Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting Substitutionary Atonement Right


"The penal substitution model has been criticized for depicting a kind Son placating a fierce Father in order to make him love man, which he did not do before. The criticism is, however, inept, for penal substitution is a Trinitarian model, for which the motivational unity of Father and Son is axiomatic. The New Testament presents God’s gift of his Son to die as the supreme expression of his love to men. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son’ (John 3:16). ‘God is love, . . . Herein is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (I John 4:8-10). ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8). Similarly, the New Testament presents the Son’s voluntary acceptance of death as the supreme expression of his love to men. ‘He loved me, and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20). ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends . . .’ (John 15:13f.) And the two loves, the love of Father and Son, are one: a point which the penal substitution model, as used, firmly grasps."


- J.I. Packer from his classic article "What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution."

19 comments:

Nick said...

But that was not the main objection, the main objection is whether true justice allows an innocent person to get punished, regardless of whether or not they are willing. Giving the death penalty to anyone except the actual criminal defeats the whole purpose of the law.

And that's not even the worst of it, because Penal Substitution entails God literally damning Jesus during His time on the Cross, and well respected Reformed theologians make this clear.

Take Luther for example:
"So then, gaze at the heavenly picture of Christ, who descended into hell for your sake and was forsaken by God as one eternally damned when he spoke the words on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!” - “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In that picture your hell is defeated and your uncertain election is made sure. (Luther, Martin. “Treatise on Preparing to Die.”)"

The Christological ramifications of making such a claim should at the very least raise a red flag as to whether P-Sub is really true or not. Saying Jesus was damned in our place is not a joke, I cannot think of a more serious claim.

Belle Geary said...

NIck,

I think the point that is missed is that it was not just an innocent man volunteering to take the punishment of the guilty; it was God Himself taking on our guilt and punishment.

God Bless,

Bill

Todd Pruitt said...

Bill,

Exactly right. This is the point that Packer, indeed the Scriptures make. Clearly Nick does not see this.

Nick,
Penal Substitution cannot be denied unless you deny the very clear teaching of Scripture. The entire sacrificial system under the Old Covenant was based upon Penal Substitution in anticipation of Christ's work.

Christ's anxiety in the garden was born in the fact that he would be drinking the cup of God's wrath which he did.

By pouring out his wrath upon his Son God was both just and justifier. Check out Romans three.

Nick said...

Belle: I think the point that is missed is that it was not just an innocent man volunteering to take the punishment of the guilty; it was God Himself taking on our guilt and punishment.

Nick: I honestly don't see how this changes anything. Jesus was still purely innocent. God undergoing the death penalty Himself defeats the whole purpose of law/justice.



Todd: Penal Substitution cannot be denied unless you deny the very clear teaching of Scripture. The entire sacrificial system under the Old Covenant was based upon Penal Substitution in anticipation of Christ's work.

Nick: I entered into a debate with a Calvinist on the issue of P-Sub precisely because I did not see "clear" evidence from Scripture for it. In my study, I became convinced the OT sacrificial system did not operate in a P-Sub framework.
For example:
(1) the Passover Lamb was never an object of God's wrath, nor was God's wrath on the Israelites for the Passover (Ex 11:4-7)
(2) If someone was too poor to afford a lamb for their sin offering, they could use a sack of flour instead (Lev 5:7,11). That would be totally illogical if P-Sub was the system in place.
(3) The Scapegoat was never actually killed, which is the last thing one would expect if P-Sub was the system.
(4) In places like Lev 3 it talks about sacrifices NOT dealing with sin but instead peace/fellowship sacrifices. However, the animal is still killed in a manner very similar to the sin offering. This is likewise illogical if P-Sub was in place, because all we would expect for a sin offering occurs yet the offering is not on account of sins.

I'm not kidding when I say I've searched God's Word on this subject. For a long time I (as well as others) assumed the OT sacrifices were about P-Sub, but the Biblical evidence clearly points away from that.


