Herb Montgomery, founder of Renewed Heart Ministries, recognizes that the distorted image of God reflected in much mainstream Christian theology can create doubt and harden unbelief. He’s a man much after George MacDonald’s heart (though he informed me that he had not previously read the Scotsman’s works) and offers a Biblical presentation of the Triune God of Love whose nature is fully revealed in Jesus. Montgomery is the author of Finding the Father, which was published in 2009 and deserves to be far better known. You may not agree with all of his ideas, but they are well thought out, backed up with both logic and robust Scriptural references, and deeply thought-provoking. Some quotes from that book follow below.
What Are We Saved From?
“Way back in the beginning of this race’s history God lovingly warned Adam and Eve of the danger of sin…note that God did not threaten them, ‘If you eat the fruit, I’ll kill you.’ He wanted them to understand that by eating the fruit, they would be setting in motion a chain of events that would ultimately end in death…God is not the one from whom we need to be saved—we need to be saved from sin! Over and over Scripture makes this point.
“'For the wage paid by sin is death; the gift freely given by God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom 6:23, New Jerusalem).
“…The gift of life comes from God, and the wage of death is paid out, or comes, from sin…The Bible clearly states that when Christ came to this planet, His purpose was not to appease an angry God, bur rather to save us from what our sins were doing to us.”
Montgomery makes a fascinating argument, firmly grounded in Scripture (see Finding the Father if you’re interested in the proof texts), about the destruction caused by sin: “When we see God’s glory, we also see our own sin. Seeing these two simultaneously produces a psychological and emotional torment the Bible calls wrath, which, if we were left to near it in full, would end in our death…God’s other-centered love was intended only to be the source of life for the universe, yet the mystery of sin causes contact with God’s other-centeredness to have contrary results. That is why sin is so hateful to a holy God…”
It is God’s forgiveness that can save us from the effect of sin, and that brings us to the atonement.
Understanding the Atonement
“Was our debt to God repaid, or forgiven? Our sin is either forgiven or repaid—but it cannot be both. And yet Scripture uses the language of both. How are we to make sense of this? We must abandon a three-party substitutionary atonement model if we are to begin to understand the nature of forgiveness. God forgave our sins against Him—someone else did not repay Him the debt. There is no such thing as forgiveness that doesn’t cost the forgiver something…Is there a cost to forgiving someone who has wronged us? Absolutely! But it must be remembered that this is not payment being received by the one doing the forgiving but is payment being made by the one doing the forgiving...
“This is still an act of substitution, but it is a type of substitution that is legally acceptable and just. It is forgiveness. The violated willingly and voluntarily putting himself in the place of all the violators, willingly bearing what was done against him, so that the violators can go free…
“We must not say that the Father punished Jesus on the cross…[t]o say this denies the basic truth that Jesus and His Father are one. We must also never say that Jesus persuaded the Father to forgive at the cross. Once again, this would separate their oneness…The cross was not the means of God’s forgiveness, but the very act of forgiveness itself.”
I found Montgomery well worth reading, and highly recommend Finding the Father.