Saturday, January 31

The Divine Blood Theory--Part 1

The first aberrant theory of the atonement I'm going to call "The Divine Blood" theory. This theory says that Christ's death works to cleanse us from sin because Christ's blood had special properties, since it is "divine blood". According to those who believe this way, if Christ's blood had been human like ours, it would have had no power to take away our sin. Not only is the blood of bulls and goats insufficient to cleanse, but mere human blood would be insufficient as well.

There are two proof texts given to support this idea. The first is 1 Peter 1:18 and 19:

....knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, {the blood} of Christ.

These verses are used as proof that Christ's blood was divine, the thought being that if His blood had not been divine, but had been only human blood, it would not have been precious or imperishable. The second text is from Acts 20:28:

"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

This verse is used because it says that God purchased the church with His own blood. This means, according to the divine blood proponents, that the blood flowing through Christ's veins was God the Father's own blood--or divine blood.

These two proof texts are added to outdated information apparently found in Gray's Anatomy, which said that children inherit their blood type from their father, and that the blood of the mother and the unborn child never mix. This misinformation somehow contributes to the evidence for this theory, and it is contended that this is scientific evidence that Jesus could not have had human blood, as He was not conceived of a human father. Advanced as further evidence is the idea that human beings inherit their sinful nature through their father only, and that the sin nature is somehow carried over to an infant in the blood inherited from the father.

Now that this theory has been explained and the supporting evidence shown, we can move on in our next installment to examining whether this theory is supported by the whole of the evidence of scripture.

Friday, January 30

Odd Theories of the Atonement

For a few years I have been participating occasionally on a couple of discussion boards. Since I attend a Baptist church, the Baptist Board is one of the places I regularly participate. It is a site where mostly evangelical or fundamentalist Baptists discuss various issues, and thus the site tends to be fairly conservative. In the past couple of years there, I have seen two unusual theories of the atonement expounded more and more frequently, and I thought it would be interesting to examine those two theories here. (Here is where we get into the nitpicking part of theology, and if you are not inclined toward nitpicking, please, feel free to skip these particular blogs. Or, you can read them anyway on the outside chance you will find it interesting or beneficial.)

Let me start by saying that I accept the two main evangelical models of the atonement as within the pale of orthodoxy. There is one I consider more correct as properly explained, but I acknowledge the other one as not so far wrong as to be heterodox.

The more I understand these two unusual theories, however, the more I am convinced that they are at least pushing against the fence defining orthodoxy. In the beginning, it seemed that these ideas of how the Christ's death works were held by so few people that ignoring them was the best option, but as years have gone by, I've seen them advocated more and more often, and perhaps the time has come to take a more active approach in defending against them. So here's what I'll try to do here: show some of the error with each theory, and show why it matters. Let's continue tomorrow by examining "The Divine Blood" theory.

Thursday, January 29

Rejoicing Over the Weather

Well, we woke up this morning to -32C. A week ago, we would have been whining about a -32 temperature. Today, we were overjoyed.

Monday, January 26

Mental Challenge

Can you figure out how this game works? Don't worry, the game is not really psychic!

Ice Fog

It is downright cold here. I woke up this morning to -43C. As I write this it is noonish and still at -43. So the ice fog is here, coming along for us--as it always does--with the frigid temperatures. Driving my daughter to work, I could just barely make out the tail lights of the car in front of me. I suppose invisible tail lights were partly to blame for the accident I saw on Two Mile Hill, where one car had rammed into the back bumper of another.

For the uninitiated who read this, as anyone living in most of the rest of the world would be, let me explain what ice fog is. Ice fog comes when very cold air (-40 or so) meets the vapor arising from open water, like the water in a fast moving river, and causes the vapor to condense and form a cold, thick, crystal fog. Contributing too, are the temperature inversions that trap winter air in a river valley, and the exhaust from running vehicles. And that is the science lesson behind ice fog.

So what is being in ice fog like? It is being curiously isolated from everything around. Only very near things are distinct, and things not far off are alien and distant. At the same time, remote sounds seem to come from right next door, creating an odd disconnect between what is seen and what is heard. The fog gathers into sparkling frost on all the tree branches, and behind the fog are the backlights of bright blue winter skies. All this gives things an otherworldly character, like the frozen Narnia. Or maybe more like the Queen of Narnia--beautiful and strangely enticing, but nasty to the core.

Sunday, January 25

God and My Husband's Cancer

Before my husband died of cancer, one of my daughters asked me, "Why would God allow someone like Dad to get something like this?" I could not give her the reason why, and I fully accept that I may never be able to give her an answer--at least in this life. God has not appointed me to his privy counsel, so I do not have access to the answers to questions like that .

I liked the way she asked her question, though, because in it she acknowledged some important things about God: that he is omniscient--or more specifically, that He foresees all thing that will happen; that He is omnipotent--that there are no forces that He is unable to stop if he so chooses; that He is always interested in the affairs of individual human beings; that He is purposeful in what He does; and that He is good--corrupting influences like disease always come into our lives by way of God's permission, not His direct action. So I won't try to find an answer to her question by taking away from any of these truths about the nature of God as affirmed by her question.

Why did God allow my husband to suffer and then die of cancer? I cannot answer that question, but I do know that God knew the cancer would come, had the ability to stop it at any point along the way, cared about what was happening to him and to us, and had a purpose for not intervening to stop the progression of the illness. I also know His reason for not intervening was a good one, and that He was working His own good purpose in our lives, in my husband's life, and in human history.

