Rightly has one recent observer/participant of Evangelicalism described it as being in a state of “free fall.” Increasingly Evangelicals are committed to fewer and fewer solidities of the faith. One that is being heavily challenged in our day is the doctrine of Christ’s penal, substitutionary atonement. For some this doctrine is only one option among a number when considering the death of Christ. For others, the whole idea of the redemptive violence of the cross is increasingly problematic. See, in this regard, Steve Chalke’s views as detailed here: Steve Chalke and the Atonement - Update and reply by Daniel Strange. For us, though, the words of B. B. Warfield (1851-1921) are still right on:
“Not only is the doctrine of the sacrificial death of Christ embodied in Christianity as an essential element of the system, but in a very real sense it constitutes Christianity. It is this which differentiates Christianity from other religions. Christianity did not come into the world to proclaim a new morality and, sweeping away all the supernatural props by which men were wont to support their trembling, guilt-stricken souls, to throw them back on their own strong right arms to conquer a standing before God for themselves. It came to proclaim the real sacrifice for sin which God had provided in order to supercede all the poor fumbling efforts which men had made and were making to provide a sacrifice for sin for themselves; and, planting men’s feet on this, to bid them go forward. It was in this sign that Christianity conquered, and it is in this sign alone that it continues to conquer.”
For another classical Evangelical statement on the cross, see the recent post “Spurgeon on substitutionary atonement” by Phil Johnson.