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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Atonement" according to Scripture - More Problems with Penal Substitution

Though the term "atonement" is frequently tossed around, especially when discussing Christ's Sacrifice, many Protestants don't realize how the Old Testament usage and understanding of this term actually goes directly against their own claims of what "atonement" means. The erroneous Protestant understanding of the Atonement, popularly called Penal Substitution, entails the notion of a guilty party having their guilt 'imputed' onto an innocent substitute, who then receives the punishment the guilty party deserved, and thus yielding 'forgiveness' of their sins. This misunderstanding is all too frequently projected onto the Levitical sacrifices prescribed by the Torah. A simple analysis of how the Hebrew term for "atonement" is used in the Old Testament will shine the proper light on how "atonement" is to be understood there and, by extension, in regards to Christ - Who is the fulfillment of those OT types and symbols.

The Hebrew term "kaphar" (H3722) means to 'make atonement', 'propitiate', 'cover over [sin]', 'cleanse', etc, and is used about 90 times in the Old Testament (mostly in regards to sacrifices, which we would expect). I will highlight (in red) some very clear examples of atonement/propitiation taking place in the Old Testament (where "kaphar" appears) that doesn't involve a transfer of punishment at all, but rather a 'turning away of wrath' all together.
Genesis 32:20 [Jacob] thought, "I may appease him [Esau] with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me."
The account of Genesis 32:13-21 is of Jacob reuniting with his brother Esau. For those who know the infamous past between the two, they will know the brothers were not on good terms. In this case, Jacob planned to appease ('atone') his brothers wrath against him by offering him a gift. In no sense was Jacob going to deflect his brother's wrath onto an innocent third-party.
Exodus 30:15-16 "When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. ... The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives." 
Here, Moses is given instructions (Exodus 30:11-16) for a 'census tax' on the Israelites. What is especially interesting (and very significant) is that this 'atonement' is described in terms of a "ransom" (H3724 "kopher," which is very similar to the Hebrew word for "atonement"). This is significant because Christ's Life is frequently described in terms of 'ransom' and 'redemption' (both terms refer to 'buying back' something at a price). Here the ransom/atonement protects them from experiencing a plague due to God's wrath against disobedience. But nothing here suggests wrath is deflected on a substitute.
Exodus 32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, "You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin."
Psalm 106:19-23 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. ... Therefore he [God] said he would destroy them had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them. 
Deut 9:13-29 You had made yourselves a golden calf. ... Then I [Moses] lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also.
Exodus 32 describes the infamous Golden Calf story, which is retold at various other times in Scripture because of it's great scandal and sin. Clearly, the Lord listened to Moses' intercession and penance, making atonement form them and sparing the entire nation from total annihilation. This is a far cry from God redirecting His wrath onto a substitute, namely Moses himself.
Numbers 16:41-50 Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the LORD; the plague has begun." So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped
This is another infamous story of Korah's Rebellion, and here the Israelites are grumbling against Moses and God, which resulted in a plague across their camp. As with the previous examples, we see the theme of intercession (through good works, like incense) for the sinners, appeasing/propitiating God's wrath, and not an innocent party taking the fall.
Numbers 25:1-13 "Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. 12Therefore say, 'Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, 13and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.'"
Psalm 106:30-31 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that [good work] was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.
If the last few examples were not enough, Numbers 25 describes yet another major sin and rebellion of the Israelites. This time a new hero steps up, makes atonement ("turns away my wrath"), and rather than taking the wrath upon himself, he receives a blessing instead.
Numbers 31:49-50 "Your servants have counted the men of war who are under our command, and there is not a man missing from us. And we have brought the LORD’s offering, what each man found, articles of gold, armlets and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and beads, to make atonement for ourselves before the LORD.
Numbers 31 describes the account in which the Lord led His people successfully into battle, and which they gave to God an offering of the spoils as an "atonement" for them for His Providential protection and victory. (The term for "offering" here is "korban" which is a term regarding sacrificial gifts and animals, especially in Leviticus.) As with previous examples, it makes no sense that atonement can be made with sacrificial offerings if the Protestant theory is correct in that atonement can only be made if wrath is turned on an innocent substitute.
Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for 

Proverbs 16:14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it.
The first of these two passages is very interesting in that it explicitly says "love and faithfulness" atones for sin! That's very incompatible with the Protestant notion, but very much in line with many of the previous passages which demonstrate how atonement is made. The second of the two passages is about wisely appeasing wrath (through pleasing the king in some way), and makes no sense to say a wise man takes the wrath as a substitute.

Now, some might object that all of the above examples are of a different nature than the Levitical animal sacrifices, and thus any implications drawn from the above examples are (at most) of secondary importance to understanding the 'real meaning' of animal sacrifices (i.e. Penal-Substitution). While this objection has some merit, the burden is on the Protestant to show why the Levitical sacrifices don't (and cannot!) follow the same principle of the previous examples - anything less would be begging the question. That said, there is good reason for us to examine the Levitical sacrifices to see what can be drawn from them.

One of the most definitive texts regarding animal sacrifices comes from Leviticus 17:10-11,
"If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
The reason why blood is forbidden is because it is the 'life-force' of all living things (not to be confused with the soul),  and thus carries a sacred function, making atonement. What is important to note is that the blood makes atonement in virtue of it's life-force, not in virtue of it being spilled. In other words, the focus here is not that something innocent took the death penalty, but rather that the value of life is of such a worth that it can make atonement for sin. This point is made especially clear in the New Testament:
[Know] that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
Here, there is a clear link between "ransom" and the lamb's "blood," as well as a contrast to how Christ's Blood infinitely surpasses the value of silver and gold. Thus, the point of the blood here has nothing to do with transferring a punishment, thus Penal Substitution is not the framework the Jews were operating within. With this in mind, the various Levitical sacrifices can be examined.

The four basic sacrifices were the Burnt Offering (Lev 1), the Grain Offering (Lev 2), the Peace Offering (Lev 3), and the Sin Offering (Lev 4). These could be offered individually, or in combination, all depending on the circumstances (for example, a major Jewish holiday could require multiple sacrifices, even many of the same type). What is interesting, or better yet very revealing, was that while these different offerings varied in function, they none the less were similar in their instructions. For example, advocates of Penal Substitution state that the instructions to 'lay your hand upon the head' (e.g. Lev 4:4) of the animal before killing it entailed the imputing of the sinner's guilt to the animal, and the consequent transfer of the punishment to the innocent substitute. But this is simply presumption, for nowhere does the text indicate this is intended to 'transfer guilt'. And that is not all, the biggest flaw in that argument is that sacrifices not involving sin, such as the Peace Offering, involved virtually the same instructions of laying on hands on the animal's head and killing it (e.g. Lev 3:2), thus pointing away from such an assumption. Rather, such an act of touching the animal's head must have been some rite of dedication. And the simple fact that sacrifices not involving sin were killed is a serious blow against the whole Penal Substitution framework. Another fact that militates strongly against the Penal Substitution system is instructions such as those found in Leviticus 5:11-13, which states that if someone cannot afford an animal for a sin offering, a sack of flour can be used instead. (Clearly, a sack of flour cannot receive the death penalty.) A final note is that often the one killing the animal and the one making atonement were not the same person, and this disunion of those two events conflicts with Penal Substitution. Typically, the sinner killed the animal, and from there the Levitical priest applied the blood according to the proper ritual in order to make atonement for the sin (e.g. Lev 4:27-31). Given factors such as these (and there's more), the advocate of Penal Substitution is not only assuming what he is trying to prove with the Levitical sacrifices, he is in fact going against the Biblical evidence.

Some final passages dealing with atonement that are worthy of brief consideration:


(a) Exodus 21:30 is a civil statute of the Torah, which teaches if a farm animal is known for being violent, and kills an innocent fellow Jew, the owner is subject to the death penalty, though a monetary "ransom" (Hebrew: kopher, see note above) can be paid instead, "redeeming" the owner's life.

(b) Numbers 35:31-33 teaches that murder and manslaughter cannot be ransomed for, and this is because such crimes are so serious that nothing short of the killer's own life can pay for it. This is significant because the animal sacrifices would not serve to atone for such sins either, directly disproving the notion the death-penalty can be transferred to an innocent animal (and thus the OT sacrifices didn't operate in a Penal-Substitution framework). In fact, the sin offerings of the Levitical sacrifices were primarily concerned with "unintentional" (e.g. Lev 4:2) and minor sins (not requiring the death penalty), where as major (intentional) sins had one permanently "cut off" from the Israelite people (e.g. Num 15:27-30).

(c) Closely related to the previous two points are the instructions given in Deuteronomy 21:1-8, dealing with the unknown murder of an individual. Since the killer is unknown, the closest village must kill a cow there to symbolically rinse their hands of any responsibility. There is no transfer of death penalty here since the actual killer is not going free. Instead, the concept being conveyed is that God abhors 'unsolved murders' because such is a monstrous injustice to Him and society.

(d) Atonement is sometimes made for non-living things, such as the altar (Ex 29:36-37; Lev 16:33), the land (Num 35:33), a house (Lev 14:49-53), and in such cases is used for "cleansing" an unsanctified object. Though this involved the killing of animals, it obviously couldn't have had anything to do with transferring punishment.

(e) A few texts speak of making atonement either by 'sacrifice or gift offering' (e.g. 1 Sam 3:14; 2 Sam 21:3-4), indicating atonement is made due to something's value and not a matter of transferring punishment.

Conclusion: After observing how OT Scripture uses the term "atonement" (as well as related terms like "ransom"), one does not see the concept of Penal Substitution being taught. Since the OT points to and foreshadows the NT, clearly one has no precedence from which to assume Penal Substitution is what ended up taking place in the NT, especially given Christ's sacrifice is very frequently linked to the Levitical sacrifices (especially all through the Book of Hebrews). Instead, there is both direct and indirect evidence clearly supporting the Catholic notion of the atonement, popularly called "Satisfaction," which will hopefully be covered in a future post.

125 comments:

St. Mark Of The Desert said...

This is all very interesting. I was raised believing in penal substitution. The more I look at Passover though, the more I see that the blood of the innocent lamb deflected or turned away the angel of death. It is as if he has no right over those covered by the blood. The lamb did not take any punishment in Passover. God made a universal declaration, first-born males will die. The only way to avoid that is to have blood applied to doorposts. So, how is that penal?

Nick said...

Hi,

You are correct, but I would add another detail to your comments:

Exodus 11: 4 So Moses said, "This is what the LORD says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.' Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

Given this information, there is no reason to think God's wrath was poured out on the lamb rather than the Israelites. God was not mad at the Israelites, thus a sacrifice in this case could not have been that of Penal Substitution. The Israelites were only actually subject to that wrath in a indirect/secondary sense, that is if they had they disobeyed the Passover requirements. In the next chapter, Exodus 12, further details are given that go against Penal Substitution. First, in verses 3f it states each household must kill a lamb, but says if a household is too small for one lamb they are to share a lamb with their neighbor. This would be illogical if a life-for-life penal substitution exchange was taking place. Second, killing the lamb but not following the other instructions (eg applying blood to the doorframe or eating it properly) would be of no benefit to that household, this realization is incompatible with Penal Substitution which puts the true value of the sacrifice on the life/death itself (ie the inflicted punishment).

You might be interested in my Penal Substitution debate:
http://sites.google.com/site/catholicdefense/psdebate

St. Mark Of The Desert said...

Thank you. I will read the debate as I find time. Another aspect I am trying to understand is the "curse".

Deu 21:22 "And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,
Deu 21:23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"--

Yet:

1Co 12:3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.

So how did Jesus bear the curse, without any displeasure on God the father's part, that is, without being "accursed" ?

Nick said...

As I point out in my Psub debate, Joshua 8:28f and 10:26f demonstrate what is meant by the curse; it's a humiliating form of death, especially for a king.

Another point I turn attention to is that Gal 3:13 says Christ "redeemed" us, indicating the framework of the atonement. A redemption is a pay-off price, it is not a transfer of the punishment. This very terminology goes against Psub.

The Protestant wants to read "curse" as God's Wrath upon the individual, but this is speaking of the Mosaic Law, who's 'curses' were purely temporal (e.g. land wont grow crops, diseases, no children, etc, etc, worst of all, death penalty).

