Saturday, March 14, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate – 5 Questions from Negative

Penal Substitution Debate – 5 Questions from Negative


What Scripture teaches about Christ's sufferings directly impacts the validity of Penal Substitution, because if Christ didn't receive the proper type and degree of punishment which the elect deserved then the doctrine is unworkable and thus false. The following quotes from various respected Reformed sources describe the sufferings Jesus deserved and underwent:

The penalty of the divine law is said to be eternal death. Therefore if Christ suffered the penalty of the law He must have suffered death eternal; or, as others say, He must have endured the same kind of sufferings as those who are cast off from God and die eternally are called upon to suffer. (Hodge, Charles. “Systematic Theology.” Vol. 2, Part 3, Ch 6, Sec 3)
We should remember that Christ's suffering in His human nature, as He hung on the cross those six hours, was not primarily physical, but mental and spiritual. When He cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," He was literally suffering the pangs of hell. For that is essentially what hell is, separation from God, separation from everything that is good and desirable. Such suffering is beyond our comprehension. But since He suffered as a divine-human person, His suffering was a just equivalent for all that His people would have suffered in an eternity in hell. (Boettner, Loraine. “The Reformed Faith.” Chapter 3.)
To [Jesus] was imputed the guilt of their sins, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on their behalf. And the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God's wrath against sinners. In some mysterious way during those awful hours on the cross, the Father poured out the full measure of His wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God's own beloved Son.In this lies the true meaning of the cross. … The physical pains of crucifixion - dreadful as they were - were nothing compared to the wrath of the Father against Him. (MacArthur, John. “The Murder of Jesus.” Page 219-220.)
Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God's anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. ... ... Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. ... But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man. (Calvin, John. “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Book 3:Chapter 16:Section 10)
Luther: ‘Christ himself suffered the dread and horror of a distressed conscience that tasted eternal wrath;’ ‘it was not a game, or a joke, or play-acting when he said, “Thou hast forsaken me”; for then he felt himself really forsaken in all things even as a sinner is forsaken” (Werke, 5. 602, 605) (Packer, J.I. “The Logic of Penal Substitution.” footnote 44)
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. (Luther, Martin. “Treatise on Preparing to Die.”)
The physical pain of the crucifixion and the [psychological] pain of taking on himself the absolute evil of our sins were aggravated by the fact that Jesus faced this pain alone. … Yet more difficult than these three previous aspects of Jesus' pain was the pain of bearing the wrath of God upon himself. As Jesus bore the guilt of our sins alone, God the Father, the mighty Creator, the Lord of the universe, poured out on Jesus the fury of his wrath: Jesus became the object of the intense hatred of sin and vengeance against sin that God had patiently stored up since the beginning of the world.(Grudem, Wayne. “Bible Doctrine.” Page 253-254)
Given this, Penal Substitution demands Jesus endure not only a physical death, but a spiritual one as well. My request to you is: Where does Scripture teach Jesus underwent a suffering more painful and serious than physical death? Please quote and comment upon at least three distinct passages of Scripture which state Jesus endured a pain worse than physical death, specifically “the wrath of God” as described above.

One theme I have constantly emphasized is the notion of “making atonement” without an innocent party having to get punished. I have already mentioned some examples, but now I would like to present one more such example:
Exodus 30: 11 Then the LORD said to Moses, 12 "When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. 13 Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD. 14 All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. 15 The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives. 16 Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives."
It turns out that even money can make atonement for lives. In fact, this “atonement” is equated with “ransom” for life. Another significant passage that mentions a ransom for life is Exodus 21:
28"If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. 29"If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death.30"If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded of him.
In this case a man, guilty of murder by negligence, instead of receiving the death penalty can offer a sum of money for his life. As most are aware, the term “ransom” appears in the New Testament on a few occasions, specifically connected with salvation. For example,
Matthew 20: 26 Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
The phrase “give his life as a ransom” is undoubtedly a reference to atonement. Also, the passage indicates it is the value and quality of one's life, not a punishment itself, that is what is given as a ransom. Throughout this debate you seem to have been hesitant to accept my Scriptural examples of atonement being made without the use of Penal Substitution. The question I have for you is: Do you believe atonement can be made without the use of Penal Substitution? If yes, then explain why that cannot be the case with Christ, especially when He is said to make a ransom with his life. If no, then explain how Penal Substitution fits in both Exodus 30:11-16 and the text describing Christ's life as a ransom.

