The Shofar is the ancient trumpet which called the people of God to prayer, repentance, sacrifice and war.


Immediate 21.30 hrs Wednesday 18th April 2007

Christian Voice takes on Dean of St Albans in latest issue.

The Dean of St Albans has been criticised for a BBC Holy Week talk in an article in the latest issue of a Christian newsletter. The article, in the April issue of Christian Voice, describes Dr John's views as 'shallow', 'simplistic' and 'blinkered'.

In his talk, broadcast on Radio 4 on Wednesday 4th April, the Very Reverend Jeffrey John scorned the Christian doctrine of 'penal substitution', in which Jesus Christ is considered to have taken the sin of believers when offering Himself as the ultimate once-for-all-time sacrifice on the Cross.

Dr John also rubbished the concept of God visiting punishment upon sinners and spoke admiringly of a dissolute unrepentant uncle who 'died a happy man'.

But in the Christian Voice article, entitled 'He bare the sin of many' - a quote from the prophet Isaiah - the National Director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green, says that 'penal substitution' is inescapable from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, one of the famous 'Servant Songs'. Green says that Jesus Christ and His disciples applied the prophecy to Himself 'explicitly'.

Green accuses 'his Very Reverence' of ignoring swathes of Scripture and of 'sneering' rather than mounting any kind of Biblical defence of his unorthodox views. The Christian Voice Director shows that rather than being an optional extra, the belief that Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice to satisfy the wrath of God is central to the New Testament and itself prophesied by the Old Testament sacrifices. But taking on a Church of England Dean does not come easy.

Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, said:

'I really try these days not to criticise other Christians. I have been on the receiving end of it, but above all, I realise it is not an edifying sight for those outside the church. So you will not find me knowingly attacking denominations, their dignitaries, archbishops, bishops, or Christian believers of any sort. My instinct is to give brethren the benefit of the doubt, and to be as generous and forbearing as I can. There are enough proper targets in the world as it is.

'Having said that, I am shocked at Jeffrey John's scorn at Christian belief as some form of words you just say without meaning them, his pleasure in his uncle's sin, his sneering denial of God's wrath, and by the same token his denial of any form of divine justice, his caricature of the God revealed in the totality of Holy Scripture, his unceremonious binning of any scripture with which he does not agree, his open contempt for his roots, his unrepentant homosexuality, and finally his mockery, which I find as repulsive as he finds the wrath of God. All these together simply prevent me from seeing him as a fellow-Christian. That is not something I say lightly. I do not know him as God does, but from these fruits, I just cannot recognise the man as part of the body of Christ. My failing, no doubt, but there we are.

Green also says that it is clear that those who object to Christ's penal substitution are coming 'not from a dispassionate and intellectually honest view of the Atonement in isolation, but from a lightweight dislike of the idea of divine punishment as a whole.'

But he questions whether a world in which there is no justice is one we should like to live in, and shows that the certainty of a 'Day of Judgment' in which wrongs would be righted was central to Christ's teaching. In that day, he says, it will be clear that we all deserve the wrath of God, but that those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will find that He has already paid the penalty.

Stephen Green concluded: 'That glorious Gospel is better news for sinners this Easter than the sneering we heard in Holy Week on Radio 4. It requires repentance, but it brings forgiveness and the blessed assurance of justification and salvation. How good is that?'