penal substitution

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penal substitution

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:01 pm

I have decided to put this in here rather than in the Christian section because on the one hand I would like atheists to contribute if they wish but on the other hand I have not put it in general discussion so I can avoid contributions of the 'look the Christians are arguing, that proves . . . something' type. I am hoping chapabel will want to discuss this since he is a very conservative evangelical. I became a Christian through evangelical and although I had friends who were more of a Catholic persuasion (Anglican and Roman) I accepted the evangelical doctrine of penal substitution. But some doubts began to grow. Here are the concerns I have:

1 The doctrine is barely heard of before Anselm develops a version of it in Cur Deus Homo around the 10th Century. The fully developed version favoured by evangelicals does not exist before the 16th century.

2.The doctrine depends on a supposed conflict between God's desire to be just and his desire to be loving; a conflict never found in scripture where justice and love work together. The scripture knows nothing of a strife of attributes.

3. The doctrine logically leads to limited atonement as the later protestants start to realise and this means that any texts suggesting Christ dies for all have tobe reinterpreted and explained away.

4. The word propitiation is used at most once in scripture and yet it is central to this doctrine

5. The doctrine externalises salvation. One Australian Anglican Bishop put it like this: Christ did not die to save us from sin, he died to save us from God - that is a parody of the gospel but it is what this doctrine implies.

6. The doctrine depends on the idea that someone else can be punished for my wrongdoing and that somehow makes everything okay.
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Re: penal substitution

Postby marcuspnw » Sun Dec 11, 2016 4:52 pm

Moonwood the Hare wrote:
1 The doctrine is barely heard of before Anselm develops a version of it in Cur Deus Homo around the 10th Century. The fully developed version favoured by evangelicals does not exist before the 16th century.


Those that adhere to it disagree. Here is a link to an author (a representative of many) attempting to show that this doctrine has some basis in the early Church. To be honest, I don't have a dog in this fight.
https://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj20i.pdf

Moonwood the Hare wrote:2.The doctrine depends on a supposed conflict between God's desire to be just and his desire to be loving; a conflict never found in scripture where justice and love work together. The scripture knows nothing of a strife of attributes.


Any doctrine of salvation has to satisfy both these conditions and the conflict that arises is in how humans try to logically formulate an understanding of salvation given the many attributes of God. Maybe Christ's sacrifice is multi-faceted and too profound an action to be expressed or contained by one perspective. Perhaps, each explanation provides a piece of the puzzle. Why do these ideas have to be seen as mutually exclusive?

Moonwood the Hare wrote:3. The doctrine logically leads to limited atonement as the later protestants start to realise and this means that any texts suggesting Christ dies for all have tobe reinterpreted and explained away.


Unless you believe that Christ's sacrifice on the cross will reconcile all humans to God then limited atonement is a logical conclusion. If people can resist God's grace then they will remain apart from God and the set of the saved will be less then the set of all human beings. Atonement will be limited but not by God. God's intention can still be that all will be saved even if He has knowledge that His gift will be rejected. This knowledge is eternal and not bound by time and space as our knowledge is so committed and so bounded. Calvinism like tea time is a human invention. I don't know God's position on either of these things.

Moonwood the Hare wrote:4. The word propitiation is used at most once in scripture and yet it is central to this doctrine


True, but is one time not enough?

Moonwood the Hare wrote:5. The doctrine externalises salvation. One Australian Anglican Bishop put it like this: Christ did not die to save us from sin, he died to save us from God - that is a parody of the gospel but it is what this doctrine implies.


Yes, a certain aspect of God's revealed character but the wrath of God is not entirely God.

Moonwood the Hare wrote:6. The doctrine depends on the idea that someone else can be punished for my wrongdoing and that somehow makes everything okay.


A firefighter rushes into a burning meth house that was set ablaze by the carelessness of its occupants. She succeeds in saving some meth addicts from death but succumbs to smoke inhalation and dies. Did she suffer the consequences not of her making? Yes. Is this fair? No. Did she act rightly? Yes, she is honor bound to give aid regardless of the worthiness in character of those she saves, she was trained for just such a task and she chose this occupation or volunteered for this duty. Did it make everything okay? That's debatable but in my opinion we live in a better world when saving lives is a noble goal even if tragedy is unavoidable and it comes at a steep price.

