VIDEO Breathe on Me, Breath of God

Oct 28, 2013

SE Samonte

1. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.

2. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.

3. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.

4. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life
of thine eternity

C. S. Lewis And Theories Of The Atonement

 

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There is a richness both in Scripture and in church history when it comes to trying to understand what transpired at Calvary for our behalf. That Christ died for our sins is a basic theological given accepted by all true Christians. But how exactly that came about has always been an issue where much discussion – and debate – has occurred.

The idea of the atonement (mankind’s reconciliation to God through the work of Christ) has been viewed differently over the years by Christian thinkers and theologians. We can say there are not only many different portraits painted of this most wonderful of actions in the Bible, but over the past 2000 years believers have grappled with just what took place when Jesus died on the cross, and then rose again.

Anyone familiar with basic theology and the history of Christian thought will know that there are many models or theories of the atonement. This cannot be discussed in detail now, but in outline form here are some of the main theories and their proponents, laid out roughly in order of their appearance:

-The ransom theory (the early church fathers)
-The recapitulation theory (Irenaeus)
-The satisfaction, or commercial theory (Anselm)
-The penal substitution theory (Paul (?) and the reformers)
-The moral example, or subjective, or moral influence theory (Abelard)
-The governmental theory (Grotius)
-The Christus Victor, or dramatic theory (Aulen)

lewis-2Obviously many more could be mentioned and an entire library already exists weighing up the pros and cons of each model. The simple truth is there may be aspects of most of these theories that fit in with the biblical data, and none may be fully “correct” to the exclusion of all others.

Evangelical Christians of course will for the most part want to emphasise certain aspects here. We would argue that somehow there was certainly substitution involved (Christ died in my place), and most would state that it was penal in nature (having to do with the breaking of the law, and punishment).

So the penal substitutionary theory tends to be the main evangelical option. However we are to understand it, it is a wonderful and mysterious divine activity that we will never fully fathom in this life at least. See more on this topic here: billmuehlenberg.com/2009/01/25/on-the-atonement/

The great Christian apologist and theological layman C. S. Lewis was certainly aware of these various theories of the atonement, and he struggled to make sense of it all. While not a trained theologian or a professional theologian (if we can put it that way), he was very deeply steeped in theology and church history, so he had a very good working grasp of theology, more so than most believers today.

Evangelicals who are theologically literate will not be happy with all of what Lewis had to say about the atonement. A good introductory piece on this can be found here for example: www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=22-03-027-f

But in this article I want to simply highlight a few fundamental truths that Lewis shared in his important volume Mere Christianity. The very idea of a “mere Christianity” meant for Lewis that while we can and will differ on many details, there are some basic core truths of Christianity which should unite all believers. Based on this foundation, this in part is what he had to say about the atonement, and theories thereof:

The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like….

Theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works. Christians would not all agree as to how important these theories are….

But I think they will all agree that the thing itself is infinitely more important than any explanations that theologians have produced. I think they would probably admit that no explanation will ever be quite adequate to the reality. But as I said in the preface to this book, I am only a layman, and at this point we are getting into deep water. I can only tell you, for what it is worth, how I, personally, look at the matter. On my view the theories are not themselves the thing you are asked to accept….

We believe that the death of Christ is just that point in history at which something absolutely unimaginable from outside shows through into our own world. And if we cannot picture even the atoms of which our own world is built, of course we are not going to be able to picture this. Indeed, if we found that we could fully understand it, that very fact would show it was not what it professes to be–the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like lightning. You may ask what good it will be to us if we do not understand it. But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it. We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at….

Such is my own way of looking at what Christians call the Atonement. But remember this is only one more picture. Do not mistake it for the thing itself: and if it does not help you, drop it.

Obviously those who are really keen on their particular pet theory of the atonement will not be all that satisfied with this. However, while he did not propose a specific model of the atonement, he did remind us that regardless of how we conceive of it, it is a glorious core truth that all believers hold to. Indeed, it is the reality of the atonement that saves us and unites us, even though theories about it will continue to be debated and discussed.

There would be many folks who have shared their concerns about Lewis at this point; that he should have been more specific about a particular atonement theory. As just one example of many, consider this recent piece by one leading evangelical author: blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2011/01/28/cautions-for-mere-christianity/

But my purpose here is not to defend Lewis in all things, nor is it to promote a particular view of the atonement (although it should be fairly obvious that the penal substitutionary theory is the one I most closely adhere to here). The purpose of this article is to simply refocus our minds on the fact and reality of the atonement.

As an evangelical Christian, I subscribe to some theories of the atonement more closely than to other ones. I believe the penal substitutionary atonement may come the closest to doing justice to the biblical data. And I believe that some of the other theories have some aspects of truth as well in varying degrees.

But the one obvious point Lewis was making, and rightly so, is that a mere theory of the atonement will not save anyone. The atonement itself, and our personal connection with it, is what saves us. As someone who loves theology, I am of course interested in the atonement and the various views of it as offered over the centuries. But at the end of the day I realise that I am not saved by a particular theory, but by what Christ did at Calvary on my behalf.

