Sunday, May 3, 2015

What’s Wrong with Penal Substitution?

Well, there’s the name. 

Thankfully, “penal” is followed by “substitution,” rather than the equally applicable, “satisfaction.” It is St. Anselm’s so-called “satisfaction (or commercial) theory of atonement” of which penal substitution is often framed the peculiarly forensic and legalistic articulation.  However, this model[1] of the atonement is all too often reduced - and so distorted - to a merely legal transaction.  For these reasons, I prefer the term, “piacular substitution.”  Here I am borrowing from A.A. Hodge’s classic work, The Atonement, where “piacular” is used to describe the intended effect of ritual sacrifices in terms of both “expiating sin and propitiating God.”[2] 

Having said that, what is a proper definition of penal or piacular substitution?   The “penal” or “piacular” qualifier speaks to the moral and spiritual requirements - entailing a definite, punitive dimension - necessary to make atonement for sinners before a holy God.  In short, using an admittedly economic but thoroughly biblical metaphor, sin incurs a debt that must be paid.  “Substitution” refers to the vicarious nature of Christ’s atoning death, consistently construed in the New Testament as “sacrifice,”[3] which he offered as both victim and priest to God on our behalf (cf. Hebrews 9:11-14, 24-28; 10:1-14). At the heart of the biblical conception of ritual sacrifice figures a sublime exchange or substitution. From the ram caught in the thicket on the mountains of Moriah (Genesis 22:1-19), to the Passover lamb slaughtered in the ghettos of Goshen (Exodus 12:1-27), to the scapegoat driven into the desert places on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1-34), to, finally, the crucifixion of Christ at the Place of the Skull (Hebrews 13:11-12), these divinely appointed victims were manifestly offered in our place (cf. John 11:45-53). 

As straightforward as these contours of a biblical doctrine of atonement appear to many students of Scripture, within the church there has long been critics of a piacular and substitutionary synthesis - both outside and now increasingly inside the evangelical tradition.  The primary and repeated objections to piacular/penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) are essentially three-fold: historical, theological, and moral.  I would like to address these respectively in three installments.  Namely, Part I: PSA is an Evangelical Idiosyncrasy; Part II: PSA is Too Narrow (e.g., not robust enough of a theological model); and Part III: PSA is Immoral/Unjust (e.g., cosmic child abuse?).

Part I: PSA is an Evangelical Idiosyncrasy

It is true that PSA is, as J.I. Packer writes, “a distinguishing mark of the world-wide evangelical fraternity: namely, the belief that the cross had the character of penal substitution, and that it was in virtue of this fact that it brought salvation to mankind.”  But is this peculiar to evangelicalism?  Many have argued that it is, positing it as a novel development of the 16th century Reformation, and so something of a johnny-come-lately” interpretation of Scripture.[4]  But is this true?

It is true that the Reformers pioneered a systematic formulation of PSA.  As Packer summarizes:
What the Reformers did was to redefine satisfactio (satisfaction), the main mediaeval category for thought about the cross. Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo?, which largely determined the mediaeval development, saw Christ’s satisfactio for our sins as the offering of compensation or damages for dishonour done, but the Reformers saw it as the undergoing of vicarious punishment (poena) to meet the claims on us of God’s holy law and wrath (i.e. his punitive justice).[5]
Reformation and Pre-Reformation Era

However, versions of piacular substitution are hardly restricted to the expositions of Luther,[6] Calvin,[7] Zwingli,[8] Melanchthon, Cranmer,[9] et al.   Perhaps unsurprisingly, we discover the same basic framework functioning in the writings of pre-Reformers, such as John Wycliffe[10] and John Wesse.[11]  Moreover, these articulations appear to be entirely “at home” within the official teachings of Renaissance era Roman Catholicism.[12] Of course, this shouldn’t surprise us.  A piacular substitutionary logic is evident throughout the late and high medieval Roman church, whether in the works of Nicolus of Cusa,[13] the great Thomas Aquinas,[14] Bernard de Clairvaux,[15] Theophylact of Ohrid,[16] or even Anselm of Canterbury himself[17] (despite the fact that feudal conceptions of “honor,” much more than judicial accounts of “punishment,” pervade his meditations on divine “satisfaction”).   

The Scholastic Era

Anselm’s famous Cur Deus Homo? (“Why God Became Man”) presented a new formulation of the atonement that would prove “epoch-making,”[18] framing Christ’s redemptive work in terms of “satisfaction” rendered to God for the debt incurred by our sin.[19]  This constituted a marked departure from the (then) prevailing ransom or classical model of the atonement.  According to this paradigm of redemption, Christ’s death was broadly conceived as a “ransom” directed toward the Devil, who held us captive through sin.[20] (Think of Aslan’s agreement with the White Witch to exchange his life for the release of the enchanted Edmund in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.)

Because of Anselm’s refocus of the atonement’s effect on obligations arising from the divine nature, many of the critics of PSA point to the 11th century Archbishop of Canterbury as the original culprit.[21] But did Cur Deus Homo represent a corrupting misstep in the doctrinal development of the church, as some have asserted (e.g., Gustaf Aulen, Joel B. Green, Steve Chalke)?  Reflecting on Anselm’s legacy, the renowned historian, Jaroslav Pelikan, concludes otherwise:
What came out of [these early scholastic examinations] was a series of more careful formulations of the doctrine of redemption than had been worked out by patristic theology, together with a critique of metaphors for the redemption that had come down from the fathers.  The most comprehensive of these formulations, that of Anselm in Why God Became Man, was described by an early historian of doctrine as “almost the only point at which scholasticism brought about a truly healthy development.”  In it Anselm related the three parties [mankind, God and the devil] to one another be means of a theory of “satisfaction” through the cross, giving systematic form to the biblical and liturgical identification of the work of Christ as sacrifice.”[22]
Moreover, though it is corrective of the classical model in significant ways, “the closer attention one pays to Anselm's argument,” observes the famous Orthodox philosopher, David Bentley Hart, “the harder it becomes to locate a point at which he actually breaks from patristic orthodoxy.”  Hart concludes:
...there is a real continuity between the thought of the fathers and the thought of Anselm, that the Cur Deus Homo does not represent a catastrophic breach between the theologies of East and West, but only a change of accent, and that perhaps the concerns and beliefs that motivate the atonement theories of either tradition emanate (to a greater degree than is usually acknowledged) from the same story[23]
The Early Church and Late Antiquity