Church Fathers like St Augustine simply interpreted "cursed" to mean Christ inherited 'cursed' flesh, that is, flesh subject to corruption and death, and this reality was prophetically made plain on the cross.

The term "cursed BY GOD" is also said to have been a post-Apostolic forgery by the Jews. If so, there's no problem. If not, the passage need not be taken to mean God was actually angry at His Son but rather that in the Jewish mind *IF* someone died like that, there's no way God was with him. Does that make sense? It highlights the scandal of the Cross; the Jews expected a Conqueror-Messiah, not one who CAME to die.

St. Mark Of The Desert said...

Ok, I read through some of the debate. I agree that Psub does not make total sense.

What I am trying to reconcile from my last question is how Psub can call Jesus "accursed" for us, ie. an enemy of God?

I cannot understand how Paul seems to contradict himself between Gal 3:13 and 1Co 12:3.

Katarah vs. anathema ?

Is S. Paul referring to his past when persecuting the Church he perhaps tried to make Christians say Anathema Iēsous (Acts 26:11).

How can Psub avoid saying that Jesus on the cross was Anathema?

It cannot.

Nick said...

Christologically speaking, to say Christ was anathema/damned is utter blasphemy, and this alone should cause Psub folks to stop.

The problem is, Sola Fide hangs on whether PSub is true or not, so in order to save Sola Fide the Protestant will believe just about anything, no matter how blasphemous.

The gospel according to the gospel said...

What is Sola Fide?

Matt Kleinhans said...

Leviticus 16:21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins.

You said:
"Rather, such an act of touching the animal's head must have been some rite of dedication."


When you obfuscate the clear meaning of the text it makes it difficult to take you very seriously.


Furthermore, you are arguing against a straw-man. What Protestant theologian ever has said that all instances of "kaphar" imply penal substitution? It seems to me that you know just enough Hebrew to be dangerous.

Anything to mention about: "Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;" (Isa 53:10)?

I followed your link from Triablogue, for the record.

Nick said...

Matt,

Thanks for your comments. Here is my response:

Leviticus 16:21 is the only situation where it is explicitly said that "sins are confessed over it," where as no such instructions are given for any other situation. Further, this is the case of the scapegoat, but the scapegoat was not subsequently slaughtered but rather released to the wilderness. Now compare this to the sacrifices not involving atoning for sin yet had hands placed on its head and killed.

I don't consider this "obfuscating," since I've taking into consideration all the details (where as most have not).


I never argued that a Protestant theologian said that all instances of "atonement" imply Penal Substitution - but here's the *catch*. If it doesn't imply PSub, then the burden is on the Protestant to show that it is ever used to mean Psub in the first place, and second that it must mean PSub in the case of Christ. The evidence my article presented shows the deck is stacked against the PSub crowd. It's a matter of simply examining the evidence and trying to make as honest of a conclusion as one can. I've reviewed the evidence and see nothing demanding (or even allowing) Psub where as the average Protestant has not studied the evidence yet assumes Psub is the way it must be.

Lasly, you asked about Isaiah 53. I've written another article on my blog addressing this very issue:
http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2010/05/is-job-suffering-servant-of-isaiah-53.html

Matt Kleinhans said...

You can consider it whatever you want, it's still purposefully confusing a clear teaching in Scripture. The confession of sin over the scapegoat has a clear meaning, and yet you imply that it doesn't, and you haven't supplied any answer for it.

Your argument is terribly weak. You're essentially saying "because the term for atonement is not always used in a penal way, then it must mean that penal substitution is not true." That is the straw-man. The deck is only stacked against penal substitution if you purposefully ignore the clear teaching of many biblical texts.

Your Job arguments about Isa. 53 are similarly inane. You say that because the same word is used in a different place, that it implies the same object. I am not sure if you understand how many logical fallacies that logic commits.

Deal with these texts:

2 Cor. 5:21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Cor. 15:3 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures

Gal. 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”

Col. 2:13-14 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross


What scares me more than anything Nick, is that if Christ didn't die for your sins, then the record of debt against you stands, and you remain dead in your trespasses.

Nick said...

Hi Matt,

Where have I confused, twisted, or denied what took place on the scapegoat? Sins were confessed over it. If you're thinking this models PSub, you have to explain why the only time sins are confessed the animal is kept alive, where as animals are killed in similar rites not involving sin at all.

You say my argument is "terribly weak," yet I don't believe you've accurately represented me and I've seen no Biblcal evidence from you to the contrary. Show me at least one, if not more, texts where "atonement" is used in the Bible where it clearly indicates Penal Substitution. If this cannot be done, your objection fails by definition.

As for my Job-Isaiah53 argument, the point is simply that you can't point to this or that term and demand it entails Psub when clearly the term doesn't entail Psub in other situations. Thus the burden is on you to make a *positive* case, rather than assume Psub is taking place in a text like Isaiah 53.

The biggest problem I see here is that you're assuming Psub is true before proving such is a valid application of the term "atonement".

I've dealt with the texts you cite at various times, most notably in my Penal Substitution debate, specifically Section3,
http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2009/01/penal-substitution-debate-negative.html

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

The only point on the scapegoat had to do with your obvious misrepresentation, not that it represents propitiation, because it doesn't, it is a representative of expiation.

Do you realize the absurdity of arguing that because the term "atonement" doesn't show up in a text, that the text is not dealing with atonement? Do you think Genesis 2:24-25 is dealing with marriage, even though the term "marriage" or "married" doesn't show up?

If Christ didn't die for your sins, then the certificate of debt remains against you, and you are dead in your sins.

Anonymous said...

Matt falls victim to the fallacy of begging the question--the silent argument killer. He never knew what happened. A sad day for all.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Anonymous,

Did you read any of the passages I quoted? How does anyone argue against penal substitution in light of those passages? Nick's exegesis is confined to word studies, without a single thought for the clear substitutionary imagery and theme found in Scripture.

Here's his approach:

2 Corinthians 5 talks about substitutionary atonement in a way that I can't explain, so let's look at other texts that aren't talking about what 2 Corinthians 5 is talking about. Thus, the fact that other texts in the Bible aren't talking about substitutionary atonement then means that 2 Corinthians 5 isn't talking about it either. Huh? What? What sort of hermeneutical structure is that?

His other arguments consist of such hogwash as this: Isaiah 53 is quoted in the New Testament specifically about the Messiah, but some of the language is similar to language used in Job, therefore Isaiah 53 must be about Job. What? This is passed off as exegesis in what fantasy-land?

Who is begging the question? What argument is silent? The logical fallacies abound, and no one here can do anything but explain them with more fallacies.

If Jesus did not die for your sins nailing your guilt and God's wrath to the cross, then the certificate of debt remains against you, and you remind dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. Repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work for your salvation.

Magdalena said...

Matt,

It is interesting that you criticize Nick's exegesis because, as I was reading through all the comments, I kept thinking that the reason you struggle to see the errors with penal substitution is because you are stuck in eisegesis.

If you start with a "blank slate", with the question "What exactly should be made of atonement?" and use "scripture to interpret scripture" as I have heard my evangelical friends say time and time again, there is no compelling argument for why one would jump to penal substitution.

In regards to the verses you posted, they still remain just as true when viewed outside the mindset of penal substitution. Christ died for us, but he also lived for us. His entire life and death was a perfect and complete (and actually, MORE than complete) sacrifice for us.

There is still no reason to make the jump to penal substitution, which is why, I believe, Nick is saying that the burden is on the Protestant to prove the penal substitution theory of atonement. He has clearly shown here that by using scripture to interpret scripture, it does not logically follow that you would conclude with penal substitution.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Magdalena,

In what functional sense did Christ die for you?

Nick said...

Matt,

I'm not fully sure what you're getting at with the Scapegoat situation. Since the goat was never killed, I fail to see how it can support PSub. Please clarify for me.

As for "atonement" being used - I never said the term had to be used - but to argue it can be used in a given way requires proof of that.

Your last sentence highlights an issue that I've been struggling to get across: Christ can die for us and did die for us - the thing is, that wasn't in the form of PSub.

Your other posts speak of me confining my work to "word studies" when I'm simply examining how a term is used in Scripture and basing my conclusions on that. You're begging the question to assume Psub before a *solid* case has been established. Further, you're assuming any time "die for" or substitutionary imagery is mentioned, that PSub must be the framework - which is simply bogus.

The constant appeal to 2 Cor 5:21 tells me that the Protestant side is grasping for straws - since it's not only a single text they put all this weight on, it's a gratuitous reading of the text. The Westminster Confession of Faith expressly says: "when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly"(1:9). So given this rule, there is nothing wrong with me appealing to other texts when interpreting 2 Cor 5:21, and to deny me this right is not fair nor proper exegesis.

Second, I never said Isaiah 53 is speaking of Job - you missed the irony/joke of the post. The point was that if Job can be "crushed, chastised, stries" by the Lord and not entail PSub, then why does it automatically become Psub when the Lord "crushes, chastises, strikes" someone else?

The final case looks as follows: On one hand there is a mountain of evidence for atonement not involving PSub. On the other hand there is no clear, undisputed case of PSub demonstrated in Scripture.

This is simply about making a fair and honest argument.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

In what sense did Christ die *for* you?

Anonymous said...

Matt,

I suggest you research logical fallacies and get a handle on what "begging the question" is. It's a logical fallacy, and so even if your conclusions happened to be correct, it would be in spite of your argumentation rather than because of it.

I am not illiterate. Every passage you cited can be (EASILY) understood as claiming something other than penal substitution. I can think of a number of challenges to your interpretation, but until you deal with the logical fallacies there is little point in cluttering the discussion.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Anonymous,

That's a pretty good dodge I guess if you don't want to actually think through the texts.

How can you understand any of the texts that I cited outside of the realm of penal substitution? Have you noticed that no one has answered my question about what it means that "Jesus died for my sins" outside of a penal substitutionary framework? Do you understand what the word "for" means? Did you read the Colossians verse, that because of sin there is a certificate of debt against you, and that God has provided a way of escape by "nailing to the cross" that certificate of debt? Who was nailed to the cross? What does that imply concerning what Jesus' work is? Doesn't that naturally and *logically* imply that Jesus took in His death the certificate of debt that was against us, the punishment that we rightly deserve for our sins? Can any one here answer any of these questions without deflecting? Not a single person here has addressed in any significant way the passages I cited. Furthermore, no one has answered the question above that is so significant: if penal substitution is wrong, in what meaningful sense did Jesus "die for your sins"?

There's a lot of great back-patting going on here, and very little argumentation or interaction with the Penal Substitutionary arguments and texts. The extent of Nick's exegesis is word studies; one semester of Greek or Hebrew combined with the internet is a dangerous combination.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

I answered your question about the scapegoat previous. It is dealing with expiation and not propitiation, and I never claimed it supports PSub. I claimed that your assertion about it being unclear was bogus.

Now answer my questions: in what sense at all is it meaningful to say that Jesus died *for* your sins, outside of the PSub framework?

Nick said...

Matt,

I'm trying to stay current with this discussion though I've been busy with my job lately. If I missed anything you asked, just ask again.


You said: "I never claimed it supports PSub"

It is good that we agree that the Scapegoat doesn't support Psub. This should remove it from the discussion as it now in no way supports the case the Protestant is trying to make.


You said: "Now answer my questions: in what sense at all is it meaningful to say that Jesus died *for* your sins, outside of the PSub framework?"

I will use an analogy from Scripture:
1 John 3:16,
"This is how we know what love is:
Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

Here we see the definition of love: "lay down your life *for* others".
Now, if this is saying Jesus laid down his life as a Penal Substitute *for* us...then for the parallel to work it would mean Christians are called to be Penal Substitutes for fellow Christians. This obviously fails, and thus the *for* here does not entail Psub.

The *for* must therefor mean "on behalf of" such that your energy and life make it possible for someone else to benefit from. Similar to how a father lays down his life for his family by working to support them.

And with the analysis of "atonement" I gave in my article, we can see someone can atone by doing good works.

The Bible explicitly says Jesus gave his life as a *ransom* for us. So Jesus died as a ransom *for* us. And a ransom is, by definition, not Penal Substitution. Rather, as my article notes, it's an 'equivalent buyout price'. Thus, Psub is refuted on all sides.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Great, 1 John is a great place to start.

