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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.

30 comments:

Steve Martin said...

I think you are on to something here, Nick.

The "Last Will" language is good in that it brings to mind the gift given to the receiver on the basis of the desire to give it and nothing else.

It's handed over to us because we are the children of God and not because of anything that we have done to earn it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nick,

I'm new here. Great site. I haven't read all of these posts on Penal Substitution yet so I don't know if this question is warranted but here goes.

What does the Catechism have to say about Penal Substitution? A quick glance shows that it does teach that Christ died as our substitute but is this in the same vein as the Protestant view?

Peace,
EJ Cassidy

De Maria said...

Steve Martin said...
I think you are on to something here, Nick.

The "Last Will" language is good in that it brings to mind the gift given to the receiver on the basis of the desire to give it and nothing else.

It's handed over to us because we are the children of God and not because of anything that we have done to earn it.


You've used the wrong word. It is because of merit, not earning. God's covenant with the Hebrews is like this:

Exodus 19
King James Version (KJV)
1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. 5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.

The Covenant (i.e. Will and Testament) which God drew up was contingent upon the People of Israel's obedience. God summarized it so:
Exodus 20:6
King James Version (KJV)
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

When Jesus died on the Cross, it was God the Testator of the Old Covenant who died on the Cross. Jesus is God. Therefore, the provisions of the Old Covenant came into effect and the people who had been faithful to God, those who had obeyed His Commandments, received the promise:
Hebrews 6:12
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 11
King James Version (KJV)
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report….

The bottom line here is that the Israelites who did not obey God, did not receive the promises. Only those who obeyed His commands.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Steve Martin said...

Do you obey His commands, DeMaria?

All of them? All of the time?

That is what is required, you know, for those who look to their obedience of what 'they do' or 'do not do'.

But the obedience of faith is something altogether different.

De Maria said...

Steve Martin said...
Do you obey His commands, DeMaria?


God knows.

All of them? All of the time?

That is what is required,


No it isn't. Have you ever heard of the forgiveness of sins?
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

you know, for those who look to their obedience of what 'they do' or 'do not do'.

God is our judge:
1 Corinthians 4:3
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.

But the obedience of faith is something altogether different.

So, you're finally coming around. Do you now add obedience to faith as well?
2 Peter 1
King James Version (KJV)
1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.

10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

Sincerely,

De Maria

Nick said...

EJ,

Thanks for your comment.

The Catechism speaks on the Atonement in somewhat broad terms, but it gives details that show that Penal Substitution is unacceptable and false. For example, nowhere is the Father's Wrath mentioned as being vented on Christ. In fact, paragraph 603 begins by saying "Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned." Yet this is precisely what Penal Substitution teaches: that even though Jesus didn't personally sin, with the guilt of the elect imputed to Him He did experience the reprobation that sinners do.

Daniel said...

That gave me an idea, Nick.

Question to all Psub supporters:

"Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned." True or false?

Hymeneus said...

The clear interpretation of the CCC is tht it is denying PSA. However, I can see how its words could be twisted to say it. What follows is falsely reading PSA into the Catechism.

* * * * *

When it says that "Jesus did noy experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned," it is not saying that he did not suffer reprobation. Rather, it is qualifying the nature of reprobation that he received. He was not reproved as if he himself had sinned because he "knew no sin." However, he was reproved as a sinner vicariously, as the Father imputed all our sins to Christ such that the CCC can rightly say, "he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin." Thus Christ being presented as a sinner before God was rightly administered the just punishment.

* * * * *

Now, such an interpretation is a hard one, but I have to admit that the CCC does not teach as clearly in this paragraph as I wish it did. However, apart from scrutinizing every little phrase of this paragraph, we can be sure it does not intend to teach PSA since that would contradict other things taught by the CCC, such as a universal atonement, the ability to fall from grace, and so on.

Jonathan Prejean said...

@Nick:
This is an excellent post, and it fits in quite well with the metaphor from our side as well. St. Paul says "Are you unaware, brothers (for I am speaking to people who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over one as long as one lives?" (Rom. 7:1) So just as Christ's death inaugurates the New Covenant, our participation in His death in baptism is our transition from the Old Covenant, to which we are dead and under which we are no longer bound, to the New Covenant.

