Two reviews: The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse, M.Div., D.D., and the Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D., Dean of Cranmer Theological House
A book recently written by Bishop Kenneth N. Myers, Salvation (and how we got it wrong), sets out to correct centuries of wrong thinking, according to Myers, about the central question of Christianity, how can sins be forgiven. Myers says on p. 14, “Anselm (and the Reformers who followed him) simply got it wrong.” Even more to the heart of the matter Myers says a couple of paragraphs later that he wants to “help people change their understanding not only of salvation, but also of God himself.” In other words, this isn’t a book just about what God does, but about the very nature of God himself.
The form the book takes is a very interesting one—an exchange of letters between Bishop Myers and a young man named Victor Anselmo Boso. Andy, as Victor Anselmo Boso, is referred to in the book, says that he was taught, and believes, that because Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden they were cursed by God, and that since they were unable on their own to pay the penalty for their sins, Jesus Christ paid the penalty by his death on the cross. Myers responds to that letter by saying, “What you have described is indeed the ‘standard’ (or shall I say ‘popular’—because it is most predominant in our part of Christianity) view of salvation. And you are also correct that I don’t believe it.” (p. 27). Myers correctly refers to that view as the Theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, and in the rest of the book simply uses the acronym PSA.
There really is nothing new in Myers’ rejection of PSA, which he demonstrates by his very first objection. He asks, “Why should we believe that we are punished for our ancestors’ sin? Adam and Eve sinned. But why should their descendants be punished for their sin? Doesn’t the Bible clearly say that punishment shouldn’t work this way?” To prove his point he quotes Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20, both of which say that a person shall die for his own sins, not for the sins of his parents. This objection is flippantly raised very often by people who have no concept of the teaching of the Bible, and no real desire to find out what it is. They have their objections, and they are not interested in a careful study of the Bible.
Myers just quotes a passage with little introduction and little exegesis; in fact, there is no exegesis in the book. To quote Deut. 24:16; Ez. 18:20 to “prove” that one is not made guilty for another’s sin means there is no covenant representation, on the one hand, and demonstrates that he has no understanding that Paul’s argument in Romans 5, on the other hand, is not that such imputation is always the case but that Adam, the First Adam, was the covenant head of the race and Christ the Last Adam was covenantal head of His elect body. The two Old Testament passages he quoted are irrelevant; they have nothing to do with covenant headship.
In arguing that way Myers fails to appreciate a basic principle of biblical interpretation that a verse taken out of context becomes a pretext for a specious argument. The context of the statements in Deuteronomy and Ezekiel is not the same as the context of Genesis 3 when God punishes Adam and Eve and all their posterity with death because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. God created Adam and Eve, as he did everything else, without sin. That is, they had no propensity to sin because they did not have a sinful nature. Genesis tells us that God looked at everything he had made and concluded that “it was very good”. There was no sin in them, and consequently no defilement in their actions caused by a sinful nature.
(To read the whole review, click here)