Definition of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA)
There are a lot of theories out there on the atonement of Jesus Christ – theories that have been presented throughout church history – (1) ransom to Satan, (2) recapitulation, (3) satisfaction, (4) moral influence, (5) example, (6) governmental, (7) dramatic, (8 ) barthian, and (9) penal substitution (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, pp. 308-309). Basically, you can sum up the angles on the atonement in the three ways: Christ sets us free from evil powers, Christ leads us as the loving example, and Christ took the full, wrathful penalty for our sin.
Dr. Tom Schreiner (Associate Dean and Professor of New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes,
“I define penal substitution as follows: The Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son (who offered himself willingly and gladly) to satisfy his justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The punishment and penalty we deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of us, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.
The riches of what God has accomplished in Christ for his people are not exhausted by penal substitution. The multifaceted character of the atonement must be recognized to do justice the canonical witness. God’s people are impoverished if Christ’s triumph over evil powers at the cross is slighted, or Christ’s exemplary love is shoved to the side, or the healing bestowed on believers by Christ’s cross and resurrection is downplayed. While not denying the wide-ranging character of Christ’s atonement, I am arguing that penal substitution is foundational and the heart of the atonement.”
Steve, Michael, and Andrew write,
The doctrine of the penal substitution states that God gave himself in the person of his Son to suffer instead of us the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for sin. (Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach, Pierced For Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, 2007, p. 103).
The Contemporary Rejection of PSA (sampling)
(Controversial) Steve Chalke – “The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement that “God is Love”. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil.” (Steve Chalke, The Lost Message of Jesus, 2003, p. 182f)
Blake Ostler – “The Penal Theory Posits a Conflict between Father and Son. . . . The angry Father did not pay the price of sin himself but sent his son to do his dirty work for him so that he could be convinced to forgive us when he otherwise refused to do so. Others are free to call this love if they desire, but it is a perverse sense of “love.” . . . The Penal Theory Is Unjust. . . . Anyone who rejects original sin because it is unjust to punish someone for something that he didn’t do personally must also reject the penal substitutionary theory for the same reason. . . . The Penal Theory Erroneously Assumes that Guilt Can Be Transferred. . . . The Penal Theory Limits God’s Power to Forgive. . . . Why can’t God simply forgive us the way we can forgive one another? The Penal Theory Entails a Legal Fiction. . . . This view of the Atonement assumes that God is the sole agent in our salvation and reconciliation.” (Blake Ostler, Exploring Mormon Thought: The Problems of Theism and the Love of God, 2006, pp. 265-281).
Brian McLaren – “Conventional View: Jesus says, in essence, “If you want to be among those specifically qualified to escape being forever punished for your sins in hell, you must repent of your individual sins and believe that my Father punished me on the cross so he won’t have to punish you in hell. Only if you believe this will you go to heaven when the earth is destroyed and everyone else is banished to hell.” This is the good news. Emerging View: Jesus says, in essence, “I have been sent by God with this good news—that God loves humanity, even in its lostness and sin. God graciously invites everyone and anyone to turn from his or her current path and follow a new way. Trust me and become my disciple, and you will be transformed, and you will participate in the transformation of the world, which is possible, beginning right now.” This is the good news.” (Brian D. McLaren, Everything Must Change, 2007, p. 79).
Bart Ehrman – “[After declaring a theme of substitutionary sacrifice in Second Isaiah, pp. 77-83, Bart goes on to explain] There is one particularly important implication for our study: the classical view of the relationship of sin and suffering is not simply found throughout the pages of the Hebrew Bible. It is central to the understanding of the New Testament as well. Why is it that Jesus had to suffer and die? Because God has to punish sin. Second Isaiah provided the early Christians with a scheme for understanding Jesus’ horrible passion and death: this was suffering undertaken for the sake of others. It was through the death of Jesus that others could be made right with God. Jesus was in fact a sacrifice for sin (p. 84). . . . [And yet Bart rejects the biblical message] The evangelical theology I had once held was built on views of suffering: Christ suffered for my sins, so that I would not have to suffer eternally, because God is a righteous judge who punishes for all time those who reject him and the salvation that he has provided. The irony, I suppose, is that it was precisely my view of suffering that led me away from this understanding of Christ, salvation, and God. I came to think that there is not a God who is actively involved with this world of pain and misery—if he is, why doesn’t he do something about it? Concomitantly, I came to believe that there is not a God who is intent on roasting innocent children and others in hell because they didn’t happen to accept a certain religious creed.” (Bart D. Ehrman, God’s Problem, 2008, p. 128.)