One story there may be, but as one scans the Christian centuries preceding the scholastic period, there appear to be a perplexing array of atonement “models” at play.[24] Patristic scholar, J.N.D. Kelly, noting this apparently dissonant diversity (particularly within the first five centuries),[25] cites three models/theories as especially significant: 
First, there was the so-called ‘physical’ or ‘mystical’ theory [also known as the ‘recapitulation model’]…Secondly, there was the explanation of redemption in terms of a ransom offered to, or a forfeit imposed on, the Devil [see above]… Thirdly, there was the theory, often designated ‘realist’, which directed attention to the Saviour’s sufferings.  Making more of sin and the punishment due for it than of its tragic legacy, this placed the cross in the foreground, and pictured Christ as substituting Himself for sinful men, shouldering the penalty which justice required them to pay, and reconciling them to God by His sacrificial death.[26]
Of course, this third “theory” is tantamount to PSA.  Moreover, we find all three models functioning throughout the entire patristic period (2nd – 8th century)  – no doubt as expressions of the “controlling models” of the New Testament (namely, [1] incarnation and union with Christ, [2] victory over death and the devil, and [3] ritual sacrifice and vicarious suffering, respectively).  To exhaustively cite the church fathers in support of this third model would require a multivolume book in itself.[27]  Instead, I offer briefly a few highlights to remove all doubt as to whether the church of the patristic period embraced and developed a piacular and substitutionary understanding of Christ’s passion: 

Gregory the Great, (540-604 AD), summarizing the consensus of the fathers before him and anticipating the systematic formulations of the scholastics, writes: “Guilt can be extinguished only by a penal offering to justice.  But it would contradict the idea of justice if, for the sin of a rational being like man, the death of an irrational animal should be accepted as a sufficient atonement.  Hence a man must be offered as the sacrifice for man; so that a rational victim may be slain for a rational criminal.  But how could a man, himself stained with sin, be an offering for sin?  Hence, the Son of God must be born of a virgin, and became a man for us.  He assumed our nature without our corruption.  He made himself a sacrifice for us, and set forth for sinners his own body, a victim without sin, and able both to die by virtue of its humanity, and to cleanse the guilty upon grounds of justice,” (Morals on the Book of Job, 17, 46).

Gelasius of Cyzicus (5th century): “[Christ] came and received the punishments which were due to us into his sinless flesh, which was of us, in place of us, and on our behalf,” Church History, II, 24.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) could not have more clearly expressed this model than he did in his polemic against Faustus: “Christ, though guiltless, took our punishment that he might cancel our guilt, and do away with our punishment. Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree; not this one or that but absolutely everyone. What? The Son of God?  Yes, assuredly.  While ever blessed in his own righteousness he was cursed for our offences, in the death which he suffered in bearing our punishment… [Christ was] cursed, not in His divine majesty, but as hanging on the tree as our substitute, bearing our punishment,” Contra Faustus, 14.[28]

Gregory of Nazianzus (330-390 AD) elucidates on the mystery of Christ bearing our curse: “But look at in this manner: that as for my sake he was called a curse, who destroyed my curse; and was called sin, who takes away the sin of the world; and became a new Adam to take the place of the old; just so he makes my disobedience his own as Head of the whole body. As long then as I am disobedient and rebellious, both by denial of God and by my passions, so long Christ also is called disobedient on my account….Of the same kind, it appears to me, is the expression, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ It was not he who was forsaken either by the Father, or by his own Godhead, as some have thought, as if It were afraid of the Passion, and therefore withdrew Itself from him in his sufferings (for who compelled him either to be born on earth at all, or to be lifted up on the cross?). But as I said, he was in his own person representing us. For we were the forsaken and despised before, but now by the sufferings of him who could not suffer, we were taken up and saved. Similarly, he makes his own our folly and our transgressions; and says what follows in the Psalm, for it is very evident that the 22nd Psalm refers to Christ,” Theological Orations, 4.5.[29]

Athanasius of Alexandria (298-373 AD) writes in his classic work, On the Incarnation of the Word of God: “It still remained to pay the debt which all owed, since all, as I have explained, were doomed to death, and this was the chief cause of His coming to us.  That is why, after revealing His Godhead by His works, it remained for Him to offer the sacrifice for all, handing over the temple of His body to death for all, so that He might rescue and deliver them from their liability for the ancient transgression…For there was need of death, and a death had to be undergone for all, so that the debt of all might be discharged,” 20.  Or again, “It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by offering of the equivalent.  For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required,” 9.[30]

Going all the way back to the 2nd century, the Epistle to Diognetus seems to me as though it could have been written by Martin Luther himself,[31] and Justin Martyr’s letter to Trypho, an unbelieving Jew, reads in places strikingly like an evangelical gospel tract.[32]  After all these centuries, it is remarkable to read in the church fathers words so familiar - and so precious - to our own piety and faith in this matter (not to mention in many others).   


