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  • « 2006 Pacific Northwest Reformation Conference | Main | Christianity Today on Calvinism »

    Is Penal Substitution Biblical?

    In all of our zeal to contend for every doctrine of the bible (as commendable as such an attitude is), we would do well to remember that only a relatively few doctrines are so vital for the purity of the gospel that, to deny them is, in essence, to corrupt the good news of salvation in Christ. It is only fitting that, when we see these doctrines under attack, we give the primacy of our attention to defending them. And such a doctrine is the biblical conception of the atonement; that is, the conception that the atonement involves the substitution of Christ for us, by which, having taken upon himself our sins, he willingly undergoes the righteous wrath of the Father in our place. In other words, it is vital that we contend for an account of the atonement which views it as penal (that Christ satisfied the penalty of the law, as the righteousness of the Father demanded) substitution (that he underwent this penalty in our place). Any other model of the atonement will both fail the test of biblical witness, and leave us without an adequate plea for forgiveness and acceptance with God. So the question arises, “Is this biblical doctrine under attack today?”

    Different conceptions of the nature of the atonement are certainly not new to this day. Origen saw the atonement as a ransom paid to Satan, to buy back sinners from his own power; and thus denied, or at least de-emphasized, that God himself demanded the curse of his law to be satisfactorily fulfilled. Irenaeus saw the atonement as Christ recapitulating the entire experience of Adam, only without his failures, which is a true enough point, and admits the need for the law to be positively fulfilled; yet when taken as a full-orbed description of the atonement (as Irenaeus most probably did not take it), it denies that mankind’s failure to fulfill the law must meet with the promised punishment. Much later, Abelard taught that the atonement was merely a graphic display of the extent of God's love, which should motivate us to follow the same example. All of these theories, each perhaps with some facet of truth, when retained as the sole explanatory models for what the atonement accomplished, deny that God’s wrath must be satisfied before forgiveness can be bestowed. They see God’s mercy as possible apart from his righteous demands’ being met and his righteous penalties’ being exacted. But these understandings, and any of their various forms, fail to do justice to the God of the scriptures, a God who will not overlook sin.

    Somewhat later, during the time of the Reformation, Socinus argued against the penal substitution model of the Reformers with a point of view which, in essence, expanded upon the differing viewpoints of some of church fathers. “What Socinus did was to arraign this idea as irrational, incoherent, immoral and impossible. Giving pardon, he argued, does not square with taking satisfaction, nor does the transferring of punishment from the guilty to the innocent square with justice; nor is the temporary death of one a true substitute for the eternal death of many; and a perfect substitutionary satisfaction, could such a thing be, would necessarily confer on us unlimited permission to continue in sin. Socinus’ alternative account of New Testament soteriology, based on the axiom that God forgives without requiring any satisfaction save the repentance which makes us forgivable, was evasive and unconvincing, and had little influence.” (This quotation was taken from J. I. Packer, in an excellent defense of penal substitution, which can be found here.

    Regardless of the extent of Socinus’ initial influence, the fact is that, even today there are those who would follow his basic understanding. We have been blessed in that, these attacks on penal substitution have largely occurred outside the orbit of Evangelical Christianity. However, today such views are starting to be influential among self-professed Evangelicals. As an example, I have been dialoguing with a certain Derek Flood, a self-styled Evangelical, who uses the name “sharktacos” on his internet interactions. His website, www.sharktacos.com/God, is dedicated to arguing against penal substitution; and he is in the process of writing a book espousing the same views. The influence which he seems to be having has motivated me to compose this article in response to his views. God grant that it may serve to reinforce in all of us the pressing need to hold fast to the Reformed view of the atonement.

    In essence, Derek Flood’s understanding of the atonement is in line with that of Origen or Socinus. Although he may not espouse either of these views in all of its particulars, yet he shares with them the sina que non of a non-penal model – namely, that God forgives apart from requiring the demands of his righteousness to be satisfied. His arguments are, in a way, more subtle than those of Socinus, for instance; for he does feel free to admit that he does in fact “see themes of ‘punishment’ clearly in there - Christ taking the consequence upon himself for our sin –” However, it is clear that he does not see this punishment as God’s righteous retribution against sin. On the contrary, he goes on to state that “I do not see this as a fulfillment of the demands of justice, but rather a picture of God bringing about justice out of terrible injustice.” Exactly what does he mean by this qualification? Many of the other assertions which he has made should shed light on that question. For instance,

    the justice that Paul speaks of was not in the legal sense of punishement but in the Hebrew sense of "making things right". Hence Paul speaks of "justification" which means "setting something right". A justice based on our own performance (works) is a death trap. But a justice that originates from God's goodness through faith means that God sets things right in our lives when we open our lives to him. The first is legal and in conflict with mercy. It sees justice as punishing (active) and mercy as leniency (inaction). That later biblical justice is in contrast about "making things right" and comes through acts of mercy as seen in the ministry of Jesus who came to establish justice in us though acts of healing and restoration. In this there is no conflict between justice and mercy because restorative justice comes through acts of mercy.

    And

    So rather than reading the idea of justice in the legal sense of punishing, we need to read with Luther the idea of justification and justice in relational terms as God setting things right, as him through mercy breaking us out of the shackles of performance and law. God did not do this by "satisfying the demands of law" as Penal Substitution would say, but by "nailing the law to the cross" (Col 2:14) by overcoming it along with sin, condemnation, wrath, and the devil and putting all of these tyrants under Christ so that they would no longer oppress us and keep us from life, but serve us and point to the God of grace.

    The fundamental issue here, and one that must remain in the forefront no matter how he qualifies it, is that this view of the atonement sees it as possible – even necessary – for God to forgive without demanding that his righteous demands be satisfied. And this one issue is sufficient to cut away every ground for our plea of acceptance with a righteous God whom we have offended.

    I think this debate is vital, and concerns the whole fabric of the scriptural witness we have about who God is and how he is able to redeem us and remain just. It is not just an argument over the precise exegesis of a few key texts (although those key texts undoubtedly exist); rather, it is an argument which has to do with the true meaning of the entire biblical story. It is an argument which dictates how we will view the holy God. It is an argument which determines the very worth and substance of the great redemptive work of Christ our Savior. In order to put the discussion on a footing which does justice to the broadness of scope which it inherently involves, I have put together three sets of premises that argue for the necessity of seeing the atonement as penal substitution. These are brief and not at all exhaustive; but they should at least clarify the heads of disagreement upon which the debate should center.

    Premises about God’s wrath

    Premise one: The God of the bible actively dispenses wrath/retribution for sin.

    From the opening accounts of Genesis, when God deals with the first sin of man by announcing a curse, and consistently throughout later revelation, we are given a picture of a God “who is of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Habakkuk 1:13), a God who says “vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19), a God who does in fact pour out wrath upon the world of sinners, as, for instance, in the universal flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc., a God who has the rebel nations “in derision,” who “speaks unto them in his wrath, and vexes them in his sore displeasure,” who sets up his Messiah to “crush them like a potter’s vessel” (from Psalm 2), a God before whom sinners tremble in fear, proclaiming, “the great day of his wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand” (Revelation 6:17). This is a handful of testimonies from an overwhelming supply – in short, it is impossible to read the bible objectively without finding in it a God who does in fact pour out his wrath actively, and who deals out retribution/vengeance for rebellion.

    Premise two: The God of the bible actively poured out wrath/retribution upon Christ.

    As we see in Isaiah 53, “it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he has put him to grief” – and why was God pleased to bruise the Son? Because God was making his soul “an offering for sin.” We must acknowledge here that God was actively afflicting his Son – who put Christ to death? Ultimately, it was the Father – and we must further acknowledge that it was because of our sin. The Father was well-pleased to crush the Son, because our sin was upon him. Which is encroaching upon our next point,

    Premise three: The God of the bible actively poured out retribution upon Christ in the sinner’s stead.

    Hence we read earlier in the chapter, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities,” and elsewhere, “he made him to be sin for us” (II Corinthians 5:21). So then, if God actively and willingly crushed Christ, and if he did so because of the sins which were upon him, and if he is indeed a God who deals in retribution – in fact is too pure not to deal in wrath and retribution – then any model of the atonement which does not embrace a penal aspect fails to do justice to the character of God as we find it revealed in his word.

