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Featured Martin Luther and the Atonement (theories of atonement)

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC, Aug 10, 2017.

  1. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    On another thread a brother suggested Martin Luther (and many others) affirmed the Penal Substitution Theory of Atonement (PST) because their understanding of Christ's work contained both penal and substitution aspects. A quick search reveals that this has become a very common position (if you hold to PST yourself). I'd like to look at a few of these, starting with Luther.

    Here is what Martin Luther taught on the subject:

    “But now, if God’s wrath is to be taken away from me and I am to obtain grace and forgiveness, some one must merit this; for God cannot be a friend of sin nor gracious to it, nor can he remit the punishment and wrath, unless payment and satisfaction be made.

    Now, no one, not even an angel of heaven, could make restitution for the infinite and irreparable injury and appease the eternal wrath of God which we had merited by our sins; except that eternal person, the Son of God himself, and he could do it only by taking our place, assuming our sins, and answering for them as though he himself were guilty of them.

    This our dear Lord and only Saviour and Mediator before God, Jesus Christ, did for us by his blood and death, in which he became a sacrifice for us; and with his purity, innocence, and righteousness, which was divine and eternal, he outweighed all sin and wrath he was compelled to bear on our account; yea, he entirely engulfed and swallowed it up, and his merit is so great that God is now satisfied and says, “If he wills thereby to save, then there will be a salvation.”
    (Sermons of Martin Luther, vol. 2, p. 344)

    Is this Penal Substitution Theory or Substitution/Satisfaction Theory, or something else and why? What do you think is the distinction between these theories?
     
  2. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    There are obviously several statements that would fall into PST.

    First, that the object of the Atonement was a propitiation – taking away God’s wrath – and obtaining grace and forgiveness. Second, that someone must merit this. A payment and satisfaction must be rendered. Third, that Jesus Christ took our place, assumed our sins, and answered for them as if they were His own.

    But the difference between the theories is not a disregard for Scripture. They do, and should be expected, to share many aspects reflecting what the Bible says of the Atonement.

    And in this statement Luther departs from PST. Rather than focusing on the punishment that man would have endured at Judgment, Luther focuses on Jesus Christ and looks at the sufficiency of the Sacrifice – not the sins of men. God’s wrath, according to Luther, is appeased not because God expended wrath upon Christ in the form of the punishment awaiting the lost at Judgment but because of the very nature of Christ outweighing all sin and wrath that was to come to bear on our account.

    So my answer is that Martin Luther held not to Penal Substitution Theory but to a Satisfaction or Substitution Theory based on his understanding of God’s wrath being propitiated through the very nature of Jesus Christ (through merit) rather than through God extracting Christ the punishment due men at Judgment.
     
  3. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    The big question on all of this would be: Did Luther understand this in a biblical way, or better stated, dies his view account foe Pauline Justification in full, as I believe the views of John calvin did?
     
  4. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    I think the best thing you can do is look at what part is Scripture and what part is context we provide in order to understand that Scripture.

    What part of Luther's view (it's actually an older view that Luther also held) do you think is not found in Scripture?
     
  5. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    One thing that I like about the Satisfaction/Substitution view is that it seems (to me) to do more justice to the idea of forgiveness. For one, the view is much more Christ-centered than is Penal Substitution Theory. Forgiveness is not based on whose sins Jesus died for and whose sins were left unatoned, but rather in Christ as Mediator. So with this view simple forgiveness is possible because our debt is paid and all judgment is given to the Son.

    And forgiveness is also based on Christ’s work as a whole (from birth through the resurrection and to the throne) rather than simply our punishment suffered at the Cross. I believe that this is more biblical than the idea that Jesus suffered the actual punishment the lost who are saved would have suffered at Judgment.
     
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  6. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    It is Penal Substitution. Christ must pay the penalty for our sins as a substitute, 'answering for them as though he himself were guilty of them.'
     
  7. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    Are you being serious or joking?
     
  8. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    Ok, I’ll bite.

    If you are joking :Roflmao

    If you are being serious then you have taken the last part of a sentence to define the entire quote and that is dishonest.

    As an atonement of course Jesus took our place, assumed our sins, and answered for them as though He Himself were guilty of them. Again, this can be called penal and substitution but not Penal Substitution (as in Penal Substitution Theory). The proof is in the very next paragraph.

    Did Luther view God as punishing Jesus with the wrath the lost will experience at Judgment? No. Instead this wrath was swallowed up as Christ’s merit exceeded our sin and the demands of the Law.

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a joke. Luther may not be right, but it is pretty obvious that the theory of atonement he held was not PST.
     
  9. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    Consider what Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Galatians:

    “I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified, and died for us.” This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through the Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: “Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.” Now the Law comes and says: “I find Him a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross! And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil.”

    Again, not Penal Substitution Theory but so much penal substitution that many who hold to PST would agree at least with the direction of Luther’s words. Divorced from Luther’s own explanation of this satisfaction (and perhaps with a little rewording) the worlds could be adopted by PST advocates. I also find it interesting is that in discussing Christ’s work, Luther rarely (if ever) actually uses the word “atonement” and instead focuses on reconciliation.
     
  10. Bro. James

    Bro. James Well-Known Member
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    Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."

    That is not theory folks--it is Divine Fact. Anything else is theological prittle prattle. See Gen. 3:15--written long before Luther, Calvin and Arminius.

    Luther tried unsuccessfully to reform from within the most apostate church of his day. He was defrocked. He started his own religion, bringing much of the heresy of his religious mother church. Why is he called Reverend? Why is anyone called Reverend? Some are even called Most Reverend. Only God is worthy of reverence. We have an "error of halo" problem.