So, is PSA peculiar to evangelicalism? Clearly not.  However, it is true that, for particular historical and theological reasons,  PSA is a peculiarly evangelical emphasis.[33]

[1] In his excellent essay, “The Logic of Penal Substitution,” J.I. Packer distinguishes the “control” models given in Scripture (e.g., kingdom of God, Son of God, sacrifice, redemption, etc.), the dogmatic models “the church crystallized out to define and defend the faith,” (e.g., Trinity, hypostatic union, homoousion, etc.), and “interpretive models lying between Scripture and defined dogma,” developed for communicating the faith to contemporaries.  He places theories or models of atonement in this third category.  See In My Place Condemned He Stood, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), p.63.  
[2]  The Atonement (Baker Book House; 1975), p.122ff.  This language has the advantage of articulating the Godward dimension of Christ's atonement in terms of the Scripture's “control” models regarding sacrifice, rather than the (valid but often misunderstood) legal metaphors of our interpretive model(s). 
[3] John Murray wrote in his definitive work on the atonement, “It lies on the face of the New Testament that Christ’s work is construed as sacrifice,” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Eerdmans; Grand Rapids, MI, 1955, p.24).  See also B.B. Warfield’s essay, Christ Our Sacrifice. 
[4] E.g., Stuart Murray Williams, one of the leaders of the Anabaptist Network in the UK, asserts that PSA is “a relative newcomer among attempts to interpret the meaning of Jesus’ death,” and dismisses it as “theologically and ethically problematic.” 
[5] Roger Olson writes, “The satisfaction theory virtually replaced the ransom theory in Roman Catholic Theology because of Anselm.  Furthermore, during the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, John Calvin presented a completely biblical version of Anselm’s model that has come to be called the penal substitution theory of the atonement.  In many ways it is simply an updated version of Anselm’s theory stripped of feudal imagery,” The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p.325.
[6] Despite Gustaf Aulen’s claim in his massively influential work on the atonement, Christus Victor, it is clear that Martin Luther did affirm PSA, and vigorously so. J.I. Packer writes, “Aulen rightly stresses the dynamism of divine victory in Luther’s account of the cross and resurrection, but wrongly ignores the penal substitution in terms of which Christ’s vicarious work is basically defined.  The essence of Chris’s victory, according to Luther, is that on the cross as our substitute he effectively purged our sins, so freeing us from Satan’s power by overcoming God’s curse,” Logic, p.85, fn.33.  Wolfhart Pannenburg goes so far as to say, “Luther was probably the first since Paul and his school to have seen with full clarity that Jesus’ death in its genuine sense is to be understood as vicarious penal suffering,” Jesus – God and Man (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974), p.279. For more on Luther’s view of the atonement, see Timothy George’s “The Atonement in Martin Luther’s Theology,” in The Glory of the Atonement, ed. Charles E Hill and Frank A. James III, (Downers Grove, IL; InterVarsity Press, 2004), p.263-278. 
[7] E.g., “Another principal part of our reconciliation with God was that man, who had lost himself by his disobedience, should by way of remedy oppose to it obedience, satisfy the justice of God, and pay the penalty of sin.  Therefore our Lord came forth very man, adopted the person, and assumed the name, that he might in his stead obey the Father; that he might present our flesh as the price of satisfaction to the just judgment of God, and in the same flesh pay the penalty which he had incurred,” Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Chp.12, 3. 
[8] A.A. Hodge quotes Zwingli to this effect: “But he suffered, for the purpose of expiating our crimes, a most humiliating form of suffering.”  “Wherever sin is, death of necessity follows.  Christ was without sin, and guile was not found in his mouth…And yet he died this death, he suffered in our stead.  He was willing to die, that he might restore us to life; and as he had no sins of his own, the all-merciful Father laid ours upon him,” op cit., p.288. 
[9] In his Defense of True Doctrine of the Sacraments, Cranmer writes, “One kind of sacrifice; that is to say, such a sacrifice as pacifies God’s wrath and indignation, and obtains mercy and forgiveness for all our sins, and is the ransom for the redemption from everlasting dominion.” 
[10] Hodge cites, “And since, according to the third supposition, it behooves satisfaction should be made for sin, therefore, it behooves that the same nature of man should satisfy for as much as it had become indebted in its great progenitor, which no man was able to do, unless he was at the same time both God and man.”  “It is a light word to say that God might, of his power, forgive this sin (Adam’s) without the aseeth (satisfaction) which was made for it, for God might do so if he would; but his justice would suffer, but requires that each trespass be punished either on earth or in hell.  And God may not accept a person to forgive him without satisfaction,” op cit., p.286.
[11] E.g., “the Lord Jesus is not only Mediator between God and man, but is rather Mediator for man, between the God of justice and the God of mercy; for it behooved that the whole law of justice should be fulfilled without failure of one jot or tittle; and as this has now been achieved by Jesus, it is easy to find the way in which mercy can flow forth in streams of compassion.”  Elsewhere he writes, “For Christ, being Himself God, and Priest, and Sacrifice, has satisfied Himself for Himself and by Himself.”  Or again, “Our loving Father has willed thee his loving Son to be a Surety, Sponsor, Bailsman, for the fully obeying and fully suffering, by an equal pledge on account of all my disobedience and misery,” Ibid., p.287-88.
[12] According to the Council of Trent, Session 6, chapter 7, “Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, on account of his great love wherewith he loved us, merited justification for us by his most sacred passion on the tree, and satisfied God the Father for us.”  In the Catechismus Romanus of the Council of Trent, we read: “The first and most excellent satisfaction is that by which whatever is due by us to God, on account of our sins, has been paid abundantly, although he should deal with us according to the strictest rigour of his justice.  This is said to be that satisfaction which we say has appeased God and rendered him propitious to us; and for it we are indebted to Christ the Lord alone, who, having paid the price of our sins on the cross, most fully satisfied God,” 2, 5, 63.  Timothy George writes, “atonement, understood as a distinctive locus in systematic theology, was not a matter of great debate between the Protestant Reformers and their Roman Catholic adversaries.  With the exception of the Socinians and a few other radicals, theologians on both sides of the Reformation divide believed that the death of Christ on the cross had secured an objective satisfaction for sin, one that was of infinite value, and without which no salvation was possible for lost human beings,” The Glory of the Atonement, p.263.  
[13] E.g., “For our justification did Christ so do. For we, sinners, in him paid the penalties of hell, which we justly deserved,” Cardinal Excitationes, Book 10 in Opera Omnia (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1983).