    Premises about the Law

    Premise one: The law demanded a curse.

    From the first law given in the garden, the breaking of which issued in a curse, as God had in fact promised, “in the day you eat of it, you will die” (Genesis 2:17); to the law given on Sinai, which threatened, “Cursed is he that does not continue in everything written in this law, to do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26); to the corroborating evidence of the New Testament, which declares, “Whoever should keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is guilty of all” (James 2:10); we find without exception that the law demands a curse, and that the exaction of this curse is contingent upon the very word and solemn promise of God, “who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). If forgiveness should come without the retributive curse of the law being fulfilled, then God will be shown to be a liar; not to mention, one whose eyes are not in fact too pure to behold evil.

    Premise two: Christ became the curse of the law.

    To substantiate which, we have to look no further than Galatians 3, which, having testified that the law did indeed curse those who had failed to obey it, asserted unequivocally that Christ was “made a curse for us.” Now, to our final premise, namely,

    Premise three: Christ became the curse of the law for us.

    As the remainder of our last text states. And it is impossible that he should have been made the curse which the law demanded by reason of himself, because he “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Peter 2:22), and, “he was tempted in all points, like we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So then, the only theory of the atonement which takes into account the necessity of the law’s curse being dealt out (a necessity grounded in the solemn promise of God), and which takes into account the fact that the curse of the law was dealt to Christ, who underwent the curse, even death, as that first threat of transgression demanded – and furthermore, who did this in our place – is a theory which accepts the idea of penal substitution.

    Premises about the Sacrificial System

    Premise One: The sacrificial system was instituted by the sovereign command of God.

    This premise is virtually indisputable. Just consider the opening words of Leviticus, in which the sacrificial system is described in detail. It is stated in unequivocal terms that the entire corpus of regulations was the very word of God (Leviticus 1:1 and following).

    Premise Two: The sacrificial system taught that God could not be approached apart from innocent, substituionary blood being shed for the sinner.

    Hence, before an Israelite could worship God, he was required to bring a spotless sacrifice; to place his hands upon its head, signifying the transfer of his own guilt to the animal; to kill the animal; and to sprinkle its blood upon the altar, signifying that this substitutionary blood had appeased the wrath of God. This is all because, as God’s people, Israel was required to “be holy as I am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). And in the absence of that required holiness, substitutionary retribution was necessary. It was only when sin’s penalty (death) had been exacted substituionarily that the priest could “make atonement for his sin that he has commited; and [thus] it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 4:35). Much more could be said here, but any study of the sacrificial system can only demonstrate in undeniable terms the pervasiveness of this substitutionary punishment as the basis for forgiveness.

    Premise three: The sacrificial animals foreshadowed the self-sacrifice of Christ, the only sufficient substitute.

    Of many possible passages to demonstrate this point, Hebrews 9:18-28 is notable. In the context of the true intent of the sacrifices, i.e., to demonstrate that “without shedding of blood is no remission,” the author argues very forcefully that the animal sacrifices were necessarily inadequate; but that Christ’s perfect sacrifice of himself, in relation to which he bore the sins of his people, was indeed sufficient for the remission of their sins and for securing their unshakeable hope of eternal salvation.

    We have been very brief; but the sum of this is that the whole sacrificial system enjoined upon Israel bears witness to the fact that, unless the penalty of transgressing the law is exacted upon a flawless substitute, then there can be no forgiveness or reconciliation. And Christ is the only perfect substitute, as true man and wholly without sin.

    A Few Key Texts

    Although these biblical motifs are pervasive and unambiguous enough to secure our basic point, it is nevertheless good to be acquainted with a few key texts which state as much in clear terms. Among these vital texts are Isaiah 53; Romans 3:25-26; I Peter 2:24; II Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-14; and Hebrews 9:18-28. Although these texts are clear in their import, they have been muddied by an elaborate exegesis which seeks to deny their basic intent. By way of example, and so that everyone might be prepared to deal with these expositions, as the case might demand, I will reproduce a typical way of understanding two of these texts, Romans 3:25-26, and Isaiah 53. As this article is already too long, I will try to be brief.

    Romans 3:25-26

    Derek Flood has posited the following understanding of this key passage:

    The idea of justice as "paying evil for evil and good for good" is not the model of justice that Paul has. Paul's idea of justice is the opposite - God's justice does not justify the good, it justifies sinners. That's because justice from a Hebrew perspective is about "setting things right". When Paul speaks about God "demonstrating his justice [sic]" he means restorative justive [sic] (making things right) not desributive [sic] justice (paying evil for evil and good for good).
    So I read [Romans 3:25-26] as: ‘God presented [God initiates reconciliation, and he offers it] Jesus as the one who would turn aside his wrath [by the means of] taking away sin, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice [setting things right], because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished [punishment being the natural consequence of sin] — he did it to demonstrate his justice [so we do not suffer the natural consequence, but instead are set right] at the present time, so as to be just [righteous] and the one who justifies [sets aright] those who have faith in Jesus.’”

    Although time forbids a thorough response, two quick points may be noted: first, this understanding of the passage necessitates that we take the term “hilasterion” (translated alternatively as “propitiation” or “expiation” in most English versions) to signify mere expiation (putting aside, irrespective of satisfaction) of sins. But modern scholarship, as well as the whole biblical motif of atonement through substitutionary blood, demands that the term be understood in its commonly accepted sense, namely “propitiation” (satisfaction of just wrath against those sins). Second, this interpretation makes nonsense of Paul’s whole point: that God would have been unjust to overlook sins previously committed; but that he was vindicated, or shown to be just, when Christ shed his blood. In other words, the Father’s justice could not have been upheld apart from Christ’s blood being shed for those sins.

    Isaiah 53

    Mr. Flood makes the following observations about this key chapter:

    Well there are themes of "bearing punishment" in Isa 53 (and elsewhere)

    "he was bruised for our iniquities and the punishment that brought us peace was upon him"

    But at the same time there are similar connections made with bearing sickness and sorrow

    "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows"

    and we see that punishment was not just but profoundly unjust

    "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter... By oppression and judgment he was taken away"

    … Throughout Isaiah 53 the tone is that this is a shock, an affront, a scandal. That is why I find the model of vicarious suffering and Christ bearing our sin, sorrow, and sickness as an act of self-sacrificing love is a much better model then that of Penal Substitution.”

    Again, there is much that could be said. Suffice it to observe that this understanding fails to do justice to the fact that God himself was pleased to bruise his Son, and that because he bore the sins of his people (verses 10-12).

    Conclusion

    Many volumes could be (and have been) written in support of the biblical truth of a penal, substitutionary atonement in Christ on the cross. This article is already too long, so I will conclude with a brief plea. This is a matter of utmost importance. Let us be very serious in submitting our views here to the authority of the entire scriptural witness. If by any means you arrive at a different view of the atonement than that which God graciously allowed the Reformed tradition to argue for so eloquently, then you fail to take seriously certain motifs which are unequivocal and emphatic, and which exist throughout the scope of special revelation. And these motifs, concerning as they do the very nature of the unchangeable God, are to be denied only with very serious and far-reaching consequences. In sum, if Christ did not satisfy the Father’s righteous wrath against sin, then one of two results must follow: either we cannot be forgiven, or God cannot be just. And to God’s immutable justice, the whole of biblical revelation bears emphatic witness. It is imperative, for the upcoming generation of Evangelical Christians, that we be aware of any view which fails to do justice to the biblical requisite of penal substitution, and that we be well-enough grounded in the scriptural teaching on the topic to argue biblically for the substitutionary atonement of Christ, by which he satisfied the demands of the law and took upon himself the full force of the Father’s just wrath against our sin.

    Posted by Nathan on August 18, 2006 05:09 PM

    Comments

    A couple of good "articles" on penal substitution...

    theopedia entry...
    http://www.theopedia.com/Penal_substitution_theory_of_the_atonement

    Dr. Greg Bahnsen article...
    http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pt156.htm

    Well said Nathan.