Todd: Christ's anxiety in the garden was born in the fact that he would be drinking the cup of God's wrath which he did.

Nick: The NT nowhere says it was the cup of God's wrath. But what is more significant is that in Mat 20:22-23 Jesus asks the Apostles if they can "drink the cup I am going to drink." The Apostles say "we can" and Jesus says "you will." This directly contradicts P-Sub because Jesus is supposed to be drinking precisely so that they don't have to. The only answer is that the cup was enduring physical persecutions, not God's wrath.


Todd: By pouring out his wrath upon his Son God was both just and justifier. Check out Romans three.

Nick: I see no substantial evidence that indicates God poured out His wrath on His Son. Romans 3:25 uses the term "propitiation" which means appease/turn-away wrath, it does NOT mean re-direct wrath onto another. Moses and Phinehas both foreshadow Christ, and they both explicitly turned away his wrath in making atonement without having to take that wrath upon themselves (eg Num 25:1-13; Deut 9:16-20).


I STRONGLY encourage people to look into this more, and even look into my debate with a Calvinist on this issue. My goal is to remain as faithful to Scripture as possible, and when Scripture itself is carefully examined I honestly believe it points directly away from P-Sub.

Todd Pruitt said...

Nick,

I am sure you are sincere but you couldn't be more wrong.

The biblical evidence clearly establishes penal substitution. Your exegesis is incorrect. You are making leaps of logic which the biblical text does not support.

Your points about the Old Testament evidences proves this. Under the Old Covenant accomodations were made for those who were poor. Also, there were a number of different kinds of offerings made. The sacrifice for atonement made in the Holy of Holies by the high priest however was always a spotless lamb. Surely you know this Nick.

Also, the scape goat was clearly being punished. The sins of God's people were symbolically imputed to the goat and it was driven away. How can this not be a metaphor for God's punishment? That most certainly was penal substitution. How can you say that it wasn't?

Your point about various other offerings does not in any way negate the reality of penal substitution in the offering made by the high priest on behalf of the people. Clearly your reasoning makes sense to you but it is a connection that the text does not make.

I am stunned that you can say that the biblical evidence points away from penal substitution. PSA is the divine logic behind the sacrifice of atonement. It clearly establishes PSA. Sorry you can't see that.

Your counter point to what I wrote about Christ's agony in the garden is not legitimate. That Jesus uses a metaphor for one purpose in one text and another more specific purpose in another text is not unusual. We see this elsewhere in the Bible as well as in our own experience. In both Old and New Testaments "the cup" is used as a metaphor refering to God's wrath. Again, you should know this Nick.

Propitiation certainly DOES mean to appease wrath. Moses offers himself up for this very purpose but God refused him because he was not the one who could bear the sins of God's people. Moses is a shadow of Christ but he was not the Christ. There is never a complete one-to-one correspondence between the sign and thing signified. The sign is but a shadow, not a perfect representation.

I will not enter into a lengthy debate in this forum. It is not necessary. I would encourage everyone to see what Doug Moo has written in his outstanding commentary on Romans in the NICONT series. I challenge ANYONE to refute his exegesis.

Also the books "In His Place Condemned I stood" and "Pierced for Our Trangressions" are two wonderful places to learn about the irrefutable biblical evidence of penal substitutionary atonement.

Todd Pruitt said...

Nick,

One last comment...

I understand why penal substitution is so hard for you to accept. As a Roman Catholic apologist you cannot accept justification by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. Once that it rejected then PSA has to be rejected.

Todd Pruitt said...

Oops

That should read, "justification by GRACE alone through FAITH alone..."

Nick said...

Todd: Under the Old Covenant accommodations were made for those who were poor.

Nick: But does it make sense to make accommodations for the poor if an animal cannot be killed? If a sin offering requires a penal substitution, then letting off someone without slaughtering an animal doesn't make sense.

