Saturday, March 14, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate – Answers to 5 Questions from Affirmative

Penal Substitution Debate – Answers to Questions from Affirmative

Response from Negative to Question 1
The First Question begins by asking why I don't accept the various proofs put forward by you for penal substitution. I feel it necessary to quote part of the first question:
When I [Turretin Fan] present something that would support penal substitution you claim it’s not talking about God’s wrath being appeased, but something else. I see no consistent standard being applied from your side, so that I could see how to persuade you to accept that the atonement sacrifice (Christ) does turn away God’s wrath through suffering the punishment (death).

There is a critical distinction that must be made clear here which I feel you have not made. Penal Substitution is a specific understanding of the Atonement, but it is not the only understanding. Concepts such as making atonement and turning away wrath are not limited to the Penal Substitution perspective. The problem is that when proofs are put forward by you, you assume Penal Substitution is what is being discussed. My objection is simply that you are assuming Penal Substitution is what a given text says, but that is not enough to be considered proof. If I can take the same text and interpret it in a valid manner other than Penal Substitution, then it fails as a proof text for you. Certain elements must be present for a proof text to fit a Penal Substitution frame work. For example, one of the most critical elements we should see in a proof text is a description of God's wrath being directed onto Jesus rather than the elect. What ends up happening in most of the cases you present is that the proof text is so vague or lacking key elements of Penal Substitution (or even contradicting it) that I am well within my rights to object (and I have explained why for almost every case). The burden of proof is on the side taking the affirmative, in this case yourself, and if reasonable evidence cannot be produced (and I don't believe it has) then you fail to prove your case.
About the Passover, the plain fact is God's wrath was not on Israel but Egypt (Exodus 11). Thus, the only way an Israelite family would be harmed is if they disobeyed God's instructions. A similar example arises with Sodom and Gomorrah, where God's wrath is against the cites but not Lot and his family. Yet Lot and his family can and will be swept away in the process if they don't obey God (Gen 19:15).
The main question I am asked is how do I define and understand “God's wrath”:
So my question to you is to explain your definition of wrath, such that while Scripture seems to explain wrath as being expressed (among other things) by people dying (as seen in the examples the follow), somehow Jesus’ death (and the deaths of the animals sacrificed under the Old Testament administration) cannot be an expression of him bearing the penalty that God’s wrath against sin incurs. Note, this is not a question about whether or not such a view of the atonement would impact other issues of theology, or about anything except the definition of wrath within the context of this debate, from your perspective.
God's wrath, His demand for satisfaction or punishment, is what arises in response to sin. The punishments which result from this wrath – if it is not appeased- come in two forms. The first type are temporal punishments, such as sickness, disasters, misfortunes, and (most especially) physical death. The second and more serious type of punishments are the eternal punishments, which involve God's spiritual presence withdrawn from a soul, and this alienation becomes permanent and reaches its most extreme degree when a soul is cast into Hell.
Now, while Scripture does sometimes speak of God inflicting the punishment of death, the fact is not all death is described in reference to God's wrath against an individual. The most obvious example of death not resulting in relation to God's wrath is in case of murder of the righteous (martyrdom), which occurred as far back as Abel (Mat 23:35). Job is another example of one who underwent the most extreme misfortunes, but this is not described in relation to God's anger burning against Job's sinfulness, but rather more of a testing of Job's faithfulness. Given this, it is wrong for you to assume when death occurs it is due God's wrath, be it in the case of Levitical sacrifices or Jesus Himself. The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate God's wrath was on the sacrificial animal and especially Christ Himself. I have not only not seen any good evidence for such a claim, I see the Biblical evidence pointing in the opposite direction (eg Mat 17:5; Acts 3:13-15).
I am not sure why you quote those three passages in conclusion of your question, because while they all describe God's wrath, I never denied such a thing existed. What I have consistently denied is the notion God's wrath must have been on Jesus and the sacrificial animals because they were killed.

