Has the message of Jesus been lost all these years? That is the question that Liam Goligher asks and answers in The Jesus Gospel: Recovering The Lost Message – a response to Steve Chalke’s The Lost Message of Jesus.
The Jesus Gospel summarises the penal substitutionary model of the atonement. Goligher breaks down the biblical story into 3 acts, with different scenes in each Act. He then seeks to demonstrate how the substitutionary model of the atonement is the thread running all throughout Scripture. Goligher takes occasional swipes at Chalke’s “cosmic child abuse” statement, but the bulk of this book is not merely a defense of penal substution, but a case for seeing the doctrine everywhere – both in the Old and New Testaments.
The book comes across as a traditional book, the attitude of the book says: “This theory has stood the test of time”. In that regard, the book is a success. However, the book falters somewhat in the style of writing for today’s layperson. I haven’t quite figured out who this book is written for. A church leader will have little difficulty reading The Jesus Gospel, but I can’t imagine the book holding the interest of most laypeople. Unfortunately, The Lost Message of Jesus comes across as much more readable and winsome, even though, in my opinion The Jesus Gospel contains better theology.
Goligher avoids some of the problems in the penal-substitution model. He continually reminds his readers that the atonement is about God’s love – God taking his own wrath upon himself in the person of Jesus Christ. He emphasises the resurrection toward the end, the triumph of the Lamb, and the victory of Christ over sin and death. I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the Church as the community created by the atonement, but alas, a book only has so much space.
If you’re looking for a concise, well-written book that lays out the evidence for seeing the penal substitutionary model of the atonement throughout Scripture, I recommend The Jesus Gospel.