Doug Pagitt – “As a result, the Greek perspective has come to inform Christian thought about everything from God and Jesus to sin and salvation, for the last seventeen hundred years. In other words, the theology that guides the present-day church is in many ways a version of faith customized for the fifth-century Greco-Romans. And when that view was set in stone as the inarguable, unchanging, only way to explain faith, it created all kinds of trouble for those of us living today (p. 45). . . . The good news of Christianity is that we are integrated with God, not separated from God (p. 90). . . . I had never felt separated from God (p. 97). . . . So it was really hard to make sense of this image of God on one side of a canyon and me supposedly on the other. The chasm itself was strange enough. But what was truly irreconcilable about this version was why God would be so stymied by the chasm. I understood that this was supposed to be a metaphor, but it sure didn’t seem like a metaphor to the people leading me throughout the booklet. They talked about it literally, and in any case, it had an obvious effect on their notion of God. They described a God who, while loving me deeply, was distant, was hard to please, and needed to be appeased in order to participate in my life. They talked as though there truly was a gaping physical canyon between God and me and there was nothing either of us could do about it other than following the prescribed solution. All I could think was, what an odd way to talk about the Creator of the universe—trapped on the far side of a canyon! Maybe this image isn’t troubling to others. And maybe it wouldn’t have been troubling to me if I hadn’t come to the Christian story with a story of my own. Maybe it wouldn’t have bothered me if it hadn’t been so different from the play I’d seen. But I’m not sure I would have been interested in the Christian faith if the story on the stage had been about a removed God who needed to be placated with a blood offering before he was willing to cross the chasm and participate with humanity (p. 98-99). . . . In this view, God is not a softy but rather a hard-nosed, immovable, infallible judge who cannot abide defiance of the law. And boy, did we defy it. When Adam and Eve broke God’s law in the garden, they offended and angered God. So heinous was their crime that their punishment extended to all of humanity for all time. The antidote to this situation is the crucifixion of the Incarnate Son of God because only the suffering and death of an equally infinite and infallible being could ever satisfy the infinite offense of the infinitely dishonored God and assuage his wrath. Yikes! Even when someone uses a variation of the judicial model, the situation is the same: the judicial model of sin puts the law at the center of the story. In doing so, love, grace, mercy, compassion, goodness, and even God become minor players that must be subject to the law. The gospel itself becomes less about God and more about the sin problem.” (Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, 2008, pp. 154-155).
Old Defenders of PSA (sampling)
Martin Luther – “All the prophets did foresee in Spirit that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc., that ever was or could be in all the world. For he, being made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person and without sins . . . but a sinner. . . . Our most merciful Father . . . sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him . . . the sins of all men saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and briefly be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now come the law and saith: I find him a sinner . . . therefore let him die upon the cross. And so he setteth upon him and killeth him. By this means the whole world is purged and cleansed from all sins. . . . Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You became what you were not, so that I might become what I was not.’”
Charles Spurgeon – “If ever there should come a wretched day when all our pulpits shall be full of modern thought, and the old doctrine of a substitutionary sacrifice shall be exploded, then will there remain no word of comfort for the guilty or hope for the despairing. Hushed will be for ever those silver notes which now console the living, and cheer the dying; a dumb spirit will possess this sullen world, and no voice of joy will break the blank silence of despair. The gospel speaks through the propitiation for sin, and if that be denied, it speaketh no more. Those who preach not the atonement exhibit a dumb and dummy gospel; a mouth it hath, but speaketh not; they that make it are like unto their idol. . . . Would you have me silence the doctrine of the blood of sprinkling? Would any one of you attempt so horrible a deed? Shall we be censured if we continually proclaim the heaven-sent message of the blood of Jesus? Shall we speak with bated breath because some affected person shudders at the sound of the word ‘blood’? or some ‘cultured’ individual rebels at the old-fashioned thought of sacrifice? Nay, verily, we will sooner have our tongue cut out than cease to speak of the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” (Charles Spurgeon, “The Blood of Sprinking (part 1)”, 1886).
