13 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars
Unlikely to change anyone's mind, 10 Aug 2007
This book fails to prove its main thesis regarding the importance of Penal Substitution (PS) in the minds of the biblical authors and the early Christians. The conclusions of this book are founded upon ignorance, poor logic, and misinterpretation of evidence. Alternative views are not even considered. Biblical texts which draw their conclusions into serious question are ignored. Circular arguments are used extensively. Claims of "clearly proving" conclusions are prolific, yet almost never supported by the arguments. Lastly, the very small amount of evidence found in support of PS in the writings of the early Christians is grossly misinterpreted. It is wrongly concluded from this evidence that PS was "a central theme" to the authors, rather than a peripheral theme that is barely even mentioned (which is what most scholars conclude, even those who support PS). Some claims are simply misleading from the truth. Perhaps it is for these reasons that N.T. Wright considered this book "deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical."
Part 1 of this book aims to "build the case" for PS. Yet it is unlikely to persuade any of its critics, and indeed it invites heavy criticism from scholarship. Yet the condescension and cursory dismissals of those who hold different opinions in the introduction make it even less likely to be well-received by any who do not already agree with the authors. Hence, it is unlikely that this first part of the book will have the effect desired by its authors.
In Part 2 the authors give responses to common objections to PS. While the intent of this part is to be applauded, the quality of the arguments is again poor. Many of the objections are over-generalized or mistaken for other ideas, and the underlying issues are not addressed. Some of the objections to PS are even strengthened by their responses. In cases where the objections have been addressed, invalid assumptions, faulty logic, and ignorance of alternative interpretations dominate their arguments. The response of the authors here leaves most of the strong objections to PS in full force.
The biggest problem with Part 2, however, is how limited in scope it is. The authors only address objections to PS as an interpretation of what occurred on the cross. The theological system in which PS plays a central part is largely ignored. Yet many strong objections to the system of PS can be made, with a weight of evidence from the New Testament authors and early Christian fathers. These objections bring into serious doubt the centrality of a theological system that centers around PS in early Christian theology, yet they were not even mentioned here.
In short, it is unlikely that this part of the book will silence the objections being made to both the specific doctrine of PS, and the theological system in which it is central. Despite the authors' frequent assertions that their responses will silence their critics, this poor defense of PS will likely give them even more cause for criticism. Most discerning critics of PS will be not be persuaded by the responses here. At the start of Part 2 the authors "invite readers to make up their own minds" (p206), and no doubt readers will. It seems likely that whatever the opinion of readers prior to reading this part, it will not be changed.
(Search Google for "'pierced for our transgressions' critique" for more detailed critiques of the arguments in this book.)