In approaching this subject let us be clear about our starting-point. It is the Church and its moral faith. The truth of Christianity cannot be proved to the man in the street till he come off the street by owning its power. In our modern psychology we start from the primacy of the will, and we bring everything to the test of man’s practical and ethical life. And so, here also we start ethically from the holiness of God as the supreme interest in the Christian revelation. The standpoint taken by the Church is that which I believe to be the position of the New Testament. That book represents a grand holiness movement; but it is one which is more concerned with God’s holiness than ours, and lets ours grow of itself by dwelling on His. Christianity is concerned with God’s holiness before all else; which issues to man as love, acts upon sin as grace, and exercises grace through judgment. The idea of God’s holiness is inseparable from the idea of judgement as the mode by which grace goes into action. And by judgement is meant not merely the self-judgment which holy grace and love stir in man, but the acceptance by Christ of God’s judgment on man’s behalf and its conversion in him to our blessing by faith.
By the atonement, therefore, is meant that action of Christ’s death which has a prime regard to God’s holiness, has it for its first charge, and finds man’s reconciliation impossible except as that holiness is divinely satisfied once for all on the cross. Such an atonement is the key to the incarnation. We must take that view of Christ which does most justice to the holiness of God. this starting-point of the supreme holiness of God’s love, rather than its pity, sympathy, or affection, is the watershed between the Gospel and the theological liberalism which makes religion no more than the crown of humanity and the metropolitan province of the world. My point of departure is that Christ’s first concern and revelation was not simply the forgiving love of God, but the holiness of such love.
P T Forsyth, in the Introduction to The Cruciality of the Cross, pages 4-6