1. Proponents of Psub never claim that it is the only element to the cross. The analogy in 1 John 3 is to Christ's love, and not to the atonement. This doesn't affirm or deny Psub.

2. You're side-stepping the issue. What is the buy-out price? You aren't asking the important question: "why?" Why is there a buy-out price to begin with? Why is it love that Christ lays down His life for us? What makes it love? In what sense is it for us? You still have not answered my question. How does Him laying down His life benefit you?

3. You conflate multiple different topics. Just because ransom is not PSub directly, doesn't mean that they are opposed to one another. The cross is a multi-sided jewel, and no legitimate PSub would argue any differently. This also does not answer the question about how Jesus dying does anything for you.

St. Gregory Nazianzen said...

XXII. Now we are to examine another fact and dogma, neglected by most people, but in my judgment well worth enquiring into. To whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High priest and Sacrifice.

We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause?

If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether!

But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed. And next, on what principle did the Blood of His only-begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his father [Abraham], but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim?

Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him? But on account of the incarnation, and because humanity must be sanctified by the humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest He obeys in all things.

So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence. But that brazen serpent Numbers 21:9 was hung up as a remedy for the biting serpents, not as a type of Him that suffered for us, but as a contrast. And it saved those that looked upon it, not because they believed it to live, but because it was killed, and killed with it the powers that were subject to it, being destroyed as it deserved.

And what is the fitting epitaph for it from us? O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? You are overthrown by the Cross; you are slain by Him who is the Giver of life; you are without breath, dead, without motion, even though you keep the form of a serpent lifted up on high on a pole.
Second Easter Oration

Nick said...

Matt,

1. I've yet to see evidence Psub is valid at all, so when you say it's only "one element of the cross," you're assuming what you have to prove.

Also, you said: "The analogy in 1 John 3 is to Christ's love, and not to the atonement."

It's clearly about the atonement, since Christ "laying down his life" is the only thing that can refer to. Plus, the goal was to show Christ can do something "for" us without it being substitution. The term "for" is the same one used elsewhere when speaking of the Cross.


2. How am I "side stepping" the issue? The buy out price is the the infinite value of Christ's life. You go onto ask a series of questions, but I don't see how they're immediately relevant (in proving Psub).

You said: "You still have not answered my question. How does Him laying down His life benefit you?"

Because it atoned for all the offenses against God. Sin displeases God, but obedience pleases Him. The way Christ turned away God's wrath and made atonement is akin to the foreshadowing of the OT of folks like Moses and Phinehas.

3. You said: "You conflate multiple different topics. Just because ransom is not PSub directly, doesn't mean that they are opposed to one another."

I disagree. If Christ's death was a ransom-atonement, then that rules out any need for Psub. It would be like a person ransoming you out of jail and then *also* spending that jail time for you.


The real "problem" here is that you don't see the alternative since you're conditioned to framing the atonement in terms of Psub. That's why I'm repeatedly demanding you prove your assumption that Psub exists rather than dogmatize it, since once it's shown that Psub has no basis in Scripture there will be no appeal to it. What is going on here is very similar to the current Sola Scriptura debate I'm having on my blog, where my opponent is assuming Sola Scriptura is true and then reading Scripture as if it were true...all before proving the doctrine itself is Scriptural.

This is not to be mean or rude, but the reason why Psub is embraced so tightly is because a more important doctrine hangs in the balance: Sola Fide - Justification by Faith Alone.
The well informed Protestant knows that to let go of Psub would mean letting go of Sola Fide - and that's not an easy thing to do. The Protestant pastor has the hardest time coming to grips with this, since if he loses his job, he'll have to find another way to feed his family, and that's a truly scary thought.

I've studied this issue hard enough and long enough to realize this, and that's why I've made it a goal to write against Psub since I know just how central (and unbiblical) it is to the Protestant Reformation.

Matt Kleinhans said...

1. Nick, are you purposefully ignoring what I write?

I wrote that 1 John 3 is not about the atonement in a direct sense. I am deconstructing your ridiculous argument that states: because Christ laying down His life for us is analogous to our love, then it must be analogous in every respect.

Certainly the atonement involves love, certainly substitution involves God's love, but the analogy is to love, and not to the atonement. We are supposed to love in the same self-sacrificing manner he did.

2. You conflate the price with the payment. The payment is the infinite value of Christ's life. The price is what is demanded. Justice is demanded for the "offenses" as you call them. The Bible calls it sin. It says that the wages of sin is death, and that death is demanded of those who have sinned (all mankind). Christ's atoning sacrifice pays that price, but the price is the very wrath of God that you are talking about.

You say that sin "displeases God, but obedience pleases Him". The obedience of Christ unto death is only necessary because the wrath of God, condemnation, is upon sinners, and that only when that justice is satisfied can sinners be made righteous . You seem to be asking all the right questions except one: why is Christ's obedience unto death necessary? Why couldn't he simply live a perfect life and then have His obedience imparted unto us? In your scheme it makes absolutely no sense at all that Christ would need to go to the cross.

3. You know absolutely nothing about me. You would like to think I'm conditioned, but my theology regarding PSub is not something I grew up with, and is something that only when reading the Bible for myself was I convinced of it. I didn't even have a name for it for the first 5 years I believed. It was simply Biblical. I am a sinner, God's wrath is upon me, Christ died for me so that God's justice can be satisfied and His holiness upheld, and yet mercy can be imparted to me.

Furthermore you have no idea what ransom atonement is. As mentioned you conflate the price with the payment, an indication to me that you haven't studied it as you think you have.

1 John 3 is a perfect example. It is only love if it benefits us somehow. To nebulously say that His death simply positively atones for us through obedience, but without any need for penalty makes God out to be capricious and evil. God did not randomly force obedience on Christ unto such a horrible death simply because He wanted to create a difficult situation for Christ to prove His obedience.

The God of the Scriptures is not the arbitrary false-god you've created and worship.

If Christ did not die for your sins then the certificate of debt remains against you, and you are dead in your trespasses.

Matt Kleinhans said...
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Nick said...

Matt,

1. You seem to be missing the point I'm making. The Greek term "for" (and phrase "lay down life for") appears *twice* in 1 Jn 3, in parallel. The text demolishes the notion that "lay down life for" must entail Psub. That's it.

Arguing that it's "not about the atonement in a direct sense" is irrelevant. What is proven is that "for" can mean "on behalf of" and not direct substitution, and thus whenever you come across "for" in any other passage you must *prove* it's being used in a Psub sense rather than assuming Psub true.


2. You said: "You conflate the price with the payment. The payment is the infinite value of Christ's life. The price is what is demanded. Justice is demanded for the "offenses" as you call them. The Bible calls it sin. It says that the wages of sin is death, and that death is demanded of those who have sinned (all mankind). Christ's atoning sacrifice pays that price, but the price is the very wrath of God that you are talking about."

Your logic fails at the end, and this is typical of most Psub discussions I get into. They start off with truth and then inject assumption at the end. You say this is "the very wrath of God," but *where* are you getting this from? The only answer I can see is presuppositions needed to prop up other doctrines. Further, if you're arguing Christ died in our place in a legal Psub sense, then Christians couldn't die at all, since it would be God punishing sin twice.


You said: "You seem to be asking all the right questions except one: why is Christ's obedience unto death necessary? Why couldn't he simply live a perfect life and then have His obedience imparted unto us? In your scheme it makes absolutely no sense at all that Christ would need to go to the cross."

He could have done a number of things (including those you propose), but the Cross demonstrated God's love the best. A single drop of His Blood could atone for all sin. The scheme God chose though, the cross, had a powerful effect of demonstrating love to the fullest extent. Giving up one's life in obedience unto death is the most anyone could give, and that's a demonstration of just how far and just how much love was displayed. It's easy to love and obey God when things are going easy, but when suffering and hardship come THEN your real love shows. Further, Christ wasn't just atoning for sin, He was destroying/transforming Death.

3. My comments were simply based on most conversations I've had. They typically involve someone hanging onto Psub for dear life and dogmatically imposing it, without ever showing clear Biblical support for it. When it comes to "atonement," they often seem oblivious to the fact that "atonement" isn't used in a Psub sense.

You said: "To nebulously say that His death simply positively atones for us through obedience, but without any need for penalty makes God out to be capricious and evil."

This is simply your presuppositions showing through here. Your not out to prove your case from Scripture and instead trying to salvage Psub any way you can. The Bible is clear: "Through love and faithfulness, sin is atoned for" (Prov 16:6). That doesn't fit your Psub scheme.

Again - I've studied this topic long enough to know what's at stake: Sola Fide - the Golden Calf of Protestantism.

Nick said...

Part 2 of 2:


You said: "God did not randomly force obedience on Christ unto such a horrible death simply because He wanted to create a difficult situation for Christ to prove His obedience."

Who said God "randomly" did this? Who said this was "forced"? The Cross is scandal to the Jews (a crucified Messiah) and folly to the Gentiles (why the Heck would God send His Son to die?).

You said: "The God of the Scriptures is not the arbitrary false-god you've created and worship."

Speak for yourself sir, because I don't have a Idol called Psub on my shelf that has no Biblical support.


You said: "If Christ did not die for your sins then the certificate of debt remains against you, and you are dead in your trespasses."

Any charges you have against me not listening to you or your comments falls flat after this comment. This kind of talk is nonsense since you don't see that in my position Christ *did* die for our sins! This kind of talk shows *you* don't get it. Your comment is assuming "die for" here entails Psub, when that's the grand presupposition you have before approaching the text...and the only good reason for this is because Sola Fide hangs in the balance.

Anonymous said...

Matt,

I found another non-penal understanding of Isaiah 53 here. I think it's worth your time to read it.

What troubles me is hearing you talk of God "forc[ing] obedience onto Christ," and Christ "prov[ing] his obedience." Is Christ God? How does God force God into obedience? I'm genuinely confused by the word choices here.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Anonymous,

Notice I am responding to Nick's argument, and not making the argument that Christ is forced or proves His obedience. That is the logical conclusion of Nick's position. Please read the sentence a little closer.

Also, the blog you posted doesn't understand penal substitution at all. It is not justice for us, and Christ does not receive what is just for Him. That is the whole point! We receive what we don't deserve, and Christ receives what He doesn't deserve, in our place.

Nick, things are busy at work for me as well. I hope you had a restful labor day as I have. I will respond to you soon. Thank you for continuing the discussion in light of your busy-ness.

-Matt

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

I now see what your point is about "for". You're saying that "for" is used here in a non-penal way, thus "for" in other uses is not necessarily penal. I see. You certainly have a curious bit of logic.

Let's try a different verse.

Galatians 3:13 uses the same word (huper) in regard to "for", which as anyone with a dictionary can tell, has many different meanings. But the meaning of "in the place of' or "on behalf of" seems to be clearly implied from the context of Gal. 3. There is a curse from the law. Christ became a curse for us. Therefore there is no longer a barrier to anyone, Jew or Gentile, to receive the blessings of covenant relationship.

If that doesn't suffice, Mark 10:45 uses the term "for", but it is a different word (anti). This denotes more specificity than huper, and is used 22 times in the NT with most of the cases being equivalency statements (i.e. an eye for an eye, etc.). The clear indication from the syntax as well as lexically is that this is the language of replacement.

Furthermore, the entirety of my understanding of substitution is not built on the word "for". The themes and actual uses of words like "propitiation" are clear indications of the wrathful God being appeased by Christ's sacrifice in order to pacify those who believe in faith (see Romans 3:25).

You say: "Further, if you're arguing Christ died in our place in a legal Psub sense, then Christians couldn't die at all, since it would be God punishing sin twice."

What a tragic mistake this is. The death we die is physical, yes, but more significantly spiritual . Our spiritual death necessitates our spiritual rebirth! Christians are alive spiritually, and there is no indication that physical death is anything but a consequence of the fall and indeed demonstrably not punitive in and of itself (both Christians and non-Christians physically die but experience vastly different afterlives).

You said: "Giving up one's life in obedience unto death is the most anyone could give, and that's a demonstration of just how far and just how much love was displayed."