J. Gresham Machen – ‘They (liberal preachers) speak with disgust of those who believe ‘that the blood of our Lord, shed in substitutionary death, placates an alienated deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner. Against the doctrine of the cross they use every weapon of caricature and vilification. Thus they pour out their scorn upon a thing so holy and so precious that in the presence of it the Christian heart melts in gratitude too deep for words. It never seems to occur to modern liberals that in deriding the Christian doctrine of the cross, they are trampling on human hearts.” (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1923, p.120.)
Contemporary Defenders of PSA (sampling)
Bruce Demarest – “Penal substitution indicates that the Messiah died in the sinner’s place and took upon himself the sinner’s just punishment. The idea of vicarious, penal substitution is imbedded in the warp and woof of Scripture.” (Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 1997, p. 171).
Alister McGrath – “Christ is here understood to be our substitute. We ought to have been crucified, on account of our sins; Christ is crucified in our place. God allows Christ to stand in our place, taking our guilt upon himself, in order that Christ’s righteousness, won by obedience upon the cross, might become ours.” (Alister E. McGrath, Theology, 2004, p. 84).
John Piper – “There was only one hope for me – that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become the son of God. . . . I thank you, heavenly Father, with all my heart, that you saved me from your wrath. I rejoice to measure your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved and the wonder of your mercy by putting Christ in my place.” (Jeffrey, Ovey, Sach, Pierced For Our Trangressions, 2007, pp. 14-15). “Jesus did not wrestle his angry Father to the floor of heaven and take the whip out of his hand. He did not force him to be merciful to humanity. His death was not the begrudging consent of God to be lenient to sinners. No, what Jesus did when he suffered and died was the Father’s idea. It was a breathtaking strategy, conceived even before creation, as God saw and planned the history of the world. That is why the Bible speaks of God’s “purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9). . . . Oh, that we might worship the terrible wonder of the love of God! It is not sentimental. It is not simple. For our sake God did the impossible: He poured out his wrath on his own Son—the one whose submission made infinitely unworthy to receive it. Yet the Son’s very willingness to receive it was precious in God’s sight. The wrath-bearer was infinitely loved.” (John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, 2004, pp. 22-23)
Robert Duncan Culver – “I once published a book of exposition of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – fruit of several years of teaching exegesis of the Hebrew text. As I wrote my heart was made full of thanks to God for its clear presentation of the saving work of our Lord in His suffering and death ‘in my place.’ The heart of the passage is Isaiah 53:5, which for exegetical purposes I translate ‘And he was pierced for our transgressions; crushed for our punishment; the chastisement of our peace [reconciliation] was upon him, and by his welt healing is for us.’ My closing remarks on the verse, citing two famous authors, were these: ‘Dr. Albert Barnes . . . said concerning these words that if it is possible for human speech to describe substitutionary atonement, these words do so. Franz Delitzch – than whom few more learned scholars ever lived – said that such is the only possible construction to be placed on these words.’ ” (Robert Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical, 2005, p. 556).
