The Atonement in the Old Testament

In the years I spent arguing (one-sidedly, admittedly) against Open Theism in general and John Sanders' "inclusivist" strain of Open Theism within my former denomination in particular, I often wondered if Sanders and his friends had ever really read the Old Testament--not just paged through it glancing at words, but READ it.

The same thought occurs to me today as I read modern critics of a substitutionary and propitiatory atonement suggest that God would not cast the sins of all men on one Man.

What Bible do these men read? I know they pay lip service to the scapegoat and sacrifices of the Old Testament, but they fail to see in these a specific act of substitutionary propitiation. And perhaps legitimately so, because the sin of man could never be borne by goats or bulls. Substitionary penal atonement can be seen only in type in the Old Testament's sacrifices.

But what about those passages which specifically refer to transfer of sin and guilt in the Old Testament? In Numbers 18 the LORD says to Aaron, "You and your sons and your father's household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the santuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the priesthood."

And in Numbers 9:13, the Law states of the person who fails to observe the Passover, "...that man will bear his sin."

At such points Scripture is no longer speaking typically. This is not a picture, this is a clear statement of the transfer of sin.

The real problem at the heart of modern rejection of the substitutionary, propitiatory view of the atonement is not a distaste for the substitutionary violence of God against His Son, but a low view of sin. Advocates of newer views of the atonement hate the high regard for sin inherent in Scripture's sacrificial system. Their problem really, is an unwillingness to accept the Biblical picture of depravity, not a substitionary and propitiatory view of the atonement.


Anselm's comment still resonates with relevance, doesn't it? We don't WANT to consider "what a great weight sin is."

It's hard to understand people who try to not to call sin "sin" or try to minimize it. Sin is everywhere and it's obvious. As Chesterton said, the doctrine of sin is as practical as potatoes.

Ahh, but the atonement is the key. The hinge.
Acceptance of the biblical doctrine of the substitutionary atonement would eliminate arminian theology, and hence, modern evangelicalism altogether. I've heard arminians claim to believe in the statement "christ died for ME" and "Christ died IN OUR PLACE", but it seems apparent they have not thought out what this really means biblically.

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