutionary atonement. However, before dismissing the attack too quickly, we should at least acknowledge an element of truth in these words. I do not mean that there is truth in the claim that a forensic understanding of the atonement leaves no room for the resurrection. I aim in this article to argue otherwise. But there certainly is truth in the claim that the resurrection “can go almost unmentioned” by those of us who proclaim the gospel and understand the atonement as an act of penal substitution.

As a pastor who asks every potential member to share with me the gospel, I can actually ratchet up the charge made by Pinnock. In my experience, the resurrection does indeed “go almost unmentioned” on occasions, as people seem to tack it on to their explanation of Christ’s death for sinners as our hope of salvation. But just as often, it goes unmentioned altogether. While interviewing numerous college students for membership at our church (college students who come in large measure from solidly evangelical homes), I have lost count of the number of times I have had to ask, “Now did Jesus stay dead?” after a potential member had shared the “gospel.”2

Without exception, the candidate for membership has answered that question by affirming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. However, the fact that this element of the gospel message (without which, Paul affirms, we would still be in our sins—1 Cor 15:17) ...

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