Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Penal Substitution Debate – 5 Affirmative Questions to the Negative

Penal Substitution Debate – 5 Affirmative Questions to the Negative

Question 1 from Affirmative

In your opening statement, you described the penal substitution position as: “God's Wrath (due to sin) must be legally satisfied (i.e. sin cannot go unpunished) in order for sinful man to be forgiven and justified.”

Then, in your rebuttal, you repeatedly denied that various things were expressions of God’s wrath, e.g.:

“First, Turtullian says nothing specific in terms the atonement, much less anything of Jesus undergoing the Father's wrath in place of the elect.”

Your labels seem to be just ad hoc. When I 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).

The “positive” examples where you seemed to acknowledge wrath being implicated was regarding the Passover event, and in three places where you were asserting your own point regarding how wrath was stayed.

Regarding the Passover, your comments were inconsistent: “At the time of the Passover, God's wrath was not even on the Jews, but rather on the Egyptians:” and a bit later, “The Israelites were only actually subject to that wrath in a indirect/secondary sense, that is if they had they disobeyed the Passover requirements.” These seem to be a bit contradictory in themselves, since you first say that God’s wrath wasn’t on the Jews and then admit that it was/would be if they “disobeyed the Passover requirements.”

The other three times you seemed to positively identify wrath were these:

“The Israelites in large numbers turned to idolatry and God wrath was against them (v.3), not just the people in the tent. God sent a plague killing thousands, but because of Phinehas' zeal God's wrath against the whole Israelites was appeased and the plague stopped (i.e. not all the guilty were killed).”
“In the case of Moses making atonement in Deut 9, my opponent objects that the word “atonement” doesn't appear, only the turning away of wrath. This, to me, is weak, especially considering how much turning away God's wrath plays into atonement. In Num 25:10-13, turning away wrath is clearly equivalent to atonement.”
“In the case of Moses and Num 16:42-49, atonement and turning away wrath – by good works - is clearly stated. My opponent says this was simply God showing mercy, with no satisfaction, but that is contradicted by the plain reading of the text (eg “atonement”).”

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.

The Scriptural examples are these:

Isaiah 13:9 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

Deuteronomy 1:34-36
34 And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, 35 Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, 36 Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD.

Romans 1:18-32
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Question 2 from Affirmative

The resolution is this: “God imputed the guilt of the sins of the elect to Christ.” For much of the time, it seems you focus on the issue of “wrath” even seemingly diverting the issue from guilt when it seems that the evidence points to guilt being imputed.

Leaving aside then the issue of wrath, I provide the following evidence for you regarding the interrelationship between the “upon the head” symbology and the concept of imputed guilt:

1) Numbers 8:12 And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites. (This is one of the many examples of the animals having hands laid upon their head prior to the animals being sacrificed.)

2) Acts 18:6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. (Paul is saying that their guilt cannot be imputed to him, but only to themselves.)

3) Ezekiel 33:4 Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (This is a similar concept to the one Paul mentioned.)

4) 1 Kings 2:37 For it shall be, that on the day thou goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron, thou shalt know for certain that thou shalt surely die: thy blood shall be upon thine own head. (This warning has a slightly different twist, but the similar concept here – the king is pointing fingers, saying that it won’t be his fault if the guy is executed, it will be the guy’s own fault for violating the conditions of his probation.)

5) Judges 9:57 And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal. (God imputed their sin to them, which resulted in the curse, which incidentally connects with the concept of Christ being “made a curse” for us, which implies the same concept of imputed guilt.)

6) 2 Samuel 1:16 And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the LORD'S anointed. (Notice the same judicial concept here. Their guilt is imputed to them, in the sense of their being judged guilty, and the evidence is their own testimony.)