(Controversial) N.T. Wright – “After all, the climax of my book Jesus and the Victory of God, upon which Steve [Chalke] had relied to quite a considerable extent, is the longest ever demonstration, in modern times at least, that Jesus’ self-understanding as he went to the cross was rooted in, among other Old Testament passages, Isaiah 53, the clearest and most uncompromising statement of penal substitution you could find. (2007 internet post, http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/news/2007/20070423wright.cfm?doc=205 )
Mark Driscoll – “The fact that Christians celebrate the murder of Jesus as “good news” is disgusting unless we have understand the reason why Jesus died. The Bible teaches that in perfect justice, because Jesus was made to be our sin, he died for us. The little word for has big implications. In theological terms, it means that Jesus’ death was substitutionary. In theological terms, it means that Jesus’ death was substitutionary (or, as some used to call it, vicarious). His death was in our place solely for our benefit and without benefit for himself. Just to be perfectly clear, this means that Jesus took the penalty for our sins in our place so we do not have to suffer the just penalty ourselves. The wrath of God that should have fallen on us and the death that our sins merit fell on Jesus. This wasn’t something forced on him. Rather, he took it willingly. Scripture repeatedly stresses this point, which theologians call penal substitutionary atonement: (p. 114) . . . Propitiation means God’s wrath, which is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture, was turned away, or propitiated, from sinners and diverted to Jesus Christ. This was made possible because Jesus substituted himself in our place as both our high priest and the lamb of God to pay the penalty for our sins. (p. 117) . . . Curiously, some people in the more left-leaning side of our dysfunctional Christian family are backing away from the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Those in the more established liberal churches, along with their emergent offspring, are routinely decrying the concept that Jesus paid the penalty (death) for our sin in our place on the cross. They say it is too gory, too scary, too bloody, too masculine, and too violent. Furthermore, they say that in our tender little world of kindness, such teachings won’t help further the kingdom of meek and mild Jesus.” (Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears, Vintage Jesus, 2007, p. 118).
Al Mohler – “While the atonement accomplished by Christ cannot be reduced to this understanding alone (and no one should claim that it should), to deny or confuse this doctrine is to deny that Christ died on the cross for our sins and as our substitute. In other words, we honestly believe that those who deny, dismiss, and disparage this doctrine do injury to the gospel.” (J.I.Packer & Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood, 2008, p. 15).
J.I. Packer – “As I grow old I want to tell everyone who will listen: “I am so thankful for the penal substitutionary death of Christ. No hope without it” (p. 21). . . . Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product which, though it looks similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. . . . in the new gospel the center of reference is man. . . . Whereas the chief aim of the old [gospel] was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems to be limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and his ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference. The whole perspective and emphasis of gospel preaching has changed (J.I.Packer & Mark Dever, In My Place Condemned He Stood, 2008, pp. 112-113).
The Heart of PSA
Clear Scriptural Revelation: Exodus 12, Leviticus 16, The fourth Servant Song – Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53; The Gospel of Mark, The Gospel of John, Romans, II Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:10-13, I Peter 2:21-25 and 3:18, Hebrews 10:1-4, etc.
The Implications of PSA
Millard Erickson writes, “It carries several major implications for our understanding of salvation: 1. The penal-substitution theory confirms the biblical teaching of the total depravity of all humans. . . . 2. God’s nature is not one-sided, nor is there any tension between its different aspects (i.e., righteous and demanding versus loving and giving). . . . 3. There is no other way of salvation but by grace, and specifically, the death of Christ. . . . 4. There is security for the believer in his or her relationship to God. . . . 5. We must never take lightly the salvation which we have.” (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, pp. 822-823).
Todd, obviously you subscribe to the PSA view. It is good that you list scriptures that you believe support this view. I think it would be a good exercise to re-examine these scriptures in light of PSA. Although I’ve read the scriptures, including the LDS additions, I’ve never come to any conclusion that PSA was the view of the prophets and apostles of antiquity. But, then again, I’ve never read the scriptures with PSA in mind.
I think I can get most of these scriptures read in short order, but the entire books of Mark, John and the Romans letter??? Maybe you could reference a few passages that you feel point to PSA instead of the entire books…
So far I’ve re-read Exodus 12, but I see no connection to PSA in it. A couple of phrases catch my eye in this chapter: Ex. 12: 13 (“and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” ) and Ex. 12: 23 (“and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.” ) In fact, it seems to support D&C 45: 3-5 and my own Compassionate Empathy Atonement (CEA) model.
Leviticus 16, likewise, does not seem to indicate PSA. It is not a bullock or goat that rids us of our sins. These ordinances or rites obviously were to point their minds to the atonement of Jesus. The statute explained in this chapter used symbolism to point to Christ. Also, verses 29 and 31 indicate what was the real cause of the forgiveness of their sins. The use of the phrase “ye shall afflict your souls” (KJV) indicates that the real “sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalms 51: 17). The sacrifice of Jesus allows us to offer this heart sacrifice, which allows us to receive forgiveness. This is also in keeping with BoM and D&C scriptures, such as 2 Ne. 2: 7, etc.