Now many people can train to be a firefighter and save lives but how many can become a Savior to the world? Regardless of the doctrine that you prefer as an explanation of the atonement, there is an element of unfairness. It is not an equal transaction, not a fair exchange. An unblemished Lamb was slaughtered for blemished souls. Yet, all shall be well.
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Rian » Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:06 pm

interesting topic, Moon. I'm letting it percolate a bit while I get thru some busy days (today included tutoring math, picking up people at the airport, tutoring more math, and then taking my husband to the surgery center to get cataract surgery!) and then I'd like to discuss this.

My one thought for now was something I read once (I think by CS Lewis) that warned against quickly discarding something that we think is bad/wrong because of how different traits are valued in different generations and places, and what is not valued currently could very well be right but our current prejudices make us think it's wrong (I'm not expressing this well, but it's more of a placeholder for me to discuss later).
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Aaron » Tue Dec 13, 2016 7:55 am

Moonwood the Hare wrote:6. The doctrine depends on the idea that someone else can be punished for my wrongdoing and that somehow makes everything okay.

I second Rian's thoughts, I've been thinking about this since you posted it and will continue to mull it over. I'm also busy Rian, I'm actually smack in the middle of trying to move to Arizona! It feels like it's been none stop the last few weeks, I didn't know it was possible to pack so much in a day (no pun intended), but the Holy Spirit has been with me and is my peace and a place where I can rest by faith just believing He cares and will help me get through whatever comes and He does!

Anyway Moonwood, I've been thinking about this and something about it just seems deceptive, like a succulent lie that seems to taste good but when you let it digest and break down it goes bad. The problem for me is what it seems to be assuming and that is quite a whole lot. Firstly it is assuming there is such a thing as wrongdoing. Well what is wrongdoing? Sure seems like until we can explain what it means to do wrong and why there is wrong then we're playing with ideas that are vague and we will just exploit the ambiguity to fit whatever context we find ourselves in and we will probably do it unconsciously. That is my first thought. My second thought is what is the statement implying then? If it doesn't make sense that someone else can be punished for what I do then is the statement saying I can be punished for what I do and that will somehow make everything okay any more valid? If I can't agree with the statement then I'm not sure I can agree with the implication either. Would it be okay if I beat my wife and then went in for my lashings to cancel out my sin against her? I could then go and beat my wife again and everything is okay as long as I go and get my punishment to balance it all out. But I don't see that this is the whole picture, there is something else going on here. It is not okay that I beat my wife and I don't get to make it okay because I get punished for it. So what does make it okay? What am I to do then if I have done something wrong?
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Rian » Wed Dec 14, 2016 1:01 am

Aaron wrote:I'm also busy Rian, I'm actually smack in the middle of trying to move to Arizona!
How funny - we're most likely moving back to California!

What part of AZ, roughly?
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Aaron » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:41 am

Rian wrote:
Aaron wrote:I'm also busy Rian, I'm actually smack in the middle of trying to move to Arizona!
How funny - we're most likely moving back to California!

What part of AZ, roughly?

Lol, most likely Tucson for the first little while.
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Rian » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:31 am

Oh, that's quite a bit away from me. Oh well! Good luck with the move!
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Re: penal substitution

Postby spongebob » Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:30 am

I've visited Phoenix a few times. Fantastic city! The landscape is breathtaking but takes a lot of getting used to. No trees, no grass, extremely dry and extraordinarily HOT in the summer. I would do it in a hearbeat though. But the funniest thing is when people there complained about the humidity when it got to maybe 20%. OMG! In Alabama it hovers around 80%!
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Aaron » Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:45 am

spongebob wrote:I've visited Phoenix a few times. Fantastic city! The landscape is breathtaking but takes a lot of getting used to. No trees, no grass, extremely dry and extraordinarily HOT in the summer. I would do it in a hearbeat though. But the funniest thing is when people there complained about the humidity when it got to maybe 20%. OMG! In Alabama it hovers around 80%!