    Penal substitution is a non-negotiable essential of Christian doctrine. The scriptural record of the Divine exchange is central to the Gospel. Jesus was the spotless Lamb punished in our place. The judgment due to us came upon Him so that the great good due to Him would come to us. Thank you for this important reminder.

    Thanks for the affirmation and, especially, the helpful articles. Any thoughts or articles on penal substitution would be very helpful and most appreciated.

    I'm just beginning to realize that this point isn't simply accepted by all professing Evangelicals, and so I'm hoping to gather together a good collection of well-written articles to which I could point anyone who is struggling on the issue -- so I am very thankful for any suggestions/recommendations.

    Thank you for the excellent thoughts Nathan. I only know too well the divisions that are taking place over differing views of this doctrine. But here we must stand firm as it is one of those critical doctrines, as you said.

    See >>>
    The Current Downgrade in the Doctrine of the Atonement by David H. Linden
    http://www.grebeweb.com/linden/current_downgrade.html

    We also have quite a few downloadable essays on this topic:

    Vicarious Substitutionary Atonement

    I would heartily recommend the following book:

    The Atonement by Francis Turretin

    Pitchford--

    I have written some fairly penetrating critiques of PSA theory if you would like to consider them in your research.

    You can find them at my blog by clicking on my name.

    Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for invite to comment here. Overall I think that while we of course disagree that you did a fair job of representing my views.

    There are a few historical errors. Recapitulation (Ireneus) for instance is not the same as "a model for Christians to follow". That is called "moral influence theory" (Abelard). Also Socinus did not "in essence, expanded upon the differing viewpoints of some of church fathers". The two have very little to do with each other. The Atonement theories of the Church Fathers were rooted in the Incarnation and Trinity (which is why all those councils against heresies focused on that), Socinus denied the Incarnation and Trinity as part of his Atonement theory.

    You say "if Christ did not satisfy the Father’s righteous wrath against sin, then one of two results must follow: either we cannot be forgiven, or God cannot be just". Most Evangelicals would agree that God is propitiated by the means of expiation. I would say the same. Wrath is propitiated, not by enacting violence on an innocent 3rd party, but by removing the sin from the sinner. The problem is not wrath in itself (as if God is the one with a problem) but rather the righteous reason for wrath is our sin. Sin is the problem. Deal with sin and wrath is also dealt with. So the question is how does Christ's death remove sin and undo wrong or hurt? Retribution does not answer that question. Retribution may relieve anger, but it does not heal or redeem. We do not simply need to have God not be mad at us, we need to have the very real problem of our sin dealt with. An Atonement theory needs to have an answer to how that can happen. Penal Substitution explains how God is not mad, but it does not explain how sinners are made clean and whole.

    Mostly however I disagree with your assertion that any atonement theory is vital/fundamental. In short that unless one accepts the theory of Penal Substitution that they are not saved. I would say instead that our theory of salvation is vital not our theory of Atonement. In other words: what we must do, not what God must do. J.I. Packer in his Essay "The Logic of Penal Substitution" talks about the difference between "meaning and mechanics". We need to get the meaning of the atonement: that we are sinners in need of grace, forgiveness, and redemption. That is the Gospel - our need to receive grace by faith in Jesus Christ. That is the meaning. What we do not need to agree on is the mechanics of exactly how that works from God's side. This is where we disagree: on mechanics not meaning.

    You say "Any other model of the atonement will... leave us without an adequate plea for forgiveness". Again I would say that the adequate plea for forgiveness is (apart from any theory of the mechanics we may have) simply that God offers forgiveness in Jesus Christ and we accept that offer acknowledging our need as sinners. It is not ultimately our job to explain how God brought about our salvation, it is ours to respond to it in faith.

    Derek

    Sharktacos

    Is what Christ accomplished on the cross sufficient to save us completely? or is there some other element we contribute to the price of redemption? For you say, "it is ours to respond to it in faith." Is this "faith" ("ours" as you put it) part of the price of redemption or is it something Christ also saved us unto on the cross? When you say it is "ours" to have faith do you mean our responsibility or does this also include our moral ability? Fact is, what we
    "ought" to do does not imply we have the abilty to do. The call to faith does not refer to our ability but our DUTY. (like a man who cannot repay a debt - he is obligated to repay but is unable. Inability does not alleviate responsibility)

    Did Christ die for the sin of unbelief? Justification is by grace alone through faith alone, but "faith alone" (which looks away from self unto Christ) simply helps to express and to safeguard the answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith.

    The grace of the Holy Spirit opening our eyes to the gospel, turning our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that we might believe is also a part of the applicaiton of redemption. All spiritual blessing originate in Christ (Eph 1:3).

    Indeed God calls all men everywhere to respond in faith, but, left to themselves, this possbility does not exist for man is by nature hostile to God. The man without the Spirit does not understand spiritual things.

    When you say it is "ours" to have faith do you mean our responsibility or does this also include our moral ability

    I mean our responsibilty. Not that it is a work. I agree with what you say in your post.

    God’s wrath is not selfish or vindictive but an expression of his perfect holiness. Rather than destroying man as he deserved the Bible reveals how He provided an means by which His holiness could be satisfied and sin dealt with. That means was the Cross of Christ.

    Shark,

    Thanks for the historical clarifications, etc. (although I take some of them with a grain of salt -- e.g. I see Socinus' theory as building upon some of the earlier church fathers' theories in the vital point of non-satisfaction of the law, whatever other differences there might be.)

    My major contention is with your statement, "Most Evangelicals would agree that God is propitiated by the means of expiation." I don't think that most Evangelicals really see the atonement that way. Most would agree that sins are only expiated because God's just wrath against them has been exhausted on Christ, our substitute -- in other words, just the opposite of what you said: sins are expiated because God has been propitiated, which happened because of the penal substitution of Christ.

    I can appreciate your point that, when sinners acknowledge their need of Christ, and seek forgiveness and grace in him, they may be saved by his grace apart from a precise formulation of penal substitution. I'm sure that many of God's elect have differed from me in some respect on this topic (e.g. Irenaeus or even Augustine). However, I still think that it's a vital issue, one that does concern the nature of the gospel -- and that any error in a Christian's thinking on the topic is likely to perpetuate and aggravate itself when the gospel is presented to sinners. So that, the end result of even a minor dispute may issue in blatant heterodoxy. I think you are well enough acquainted with history that I don't need to furnish examples of this very thing happening. That's why I am so ardent to contend for what I see as the only biblically-justifiable way of viewing the atonement.

    Blessings,
    nathan

    SharkTacos and Nathan

    Some find the language of substitution troubling, especially as it highlights both the penalty of the death of Christ as well as the wrath of God. In its most stereotypical and exaggerated form, penal substitution supposedly embraces such troubling assertions as "God abuses his Son, glorifies suffering, and encourages victims to be subservient. Liberals may accuse evangelicals of adhering to a slaughterhouse religion in which a primitive deity could get over his anger only if he smelled the blood of his enemies-or a fitting sacrificial substitute.

    We must inform the criticism of a penal substitutionary doctrine of the atonement by noting that the Bible everywhere views human death not as a natural but as a penal event. Death is an unnatural intrusion into God's good world and not a part of his original intention for humankind. So as death is the penal consequence of sin, then it follows (and is testified to in Romans 5) that Christ Jesus endures death in our place to satisfy the justice demanded from sin.

    Also the Passover sacrifice, the death of the Passover lamb with all its typological meaning, richly informs the death of Christ in the New Testament.

    It is only when the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 are separated from their New Testament explication that criticism of the substitutionary atonement seems to take root.

    In fact, contemporary views that repudiate penal substitution have little basis on which to draw the appropriate connections between the Old Testament and the New with respect to a crucified Lord who is sacrificed on the altar of a cross. Thus the temple offerings, the Levitical priesthood, the Passover lamb, and even the Pentateuch, in a sense, are all left cut off in their Old Testament context with little significance for Christian believers. IN order to draw the proper balance, we should explore typological relations, and demonstrate the continuity of the two covenants

    Remember that the Judge and Savior are the same person: YHWH. So we must never characterize the Father as Judge and the Son as Savior. It is one and the same God who through Christ saves us from His own wrath.