Todd: Also, the scape goat was clearly being punished. The sins of God's people were symbolically imputed to the goat and it was driven away. How can this not be a metaphor for God's punishment? That most certainly was penal substitution. How can you say that it wasn't?

Nick: Because the Goat was not killed, it was allowed to live and set free. We would expect the goat to be killed, not released. The notion being expressed is the sins being 'carried away', not being killed in their place.


Todd: Your point about various other offerings does not in any way negate the reality of penal substitution in the offering made by the high priest on behalf of the people. Clearly your reasoning makes sense to you but it is a connection that the text does not make.

Nick: Then can you explain why virtually the same instructions are given - including the slaughter of the animal - yet the killing had nothing to do with substitution?

Todd: I am stunned that you can say that the biblical evidence points away from penal substitution. PSA is the divine logic behind the sacrifice of atonement. It clearly establishes PSA. Sorry you can't see that.

Nick: I see what you're saying, but I don't see where my logic has gone wrong in the examples I gave:
1) God's wrath was not on Israel or the Passover Lamb
2) Accommodations for the poor shouldn't be allowed to substitute a non-animal, for no 'life for life' can take place.
3) The scapegoat was not killed but released.
4) Other offerings not dealing with sin involve the slaughter of animals.

That's my reasoning.


Todd: Your counter point to what I wrote about Christ's agony in the garden is not legitimate. That Jesus uses a metaphor for one purpose in one text and another more specific purpose in another text is not unusual. We see this elsewhere in the Bible as well as in our own experience. In both Old and New Testaments "the cup" is used as a metaphor refering to God's wrath. Again, you should know this Nick.

Nick: I'm not sure what your saying here. The cup Jesus mentioned in Mat 20:22-23 is surely the same one mentioned in the garden, and yet Christ said the Apostles would also drink of it.


Todd: Propitiation certainly DOES mean to appease wrath.

Nick: Good, then we agree on this critical point.


Todd: Moses offers himself up for this very purpose but God refused him because he was not the one who could bear the sins of God's people.

Nick: Where does it say God refused him? I read the exact opposite:
Deut 9: 19 I feared the anger and wrath of the LORD, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the LORD listened to me. 20 And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too.

Ps 106: 23 So he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.


Moses explicitly turned away God's wrath, and Ex 32:30 calls this an act of "atonement."


Todd: I will not enter into a lengthy debate in this forum. It is not necessary.

Nick: I respect your decision. I would hope that you also realize that I'm not trying to ignore Scripture here, but rather try to fit it all together.

Nick said...

Also, you are very correct to say PSA is directly tied to Sola Fide. And carrying over that logic means that if PSA is incorrect then SF must also be incorrect and unbiblical. They stand together and fall together.

Todd Pruitt said...

Nick,

We are at an impass. Besides I do not have the time, or frankly, the desire to engage in lengthy debates in this format.

I disagree with your exegesis and conclusions. I am sorry you cannot see the glory and grace of sola fide which is so clear in the Scriptures.

I trust you will come to see the goodness of God's grace in salvation apart from your works.

farewell...

Nick said...

Thank you for your time Todd.

If you have any other questions, I have other Catholic articles on justification on my webpage (none of them use James 2:24 by the way).

Harley A. said...

"But that was not the main objection, the main objection is whether true justice allows an innocent person to get punished, regardless of whether or not they are willing. Giving the death penalty to anyone except the actual criminal defeats the whole purpose of the law."

Question: Will true justice allow for a guilty man to escape punishment he deserves ?

Todd Pruitt said...

Nick is missing God's moral genious - He takes upon Himself through His Son the punishment due his sinful creatures thereby being both just and the justifier of His people.

Todd Pruitt said...

One more thing...

What Nick is calling injustice (penal substitution) is actually mercy. Praise God that He does not always act in justice. Rather He more often exercises mercy. To the one seeking to justify himself, at least partially (Roman Catholicism) this mercy appears to be injustice.

Nick said...