I’ll look over the other scriptures later.
A, for starters in Mark, check out Mark 10 and Mark 15.
And in John, I find the prophets’ initial introduction of Jesus to the world (1:29) as key, loaded with the sacrificial, substitutionary theology of the O.T. Then, I have been jumping from one verse to the next in the first eleven chapters that highlight the Greek preposition, hyper.
Isa. 52: 13- Isa. 53. Now these scriptures do, in fact, seem to point one in the direction of PSA. (Now I see why you wanted me to address Isa. 53.) I suppose 2 Cor. 5: 21 may also be applied to PSA. I also see where you are applying PSA to Gal. 3: 10-13. 1 Pet. 2: 21-25 and 1 Pet. 3: 18 also may be applied to PSA. The same with Heb. 10.
If I were just a believer in the Bible, without the additional revelations of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, and a Christian preacher came to me preaching PSA and using these biblical scriptures alone, I would concede that there appeared to be evidence in the Bible that PSA might be true. The one thing that would stop me from immediately accepting that theory is Leviticus 16. Leviticus 16, if you could remove it, and maybe also remove Hebrews 10: 4, and just leave the other scriptures, I’d say the PSA preachers would have a strong case. But Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 10: 4 weaken their arguments. Actually, Ex. 12 does, too. Because of this, I’d probably remain out to lunch concerning the veracity of PSA.
As a LDS, though, having access to the other three books of scripture, and taking all four books together, it becomes plain that PSA is not what Isaiah, Paul and Peter were referring to. Taking the other scriptures in hand, I can say with confidence that PSA doesn’t hold water, not when the all the books of scriptures that we currently possess are examined.
This reminds me of what Anthony Larson is want to talk about that many people do: taking scriptural symbolism and metaphor and interpreting it as literal and taking something literal and interpreting it as symbolism and metaphor. Unless scriptural keys are recognized and used, the real meaning of the scriptural text is missed.
That said, I don’t believe that a person who believes PSA, who repents of his sins and exercises faith in Christ, working righteousness, is going to go to hell for that belief.
A, let me mention that PSA does not comprehensively define all of Christ’s atoning work. Christ’s work on the cross is a dazzling, multi-cut diamond blazing with brilliant glory.
Yet PSA is fundamental to my Christian faith.
If Jesus had not died, I would have died eternally. The substitutionary work is a must.
Whatever works for you, Todd. Heaven forbid I take PSA away from you and leave you with no Christian faith. I wouldn’t want to do that. I think we both agree that if Jesus had not died, everyone would have died eternally. You can believe what you will how the atonement works, but the really important thing to believe is that it works.
If you ever reach a point where you want to consider other theories of how it works, though, you might want to think about how the bullock and goats were able to remit the sins of those who sacrificed them and also consider the thought that Jesus’ sacrifice worked according to the same principle, but to an infinite degree, He being God in the flesh. The key, then, to understanding the sacrifice of Jesus is to understand the ordinances of animal sacrifices and how they worked to rid sin.
I use that word, must, because of its urgent, repetitive usage in John’s Gospel, not just because I want to float your boat, A.
I am learning that some of these truths are of absolute necessity.
And I do like Hebrews.
Now, you have me thinking of Hebrews 9.