Lol, yeah, I was actually in Tucson this summer after my stint in Huntsville and there were some rain storms brewing and people were like it's soooo humid and I was like well I'm not from around here but this feels great compared to Alabama! :)

I actually really love the mountain land scape too, it's one of the reasons I thought of moving, it reminded me a lot of Alaska believe it or not, just really wide open country with big mountains. My kind of place.
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Chapabel » Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:27 pm

Moonwood the Hare wrote:I have decided to put this in here rather than in the Christian section because on the one hand I would like atheists to contribute if they wish but on the other hand I have not put it in general discussion so I can avoid contributions of the 'look the Christians are arguing, that proves . . . something' type. I am hoping chapabel will want to discuss this since he is a very conservative evangelical. I became a Christian through evangelical and although I had friends who were more of a Catholic persuasion (Anglican and Roman) I accepted the evangelical doctrine of penal substitution. But some doubts began to grow. Here are the concerns I have:

1 The doctrine is barely heard of before Anselm develops a version of it in Cur Deus Homo around the 10th Century. The fully developed version favoured by evangelicals does not exist before the 16th century.

2.The doctrine depends on a supposed conflict between God's desire to be just and his desire to be loving; a conflict never found in scripture where justice and love work together. The scripture knows nothing of a strife of attributes.

3. The doctrine logically leads to limited atonement as the later protestants start to realise and this means that any texts suggesting Christ dies for all have tobe reinterpreted and explained away.

4. The word propitiation is used at most once in scripture and yet it is central to this doctrine

5. The doctrine externalises salvation. One Australian Anglican Bishop put it like this: Christ did not die to save us from sin, he died to save us from God - that is a parody of the gospel but it is what this doctrine implies.

6. The doctrine depends on the idea that someone else can be punished for my wrongdoing and that somehow makes everything okay.

Greetings Moonwood. Rian pointed me to this thread and I would love to discuss it with you. I've read your arguments and some I feel that I can answer, some I'm not too sure about.

1. You say the doctrine is not heard of before Anselm. However, the doctrine is clearly demonstrated in the early pages of scripture. When Adam and Eve sinned, God took the life of an animal in order to cover their nakedness. An innocent had to die because of another's sin. Later, after the giving of the law, lambs were killed in order to "atone" for the sins of the nation. This was a practice of the Israelites as a nation until the Temple's destruction in 70 AD.

2. Isaiah 45:21 plainly states that God is a just God while I John 4:8 states God is love. Just because God is just and love at the same time, there does not need to be a conflict. There would only be a conflict if there was no way to reconcile these two attributes of God. But there is...it is Jesus.

3. I don't quite follow your third argument. What makes you suppose there is limited atonement? Romans 5:8 says we (believers) rejoice in that we have received the atonement provided in Christ. Why would we rejoice if the atonement was not complete?

4. Actually in the KJV, the word propitiation is used 3 times. Once it is translated from the Greek word "ιλαστηριον" and twice it is translated from the word "ιλαμος". (Rom.3:25, I John 2:2, I John 4:10). I believe there is ample evidence for the doctrine.

5. Not sure I follow your argument here either.

6. Why can not God determine how His justice is met? Isaiah 53 describes God's satisfaction with Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. If God is satisfied with Jesus' sacrifice for us why can that not be alright?
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Rian » Tue Dec 20, 2016 12:33 am

Aaron wrote:
spongebob wrote:I've visited Phoenix a few times. Fantastic city! The landscape is breathtaking but takes a lot of getting used to. No trees, no grass, extremely dry and extraordinarily HOT in the summer. I would do it in a hearbeat though. But the funniest thing is when people there complained about the humidity when it got to maybe 20%. OMG! In Alabama it hovers around 80%!

Lol, yeah, I was actually in Tucson this summer after my stint in Huntsville and there were some rain storms brewing and people were like it's soooo humid and I was like well I'm not from around here but this feels great compared to Alabama! :)

I actually really love the mountain land scape too, it's one of the reasons I thought of moving, it reminded me a lot of Alaska believe it or not, just really wide open country with big mountains. My kind of place.

Wow, I would never have thought of Alaska and Arizona being similar!

I visited my grandmother in Georgia in the summer, so I know all about humid, too! :eek: Makes my hair curl even more!
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Rian » Tue Dec 20, 2016 12:39 am

Good thoughts, Aaron. Re the making it OK idea - I don't think you being punished for beating your wife "makes it OK'. Beating your wife is still wrong; it's never OK. However, it would be wrong to not have consequences for you for choosing to beat your wife, and your punishment makes THAT wrong now OK. Does that make sense?
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Thu Dec 22, 2016 6:45 am

I have been wanting to respond and especially to Marcus but I am going to start here and work back. So hi Chap!
Chapabel wrote:Greetings Moonwood. Rian pointed me to this thread and I would love to discuss it with you. I've read your arguments and some I feel that I can answer, some I'm not too sure about.

