Atonement and the New Theology

The Question is asked, "What is the difference between the New Testament Teaching as to Atonement, and the views of the New Theology Leaders?"

The sheerly anti-Christian character of the "New Theology" has often been exposed, and there would be no call to answer this question were it not that the deadly virus of this teaching is spreading fast, and breaking out, in one form or another, in unexpected quarters. It is like the leaven in the measures of meal, and subtle as the snare of the devil in Eden, and consequently, it is still necessary to lay bare its delusions, and present the truth of what it denies.

We are not alarmed, or even surprised, at its appearance or popularity, for the Holy Scriptures, which are our guide in all these questions, have warned us that "of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30), and that "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables" (2 Thess. 4:3-4). So that the truth of the Bible is established by the very teaching that seeks to undermine its authority, and the omnisciency of its writer proved by the acts of its would-be destroyers.

God is denied by this teaching; it is true that its chief interpreter states, "to disbelieve in God is an impossibility," but he also explains that his God is the "Mysterious Power which is finding expression in the universe, and is present in the tiniest atom of the wondrous whole … whatever else it may be, it is myself"!

Sin, in its true nature, is denied: for we are told that "evil is a negative not a positive term, the shadow where the light should be," "the devil is a vacuum," and "sin has never injured God except through man. It is the God within who is injured by it rather than the God without."

The one Mediator between God and man is denied. New theology has clothed the man of its imagination with the name of Jesus, but he is not the Lord Jesus Christ of the Gospels. "Jesus was God, but so are we," it boldly states. He did not give His life a ransom for all, "and many a British soldier has died a death as brave as Jesus." His death merely lay across the path along which duty led Him, His determination to do His duty and the frenzy of the populace were the only factors in the cross of Christ, and in it the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23) had no place.

If God is man, and man is God; if the doctrine of the fall, as taught in Scripture, is mischievous, and the true teaching as to it being the coming of God into humanity; if sin is a blundering search after God; then there is no need for atonement at all, and every prophet that aforetime gave witness to Christ, and every apostle and servant of Christ that has proclaimed this doctrine in the name of God throughout the ages, is found a false witness of God.

R.J.Campbell tells us that he goes further back than Jesus, to the ancients of the East, for some of his thoughts: he will have to go further back still to find the origin of them, for the "Ye shall be as gods" of the lie in Eden, is writ large across every page of this laudation of fallen and corrupt man; and the writer is a living witness to the solemn words of the Son of God, "if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness" (Matt. 6:23).

And though we are constantly told in 'The New Theology' what the "thoughtful reader" will do, we venture to say that the honest, exercised and truly thoughtful reader will reject the whole system of teaching as being self-contradictory, without foundation or authority, and a veritable Sahara in which the hungry and thirsty soul will search in vain for the Tree and Water of life.

The Truth of Atonement

When the truth of atonement truly dawns upon the soul of a man, he confesses that he is the chief of sinners, while he glories in God through our Lord Jesus Christ; he finds that in his flesh dwells no good thing, and yet he stands clear of all condemnation in Christ, and is compelled adoringly to exclaim, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! … for of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36).

Atonement presents God in His true place as God — the Almighty Ruler of His far stretching realm — it throws into prominence His inflexible justice and perfect righteousness; justice and righteousness which must be maintained at all cost, but it also manifests His great compassion, His infinite tenderness, His glorious love. By it sin — rebellion against the Creator — is shown up in its terrible character, it is exposed and condemned, but the sinner is saved and his heart won to everlasting allegiance to the One whose love would go to the very uttermost in order to ransom him from the ultimate consequence of his lawlessness.

Is it Immoral?

It is said that the doctrine of substitution is immoral, that it cannot be right for one man to suffer for the sins of another, and verily if Jesus had been only man such an objection might have had force. But He is God; were it not so the doctrine of atonement could not stand.

