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Featured 5 Biblical Corrections to Penal Substitution

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Arthur King, Jun 19, 2023.

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  1. Arthur King

    Arthur King Active Member

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    1) The Problem/Solution Narrative:

    According to penal substitution, the central problem with humanity is that we deserve wrath, and the central solution is that we avoid it because Jesus suffers this wrath in our place. Problem: deserving wrath / Solution: avoiding wrath

    But in the Bible, sin is a much greater problem than the punishment it incurs. Sin is destruction against the self, against others, and against the world. Even if God never lifted a finger to punish sin, sin itself would still plunge sinners into destruction and misery. The Bible takes God and sin more seriously than penal substitution. In the Bible, the central problem is that humanity is dead in sin, and the central solution is that we are raised to new life in Christ (see Ephesians 2:1-10). Problem: dead in sin / Solution: resurrection in Christ.

    2) The Justice or Injustice of Jesus’ Death

    According to penal substitution, Jesus suffers death on the cross justly, or deservedly, as a guilty party. Justice is satisfied in the death of Christ as the retributive demands of God’s law are carried out on Jesus in place of humanity.

    But in the Bible, Jesus suffers death on the cross unjustly as a perfectly innocent party. Justice is satisfied in the resurrection as the reversal of Jesus’ unjust death on the cross, and the fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises.

    3) The Priority of Retribution and Restitution

    According to penal substitution, the main priority of justice for atonement is retribution for the guilty.

    But in the Bible, the main priority of justice for atonement is restitution for damages done to the innocent. Jesus’ death is not unique in that he dies (we all die and are in fact already dead in sin), but that he alone dies unjustly as an innocent party, and thus merits the restitution (reversal) of all the sin and death he suffered.

    4) The Debt that Jesus Pays

    According to penal substitution, Jesus pays the debt of punishment on behalf of humanity when he dies.

    But in the Bible, there is no such thing as a “debt of punishment” that humanity owes to God. Humanity deserves punishment, but it is not something paid to God as a debt. “The wages of sin is death”—wages and debts are exact opposites. Death is earned, not owed. What Jesus pays in his life and in his death is our debt of love and obedience.

    5) Substitution vs Union:

    According to penal substitution, Jesus dies instead of humanity. Jesus dies "in our place" and "as our substitute" and "he suffered so we won’t have to" and “he died the death we should have died.”

    But in the Bible, Jesus dies with humanity. Jesus says, “take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus dies the death we are called to die.
     
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  2. canadyjd

    canadyjd Well-Known Member

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    I don’t recognize most of your definitions of “penal substitution theory.”

    Additionally, I see only one reference to scripture in one point and no references to scripture in the other four.

    So, for a thread entitled 5 biblical corrections to Penal Substitution, I would have expected 5 definitions given by people who support Penal substitution (including the scripture references they use to support their beliefs) with each point countered with a scripture references to “correct” the error.

    peace to you
     
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  3. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    Romans 6:23, ". . . For the wages of sin is death; . . ."
    Ezekiel 18:4, ". . . the soul that sinneth, it shall die. . . ."
     
  4. Arthur King

    Arthur King Active Member

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    Thanks for your response.

    1) Penal (as in penalty) substitution is the idea that, to quote a popular hymn, “On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” On the cross “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 Jeffery, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach, Pierced for our Transgressions (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 21.) Penal substitution requires at least two things (1) that Jesus’ death is just, or deserved, that is, to satisfy the wrath of God, to satisfy the retributive demands of God’s justice, and (2) that Jesus dies in our place, as our substitute, taking the punishment upon himself so we won't have to suffer it.

    2) These are biblical corrections, as opposed to philosophical or practical critiques of penal substitution.
     