1. You say the doctrine is not heard of before Anselm. However, the doctrine is clearly demonstrated in the early pages of scripture. When Adam and Eve sinned, God took the life of an animal in order to cover their nakedness. An innocent had to die because of another's sin. Later, after the giving of the law, lambs were killed in order to "atone" for the sins of the nation. This was a practice of the Israelites as a nation until the Temple's destruction in 70 AD.

Firstly the incidents in Genesis are not explained in the text. If you start from a particular understanding of atonement you can read these things in the light of that but it is not there in the text as written. For example it does not say that God kills these animals so he will not have to punish Adam and Eve. The sacrifices in Exodus and Levitcus are also open to interpretation. Are they done because they are punished in place of people or as a way of demonstrating repentance by offering something valuable, or both? Maybe we need to look at some of these texts.
2. Isaiah 45:21 plainly states that God is a just God while I John 4:8 states God is love. Just because God is just and love at the same time, there does not need to be a conflict. There would only be a conflict if there was no way to reconcile these two attributes of God. But there is...it is Jesus.

The question here is what does the Bible mean by just or righteous - the same word in Hebrew and Greek, the distinction between the two being a historical peculiarity of the English language. Does being just imply a need, almost a compulsion, to punish the guilty? The answer I would say is no. An illustration can be found, quite seasonally as it goes, in the New Testament's description of Joseph, father of Jesus, as a just man. He has found that his betrothed is pregnant and if he were to follow the letter of the law he would have her killed; that would be what strict retributive justice would demand. Yet the scripture says, 'And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.' It is because he is just that he is merciful and this reconciling of the two does not depend on a sacrifice of any kind; it is because he is just that he acts with mercy. For scripture that is a part of what being just means.
3. I don't quite follow your third argument. What makes you suppose there is limited atonement? Romans 5:8 says we (believers) rejoice in that we have received the atonement provided in Christ. Why would we rejoice if the atonement was not complete?

limited atonement is a technical term for the belief, held by many Calvinists, that Christ died only for the elect and not for every human being. If Christ's sacrifice changes God's attitude to us, enables him to substitute mercy for wrath, and if that sacrifice is for all mankind it will follow that no one can any longer be subject to God's wrath since that his been expressed towards Christ. If God then punishes unbelievers he will be punishing the same sin twice. If unbelief is a barrier to God forgiving us then that means there is at least one sin, the sin of persistent unbelief, that Christ did not die for.
4. Actually in the KJV, the word propitiation is used 3 times. Once it is translated from the Greek word "ιλαστηριον" and twice it is translated from the word "ιλαμος". (Rom.3:25, I John 2:2, I John 4:10). I believe there is ample evidence for the doctrine.

There is a question of whether this word should be translated propitiation or expiation
From here http://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/propitiation-or-expiation-in-saint-paul.html
"All have sinned, all come short of the glory of God, but they are justified for nothing by His grace through the ransom provided in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as the means of propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith". (Romans 3:23-25).

The Term "Propitiation"

The Greek word (hilasterion) is derived from a verb which in pagan writers and inscriptions has two meanings:

(a) "to placate" a man or a god;

(b) "to expiate" a sin, i.e. to perform an act (such as the payment of a fine or the offering of a sacrifice) by which its guilt is annulled.

The former meaning is overwhelmingly the more common. In the Septuagint, on the other hand, the meaning (a) is practically unknown where God is the object, and the meaning (b) is found in scores of passages. Thus the biblical sense of the verb is "to perform an act whereby guilt or defilement is removed." The idea underlying it is characteristic of primitive religion. The ancients felt that if a taboo was infringed, the person or thing involved became unclean, defiled or profane. The condition of defilement might be removed by the performance of the appropriate act: it might be washing with water, or sprinkling with blood, or simply the forfeiture of some valuable object to the deity concerned with the taboo. Such acts were felt to have the value, so to speak, of a disinfectant. Thus in the Old Testament a whole range of ritual actions are prescribed for disinfecting the priest, the altar, or the people from various forms of defilement, ritual or moral. Our versions in such cases use the phrase "to make propitiation"; but the more proper translation would be "to make expiation". This meaning holds good wherever the subject of the verb is a man. But, as religious thought advanced, it came to be felt that, where the defilement was moral, God alone could annul it; and so the same verb is used with God as subject in the sense "to forgive".1