[14] E.g., “He who knew nothing of sin, he was made to be sin for us, that is, because of the punishment of sin,” Summa Theologiae, 3a.Q46, art.4. “God’s severity is thus manifested; he was unwilling to remit sin without punishment, as the Apostle intimates when he says, He did not spare even his own son.  But it also illustrates God’s goodness, for as man was unable to make sufficient satisfaction through any punishment he might himself suffer, God have him one who would satisfy for him,” 3a.Q47, art.3.  Aquinas demonstrates the compatibility of PSA and a ransom model of atonement (aka classical model) in arguing, “By sin man contracts a twofold obligation.  First, he is bound in slavery to sin…  Because, then, the devil had overcome man by inducing him to sin, man was delivered into the bondage of the devil.  Secondly, by sin man was held to the debt of punishment according to divine justice… As therefore Christ’s passion provided adequate, and more than adequate satisfaction for man’s sin and debt, his passion was as it were the price of punishment by which we are freed from both obligations.  Satisfaction offered for oneself or for another resembles the price whereby one ransoms himself form sin and from punishment… Now Christ offered satisfaction … by giving the greatest of all things, namely himself, for us.  For that reason, the passion of Christ is said to be our ransom,” ibid., Q48, art.4. 
[15] E.g., “It was a man who owed, a man who paid. For if one, he says, died for all, then all died, viz. that the satisfaction of one may be imputed to all, just as he alone bore the sins of all; nor is there any one found to purchase, and another one to make satisfaction, because one Christ is head and body. The head, therefore, made satisfaction for the members, Christ for his own bowels,” Epistle 190 to Innocent, “Tractate on the Errors of Abelard,” PL, CLXXXII, 1062b-1062c. 
[16] E.g., “For the Father was not willing to bestow upon us the inheritance, but was angry with us, as sons rejecting him, and estranged from him. Christ, so made Mediator, reconciled him to us. How? He himself bore for us that which we ought to have suffered (for we deserved to die), and made us worthy of his testament (On those words (Heb. i.) "When he had by himself purged our sins," Migne, CXXIII-CXXIV).
[17] Though it seems satisfaction is typically framed by Anselm as the compensation for or restitution in the place of actual (personal) punishment, the logic is homologous to that of PSA. As Anselm soberly writes, “To remit sin in this manner is nothing else than not to punish; and since it is not right to cancel sin without compensation or punishment; if it be not punished, then is it passed by undischarged,” Cur Deus Homo, Book I, chp.12.  Or again, “without satisfaction, that is, without a spontaneous settlement of the debt, it is impossible for God to forgive a sin that has remained unpunished, Book I, chp.19.  But well before Anselm, there was evidence of a rudimentary form of PSA (e.g.,  Claudius of Turin in the 9th century wrote, “Christ underwent the penalty designed for those who failed to obey the law, that he might liberate those believing upon him from all fear of such penalty,” Commentary on Galatians, at Galatians 3:16). It seems Anselm is presupposing and modifying this basic model in his rationale of satisfaction, and would not have balked at the general understanding of Christ having suffered the law's penalty in our place.  
[18] Historian Justo Gonzalez writes, “this treatise by Anselm was epoch-making.  Although they did not follow it at every turn, most later medieval theologians interpreted the work of Christ in the light of this treatise,” History of Christian Thought, vol.2, From Augustine to the Eve of the Reformation, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1987), p.167. 
[19] Anselm summarized his thesis in this way: “[Our restoration] could not be accomplished unless man paid to God what he owed for sin. But this debt was so great that, although man alone owed the debt, still God alone was able to pay it, so that the same person would have to be both man and God.” 
[20] Both Anselm and his contemporary, Abelard (with his alternative, “Moral Influence Theory”), wrote their treatises to address the apparent problems with the classical model.  Though this model, famously denominated Christus Victor by Gustaf Aulen, had its roots in Scripture (e.g., Colossians 2:15), and in the redemptive-historical approaches of Irenaeus (the so-called, “recapitulation theory”) and Athanasius (On the Incarnation of the Word of God), it’s later formulations, particularly by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, et al., would explicitly posit a payment or ransom rendered to Satan in the death of Christ - and that by a kind of deception (Christ’s flesh hiding the “hook” of His deity).  This would prove theologically unsustainable.  As Pelikan writes, “Any amount of critical reflection on the notion of salvation by deception had to lead to its rejection as unworthy of a just and holy God.  In spite of the impressive array of theologians who could be cited in its support, the idea was self-contradictory and hence self-defeating,” The Christian Tradition: The Growth Medieval Theology, (University of Chicago Press, 1978), p.135.  Of course, this is not to say that Anselm rejected a Christus Victor theme in the atonement.  As we'll see in the second post, these themes (Christ’s substitutionary satisfaction and his victory over the powers and principalities of darkness) are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  Anselm himself summarizes the purpose of Christ's advent in these words: “he who was to assume humanity was to come to do battle against the devil.” 
[21] David Bentley Hart, speaking from an Eastern Orthodox perspective, writes, “…it is, at least, most certainly the case that many Orthodox theologians have long believed (not entirely without warrant) that Western narratives of salvation have all too often reduced the atonement worked by Christ to the status of a simple transaction, enacted more or less entirely on the cross, and intended solely as an appeasement of the Father's wrath against sin… and it is this [fuller picture of Christ’s work], so the story goes, that has been lost to view along the Western via crucis, with its unrelenting concentration on the language of penal suffering and remission from debt. And no figure in the Western tradition provides a more compelling illustration of this supposed failing on the part of the Western Church than Anselm of Canterbury: his Cur Deus Homo, written so soon after the schism, seems to mark the divide between the two theological climates with an exquisite historical precision; and in speaking of Christ's death in terms of "satisfaction" he certainly appears to prove beyond any doubt how far Western theology had strayed, by the time of the division, from the high road of patristic orthodoxy,” pp.333-34, “A Gift Exceeding Every Debt,” Pro Ecclesia Vol.VII, No.3.
[22] Ibid., p.130-31.  Pelikan concludes: “It was one of the historic achievements of Anselm’s doctrine of the atonement to have translated the fundamental significance of the biblical and liturgical image of sacrifice – that the redemption of mankind by Christ was an act addressed to God, not to man or to the devil – into a form that was compatible with the immutability of God,” p.139.  Similarly, Hart concludes, “But while one may prefer the richer narrative complexity of Athanasius's De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, one should also acknowledge that, for Anselm, it is just this complexity that is not desirable. Anselm is already situated in the Christian theological tradition, he already knows that Christ has recapitulated human nature in himself and conquered evil on our behalf; it is from this narrative that Anselm has undertaken a (by no means final or exclusive) reduction of the tale, in order better to grasp the inner necessity of its sacrificial logic. He pauses for one critical moment, to contemplate the cross as the grave inner meaning (or inevitability) of God's condescension,” p.344.