I agree whole-heartedly with Todd. There is no salvation without Christ’s PSA, for anything beside that would make the Gospel about man, and it is clearly about God’s goodness to us in His grace covering our sin. As for sacrificing of animals in the OT, there is no new key for anything. God sent Jesus into the world when He wanted to. In the same way He gave the Law of Moses that the people would transgress even more as the Bible says, yet He did this so that we would see His goodness in giving us JESUS to die for us! The animals were what God required–a spotless blood sacrifice. The blood of the spotless lamb in Egypt was what God required, HE REQUIRED DEATH IN SUBSTITUTION FOR THE DEAD, SO THEY MAY HAVE LIFE! There is nothing sadistic about this! Jesus willingly gave up His perfect, spotless life to atone for our sins, just as the blood sacrifice was asked for of God in the OT. The grace is that God is so holy and just, and sin so heinous that He would require the greatest thing in all the world to die to defeat the greatest abomination in all the world! HE SENT HIS SON! How much greater could you ask for? There is no cosmic child abuse, yes, as Isaiah says, He went as a sheep to the slaughter, but that was GOOD, it meant that you and I could be free from the power of sin, and be made heirs with Christ! Hebrews even says that Jesus did what He did for the “JOY that was set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame.” Heb 12:2. The joy was bringing His people back into covenant with Him! A restored relationship, and the joy of being worshipped forever and ever as the Lamb of God who removed the sins of His people forever, so that no one can boast of themselves. This is crucial to knowing God. You must believe in PSA, for if you don’t, as surely as the Lord lives, you do not know the God of the Bible, the Great I AM. You know your own tainted-by sin thoughts and “human understandings,” but my friend, that is not enough, not when God’s holiness and divine purposes are being made a mockery, and God has declared, “I will not be mocked.” I would look to the Bible for your answers with a mind set of God’s glory and fame and a reverent fear, for you will stand before Him one day and give an account for your acceptance or rejection of Christ, and that is not something to formulate your own opinions on, but to find the TRUTH that Jesus talks of in His High Priestly Prayer…”Sanctify them in Your truth; Your Word is truth.”
See “Operation Infinite Justice” at http://rbseminary.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/operation-infinite-justice/
“And for Your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from EACH man too I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Emanuel.” Gen 9:5 NIV
Jesus’ crucifixion was for the purpose of putting a sin in place by his life being taken by bloodshed. Therefore “he became sin for us” does not mean in place of, as you think, but it actually means “he became a sin for us” to give an account of.
“For it is NOT those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13
Therefore the Lord’s command given through the apostles can only be obeyed by the faith of confessing directly to God that you are sorry Jesus’ life was lost by bloodshed and be baptized into this Way of righteousness for the forgiveness of ALL sins. But if you don’t you commit a sin against God for which there is no forgiveness. The true reason for Jesus’ crucifixion was for God’s purpose for it not to be unreasonable to make an addition to the law, see Rom. 5:20, Heb. 7:12b, in regard to God’s requirement for each man to give God an accounting relative to one man’s life taken by bloodshed.
Belief in PSA and saying the sinner’s prayer seem to have replaced the Jewish purity laws of Jesus’ time as the requirements that decide whether or not someone is deemed acceptable and saved or rejected and condemned, who is in and who is out. Yet when Jesus was asked directly what must I do to be saved, he replied, “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.” No mention there that belief in PSA is essential! We spend so much time debating doctrine and deciding who qualifies for God’s love that we tend these days to judge people by whether their beliefs coincide with ours rather than by how much they love. Rather than listening to what Jesus taught and then ACTING on it, we spend our time telling people what they must believe about Jesus. No wonder so many think that Christianity is irrelevant to their lives.
“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”
Anyone who who believes that the doctrine of substituionary is true is a fool.
OOPs! my comment needs to read ” substitutionary atonement or penal substitutionary is true is a fool.”
“Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matt 5:22
We can all ‘cherry –pick’ the biblical texts that suit us, as the above example shows. But faith is not about winning arguments, nor is evangelism.
So much energy is spent by people arguing that they have found the only way to God. They don’t seem to realise that God found his way to us a long time ago. So much concern is given to believing or doing the ‘right’ things in order that God will reward you, protect you, heal you, or forgive you. But that’s religion but it’s not faith. Faith is about loving. The moment that you love someone for some benefit or advantage, it is no longer love. Love is not about getting something, it is about giving.
“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”
“Houston! You gotta a problem and it is a lot lot bigger than you think
Theodore and Pavel, are you Jewish?
What is it about following Jesus’ command to put loving God and loving other people at the heart of faith rather than getting wrapped up in doctrine that sounds Jewish?
Theodore, so all those who believe in PSA are fools; and I have a big problem. Perhaps you’ll be so kind as to explain what my problem is instead of constantly keeping on repeating one text out of context. Why are you so worried about being ‘declared righteous’? The priest and the Levite passed by on the other side because they were so anxious about being righteous and following the purity laws. It was the Samaritan who got involved in the messy task of loving that Jesus commended as the example to follow.
