Monday, July 29, 2013

Did Saint Paul have to suffer God's eternal Wrath? (More Problems with Penal Substitution)

In Galatians 2:20, Saint Paul makes a powerful statement: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Greek word for "crucified with" is used in the Crucifixion accounts when speaking of the two thieves who were crucified along with Jesus (Mt 27:44; Mk 15:32; Jn 19:32). But in Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6:6, Paul uses this term in speaking of the Christian as crucified along with Jesus. This is no mere figure of speech, but actually describing a very real inward transformation. And since the context of Gal 2:20 and Rom 6:6 is clearly that of justification (the word "justify" appears in both contexts), the Protestant notion that justification involves no inward change is hard to imagine. It is plainly about Christ living "in" us, giving us new spiritual life.

Equally important though is the fact this kind of language refutes Penal Substitution, for it's nonsensical to think that Paul was crucified "with" Christ if the whole point of the Cross was so that Christ was enduring God's wrath in place of the Christian. This amounts to saying that "I have endured the Father's wrath along with Christ," which is nonsense. Any atonement theory that entails Jesus taking your guilt and receiving the due punishment of that guilt makes nonsense of the fact the Christian without any guilt now is also receiving that punishment. It's a logical contradiction and abuse of justice.
I don't even think you can call it substitutionary punishment if Paul was getting punished vicariously. It would be like someone saying they are going to punish a husband's wife instead of the husband, but the fact is the husband is surely going to feel the punishment in virtue of the fact his wife is so closely one with him. Or since this union with Christ is even more profound than marriage, it would be like saying your hand is going to get punished but you aren't. It just cannot be. It's a plain fact that we undergo a Crucifixion ourselves according to Galatians 2:20 and Romans 6:6, and if Crucifixion is fundamentally about God venting His wrath on the person, then that's a problem.

The only way Paul can say he was crucified with Christ is if this crucifixion wasn't about God dumping His wrath on Christ, but rather a dying to sin in the sight of the Father. This carries both meritorious and medicinal aspect. God is pleased that Christ would undergo persecution for the sake of love and obedience (the meritorious aspect), while this suffering has the ontological medicinal benefit of destroying death and man subduing his disordered passions. 

Thus, in Galatians 2:20, Paul can speak of Christ giving himself "for me," speaking of the meritorious aspect of the crucifixion, while Paul can speak of being "crucified with Christ" as far as the subduing of sin in your life is concerned (Rom 6:6; Gal 5:24; 6:14-15).

Surely Galatians 2:20 is conveying a profoundly mysterious idea, one which you could meditate upon for years, but it surely isn't suggesting Jesus was enduring the Father's Wrath in your place.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Does the Bible say Jesus was our Scapegoat? (More Problems with Penal Substitution)

In a recent post where I discussed the Mercy Seat as it relates to Romans 3:25, a Calvinist named Michael objected by saying that I had neglected to address the Scapegoat of Leviticus 16. Because this is an important enough issue, I decided to make a post addressing the Scapegoat, especially because it's one of the (few) Biblical examples that comes anywhere close to teaching the erroneous Protestant doctrine of Penal Substitution. 

Thought the Bible gives only a few details about the Scapegoat, I will take a look at them and examine whether they give evidence of Penal Substitution or not. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (More Problems with Penal Substitution)

To supplement the last post I made, a commonly abused text that I regularly see Protestants quote when attempting to prove Penal Substitution from Scripture is Hebrews 9:22, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." They interpret this to mean that God cannot forgive unless someone pays the ultimate price for sin, taking your guilt and dies in your place. 

On the surface level, this reading does make sense, but ripped out of context and completely misunderstanding the Levitical Sacrificial system (which I've written about elsewhere), that reading falls immediately flat. In this post I will focus simply on the context and show just how off the mark this Protestant claim is. 

The context here is some of the richest in the Bible, being a place where the old and new testaments (covenants) are compared side-by-side. As you read the following passage, keep in mind that I've replaced the terms used in the ESV with the term "testament" because thats the Greek term (diatheke) used from verse 15 to 20. For whatever reason, many translations are very inconsistent in how they translate "testament" here, mixing in terms like "Will" and "Covenant," which I see as very bad form because Paul was using the same term throughout and clearly wanted people to connect the dots.
15 Therefore [Jesus] is the mediator of a new [testament], so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first [testament]. 16 For where a [testament] is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a [testament] takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it [Greek: testator] is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first [testament] was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the [testament] that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
The first thing to notice is that Protestants only quote the second half of 9:22 and ignore the first half, since they don't see how it fits. But what Paul is saying here is that forgiveness of sins is connected to the purifying by blood. The link between blood purifying and sins being forgiven is well established in the Bible (e.g. Heb 9:13-14; 10:29; 1 Jn 1:7; Rev 1:5). This is why Catholics say justification is based upon (or includes) sanctification, rather than something that merely accompanies justification (as Protestants teach). 

The second and more important thing to notice is that the "death" and "blood" mentioned here is not about transferring a punishment, but rather inaugurating a covenant (also called testament). Thus, the language Paul is using here is that of something along the lines of a "Last Will and Testament", distinguishing between the Old Testament and the New Testament dispensations.

This is interesting because it sheds a new light on how Christ's death is understood. The analogy given in verses 16-17 is that of a Last Will that a parent writes of how he wants the inheritance to be split up and which goes into effect upon their death, inaugurating a new dispensation of sorts. Clearly this death of a parent doesn't have anything of the nature of Penal Substitution about it, so this strongly suggests that Penal Substitution is not the model which Christ's death patterned after in ushering in the new testament. 

