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Featured What is Penal Substitution Atonement

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC, Aug 13, 2017.

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  1. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    Over a few threads @Martin Marprelate , @Yeshua1 and I have disagreed over whether or not certain people held to Penal Substitution Atonement. This began concerning in what way Christ was “made sin” for us but probably should have started here, with defining PSA.

    It only took 3 threads to discover that we never settled on the definition of Penal Substitution Atonement. I think we both took for granted the definition was plain, yet we hold different definitions.

    What was claimed is that Penal Substitution Atonement is any idea of Atonement that has elements of punishment (regardless of the type) and substitution. So throughout history almost any view within orthodox Christianity (from Eusebius to Luther) is Penal Substitution Theory of Atonement. This is not an uncommon view as it’s been claimed that even Thomas Aquinas held to Penal Substitution Atonement (his writings deny a simple judicial punishment but accepts “satisfactory punishment” in our stead).

    I disagree. I believe that Penal Substitution understands the atonement within a framework of restorative justice and holds the Law satisfied when this justice is executed (that God punished Jesus in our stead with the punishment we would have received for our sins).

    What exactly is Penal Substitution Theory of Atonement? Is it just a broad category that encompasses all ideas of the Atonement that have penal and substitution elements? Are all other theories simply sub-categories of Penal Substitution Theory?
     
  2. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    “The Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son (who offered himself willingly and gladly) to satisfy God’s 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.” (Thomas Schreiner, “The Nature of the Atonement”)

    “Christ’s death was ‘penal’ in that he bore a penalty when he died. His death was also a ‘substitution’ in that he was a substitute for us when he died…This view of the atonement is sometimes called the theory of vicarious atonement. A ‘vicar’ is someone who stands in the place of another or who represents another. Christ’s death was therefore ‘vicarious’ because he stood in our place and represented us. As our representative, he took the penalty that we deserve.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

    I suppose either of these definitions could, depending on how we define the punishment, fit into any substitutionary view of the Atonement (but I still think it reaching).

    If PSA is so broad as to encompass the beliefs of those like Justin Martyr and Martin Luther, then what do we call that distinctive within PSA that holds God punished Jesus with the punishment that was reserved for us at Judgment?
     
  3. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    In his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Francis Turretin poses the question, 'Did Christ truly and properly satisfy God's justice in our place?' He writes:

    The question concerns a penal satisfaction properly so-called by which he not only fulfilled the will of God, but also His justice (Christ having taken upon Himself our sins. This the Socinians deny; we affirm.
    Second....the question concerns a true and proper satisfaction made by the payment of a full price and which meritoriously obtains the liberation of the guilty on the ground of justice. This we preach from the word of God.......
    Third....the question is whether [Christ] died for us substitutively (i.e. in our place, that by being substituted in our place, he suffered the punishment due to us). We affirm that He did.


    So do I. Christ suffered the punishment due to me and due to other believers, thus rendering satisfaction to the justice of God the Father. I have never suggested that He suffered the punishment of those in hell. If He had done, they would not be there.

    This will be my last post on this subject for a while. I have other stuff to do. I will undertake a more detailed exposition of the Biblical evidence for PSA when time permits, though this may not be for a month or so.
     
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  4. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    If we consider satisfying God's justice (or the Law) in our place it seems that all theories of atonement do that in some form (whether it is Christ suffering the punishment we would have, Christ suffering on our behalf to restore God's honor, Christ suffering as a sufficient payment due to His own merit, Christ suffering as a ransom, Christ suffering death to win a victory on our behalf, etc.).

    What makes Penal Substitution "Penal Substitution" is, IMHO, the context in which the Law is satisfied. Luther considered God's Law (and His justice) satisfied on the basis of the merit of Christ (on the grounds of His blood). But this is not what I (and what has until fairly lately) been considered "Penal Substitution". John Calvin considered God's Law (and His justice) satisfied on the penalty Jesus suffered (on the grounds of the penalty paid). To Calvin, Jesus had to be punished with what we would have been punished with for God to be satisfied (Jesus had to experience a sense of the Hell that we would have suffered). Those are two very different positions.
     
  5. Reformed

    Reformed Well-Known Member
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    In his Institutes of Christian Religion (II.xii.2-3), John Calvin writes:

    "Another principal part of our reconciliation with God was, that man, who had lost himself by his disobedience, should, by way of remedy, oppose to it obedience, satisfy the justice of God, and pay the penalty of sin. Therefore, our Lord came forth very man, adopted the person of Adam, and assumed his name, that he might in his stead obey the Father; that he might present our flesh as the price of satisfaction to the just judgment of God, and in the same flesh pay the penalty which we had incurred. Finally, since as God only he could not suffer, and as man only could not overcome death, he united the human nature with the divine, that he might subject the weakness of the one to death as an expiation of sin, and by the power of the other, maintaining a struggle with death, might gain us the victory. Those, therefore, who rob Christ of divinity or humanity either detract from his majesty and glory, or obscure his goodness. On the other hand, they are no less injurious to men, undermining and subverting their faith, which, unless it rest on this foundation, cannot stand.”