7) Ezekiel 22:31 Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD. (Here God explains that he poured out his indignation/wrath “upon their heads” showing that they were condemned. Incidentally the “fire” metaphor used here is further evidence for the fire/wrath symbolism I noted elsewhere)

8) 1 Kings 2:32-33
32 And the LORD shall return his blood upon his own head, who fell upon two men more righteous and better than he, and slew them with the sword, my father David not knowing thereof, to wit, Abner the son of Ner, captain of the host of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, captain of the host of Judah. 33 Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed for ever: but upon David, and upon his seed, and upon his house, and upon his throne, shall there be peace for ever from the LORD. (In this case, the imputation of guilt extends not only to person himself who did the evil deed, but to his children as well. This is similar to the general federal principle particularly illustrated in Adam, whose guilt is imputed to all his natural children.)

9) Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. (Although this doesn’t specifically use the word “head,” it expresses the same concept as the immediately preceding one.)

10) Joshua 2:19 And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. (This example provides a good balancing example: if the person goes out of the house and dies, it’s not the spies’ fault, but if they stay in the house and get killed, the spies will be held guilty.)

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?

Question 3 from Affirmative

In your rebuttal essay, you wrote:

“Lastly, my opponent mentions Matthew 26:39 and says it references the cup of God’s wrath, but unfortunately he both ignores and misunderstands (e.g. he claims I treated all cups as one) my own comments on the verse.”

In your constructive essay, you had written: “Jesus asks the Father if the “cup” can be taken from Him (Mat 26:39). Some say this was the “cup of God's Wrath” which Christ must drink. However, earlier on in Mat 20:22-23 and Mark 10:38-39 Jesus asks if the Apostles can drink from this “cup,” and they say yes, and Christ says they will. This is impossible if the cup of God's wrath is in view and the purpose is Penal Substitution. Thus those texts can only mean enduring physical persecutions.”

Here are the Biblical texts that are most immediately relevant:

Matthew 20:22-23 states:
22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

Mark 10:38-39 states:
38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? 39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

Matthew 26:39 and 42 state:
Matthew 26:39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Matthew 26:42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

Mark 14:36 states:
Mark 14:36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Luke 22:42 states:
Luke 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

John 18:11 states:
John 18:11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Let us assume, for the sake of the question, that my rebuttal both misunderstood and did not give proper attention to the argument in your constructive essay. Especially in view of John 18:11, the cup that Jesus is referencing would fairly clearly seem to be his death. After all, Jesus in the institution of the Lord’s Supper included a “cup” that he described this way:

1 Corinthians 11:25-28
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

(which quotes from Luke’s gospel)

Matthew 26:27-28
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mark 14:23-24
23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Notice how the description of the “cup” is one of his “blood” and that this is his “shed” blood. Most specifically, it is a cup that shows his “death.” So, then it would seem that it would be consistent for the disciples to drink of the Lord’s cup through communing in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, whereas Christ himself personally drank of this cup by dying. Furthermore, the cup in question is the cup of his death. Why cannot this be the cup of God’s wrath, where that wrath is expressed by the death of the one who bears the wrath, especially when throughout Scripture God’s wrath is often expressed in killing those against whom his wrath burns?

Question 4 from Affirmative

In your constructive essay, you wrote:
“The Father could never turn His Wrath upon His Son, such a notion should make anyone cringe. The Father could never forsake His Son in a spiritual 'divine punishment' sense, nor could Jesus feel or experience what a condemned sinner before God feels, nor could Jesus experience the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, that is pure blasphemy and a form of Nestoriansim (if not worse).”

In your rebuttal essay, you wrote:
“As I noted in my last essay, to interpret the phrase “My God, why has thou forsaken me” in the sense of divine punishment/wrath is a form of Nestorianism. Despite this, my opponent insists this passage proves “Jesus felt the wrath of God upon the cross.” Jesus is God and thus cannot be “forsaken” by God without causing His Divine Nature to separate from His human nature, leaving a purely human man named Jesus on the cross. That's heretical. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, in which God's wrath was never on David nor Jesus.”

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
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? 39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

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.

So then, how can you truly affirm that every concept of penal substitution necessarily involves Nestorianism?