    Shalom--

    You said:

    God’s wrath is not selfish or vindictive but an expression of his perfect holiness. Rather than destroying man as he deserved the Bible reveals how He provided an means by which His holiness could be satisfied and sin dealt with. That means was the Cross of Christ.

    Here's a mental exercise that gets at the presuppositions which drive atonement theologies: What would happen if God decided simply not to punish sin? Or better yet, is it possible that God not punish sin?

    Nathan,

    I agree that it is an important issue.

    Re: expiation as the means of propitiation. I thought it was a fairly agreed on statement. For instance JI Packer says in "The Logic of Penal Substitution",

    "The idea of propitiation includes that of expiation as its means"

    So I thought it was pretty well accepted since Packer is a pretty big gun. Perhaps I'm mistaken.

    At any rate, this (the idea of God requiring retribution upon an innocent 3rd party before he will forgive) is indeed the crux of where we disagree. That idea specifically I do not see anywhere in Scripture.

    As I've read I have also noticed that there is a grand history within Penal Substitution of proponents who have sought to save the doctrine from its "crude" forms. Among them James Denney, Leon Morris, PT Forsyth, JI Packer, and John Stott. I would put myself more in their camp than I would with Soccinus.

    John W,

    You say,
    "as death is the penal consequence of sin, then it follows... that Christ Jesus endures death in our place to satisfy the justice demanded from sin"

    What would follow is that he endures the consequence of sin in our place to to save us from that consequence. Is that what you mean by "the justice demanded"?

    "the Passover sacrifice, the death of the Passover lamb with all its typological meaning, richly informs the death of Christ in the New Testament"

    I do see a theme of averting wrath in Passover, but primarily Passover is about a Covenant being sealed with blood. Jesus says this as well at the last supper.

    "contemporary views that repudiate penal substitution have little basis on which to draw the appropriate connections between the Old Testament and the New with respect to a crucified Lord who is sacrificed on the altar of a cross"

    This may be true for liberal theories. I don't want to hog Nathan's thread here too much so if you like we can also do this over on my blog www.sharktacos.com/God/ but I would argue that I can draw connections from the OT to the NT that are much more true to Scripture that do not end up with Penal Substitution (at least not in its "crude form"). Have you read Martin Hengel or Juergen Moltmann?

    Shark,

    I'm not sure about J. I. -- I'd have to see the statement in its context. But I know that the following train of thought is most common in Evangelicalism: 1. God is the One who puts away our sins, casts them into the depths of the sea (Micah 7), etc. 2. He only casts our sins aside (i.e. expiates them) when his wrath against them has been satisfied. 3. So expiation is a result of propitiation, and not the other way around.

    This is not meant to be a chronological sequence -- God forgave sins before Christ was crucified. However, he only did so by virtue of the eternal plan of redemption on the cross that he was about to enact. Hence his justice, in light of sins previously "expiated", was demonstrated when "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" was slain in actual time.

    As far as the crux of our agreement (retribution on an innocent third party) I find the theme everywhere. It is shouted out loud and clear every time an animal is sacrificed in the OT. It is assumed every time Paul argues that we have "died with Christ to our sins, and have been raised up with him to newness of life" -- in other words, Christ's death and resurrection has consequences for us that could only come by his partaking of them as our federal and substitutionary head. Romans 5 speaks as clearly as possible of guilt being imputed to all who are "in" their federal head (be it Adam or Christ). And all of the passages I mentioned above will stand up to scrutiny.

    One more point: if it is fundamentally against justice for actual guilt to be imputed to a third party who then bears that guilt and its punishment; then it must stand to reason that it is equally against justice for righteousness and its rewards to be given to a naturally unrighteous third party. If Christ didn't bear the wrath for our sin, then we cannot bear the effects of his righteousness. And if we must trust in our own filthy-rag righteousness to approach God, then all of scriptures give testimony to what our fate must be.

    Shark .. you said..>>>I would argue that I can draw connections from the OT to the NT that are much more true to Scripture that do not end up with Penal Substitution (at least not in its "crude form").

    No sir, I don't think you can. Your presuppositions are driving your theology of the Scripture when it should be Scripture driving your presupposition.

    Death was the penalty of sin in the garden. People die, we die. So you think it is crude for God to endure the just pubishment that we deserve but it is not crude that we ourselves die for our sin? Are you imputing crudeness to God for penalizing us with death of our sin? What makes Jesus' death more "crude" than our death. if substitutionary atonement is a reality. Is it that you cannot bear the federalism which so permeates the Bible? Has modern Amercian democratic ideas so influenced your theology?

    As for the passover, the blood of the lamb was painted in the doorways of the Jews. Do you think they would be exempt from death if the blood were not painted on the head of the door?

    Ann Onymous,

    You seem to be offended by the perceived disrespect of the term "crude form". You should know that no disrespect was meant, and this is a technical term that proponents of PS often use to differentiate a proper doctrine of PS from a more populist one. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Nathan Pitch,

    "I'm not sure about J. I. -- I'd have to see the statement in its context"

    The great thing about the Internet is that's pretty easy. The entire article is online here
    http://www.the-highway.com/cross_Packer.html
    when you get there just to a "find" for the quote.

    "[retribution] is shouted out loud and clear every time an animal is sacrificed in the OT"

    Temple Sacrifice is not about punishment of the animal. This really is agreed on by scholars. Tell you what, on Monday I'll blog about the Temple Sacrifices on my site and we can go into more detail.

    "It is assumed every time Paul argues that we have died with Christ to our sins"

    Why is a retribution theme assumed there? When we "share in the sufferings of Christ" or make our selves "living sacrifices" or "take up our cross" are we then propitiating God's wrath by our suffering too?

    "Christ's death and resurrection has consequences for us that could only come by his partaking of them as our federal and substitutionary head. Romans 5 speaks as clearly as possible of guilt being imputed to all who are "in" their federal head (be it Adam or Christ)."

    That we agree on (although I'm not familiar with the term "federal" in this context.

    "if it is fundamentally against justice for actual guilt to be imputed to a third party"

    And in an criminal law system it is. Just think about it. So I conclude that since in
    1) in a criminal justice system this would without question be profoundly immoral
    2) Scripture clearly speaks of Christ doing exactly this
    3) God is just
    therefore the criminal justice system model is the wrong model to understand this by and in fact the models given in Scripture are not ones of criminal justice. They are the model of Temple Sacrifice, and the picture of Isaiah 53 which repeatedly stresses how unjust the suffering is. I can think of many models where the idea of substitution of the innocent bearing the punishment of the guilty makes perfect sense. The criminal justice system model is not one of them. So I would affirm all the things Scripture says, I just insist that to see them in the context of a criminal justice system model is not the context of Scripture.

    "If Christ didn't bear the wrath for our sin, then we cannot bear the effects of his righteousness"

    I agree.

    the “injustice” of vicarious atonement is an old canard, repeatedly posed and repeated answered. Liberals, Chalke, McLaren and other emergents act as though this objection had never been raised before, much less answered before—time and again.

    The Bible never says that Christ is God’s “child.” In Scriptural usage, sonship and childhood have very different connotations. “Childhood” conjures up an image of immaturity and vulnerability.

    But, in Scripture, sonship in general, and with special reference to Christ, in particular, conveys at least two ideas.
    i) The Son of God is consubstantial with the Father. For the sonship of Christ is a divine title.
    ii) A son, especially an only-son or firstborn son (both applied to Christ) is his father’s heir. This, in Scripture, points us to the kingship of Christ.

    “ Vengeance” is just another word for justice. Justice is not immoral. Justice is the very essence of morality.

    In orthodox Christology, Christ is not an unwilling or defenseless little child. Rather, he is true God and true man. He is a divine person—the omnipotent Son of God--as well as a mature man. His mission and submission are voluntary (e.g., Jn 10).

    To set this in opposition to the love of God is a perverse misrepresentation. It is out of God’s gracious love for the elect that the Son of God dies in their stead. God has show his utter love for the elect by exacting his justice on the person of his Son rather than mankind as a whole.