If there is a last judgment, I doubt that we shall be asked, “Were you righteous?” or “Did you obey the law?” or “Did you believe in the doctrine of penal substitution?” or even “Did you say the sinner’s prayer?” We’re more likely to be asked, “How much did you love?” The honest answer for most of us will be “Not nearly enough.” But I wouldn’t be surprised if the response to that is “Then it’s a good job that I love you more than enough.”
Pavel, loving God and loving others is the heart of God’s command to the Jews. Thank God for the Hebrew scriptures.
Agreed, Todd. But it is also the heart of Christianity. And since we were discussing Christianity at the time and I was suddenly asked out of the blue, if I were Jewish, I was puzzled as to why I was asked this. It seemed if anon was suggesting that to put love for God above doctrines about him was somehow Jewish rather than Christian.
The point I’m trying to make is that faith is about far more than beliefs or codes of conduct. The word “credo”, from which creed comes, means “I give my heart to.” It’s about having confidence in, trusting and making a commitment to, all ideas we associate with a relationship. Seen in this way, the opening of the Nicene Creed has the sense of – “In my heart I place my trust in, and commit myself to, the one God, the source of all life in the universe and the creative force within all living things, whom I experience as a loving father.”
Faith is more a spiritual adventure than a state of mind; a vision, a relationship and a way of life rather than a creed. It’s all very well sitting in the boat saying, “Yes, Jesus, I believe you can walk on water.” It’s a very different matter getting up and stepping out onto the water oneself. Belief is passive; Faith is active.
In England we abolished capital punishment several decades ago as rather barbaric. So here, the majority think that God having to torture his son / himself to death to satisfy his sense of justice is also rather barbaric. This is one of several reasons the large majoirity of people in western Europe rarely darken the doors of a church. There are, however. many millions of Christians who do believe in PSA. I respect their beliefs. But I’m still more interested in how someone’s faith actually works out in their relationships with others than in how they choose to describe their faith in words.
“If Jesus had not died, I would have died eternally. The substitutionary work is a must.”
Again, “substitution” and “penal” are two very different issues. Atonement can be “substitutionary” without being “penal”.
However, it’s not like you, or I, or anyone else, can escape death. However, if we die with Jesus in baptism and then endure to the end, death becomes the gateway, through Jesus’ resurrection, to eternal life. Death ceases to be eternal. But we still are going to die, “are dying daily”.
Is substitution really a must?
Jesus stressed the need for us to forgive those who have wronged us or upset us. It is in the Lord’s Prayer, Peter is told to forgive 77 times and it is in several parables. The importance Jesus gave to forgiving reflects the damage unforgiveness can do. It’s like a cancer in the soul. Unforgiveness stops us becoming the person we could become. It’s very difficult to be a disciple of Jesus and to carry out his commandments of loving God and loving other people, if we are carrying around a load of bitterness. As Mother Teresa said, “If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.”
Why doesn’t Jesus mention the person apologizing or making recompense to us before we forgive them? Because that’s not the way forgiveness works. “I’ll forgive you, if you say you’re sorry” isn’t true forgiveness. Forgiveness, by its very nature, can’t be conditional, because, like love, it is a state of heart and mind. Forgiveness is the way we feel about the other person; it isn’t a matter of words or of actions.
Forgiveness is not about letting someone off a punishment. – though some church doctrine confuses the two. True forgiveness is a change of attitude within us, a healing of the resentment (which can take a long time, if we have been badly hurt). It’s changing the way we feel about the other person. We can forgive people even if we never have the chance to tell them, even if they are already dead, even if they don’t acknowledge they’ve done anything wrong. True forgiveness isn’t dependent on the response of the other person. It’s a matter of us rising above what has happened and not allowing what has been done to us to hold us back spiritually.
Unforgiveness with all its spiritually damaging facets can’t be part of the nature of a God of love. In the story Jesus told of the prodigal son, forgiveness has already taken place while the son is still frittering away his father’s money in licentious living. The father spots his son at a distance because he is looking out for him; he rushes down the road in a very undignified way and embraces his son before the boy can say a word.