In accordance with biblical usage, therefore, the substantive (hilasterion) would mean, not propitiation, but "a means by which guilt is annulled": if a man is the agent, the meaning would be "a means of expiation"; if God, "a means by which sin is forgiven". Biblical usage is determinative for Paul. The rendering "propitiation" is therefore misleading, for it suggests the placating of an angry God, and although this would be in accord with pagan usage, it is foreign to biblical usage. In the present passage it is God who puts forward the means whereby the guilt of sin is removed, by sending Christ. The sending of Christ, therefore, is the divine method of forgiveness. This brings the teaching of the present passage into exact harmony with that of v. 8-9.

5. Not sure I follow your argument here either.

In earlier Christian thinking salvation is something God works within us. As several of the Fathers say God became man so man might become God. In the doctrine of penal substitution Christ's death does not primarilly change man it changes God enabling him not to act wrathfully towards us. Hence it is not so much our sin we are saved from by being transformed in Christ as God's wrath we are saved from by Christ taking the punishment for us. Or as that Australian bishop put it we are saved from God not sin.
6. Why can not God determine how His justice is met? Isaiah 53 describes God's satisfaction with Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. If God is satisfied with Jesus' sacrifice for us why can that not be alright?

Again there is a problem in translation. The Hebrew should probably be read he died because of our transgressions and not for our transgressions. Mostly though I have heard this doctrine taught as if it was something God had to do so he could forgive us. You seem to be implying it was more a voluntary act, that God determined to do this even though he might not have done, which implies he could have forgiven us without this sacrifice. Am I understanding correctly?
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Aaron » Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:55 am

Moonwood the Hare wrote:The question here is what does the Bible mean by just or righteous - the same word in Hebrew and Greek, the distinction between the two being a historical peculiarity of the English language. Does being just imply a need, almost a compulsion, to punish the guilty? The answer I would say is no. An illustration can be found, quite seasonally as it goes, in the New Testament's description of Joseph, father of Jesus, as a just man. He has found that his betrothed is pregnant and if he were to follow the letter of the law he would have her killed; that would be what strict retributive justice would demand. Yet the scripture says, 'And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.' It is because he is just that he is merciful and this reconciling of the two does not depend on a sacrifice of any kind; it is because he is just that he acts with mercy. For scripture that is a part of what being just means.

Can you think of another portion of scripture to support the idea that justice means having mercy? Just as you brought up the issue with atonement in Genesis when God covers Adam and Eve with animal skins I am having some trouble with this portion with Joseph. Isn't it because he is just that he chooses to divorce her even though he probably still wanted to marry her because he loved her? But there was another part of him that didn't want to see harm come to her, he loved her and had mercy for her, so the resolution for Joseph was to divorce her quietly, that way he could still be true to his sense of justice and have mercy of Mary. That's how I read it.

Moonwood wrote:There is a question of whether this word should be translated propitiation or expiation
From here http://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/propitiation-or-expiation-in-saint-paul.html
"All have sinned, all come short of the glory of God, but they are justified for nothing by His grace through the ransom provided in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as the means of propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith". (Romans 3:23-25).

The Term "Propitiation"

The Greek word (hilasterion) is derived from a verb which in pagan writers and inscriptions has two meanings:

(a) "to placate" a man or a god;

(b) "to expiate" a sin, i.e. to perform an act (such as the payment of a fine or the offering of a sacrifice) by which its guilt is annulled.