Harley: "Question: Will true justice allow for a guilty man to escape punishment he deserves?"

Nick: No. But that's why salvation isn't a matter of strict justice. Instead it's about a personal offense to God who can deal with that sin however He wants. Forgiveness has no place at all in a strictly legal environment. The fact God didn't strike Adam dead the second he sinned was an act of pure mercy, not legal. This causes serious problems for sola fide being purely forensic, because things like faith, mercy, repentance, etc have no place in the courtroom.


Todd: Nick is missing God's moral genious - He takes upon Himself through His Son the punishment due his sinful creatures thereby being both just and the justifier of His people.

Nick: I believe God took it upon Himself to correct the problem and make satisfaction, but that in no way means P-Sub. Rom 3:24-25 uses the term "forbearance" which is a term of pure mercy (means mercifully give time to make reconciliation), not legal. And "propitiation" as I explained above means turn away wrath, not redirect it. That term also is not legal, for it's up to God to accept the propitiation at His pleasure.

Harley A. said...

I don’t think we’re saying God operates in a “strictly legal” environment – obviously He is merciful. But, we are saying that He doesn’t suspend His holiness, goodness, and perfection. I believe your errant view does violence to the wholeness of who God is. You want to hold Him to a structure of strict legal justice in one case and not in another.

Christ preached the sermon of His substitution in one word when he shouted “Tetelestai !” with His dying gasp. Curious as to what you think He meant by that. It is a strange thing for Him to shout if your understanding is correct. What was it that he HAD to do though He dreaded it, and what was it he so victoriously announce when He shouted to the crowd, in effect, “paid in full !”.

Michael said...

Todd: "Your counter point to what I wrote about Christ's agony in the garden is not legitimate. That Jesus uses a metaphor for one purpose in one text and another more specific purpose in another text is not unusual. We see this elsewhere in the Bible as well as in our own experience. In both Old and New Testaments "the cup" is used as a metaphor refering to God's wrath. Again, you should know this Nick."

I know this discussion is over, but I just want to add my 2 cents. I think this is a very arbitrary way of dealing with "the cup." Is there any objective textual evidence that indicates that Christ was using the "metpahor" of the "cup" in two different ways? Because it seems to me that a theological presupposition (i.e. penal substitution) is informing your exegesis of the text cited by Nick.

God Bless,
Michael

Michael said...

Christ preached the sermon of His substitution in one word when he shouted “Tetelestai !” with His dying gasp. Curious as to what you think He meant by that. It is a strange thing for Him to shout if your understanding is correct. What was it that he HAD to do though He dreaded it, and what was it he so victoriously announce when He shouted to the crowd, in effect, “paid in full !”.

Hi Harley! Just a question. What role did Christ's physical death play in accomplishing atonement for our sins? Was it purely incidental or was it an essential element? Could Christ have suffered for us without dying?

God Bless,
Michael

Todd Pruitt said...

One of the benefits of having your own blog site is that you get to have the last word.

Michael,

My response to Nick was not arbitrary at all. I was simply making the point that the Bible frequently mixes metaphors (like us). I was responding to Nick's point that Jesus' reference to the cup in the garden was not a reference to God's wrath. Actually, "cup" is a common way of referring to God's wrath in Scripture. I'm afraid your refusal to see the Bible's clear affirmation of penal substitution keeps you from seeing that in the garden Jesus was preparing to drink the cup of God's wrath.

Again, I am not going to try to improve the exegesis of those who have already proven the Bible's doctrine of penal substitution.

Check out these titles:
"Pierced For Our Transgressions"

"Cross Words" by Paul Wells

"The Atonement" by Leon Morris

"The Cross in the New Testament" by Leon Morris

"The Cross of Christ" by John Stott

"The Death of Christ" by James Denney

"In My Place Condemned He Stood" by Packer and Dever

That's just scratching the surface. If you can deny the peerless exegesis in these books then I'm afraid there's no hope.