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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.

31 comments:

JohnD said...

Nick,

I think your post misses the idea of the union of Christ with His people. Paul can say to have been "crucified with Christ" because he was united to Christ during the out-working of the crucifixion.

Here is Calvin on Galatians 2:20:This explains the manner in which we, who are dead to the law, live to God. Ingrafted into the death of Christ, we derive from it a secret energy, as the twig does from the root. Again, the handwriting of the law,
“which was contrary to us, Christ has nailed to his cross.” (Colossians 2:14.)
Being then crucified with him, we are freed from all the curse and guilt of the law. He who endeavors to set aside that deliverance makes void the cross of Christ. But let us remem- ber, that we are delivered from the yoke of the law, only by becoming one with Christ, as the twig draws its sap from the root, only by growing into one nature.


It is not necessary to interpret this passage as if Paul is atoning for the sins of man. Yet, this does not speak against PSA since the more plain interpretation is that Paul is united with Him who is atoning for sins.

Peace,
John D.

Nick said...

John,

A lot of what you said is fine. The issue is that you're missing the crucial detail regarding the nature of the atonement. Sure you can be "united with Him who is atoning for sins," provided the proper understanding of atoning is used.

If Jesus is undergoing a judicial criminal execution in your place, then it's nonsense to speak of 'union' here. The whole point of Jesus sitting in the electric chair is so you don't have to; not that you're united to Him while he is getting electrocuted.

And like I said, it's like a judge saying that he wont punish you, only your hand. Well, in punishing your hand, he is indeed punishing you.

JohnD said...

Nick,

You said: The whole point of Jesus sitting in the electric chair is so you don't have to; not that you're united to Him while he is getting electrocuted.

The union of Christ with His elect is crucial to making sense of PSub. Christ pays the debt of punishment of those He is united with (His elect) and no others. God's wrath is poured out and exhausted on Christ and the elect, united with Him, are shielded from it.

Peace,
John D.

Nick said...

John,

The "imputation of guilt" prevents the elect from "suffering with Christ" since the guilt rests entirely on Him and none of it on them. The idea you propose that Christ is acting as a shield is a good analogy, since He's taking the hit while the elect remain safe and sound. But again, this isn't suffering *WITH* Christ in the ontological/experiential sense that Paul describes.

JohnD said...

Nick,

I don't think Paul ever suggests he suffers salvifically with Christ, since Christ paid it all on the cross.

Rather, on the Reformed view, Paul is united to Christ such that Christ can be said to be suffering when Paul is suffering ; and, Paul can be said to be seated in the heavenly places while Christ is seated there.

Granted, there is great mystery involved in the intimate nature of the union of the body of Christ and Christ himself.

Slightly unrelated: Paul also suffers for others to follow the example Christ gave of sacrificial love. He endures all things for the sake of the elect.

Peace,
John D.

Anonymous said...

I think John is forgetting the Reformers' stress on Christ's salvific action as being "extra nos". Our best acts are so shot through with corruption that everything is done for us, in our stead, and not so much as our head. This is, for the Reformers, the doctrine by which The Church stands or falls". In this passage Paul is clearly speaking of an intimate, not legal, association with Christ as body to head.

JohnD said...

Anonymous,

It is not mutually exclusive for Christ to suffer "in our stead" and "as our head" since the Reformers held He did both. He could not suffer in our stead without first being covenantally united to the elect as our head.

Critics of imputation of the debt of punishment often miss the fact that Christ is united to His elect.

Peace,
John D.

Anonymous said...

John, Just yesterday I was perusing Present Truth Magazine and came across a quote from Luther in which he said that as people came to understand "the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls", all of the papist vows, candles, pilgrimages, fastings, Masses,works, relics, saints and images would be done away with. No doubt many modern preachers stress the born again experience, indwelling Spirit,sanctification and regeneration, for the magisterial reformers, none of this justified. Only the work of Christ as our Substitute, mattered. Christ our head did NOT elevate us, the members of his body, to any participation. To suggest as such was to rob him of his glory by miserable sinners whose best works deserved hellfire if not for the imputation of an alien righteousness. Grace did not elevate but was merely God not pouring out his wrath on the select few chosen passive recipients of salvation.

Anonymous said...

My point above? Christ "our head" and "in our stead" don't mix well. Either or. We are either Klotz, stock und stein or we are called to participate in the process of salvation for ourselves and others. Grace elevates us, it does not exhonerate us from acting.

