[Anglican Mainstream] 26 Apr 2007--We can probably all agree that both Tom Wright and Steve Chalke have made really important and very impressive contributions to the vitality of the church in the UK and around the globe, the former through his theological writings, the latter through his Christian social activism. We can also probably agree that certain of Jeffrey John’s theological views are inherently problematic and that evangelical Christians especially have core investments in the theory of the penal substitutionary atonement and that those who encourage us to think more deeply in this or other areas are to be commended, whether we agree with everything they say or not. I have no doubt but that there will be further discussion and debate at this level, which is all to the good, as far as I am concerned, but that is not where I intend to engage here.
My concern lies elsewhere. In particular, I am fascinated by the emotional tone of and psychological dynamic inherent in ‘The Cross and the Caricatures’, and the sociological implications. I begin with the tone and use of language in the essay. In its initial pages, I was impressed by the respectful nature of the discourse, its cultured, gentleman-like and nuanced deployment of language. Jeffrey John was consistently referred to as ‘Dr John’ and when Tom felt the need to disagree—and he did, and not infrequently—he did so with some apparent sadness and a complete lack of animosity or acerbity. This part of the essay was resplendent with British upper-class formality, good taste, good humour and positive intentions. Indeed, Jeffrey John was given the benefit of the doubt whenever possible; at times Tom even seems to bend over backwards to be warm and receptive. And though there appeared to be little or no common theological ground found with Jeffrey John in relation to the issues surrounding penal substitution and related matters, it did not seem to matter. Tom made his case and made it well.