  5. Arthur King

    Arthur King Active Member

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    Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death.” John Stott, in defending penal substitution, cites this verse as evidence that Jesus “paid sin’s wage” on our behalf. (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 270.) But anyone who has ever had a job knows this makes no sense. Wages are not something that we pay; wages are something we earn. If you think this distinction does not matter, then go ahead and ask your employer to change the word “wages” to “debts” on your paychecks from now on and see how it works out. Owing and earning are opposite sides of the economic metaphor. Thus, we do not owe death to God. We earn death for our sin. I’ve heard some preachers today quote the popular Tom Hanks movie “The Green Mile” when a character says, “We each owe a death, there are no exceptions.” But that is just not what the Bible says. The Bible says we have all earned death. And we all justly receive the death we have earned when we suffer our sin’s consequences in this life and finally when we physically die. Our suffering and physical death is not a payment to God for our sin, and does not atone for our sin. Our atonement is in this: Jesus has voluntarily interceded to receive the wages of our sin along with us by suffering and dying on the cross. But he, being without sin, has received these wages undeservedly and unjustly by the hands of sinners. Justice therefore demands that these wages be taken back, and that Jesus’ suffering and death be undone, reversed, hence Jesus’ resurrection.

    The Bible never mentions any such thing as a debt of punishment, yet according to penal substitution, the payment of humanity’s debt of punishment is a (the?) central meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross. penal substitution is thus formulated to fulfill a priority of justice that simply does not exist.
     
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  6. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    Mark 10:45, ". . . For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His soul a ransom in exchange for many. . . ."
     
  7. Arthur King

    Arthur King Active Member

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    Ransom means payment. The original post affirms Jesus pays to free us from bondage. The disagreement is over what is being paid. In the Bible, Jesus pays our debt of obedience. According to penal substitution, Jesus pays our debt of punishment (but there is no such thing as a debt of punishment).
     
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  8. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I completely agree.

    The faithfulness of God expressed on the Cross, that He delivered His Christ through death (dying with mankind) is that faithfulness that Christians have relied upon for two thousand years knowing that in solidarity with Christ we will also be delivered through death and into His Life.

    This is what I mean when I say that the Penal Substitution Theory of Atonement misses the depth of Scripture which was foundational to Christians for such a long time.
     
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  9. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I would add that there is another correction that needs to be made to Penal Substitution (it was alluded to in the OP).

    God is presented in the Bible as immutable in character. God declared that the wages of sin is death.

    Penal Substitution Theory undoes this insofar as the sinner is concern by spiritualizing this death to mean punishment by spiritually dying (the "second death") and this punishment being resolved by God pouring His wrath upon Christ rather than the ones who sinned.

    Biblically mankind dies because of sin. Christ shared in this death. The wages of sin IS still death. It is still appointed man once to die. But then men will be judged (this is where the "second death" comes in). And the gift of God is life in Christ Jesus.

    Scripture does not present God as finding a loophole in order to redeem man but instead presents God as both just and the justifier of sinners.

    Sorry....that isn't as eloquent as @Arthur King 's post.
     
  10. canadyjd

    canadyjd Well-Known Member

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    I am familiar with this theory (and others) of the atonement.

    I would hope that in a debate, each side could accurately cite their opponents beliefs and the scripture they use in support before offering their own view and scriptural support.

    Just saying there are biblical corrections to any theory doesn’t really establish anything.

    peace to you
     
  11. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    The problem with that response is so many Penal Substitution advocates have already established those issues on this board. Were we to keep rehashing old statements the thread would reach its limit before any conversation could be had.

    So I think it is reasonable to take the Penal Substitution Theory of Atonement for how it has been repeatedly defined.

    That said, if you hold Penal Substitution yet do not believe Christ suffered punishment justly (rather than Christ's punishment being unjust), or that Christ paid a debt of punishment on our behalf, or that our sin demands God's punishment, or that Christ died instead of us....well, I think it reasonable for you to make your argument.

    But as it stands, the OP does accurately present the Penal Substitution Theory of Atonement.

    I would love to know where you depart.
     