Anonymous said...

My point above? Christ "our head" and "in our stead" don't mix well. Either or. We are either Klotz, stock und stein or we are called to participate in the process of salvation for ourselves and others. Grace elevates us, it does not exhonerate us from acting.

JohnD said...

Where did I say the elect participate in effecting their own salvation through suffering? I did not mean to suggest such a view that the reformers obviously deny.

Anonymous said...

John, You didn't say it. St. Paul did in the disputed passage.

Anonymous said...

By the way John, Could you flesh out how a head acts as a substitute for a body? Where in nature do we find such a thing? I can't see how the imagery works.

Anonymous said...

John, I am intrigued by your quote from Calvin above. I can see how we can be "ingrafted into the death of Christ and drive a secret energy as a twig from the root". Christ spoke of the vine and the branches for sure. I just don't see why Calvin would appeal to John 15 in light of his insistence that that "secret energy" counts for zero as far as justification goes. Why the Incarnation? Why did Christ assume our nature if not to elevate it to participation in himself?

Anonymous said...

Nick, Doesn't the Romans 6 passage which speaks of us being Baptized into Christ's death refute PSA also? In Baptism we are Baptized into Christ's priestly act and given a character or mark that allows us, in a subordinate way, to participate in his own high priesthood? We can mediate, offer ourselves as living sacrifices, and worship as members of his Mystical Body. Even as non-ministerial priests, we are still a "priestly nation" as was Israel among the nations. When the water of Baptism touches the baby's forehead, he is marked with the Tau forever. He is brought into Christ's death in a participatory way. Right?

Nick said...

John,

The Reformed see this union, particularly the parts pertaining to justification, as purely legal. So it would be like being a shareholder in the company, and if the company suffers then so does the stocks. There wasn't an actual suffering with Christ except 'on paper'.

Anonymous is right in this regard, mentioning the "extra nos" ('outside of us') understanding of the Reformers. The idea that Christ is the Vine and we are the branches, with Christ receiving a Divine Axe at the Root that only hurts the Vine but the branches remain fine is just nonsense. If you behead someone, the body truly suffers as well, so Christ being the head of the body isn't a legal or extrinsic union at all.

Anonymous said...

The Council of Trent presented justification as adoption. What Christ is by nature we become by adoption. In human terms, adoption is a merely legal transaction where sonship is imputed to the child. In the Bible, adoption is an actual participation in God's life. The often heard analogy is if a Chinese couple adopted a white baby, the baby would actually become Chinese. Trent stressed that this sonship was all we needed for justification and anathematized the idea that we would need an alien righteousness on top of this, just in case. Protestantism speaks of regeneration, adoption, and sanctification too but they mean something far less than Catholicism does by the terms. Normally this adoption takes place in the "amniosis" of the Church, Baptism.

John D. said...

Hello Nick and Anonymous,

Sorry for the delayed reply, but here is a response to some of your points above.

1. @Anonymous: You said, John, You didn't say it. St. Paul did in the disputed passage. I am missing where St. Paul says he effects his own salvation (or that of others) through his suffering.

2. @Anonymous: Regarding Christ 'as our head' and 'in our stead' not mixing well, that is because Christ 'as our head' is figurative language describing a literal union. The Reformed do not suggest there is some type of physical body of which Christ is the head and the elect are the neck down.

3. @Nick: The Reformers did speak of justification in legal terms, but they did not regard union with Christ as a purely legal affair. Berkhof has a good discussion of the different aspects of the mystical union of Christ with His church in his systematic theology (part 4, chapter 4). Here is a link: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/berkhof/systematic_theology.html#mystical

Peace,
John D.

Anonymous said...

JOHN D, you just changed the goal post. You changed "participate in " to "effect". When you pray for fore someones salvation, or preach to them, you become a "co-worker" with Christ.
Again, since Protestants view our union with Christ, our sanctification, to be lacking and in need of an alien "extra nos" justification,I don't know why it matters.
Finally, please elaborate on the term "adoption" from a Protestant position. Is it purely legal?

Anonymous said...

OOPS! John D., I failed to address the "suffering" part of your queston. In Colossians Paul says it. You know the passasge about filling up the sufferings of Christ. You spoke of our Union with Christ and then deny that we can participate in his suffering, his mission, his life. It sounds like your view of the Body of Christ to be like that of a quadrapalegic.