He became man for the vindication of His own law; the Source of all justice stooped even to the sinner's place, and submitted to the penalty that the eternal throne imposed for the vindication of His own everlasting righteousness. In this glorious plan, we do not see the guilt of one creature unjustly laid upon the head of another creature; but we see the infinite wisdom and love of God providing a way by which He can lavish His love upon men, and yet be consistent with His character. We see God taking upon Himself the whole cost of the redemption of men.

Had not God a right to do this if it pleased Him? Some men may despise and reject His way of salvation, but it will be His eternal glory, while they will reap the sad fruits of their folly, beneath the weight of their own sins, and the just judgment that those sins deserve.

The Love of God Manifested

Now the Scripture plainly shows that love lies behind all that God has wrought. The glorious gospel verse, John 3:16, is well known to all:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

And Romans 5:8 is not less precious:

"But God commends His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

From these Scriptures we learn that instead of the cross proving that God is an angry, hard-hearted Being, it is the very thing that has manifested His love in all its glory.

The wisdom, love, and power of God combined to bring about a salvation which shall be the glory of God and the joy of the universe for ever. The cross of Christ is where all this glory shone out.

Infinite wisdom devised the plan.

Eternal love found the means.

Almighty power carried out the work.

At the Cross infinite wisdom solved the problem as to how God could save and yet be righteous; and almighty power met and overthrew all the forces of darkness that would have kept men from God.

When Jesus hung upon the cross, love bared its bosom to the storm of righteous wrath, and when from spear-rent side there flowed the precious blood, this love shone out in all its splendour. The cross of Jesus was the triumph of love, there love was enthroned, but enthroned upon the everlastingly stable throne of divine justice. Love is the crown of justice, and justice is the crown of love, and both have conspired together for the blessing of men, and of this the blood of Jesus is a token and witness to us. Then if this is so, God is for us, and who can be against us?

There never was nor will be anything greater or more glorious than the cross of Christ; His death will be the wonder of ransomed myriads eternally, and the Lamb once slain shall be the light of that city through which will be shed the glory of the knowledge of God to earth's utmost bounds.

Some Substitutes

Some in their folly and blindness substitute other things for the blood; in their pride they are bold enough to speak of bearing the consequences of their own sins; and imagine that their own vain efforts at self-improvement, or purgatorial fires will purify their guilty souls; and this latter, the papal lie, is being preached by professedly Protestant lips. Alas! for all who are thus deluded. God says, "Without shedding of blood is no remission." He has declared, "It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul," and "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin." Nor is there a word in all Scripture which would indicate that the fire of hell will make men fit for heaven.

The question may be asked, "Why are men so foolish as to reject this wonderful provision of God?" the answer is given in 2 Corinthians 3:4, the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine in. They are willing to be deluded, and the devil finds in them an easy prey. He hates the blood because it gives him the lie direct. He has deceived men into believing that God does not love them, and the blood is the undeniable and everlasting proof that God does love them.

The Consequences of Rejecting God's Provision

But the consequences of rejecting the blood are absolute and irretrievable. For if they died without mercy who despised the law of Moses — which was the shadow — of how much sorer punishment shall he be counted worthy who despises the blood of the Son of God — which is the substance? — for in despising the blood there is the utter rejection of the God whom Christ came to reveal. It is vain to talk of Him as the universal Father. Sinful men need a Redeemer, and God, the Redeemer, has displayed His character in all its glory in the blood of Jesus. It is the best and the last that He can do for men, and if this is cast aside and despised, the just and terrible consequence will be the lake of fire for ever and for ever: the ultimate and only end of rebellion against the Almighty Ruler of the universe.

Children of God, let us pray that the glories of the atoning death of Jesus may be better understood by us, that we may see more fully how every attribute of God has been glorified thereby, how His throne has been vindicated and the love of His heart declared. And may we be earnestly looking forward to that day in the which, as a result of it, there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, and God shall be with men,

"And He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Rev. 21:3-4)

And all this shall be founded upon this strong and immovable basis, even the death of Jesus, for in that death God, in all His glory, was manifested.