Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lee Irons on N.T. Wright's Doctrine of the Atonement

Lee Irons has helpfully summarized Wright's doctrine of the atonement concluding that in some ways Wright teaches an unorthodox doctrine of the atonement. The following is how Irons concludes his post.
So where does N. T. Wright stand on the atonement? I have a hard time being as charitable as Piper, who tries to believe the best and merely asks for clarification. To me, it looks more like a case of using orthodox labels to refer to a position that is not orthodox. At the end of the day, for Bishop Wright, sin is an impersonal evil force, not personal rebellion against God; sin has bad consequences, but does not elicit God's punitive wrath against the sinner; and the cross is to be understood as some version of the Christus Victor theory in which Christ defeats evil by letting it do its worst to him, not as a penal satisfaction of divine justice.
Be sure to read the rest of the post!

UPDATE: Here is a helpful reminder from Pastor Mark Jones on the atonement.


  1. Mike,

    Thanks for the post. I just read Irons' post. It is really good. I am very thankful that he posted it. I hope it gets a lot of hits and people take the time to read it and understand the dangers that Wright's views have.

  2. Seems to me that if you believe:
    1) Jesus was sinless
    2) Jesus actually suffered and died
    3) God ordains whatsoever comes to pass

    Your only options are to accept penal substitution or to deny the righteousness/justice of God.

    -Daniel Hoffman

  3. Daniel,

    I think I follow your thinking, and if I do, I agree with you. Would you spell out how your three premises lead to penal substitution?

  4. The most basic meaning of justice is to punish sin and reward righteousness, and justice is the foundation of God's throne. He punishes sin and rewards righteousness - that is basic to His character. And, He is sovereign over all things - including reward and punishment.

    If Jesus was without sin, but suffered and died under the providence of God (which scripture explicitly says was the case - Isaiah 53:10, Acts 4:27-28) then God is either inflicting suffering on a genuinely and truly innocent person or, in some sense, Jesus was guilty. I don't think anyone would want to suggest that Christ had any of His own sins to answer for, so the only option is that He was answering for the sin of others.

    Some people don't think imputation is fair (imputation of either sin or of righteousness), but we need to reckon with the fact that Jesus actually died. God did "crush" Christ - so either He did that to an innocent person, or that person voluntarily made Himself accountable for sin.


  5. Since I was quick to criticize the last blog post concerning N.T. Wright, I'll be somewhat quick to appreciate this one.

    Irons does bring up some interesting points about NTW's doctrine of penal substitution. And the links that Irons provide are very helpful too (especially NT's interview with Trevin Wax).

    I also just finished reading the comments on Irons' blog and those are worth checking out if you haven't been back.


  6. Faris,

    Yes, I actually thought about further updating this post by linking the conversation (in the comments section) being had with Irons on his post.

    Hope all is well in your new place!


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