[23] Ibid., p.335.  On this note, consider this quote from John of Damascus, the greatest representative of the Greek church in the 8th century, “He who assumed death for us, died, and offered himself a sacrifice to the Father; for we had committed wrong towards him, and it was necessary for him to receive our ransom, and we thus be delivered from condemnation.  For God forbid that the blood of the Lord be offered to the tyrant,” referencing the Devil (Exposition of the Faith, 3, 27).  
[24] Indeed, Hart is spot on in his correction of Aulen: “The truth is, of course (contrary to Aulen’s contention), that there never was one “classic” view of the atonement, though there was certainly a shared narrative atmosphere in which patristic thought moved,” A Gift Exceeding Every Debt, p.342.
[25]The student who seeks to understand the soteriology of the fourth and early fifth centuries will be sharply disappointed if he expects to find anything corresponding to the elaborately worked out syntheses which the contemporary theology of the Trinity and the Incarnation presents.  In both these latter developments controversy forced fairly exact definition on the Church, whereas redemption not become a battle-ground for rival schools until the twelfth century, when Anselm’s Cur deus homo (c.1097) focused attention on it.  Instead he must be prepared to pick his way through a variety of theories, to all appearance unrelated and even mutually incompatible, existing side by side and sometimes sponsored by the same theologian,” Early Christian Doctrines (New York; HaperCollins, 1978), rev.ed., p.375.  This alone should give us pause in construing these models as mutually exclusive.  Earlier in the church’s life (2nd and 3rd centuries), Kelly similarly notes regarding the development of soteriology, “it is useless to look for any systematic treatment of the doctrine in the popular Christianity of the second century.  It is true that the Apostolic Fathers make numerous references to Christ’s work.  For the most part, however, they are rehearsing the clichés of catechetical instruction, so that they say smacks more of affirmation than explanation…while enumerating all sorts of benefits bestowed by Christ, the Apostolic Fathers nowhere coordinate their main ideas or attempt to sketch a rationale of salvation,” ibid., p.163. 
[26] Ibid., p.375-76. 
[27] For those interested in reading more on this question, I recommend J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrine, op cit., p.375-99 and A.A. Hodge’s The Atonement, op cit., p.265-286.  See also Pierced for Our Transgressions, ed. Steve Jeffery Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), pp. 161-183. 
[28] Augustine goes on to write, “Christ endured death as man, and for man; so also, Son of God as He was, ever living in His own righteousness, but dying for our offences, He submitted as man, and for man, to bear the curse which accompanies death. And as He died in the flesh which He took in bearing our punishment, so also, while ever blessed in His own righteousness, He was cursed for our offences, in the death which He suffered in bearing our punishment.”  Cf. Augustine's contemporary, Jerome's commentary on Isaiah: “[Christ] endured in our stead the penalty we ought to have suffered for our crimes,In Is.53, 5-7.
[29] Cf. the commentary of Eusebius of Caesarea (275-339 AD) on Psalm 22, in which he asserts, “to wash away our sins He was crucified, suffering what we who were sinful should have suffered, as our sacrifice and ransom, so that we may well say with the prophet, He bears our sins, and is pained for us, and he was wounded for our sins, and bruised for iniquities, so that by His stripes we might be healed, for the Lord has given Him for our sins.”  See also Eusebius’ Demonstration of the Gospel, Bk.10, chp.1: “the Lamb of God…was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so…drew upon Himself the appointed curse, being made a curse for us.” Similarly, Ambrose of Milan (340-397 AD) writes, Jesus took flesh so as to abolish the curse of the sinful flesh, and was made a curse in our stead so that the curse might be swallowed up in blessing.... He took death, too, upon Himself that the sentence might be carried out, so that He might satisfy the judgment that sinful flesh should be cursed even unto death.  So nothing was done contrary to God's sentence, since its terms were implemented,De fuga sac. 44.
[30] And lest we forget Athanasius’ understanding of death as the exigency of divine judgment, he earlier explained: “It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die…it was unthinkable that God, the Father of Truth, should go back upon his word regarding death,” On the Incarnation, 6-7. Cf. “Have no fear, then. Now that the common Saviour of all has died on our behalf, we who believe in Christ no longer die, as men died aforetime, in fulfillment of the threat of the law,” 4:21. And, “He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He “become a curse” otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” 4:25. 
[31] Powerfully resonating with Luther’s famous exclamation on the atonement, “wonderful exchange,” the author writes: “9:1 And when our iniquity had been fully accomplished, and it had been made perfectly manifest that punishment and death were expected as its recompense, and the season came which God had ordained, when henceforth He should manifest His goodness and power (O the exceeding great kindness and love of God), He hated us not, neither rejected us, nor bore us malice, but was long-suffering and patient, and in pity for us took upon Himself our sins, and Himself parted with His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy for the lawless, the guileless for the evil, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. 9:3 For what else but His righteousness would have covered our sins? 9:4 In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God? 9:5 O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!”
[32] E.g., “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death on account of the sins of the people and be dishonored and courted, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder.  But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? Then, explaining why Christ suffered these things, writes: “For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them’ [Deut 27:26]. And no one has accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be under a curse who practice idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God,” Dialogue with Trypho, 95.  
[33] This is in great part due to the reformational emphasis on forensic justification, which grounded its theological rationale in the judicial aspect of Christ's substitutionary atonement.  This emphasis wasn't merely polemical, but also expressed the profound, pastoral insight connecting our sanctification with our gratuitous justification by virtue of the wonderful exchange,” (cf. 2Co.5:14-21).  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wrestling with Ephesians 4:11 in Context