Response from Negative to Question 2
The Second Question I was asked dealt with the issue of guilt being imputed, and it suggested I spent more time dealing with “wrath” than guilt being imputed. I can understand why this objection was raised, and I assure you I was not deliberately avoiding or diverting attention off of the important issues. My goal in focusing on any given aspect of the debate, including key aspects like wrath, is to get at the heart of the Penal Substitution issue so as to avoid misunderstanding each other during our exchanges. Wrath and guilt are closely connected, so if one is discussed the other is implied. As for addressing the “imputing guilt” specifically, as far as I remember, the closest thing to a proof text you gave from the New Testament was 2 Corinthians 5:19 (see my rebuttal).
For this question, I think it is very necessary that I make some issues clear in order to avoid any fallacious argumentation or misunderstandings: (1) just because guilt is said to be upon someones head does not mean it was transferred off of a guilty party to an innocent one; (2) the mere reference to “upon the head” does not automatically mean guilt or impute; (3) the teaching of any given passage cannot necessarily be imported into another passage; (4) if no such language is used in the New Testament in regards to Christ, I take that as a significant shortfall to your argument.
The following are the Scriptural references you cite, followed by my commentary:
Numbers 8:12 – This merely states hands were laid upon the sacrificial animal's head. It does not demonstrate that guilt was being imputed. The fact sacrifices not dealing with sin (eg peace offerings in Lev 3) give similar “upon the head” instructions mean imputing guilt is not the first thing we should assume, but rather a sort of dedication.
Acts 18:6; Ezekiel 33:4; 1 Kings 2:37; 2 Samuel 1:16; Joshua 2:19 – There is mention of “blood upon your own heads,” which obviously refers to guilt for transgressing, but nothing indicates this was transferred guilt.
Judges 9:57 – The passage clearly states God held the people of Shechem guilty for their wickedness. What does not make sense here is your comment said: “God imputed their sin to them,” yet 'impute' in this debate signifies transferring guilt to another's account. Here the guilty are charged for their own sins and there is no clear foreshadowing of Christ in that situation, so I would say your linking this example to Christ is unwarranted.
Ezekiel 22:31 – Here God's wrath is poured out on sinners, which I don't deny, but that does not mean this was the case for the sacrifices or Christ. Further, as I noted in my rebuttal, fire does not automatically mean wrath.
1 Kings 2:32-33 – The phrase of interest here is “their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed for ever.” This doesn't quite fit the imputation model for the elect having their sin imputed to Christ, because the guilt never left Joab's own head. Here the curse wasn't so much transferred as it was extended to Joab's family, similar to how a king's punishment can extend to sufferings for what matters most to him, his kingdom. In Old Testament times, punishments that were very severe targeted not simply the guilty culprit, but everything dear to him, especially his family. It was not so much that the descendants were just as guilty (or even getting punished in the father's place) as it was hitting the father where it hurts him most. Catholics have been careful to maintain that while descendants can suffer temporal punishments (eg suffering, death) due to the father's sins, when it comes to eternal recompense each soul is judged by God according to what it alone has done (Eze 18:20; Summa I-II:87:8).
Matthew 27:25 – I would agree with you that this passage expresses a similar concept as the above, and I would give roughly the same response.
(Overall, I consider the 10 passages presented in order to make your case extremely weak.)
All this leads up to your Second Question:
“In view of this evidence, how can you deny that the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29 and 36) could take away the sins of the world in the specific sense of taking the punishment due to the guilt of sin, in other words, how is it that in view of the hand-head typology of the Old Testament sacrificial supported by the evidence above, you would attribute some other kind of “taking away” than having the guilt of the beneficiary imputed to the victim, and the victim slain in place of the beneficiary?”
I would say the question you propose does not follow the case you presented above, at least not without engaging in the logically fallacious argumentation I stated above. There is no direct Scriptural connection established between the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the word” (John 1:29) and the “head-hand typology” and “head-guilt” passages you presented. You are assuming a Penal Substitution took place with the Lamb of God, when this is not proven, nor did your above examples demonstrate the imputing of guilt Penal Substitution requires.
The Lamb of God which John is most especially focused on is the Passover Lamb (Jn 19:14; 1 Corinthians 5:7), in which case no mention of laying on of hands is ever instructed in the Torah, nor is “guilt upon head” ever mentioned. Given this, there is no Scriptural warrant for “taking away of sin” to be by means Penal Substitution, it must be by some other way. I believe the way Scripture describes that other way is the Catholic view of satisfaction.