Question 5 from Affirmative

Ultimately, it is inconsequential whether the church has faithfully taught the doctrine of penal substitution or whether it has not, since we have the infallible authority of Scripture. Nevertheless, the church fathers also provide evidence that we are not the first to recognize this doctrine in Scripture. You didn’t seem to feel that my quotations from the church fathers initially provided were good enough, so I provide the following:

O Lord Jesus, who hast suffered for us, not for Yourself, who had no guilt, and endured its punishment, that you might dissolve at once the guilt and punishment.
- Augustine, Sermon 86 on the New Testament, Section 6

Christ, though guiltless, took our punishment, that He might cancel our guilt, and do away with our punishment.
- Augustine, Against Faustus, Section 4

For there is no husband that, because he is an husband, is not subject to death, or that is subject to death for any other reason but because of sin. For even the Lord was subject to death, but not on account of sin: He took upon Him our punishment, and so looses our guilt.
- Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 51, Section 10

He was troubled, then, who had power to lay down His life, and had power to take it again. That mighty power is troubled, the firmness of the rock is disturbed: or is it rather our infirmity that is troubled in Him? Assuredly so: let servants believe nothing unworthy of their Lord, but recognize their own membership in their Head. He who died for us, was also Himself troubled in our place.
- Augustine, Tractate 60 (John 13:21), Section 2

He, the Saviour, suffered for man, but they despised and cast from them life, and light, and grace. All these were theirs through that Saviour Who suffered in our stead.
- Athanasius, Letter 10, Section 5

We believe therefore in one God, that is, in one First Cause, the God of the law and of the Gospel, the just and good; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, true God, that is, Image of the true God, Maker of all things seen and unseen, Son of God and only-begotten Offspring, and Eternal Word, living and self-subsistent and active. always being with the Father; and in one Holy Spirit; and in the glorious advent of the Son of God, who of the Virgin Mary took flesh, and endured sufferings and death in our stead, and came to resurrection on the third day, and was taken up to heaven; and in His glorious appearing yet to come; and in one holy Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, and life eternal.
- Gregory Thaumaturgus, A Sectional Confession of Faith, Section 17

And thus, the two being created in Him, He may say suitably, 'The Lord created me.' For as by receiving our infirmities, He is said to be infirm Himself, though not Himself infirm, for He is the Power of God, and He became sin for us and a curse, though not having sinned Himself, but because He Himself bare our sins and our curse, so , by creating us in Him, let Him say, 'He created me for the works,' though not Himself a creature.
- Athanasius, Discourse II Against the Arians, Section 55 (Chapter 20)

Therefore do you also crucify sin, that you may die to sin; he who dies to sin lives to God; do you live to Him Who spared not His own Son, that in His body He might crucify our passions. For Christ died for us, that we might live in His revived Body. Therefore not our life but our guilt died in Him, "Who," it is said, "bare our sins in His own Body on the tree; that being set free from our sins we might live in righteousness, by the wound of Whose stripes we are healed." 1 Peter 2:24
- Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit: Book I, Section 109 (Chapter 9)

"Behold, it is said, I have taken away your sins." Because He had taken on Himself the sins of the people of those who believed in Him, he uses many such expressions as these: "Far from my salvation are the words of my transgressions," and "You know my foolishness, and my sins were not hid from You."
- Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John: Book II, Chapter 21

Have they read also today, "that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us"? Galatians 3:13 Was Christ a curse in His Godhead? But why He is called a curse the Apostle tells us, saying that it is written: "Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree," Galatians 3:13 that is, He Who 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. So it is written elsewhere: "Who knew no sin, but was made sin for us, for He bore our sins, 2 Corinthians 5:21 that he might destroy them by the Sacrament of His Passion."
- Ambrose, On the Giving Up of the Basilicas, Section 25

You had mentioned, almost in passing, that a consequence of penal substitution is limited atonement. If you’re right, this too would make sense since Augustine taught limited atonement.

On the other hand, many who glory in the cross of Christ and do not withdraw from that same way, though ignorant of those points which are so subtlely debated, because not one little one perishes for whom He died.
- Augustine, Letter 169 (to Evodius)

In view of all this evidence, will you agree that the concept of penal substitution is not simply a doctrine discovered by the Reformers?