Ephesians 4:11-16 is for many church leaders a defining text, indicating not only the purpose of our ministry (“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body”) and its end goal (“until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, and reach full maturity”), but also the means of our ministry; namely, a plurality of diverse, qualified leaders variously administering the Word of God to the people of God and to the world. More recently, this text has become the focus of renewed attention for understanding the functional leadership of the early church, as the sphere of ecclesiology (particularly as it relates to missiology) is being thoroughly re-explored from nearly every camp within Protestantism. 

Moving backwards in 4:11, there is broad agreement that the construction “the pastors and teachers” indicates that these two offices/functions were inextricably connected, if not describing the same group (i.e., “pastor-teachers”). The latter appears to be the prevalent view of most commentators, including Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrose and Jerome. Nevertheless, even if we conclude that these are distinct offices/functions (e.g., see Calvin's commentary on Ephesians), A.T. Lincoln is surely close to the truth when writes, “It is more likely that they were overlapping functions, but that while almost all pastors were also teachers, not all teachers were also pastors,” (Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, 1990, p.250). 

“Evangelists” are also broadly understood (by the early church and most modern commentaries) as itinerant preachers who evangelized the unreached, and, apparently, equipped the church for evangelism. Generally, this has been taken to imply a spiritual gift of evangelism. However, interestingly enough, missiologist Ed Stetzer disagrees, observing that the gifts here are persons, not necessarily spiritual abilities. Nevertheless, most agree that evangelists “are to be seen as those engaged in mission and the founding of churches and, therefore, having responsibilities beyond the local congregation,” (Lincoln, p.250). 

With regard to “the apostles and the prophets,” the traditional understanding of Ephesians 4:11ff. is well represented by Richard Gaffin Jr., in his Perspectives on Pentecost
 “…the New Testament prophets, along with the apostles, are the foundation of the church [see 2:20].  They have a foundational, that is, temporary, noncontinuing function in the church’s history, and so by God’s design pass out of its life, along with the apostles.” (pp.95-96, 1979). 
Hence, the remaining offices/functions of the post-apostolic church are: evangelist, pastor and teacher (or pastor-teacher). However, with the advent of the charismatic movement in the early 20th century, the received “cessationism” of our Protestant heritage began to be re-examined, re-asserted (e.g., B.B. Warfield’s Counterfeit Miracles), and re-questioned (e.g., Martyn Lloyd-Jones). With this renewed interest in the possibility of a fundamental continuationism, the question of the contemporary relevance of “apostles and prophets” in Ephesians 4:11 was again on the table (e.g., C. Peter Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation). Many pronounced themselves and others as prophets, and pointed to this text as warranting their acceptance within the church.  Others even claimed to be apostles. 

More recently, a non-Charismatic approach to interpreting Ephesians 4:11 has emerged. The first popular expression of this interpretation that I am aware of is found in Martin Robinson and Dwight Smith’s 2003 book, Invading Secular Space. In this work, the authors argue that the “gifts” discussed in Ephesians 4:11 should be understood not as spiritual charismata, as the “gifts” (domata, 4:8) are leaders; neither should they be understood as ecclesiastical offices or titles, as assumed by Pentecostal and Charismatic claimants of prophetic and apostolic authority. Rather, they should be understood as functions; and these functions should all be operating in some measure in every church today. The function of apostle is understood as particularly important in the extension of the gospel beyond the ecclesial and geographical boundaries of the local church. This “APEPT model” has since been promulgated by authors Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch (e.g., The Shaping of Things to Come, 2004 and The Forgotten Ways, 2008).

Typically in the New Testament (see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1994, p.911) and the writings of the early church fathers (e.g., Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus), “apostles” refer to those uniquely authorized eye-witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, and therefore necessarily limited to those personally commissioned by the glorified Christ in the first century.  So how should we understand apostolos in Ephesians 4:11?  It obviously extends beyond the twelve “apostles of the Lamb,” (Rev.18:20; cf. Acts 1:26) to include the “untimely born” Paul (1Co.15:8). Does it also include the broader category of those key leaders among the “apostolic teams,” such as Barnabas (Ac.14:14), James (Gal.1:19), Silas, Timothy (2Thess.1:1; 2:6-7), and perhaps Andronicas and Junais (Rom.16:7)? Would it entail even those outside the apostolic teams who are also labeled “apostles,” such as Epaphroditus (Phil.2:25) and other “messengers of the churches” (2Co.8:23)? That is to say, does it embrace not merely apostles “big A,” so to speak, but also apostles “little a.”  And then of course there is the equally difficult question of the meaning of prophetes.
One of the mistakes often made in interpreting Ephesians 4:11 is eisegesis of the nouns in question.   Rather than establishing the meaning of these nouns in their grammatico-historical context there is a tendency to read into them our own, idiosyncratic and popular conceptions. For instance, it is often communicated in Christian circles that “prophets” are those with personalities especially “wired” for a high concern for truth ... and stereotypically lacking in the social skills to communicate these truths with diplomacy or compassion. But is this lexically defensible? And would this caricature even be helpful in portraying the prophets of the OT?  “Apostles” are often represented as “visionaries” and “catalytic leaders” who aggressively push the church beyond its present boundaries for the sake of extending the gospel. Yet we don’t know whether, prior to the catastrophes of AD 70 and following, the majority of the original twelve ever even left Jerusalem for the purpose of ministry. 

