Friday, May 12, 2006

Declaring the Death of Christ: James Denney. X.

In his Studies in Theology, James Denney wrote:

"The work of Christ in relation to sin is the great thing in the Gospel. It is the centre of interest and devotion, the main object both of attack and defence; for our understanding of the Christian revelation as a whole, everything depends on the clearness of our vision here." (P. 125)

What was Denney's conception of Christ's work, then? He summed it up thus: "His death is concieved as putting away sin, because that death our condemnation came upon Him. That is the apostolic interpretation, the apostolic theory, of the atonement. That is the ultimate fact which gives significance to Christ's death, and makes it a sin-anulling death. It is a death in which the divine condemnation of sin comes upon Christ, and is exhausted there, so that there is thenceforth no condemnation for those that are in Him. If we cannot say this of His death - that in it God's condemnation of sin fell upon Him - then we must either show other reasons for saying that His death is the ground of forgiveness, or give up the idea that there is any connection between the two. In other words, if we do not accept the apostolic theory of atonement, we must either provide a more adequate one, or else, as intelligent creatures, renounce what we have distinguished as 'the fact.' An absolutely unintelligable fact, to an intellient being, is exactly equivalent to zero." (P. 108)
[Denney has in view here certain writers who said that, while they accepted the 'fact' of the atonement, they accepted no 'theory' of it. As he shows here, the fact of the atonement as presented in Scripture actually comes with a 'theory' already attached to it.]

"Christ, by God's appointment, dies the sinner's death. The doom falls upon Him, and is exhausted there. The sense of the apostle is given adequately in the well-known hymn:
'Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood;
Sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!'
It is not given adequately, it is not given approximately, it is not given in any degree whatever, it is not seen even afar off, by the most refined theology which leaves the condemnation out of the cross, and invents a meaning of its own, for the phrase of its own invention, that Christ became sin for us." (Pp. 112-3)
(italics Denney's)

What, then, did Denney make of other 'theories' of the atonement? God willing, we shall see next time.



Blogger Gerard Charmley said...

A keen reader, I now have a blog on welsh history. Or my notes re-used.

9:30 pm  

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