    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    Bro. James
     
  11. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    Hey Bro. James,

    Luther did not come up with the belief the Cross satisfied the charge against us. My point is simply that his view did not include God punishing Christ with the punishment the lost will face at Judgment (this was Calvin's contribution and is absent the Christian faith until the reformation).

    I agree that Luther's posistion (which was not his own invention) is biblical.

    And I'm not saying Luther held perfect doctrine, only that he did not hold to Calvin's PST.
     
  12. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    Are you finally admitting here that you actually prefer satisfaction theory over penal substitution then?
     
  13. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    If we are talking about your version, that the work of the Cross consisted of God departing from Jesus and punishing Him with the punishment that the lost will experience at Judgment (the separation or break with God as He forsook Him by pouring His wrath upon His Son), then yes. I probably am even more opposed to your view than before we began this discussion two years ago. But if you mean simply the context of Penal (that the chastisement which fell upon Christ was the will of the Father) and Substitution (that Christ bore our sins) then no.

    That said, Martin Luther's explanation in the initial post expresses my view of the Atonement. I believe the Father consistently and immutably looked upon His Son as His beloved in Whom He is well pleased, His Righteous One, His Holy One and as an act of love towards mankind gave His Son as a guilt offering.
     
  14. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Let's have a quick look at what Luther wrote:
    Plainly that someone cannot be me. Someone else must take God's wrath away from me and make God propitious towards me. Therefore a substitute is necessary. Note that this is personal; it is not God's general wrath against sin, it is His wrath against me. I need a substitute.
    God cannot wink at sin, and therefore someone must pay the penalty for sin if I am to be forgiven for it. It is not only substitution, but penal substitution.
    So the Lord Jesus
    1. Takes our place.
    2. Takes our sins upon Himself.
    3. Answers for them 'as though He Himself were guilty of them.' He is my substitute, and therefore He is treated by God as if He were me. 'These shall be punished with everlasting destruction [away] from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power' (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This is the fate of the wicked; to know nothing of the presence of the Lord but His wrath against sin. And this is what was inflicted upon my Substitute who was made sin for me, until He cried out in His anguish, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
    It is not only in His death that my Lord Jesus was my Substitute, it was also in His life. He lived the life of perfect righteousness and obedience which I cannot live, there by becoming the perfect acceptable sacrifice (eg. Leviticus 22:21) and died the death that I deserve to die.

    Therefore I clearly see Penal Substitution in Luther's writing, both here and elsewhere.
     
  15. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    I don’t think you see what I am saying as you keep affirming that Luther holds Satisfaction/Substitution and then you say this proves he holds Penal Substitution Theory. Just as with Scripture, you are reading your own theory into what is not said by Luther. Let’s look at his position:

    Luther’s position states that it is necessary for someone to appease God’s wrath and bring grace and forgiveness and that someone must merit this. We need a substitute. We cannot be reconciled to God unless a payment and satisfaction is made.

    So far this is classic Substitution Theory of Atonement. Someone must bear our sins, stand in our place, and satisfy the demands of the Law, appeasing God’s wrath towards us.

    And then Luther continues by claiming Christ “entirely engulfed and swallowed it [all sin and wrath He was compelled to bear on our account] up”. But how? By taking the punishment we would have endured? NO, because of His nature – He “outweighed all sin and wrath He was compelled to bear”. And while this resulted in a “satisfaction” being made, did it result in forgiveness being effected because Christ suffered the punishment we would have been due at Judgment? NO, “His merit is so great that God is now satisfied and says, “If He wills thereby to save, then there will be a salvation.”


    How do you see Martin Luther’s view as departing from the Substitution Theory of Atonement to embrace Penal Substitution Theory?

    How do you even dare to question my holding of Penal Substitution Theory since I affirm everything you are calling Penal Substitution here???? The only think I've denied is that this satisfaction was God punishing Jesus with what the lost would suffer at Judgment, favoring instead Luther's position that this satisfaction was by virtue of Christ's nature itself outweighing sin and wrath, satisfying the demands of the Law and ushering in a New Covenant written in His blood.

    If what you are saying here is true, then what you have claimed elsewhere (that my view departs from Penal Substitution) is false.
     
  16. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple
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    @Martin Marprelate ,

    What you have failed to do, brother, is distinguish between Penal Substitution and the more broad category to which it belongs, Substitutionary Atonement.

    Substitutionary atonement speaks of Christ’s suffering and death as being vicarious. Christ bore our sin, suffering, and sicknesses. God gave His Son as a sufficient guilt offering, satisfying the demands of the law, a propitiation, appeasing the wrath we would have suffered. The demands of the law are satisfied.

    Penal Substitution, however, is a subset of substitutionary atonement that views propitiation in the context of meeting the demands of judicial retributive punishment. This last part is absent from those you suggest held to Penal Substitution. AND Penal Substitution outside of the context of fulfilling the demands of judicial retributive punishment in order to satisfy the demands of the Law is not Penal Substitution at all.

    Your confusion is that you don’t seem to grasp that all who hold to substitutionary atonement don't hold to Penal Substitution. Sure they agree to an extent (again PST is a subset of substitutionary atonement). But by virtue of Luther teaching that it was the merit of Christ rather and not retributive punishment that satisfied the demands of the Law his position cannot be called “Penal Substitution Theory”.
     
  17. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    I have never stated that God departed from Jesus, as Jesus always remained God and Human, but that in his humanity, he felt and experienced the same lost sinners will under wrath of God!
     
  18. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    You and Jon C must have read different Martin Luthers....
     
  19. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    think that John Calvin and Martin were not as far apart as you seen to see them being on this issue!
     
  20. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    https://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj20i.pdf
     
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