Reconciliation moves beyond forgiveness. Since it is the restoration of right relationships between people, it necessarily involves the responses of more than one person. We can see this difference in the story of the prodigal son. Although forgiveness had taken place long before the son even realises he has done anything wrong, reconciliation could not take place until the boy was ready to be restored to his place in the family. Similarly, we have to respond to God’s forgiveness, if we wish to be restored into a proper relationship with him. So forgiveness is already there, but we have to recognise our need of it and to accept it, so that we can be reconciled.
At the time of the first Christians shortly after the death of Jesus the prevailing religious ethos was one of substitutionary or placatory sacrifices. So it is natural that explanations for Jesus death and God’s love for us were expressed in those terms. But we don’t have to lock ourselves into first century thinking. Every time we say that “God can’t forgive you unless …..”, we are suggesting that God is less forgiving and loving than the best of human beings, because he can’t forgive without some transaction having taken place, because his forgiveness is conditional. When we state that “God had to see that justice was done and so someone had to be punished”, we are creating an image of God that resembles a mediaeval monarch from the age when much of traditional church doctrine was drawn up.
In these doctrines of substitution, penal or otherwise, the amazing nature of grace seems to be left out of account. Charles Wesley described grace as “immense and unconfined”; “wide as infinity.” Grace is a gift. You can’t earn it by good deeds; you can’t buy it with your beliefs; you can’t purchase shares in it through the offertory plate, or qualify for it by belonging to a particular church.
“At the time of the first Christians shortly after the death of Jesus the prevailing religious ethos was one of substitutionary or placatory sacrifices.”
Actually, these notions do not take center stage in Christian thinking until much, much later. Anselm lived and wrote in the late 11th and early 12th centuries.
‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?‘ (Micah 6:6-7). Who, in his right mind, these days would even dream sacrificing his child (no matter how exasperated one might feel with one’s children) with the notion that this might in some way be pleasing to God as an atonement for sin? What kind of god would one need to imagine to think that he might want such appalling behaviour? Yet, it is clear that, at the time of Micah, many held that belief.
Child sacrifice was a religious practice amongst the Phoenicians and Canaanite tribes—and, eventually, was a form of worship practised amongst the Israelites. It was believed that one could amend for sins through the sacrifice of an innocent child.. By giving up one’s own child in this way one could appease God for sins of the soul and find divine favour. The idea, therefore, is that the penalty for sins could be paid for through the sacrifice of an innocent child—whose substitutionary death was thought sufficient to assuage God’s wrath and satisfy His penal justice and offended honour. The child had to be of an age that was believed to be without sin—in order to pay for the sins of others. A firstborn child was preferred because the firstborn was regarded more highly and was, in consequence, a greater offering and demonstration of submission and loyalty.
However, early in Israel’s history, Yahweh had commanded this whole notion to be utterly rejected as an abomination: ‘There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire,… all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you’ (Deut.18:10-12). Remarkably, in spite of God’s warnings, Israel and Judah fell prey to these same corrupt practices. In the time of Jeremiah (active c.626 – 585 B.C.), a ‘tophet’—a place of child sacrifice and burial—had been set up in the Valley of Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem. (see Jer.19:3-6, cf. Jer.7:30-32). Today, we can look back upon these periods of apostasy in Israel’s history and shake the head in absolute disbelief. The thought of slaying an innocent child to pay for one’s sins is utterly unacceptable.
God not only condemns child sacrifice but also the punishment of an innocent man. (see Prov.17:26; Ex.23:7; and Prov.17:15).
Would God do that which He regards as an abomination for others to do? Would God do that which is not right and punish His own innocent Child for our transgressions – for the sins of the soul? Would he punish the innocent man in order to acquit the guilty despite condemning it when humans do it?
Yet, this is just what the satisfaction and penal substitution theories of atonement would have us believe.
Pavel. This statement you’ve posted is probably the best I’ve read that places substitutionary/ penal atonement theories into the absurdities that they truly are. The crucifixion of Jesus cannot be a direct benefit. For if it were the comission of the sin murder caused by bloodshed would have to be something God honors as the right thing to do to save yourself. But he didn’t.