The former meaning is overwhelmingly the more common. In the Septuagint, on the other hand, the meaning (a) is practically unknown where God is the object, and the meaning (b) is found in scores of passages. Thus the biblical sense of the verb is "to perform an act whereby guilt or defilement is removed." The idea underlying it is characteristic of primitive religion. The ancients felt that if a taboo was infringed, the person or thing involved became unclean, defiled or profane. The condition of defilement might be removed by the performance of the appropriate act: it might be washing with water, or sprinkling with blood, or simply the forfeiture of some valuable object to the deity concerned with the taboo. Such acts were felt to have the value, so to speak, of a disinfectant. Thus in the Old Testament a whole range of ritual actions are prescribed for disinfecting the priest, the altar, or the people from various forms of defilement, ritual or moral. Our versions in such cases use the phrase "to make propitiation"; but the more proper translation would be "to make expiation". This meaning holds good wherever the subject of the verb is a man. But, as religious thought advanced, it came to be felt that, where the defilement was moral, God alone could annul it; and so the same verb is used with God as subject in the sense "to forgive".1

In accordance with biblical usage, therefore, the substantive (hilasterion) would mean, not propitiation, but "a means by which guilt is annulled": if a man is the agent, the meaning would be "a means of expiation"; if God, "a means by which sin is forgiven". Biblical usage is determinative for Paul. The rendering "propitiation" is therefore misleading, for it suggests the placating of an angry God, and although this would be in accord with pagan usage, it is foreign to biblical usage. In the present passage it is God who puts forward the means whereby the guilt of sin is removed, by sending Christ. The sending of Christ, therefore, is the divine method of forgiveness. This brings the teaching of the present passage into exact harmony with that of v. 8-9.

I have always understood the word propitiation to mean much closer to (b) and not like (a).

Moonwood wrote:In earlier Christian thinking salvation is something God works within us. As several of the Fathers say God became man so man might become God. In the doctrine of penal substitution Christ's death does not primarilly change man it changes God enabling him not to act wrathfully towards us. Hence it is not so much our sin we are saved from by being transformed in Christ as God's wrath we are saved from by Christ taking the punishment for us. Or as that Australian bishop put it we are saved from God not sin.

I think they are both true in some degree. When I read verses like Romans 5:9: "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God." I see that the Australian bishop is correct in that we are being saved from God's wrath, though I don't agree with the bishop in that we are not also saved from our sin. We are saved from our sin. Both of those things are happening at the same time. God if he is to be true to righteousness must bring his wrath against the unrighteousness of men for he is the one who sustains men and while he is patient toward unrighteousness for a time he cannot be forever otherwise he would not longer be righteous. So from verses like Romans 5:9 there is a clear teaching that we are being saved from the wrath of God that will eventually come against all unrighteousness. But there is more also going on. Think of all the verses in the Psalms where you have David and others talking about the way everlasting. So we have atonement, but how do we then go on to actually live in the way everlasting? I like Daniel 9:24 for this. There are two items in the several items that are listed that are interesting for this discussion 1. to make atonement for iniquity and 2. to bring in everlasting righteousness. So you have Jesus making atonement for us, saving us from the necessary eventual wrath of a righteous God against unrighteousness and you also have Jesus bringing in everlasting righteousness. So I think the earlier Christians were spot on, God is working in us our salvation, we will finally be able to walk in the way everlasting because in Christ we are a new creation. So I think as Gabriel relays to Daniel there are multiple things that Jesus came to take care of.



Moonwood wrote:Again there is a problem in translation. The Hebrew should probably be read he died because of our transgressions and not for our transgressions. Mostly though I have heard this doctrine taught as if it was something God had to do so he could forgive us. You seem to be implying it was more a voluntary act, that God determined to do this even though he might not have done, which implies he could have forgiven us without this sacrifice. Am I understanding correctly?

Didn't Jesus give us the best insight on whether there might have been another way? From Mark 14:35 and 36 "Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour would pass from Him. “Abba, Father, He said, “all things are possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.”

But it does seem that it was God's will to crush him,
Isaiah 53
10But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else" - C.S. Lewis
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Re: penal substitution

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Fri Dec 23, 2016 2:30 am

Hi Aaron
I wanted to post a sermon I delivered on this theme as it addresses some of the questions you have raised:

A firework and a battery rob a shop and end up in court. The battery got charged but the firework was let off.

That’s the problem of justice or righteousness. If we see God as being like a judge as the Bible often does why do some people get charged and some let off? Does God have the right to condemn anyone and if he does can he be righteous? Would he be showing a lack of mercy if he punishes anyone? Would it be more worthy of God to let everyone off? Conversely if he lets everyone off, if for example someone has done great harm to me and God just says, that’s all right you’re forgiven, is that fair. Think of the outrage people feel over priests who have abused children and the way the Church has seemed to be defending them; if people have done wrong we want to see them brought to justice.

