Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy; for thou renderest to every man according to his work.
— Psalm 62 v.12

If it is false, how can the doctrine of substitution have been permitted to remain so long an article of faith to so many? On the same principle on which God took up and made use of the sacrifices men had, in their lack of faith, invented as a way of pleasing him. Some children will tell lies to please the parents that hate lying. They will even confess to having done a wrong they have not done, thinking their parents would like them to say they had done it, because they teach them to confess. God accepted men’s sacrifices until he could get them to see—and with how many of them has he not yet succeeded, in the church and out of it!—that he does not care for such things. The potency of that teaching comes from its having in it a notion of God and his Christ, poor indeed and faint, but, by the very poverty and untruth in its presentation, fitted to the weakness and unbelief of men, seeing it was by men invented to meet and ease the demand made upon their own weakness and unbelief. The truth is there; it is Christ, the glory of God. But the ideas that poor souls breed concerning this glory the moment the darkness begins to disperse, is quite another thing. Truth is indeed too good for men to believe; unable to believe in the forgivingness of their father in heaven, they invented a way to be forgiven that should not demand of him so much; which might make it right for him to forgive; which should save them from having to believe downright in the tenderness of his father-heart, for that they found impossible.


For That They Found Impossible
by Dave Roney

I begin with the two major figures in the Pentateuch, therefore in all the Old Testament, as regards the Justice of God: The first of these is Abraham, the second Moses; Abraham is the positive example of faith, Moses the negative example of faith; Abraham had faith without the Law and succeeded, Moses failed in his faith by the Law; by faith Abraham entered the land of Canaan, was buried in a cave near Mamre in the promised land, but by the Law neither Moses nor Aaron or a single person from the bondage in Egypt (save for Caleb and Joshua) were allowed entrance.  Justice, that is our justification by God, stems either from faith or law, from Grace or by commandments.

The system of legalism has its root in Moses, the highest example of faith recorded is that of Abraham who believed God, obeyed God incredibly through faith, and was thereupon justified in the sight of God.  There is herein a dualism set in motion, one which continues to this day; the boundaries of it are not always clearly defined.  A man may, for instance, believe that God loves a cheerful giver and that “if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (2nd Cor. 8:12)—and yet this same man will place himself under the yoke of the Law, thinking he is obligated to tithe his money when, in fact, the only occasion the word “tithe” is used in the entire New Testament is but one occurrence (given in two Gospels) by our Lord, and then only in His condemnation of the Pharisees.  Human nature, except the Spirit of God be allowed to work in a man and show him the truth, is such that he will always seek to justify himself through works.

But man, understanding somehow that the Law works in tandem with Faith, knows it according to two things; the first of these is his understanding of God, and the second, based on the first, is found in the doctrines he formulates which agree and align with his suppositions and preconceived notions concerning of God.  And, therefore, it is not the man first who is placed under a heavy yoke, but God Himself.  Scripture declares (see Romans 3:21-26) that God is Just, and the Justifier of the one who lives by faith.  Thus arose a heinous theory of bondage, of a supposed and “proven” by Scriptural interpretation, an imaginary god much like ourselves, a legalistic god who must, in the face of Justice offended, exact punishment and demand a pay back for sins, to be paid either by the sinner or by a Surrogate, but in any case a Justice based on Law, of an eye for an eye, and not (in the case of God) on Grace or (in the case of men) on Faith alone:

Question: “If it is false, how can the doctrine of substitution [the Penal/Substitution Theory of the Atonement] have been permitted to remain so long an article of faith to so many?”
Answer: “On the same principle on which God took up and made use of the sacrifices men had, in their lack of faith, invented as a way of pleasing Him.”

“Some children,” says MacDonald, “will tell lies to please the parents who hate lying. They will even even confess to having done a wrong they have not done, because they teach them to confess.”  And what of the parents, godly and hoping to do the right; are they not guilty of the same only in a different setting?  Do they not, based on their understanding of God, go about to please Him even though in such ways, based on their own misunderstanding and interpretations, which are alien to His very nature?

If men are bent on performance, that is to say using the Law, specifically or inadvertently, as their yardstick for governing behavior and, consequently, their justification, and understand that for every sin committed by them there must be a corresponding pay back, a restitution, a penalty served for the infraction of the Law, then it follows that such men, forming their doctrines, would understand that the same must apply to God Himself.  And a pay back of any description involves some form of sacrifice; therefore, they think, the sacrifice of Christ Jesus is a pay back to God for their sins, that the Atonement is Penal in nature, that the Atoner is our Substitute.  It is not for the unbelieving world alone that eyes which cannot see, and ears which cannot hear, is reserved; it is for believers as well, for all those who cling to their humanish understanding of Justice, who would create a god who is more like them than Himself; it is for men who would insert their intellectualism in place of the Spirit of Truth's guidance, who would cling to their doctrines, well worked from ages before and delivered to them in saintly attire much like the polished facade of a sepulcher, rather than with open mind and childlike heart humbly approaching the Scripture, and seeing Christ the image and exact sameness of His Father, and learning from Him Who is meek and lowly, their great Friend and Servant and Brother, the bringer of Peace, the living and eternal Truth of God made manifest in His fleshly life.  For that they found impossible.