Response from Negative to Question 3
For the Third Question I am asked why the “cup” Christ mentions to the Apostles cannot be both the “Cup of God's Wrath” as well as the Cup of the Lord's Supper. Here are the reasons why I reject this argument:
1) The cup mentioned before the garden and in the garden are figurative, only the cup of the Lord's Supper is literal.
2) The question proposed would sound something similar to this: Can you [literally] drink of the Cup [of the Lord's Supper] which I am going to [figuratively] drink [by death]? You're introducing two meanings for 'cup' and 'drink' in the same sentence. That's equivocation.
3) In Jesus' challenge He mentions both “cup” and “baptism” which are coming up for him (Lk 12:50) and asks if the Apostles can undergo both. These are obviously both figurative and refer the same thing, suffering, otherwise Jesus would be mixing figurative (baptism) and literal (cup). It would be most unwarranted at that point to say this cup is the Lord's Supper.
4) When Jesus asks if the Apostles can drink of the cup He will drink, His question is a challenge to them. It is not much of a challenge if this amounts to sharing the Cup of His Blood at the Supper.
5) Your proposal amounts to the following equation: Cup in Garden = Cup of Lord's Supper = Cup of God's Wrath. There are obvious absurdities that arise from this, for example Jesus and the Apostles drank the Cup of the Lord's Supper. Or are you suggesting a stretched interpretation such as Jesus exhausting the Wrath making the Cup of the Supper 'safe to drink'?
6) You stated “God’s wrath is often expressed in killing those against whom his wrath burns,” yet nowhere do we see God's wrath upon Christ nor do we see God positively engaged with Jesus' death (i.e. a judicial declaration and execution which is what Penal Substitution demands, as opposed to withholding divine protection, Mt 26:53), which is always described as murder (eg Acts 3:13-15; 7:52; 10:39-40).

Response from Negative to Question 4
The Fourth Question deals with my accusation that Penal Substitution results in Nestorianism, especially when using the quote “My God, why has thou forsaken me?” as a proof-text. I am asked the question: “how can you truly affirm that every concept of penal substitution necessarily involves Nestorianism?”
Take the following quote as one example (of many) of what respected Protestant theologians have to say about Penal Substitution and that cry of Jesus on the cross:
So then, gaze at the heavenly picture of Christ, who descended into hell for your sake and was forsaken by God as one eternally damned when he spoke the words on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!” - “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In that picture your hell is defeated and your uncertain election is made sure.
(Martin Luther, Treatise on Preparing to Die)
Penal Substitution states that God's wrath due to the sins of the elect was re-directed onto Christ in their place and thus He suffered what they should have suffered (including the deserved eternal punishments). Using the words of Christ “My God, why has thou forsaken me?” as a proof text for this claim has Jesus stating God has forsaken Him as a sinner is forsaken (to use a another phrase of Luther about this event). The epitome of Divine Wrath is when God's presence is removed from the creature (which becomes permanent in hell). Separation from God and being under God's wrath go hand in hand. In order for this to happen theologically, the Second Person, the Son, would have logically had to cast off His human nature (ie God no longer being present with Christ's body and soul), and thus a purely human man named Jesus was speaking those words on the Cross. The Nestorian heresy states a human man named Jesus existed prior to the Incarnation, and at the Incarnation the Word came and settled upon this already existing man (meaning Jesus was two persons, a human and divine). The orthodox teaching is that the Son is an eternal Person who's divine nature became united with human nature at the Incarnation, and thus there never was (nor could be) a 'stand alone' man named Jesus. The heresy resulting in Jesus being forsaken (as described above) is somewhat reverse of the original Nestorian claim, for in your case the Son did not settle upon an already existing man, but rather when the “forsaking” occurred a human man logically would have had to come into being upon the cross. In other words, the Jesus on the cross would have had to been a new and separate person rather than the Second Person, God the Son.