    The love of God does not negate the justice of God. Indeed, the reprobate will face the judgment of God.

    Derek,

    The significance of the sacrificial system seems undeniable to me. Just consider the first passover, which is a monumental event, undergirding the entire worship corpus which followed on Mount Sinai. In that account, it is clear that the firstborn Israelites were condemned to a violent death. God gave commands for them to put a spotless lamb to a violent death, and then to apply the blood to their doorframes, indicating that the violent death of the substitutionary lamb was standing in for them. When God saw this substitutionary blood, he forbore to put the Israelites to the death to which they were condemned. And Christ is our true passover Lamb. His violent death stands in for the death to which we have been condemned, and when God sees his blood, he does not bring upon us the penalty which we deserve. If that is not clear enough, consider also another monumental event giving meaning to the later sacrifices -- the sacrifice of Isaac. At that time God provided a ram which was explicitly said to be in Isaac's place, and it was that ram which suffered the death that God had commanded Isaac to undergo. And this is beside the clear instructions for the later Israelites to identify with a spotless lamb by putting their hands on his head, and to put that lamb to death in their stead; and the Day of Atonement ritual of the priest's confessing the sins of the people over the head of the scapegoat, etc. I'll read your post on the sacrificial system when I get home from work tomorrow, because, frankly, I'm curious as to how any sane person could miss the substitionary blood principle that seems so outstandingly obvious to me.

    Steve,

    "The 'injustice' of vicarious atonement is an old canard, repeatedly posed and repeated answered"

    Please forgive my ignorance then and share with me your knowledge so I can understand.

    "The Bible never says that Christ is God’s 'child'."

    Not sure what this has to do with the question. I never claimed that the Atonement was "divine child abuse". What I said was that in a criminal Justice system it is "unjust to punish the innocent for the crimes of guilty. Nothing could be more basic to criminal justice than that. That is I think indisputable.

    Nathan,

    "The significance of the sacrificial system seems undeniable to me"

    I agree.

    "In that account, it is clear that the firstborn Israelites were condemned to a violent death"

    Please show me where it says this. Do you mean first born Egyptians?

    "indicating that the violent death of the substitutionary lamb was standing in for them"

    Again please show me where it says that the violent death of the substitutionary lamb was standing in for them. It seems to me that the blood instead designated, (just as the temple was dedicated by the sprinkling of blood), that something was consecrated to God. They were declaring that they belonged to the Lord. The blood here has to do with sanctification. Hebrews talks quite a lot about this. All sorts of objects where cleansed with blood in the temple too. Sanctification and cleansing in Hebrew thought is closely associated with being "set apart". Thus the blood "set apart" that house as belonging to the Lord and the angel of death (wrath) passed over.

    "When God saw this substitutionary blood, he forbore to put the Israelites to the death to which they were condemned"

    Where are you reading this?

    The main point of passover is that God had brought Israel out of bondage. It is not about atonement or repentance (that is Yom Kipur). It is a celebration of God's liberation of his people our of slavery. With Passover a covenant began between God and Israel. With Jesus we see again him saying as he celebrated Passover with his disciples "this cup is the new covenant in my blood". Again we see that the purpose of the blood is one of consecration, covenant, a contract sealed in blood, sanctifying.

    There is in here the element of averting wrath, and it is the blood that avert it. But I see the blood as a sign of that house being marked as belonging to the Lord. I see in there no sense of appeasement whatsoever.

    Please here me say this: I do think that there are places where the sacrifices are about atonement and where the sacrifice is substitutionary. I'll get into that in my post in my blog. But at the same time there are a lot of other themes going on (such as consecration and sanctification) that we will miss if we simply project the theme of retribution onto every mention of sacrifice. In doing that we miss the larger significance of the sacrifice as it applies to Jesus, and as you said the sacrificial system is quite significant.


    Derek,

    I infer that the Israelites were condemned to death from passages such as Exodus 12:13 and 12:23. God has gone out to destroy, and when he says that he will pass over a house only upon the condition of seeing the blood, he makes clear that destruction is marked for that house, and must in this way be averted.

    Yes, sacrificial blood (as typical of Christ's blood) inaugurates the covenant, cleanses, sanctifies, sets apart, etc. -- but only by virtue of its dealing with sin. And sin is only atoned before a holy God when its punishment is enacted. All these things you mention are integral to dealing with man's fundamental problem in relation to approaching God and being his people -- that they are sinful and he is holy, and will not simply overlook sin.

    If the blood is simply to signify cleansing, sanctification, etc., why could some more pleasing symbol not have been chosen? Why not merely grain or wine or some such thing? What a shocking example of utterly gratuitous violence and death! Unless the violence and death were a necessary means for the desired effect (as in penal substitution they are).

    I'm curious as to how any sane person could miss the substitionary blood principle that seems so outstandingly obvious to me."

    Because we don't share your eisegesis (we have our own :).

    Consider this article by the Orthodox writer Frederica Mathewes-Green.

    An exerpt:

    "...[C]onservative Christians in the West are disposed to see any attack on the Substitutionary theory as a move toward liberalism. That is not so. There is a whole third viewpoint, which prevailed throughout the first millennium, and continues outside Western Christianity today.

    This theory, in short, does not consider the possibility that God could not just forgive us. It presumes that he *does* just forgive us. The thing that so troubled Anselm--the image of a great offense against God that could not be paid or remitted--didn't occur to the early church."

    Nathan,

    "I infer that the Israelites were condemned to death from passages such as Exodus 12:13 and 12:23"

    I'm reading those passages and don't see any grounds to infer this. It rather clearly says that the one who where under judgment were the Egyptians. The purpose of the marking thus said "no Egyptians in this house". It seems to me that you are bringing the assumption that they must be condemned into the text rather than actually finding it there. What I read is: "When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down"

    you say "Yes, sacrificial blood (as typical of Christ's blood) inaugurates the covenant, cleanses, sanctifies, sets apart, etc. -- but only by virtue of its dealing with sin"

    Exactly, and so the question is: how is sin dealt with.

    "... sin is only atoned before a holy God when its punishment is enacted"

    Can you show me where Scripture says this?

    "Unless the violence and death were a necessary means for the desired effect (as in penal substitution they are)"

    I agree. Any theory of the Atonement must face that head on. That is I think the main strength of Penal Substitution. Have you read my blog post on "Penal Substitution vs Vicarious Suffering". Both views explain how the violence and death were a necessary means.

    Forest,

    "It presumes that he *does* just forgive us"

    I'm not sure that this is accurate. Christus Victor assumes that we are in bondage to sin, death, and the devil and need to be set free. It does not just say "no problem".

    Even in simple forgiveness, we can say that the person who forgives bears the cost themselves. that's what I see God doing - rather than demanding payment before he will forgive, God in forgiving pays what he does not owe.

    Sharktacos

    you asked "... sin is only atoned before a holy God when its punishment is enacted"
    Can you show me where Scripture says this?

    Leviticus
    17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.

    The taking of a life, the spilling of blood is what makes atonement. Our death (from the time of Adam) is penal. Atonement is a substitution for the death we justly deserve. The Scriptures are plain.

    By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. Heb 11

    It is worth remembering, the timing of the death of Jesus at the very hour when the Passover lambs were being slain stuck in the mind of this eyewitness.Passover lambs were slain between noon and 3 p.m. on Nisan 14 (recall that there were three hours of darkness, from approximately noon to 3 p.m., when Jesus was on the cross [Mark 15:33]. When Jesus died, the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom [Mark 15:38]—right when the last of the lambs would be on the altar in front of the sanctuary!). In A. D. 70, the last year that the temple was still standing, 270,000 lambs were slain.


    Sharktocos said: >>>rather than demanding payment before he will forgive, God in forgiving pays what he does not owe.

    He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He pays the debt (death) we are unable to repay ourselves. Dies the death we deserve

    --'It presumes that he *does* just forgive us'
    "I'm not sure that this is accurate. Christus Victor assumes that we are in bondage to sin, death, and the devil and need to be set free. It does not just say "no problem".