Thursday, January 22

The devil is in the details

From J. Mark Bertrand, on the value of nit-picking, or as he calls it--hairsplitting:

Some mistakes seem trivial but lead to significant thought shifts. Paul teaches salvation by grace through faith apart from works. Then someone comes along and says salvation is by grace, but our works are a pre-condition for God’s grace. He might never imagine a gospel of works, but his students will soon rationalize the system and arrive at precisely that. What begins as a seemingly trivial mistake ends in an egregious error.

And that’s why we need hair-splitters. That’s why we need people who will suffer the shrugs and sighs to insist that Christians speak with precision when they deal with doctrinal truth. We need people who care about the jots and tittles, who aren’t afraid to delve into the minutiae of the faith, who are willing to keep a thousand seemingly-pointless distinctions in the proper logical sequence.

One of the joys of living in Canada

My kids have been raised in Canada. They are used to the Canadian system and used to elections campaigns that are 5 or 6 weeks long. So, when they asked me last night when the U.S. election was, having seen, of course, all the news coverage of debates, primaries, etc., it was so amusing to see their reaction when I told them, "Next November!" They just couldn't believe it!

Wednesday, January 21

Theology Makes My Heart Sing

I know for many believers the word theology seems to go hand in hand with the word boring. To them, theology seems like useless nitpicking over tiny details that make no difference in the long run, anyway. Studying theology could not possibly be as important as simply loving God with all our heart.

And they are right. Absolutely nothing is more important than loving God.

For some of us, though, the study of theology is instrumental in the growth of our love for God. There are some of us for whom a good study of systematic theology brings with it the power to make our hearts sing like nothing else save the study of scripture itself. The more we understand exactly what we are, underneath the gracious work of God within us, the more we love God for his mercy in saving us. The more we understand who God is, as He reveals Himself to us in all His attributes, the more we are awed that He would condescend to reach us.

Then there are some who see the study of theology as territory for men only. Women, they think, ought to be focused on being good wives and mothers. They are partly right, for being a good wife and good mother is right practice for a christian woman. What is forgotten, though, is that all of our right practices are like a mechanic's greasy uniform if they are not done for the right reason--if they do not arise from our love for God. Christian women need to know who God is that we should worship Him, and what has He done that we should love Him. Only those who know Him can worship and love Him, and only those who worship and love him can be good wives and mothers out of righteous motivation.

Quotes on Justice

Though justice be thy plea, consider this:

That in the course of justice none of us

Should see salvation.

Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, Act 4, Scene 1

One of the criminals who were hanged {there} was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed {are suffering} justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." (Luke 23:39-41 NASB)

Tuesday, January 20


Where I live, January is a cold and dark month. The sun comes up halfway through the morning and sets halfway through the afternoon, and when it is up, it is so low on the horizon that it is something like twilight much of the time. To those who live on a lower parallel, this probably sounds depressing (and I will admit it can be), but there is nothing quite so nice as wrapping things up early and sitting in the recliner by the wood stove to read a good book.

Every day I walk my dog on the trail down by the river--she in her dog booties and I in my parka and sorels--where the trees and brush are covered with thick sparkling frost from the freezing vapor that rises from the water, and I am awed by the beauty of creation.

Monday, January 19

The Objectivity and The Subjectivity of the Atonement

Here is more of what I have been mulling over lately in regard to the work of Christ. As I see it (and I think I can back my viewpoint up with scripture) there are two sides to what Christ has done: the objective side--what Christ's work on the cross demonstrates to the world; and the subjective side--what it accomplishes for me.

There is the Saviour on the cross, before the eyes of all--proof that there is a righteous way by which God can count as righteous the one who has faith. Sins can be forgiven because there is a means of propitiation--a perfect propitiatory sacrifice displayed publically, by which God's wrath toward human beings can be taken out of the way. There is a just way to justify through faith. Christ is the bridge that spans the river and anyone who desires can cross.
...God displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. {This was} to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, {I say,} of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25,26 NASB)

This is the objective truth of the atonement, and it is a beautiful truth, but it is not the end of the story. It comes to us joined with another beautiful truth--the subjective one.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption... (1 Corinthians 1:30 NASB)

Not only is the Saviour set before everyone on Calvary, but believers are joined with Him there. It is by God's doing that we are in Christ Jesus, and it is for those united with Him that His death becomes justification and sanctification and redemption. Christ is the bridge that spans the river and a little girl standing on a pew in a small church in rural Idaho is carried across.

One whole glorious story founded on two glorious truths. The one Saviour is our Saviour. The one mediator is our advocate. The centerpoint of human history becomes our personal turning point. And it is all by God's doing.

Let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord.

Saturday, January 17

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Are there any more beautiful words found in a hymn than these from Isaac Watts in "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"? For at least 20 years, this song has been my favorite, mostly because of the powerful image these words create.

Christ's atonement has long been a fascination of mine, drawing me like nothing else can. It began when I was only 5 years old--a little girl, standing on the back pew of small church in rural Idaho, listening (believe it or not!) to the sermon. I don't remember the words of the sermon, but somewhere within it was an explanation of Christ's death on the cross and what it accomplished. In my mind there came an image of my Saviour on the cross, suffering for me, and at that instant I knew, "I need that! I want that!"

That is why I love this hymn. When I hear those words I see that same glorious picture: my Saviour on the cross, with the sorrow that comes from enduring God's wrath and love for the sinner written together on His face; sorrow and love joined in the droplets of His blood. It is this image that came with the power to convert me from a child of wrath to a child of God.

Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.