What a sick and twisted God you serve who created a horrific and shameful scheme in order to simply prove obedience without any function. It's astonishing to me that you would admit this. You're making God out to be a tyrant by attempting to paint the cross in such a narrowly positive light.

You said God randomly did this. God created the scheme of the cross simply to show His love for the world. But isn't that clear enough from general revelation and common grace? What kind of meaninglessness does this turn the cross into? Romans 1:27 describes the wrath of God as "due penalty", and yet you simply want to overlook that at its most clearly demonstrated place. Christ' became a curse for us, in our place, becoming what we deserve to be: cursed. Our certificate of debt was nailed to the cross. Nailed! Who was nailed? Christ! Whose certificate? Ours! Christ pays our debt that we owe; He was our cursedness for us! How is this anything but substitution?

You claim to have studied this so well, but you make such a simple mistake as conflating the price with the payment? And then you don't even respond to what I said? Come on Nick, you can do better than that.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

Just wanted to add a few things:

The 1 John passage analogy falls short for one important reason:

the focus of the passage is not on the mode of Christ laying down His life, but the manner of Him laying down His life. We are not called to lay down our life for the brethren in the same mode as Christ did, but in the same manner as He did, selflessly. It's the same correlation as Philippians 2. We are not called to be the incarnation, we are called to replicate His humility. In this sense Psub certainly is involved in this use of "for", even if it is not the direct point of the passage.


Secondly, the biggest issue I see with your scheme (besides its reliance on wild hermeneutical structures) is that it makes nonsense out of so much of Scripture. Within your framework, these passages make little to no sense:

Genesis 3
Leviticus 16-17
The entirety of the law-system in the OT
1 Chronicles 16
2 Chronicles 29
Ezra 7
Job 34
Psalm 1, 9, 10, 36, 51, etc.
Any of the prophets particularly Hosea 13, Isaiah (53, but really 40-66) and Ezekiel 16 and 23
Daniel 9
Matthew 5-7, 20
Mark 10
Luke 14
John 10, 11, 15, etc.
The entire book of Romans, particularly 1:27, 3:9-31, 5:1, 6-11, 6:5-23, etc.
1 Corinthians 15
2 Corinthians 5
Galatians 1-3
Ephesians 2
Philippians 2
Colossians 1:20, 2
1 Thess. 1, 2
1 Tim. 1, 4
2 Tim. 3, 4
Titus 2
Hebrews 2-10
James 1
1 Peter 1
1 John 1-3
Jude
Revelation 5:9-10

These are mostly just off the top of my head. I am having a hard time understanding how any of those verses would make any sense in your scheme. I don't expect you to walk through them all, but if your scheme was the one that God was attempting to produce, pretty much none of the Old Testament makes sense, and much of the New Testament is either phrased really weirdly, or is fantastically confusing.

This is not just an issue of the word "for".

Nick said...

Hi Matt,

You said: "You're saying that "for" is used here in a non-penal way, thus "for" in other uses is not necessarily penal. I see."

Correct. So any appeal to “for” must be beyond a doubt not capable of the non-Penal “for”.

You said: "Galatians 3:13 uses the same word (huper)...But the meaning of "in the place of' or "on behalf of" seems to be clearly implied from the context of Gal. 3."

Fine, "on behalf of" fits and in no way demands Psub. More importantly, Gal 3:13 says this took the form of "redemption," and redemption precludes Psub by definition. Someone can do something "on behalf" of someone else, including removing various barriers, without involving Psub. This text can be taken in parallel to Hebrews 9:15 which explicitly says Christ died as a ransom to do away with the demands of the Law.

You said: "Mark 10:45 uses the term "for", but it is a different word (anti)."

The catch here is that the text explicitly says "give His life as a *ransom* for many", meaning as a payment, not a Penal Substitute. So, while the term can be used synonymously with huper, the point remains that not all things done “on behalf of” entail direct (penal) substitution.

You said: "themes and actual uses of words like "propitiation" are clear indications of the wrathful God being appeased by Christ's sacrifice in order to pacify those who believe in faith (see Romans 3:25)."

Comments like these lead me to wonder if you read my original post. While I agree wholeheartedly with your comment, you dont' seem to realize what you said. The term "propitiation" means to turn away wrath by appeasing it, it does not mean to re-direct it onto a substitute. See the numerous examples I gave in my original post of Saints turning away God's wrath without Psub. Further, Rom 3:25 *also* uses the term redemption, which again goes against Psub.

Nick said...

You said: "...there is no indication that physical death is anything but a consequence of the fall and indeed demonstrably not punitive in and of itself..."

Physical death is a punishment for original sin - and the physical death penalty was the highest punishment of the Law. But your claim actually helps my overall case, since you'd have to say Christ physically (suffering and) dying thus could not have been a punishment he took "in their place" - and in fact His Physical sufferings and death were incidental. On top of this, only Christ's physical sufferings are ever mentioned in Scripture - so this spiritual death that He had to have experienced is a construct of systematic theology and not Divine Revelation.

You said: "What a sick and twisted God you serve..."

This objection falls flat, since I could mount the same objection against Psub, except with more solid footing. Your God damned His Beloved Son to hellfire, so really you have no room to speak.

Further, you're painting my scheme in a false light, since there is nothing shameful about giving up one's life for someone you love.


The only other thing I see worth commenting on is this comment of yours: "the biggest issue I see with your scheme is that it makes nonsense out of so much of Scripture."

And yet you're the one presuming Psub in all this without interacting with my original evidence, specifically surrounding the term Atonement. As I said, I know the underlying motive is Sola Fide, and whatever has to be affirmed to salvage Sola Fide will be affirmed, regardless of whether or not there is Scriptural support.

The honest and open exegete can only say Psub *might* be an option in any given text - but this is taken in *conjunction* with the fact no solid example of Psub has been demonstrated from Scripture, but there are numerous cases of atonement not requiring Psub at all. So, really, it's the Catholic letting the Scripture speak for itself and be his guide - while the Protestant must selectively quote and assume and twist the various texts.

Anonymous said...

Matt,

I'm not even close to having the time to address all the passages you mention, but I will quickly touch on a few. But already what I'm seeing is that you continue to assume your conclusion in your premises, so without even getting into specifics I don't think the citations are helpful. Here is why: to demonstrate psub, you'll have to interact with the text and show how some portion(s) cannot be explained by any other means. But from what I've seen so far, they are all compatible with the historic Ransom/Christus Victor theory of atonement. So while you claim the passages make no sense without psub, it seems obvious to me that they make sense within Ransom theory.

For starters, nothing in 1 Corinthians 15 seems obviously bent toward any theory of atonement. Saying "Christ died for us" does not require penal substitution, as you seem to be assuming. Paul spends most of his time talking about the resurrection. For the penal substitution view to be correct, I would expect Paul to say something specifically about it. I think 15:17 would be the perfect place to mention penal substitution, such as, "if Christ has not been punished in your place, your faith is worthless," but that's not what Paul says. Why not?

Galatians likewise more than compatible with Ransom theory. (Summarizing) The law was a prison, and we were redeemed from it. Death and sin keep us in slavery and bondage, but we were ransomed into liberty. Ransom language is all over the place, so I see no obvious demand for psub to explain it.

I am puzzled as to why you mention Genesis 3. Verse 15 does not say, "he will strike your head and I will pour out my wrath on him as a substitute." Where do you see psub in Genesis 3?

Nick briefly dealt with Leviticus and the sacrificial system in his debate. I think there are plenty of good reasons to question the idea that Torah was a penal substitutionary system, and I have yet to see a good defense that it was. Specifically on atonement, I suggest taking some time to really familiarize yourself with Ransom theory and also to study the history of interpretation of these passages. A lot of historical work has been done for you (PDF) by the author of the blog post I pointed you to. You could also consult the prior quotation from Gregory.

Anonymous said...

Matt,

You claimed the blog post I linked to failed to understand psub. But perhaps you missed this quote:

"The idea that this travesty of justice was somehow God's will was too much for him. So he 'fixed' the text. Penal substitution tries to do the same thing by presenting the cross as a reasonable fulfillment of law, even though as I said this really makes no sense (punishing the innocent is not just)."

Clearly the author recognizes that Christ did not deserve punishment. You yourself said:

"It is not justice for us, and Christ does not receive what is just for Him. That is the whole point! We receive what we don't deserve, and Christ receives what He doesn't deserve, in our place."

You also claim Job 34 defeats Nick's position, but it says is that "the Almighty will not pervert justice." It seems Job 34 directly contradicts psub.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

Galatians 3 obliterates your definition of redemption.

The logic of Galatians 3 is that Christ redeems us from the curse of the law by becoming what we were under God's condemnation, cursed. You overlook the fact that it is not "on behalf of" in terms of "helping someone remove an obstacle", but the means by which it is accomplished is by becoming what we were , i.e. standing in our stead. There is absolutely no way to understand this "on behalf of" as simply helping someone remove an obstacle.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Anonymous,

Again you don't understand Substitutionary Atonement. God's justice is maintained, even if both Christ and Christians don't get what they deserve.

In this way God can be merciful while not perverting justice.

Nick said...

Matt,

You are misreading Gal 3:
"13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"— 14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith."

Paul is not and did not say Christ took our curse, in our stead. It says he "redeemed us from the curse," meaning removed the curse over them (Heb 9:15, "a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant"). This was not in substitution, but through equivalent payment: becoming a curse of sorts for us, suffering the humiliating death on a tree. The charges against the sin were *dropped* on account of the ransom.

The Law was acting a barrier preventing the full benefits of the Spirit being poured out, especially on the Gentiles. The *focus* of Paul here is not Jesus did this to take our punishment, but rather to remove the barrier which was the Mosaic Law (Eph 2:14-16).

The "curse of the Law" was not some generalized Divine curse of God's eternal Wrath or for sin in general. It was the temporal punishments deserved due to the violation of the Mosaic Law.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

Once again you are overlooking the means by which the redemption happens!

It happens by Him becoming the curse that we were under the condemnation of God. You cannot overlook the means. Christ becoming our punishment is substitution.

You say: "becoming a curse of sorts for us" as if that demonstrates something other than substitution. That is substitution in its clearest form. You skirt around the word "for"- fine, whatever. You cannot skirt around the word "becoming".

And this is clearly not some temporal punishment- a few verses before Paul explains that "...Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham..." Paul is talking about justification here.

Nick said...

Matt,

You're injecting *your* spin into the text when you say: "It happens by Him becoming *the curse* that we were under..." and "Christ becoming *our punishment*..."

The text itself isn't saying this, nor is the definite article being employed like this.

And - as I noted earlier - all we see in Scripture is Christ dying a physical death, so if this were Penal substitution, then Christians wouldn't be subject to physical death.

You said:
"And this is clearly not some temporal punishment- a few verses before Paul explains that "...Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham..." Paul is talking about justification here."

You're ignoring key context, since you're jumping back to verse 8 when the more immediate context is 10-12, speaking *explicitly* about the Mosaic Law. Even if justification was the overall context, which it is, that in no way indicates the death was more than temporal.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Now you're just making assertions without arguing your point.

The text clearly states that Christ became our cursedness. Here is the argument:

1. God justifies through faith (v.8)
2. All who rely on works for salvation are cursed (v.10)
3. We are cursed (v.13a)
4. Christ redeems us from our cursedness by becoming our curse (v.13)
5. We are now no longer cursed, through Christ (v.14)

Your understanding of redemption is completely destroyed by this text Nick. Regardless of temporal or not, it's substitution.

A matter of fact, I can think of no clearer way of communicating substitution than how this verse communicates it.

Nick said...

Matt,

You said:
"The text clearly states that Christ became our cursedness."

No, it says Christ became a curse for us, and this took the form of ransom/redemption. To say "our cursedness" is reading into the text.


You said: "Here is the argument:"

Your argument is being read through a Psub lens, and doesn't even take into consideration the works here are the "works of the Law" and the Law here that is the problem is the Mosaic Law. Paul was arguing against the Mosaic Law, not works or punishment or curse in general.


You said: "A matter of fact, I can think of no clearer way of communicating substitution than how this verse communicates it."

Which confirms my original point: Psub has no good, clear example in Scripture. The most that can be done is take a "for" text and project Psub onto it, which is begging the question more than proving it.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

You continue to make assertions without any argumentation.