    Derek,

    I'm pretty sure that FMG sees sin as a serious problem and would affirm what you say above (as do I). The context of her comment is in response to Anselm's presuppositions in the below passage from Cur Deus Homo?. In that context, FMG's "*just* forgives," means forgives without requiring satisfaction.

    "Let us consider whether God could properly remit sin by mercy alone without satisfaction. So to remit sin would be simply to abstain from punishing it. And since the only possible way of correcting sin, for which no satisfaction has been made, is to punish it, not to punish it is to remit it uncorrected. But God cannot properly leave anything uncorrected in his kingdom. Moreover, to remit sin unpunished would be treating the sinful and sinless alike, which would be incongruous to God's nature. And incongruity is injustice. It is necessary, therefore, that either the honor taken away should be repaid, or punishment should be inflicted."

    John W,

    I basically agree with what you are saying (that death is a part of atonement, that it is substitutionary, that the sacrifices point to the cross, etc) I just don't see anything retributive/punishing in it, nor do I think a western criminal justice system is the right model to understand it by.

    For instance your quote from Lev 17 says that blood and death are involved in atonement. I do not see however why one must conclude that this is done as a punishment to appease God's anger. This strikes me as Pagan concept of sacrifice not a Hebrew one.

    Forest,

    Point taken.

    Incidentally it is interesting to note that Anselm sees "satisfaction" not as the same as punishment (as PS does) but as an alternative to it:

    "either the honor taken away should be repaid (satisfaction), or punishment should be inflicted"

    Incidentally John, I posted the first of a 3 part series on the Temple Sacrifices over on my blog (click on my name to go there). I'd be interested on hearing your thoughts on it.

    Derek,

    For now, I'm going to leave off the discussion on sacrifices, because I think Forestwalker has really hit upon the heart of the matter with the Anselm quote. The crux of the dispute is this: Is the God of the bible a God who will simply pardon sins without requiring that their just penalty be paid? To which we may append the corollary question, If God has said that he will punish sins, can he forbear to do so without being proven a liar?

    I think God has indeed said he will punish sins. He said without qualification that, if Adam disobeyed he would certainly die. The law was attended with many grave threats of curse and death for those who did not obey it (and none of us has). To quote one key text in which God reveals his nature to us, "The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will not at all clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation" (Exodus 34:6-7).

    Here we see that the very God of mercy is also a God of truth, and that the God who forgives will not at all clear the guilty. But are we not all guilty without exception? Unless we can possess a perfect righteousness, God will not at all forgive us. Now, the New Testament is clear that the saints are clothed in Christ's righteousness -- it has been imputed to them. But how can they be forgiven unless more is done -- unless, that is, God has been truthful in his affirmation that he will not simply forgive their guilt? If the imputation of Christ's righteousness to those who are by nature unrighteous is not an injustice, then neither in principle is the imputation of guilt to one who is not guilty. If God simply "cleared" the guilty without also "visiting their iniquity upon them," then he would be found to be untruthful in this (and other) asseverances about his nature. He must therefore both forgive the guilty and "visit," i.e., "retribute" their sins. Which he indeed has done, if, as PS suggests, he forgave them by virtue of his satisfactory retributing their sins upon them or a representative/substitute for them. This is also the reasoning of Romans 3:24-25, which teaches that God's forgiveness would have been unjust apart from the hilasterion of Christ's blood. This is the teaching of Isaiah 53, which states that God was pleased to bruise the Son, because he bore our sins. Any view of the atonement which does not take into account God's retribution against all sin, in effect, calls him a liar for saying that he would require death for sin, when in fact he does not do so in all cases.

    This will probably be my last post, at least for now. I've been going ninety miles an hour with various pursuits, and I feel unable to add anything other than what I have already said. I plan on reading more on the topic, however. But for now, my final word is, I cannot see the holy, wrath-bearing, sin-cursing God of scriptures, who stated many times that he would indeed visit guilt upon the guilty, as a God who will not indeed do so. Those who bear their own guilt, God will visit it upon them. Those whose guilt is borne by the Son, God has visited it upon him; and therefore, because they are now righteous with an imputed righteousness, he accepts them.

    P.S. I did just read your post on the sacrifices, but I'm not sure if I'll comment right now.

    At any rate, I have been sharpened and driven to scriptures by the discussion, so I thank you for taking the time to dialogue. I trust that God will continue to lead me to scriptures as I endeavor to study this vital topic ever more deeply.

    Nathan

    Sharktacos

    you said>>> why one must conclude that this is done as a punishment to appease God's anger. This strikes me as Pagan concept of sacrifice not a Hebrew one.

    No one here belives (or has said) that sacrifices are to appease God's anger. Death is simply the just penalty for sin, something clearly the consequence of the fall, which we all agree upon. "If you eat or touch the fruit you will die" God is infinitely just and He requires that justice be satisfied. Any talk of God's anger is simply anthropomorphism. The presence of sin is incompatible with God's holiness. Christ, the second Adam, should not have died, but he did in our place. "He who was without sin became sin for us that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."

    And 1 John emphatically states that Jesus is a "propitiation for our sins" which does not mean God's anger has to be satisfied, but that holiness and justice has been be satisfied. Something we have been saying all along.

    You are reading into what we understand the substitionary atonement is if this is what you have thought all along. and furthermore substitutionary atonement is not the only purpose of the cross but it certainly is not less than this.

    When Adam was cursed to die, was this, in your mind, appeasing God's anger. His wrath against sin, is simply a way of speaking (and the Bible does) that justice is being been satisfied. Just as he strikes Adam dead, Jesus suffers the same fate, in our place.

    So if you agree that one important aspect of the atonement is a substitutionary atonement then what more is there to debate about. You agree then.

    Nathan,

    Enjoying the challenge of conversation too. No pressure, take your time and here is a response for you when you get back :)

    "Is the God of the bible a God who will simply pardon sins without requiring that their just penalty be paid?"

    If that means: will God say "that's ok" and ignore the hurtful consequences of sin in us and others? Then I think the answer is clearly "no". Neither does a just God simply walk past oppression or famine or suffering without acting to save. The problem with PS is that it only sees the cross as punishing. What about Christ bearing our pain, suffering, and sickness that have separated us from Him? Isa 53 talks about this. Jesus did this in his ministry. Where does that fit into PS?

    What I object to is the idea of "penalty needing to be paid". I do not see adding more hurt to hurt as making things better or as a picture of justice.

    "If God has said that he will punish sins, can he forbear to do so without being proven a liar?"

    Isn't that the question Jonah asked God? Jesus answering a similar question said

    "Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"

    you say "If the imputation of Christ's righteousness to those who are by nature unrighteous is not an injustice"

    In a criminal justice model, it clearly is an injustice. You cant let a criminal out of jail because his dad is a good person. That's why a legal model is simply the wrong model all around.

    If God simply "cleared" the guilty without also "visiting their iniquity upon them," then he would be found to be untruthful

    Again, only if one insists on viewing it from a legal paradigm. I wonder if Calvin had been a doctor rather than a lawyer if this whole problem would be solved. Then we could say that God would not simply give the sick a "clean bill of health", but actually make them well. As Jesus said "I have come for sinners, because it is the sick who need a doctor"


    "This is also the reasoning of Romans 3:24-25"

    I don't see that there. In fact I see rather clearly that Paul is talking about "a righteousness apart from law" and concludes that "a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law". What Luther discovered here is that this justice "to which the law and the prophets testify" is a justice not of rewarding to good and punishing the bad, but of setting right the sinner and the broken.

    All through the Prophets justice is associated with caring for others, as something that is not in conflict with mercy, but rather an expression of it. Biblically, justice is God's saving action at work for all that are oppressed:

    "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow". (Isaiah 1:17)

    "This is what the LORD says: "`Administer justice every morning: rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed" (Jeremiah 21:12)

    The way that we "administer justice", the Prophets tell us, is by encouraging and helping the oppressed. God's justice is not in conflict with his mercy, they are inseparable. True justice can only come though mercy

    "This is what the LORD Almighty says: `Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another. (Zechariah 7:9)

    "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice".( Isaiah 30:18)

    If we want to understand the concept of justice as the writers of the Old Testament did, then we must see it as a "setting things right again". Thus when Christ comes, the way that he brings about justice is through mercy and compassion. Notice how in this next verse Christ does not bring justice with a hammer, but with a tenderness that cares for the broken and the abused.