We may think saying God is just and saying he is righteous are two different things. Justice seems to have more to do with insisting on the penalty the law prescribes; victims say I want justice whereas being righteous seems to be about making allowances, about being merciful. People who know they have done wrong say I want mercy.
This is partly a problem with the English language. In Norman French which is one of the roots of modern English you have the words just and justice and in Anglo Saxon you have the words righteous and righteousness. We also have the old Norman French word justified which has no Anglo Saxon equivalent. In Greek which is the language the New Testament is written in and in Hebrew which is the language the Old Testament is written in a there are a single words meaning both righteous and just.

So in English Romans 1:26 can say
It was to show his Justice at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
But it sounds wrong if we say
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be righteous and the righteous-er of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Because there is no verb to righteous that corresponds to the word to justify and yet Paul does mean more than just to say we are put in the right legally; he means we are made righteous by our inclusion in Christ; we are not only seen by God in a different way but also begin to change, to become different. And it is hard to convey that in English. But at the same time Paul is saying that God shows his justice by bringing about these changes which lead to our being acquitted even though we are guilty.

When Abraham prays to God about the destruction of Sodom he says:
“Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 2 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
or as some translations say shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Abraham wants to see the righteous the good people treated differently; not to be let off, because they have not done anything to be let off for. Justice means not punishing the innocent but sometimes it goes beyond that.

There has been a longstanding tradition in theology which sees God’s justice and his mercy as being in opposition. God would like to be merciful and forgive us but he also needs to be just so he punishes Jesus who does not deserve it instead. The problem with this is that in the Bible God’s justice and mercy are not seen as working against each other. His attributes are not seen as being in opposition.

For example, Psalm 116:5 The Lord is righteous (just); our God is merciful. Isaiah 30: 18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Psalm 85:10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
In Mathew 1 verses 18 and 19 we read:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
It is because Joseph is a just man that he acts mercifully. There is no conflict. In scripture to be just is to be merciful. According to the law, then if Mary had done what Joseph thought she had done she deserved to be punished but Joseph does not insist on doing this.

Justice then includes mercy. God does not need to punish us with the full force of the law in order to be just. What justice means most often in the Bible is setting things right. Abraham Lincoln said ‘I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.’ And in this he is very Biblical. None of us want strict justice from God, for where would we be then? People need what we call boundaries. We don’t really want people to just think they can get away with anything. But they also need Mercy which is a part of justice. And for God justice means restoration. Someone does wrong we may punish them but what we really want is to restore them; we want that good relationship back. That is why God is just and merciful.

But I also want to say something about God’s wrath. For the Bible does talk about God’s wrath and his punishment of the wicked. Here is a really tough statement about God’s wrath. After talking about Pharaoh and God hardening his heart Paul says:
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.

Is Paul saying God deliberately made Pharaoh the way he was so he could destroy him? I think there is a clue earlier in Romans when Paul talks of God’s wrath. Paul says
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth
But he goes on to say several times ‘God gave them up‘ meaning as it were God let them go their own way. Sometimes we have to let people go their own way. A couple of years ago I was there when a student lost her place at College. We had warned her several times and when she was finally told she could not continue she broke down in tears and said ‘I didn’t think you meant it.’ Sometimes after you have warned people many times you have to let them take the consequences of their actions. And you hope that somewhere down the line this will be the best thing for them. Another student I had to withdraw from College turned up a couple of years later applying for another course. She had been very angry when I told her she was to be withdrawn but now she was very friendly. She understood why I had done that and was now determined to apply herself. She had been helped by many people and now wanted to help others. God gives us up to his wrath by letting us go our own way but with the hope of restoration.

John Chrysostom says this regarding this passage:
What he means is somewhat as follows. Pharaoh was a vessel of wrath, that is, a man who by his own hard-heartedness had kindled the wrath of God. For after enjoying much long-suffering, he became no better, but remained unimproved. Wherefore he calls him not only “a vessel of wrath,” but also one “fitted for destruction.” That is, fully fitted indeed, but by his own proper self. . . . Yet still, though God knew this, “He endured him with much long-suffering,” being willing to bring him to repentance.

God’s wrath consists in giving us up. Letting us at least for a time go our own way but always in the hope that we will be restored. May we also have the same attitude to others? To do justice to have mercy and when we give people over to always hope for restoration.
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
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