"No, it says Christ became a curse for us, and this took the form of ransom/redemption. To say "our cursedness" is reading into the text."

You completely undermine the flow of the text.

We are cursed.
Christ became a curse for us.
We are no longer cursed.

There is no cursing here except that which is ours. Therefore, if Christ took it, then He took our curse. There is no other curse that is even considered in this text, at all.

It's painfully ironic that you question everyone's presuppositions other than your own.

Matt Kleinhans said...

BTW I like the new format!

Nick said...

Hi Matt,

I like the new format too. It happened sort of on accident though. I was going to add a picture of Pope Leo XIII and how Catholics are to approach Scripture, when I had a heck of a time getting it to fit on the blog. I spent probably 2 hours trying and trying to format the picture and words. Then I saw a new feature for Blogger Templates, and from there I realized I could expand the width of the blog, but only if I picked a new template. This template was a premade one, but it ended up looking good enough that I kept it.



You said:
We are cursed.
Christ became a curse for us.
We are no longer cursed.

Here is how you're reading it:
1) We are under Curse1.
2) Christ took Curse1 in our place.
3) We are no longer under Curse1.

Is this a coherent syllogism?
Yes, it is.

But is that what the Bible is indeed saying? I say no.

Here is how I read the text:
1)Man is under Curse1
2)Jesus undergoes Curse2
3)Man is freed from Curse1

In this case, Curse2 is an equivalent 'counter weight' curse to Curse1.

This syllogism is logically coherent as well. And the mere fact there is an alternatively logical syllogism means Psub cannot just be assumed but at most taken as one possible logical option. That's how true exegesis is done.

The support for my syllogism is as follows:

1) The framework is explicitly said to be that of a ransom/redemption - as opposed to a direct transfer of punishment.

2a) The "curse of the Law" is not the same curse as Jesus underwent, as the text indicates the curse on man is a general curse while Christ underwent a specific curse.

2b) Galatians 3:10 is speaking of man's curse, explicitly quoting Deut 27:26, which is right in the context of general blessings and curses (Deut 28:15ff).
Galatians 3:13 is speaking of Christ's curse, explicitly quoting Deut 21:22f.
The curses are not the same, going against the notion of transferring our punishment to Him.

3) The "curse" of hanging on a tree is not some supernatural hellfire curse (which sinners deserve), but rather the utter humiliation of being hoisted up on a stake, especially if one is king as Josh 8:29 and 10:26 explicitly shows (and is an *anti-type* for Christ).

4) Christ was abolishing the Law here, which was a major barrier standing in the way of incorporating the Gentiles into God's family as 3:14 and other texts show. This is the context, not some grand substitution for all men for all time, but specifically a Jew-Gentile problem being dealt with.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

Now we're getting somewhere.

Two questions:

1. Did God reveal the Law?

2. Did Christ break the Law?

Nick said...

I don't see how those questions will establish anything, but here are my answers:

1. Did God reveal the Law?
If you're speaking of the "the Law" that Galatians 3 is speaking of, the Mosaic Law, then yes, God revealed it by Divine Revelation.

2. Did Christ break the Law?
Christ never sinned, so no, Christ didn't ever break the Law.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

1) The framework is explicitly said to be that of a ransom/redemption - as opposed to a direct transfer of punishment.

I've addressed this multiple times- this text indicates no mutual exclusivity between ransom and substitution, but instead frames ransom as happening through the means of substitution.

The "curse of the Law" is not the same curse as Jesus underwent...2b) Galatians 3:10 is speaking of man's curse, explicitly quoting Deut 27:26, which is right in the context of general blessings and curses (Deut 28:15ff). Galatians 3:13 is speaking of Christ's curse, explicitly quoting Deut 21:22f.

Both Deuteronomy 21 and Deuteronomy 27 are a part of the Law. They are both the curse of the Law (i.e. curses declared by the Law), which in reality is the curse of God because God was the one who revealed the Law, and the only curses that are a part of the Law are the ones God brings about. He promises to deliver both blessings and curses according to His revelation.

Christ never sinned, so no, Christ didn't ever break the Law.

If Christ never sinned then how could the curse of the Law be upon Him? How could He receive any curse? How could Deuteronomy 21 or Deuteronomy 27 ever apply to Him? Whose cursing did He receive if it is not His own?

Nick said...

Matt,

You said: I've addressed this multiple times- this text indicates no mutual exclusivity between ransom and substitution, but instead frames ransom as happening through the means of substitution.

There is clear Scriptural evidence that ransom is used in place of a punishment, so if you want your claim to stand you must show "ransom" (or redeem) is *ever* used in a Psub sense.


The "curse of the Law" is not the same curse as Jesus underwent...2b) Galatians 3:10 is speaking of man's curse, explicitly quoting Deut 27:26, which is right in the context of general blessings and curses (Deut 28:15ff). Galatians 3:13 is speaking of Christ's curse, explicitly quoting Deut 21:22f.

You said: Both Deuteronomy 21 and Deuteronomy 27 are a part of the Law. They are both the curse of the Law (i.e. curses declared by the Law), which in reality is the curse of God because God was the one who revealed the Law, and the only curses that are a part of the Law are the ones God brings about. He promises to deliver both blessings and curses according to His revelation.

Not all curses of the Law are the same, that's a fact, and it can be shown by the fact curses are placed upon different things with different punishments. The tree-curse is a specific case of a capital offense receiving the death penalty.


You said: If Christ never sinned then how could the curse of the Law be upon Him? How could He receive any curse? How could Deuteronomy 21 or Deuteronomy 27 ever apply to Him? Whose cursing did He receive if it is not His own?

The curse of the Law was not upon him, not the way you're thinking at least. Secondly, Christ was murdered (1 Thess 2:14f), He was not placed on the cross after a fair trial. According to your logic, if an innocent man is unjustly put to death as per Deut 21, God's wrath must still necessarily be on him. That doesn't work. The curse Jesus underwent was that of death, since human nature was cursed with mortality, and Jesus took on human nature (this is the view of the Early Church Fathers, e.g. Augustine).

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

Did you read Deuteronomy 21?

Verse 23: ...for a hanged man is cursed by God..

This verse is quoted and paraphrased about Jesus in Galatians 3.

Even if Deuteronomy 21 and 27 are different curses (which they are in some sense, but aren't in others), it still woudn't change the fact that clearly Christ's cursing was brought about by God, undermining your entire scheme.

Nick said...

Matt,

The 'curse of God' via crucifixion was nothing more than the most humiliating form of death. It was not some hellfire wrath. It was one of the highest curses because only the greatest criminals were to receive this curse. When Christ received this, it's not to say He was really guilty of such grand crimes - He was not, and only from the Jewish errant perspective was that thought - but rather to show He'd undergo the worst death imaginable for us.

You said: Even if Deuteronomy 21 and 27 are different curses (which they are in some sense, but aren't in others), it still woudn't change the fact that clearly Christ's cursing was brought about by God, undermining your entire scheme.

If they're different curses, different punishments, then arguing a Psub fails. Clearly, being publicly executed is a far worse curse or punishment than not being blessed with land or fertile fields and such. This supports my curse1 versus curse2 argument.

That Christ's cursing/Passion was brought about by God in no way harms my thesis, so long as one takes into consideration this was not God inflicting the pain but rather foreordaining the event. This is akin to God sending a Saint in a danger zone, knowing they will suffer martyrdom, but not causing the martyrdom Himself and most certainly not causing the martyrdom as a punishment.

Matt Kleinhans said...

That Christ's cursing/Passion was brought about by God in no way harms my thesis, so long as one takes into consideration this was not God inflicting the pain but rather foreordaining the event.

No, it is not God foreordaining the event in some passive way as you describe, it is God specifically and directly cursing His Son. Your scheme does not allow for this, and the fact that you continue to skirt around it is an indication that your system is more important to you than the text.

Nick said...

Matt,

DEFINE: "specifically and directly cursing His Son"

Let's see who's reading into the text more than what is warranted.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

When Deuteronomy 21:23 says: ...for a hanged man is cursed by God its implication is not that God passively is involved in the event, but that God is actively participating in the cursing of the hanged man. There is only one active agent in the text, and there is only one agent who receives the cursing, thus making this cursing a specific and direct cursing of the man by God.

Nick said...

Matt,

You must account for the fact God is nowhere in the Crucifixion accounts is said to be the "active agent" in Christ's sufferings. In every text it speaks of the Jews and Romans inflicting the physical pains. So your argument must be seriously revised. God is only 'active' in the sense He knows that sending a Holy Man into a crowd of evil men will result in martyrdom.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

No. You must account for the fact that your scheme makes nonsense out of Galatians 3:13. You clearly can't deal with this one text, why would we move to another?

Not to mention "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". But of course since that doesn't fit within your man-made scheme then you'll have some other explanation for it.

If you can't deal with Galatians 3:13, at least have the intellectual integrity to say so.

Nick said...

Matt,

You're dodging the facts I presented. God can be actively involved in events in multiple ways; you're focusing on one to the exclusion of others, right in the face of the facts.

My interpretation of Gal 3:13 does not make nonsense of the text for many reasons (in regards to immediate context, the context of the OT quote, and the NT revelation as a whole, and Patristic testimony).


You said: "You clearly can't deal with this one text, why would we move to another?"

A good argument usually has many points of evidence. The more biblical proof you present that *clearly* demonstrates Psub, the stronger your overall case will be. Given that there's been no such clear evidence, especially for the term "atonement" being used in the way you suggest, indicates the Psub position is built upon some very shaky (if not non-existant) foundations.


You said: "Not to mention "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". But of course since that doesn't fit within your man-made scheme then you'll have some other explanation for it."

I've discussed this elsewhere numerous times and showed why this text is one of the most abused of all the NT texts by Protestants. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1a, read 22:1b through the end and you'll see this isn't about Divine Wrath. The verses are prophetical and apply to Christ, specifically the tortures he'd endure at the hands of men. Jesus was abandoned only in the sense the Father didn't intervene to rescue Him as He could have (cf Mat 26:53). To suggest Jesus was suffering God's wrath in our place here, or that Jesus was abandoned in the sense a soul damned to hell is abaondoned is not only reading too much into the text, it's blatant heresy (Nestorianism).


You said: "If you can't deal with Galatians 3:13, at least have the intellectual integrity to say so."

The problem is PSub is nowhere (clearly) taught in Scripture, so you're stuck putting your stakes on texts like this, not being able to be open to alternate readings.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

Stick to the topic at hand.

Galatians 3 clearly demonstrates that God actively and directly cursed Christ on the cross. How do you reconcile this with you scheme?

Anonymous said...

Matt,

Nick can defend himself, but I'd just like to point out that your view doesn't seem to allow for a good-faith standing for anyone who disagrees. That's a problem in this case because most Christians in history would disagree with you.

As to Galatians, where are the action verbs in verse 13? To say God actively did something normally requires an action verb.

Why not address the word "redeem" in verse 13? The word has a specific meaning which does not fit penal substitution. The quote of St. Gregory's talks about it. To fit penal substitution, you would have to say "Christ redeemed us from bondage to the Father by becoming a curse."

Nick said...

Matt,

I am sticking to the topic at hand. I'm not even sure why you'd accuse me of that, unless you were stunned at how I succinctly refuted your appeal to "My God, My God." In fact, most of my responses have been directly answering your demands, with little reciprocation the other way.

Anyone reading this discussion can see how I've backed up all my claims on Gal 3 while all you've done is assert.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

Then why won't you answer the question?

Matt Kleinhans said...

Anonymous,

You fail to realize that the redemption talked about in Galatians 3 is through the means of substitution.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.

Nick's argument is essentially: "This is redemption so it can't be substitution", which is assuming his premise without ever interacting with the text. This text says that redemption happens through the means of substitution.

Where are the action verbs? Did you even read my arguments? Deuteronomy 21 is quoted about Jesus being cursed, and Deuteronomy 21:23 says that "a hanged man is cursed by God". My point is that God is the one directly and actively cursing Christ on the cross, and that such a truth does not fit within the manmade scheme of Nick.