    " I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations… A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory" (Matthew 12:18-21

    The way that God brings about justice and "leads it to victory" is through acts of compassion - sheltering the "smoldering wick", and the "bruised reed". And what does Christ "proclaim to the nations" to bring about this justice?

    "He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

    In the OT we see a dim Christ. There the model of dealing with sin and its deadly consequences is quarantine. With Jesus we see a better way, which is to heal, restore, redeem, and set free.


    "...I think Forestwalker has really hit upon the heart of the matter with the Anselm quote. The crux of the dispute is this: Is the God of the bible a God who will simply pardon sins without requiring that their just penalty be paid?"

    No. The crux of the matter is that Anselm's work was a departure from Christian beliefs about the atonement during the thousand years that preceded it. His presumptions about justice and lordly authority and honor that underlie his logic (and beg the question in the passage I quoted) are medieval assumptions, not Jewish or early Christian ones.

    "Incidentally it is interesting to note that Anselm sees "satisfaction" not as the same as punishment (as PS does) but as an alternative to it:

    'either the honor taken away should be repaid (satisfaction), or punishment should be inflicted'"

    Not just interesting, but important.

    Forestwalker

    you asserted>>>>The problem with PS is that it only sees the cross as punishing.

    you answer sounds like it is something you got out of an emerging church cereal box. That's just a cheap shot. If you took the time to read the Reformed view of the atonement you will quickly discover how hallow and misguided such claims as you make are. Jesus life and death are so much more than "ONLY punishing", and yet you folks tiringly impute an "either/or" rather than a "both/and" understanding to us. Seriously don't you get bored misrepresenting others?

    But while the cross is much more than penal substitution, it is certainly not less. If your critique is simply one of emphasis that is one thing, but if your are denying penal substitution altogether that is another.

    Was the death of Adam a punishment for his sin? of course. The fact that it is a punishment does not mean that God has to find a way to cool His anger. But it does mean that if He is to have mercy on man, then justice must be satisfied because God is infinitely holy, wither man taking the punishment himself (via death) which you cannot deny since we all must undergo death, or Another substitute doing for man what he cannot do for himself.

    "Forestwalker
    you asserted>>>>The problem with PS is that it only sees the cross as punishing."

    John,
    That was sharktacos actually. I don't disagree with him, though. I recognize that PS is only part of the Reformed view of the atonement and that your view of the atonement is much broader than just punishment. But PS itself is, by definition, about punishment. You're saying as much yourself.

    Note in your post that you're speaking of atonement (and even "the cross" and "Jesus' life and death") as if it is summed up in PS (you use all of these terms interchangeably in the post above). I (and I assume this is true of sharktacos as well) am not speaking of PS as though it expresses the entirety of the Reformed view of the atonement (nor do any Reformed PS apologetics I'm familiar with).

    "Was the death of Adam a punishment for his sin? of course."

    Adam's death is clearly a consequence of his sin. To call it punishment, though, is a choice of interpretation. "Surely you will die" is clearly a warning. But is it a threat (eat of the fruit and I will punish you, demand your blood, kill you) or an observation about the nature of reality (eat the fruit and you'll die, be in rebellion, be out of communion). That God did not strike Adam dead (as you incorrectly asserted earlier)--not to mention that it's the most "plain reading" of Scripture--suggests the latter. Obviously, that's reductionistic. God's nature is reality, afterall, so death as active punishment for sin vs. passive consequence of sin is a pretty blurry line. Trying to make sense of that blur, though, is dangerous business (and it's PS's claim to clearly express the mystery of that blur that I reject). A commenter on one of sharktaco's essays shared this bit of Luther that I think is pretty wise:

    "I have often advised and still advise younger theologians today that they must so study the Holy Scriptures that they refrain from investigating the Divine Majesty and His terrible works. God does not want us to learn to know Him in this way. You cannot nakedly associate with His naked Godhead. But Christ is our way to God. Those who speculate about the majesty are crushed and led to despair by Satan. The reason for this is that they are looking for answers of a kind that they cannot know, such as for the question: Why did God condemn Judas but spare Peter? And such a speculator argues with God as if with some potter. To keep us from striving to observe God in Himself in this matter, He came into the flesh, presenting the flesh to us, in which we might behold God dwelling bodily, as He answered Philip when the latter gazed at Him: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). From this, then, you see the madness of those who say that the flesh avails them nothing (cf. John 6:63), though on the contrary God is of no avail without the flesh. Indeed no God will avail for you except the God of Him who sucked the virgin’s breasts. On Him fix your eyes. For you cannot grasp God in Himself, unless perchance you want a consuming fire. But in Christ you see nothing but all sweetness, humanity, gentleness, clemency—in short, the forgiveness of sins and every mercy, etc. ... The incarnation of Christ powerfully calls us away from speculating about the divinity.
    (Luther's Works vol. 16, p. 55)"

    JW,

    1st of all, Forest did not say this, I did.

    Secondly, the context was not to say that proponents of PS only think about punishment. I'm an Evangelical and most of my friends believe in PS. I know first hand that they are very loving people, even if we disagree doctrinally, I don't forget that.

    What I was simply saying is that the difference between PS and Anselm's "Satisfaction theory" is that in Anselm's model "Satisfaction" and "Punishment" are two separate options. Either "satisfaction" is paid by way of restoring honor, or punishment follows. If you have a debt you must pay it (satisfaction) if you cannot afford the fine, you are punished. Christ pays honor to God and thus through this satisfaction, punishment is averted. That is Anselmian Satisfaction. You will note that in Anselmian Satisfaction justice is satisfied without punishment.

    In contrast with Anslem's theory, in PS the punishment serves as the "satisfaction". Christ endures the punishment and thus the need to punish is satisfied. The focus in PS is thus only on the satisfaction through punishment. That is not derogatory, it is simply the difference between the two models.

    I realize that this is a volatile subject and emotions can run high, but lets all try to exhibit grace towards one another and not jump to conclusions too quickly.

    Until the "cereal box" comment, I was enjoying reading through this thread. I'd like to insert a comment here (if anyone will actually find it among 40 replies!) that has nothing to do with substitution, penal or otherwise.

    I've spent a fair amount of time reading the back-and-forth bantering of internet apologetics, which usually just resorts to name calling and mud slinging. Nobody seems to respect anyone's view..."if you disagree with me, you're an idiot with shoddy credentials." I've been following a debate (for lack of a better word, I guess) between James White and posters on a Catholic blog, who seem more interested in arguing over whether his Ph.D. is legitimate than whether his assertions are reasonable. He gives replies that are very accurate and astute, but often with a sarcastic spin that really only pours gas on the fire.

    So I commend everyone here for having a thoughtful discussion focused on THE ISSUES AT HAND, and not not on each other! :) I'm not condemning the "cereal box" guy, either...I'm just saying it's easy to slip and mix insults with arguments, and we all need to be on our guard. I especially commend Mr. Shark Tacos (is there a meaning behind that name?) for replying to that comment with grace and an exhortation to remain friendly...it's all to easy to just fire back and get ugly with it.

    But you're still wrong about the atonement :-P

    I'll crawl back into my cereal box now!

    I truly am sorry if my "cereal box" comment caused more heat then light. I hear the constant repetition of that the traditional view of the atonement is ONLY about punishment and nothing else from certain quarters of the church that it gets tiring to have to rehash something that has long been established otherwise. Again, my apologies for causing strife.

    But I will mention that it also seems that the criticisms leveled at PS, at least the ones I have seen in here, were satisfactorily answered.

    "I will mention that it also seems that the criticisms leveled at PS, at least the ones I have seen in here, were satisfactorily answered."

    Can you summarize what those criticisms are, as you've understood them? I'm not sure we're all understanding each other.

