Wright & Propitiation

I don’t have much more time for this, but statements like this:

Wright claims to “strongly” affirm penal substation, but he never says that Christ satisfies the just wrath of God against sin.

call me out.

Thankfully, the issue has already been answered (pdf download / blog excerpt here):

When speaking of “the wrath of God” on Jesus at the cross, Wright turns to the Gethsemane narrative, and specifically Jesus’ use of the “cup” terminology from the Old Testament. Since, in the prophetic writings, the “cup” refers to God’s wrath, Wright believes it is historically sound to affirm that Jesus was referring to God’s wrath when He willingly faced the cross, in order to drink of the cup [N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus, 87]. Nowhere does Wright articulate the idea of the “cup” more powerfully than in his Matthew commentary:

The Old Testament prophets speak darkly about the “cup of YHWH’s wrath.” These passages talk of what happens when the one God, grieving over the awful wickedness of the world, steps in at last to give the violent and bloodthirsty, the arrogant and oppressors, the reward for their ways and deeds. It’s as though God’s holy anger against such people is turned into wine: dark, sour wine which will make them drunk and helpless. They will be forced to “drink the cup,” to drain to the dregs the wrath of the God who loves and vindicates the weak and helpless. The shock of this passage… is that Jesus speaks of drinking this cup himself [pp. 60, 61].

Notice how Wright maintains the “cup of wrath” in historical context. This is the way he avoids the picture of God as a tyrant taking out His vengeance on His Son for others’ mistakes. Wright sees the wrath of God in historical events. “Jesus takes the wrath of Rome (which is…the historical embodiment of the wrath of God) upon himself…” [“Jesus, Israel, and the Cross” SBL 1985 Seminar Papers edited by K.H. Richards (Chico: Scholars Press, 1985), 75-95.] In fact, God has set Jesus forth as a hilasterion (propitiation) [Paul, 120].

It is because Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God in order to shield His people that He uttered His cry of God‐forsakenness on the cross. In that moment in which Jesus was most fully embodying God’s love, He found Himself cut off and separated from that love [The Crown and the Fire, 44]. Furthermore, Jesus’ taking upon Himself the wrath of God against sin (through the Roman crucifixion) frees us from sin and guilt.

Jesus, the innocent one, was drawing on to himself the holy wrath of God against human sin in general, so that human sinners like you and me can find, as we look at the cross, that the load of sin and guilt we have been carrying is taken away from us. Jesus takes it on himself, and somehow absorbs it, so that when we look back there is nothing there. Our sins have been dealt with, and we need never carry their burden again [Ibid, 48-49].

Again and again, Wright affirms the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. Theologians may quibble with him for not putting this at the center of his atonement theology; others may chide him for not speaking of it more often. But no one who has read Wright fairly can charge him of denying this doctrine. I close this section with a paragraph from one of Wright’s early works, which he has since affirmed in other ways in later writings:

On the cross Jesus took on himself that separation from God which all other men know. He did not deserve it; he had done nothing to warrant being cut off from God; but as he identified himself totally with sinful humanity, the punishment which that sinful humanity deserved was laid fairly and squarely on his shoulders… That is why he shrank, in Gethsemane, from drinking the ‘cup’ offered to him. He knew it to be the cup of God’s wrath. On the cross, Jesus drank that cup to the dregs, so that his sinful people might not drink it. He drank it to the dregs. He finished it, finished the bitter cup both physically and spiritually… Here is the bill, and on it the word ‘finished’ – ‘paid in full.’ The debt is paid. The punishment has been taken. Salvation is accomplished [Small Faith, Great God, 49-50].

None of this will surprise anyone well-read in Wright. And while it looks like his defense of Chalke is simply wrong, his defense does show t hat he himself is clearly on the side of the penal subsitutionary view.

I could go downstairs and quote further from his commentary on Romans, or take dicatation from his lectures, but why spend the effort on an impossible quest? Wright is the enemy and those who defend him are the enemy also. There is nothing more to think about.

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