For the record, I don't answer all of Nick's assertions because he continually attempts to distract from the argument at hand. He tried to coax me into an argument about Sola Fide, he's tried to distract me away into talking about other texts right when he can't answer the simple questions that I ask about this text. Surprising? No. Bad faith? Yes. It's been a spirited discussion but if he won't answer such a simple question as my last one, but instead dives and dodges, then I am done here and he has proved himself to act in anything but good faith. One simple question. Lots of dodging. He's beginning to look like a boxer the way he dances around and dodges all of my questions and exegesis.

Nick said...

Matt,

You're getting a bit desperate now if you're going to impute all kinds of ill motives on me for not answering your question when not only have I answered and addressed everything you've written, you wont extend the same courtesy to me.

All you have is your own reading of Galatians 3:13, padded with your own assumptions, not even extending me the same rights (i.e. you claim I'm adding assumptions but only you're allowed to do so). I don't want to sound like a broken record, but the reasoning is clear: Your doctrine of PSub hanging on for dear life, latching onto anything that could hopefully salvage it since there isn't any clear and consistent Biblical evidence. Again, the fact you tossed out "My God, My God" is proof of your desperation, as is this counter-attack of "you're not answering my question" after I swatted that abuse of Psalm 22:1a to the floor.


The "question" you claim I'm avoiding appears to be this:
"Galatians 3 clearly demonstrates that God actively and directly cursed Christ on the cross. How do you reconcile this with you scheme?"

I'll demolish your whole accusation in one question: When God "actively and directly CURSED" Jesus, what did this curse consist of?

That's where you hang yourself with your own rope, because the *only* answer you're allowed to give - irregardless of anything in the text itself - is that this curse consisted the fullness of the Father's Wrath, which is hellfire (which all non-elect sinners will have to endure).

But I'll go ahead and show you how real exegesis is done, combined with proper systematic theology. Your argument is essentially that of the Arian's who point to "The Father is Greater than I" and say "see, Christ is inferior, less than God - why don't you interact with the text?"
I have interacted with the text, but it's not been the answer you've needed to hear. One last time:

(1) The text is framed in terms of "Ransom". I've shown explicitly that ransom is used in non-Psub ways, and in fact claim that's the only way it make sense. You on the other hand say ransom is compatible with Psub, the transfer of punishment, but wont show a single unbiased example.

(2) The curses mentioned in Gal and Deut were those of the Mosaic Law. They were temporal in nature, ranging from cursed with no children to cursed with no food all the way to cursed with a humiliating crucifixion death. The curse Jesus underwent was that of a humiliating crucifixion, and was not the same as the curses Paul explicitly referenced in Gal 3:10. You need the curses here to rise to the level of undergoing the Divine Wrath of God, which is what a sinner damned to hell is to endure, but the text nowhere supports this here or in any crucifixion account.

(3) Did God actively and directly play a role in the crucifixion? In a very real sense, yes. Though it was men who killed Christ and put him on a cross, this all came about through Providence, just as God ordained any martrydom. Acts 2:23, "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." Your approach cannot accept this, though the logic is perfectly sound and fits Scripture. Your approach renders the physical tortures inflicted by men to be purely incidental to the 'real suffering' that happened invisibly via the direct and immediate outpouring of the Father's wrath - so invisibly that none of the Gospel writers or any other Scripture recorded it.

That's all I have to say about Gal 3:13, and in order for you to even have a prayer at your thesis, you'll have to *overturn* all three of those propositions above *not* simply suggest an alternative.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

Getting a bit arrogant, eh? I think it's a bit early to take a victory lap.

I would like to point out, yet again, that you didn't answer the question I asked, but instead asked another question. It shows that you are not arguing in good faith.

I'll address your arguments and exegesis later on. Please answer my question first.

Thank you.

Matt Kleinhans said...

Nick,

You wrote:
(1) The text is framed in terms of "Ransom". I've shown explicitly that ransom is used in non-Psub ways, and in fact claim that's the only way it make sense. You on the other hand say ransom is compatible with Psub, the transfer of punishment, but wont show a single unbiased example.

What about the text we are talking about, and that I have appealed to time and time again?

(2) The curses mentioned in Gal and Deut were those of the Mosaic Law. They were temporal in nature, ranging from cursed with no children to cursed with no food all the way to cursed with a humiliating crucifixion death. The curse Jesus underwent was that of a humiliating crucifixion, and was not the same as the curses Paul explicitly referenced in Gal 3:10. You need the curses here to rise to the level of undergoing the Divine Wrath of God, which is what a sinner damned to hell is to endure, but the text nowhere supports this here or in any crucifixion account.

Are you really so caught up in your own scheme to think that being "cursed by God" is merely a temporal thing? How can you in any way imagine one who is "cursed by God" to be undergoing merely temporal punishment? Believe in a little dualism much?

(3) Did God actively and directly play a role in the crucifixion? In a very real sense, yes. Though it was men who killed Christ and put him on a cross, this all came about through Providence, just as God ordained any martrydom. Acts 2:23, "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." Your approach cannot accept this, though the logic is perfectly sound and fits Scripture. Your approach renders the physical tortures inflicted by men to be purely incidental to the 'real suffering' that happened invisibly via the direct and immediate outpouring of the Father's wrath - so invisibly that none of the Gospel writers or any other Scripture recorded it.

My approach perfectly accepts the foreordination of God. God's foreordination and His active participation are in no way mutually exclusive. You need to brush up on God's sovereignty a bit:

Gen. 50:20: " As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good..."

Of course the men actually crucified Christ. Of course God foreordained its occurrence. But more so, Galatians 3 shows that God explicitly and directly cursed Christ on the cross. Unless God is an unjust judge, He must have cursed Him with someone else's cursing. The only other "cursing" that is anywhere in Galatians 3 is ours. There is never any indication that the curses are different. Your scheme of "Curse 1 and Curse 2" is completely devoid of any support in Galatians 3. There is our cursing, then there is the cursing that Christ underwent directly for us, enacted directly by God, for our cursing so that we don't have to be cursed.

They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts.
(Zechariah 7:12 ESV)

John Thomson said...

Will work through and (eventually) comment.

John Thomson said...

Re wrath bearing aspect which I fully agree with the structure of Roms 1-3 is helpful.

Roms 1:18 states the problem...the wrath of God is revealed from heaven

Roms 2 develops it...But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are l storing up m wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed...but for those who are self-seeking1 and p do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

Ch 3 gives the solution... whom God j put forward as k a propitiation l by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in m his divine forbearance he had passed over n former sins

Note 'forbearance' (not executing wrath and judgement is due to 'propitiation'.

I cannot see how wrath can be avoided as even some evangelicals claim.

John Thomson said...

Another thought...

Christ as a man was not like Adam in a number of ways.

Deity apart (foolish thing to say) a) unlike Adam, Christ came with the knowledge of good and evil and b) Adam had no divine enabling yet Christ was as new creation even prior to resurrection; he delighted in the law of God and he had the law written on his heart (Ps 40)...and...I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me...

My point is to simply point out that we have to be careful about the parallels we make between Adam and Christ. The law-keeping of Christ was never to gain life for he had life in himself (as a divine person) and even in his humanity he is neither innocent nor fallen but 'holy'.

John Thomson said...

PS

Nick

I know we differ about whether wrath is simply averted or absorbed/borne. Nevertheless I think you make a good case for wrath being tied to atonement.

Michelle said...

I am no scholar or theologian, but, sometimes we just lose the simple meaning of things. God with us. The death of Jesus is tied to the incarnation. How can divine perfection be with sin, sinful man? How can he really be with us? If he is with us, we should die. But God desire to be with us was so great that He chose to die instead. Either God's perfection destorys us or God lets our evil destroy Him. God does not desire the death of anyone. But he came anyway knowing that if He didn't destroy us we would destroy Him. This is the substitution, this is the "for". We must remember the ultimate aim of God is communion. How do we know that we are forgiven? Because Jesus didn't destroy us the second He was born. Atonement began at the descent and incarnation, not at the cross. The cross is the completion, "it is finished". Blessings.

Jim Paton said...

Hi Michelle,

Could you expand on this for me "Either God's perfection destorys us or God lets our evil destroy Him"
I don't get this.

Thanks.

Nick said...

Hi Michelle,

I agree with Jim, I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. Your either-or statements seem to be false dilemmas - that is, they limit the "options" to two (troubling) possibilities, but in reality neither of those need be (or are) true.

For example, only a certain group of Jews - specifically those who rejected and hated Jesus - actually put Him to death. The Apostles and other disciples were horrified that their Messiah was being put to death. Thus, to say we would have killed Him doesn't really make sense. And to say He would have killed us, likewise, doesn't make sense, especially since Jesus revealed so much to them precisely because He no longer considered them simply His follower/servants, but "friends".

Other than that, I agree precisely with your opening statement: sometimes we just lose the simple meaning of things

nannykim said...

Thanks, Nick--another helpful post including the comments.

Chris Wettstein said...

Protestants did not invent the idea of “penal-substitution.”

Church history affirms “penal-substitution,” even though it is not the only aspect of the truth of the cross.

Eusebius says that Christ, as the Lamb of God:
“was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down upon Himself the appointed curse, being made a curse for us”

Augustine says that Christ:
“submitted as man, and for man, to bear the curse which accompanies death. And as He died in the flesh which He took in bearing our punishment, so also, while ever blessed in His own righteousness, He was cursed for our offences, in the death which He suffered in bearing our punishment.”

Thomas Aquinas explains the punitive-aspect of Christ’s sacrificial death even more clearly than Anselm, in his Summa Theologica:

“God's severity is thus manifested; he was unwilling to remit sin without punishment, as the Apostle intimates when he says, “He did not spare even his own Son.” But it also illustrates God's goodness, for as man was unable to make sufficient satisfaction through any punishment he might himself suffer, God gave him one who would satisfy for him. Paul stresses this, saying “He has delivered him for us all,” and “God has established him, Christ, as a propitiation by his blood through faith.”
(Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, vo. 54 (London: Eyre & Spottisweede, 1965), p.63. This particular quote is found in question 47, article 3; citing Rom 11:22; 8:32; 3:25).

Again, Aquinas says:
“...by sin man was held to the debt of punishment according to divine justice... As therefore Christ's passion provided adequate, and more than adequate satisfaction for man's sin and debt, his passion was as it were the price of punishment by which we are freed from both obligations.”
(Ibid., p.85. This quote is found in question 48, article 4; citing John 8:34; 2 Pet. 2:19)

Nick said...

Chris,

You are not distinguishing between Satisfaction and Penal Substitution. None of those quotes nor any Scripture I've seen so far indicates a judicial transfer of punishment to Christ, in our place.

Chris Wettstein said...

Eusebius says:

"[Christ] was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins..."

Even if you take "chastise" to mean "Fatherly correction" - this statement still affirms the doctrine of penal-substitution.

Whether we regard God as a "father" giving the penalty, or the "judge" giving a penalty - it is essentially the same truth: Chastisement/punishment is some kind of negative consequence, which shows the displeasure of the One who gives the chastisement/punishment.

Notice, again, that Eusebius says:

1. Christ was chastised and suffered a "penalty"

2. This "penalty" was something that He did "not owe" - since He was sinless.

3. This penalty was something "we owed because of the multitude of our sins"

In view of #2 + #3... Eusebius is not only declaring the "penal" aspect of the work of Christ, but he is also saying that Christ was therefore acting as a substitute.

If I owe a penalty because of my sins, but someone else takes that penalty that I owe... Why can't I call that person my "substitute"?

Nick said...

Hi Chris,

You could have it affirm *a* doctrine of Psub, but not the historic Protestant one. The Scriptures and Calvin are clear in the distinction between fatherly correction and a judical punishment. I can dig up the quote from Calvin if you wish, but the fact Scripture says God still chastises Christians is a key point that doesn't fit a total substituionary transfer of punishment.

Chris Wettstein said...

Hi Nick,

It is interesting that you point out the existence of different versions of penal-substitution. For my own clarity of understanding you - Is there a specific Reformed/Protestant Confessional statement that you specifically reject, regarding this topic?

Here's my response to your point regarding the fact that Christians clearly suffer "chastisement". [I fully agree that we do!]

When God chastises Christians, it is for their own personal correction, and for their own ongoing repentance. Such chastisement involves less suffering than what their sins deserve (Psalm 103:10).