    Hi there,

    Is it agreed upon by persons from all sides of this issue that death itself is the penal consequence to Adam and his progeny for breaking covenant with God? That we ourselves die because we are sinners and we break God's holy law?.

    "Is it agreed upon by persons from all sides of this issue that death itself is the penal consequence to Adam and his progeny for breaking covenant with God?"

    Scratch "penal" and I can strongly affirm this statement. We likely do not agree on the meaning of "death", though.

    "That we ourselves die because we are sinners and we break God's holy law?"

    I believe that we were dead in our bondage to sin (or are dead in bondage in the case of those still in rebellion).

    forestwalker

    Thanks for your response.

    Then if I am understanding you correctly, you do not agree that physical death was the penalty for Adam's sin. That physical death was indeed a part of God's original plan for creation (prior to the fall)?

    If so, would you then affirm that God created Adam as a creature who would die naturally of causes apart from sin, such as old age or some or some other sickness?

    We can agree that unregenerate man is in bondage to sin (spiritually dead), that he has no hope to escape this bondage save in the mercy of Jesus Christ.
    But it would appear that you are affirming that physical death, then, is the natural consequence of being born, even before the fall. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Most of us, I believe, would, on the other hand, affirm no such dichotomy. That we are not merely spiritual beings, but physical, and will overcome death when we are raised up in Christ, and that, in imperishable physical bodies.

    We do not believe a Hebrew understanding of the Bible allows for such a bifurcation between the physical and the spiritual. To see spiritual death as unrelated to physical death, we believe, is more of a Hellenistic concept. We affirm that God created the Adam and Eve only with the potential of physical death if they broke covenant with Him. When God says "eat of the tree or you will die" if that is not penal, (if not the consequence of rebellion), then what is penal?.

    One can use words differently and, in this case, say death is not "penal" but by most persons definition of the word, I believe, it is. If you choose not to use the word, but agree with the concepts behind it then there is no real difference between us. But if you disagree with the concepts behind it then there is very little common ground that we share.

    Two examples of Scripture that shows death to be a "penalty":

    2 Thessalonians 1:9
    These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,

    Hebrews 2:1-3
    For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,

    "Is it agreed upon by persons from all sides of this issue that death itself is the penal consequence to Adam and his progeny for breaking covenant with God?"

    I think it would be more biblical to call death a "curse" instead of "penal", but yes I would agree with that.

    Only Silence? Do forestwalker and sharktacos have no answer to JWs final post?

    "Do forestwalker and sharktacos have no answer to JWs final post?"

    I didn't realize that I was being asked this....um ok... here's my answer:

    "if I am understanding you correctly, you do not agree that physical death was the penalty for Adam's sin"

    That is incorrect. I would agree that physical death was the penalty for Adam's sin. I would also think that Forest would too.

    "would you then affirm that God created Adam as a creature who would die naturally"

    Again, no. Death is not natural, it is part of the curse. If you look at the Eastern Orthodox church, you will notice that they will also agree with you on this point. Where they will disagree is not in the problem, so much as in the solution.

    p.s. Reading Forest's distinction above between death being a consequence to sin vs an artificial punishment, I would agree with him.

    To anyone who does not acknowledge this I would say: "you have yet to weigh the gravity of sin". The reason that the consequence of sin is death is not arbitrary, as if God could just change his mind about it. It is how we were made, part of the moral fabric of our world. Therefore in order to be made well again we do not simply need to be acquitted through some legal loophole, as if the only problem was God being mad at us. He is mad at us for a reason: because of the cancer of sin. That cancer needs to be dealt with in us, removed. PS says absolutely nothing about this. Thus PS does not deal with sin, but only with the idea of calming God's anger. Again, as JI Packer has said, if the problem of sin is dealt with (expiation) then so is the reason for wrath. Expiation (removing sin) results in propitiation (making God favorable). Simply making God favorable without any means of expiation, ignores the very real problem of sin and thus offers an artificial solution, like a doctor who give you a slip of paper saying you are well when you are in fact dying.


    Hi, I'm new but I was wondering whether the issue is really about punishment (for sin) vs. consequences (of sin). Is death/separation from God puniushment or consequence. If the former, who punishes: the Father? But I can't find that anywhere in the Bible. If the latter then the words from the cross makes more sense: Jesus takes (and takes away) our sin once and for all and so also bears (and bears away) the consequences of it.

    (What happens to the sin? It is forgiven, swallowed whole and neutralised by the love of God.)

    Hey Nathan,

    I just posted a blog entry on a formulation of penal substitution that I could agree with here

    http://sharktacos.com/God/2006/11/incarnational-penal-substitution.html

    I'd be intersted if you would would recognize it as a legitimate understanding of Penal Substitution as well.

    Shark,

    I'll read it and comment over there.

    I see that I am coming onto this conversation very late. I hope someone will still read and respond.

    For the past few years, I have grown more in my understanding of God and in my intimacy with Him and my faith in Christ has helped me more than words can describe. I think the faith aspect of all of this is more valuable than any other aspect. We cannot explain how God causes us to have faith. We can have faith without even realizing that we are having it. God can cause us to experience His power, He can exercise His power and workings in our lives without us understanding it or even realizing it is happening. I know that this is true in my own life, because of the way God has been able to cause me to be in a state of faith in which I did not realize I was in until only after I came out of the state of faith and looking back I realized I had been spontaneously believing things without recognizing that fact that I was believing them.

    One example is my faith in Christ. I had not had a deeper underlying formal understanding of "Penal Substitution." I guess I just automatically assumed that it was true that Christ died in my place - that God provided the sacrifice for my sins and I was therefore forgiven in Christ.

    In a recent conflict I had with another person, my faith in Christ helped me in supernatural, yet very practical ways. I felt that this person was treating me "wrong" and that I was experiencing "unfair" treatment. In prayer, God was speaking to me that it was His will for me to undergo unfair treatment by this person, because it showed His mercy and love, and He reminded me of how Christ experienced the unfair treatment of the Cross at the hands of others, and that that willing submission to unfair treatment out of love was done for me personally. Remembering this and understanding how the cross applies to me personally and my faith in that is what somehow gave me the supernatural ability to endure the unfair treatment of someone with joy and patience. Through faith, I experienced the power of God to perform His will.

    Now, I have been thinking more and more about the meaning of the cross, because I have always believed that there is an infinite amount of understanding and power within it of which to draw from. Yet, I now have come across a troubling question. I understand the idea of God's wrath and justice being "satisfied" by the crucifixion of Christ, but I don't understand why it would satisfy God. What about Christ being crucified satisfied God? How could it satisfy Him? If Christ was perfectly innocent, then why would it satisfy God to punish Him? Was it the fact that Jesus did it willingly? I want to understand the inner workings of this. Why couldn't God just decide to forgive us and that be that? Isn't the very meaning of forgiveness is that punishment or retribution does not have to be made? That the price has been forgiven? Wouldn't that be the opposite of the price being paid on the cross? Or does it have to do with only how all of it relates to me personally - that it's forgiveness in the fact that I don't have to pay it? Was the cross for my (our) benefit alone, or both ours and God's? Surely, if you say that God's wrath had to be satisfied, then it was for His benefit as well. Yet, how in the world would it be satisfying to God for His own perfectly innocent Son to be punished and to experience completely undeserved treatment? What about that would be satisfying in any way?? Or is that not the part that is supposed to be satisfying to Him? What part is?

    Also, would the difference between our earthly understanding of limited, finite human beings being just judges and innocent/guilty parties, and God as an infinite, all knowing "judge" with all authority and Jesus as not only perfect, but infinitely righteous have anything to do with it? God requires infinite perfection and Jesus was an infinitely sufficient sacrifice?

    One last thing - if Jesus is God, how would it please God to punish Himself? Why would that be necessary?

    Something has become corrupted in the body of the article, Is Penal Substitution Biblical?
    The problem is, inverted comma's and apostrophe's are replaced by irregular characters.
    For example, God’s wrath, is supposed to be "God's wrath; another is, he does in fact “see themes of ‘punishment’ clearly, should be, he does in fact "see themes of punishment" clearly.
    There are many such instances throughout the article text.

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