During your Rebuttal Essay, you made the following comment:
Nick cited Deuteronomy 9:16-21 as another alleged example of a commercial satisfaction, and calls his act an atonement. The Scriptures, however, do not use that description, although they do speak of Moses turning away God’s wrath. How did he do so? He did so by making intercession for them, and begging for mercy.
While it is true Deuteronomy 9 did not use the term “atonement,” it turns out that the term “atonement” is in fact applied to this event:
Exodus 32: 30 The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin."
This chapter is dealing with the golden calf-idol, and these words come immediately after Moses finds out. He explicitly says he will “make atonement for your sin,” so what Moses did in Deuteronomy 9 (describing the same event) was in fact what you denied. My question to you is: Can you explain why Christ would have to atone by means of Penal Substitution when Moses didn't have to? Surely Christ's “unjust sufferings” (1 Pt 2:18ff, esp v20b) were of infinitely more value than what Moses could provide.


For your Fifth Question, you gave me a list quotes from the Early Church Fathers which you claimed were advocating Penal Substitution. From the start of this debate I have argued the doctrine is more or less a invention of the Reformers. Because you seem to be well read in the patristics department, I have a question which I think shouldn't be too hard to answer. Do you know of any Early Church Father writings where they advocate Jesus enduring divine punishments along the lines of what the Reformed theologians in Question One above were advocating? I'm talking about quotes where an Early Church Father teaches concepts such as God pouring His Wrath upon Jesus, being forsaken (via “My God, My God”) by God in the sense of divine punishment, suffering more than a physical death, using “descended into hell” in a sense of undergoing damnation, etc. If you do know of such quotes, please list a quote from at least three different Early Church Fathers. If you do not know of any such quotes, then explain why the Reformers and Reformed theologians speak in that manner and why you think the Early Church Fathers missed “the true meaning of the cross” (to quote MacArthur).

As you know, I argue that Penal Substitution entails Nestorianism (even if unintentionally). You asked me about this in your Fourth Question to me. As you were laying out your question to me, you stated the following:
Obviously Nestorianism (denying that Jesus was one person with two natures) is heretical. It appears, however, that your entire claim that somehow Jesus must be split into two persons two accomplish the penal substitution is just your own assertion, not a logical consequence of the doctrine itself.
There are certainly many things that were true of Jesus as a man (such as that he got tired) that are only applicable to Jesus’ human nature. Take, for instance, this account:[Mark 4:37-39] In this account, Jesus was asleep. But surely it would not be proper to say that the Holy Spirit and the Father were also sleeping. To do this would be to flirt with Sabellianism – a confusion or conflation of the persons of the Trinity, as though they were but one person. In contrast, since Jesus is truly a different person than the Father, although they are both persons of one godhead, nevertheless it is possible for Jesus to stand in the place of sinners as their penal substitute to satisfy divine justice and reconcile the elect to God.”
Now, I am not accusing you of anything, but from what you have said above I'm not sure if you understand the reasoning behind my Nestorian charge. While you are correct to say there were actions Jesus performed which were attributes of only His human nature (eg sleep), it is also orthodox to say things such as “God was asleep,” because Jesus was a divine Person, God the Son. You would seem hesitant to affirm this statement of mine by the way you suddenly transition to “surely it would not be proper to say that the Holy Spirit and the Father were also sleeping.” I believe this comment is out of place because the issue of Nestorianism is not about the other Divine Persons (Father and Holy Spirit), but the Person of the Son and a potential human person. You begin by talking of Nestorianism and yet conclude (“in contrast”) by dealing with Sabellianism. What you appear to be alluding to is that “Jesus as a man” can be forsaken by God and die and undergo God's wrath, but “Jesus as God” cannot because “it would not be proper to say” the Holy Spirit and Father underwent those things. My final question to you is: Can the statement “God died on the cross” be understood in a truly orthodox sense? I'm talking about the statement as it stands, without modification of any words. Please explicitly state either “Yes” or “No” and then explain your reason for doing so, with as much detail as you can, in the span of 2-3 paragraphs.