However, when "the chastisement of our peace was upon [Christ]" we must agree that this was not for the correction of Christ, nor was it meant to lead to Christ's own ongoing repentance (since He Himself knew no sin, to repent from). Nor did such chastisement of Christ involve less suffering than what He personally deserved, since He deserved no chastisement at all.

Christ thus suffered "chastisement" in a very unique way. He was our "chastisement-substitute". He bore a kind of "chastisement" that He Himself did not deserve, but that we do deserve in view of our sins.

Furthermore, it is because Christ endured this unique "chastisement" on behalf of His people - that is why God "has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities" (Ps 103:10). It is because Christ "bore our iniquities" and suffered that unique "chastisement" on the cross - that is why God treats us in peace, and "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1).

To use slightly different language: God "condemned sin in the flesh" of Christ so that those who are in Christ bear "no condemnation" (Rom 8:1-3).

Christians still get reproved and corrected and chastised when they sin, but not according to the condemnation and full measure of the guilt that we would otherwise eternally deserve - not according to the "chastisement" or "condemnation" that we would otherwise receive if Christ had not been condemned or if He had not suffered chastisement on our behalf.

Thus, "penal-substitution" (or "chastisement-substitution") is not inconsistent with the fact that Christians still receive "penalties" and "chastisement" throughout their lifetime, in temporal ways. But rather, the once-for-all substitutionary work of Christ is the ground on which God righteously and graciously accepts His people in Christ, and further purposes to correct them without ever holding eternal condemnation against them. Do you follow what I'm trying to explain?

Thanks for the conversation,

-Chris

Nick said...

Hi Chris,

First consider the following quote from Calvin:

>>For the sake of distinction, we may call the one kind of judgment punishment, the other chastisement. In judicial punishment, God is to be understood as taking vengeance on his enemies, by displaying his anger against them, confounding, scattering, and annihilating them. By divine punishment, properly so called, let us then understand punishment accompanied with indignation. In judicial chastisement, he is offended, but not in wrath; he does not punish by destroying or striking down as with a thunderbolt. Hence it is not properly punishment or vengeance, but correction and admonition. The one is the act of a judge, the other of a father.

…To have a short and clear view of the whole matter, we must make two distinctions. First, whenever the infliction is designed to avenge, then the curse and wrath of God displays itself. This is never the case with believers. On the contrary, the chastening of God carries his blessing with it, and is an evidence of love, as Scripture teaches [footnote 370: Job 5:17; Prov. 3:11; Heb. 12:5].(Institutes Bk3:Ch4:Sec31,32)<<

In general, I reject most Protestant Confessional statements on the Cross because Psub is what is implied even when they don't go into detail. Other times, details such as Christ enduring "God's Wrath" is used, making it much more clear. As with a lot of doctrines, a person can mean something unorthodox even if their wording is loose enough to be taken in an orthodox manner. (e.g. saying we are "justified by faith" is fine and biblical, but how one interprets that is where the real dispute rests.)

I agree with some of your logic about chastisement, but the very motive and basis behind it isn't about judicial punishment nor hellfire. Thus any "substitution" won't amount to that either, and in fact it doesn't fit within a 'forensic' context either, for it's God acting as 'father' and not 'judge'.

In some sense (but not others) I agree you can say that we receive less chastisement than we deserve because of Christ, but we are none the less still receiving some of that chastisement we deserve. I don't think it can be argued that God's wrath and hellfire are forms of chastisement, and these are transferred to Christ.

The interesting part about your logic though is that I see it as opening the door to having no objections to purgatory, for purgatory is essentially the undergoing of any remaining chastisement we've not completed on earth. Historically, Protestants saw Purgatory as an abomination because it amounted to a 'double payment' of what Christ already suffered.

Anonymous said...

Hey there :), as a hopeful convert to the Catholic faith (Please pray for me), your articles on the fallacies of penal substitution has been very illuminating.

Here's a question. If things like a bag of flour could atone for sins then how does that reconcile with Hebrews 9:22 that seems to say only blood can do that?

Nick said...

Hello Anon,

I am glad my articles helped.

My point in bringing up the bag of flour was strictly to show that a punishment was not being transferred. Blood sacrifice was the normative means of atonement, flour was only an option if you couldn't afford an animal (i.e. very poor).

Anonymous said...

So did flour atone for sins in those few circumstance?

Nick said...

Yes, it did.

Anonymous said...

So how does that reconcile with Hebrews 9:22? Forgive me if I am not seeing something obvious.

Nick said...

Hebrews 9:22 is referencing the fact God CHOSE to enact the Mosaic Law on the basis of animal sacrifices. Think of it as if Paul said "without Baptism there is no forgiveness of sins". Well, of course God could forgive apart from Baptism, but God CHOSE Baptism as the normative means of forgiving sin. Nothing 'eternal' about God is 'stuck' using blood for atonement or water for baptism.

What Hebrews 9:22 is doing is saying God CHOSE to enact the Mosaic Law, and within THAT parameter declares blood atones for sin in the famous Leviticus 17:11.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am being too literalistic in that sense then. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, one more thing. Do these other means of atonement fall under the non-normative means of atonement such as Moses fasting for the Israelite people?

Nick said...

Examples such as Moses fasting are non-normative only in so far as they weren't part of the Mosaic Law. However, the Levitical Sacrifices were only for minor sins, while all major sins removed you from the covenant. So the examples of Moses fasting are actually far superior to Levitical offerings.

And it came to a point where Levitical offerings were not being offered with the right intentions, making them empty ritual in God's sight. So in that regard, the ancients knew having the right dispositions were more critical than the offering itself (Ps 51:16-19).

Anonymous said...

Wait, if Levitical sacrifices were only for little sins. Does that not undermine Christ's sacrifice? I always equated his sacrifice as an Old testament sacrifice since it's foreshadowing and all.

Nick said...

Christ's sacrifice goes above and beyond the Mosaic. Christ's Priesthood is actually described as superior to the Levitical, since Christ is of the "Order of Melchizedek".

Hebrews 9:7 says: "but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people."

Hebrews 7:11 says: "Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?"

Anonymous said...

What about the day of atonement? Didn't that atone for all sins?

Also, how did Jews return to the Covenant if sacrifices only covered small or unintentional sins?

Thank you for your help by the way :).

Nick said...

The Day of Atonement atoned for all sins in 'general', it did not list off every single individual sin of every person over the last 364 days. It was not a substitute for individual sacrifices on a per sin basis.

Texts like Numbers 15:27-30 show grave sins like murder could not be atoned for, and they cut one off from the Covenant. Since we know folks like David committed murder, the only way he could get back in the covenant was from something higher, a special act of mercy by God responding to a profound repentance on David's part. This is precisely why Paul says David was justified in Romans 4:6-8 when David wrote/prayed Psalm 32. David was recovering his justification.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, ok. That makes sense. That really shows the need for Christ's sacrifice.

Thank you for your help and please pray for my conversion to Catholicism.

Have a nice day :)
-Ryan

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm back lol. How did the day of atonement not atone for intentional sins? There doesn't seem to be any indications of it being for only unintentional sins.

Chris Wettstein said...

It still seems very strange to me that this topic is being posed as a "protestant" vs. "roman catholic" doctrinal disagreement.

Roman Catholics do teach and believe in penal-substitution. Catholic Apologist, Peter Kreeft, explains:

"It seems impossible for God to solve the dilemma of justice versus mercy, but we know from the Gospel account how he does it. The problem is that he cannot, it seems, do both; he must either exact the just penalty for sin - death - or not. Mercy seems a relaxation of justice, and justice a refusal of mercy. Either you punish or you don't. The laws of logic seem to prevent God from being both just and merciful at the same time... God solves this dilemma on Calvary. Full justice is done: sin is punished with the very punishment of hell itself - being forsaken of God (Mt 27:46). But mercy and forgiveness are also enacted. The trick is to give us the mercy and him the justice" (Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, p. 127).

Chris Wettstein said...

The various kinds of OT sacrifices showed that we need atonement as individuals and as a community.

The day of atonement did, indeed, provide temporal atonement for all sins of the community (even in view of the intentional sins of the people). Individual sacrifices, on the other hand, provided temporal atonement for individuals.

However, no OT sacrifice provided atonement in an eternal sense.

Hebrews 10:3-4 says:
"But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins."

This is why the Lord Jesus had to come, to give His own body and blood - once and for all - as the perfect sacrifice. His one sacrifice, alone, provides eternal atonement.

Temporal atonement was given, again and again, in the OT era - pointing forward to the need for Christ and His sacrifice, which actually takes away sin and guilt forever.

Chris Wettstein said...

Protestants agree that chastisement is good for correcting and improving the character of God's people.

The idea of purgatory that protestants reject is that believers supposedly need to endure purgatory because they have not "fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions." That idea does not come from the Bible.

When believers suffer chastisement, on earth, it is not because God requires further satisfaction to receive them unto Himself. God only gives chastisement as the way of changing us (sanctifying us) now that we are already justified (declared righteous). Physical death itself is the last temporal chastisement that we need, if we are believers, to change us into perfected saints.

Nick said...

Chris,

The topic very much is Catholic "vs" Protestant because how we view the Cross determines a lot, including whether Sola Fide is true or not. The quote you gave of Kreeft contains apparent theological errors and is a bit sloppy. Protestants object to Crucifixes and especially the Mass precisely because they see The Cross very differently.

This is also why Catholics call it Chris's "Passion", where as such terminology is baffling to the Protestant mind precisely because they see the Cross as a terrifying display of God's Wrath being dumped upon His Beloved Son.

Nick said...

As the Hebrews 9:7 and Numbers 15:27-30 texts state, Sacrifices are done for "unintentional" sins. Now this could include intentional "minor" sins, but I've see no evidence that Sacrifices atone for 'major' grave/intentional sins, particularly ones requiring the death penalty for the sinner.

If you think about it, to have Sacrifices for intentional sins would be open to serious abuses, particularly with the rich committing serious sins and being able to get out of the severe punishment (e.g. death).

Chris Wettstein said...

Nick,

My point is simply that I can find "Catholic" theologians who appear to be on my side, and I can surely find "Protestant" theologians who appear to be on your side of the "penal-substitution" debate.

No doubt, you and I see the cross very differently - and this has huge implications. I have no doubt about that. I trust in Christ alone, and I know that my sins have been fully atoned for by His death, once and for all. I do not trust in my own works or efforts, as the basis of God accepting me. That has huge implications for my soul and for my way of life.

I'm really not sure what you mean by suggesting that Christ's "Passion" is baffling. Passion = suffering. Why do you think that I would be "baffled" by affirming that Christ suffered?

Chris Wettstein said...

Nick,

Just to clarify: Are you then suggesting that Christ's sacrifice did not atone for intentional sins? Or not for "major" sins?

Anonymous said...

What about repentant Intentional major sins?

Nick said...

Oh, I can see how some confusion can arise here. Christ certainly DID make atonement for EVERY sin, intentional major and "minor". What I'm saying is the Levitical Sacrifices did not atone for major sins.

The only reason why I brought that up was to show the Levitical Sacrifices could not have been about transferring the death penalty to an animal, because the Hebrew sinner could only offer a Sacrifice for minor sins. With that information, we can see that Psub wasn't the framework of Levitical Sacrifices, and thus it's quite a stretch to say these *foreshadowed* Christ.

Nick said...

Hi Chris,

I'm not sure what you mean by finding "Catholic" theologians on your side, supporting Psub. Unless they are drawing from Official Church documents or some great Saint, they'll not hold much weight.

When you say:
"I trust in Christ alone, and I know that my sins have been fully atoned for by His death, once and for all."

The problem is that you've not shown "atoned" means Psub. My original article shows what the Bible means by "atone". That's why definitions have to be established *first*, because otherwise people will be assuming Psub is true by default.

I know having sins forgiven "once and for all" is comforting, but if something is not Biblical, then it's not true - and something not true can't be comforting.

Chris Wettstein said...

I don't need to prove that the word "atoned" means "atoned by penal substitution," anymore than you need to prove that the word "atone" means "atoned by moral influence" or "atoned by victory over Satan/death," etc.