Response from Negative to Question 5
For the Fifth Question you list various quotes from the Early Church Fathers and conclude by asking:
“In view of all this evidence, will you agree that the concept of penal substitution is not simply a doctrine discovered by the Reformers?”
The short answer: No.
The Reformers and Reformed theologians made claims about Christ's Passion that go above and beyond what the above Early Church Fathers would have ever dreamed about the Passion. Claims such as Jesus undergoing God's wrath and undergoing the equivalent of hell, as well as using texts like “My God, why have you forsaken me?” and “let this cup pass” as proof texts are things the Early Church Fathers would have condemned (in fact some Fathers did condemn such interpretations of “forsaken me”). And notice none of the above quotes come anywhere near affirming those claims.
Due to word limits, I can only briefly comment on the Church Father quotes you presented:

Augustine, Sermon 86:6 - As this single sentence stands, it can be interpreted in a way compatible with Catholic understanding of satisfaction and does not demand Penal Substitution. But there is more here than what this sentence sheds light on. The preceding context is of the story of Elisha raising a dead boy back to life, taken from 2 Kings 4:8-36, here is the passage St Augustine quotes and focuses on:
When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. … Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. … The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
What might appear like an odd way to resuscitate someone is seen by Augustine as a foreshadowing of Christ's taking on our human nature which is subject to the punishment of death. Just as Elisha became 'one' with the dead boy to bring him to life, Augustine says Jesus came to take on human nature to remove the illness impeding it (punishment of physical death) and bring human nature back alive. The context here is medicinal, not God's wrath on Christ.
Augustine, Against Faustus, Bk14:4 - This passage sounds very similar to the one just discussed. It turns out I already discussed this very context in my rebuttal essay when you quoted a passage from around this context the first time.
Augustine, Psalm 51 - This is basically a repeat of the previous two quotes, which by the way are about a single sentence long each (which is not enough context for you to draw fair conclusions from). The context is that of human nature subject to death, that is the punishment being discussed and that is what Christ takes upon himself to remove and heal our nature. The very next thing Augustine does is quote 1 Corinthians 15:22 “In Adam all die, but in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Augustine, Tractate 60 on John: There is nothing incompatible with Catholic theology here, and nothing demanding a Penal Substitution interpretation.
Athanasius, Letter 10:5 - As this very short quote stands, it likewise compatible with the Catholic understanding. Later, Athanasius talks more about Christ suffering in our stead:
“Who, being truly the Son of the Father, at last became incarnate for our sakes, that He might offer Himself to the Father in our stead, and redeem us through His oblation and sacrifice. This is He Who once brought the people of old time out of Egypt; but Who afterwards redeemed all of us, or rather the whole race of men, from death, and brought them up from the grave.”
All this fits with the Catholic notion of satisfaction, while showing nothing significantly of the nature of Penal Substitution.
Gregory Thaumaturgus, A Sectional Confession of Faith, Section 17 – This is a basic creedal (orthodox) statement, nothing specifically Penal substitution about it.
Athanasius, Discourse II Against the Arians, Section 55 (Chapter 20) – Here Athanasius is merely quoting Scripture (texts I have already addressed in a way compatible with the Catholic understanding), so the burden is on you to show he meant it as Penal Substitution.
Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit: Book I, Section 109 (Chapter 9) – He is commenting primarily upon 1 Peter 2:24 in in the limited information he gives can be interpreted in the sense I proposed for this verse in my previous essays. The fact he says in the same quote “do you also crucify sin, that you may die to sin” goes against the notion of Penal Substitution.
Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John: Book II, Chapter 21 – As this quote stands, it is no problem for the Catholic view and says nothing demanding a Penal Substitution interpretation.
Ambrose, On the Giving Up of the Basilicas, Section 25 – I would repeat my above answer. As this quote stands, it is no problem for the Catholic view and says nothing demanding a Penal Substitution interpretation. He is commenting upon Galatians 3:13 but does not interpret this “curse” as any form of God's wrath or divine punishments, but instead in a medicinal sense (ie healing human nature): “in his flesh bore our flesh, in His body bore our infirmities and our curses, that He might crucify them; for He was not cursed Himself but was cursed in you.”
Augustine, Letter 169 – You claim Augustine held to Limited Atonement because he said “not one little one perishes for whom He died.” In my previous essay I pointed out a passage where he taught not all the justified would persevere (while being a strong advocate of baptismal regeneration for infants). Thus he either contradicted himself (not to mention 1 Cor. 8:11) or meant something else (which I assume).