To build immediately on that, verses 18 and following say the old testament was inaugurated in this death/blood fashion, and yet Moses wasn't resorting to Penal Substitution when he inaugurated the old testament (Exodus 24:1-11). Thus, the death/blood of Jesus in patterning after that when instituting the new testament likely wouldn't have had the nature of Penal Substitution either. 

The way I see this, the death inaugurates a new dispensation, which makes sense in a way (e.g. the Resurrection signifies a new way of living and new hope). The sprinkled blood then serves the purpose of consecrating the members for their new life under the covenant (Heb 9:13-14). This death is 'natural' in the sense that, after Adam, suffering became a 'natural' part of life, but it carries with it a bitterness and 'sting' since we all know suffering and death is not enjoyable. In becoming man, Jesus both made Himself subject to natural suffering and natural death (mortality), and in getting circumcised put Himself under the Mosaic Testament and made Himself subject to suffering and death at the hands of the Jews. This suffering in virtue of the Incarnation addressed in a 'medicinal' way (e.g. destroying death) the global sin-death problem, while the suffering under the Mosaic Testament addressed the violated covenant problem the Jews found themselves in (Heb 9:15) that was in a sense stalling God's promise to Abraham from being fulfilled in reaching the Gentiles (Gal 3:13-14). There's probably more that could be explored here, so I definitely have some pondering to do.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Why is "Mercy Seat" mentioned in Romans 3:25? (More Problems with Penal Substitution)

I've been wanting to write about Romans 3:25 for a year or two now, but I never got around to it. I think it actually contains an interesting nugget that strongly goes against Penal Substitution, so it's definitely worth exploring. What recently got my interest was that a Calvinist lady I was talking to online had kept bringing up Romans 3:25 and I just found out another Calvinist that often posts here has written up his own article on Romans 3:25 in support of Penal Substitution. So I take this as a sign that I need to talk about it too! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Christians & Colleges: What your parents and teachers don't tell you, and what could cost you dearly.

Now that the school year is over for many high school seniors, their next big move is to decide which college (if any) they should attend. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance and deception with regards to finding the right college, and these poor kids are led like sheep to the slaughter by those closest to them, namely their teachers and even their own parents. As someone who sees the light on this matter, I think it's my duty to warn others, and hopefully help many from going down the path of serious suffering. 

Many might think that I'm going to talk about the moral depravity going on inside and outside the classrooms of almost all of these institutions of higher learning, but I'm going to address a most pernicious issue that even many of the good Christian institutions (both Catholic and Protestant) are caught up in. 

The problem I'm going to talk about here is the issue of tuition. Everyone knows deep down there is a problem, but most don't think twice about it. Simply stated, the great majority of college students leave college (with or without a degree) saddled with massive debts, and I think something is very wrong with this picture. The matter is principally one of sheer greed on the part of colleges, with the generally gullible and misinformed "guidance" of high school counselors, teachers, and parents. 

A parent, teacher, or counselor who is truly concerned about the well being of an 18 year old child would never suggest the child put themselves in a position to be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of crippling debts. Obviously, that's a very unchristian thing to do, but tens of thousands of these 'role models' effectively send tens of thousands of these children to sign away their freedom.

To get to the heart of the problem, people need to realize that the great majority of colleges follow a business model, meaning the primary goal of the college is to make a profit, with the secondary goal being to educate. This already means that the very notion of college has been effectively corrupted, since the well being of the person is subordinated to the profit making motives of the institution. This is nowhere more plain than when it comes to the sickening issue of "financial aid." 

The term "financial aid" is very innocent sounding, giving the impression that the less well off should be equally entitled to an education as the rich folks. But that's not what "financial aid" is nor has been for quite a while. Consider the fact a majority of students at most colleges have to rely on financial aid and loans. What this translates into is that the school knows it can charge an outrageous sum of money for tuition, and the government will pick up the tab, with the student being saddled with loans for the remainder of the cost. This isn't an exception, it's the norm, and it's happening on even the most reputable Catholic colleges. Common sense should tell anyone that if a college's primary income is based on "financial aid," then something about the tuition costs is not right.

I think the tuition for a single year at a typical college should be around $10,000. Of course, that sounds unrealistic to most people, but if you stop and think about it, that's a very reasonable number. This amount minimizes the need for loans, minimizes debts, and still gives the college a decent income to cover expenses. Plus, it makes it more reasonable and realistic to pay off any loans if all the student can find is a minimum wage job. Sadly, even good Catholic places like Franciscan University of Steubenville charge around $30,000 per year (including room and board), which means most students will be forced to rely on financial aid and leave school with many thousands of dollars in debt.

So what's the right approach? I think the first thing that all these kids need to know is that getting into massive debt isn't smart and that there are reasonable alternatives. These kids deserve to be warned about that rather than being given the impression they shouldn't worry about going in debt. They need to know that it's perfectly fine to start off at a community college and attend college close to home (so as to at least minimize room and board expenses). They need to know that it's not acceptable to feed into these greedy institutions or turn to financial aid as a primary means of paying for such things. And Catholics in general need to be aware that even most Catholic colleges are greed based institutions, and this greed feeds into the overall lessening of Catholic values as a result.

I don't care how Catholic a college claims to be, if they're saddling students with massive debts, they've failed their duty and are acting in a very unchristian manner. The madness needs to stop.