Dr. George Wood is the general superintendent of the 2.9-million-member Assemblies of God, one of the ten largest denominations in the United States and one of the fastest growing Christian bodies in the world.
I interviewed him, via e-mail, about one of the most notable theological views expressed by the Rev. Kevin G. Thew Forrester, bishop-elect of Northern Michigan — rejection of atonement theology.
Wood said anyone who denies that God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross is “an apostate of the faith; and a church that ordains such a one is also apostate.”
Here is the key quote in question, from my interview with Thew Forrester:
“God did not send Jesus here to be killed or be crucified by the Romans, which is a brutal murder. But Jesus has become incarnate to reveal to us who God is. He’s a God of love and forgiveness and mercy. …Jesus’ death itself was not the will of God. God did not desire Jesus to be killed.”
Q. It wasn’t the plan from before the creation of the world?
THEW FORRESTER: “No. No.”
Here are the questions I asked Wood:
Do you believe it was God’s will or plan for Jesus Christ to come to earth and die on the cross?
WOOD: Yes, according to the Scriptures. 1 Peter 1:18-21 states: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Is this a peripheral point of Christian doctrine or is it heretical
to teach that the crucifixion wasn’t part of God’s plan?
WOOD: Even a cursory reading of the New Testament shows that the cross is a central theme to Christians. The Apostle Paul said, that the cross is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” and that among the Corinthians, he “resolved to know nothing . . . except Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 1:24, 2:2). John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In heaven, Jesus is worshipped as the Lamb who was slain and with his blood purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:8-9).
Could you support the ordination of anyone who teaches that it wasn’t God’s will or plan for Jesus Christ to come to earth and die on the cross?
WOOD: A wise person once said that everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts. The facts of the Christian faith are that Jesus is God’s Son, born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, died for our sins, rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is coming again. A Christian will agree with these facts. If a denomination or church is Christian, it will agree with these facts. If a so-called bishop does not agree with the central elements of the Christian faith, then he should not call himself a Christian, let alone a bishop – nor should a church ordain him. He is an apostate from the Faith; and a church that ordains such a one is also apostate. The Apostle Paul dealt with persons who turned to a “different Gospel,” who “perverted the Gospel.” He warned that even if he himself or “an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned” (Galatians 1:6-8).