In his groundbreaking article I shared on my blog earlier this year, Joe Carter communicated something that has been heavy on my heart concerning the different nature of the heretics the church is facing today. He used the term “Broken Wolves,” which he defined as those “who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken.”
Several readers have asked me, “When people speak of ‘broken wolves’ bringing false doctrine into the church, who are they (and you) talking about?”
While I don’t feel comfortable naming names, there are quite a few people out there who talk about the personal difficulties they’ve experienced in life, including abuse, often abuse at the hands of church people. They tend to look at certain doctrines of the faith with great suspicion or even abhorrence. Among those is the substitutionary atonement of Christ. They say that if God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus for our sin, then that means that God’s redemptive plan is centered on an act of “divine child abuse.”
Of course, since Jesus is and was and has always been God, and since He went to the cross voluntarily as an adult, not a child, it was in no sense divine child abuse. But there are many people who are questioning this doctrine now because of the pain of their own personal experiences and those of others they’ve known, which they read into the redemptive story.
Despite people’s personal wounds—and in fact, to ultimately deliver them—Scripture clearly tells us “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). To become sin for us is to become subject on our behalf to the judgment for sin: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Doesn’t that mean that He was, for that time on the cross, subject to the wrath of God our sins deserve? Doesn’t it mean that the weight of God’s judgment that was due us fell upon Him instead? Isn’t saying otherwise denying something central to the atoning work of Christ on our behalf?
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). For Christ to be the propitiation for our sins means that He became the sacrifice upon which God’s wrath against sin was brought. Isaiah 53:10 says of the coming Messiah, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring…”
What we believe about Christ’s atoning work for us should not be interpreted in light of, or rejected because of, people’s traumatic experiences at the hands of abusers. This is just one example of someone’s own personal brokenness prompting him to deny true doctrine.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.