The historical debate regarding the doctrine of penal substitution has very little to do with the definition of the word "atone." We all agree (except for some very extreme liberals) that the biblical concept of "atonement" involves the wrath of God being appeased. The question of "penal substitution" is a deeper matter.

The question of penal substitution comes down to these questions:

1. Does the Bible teach that Jesus "bore a penalty" in His death?
2. Did Jesus serve as a substitute - bearing a penalty "instead of" His people, so that we will not bear that exact same kind of penalty in the sight of God?

As far as I can honestly see, #1 is "Yes."

Death itself is a "penalty" - it was not part of God's original creation. Death entered the world as a consequence, given by God, in response to the sin of Adam (Gen 3). Death is regarded as a curse. Death is the opposite of life, just as a curse is the opposite of a blessing.

Galatians 3:13 says:
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).

I've seen (above) how you try to argue about this verse. But I cannot see how you can deny this concept:
The "curse" is a penalty, and thus Christ bore a penalty on the cross.


Now, #2 - Did Jesus serve as a substitute - bearing a penalty "instead of" His people, so that we will not bear that exact same kind of penalty in the sight of God?

Again, Gal 3:13 says:
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us."

The effect of Christ "becoming a curse for us" is that we (believers) are now "redeemed from the curse of the law."

This surely means that "we will not bear that exact same kind of penalty [i.e.: the curse] in the sight of God."

Christ has "become a curse" for us so that we are "set free from the curse" (which curse we otherwise would need to bear). I call that concept "substitution" - Christ becoming a curse instead of me bearing that curse.

Nick said...

But you've got to realize that having the wrong definition of "atone" affects how you *interpret* what it means for Christ to die for your sins. The issue is not about terms like "substitute" or "die for" or "curse for", etc, etc, if one is interpreting those incorrectly.

One simple argument that I can point to you to show why this is critical is your mention that "death is a penalty". Well, if Jesus took the physical death penalty in your place, then neither you nor any other Christian should undergo physical death. See the problem now?

Chris Wettstein said...

Hi Nick,

As you suggest, it is always important to check if we are using the same words in the same ways.

Here’s the definition of atonement that I’m using (in my own words):

Atonement is when someone does something
[Whether give a sacrifice, or do good deeds, or whatever]
With the effect that the offended person is no longer seeking to act with wrath against the person who had previously offended him/her.

Does that definition work for you?

If that definition works for you, then you can see that the debate about Psub is NOT regarding the definition of “atonement.” But rather, the debate about Psub is this: “What was the nature of what Jesus did, when He died on the cross?”

I think that we can agree that Jesus did something that has the effect of God no longer seeking to act with wrath against those who are “in Christ.” But we are debating about “What was the nature of that action of Jesus?” Did Jesus objectively bear the curse and condemnation that His people deserved, in His death? Or did Jesus not do that?

Nick said...

Hi Chris,

I agree with the definition of Atonement you stated.

I don't see how this definition cannot affect your question "What was the nature of what Jesus did?," since the definition of what Christ did (make atonement) precludes taking a punishment of another.

Chris Wettstein said...

Hi Nick,

Good, so we agree:

"Atonement is when someone does something...
With the effect that the offended person is no longer seeking to act with wrath against the person who had previously offended him/her."

This is what I believe:

Christ gave Himself to die, on the cross, in such a way that fulfilled God's Law regarding "perfect love & obedience to God" - and, at the same time, in such a way that fulfilled God's Law regarding "condemnation"/"curse" upon the sins of His people, which He bore in His flesh.

By offering Himself as an act of perfect love and righteousness, and also bearing the sins & condemnation of His people, Christ did something, once and for all, that forever serves as the basis for God not condemning His people.

Christ did something... in respect to the justice and Law of God... with the effect that "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1).

Anonymous said...

Chris, you believe in expiation, but you did not mention the full wrath of God himself being taken by Christ. You mention instead Christ's paying the penalty to remove the sins of the people. Christ's atonement is vicarious to you, as to Catholics. Traditional Reformed psub goes farther, and I think that Matt goes farther than you. Affiliating with God's people and bearing the punishment for their sins is a bit different than receiving God's curse and wrath as if Christ himself were the sinner. R.C. Sproul, Calvin and others use language of Christ being damned rather than being a sin offering. As for 2nd Cor. 5:21, Protestant Adam Clark noted that in the Septuagint, sin and sin offering were the same Greek word used in two different ways in multiple sacrificial contexts. This is how Augustine and others exegete 2nd Cor. 5:21.

Chris Wettstein said...

Hi Anonymous,

I mentioned Christ bearing (1) the sins of His people; and (2) "the curse" / "the condemnation" that our sins deserve.

Whether or not 2 Cor 5:21 refers to "sin offering" or "sin" - clearly Heb 9.28 and 1 Pet 2.24 teach that Christ "bore the sins" of His people. If we affirm that Christ vicariously "bore the sins" of His people, then I do not see the problem in affirming that Christ also "bore the curse/condemnation/wrath" that our sins deserve.

I'm wondering, can you explain how "bearing the punishment for their sins is a bit different than receiving God's curse and wrath as if Christ himself were the sinner"?

Thanks again,

Chris Wettstein said...

Nick, your opening statement in this article is false.

You say:
"the Old Testament usage and understanding of this term [atonement] actually goes directly against [the Protestant] claims of what "atonement" means.

As I have shown, above, Protestants and Catholics fully agree on the definition of the term "atonement":

"Atonement is when someone does something...
With the effect that the offended person is no longer seeking to act with wrath against the person who had previously offended him/her."

As I have shown, this definition does not [by logic] "go directly against" the doctrine of penal substitution. It is logical to affirm that Christ's death satisfied the righteous requirements of the Law (perfect obedience, and also bearing the curse/wrath/condemnation), with the effect that God no longer seeks to act with wrath against those who are in Christ.

What you have shown, in this article, is that the word "atonement" does not "require" the doctrine of penal substitution. But that is very different than proving that the word "atonement" goes "directly against" Psub.

Nick said...

Hi Chris,

The Greek term for "bore" is a sacrificial term, referring "to offer up". When viewed from this light, it's not about receiving a punishment. It is about taking it upon oneself to atone for the sin, not 'becoming' the sin and object of wrath.

When you say: "I do not see the problem in affirming that Christ also "bore the curse/condemnation/wrath" that our sins deserve," you need to realize you're projecting your own terms and meanings here. Nowhere does it say Christ endured condemnation/wrath, especially from the Father. I realize it is hard to make such distinctions when major doctrines like Sola Fide hang in the balance, but sound exegesis requires it.

As for you saying "Protestants and Catholics fully agree on the definition of the term atonement," I don't think that is accurate. There needs to be more precision. Atonement is when someone does CERTAIN THINGS with the effect that the offended person is not longer seeking to act in retribution towards the guilty. These "certain things" do not include transferring the punishment, since that's not how the Bible uses the term.

We have to be careful not to be playing word games here.

Chris Wettstein said...

Nick,

Your own reference page to the Greek term for "bore" does list “to sustain (i.e. their punishment)” as one specific example of the biblical usage of the term.


Regarding your refusal to acknowledge our common understanding of the word “atone”… you must see that you are simply asserting your own belief that “atonement” cannot take place by Psub. You have not done anything to prove that Psub is inconsistent with the concept of atonement. You have not done anything to prove that “bearing wrath” cannot be an action that would “turn away the wrath” of another.

You should change your argument, in the opening sentence of this article. You should simly say this: “The word ‘atonement’ does not require the doctrine of penal-substitution.” You cannot prove that the word ‘atonement’ goes directly against the doctrine of Psub! [Yet that is what you are asserting in the opening line of this article.]

Nick said...

Hi Chris,

The (man-made) definition you cite from the link there is not something demonstrable from any of the 9 verses the term appears in the NT. The term is principally about 'offering up' a Sacrifice; none of the Scriptural examples demonstrate "to sustain i.e. their punishment".

As for your second paragraph, how can you say I'm asserting my own belief when literally all I am doing is laying out the verses where "atone" appears and analyzing the evidence? Not one verse using the term "atone" involves transferring a punishment. That's not an opinion, it's a lexical-exegetical fact. To make matters worse, there's not a single text stating Jesus endured God's wrath. How am I being the unfair person to point this out? The fallacy of begging the question would consist in assuming Christ endured wrath and assuming atonement allows for that - I don't assume either of those: either they're in Scripture or they're not.

Let's say I went around saying Jesus endured the wrath of Mary and John on the Cross and that you cannot prove 'atonement' goes against that. What's wrong with this picture? The problem is Scripture says nothing about Jesus enduring wrath, be it from Mary, from John, or His Father.

Chris Wettstein said...

Nick,

I'm not begging the question. I'm simply pointing out that you made a mistake in your first sentence.

You said that the word "atone" "goes against" the doctrine of Psub. You should have said that the word "atone" does not necessarily imply the doctrine of Psub.

Keith Watson said...

Nick,

Thank you for the original article. Those Scriptures are useful to me.

I am a Protestant and am a member of a Reformed church. A few years ago I started taking things I was reading and hearing about what Christ did and started looking for them in the Bible. I learned those things were called penal substitution and every idea I checked was not supported by the Bible.

I will post next one of the things I learned.

Regards,
Keith

Keith Watson said...

Here is a bit more information about the word "huper" (G5228) mentioned in previous comments. In 2010, Matt said, 'But the meaning of "in the place of' or "on behalf of" seems to be clearly implied from the context of Gal. 3.' That statement is in error. While the definition of "huper" really is "in place of; on behalf of", the first phrase means substitution, the second does not. The word means one or the other but not both at the same time. A friend of mine who believes in penal substitution makes this same mistake and is unable to distinguish between the two. Personally, I think Gal 3:13, taken by itself without the rest of the Bible, could go either way so it is inconclusive of which definition of huper should be used there.

From Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, "In some passages huper may be used in the substitutionary sense, e.g., Jhn 10:11, 15; Rom 8:32; but it cannot be so taken in the majority of instances. Cf. 2Cr 5:15, in regard to which, while it might be said that Christ died in place of us, it cannot be said that Christ rose again in the place of us."

I find this example really interesting. 2 Cor 5:15 And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for [G5228] them, and rose again. Jesus, for them, died and rose again.

1) Jesus, in-place-of them, died and rose again?
2) Jesus, on-behalf-of them, died and rose again?

If 1, then Jesus rose again in our place and we will not rise again.

Nick said...

Hello Keith,

I'm glad you liked the article, and I'm even more glad that you are rejecting Penal Substitution as unbiblical and blasphemous.

One very good example of "huper" is how it appears in 1 John 3:16, where it uses it twice:

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life FOR us. And we ought to lay down our lives FOR our brothers and sisters."

It is impossible that hyper/FOR here mean "in place of," since this would mean Christians need to lay down their life in place of other Christians.

Christie said...

Nick,

Not sure if this quite sticks to the main subject, but why, in Catholic theology, does blood atone for sin?

SwissWiss said...

This blog looks abandoned. In case it's not, the earlier comment using Kreeft to support Psub makes an unlikely assumption. It assumes that Kreeft sees Christ being forsaken by God -- "the very punishment of hell itself" -- as the eternal separation from God that unrepentant humanity will otherwise experience at the Second Death. There is simply no Scripture to suggest that God the Son experienced that kind of separation with the God the Father on Calvary. Did God separate from God? To believe so wrecks havoc on Trinitarian theology and opens the door to Feminist re-imaginings of what occurred on Calvary to eliminate the idea of divine child abuse.

There is Scriptural evidence, however, that Jesus was experiencing spiritual desolation -- undergoing God the Father's apparent absence in historical time -- a form of profound spiritual suffering, that along with physical death, is due to the Fall. This is what Kreeft should have meant in referencing "my God, why have you for forsaken me?" It is the persistent question of the People of God from Genesis to Revelation: "Why doesn't God hear us? -- How long, oh Lord, before you save us?"

Kreeft needs to clarify. This lengthy post on the shows the difficulty of arguing with texts used in equivocal ways, and the particular difficulty that Protestants have in absorbing meaning outside their grid -- and the difficulty Catholics have of communicating to Protestants insights from Tradition and the Saints, such as Saint John of the Cross on the dark night of the soul.