    Calvin believed that Christ appeased God's wrath and the penalty that sinful man rightly owed. In other writings, Calvin cites Romans 3:25.

    Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; (NASB)

    Rather than just defeating Satan (most bloodless atonement theories), Christ, through His blood (Rom. 3:25), paid the penalty for sin and the sin-debt that each person who comes to Him by faith owes.
     
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  6. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I believe this is a key component of PSA, without which we have the Substitutionary/Satisfaction theory.

    "Here we must not omit the descent into Hell, which was of no little importance to the accomplishment of redemption." (John Calvin, Institutes)

    I agree that we cannot ignore the blood of Christ and come up with anything resembling the Atonement.This is my argument, in fact, against Calvin's Penal Substitution. He diminishes the blood and elevates the due punishment of man.
     
  7. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell Well-Known Member
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    Both are true and it is not worth defining the difference.
     
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  8. TCassidy

    TCassidy Late-Administator Emeritus
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    Arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. :Sleep
     
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  9. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    Yet this difference not worth mentioning yields a huge difference when applied to our theology. If Luther is right and Christ's blood satisfied the demands of the Law by outweighing sin and wrath (God did not punish Jesus with the Hell we deserved at Judgment, but Christ's physical death was sufficient because He is God) then the entire Calvinistic system is based on a faulty context.

    But if Calvin was correct and the demands of justice require that the punishment be assumed by someone, and to satisfy the demands of the Law God punished Jesus not only in our stead but with the punishment we would have received at Judgment then Luther's view does not fulfill the demands of the Law.

    This distinction without a difference is only unimportant when one doesn't pay attention to the difference it makes.
     
  10. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    Except the reasoning behind the arguments. One can hold to Luther's view and also hold to unconditional election, limited atonement, ect.

    But if one holds to PSA they cannot but be a five point Calvinist without being very inconsistent in their belief.
     
  11. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell Well-Known Member
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    Look, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. No where in scripture does it say that Jesus suffered in hell. Jesus did suffer our punishment, He bore our guilt, He atoned for our sin. The speculation on mechanics of which scripture never alludes to nor explicitly says leads to any kind of doctrine one may want. That is the error of calvinism. John Calvin thought he was smarter than he really was.
     
  12. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I'm not sure we are talking about the same thing.

    I am saying that God laid our sins on Jesus. Jesus suffered and died on our behalf. He atoned for our sins. I am saying that I believe this work satisfied the demands of sin and wrath because of Who Jesus is as He bore our guilt. NOT because God punished Jesus with the punishment that would have been ours.

    I take it then that your definition of PSA (since you have said you hold this position) excludes the statement that God punished Jesus with our punishment in favor of the view Christ's vicarious death was a sufficient propitiation for our sins ("satisfactory punishment")?
     
  13. TCassidy

    TCassidy Late-Administator Emeritus
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    No, it isn't. It is the error of those trying to be more orthodox than God. There are Monergists who hold to one, the other, both, or neither of the prevailing theories.

    John Calvin, as with all of us, had, on some subjects a remarkable clarity of thought. On other subjects he was so far out in left field that God has a hard time finding him. :)

    You really should find a new mantra. "It's all those Calvinist's fault" is getting old. :)
     
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  14. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I agree (which also implies a distinction between the theories). :)
     
  15. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell Well-Known Member
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    Nope not saying that at all
     
  16. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    Thanks, that's why I asked.
    Guess I should have chosen door #2.

    Believing God's wrath against us was fulfilled when He punished Jesus for our sins, exactly how is this different from Calvin?

    And since your belief is at least in part owing to Calvinism (to the contextualization Calvin developed), wouldn't this make you a 0 point Calvinist? :D
     
  17. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell Well-Known Member
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    I'm not a 0 point Calvinist I'm just plain not a Calvinist

    Scripture is clear Jesus took on our sin and our punishment
     
  18. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I was joking (mostly).

    I am not arguing against Jesus taking on our sin and punishment in that He bore our sins in the flesh and suffered the stroke that was ours, cut off from the land of the living, suffered and died. We are purchased by His precious blood.

    I am arguing against the Calvinistic doctrine that God punished Jesus with our punishment. I believe Calvin's framework wrong (even if it has become Baptist tradition).
     
    #18 JonC, Aug 15, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
  19. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    John and Charles Wesley didn't think so.
     
  20. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    And they were wrong. Arminianism is inconsistent with Penal Substitution Atonement.

    I'm actually surprised you can't see the inconsistency in Arminianism. (I don't think simply changing "foreknowledge" to "preknowledge" fixes this either).
     
    #20 JonC, Aug 15, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
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