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  12. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    Comments on the OP:
    1) " Problem: deserving wrath / Solution: avoiding wrath "
    Here the idea is that the consequence imposed by God for failure to think and act according to God's will is (a) separation from God - thus "dead in sin" and (b) obtaining a "sin burden" - what God holds against the individual thus incurring divine punishment.

    But I do agree with the "corrected view" of "Problem: dead in sin / Solution: resurrection in Christ.
    Here the idea is that when God transfers an individual from the domain of darkness (in Adam) into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son (in Christ) the individual is made alive (no longer dead in sin) together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5) and having undergone the "washing of regeneration" which makes the person alive and removes the "sin burden" resulting in those born anew being holy blameless and forgiven.

    2) Jesus death was unjust and this was corrected by His resurrection. I disagree. Jesus was treated unjustly, but His sacrifice, the just for the unjust, was according to God's plan just plan as God is never unjust.

    3) The problem with Penal Substitution is that it limits Christ's provision of the means of salvation to preselected individuals, rather than providing the means of salvation for all of humanity, the whole world. 1 John 2:2

    4) Jesus bought everyone, those to be saved and those never to be saved (2 Peter 2:1) such that He became the means of salvation for everyone, but only those God transfers into Him spiritually receive the reconciliation He provides.

    5) Christ's substitutionary death provided justification to life for all humanity, Romans 5:18. Or justification for life from death to all humanity, thus providing the opportunity for all, and the actuality for those who receive the reconciliation.
     
  13. Aaron

    Aaron Member
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    A rebuttal wholly uninformed by the Scriptures.

    1) Christ was not a mere man. He was God. There is no law forbidding God to punish Himself for the ones He loves.

    2) Christ was called to die an expiatory death. We are called to die a Martyr's death. The death of John Hus, can't save us. The death of Jesus does.

    3) You validated my earlier assertion that the so-called 'victorious' claptrap renders Christ a mere martyr, and not a Redeemer.
     
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  14. Aaron

    Aaron Member
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    We are 'born of God.' Not transferred of God.
     
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  15. Arthur King

    Arthur King Active Member

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    1) There is no law forbidding God from commanding all men to wear kilts every Tuesday, but there is no evidence for that in Scripture, nor would that make any sense for Him to do so. Same with "punishing Himself for the ones He loves."

    2) Jesus' death is different than ours, yes. We are still called to participate in His death. That Christ died an expiatory death is insufficient to prove penal substitution.

    3) Christ is martyr and Redeemer. Were he not a martyr (rather THE martyr, for he is the only one who truly died unjustly as an innocent party), he would not be Redeemer.
     
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  16. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    Strawman argument.
    What I argued:
     
  17. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    The wages of sin IS death. The soul that sins MUST die. But the gift of God is Life in Christ.

    In your opinion, how does Penal Substitution Theory teach that the soul that sinneth must die?
     
  18. canadyjd

    canadyjd Well-Known Member

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    I favor penal substitution. The sacrificial language is clear throughout scripture. (Substitute) “The Lamb of God that takes away sin…” refers to the OT sacrificial system where the sins of people were “transferred” to the animal sacrifice to appease the wrath of God for one year.

    Hebrews refers to this sacrifice as the shadow of Christs once for all sacrifice.

    Paul’s of “justified by faith” as forensic (before a court) supports penal substitution.

    I just see too many scriptures that support Penal Substitution to change my mind on it.

    peace to you
     
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  19. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    So that I understand you correctly - you favor Penal Substitution but disagree with the OP because you don't believe at least one of the following:

    1. Christ suffered punishment justly (rather than Christ's punishment being unjust)

    2. That Christ paid a debt of punishment on our behalf

    3. That our sin demands God's punishment

    4. That Christ died instead of us


    Don't get me wrong - it is perfectly fine for you to reject one or more of those ideas. None of them are biblical.

    But I would argue that would mean that you actually lean towards the theory while ultimately rejecting the it as a whole.

    Which ones do you reject?
     
  20. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    Not to theory.
     
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