I once had an opportunity to talk with a leading advocate of the APEPT paradigm, and asked him what he thought a “pastor” essentially was. He told me that it was someone with the gift of mercy, and was particularly compassionate toward people. Surprised, I asked him, “Why, I mean, how do you figure that?” He responded, “Because when you think of pastors, what do you think of? You think of the nice guy.” But surely this understanding of poimayn, the same word rendered “shepherd” in John 10:11-16, Hebrews 13:20 and 1Peter 2:25 (see also 5:4), is more representative of our modern caricatures of pastors than the first century context of Paul’s letter.

We need to be cautious then of pouring anecdotal and anachronistic meanings into these words. Having said that, what is the contextual meaning of “apostle” and “prophet”?


First and foremost, it is instructive to observe that the two nouns, “apostles” and “prophets,” appear together twice more in the same unit of Ephesians (2:11-4:16): namely, 2:20 and 3:5. In both of these cases it is apparent that these persons function in a foundational capacity in the historical structuring of the Church, establishing the revelational groundwork upon which God’s house is built, and subsequently enshrined in the New Testament documents. Unless there are compelling factors to interpret “the apostles and the prophets” (τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας) in v.11 differently from “the apostles and prophets” (τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν) mentioned earlier in the unit, common sense tells us they should be read the same way.  If this is so, then it appears the traditional interpretation is basically correct, and that these offices/roles are no longer operative in the sense Paul intended. 

We must also consider the interesting parallel in 1Corinthians 12:28. Here Paul offers an enumerated list of gifts distributed: “in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers...,” and then goes on to list other spiritual gifts without precise enumeration. Perhaps it is best to read this ordering in light of 12:31, and with Grudem (The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, 2000, pp.52-53, 122-23) understand it as a measure of the relative efficacy of these various gifts for the edification of the church. Or perhaps it should be read as chronological, as D.A. Carson argues (Showing the Spirit, 1987, pp.90-91): apostles were first commissioned, then prophets and other charismatic leaders in the early mission, and then teachers in the established churches. Whomever we identify as correct in interpreting the ordering of 12:28, Grudem (pp. 51-53) and Carson (p.90) are both in agreement that here “apostles” should be understood within the narrower scope of the word, i.e., big “A” apostles. This seems to be the straightforward meaning of the word, especially in light of its usage throughout the whole letter of 1Corinthians (see 1:1; 4:9; 9:1-5; 15:7-9).  If so, then we have a strong parallel text which must inform our interpretation of Ephesians 4:11.

Given then the immediate context of the passage in question (Eph.1:1; 2:20; 3:2-5), together with the broader context of Paul’s writings (especially 1Cor.12:28), we are inclined to conclude with most commentators that “apostles” in 4:11 should be understood in this narrower sense.  Furthermore, there appears to be nothing in the text to cause us to venture an alternative meaning or usage (e.g., a grammatical indication that all such “gifts” from Christ are on-going).  Therefore, we should conclude that this particular gift, having already been distributed and having already accomplished its foundational function, is no longer necessary.  For this reason, I think it is extremely unwise for anyone to employ the title “apostle” today, even if they distinguish its meaning from the NT’s typical usage. Perhaps “evangelist” should be employed instead to refer to those who extend the gospel beyond the community of the local congregation? 


But what about the prophets?  What are they, and should we expect Christ to raise them up today?  The question of the meaning of prophete is enormously complex (see, for example, David Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity, 1983).

Having said that, I find Carson’s in-depth study of 1Corinthians 12-14 in Showing the Spirit compelling, and concur when he concludes that Grudem’s treatment of prophecy is essentially correct (see pp.91-100).  Grudem succinctly defines prophecy in the New Testament as a spontaneous revelation (“something God brings to mind”) that is then fallibly spoken (i.e., non-inspired) by the prophet. Given this understanding, there is no contradiction between a closed canon and contemporary prophesies within the church. They are not inerrant or absolutely binding, but rather must be continually “weighed” by the congregation (1Cor.14:29). And, according to Paul’s usage in his most extensive discussion of the topic (i.e., 1Cor.12-14), it would appear that a prophet is someone who regularly exercises the gift of prophecy for the benefit of the church. 

So should we then understand the same meaning of the term “prophets” in 4:11 as used elsewhere in the New Testament?  If so, then we must conclude that, unlike apostles, the function/role of prophets continues today.  But what about 2:20 and 3:5?  What about the unique, foundational roles assumed there by the apostles and prophets?  Here it gets complicated. 

Grudem writes, “It must be admitted that Paul is using the word “prophets” in Ephesians 4:11 to refer those who had the gift of prophecy in local congregations,” (The Gift of Prophecy, p.342).  However, he also argues that “prophets” in 2:20 and 3:5 is used in a distinctive way.  In particular, he makes a very careful argument that the construction “apostles and prophets” in both 2:20 and 3:5 should be understood as a hendiadys, referring not to two distinct persons, but to the same individuals; namely, the apostle-prophets (cf. “pastor-teachers” in 4:11).  Grammatically his case is sound, and certainly the apostles were prophets in every sense of that term.  Yet few remain convinced.  It is an odd expression, isn’t it?  More likely, most commentators are correct to understand Paul here to be speaking of the apostles (big “A”), on the one hand, and those inspired individuals who, to borrow Sinclair Ferguson’s phrase, “exercised a foundational ministry…as a kind of apostolic plenipotentiary,” (The Holy Spirit: Contours of Christian Theology, 1996, p.210), on the other.   

But I think Grudem (see Appendix 6 in Gift of Prophecy) and Carson (pp.96-97) are correct in rejecting the thesis that this “foundational ministry” of the prophets here associated with the apostles is “a generalization that covers all the other New Testament statements on prophecy” (Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, 1971, p.96).  The phenomenon of prophecy in the NT is just too diverse to fit under such a generalization.  Moreover, their authority, as witnessed in the New Testament and early fathers, typically falls significantly short of “apostolic” (see Carson, pp. 94-98).  Therefore, I think it safe to conclude that the prophets mentioned in 2:20 and 3:5, at least, are distinct from other prophets mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., 1Cor.14:29-32), and in the subsequent history of the church.  But what about the prophets mentioned in 4:11?