The good child, meaning well, will sometimes lie to good mother because he thinks what he says is what she desires to hear; he has mistaken her, has formulated an idea of her which is quite unlike her.  He means well, and if he is able to listen she will instruct him better; but no matter, she will not cast him away from her in any case but will love and care for him.  And though she be not satisfied with him as he is, she is nonetheless pleased that he desires to please her.  Such is God, Who is easy to please but hard to satisfy.  And in God's forbearance, predicated on His great Love, He has allowed many things to transpire which He did not desire but tolerates.  And I would name a few:

“God accepted men's sacrifices until He could get them to see—and with how many of them has He not yet succeeded, in the church and out of it!—that He does not care for such things.”

(NOTE: God may not desire to do a thing, even a well-intentioned or good thing, because He would do the best; but if and when He throws in with men, He is entirely in.  So much so, with such an abundance of Grace, Love, Wisdom, Justice and Mercy, that He somehow makes the man-thing His own thing and thereby elevates it, uses it for a higher, nobler, purpose and end.)

What of sacrifices?  God always, often in mysterious ways, uses the clay at hand; whatever it is that man does, He has a way of turning it to Himself for the good of the man, in this life and in the coming one.  Thus, He had no desire for offerings and sacrifices (see Psm. 41:6; 51:16; Hos. 6:6; and Heb. 10:8 for example) , but His chosen people were bent upon it, were wayward and self-willed, had from the beginning adopted the pagan practices of their neighbors.  And in effect, I think, God said “Well, if you are dead bent on sacrifices I'm going to intervene, accommodate you, and give you a sacrificial system; it will be one that points forward to an event which you could never imagine, that I would provide Myself, through My Son, as your Sacrifice; in this way I will keep you from the wickedness of your neighbors, who build their altars in the groves and sacrifice their children to demon gods; I will turn your evil to good.”

What of the Law?  Did not the people cry out to Moses “give us the word of the Lord (the Law) and we will do all of it?”  But God did not so desire, for He asked of them only what He had ever asked of any man, of all men, as from the very beginning of the creation, of men before the Law, that they “obey My voice and keep My covenant.”  Yet, since they were bound to have laws as did the pagans, He accommodated them; and by the Law showed them that no man could be Justified in His sight, thereby to make faith their refuge and point them to the coming Messiah.

But what of kingship?  He had no desire for it but see in 1st Samuel that He gave it because the people had rejected Him; it was their desire to have a king over them even as the pagans surrounding them had kings—and the biblical record shows the injustice, debauchery, treachery, and unfaithfulness of their desired kings, who would tax them heavily, lead them into wars, and ultimately into bondage.  Yet God used the authority of their imperfect kings to point them to a coming King of all Kings.  And is it the desire of God to be our King?  I think not; it is due to our poor understanding of Him that we think it fitting He be a King.  He would rather be the Servant than the King, will do the office of the good King without fail; and then, when He as King has subjected all things to Himself, He will surrender His won possessions and His crown to His Father and ours (1st Cor. 15:28) for in that day He will “deliver the Kingdom to God the Father.”  Then, His office fulfilled, He will sit down and rest with His brothers and sisters, as One like them for they are by then quite like Him, forevermore.

In all these things, is God jealous of His glory?  No, He shares it with His creature-sons.  Would He have men to fear Him?  No, only when fear works within them to lead, or else drive, them to Him; otherwise, and ultimately, He will have all men everywhere to love Him.  Would He lord it over men?  No, He would welcome them into His bosom as dear sons and daughters.  Would He be aloof from them?  No, He would have them the same as Him.  All these things are too glorious for the human-minded to believe true.  Yet we have before us our Christ, and has He not shown such things to us, revealed to us the Heart and Mind of God?  

And now, finally, back to Justice.  Would you have justice from God?  If that justice is anything like what you understand it to be, it is a thing too horrible for you; you cannot bear it, must ever be attempting to satisfy impossible demands set upon you by you, and your theologians, but never by God.  The only Just thing a just God can do is to, somehow, forgive sin, forgive the man who is unjust; and the only justness for the sinner is to become his own executioner of his sin, to put it to death within him, to join in the crucifixion death of Christ and live in His resurrection Life.  The Justice of God demands from Him that He destroy sin, not the sinner; to this end He is ever working.  I have shown some of what men have come to believe concerning God but which is, though widely accepted, yet untrue of Him.  Into this entire theological network, condensed into the Penal/Substitutionary framework, shot through with so much error, is the uncomprehended nature of a Justice which is a facet on the face of that gemstone which is the Divine Love, that being the very Heart of God, a thing too good for some to believe and accept:  

“Truth is indeed too good for men to believe; unable to believe in the forgiveness of their Father in heaven, they invented a way to be forgiven that should not demand of Him so much; which might make it right for Him to forgive; which would save them from having to believe downright in the tenderness of His Father-heart, for that they found impossible”...

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The picture portrays the promise of God to Abraham, the man of faith, that his descendants would as the stars in the heavens and the sand grains on the shore for multitude.  And in this he believed God...