JohnD said...

Anonymous,

1. Reformed Christians would not deny that "When you pray for fore someones salvation, or preach to them, you become a "co-worker" with Christ". God uses means to bring His elect to Christ and you mention some of those secondary means above. This does not take away from the fact that the end of salvation is brought about solely by God.

2. I think you also believe you are in need of something outside of yourself to be saved, so I don't know why you deride the "extra nos" aspect of justification.

3. As far as adoption goes, here is the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XII Of Adoption: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

Peace,
John D.

Anonymous said...

John, I am not clear on your second comment. Do you mean Christ's passion as meritorious cause ( but not formal cause )? If that is what you mean, then all my are saved as he died for all men.
In your monergistic system some men are picked at random by an arbitrary God and,with no cooperation on their part, adopted into Christ's sonship. In the Catholic view, a baby need not cooperate in his adoption/justification/salvation/sanctification. But an adult,with actual sins and erroneous beliefs, must cooperate with actual grace in his own justification. This does not take away from it still being grace in a pelagian sense as none of the works done before justification merit to be elevated to a state above nature. In this way, by cooperating ( or at least by not putting up an obstacle ) a person's holiness really is his holiness. For example, faith is, for the Catholic, a virtue and not an "empty hand" that salvation passes through. I don't see how your system gives any glory to God as man does not act as man, a free agent. Compatibilism does not help you out of this either. How could God be glorified by monergism? How is man respected as man? Even Calvinists of a couple of centuries ago saw the problem with this and Unitarian Universalism was born as a reaction to the bad logic of your system. Take care

Anonymous said...

John, I perused the suggested Chapter in the WCF. It made me think of Calvin's "secret energy" mentioned above. Whatever lofty things Calvin or the WCF might say on the subject of adoption/regeneration/sanctification, etc. it has to fall way short of what Catholics mean by those same terms. How can I demonstrate this? Well, what is the relationship of non-Catholic Christians to one another in this life? To those in heaven? In any intermediate state of purification? Is your understanding of the Communion of Saints like ours? Since all saved Protestants have the same "secret energy" animating them and are adopted children of the same Father, where is your devotion to Christ's ( and our ) mother? Do you believe one member of the body can help bear another members burden by offering up acts of penance? Do you believe in indulgences? Do you believe that the sanctifying grace of regeneration (a.k.a. adoption) fits one the beatific vision without anything else needed? No to all of the above, right? The "secret energy" of Calvin cannot be the same energy Catholics think of when reading Jn 15. The adoption the WCF speaks of cannot be the adoption spoken of in Session 6 of the Council of Trent. At first glance it may appear so, but upon looking at all the other doctrines that should logically follow, it becomes clear that something isn't right. Whatever the WCF says, an alien righteousness must be added to Divine adoption to make one fit for heaven. Take care

JohnD said...

Anonymous,

I am happy to engage you on a particular subject or when I am not knowledgeable in an area then I will point you to materials which argue the Reformed position. However, if you bring up a lot of topics at once it is difficult to respond to all of them.

I will now respond to a few things you said:

1. You said: "In your monergistic system some men are picked at random by an arbitrary God and, with no cooperation on their part, adopted into Christ's sonship." First, it is not my system. Reformed Christianity is spelled out in the WCF (and other confessions), and Reformed Christians believe it is a summarization of biblical Christianity. Second, it is odd for you to characterize a view of absolute predestination as "random by an arbitrary God" since Thomas Aquinas held to this view. In Question 23, Article 5, Aquinas says in response to an objection, "[N]obody has been so insane as to say that merit is the cause of divine predestination as regards the act of the predestinator." (Also, see Predestination by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange for a detailed exposition of Thomism). So, if you want to condemn such a position then you are condemning a view of a doctor of the RCC.

2. You said: I don't see how your system gives any glory to God as man does not act as man, a free agent. Compatibilism does not help you out of this either. How could God be glorified by monergism?How is man respected as man? Reformed Christians do not deny free agency, and I think compatibilism is very helpful for understanding the biblical narrative. Here is the WCF on Free Will: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/. God is glorified because he accomplishes all His holy will.