First, there is no indication that the prophets in 1Corinthians 14 exercised leadership or ecclesial authority within the congregation at Corinth.  Yet, plainly, the prophets here in Ephesians 4 are presented as leaders.  In other words, it would appear that though not all prophets were leaders, some leaders were prophets.

Secondly, we must affirm that these prophets, as in every other instance of the word in the NT, exercised the gift of prophecy.  If they function as prophets, then it must be because they exercise a prophet’s gifts.  The same could be said of pastors and teachers.  And even if, with Stetzer, we question the existence of a spiritual gift of evangelism, surely, if we grant for the sake of argument that there is such a gift, we would have to conclude that the evangelist would possess it.  I state this obvious truth only because so many today define “prophets” in 4:11 in the strangest of ways, typically leaving out altogether the actual gift of prophesying!  However, it seems unavoidable that the leaders Paul here contemplates exercised the gift of receiving spontaneous revelation and giving articulation of it.  The question here is whether such revelation was foundational and its articulation infallible.  The immediate context suggests that it was.  However, the parallel text in 1Corinthians 12 opens up the possibility that such prophets included the broader, New Testament conception of ‘little “p” prophets’, if you will.   

Thirdly, if we grant the possibility that “prophets” refers to those leaders in the church who exercise the gift of prophecy beyond the locus of the foundational ministry of “the holy apostles and prophets,” then how should we conceive such leadership was exercised?  This brings us back to question of function versus office.  Were “the prophets” in 4:11 ordained officers within the church?  Contrary to the claim that prophets emerged early on as “charismatic leaders” within the churches, prior to the subsequent institutionalization of the church with “ordained” officers (cf. Grudem, pp.153-160), a quick glance at the book of Acts and the epistles reveals that presbyters/bishops (and sometimes deacons) were installed as the recognized leaders of the church almost immediately within the apostolic mission (see Ac.14:23; 15:2ff., 20:17; 1Ti.5:17; Titus 1:5; Jas.5:14; 1Pe. 5:1, etc.).  It is widely recognized today that the established pattern of church leadership was the two-fold office of bishop/elder and deacon among the churches of the first (e.g., Phil.1:1) and early second century (e.g., Didache 15:1). Hence, if the prophets were recognized as officers (i.e., official leaders) of the church, they were most likely recognized as elders (or possibly deacons) within the local congregation.  Nevertheless, regarding the public recognition of leadership, what Lincoln says about the (local) leaders of the early church is undoubtedly true:
“…evangelists, pastors, and teachers were so called because they regularly exercised their ministries, and such ministries would have required acceptance and recognition by their churches,” (p.252). 
The same must also be applied to the prophets, if they continue in the post-apostolic age.  In short, function versus office, though a legitimate distinction, is not an absolute disjunction.  Not all who exercised the relevant gifts were recognized as leaders in the church (e.g., the gift of teaching); but all the leaders necessarily exercised the corresponding gifts.  And so “the prophets” would have been recognized as those who regularly exercise the ministry of prophecy, either as qualified elder within the body of overseers, or as gifted individuals serving under their authority.


The proper interpretation of Ephesians 4:11 – especially with regard to “prophets” – is particularly difficult to establish.  And this should give us pause.  I think we are wise to build our ecclesiology of leadership elsewhere first.  

In particular, it seems most fitting to turn to the Pastoral Epistles where Paul is specifically addressing these matters to church leaders, who are establishing churches and installing new leadership.  It is clear from 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1 what the qualifications (godliness, hospitality, and maturity) and basic functions (administration, leadership and teaching) of leadership should be. 

If we are prepared to argue that “the prophets” in 4:11 continue today as recognized leaders in the church then it seems we must expect (1) that they exercise the gift of prophecy, and that (2) as leaders they must (a) fulfill the biblical qualifications Paul lays out in his letters to Timothy and Titus, and (b) exercise a shepherding ministry together with their fellow elders.

Whatever the particular “gift mix” of those men the Holy Spirit raises up, in accordance to the standards of Scripture, these are to be vigorously employed in the co-shepherding of the church by the body of elders.  Some will have the gift of prophecy, as, for example, Charles Spurgeon seems to have employed on occasion (see Grudem’s Appendix 7 in The Gift of Prophecy).  Most perhaps will not.  But certainly we should pray for this gift, especially among our leaders, as it is extremely profitable for the edification of the church (1Cor.12:31; 14). Others will be especially effective at pastoring at an administrative level, while others more so one-on-one.  Some will be especially gifted preachers, while others will be adequate teachers.   Some will be incredibly fruitful evangelists, while others will be faithful witnesses who see a handful of people come to know the Lord.  All of us are called to “do the work of an evangelist.”  Some will be particularly aggressive, and work to extend the gospel beyond the community of their local church, even leaving their community as “sent ones”; others will be buried in the churchyard as faithful missionaries to their hometown. 

I personally am inclined to believe, contrary to Grudem, that the prophets named in 4:11 referenced the particular prophets associated with the apostles in 2:20 and 3:5.  Andrew Lincoln, in his generally excellent commentary on Ephesians (marred significantly by his rejection of Pauline authorship), writes:
 “The first two groups of ministers listed, the apostles and prophets, also appear first in Paul’s list in 1Cor 12:28 and have already been singled out as the object of the writer’s reflection in Eph 2:20 and 3:5.  In these earlier references the apostles, as divinely commissioned missionaries and planters of the churches, and the prophets, as specialists in mediating divine revelation, were viewed as norms from the past.”

Though I disagree with the implication that the author wrote this letter after the apostolic era, I think Lincoln is correct that the apostles and prophets mentioned refer to the foundational ministries of the first generation of the church, and that as such, we should build faithfully on their foundation as evangelists, on the one hand, ever expanding the church’s width, and as pastor-teachers, on the other, always increasing the church’s depth (and height).