If this article helps provoke believers to look more closely at this wonderful biblical truth, I will be quite satisfied. I will be less satisfied if some folks will want to come here and seek to pick yet another fight with me – or Lewis – because we may not as doggedly hold to a particular view of the atonement as they do.

So as always I ask my readers to cut me a bit of slack here. Other articles in the future may more forcefully uphold some of these theories and seek to make the case for them. But here I merely wanted to remind us of the wonder of the cross and the glorious work of Christ.

Praise God for the cross.

by BILL MUEHLENBERG

original here

David’s Devotion

Psalms 3

Do you want to know who God is and what He cares about most in your life? You may have stored up lots of intellectual information about the Bible, and that is important, but it’s not the main issue. You may serve the Lord, which is also necessary. And you may give generously to the church—another significant aspect of Christian life. But what matters most is the depth of your personal relationship with the Lord. Knowledge, service, and tithes can never replace intimacy with God.

The psalmist-king understood this truth, and it strengthened him in times of trouble. When his son Absalom tried to take over the throne, David fled to the wilderness, where he wrote these words: “But You, O Lord, are a shield about me … I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about” (Ps. 3:3, Ps. 3:6). He knew that even in raging adversity, he could count on God’s unfailing love and protection.

Throughout David’s psalms, we repeatedly see his unwavering dependence on the Lord. It was that passion—not his brute strength, charisma, or ability to command an army—that made him a great man. And even though he had a number of failures, the Bible describes him as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).

It’s not enough to read the Bible, volunteer your services, and give money to kingdom work. God wants to know you personally. While tangible expressions of our devotion are important, they should be the result of a mature relationship with God. When we seek Him first, the rest will follow.

Love from the Beginning

“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:11)

The pungent phrase “from the beginning” occurs no less than nine times in the first three chapters of the little epistle of 1 John. Thus, while in one sense, Christ’s command to love one another was a new commandment, in another sense it has been with us from the very beginning of the world. “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:7).

The first verses of John’s epistle show that this beginning is the same beginning in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning, . . . of the Word of life; . . . that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:1-2). Note also 1 John 2:13: “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (see also 1 John 2:14).

“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father” (1 John 2:24). This is an eternal commandment, for “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and “love is of God” (1 John 4:7). In the upper room, Jesus prayed to the Father: “Father . . . thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. . . . And I have declared unto them thy name, . . . that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them” (John 17:24, 26).

Love, therefore, has been at the center of God’s plan from the beginning, but a new pattern and measure of that love was given us by Christ. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). HMM

God’s Desire

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. —Genesis 1:27

I believe there is good sound reasoning back of all this. I believe that He created man out of no external necessity. I believe it was an internal necessity. God, being the God He was and is, and being infinitely perfect and infinitely beautiful and infinitely glorious and infinitely admirable and infinitely loving, out of His own inward necessity had to have some creature that was capable of admiring Him and loving Him and knowing Him. So God made man in His own image; in the image and likeness of God made He him; and He made him as near to being like Himself as it was possible for the creature to be like the Creator. The most godlike thing in the universe is the soul of man.

The reason God made man in His image was that he might appreciate God and admire and adore and worship; so that God might not be a picture, so to speak, hanging in a gallery with nobody looking at Him. He might not be a flower that no one could smell; He might not be a star that no one could see. God made somebody to smell that flower, the lily of the valley. He wanted someone to see that glorious image. He wanted someone to see the star, so He made us and in making us made us to worship Him.

Lord, I can’t completely comprehend how or why You created me in Your image, as much like You as a creature could be. But I’ll respond today with admiration for Your creation and with worship for my Creator. Amen.

Breath of God

The word that I have spoken… shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:2)

Two of the great realities in our midst are surely the promised Presence of God and the testimony of His eternal Word!

By the “Word of God” I do not refer only to the book you hold in your hand—paper and letters, pages and ink—sewed together with silk thread. By the Word of God I do mean the expression of the mind of God: the mighty, world-filling breath of God!

Most of the things men and women talk about cannot be counted among the great realities of life. In October, people talk a great deal about the World Series as a great reality, but by December they have forgotten who pitched and who struck out.

People spend their entire lives in the pursuit of those things that can only perish and fade away. But when it is all over, they are still going to be faced with the reality of the eternal Word of God, the revelation of Truth which God has given us!

Think of the changes that would come if humans would suddenly stop and hear the Word of God!

This age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit

This age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Jesus cheers us not by his personal presence, as he shall do by and by, but by the indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Ghost, who is evermore the Comforter of the church. It is his office to console the hearts of God’s people. He convinces of sin; he illuminates and instructs; but still the main part of his work lies in making glad the hearts of the renewed, in confirming the weak, and lifting up all those that be bowed down. He does this by revealing Jesus to them. The Holy Spirit consoles, but Christ is the consolation.