3. You second post just seems to argue that the WCF does not agree with several doctrines of RCC. I would not dispute this. I have told De Maria this before: if the Scriptures teach distinctively RCC doctrines over against the Reformed faith, then I would relinquish my beliefs in those doctrines of the reformers.

Peace,
John D.

Anonymous said...

John, Check out this article taken from Called to Communion of Aquinas.
http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/05/predestination-john-calvin-vs-thomas-aquinas/

Anonymous said...

John, The Reformed doctrine says that man acts freely according to his nature, without any compulsion from the outside. That nature only lets him sin. Therefore he has free will. He is free only to sin.
This is not free will.
The Catholic view says that man has free will as part of his nature. However, nature without the elevation of grace cannot get to heaven.
I am sorry if am misunderstanding the thrust of your posts. I thought you have been asserting that the Reformed have a position on sanctification/rebirth/adoption/union with Christ to be similar to the Catholic position. Perhaps I have been off target. I have been stressing that the Catholic view of being united to Christ, head to body, branch to vine, son to Father,born from above, is not what the Reformed mean. Your "alien righteousness imputed" renders your use of those terms meaningless in comparison to what we mean. Correct me if I have misunderstood.
Take care,

JohnD said...

Anonymous,

1. I am confused as to why you think a free agent that can act according to his nature is not free. He is not free to choose his nature, but then again, who is?

2. I read the article you linked to. If you wanted me to truck through all the comments that would take a few hours and I would rather not at the moment. However, the author proposes a modified Thomism explained by Fr. Most. Catholic apologist John Salza's book on Predestination offers a strong critique of Most's view and puts forth traditional Thomism.

3. Thomas Aquinas affirmed that God elects some to final glory and that this election is without reference to their actions/merit/good works/faith. Moreover, only those elected would be preserved as saints and inherit eternal life. I do not deny that he differed with Calvin's doctrine of predestination, but on the absolute sovereign will of God to choose His elect, Aquinas agrees with Calvin.

Peace,
John D.

Anonymous said...

John, I think it is in post #5 of the article that Bryon Cross explains some important differences. For example, double predestination is out of the question for Aquinas.
Even if you (mistakenly ) say Calvin believed in the infralapsarian view rather than supralapsarian, it still can't be squared with scripture that says that "God locked up all men in disobedience so he could have mercy on them all". It was not to move all men into the Massa Damnata so he could look merciful for choosing a handful arbitrarily and passing over the rest.
Just to cut to the chase as to whether or not Aquinas or Augustine agreed with Calvin, I would just like to say that the reformers' view on the subject caused them to deny the sacraments, intercession of saints, works, the virtue of charity, possibility of losing justification, the Church,priesthood, etc. etc. On the other hand Aquinas and Augustine believed in all the above. Either Aquinas and Augustine were totally inconsistent for not dumping all of these teachings and adopting a pre-Calvin form of Calvinism or there is something not right.
Finally, the Reformers actually said God willed sin. No way can this be correct as God, who loves Himself, cannot will men not to love Him. God cannot will the means to reprobation without acting against His nature.
Take care,

Anonymous said...

Oh, I almost forgot to say John that the Reformation view does not really believe in free will. By saying that man acts freely according to his nature doesn't solve the problem as Protestant anthropology is unbiblical. The Bible says that after the Fall, man retained the Imago Dei. He could choose between good and bad.
Take care,

JohnD said...

@Anonymous,

1. Where 'free will' is defined as an autonomous will that can choose independently of what God has planned, then yes the reformers deny free will. But if it means that men may freely choose according to their nature, then free will is retained by the Reformers.

2. A belief in absolute predestination is not what led directly to the Reformers dumping other RC doctrines so your argument does not work. Rather, it is based more on their view of the sufficiency of Christ's work in the atonement and faith as the 'instrumental cause' of justification.

Peace,
John D.

Nick said...

John,

To say that free will means man can "freely choose according to their nature" is a mistaken idea because it amounts to determinism: man only choose what his nature demands he choose, in a similar way the instincts of animals direct them to find food, shelter, etc. This isn't what free will is, and it leaves no room for morality or even law.

By nature, man is a spiritual-rational being, and this enables him to reason, study, etc, and come to a conclusion and either go with that conclusion or reject it in favor of something else.

When a man does something he knows is wrong, he sins, and when he avoids something he knows is wrong, he doesn't sin.

What allowed Adam to sin wasn't his nature, and what allows Christians to sin isn't their nature.