Paul explains this again in Colossians 2:11-14: "In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And even when you were dead [in] transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross." It wasn't our individual condemnation for wrongdoing that was nailed to the Cross; it was being under the jurisdiction of the Law entirely.

I just don't know how people get this so wrong. It seems so clear that I can't understand what even motivates the mistakes.

Jonathan Prejean said...

Of course, I do forget that I may have a little advantage because I get to hear the following at least weekly: "Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Matt 26:27-28). I suppose it might be a little more obvious for people going to Mass that the blood really *is* the blood of the new and eternal covenant.

Nick said...

Thank you Jonathan. Romans 7:1 is very powerful in this regard. In my experience, Protestants don't properly define/understand "the Law," so they end up botching everything else. Of course, their commitment to Sola Fide doesn't help, for that blinds them to many things that would otherwise be plain as day. PSub is a classic example of what a person will uncomfortably embrace in order to save their pet doctrine.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

Here's my response to your take on Hebrews 9:22. You're seeing things in either/or again, when in fact the shedding of blood is itself a penal substitutionary atonement. Here, anyway, is my refutation of your article:

http://fallibility.blogspot.ca/2013/07/yes-hebrews-922-teaches-penal.html

Michael Taylor said...

>>The Catechism speaks on the Atonement in somewhat broad terms, but it gives details that show that Penal Substitution is unacceptable and false. For example, nowhere is the Father's Wrath mentioned as being vented on Christ. In fact, paragraph 603 begins by saying "Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned." Yet this is precisely what Penal Substitution teaches: that even though Jesus didn't personally sin, with the guilt of the elect imputed to Him He did experience the reprobation that sinners do.<<


Did Jesus experience the torments of hell on the cross? That's speculation to me. But it may be justified if the "wrath of God" toward sin is equal to the pains of hell. The only thing I can affirm is that he suffered unlike anyone else ever has because upon the Lord was pleased to crush him with our iniquities. Do the sum total of these amount to reprobation?

I don't know. I certainly do not believe Jesus suffered the pains of those who are now, or will be, in hell, for that would be unjust. Why would God allow, much less Christ volunteer to accept, the penalty for those who will end up having to pay the penalty themselves anyway?

If I'm right, then there are some things Jesus did not suffer on the cross, including the pains of those who are in hell. So it sounds like his suffering would be less than the combined suffering of those in hell. But I don't know that this is something we can quantify.

What I do know is that the eternal punishment I deserve for my sins, I won't have to suffer, not because necessarily because he experienced hell in my place, but because he died in my place and because God accepts that death not only as reparation for my sins, but also as a pleasing aroma that brings reconciliation. To me, that is Psub or PSA.




Nick said...

Michael,

I read your response article, but I think you basically prove my point when you said this:

"So how does this text confirm PSA? I would argue that the author to the Hebrews presupposes it when he mentions "the shedding of blood." This is because the principle animal sacrifices (the goats of the Day of Atonement, the Passover lamb) were killed (the penalty) in place of (the substitution) the people with the result that wrath redemption was made, wrath was averted and purification was accomplished (the atonement)."

I'm honestly baffled at how this can be your argument, saying that the proof of PSub in Hebrews is that the author "presupposes it". But that means there's no texts suggesting it; it's all just presupposed.


You also keep repeating charges to the effect of:
"The fallacy in Nick’s thinking is to assume that if the author is making one point, he must be denying all others"

I never suggested if an author makes one point he must be denying all others. What I'm suggesting is that what an author says right then and there in a given context is the fundamental lesson we should focus on. That's what exegesis is.

See, what you and others don't get is that man is not free to make up doctrines, they must have some basis in Divine Revelation. And the more important the doctrine, generally the more testimony is given in Divine Revelation. In the whole PSub debate, the Protestant has literally presupposed this doctrine and forced it onto the text. Every text I consult doing a simple test of whether or not reading PSub into it is possible, every one of these texts I consult comes back woefully deficient in proving PSub in any definitive way.

So every text I consult and conclude there is no evidence of PSub, you come back by saying "You're assuming either/or" or "You're ignoring the other aspects of atonement," completely missing the forest for the trees. Where is PSub clearly taught for it to even be a contender for "both/and"?

Michael Taylor said...


Nick>>I'm honestly baffled at how this can be your argument, saying that the proof of PSub in Hebrews is that the author "presupposes it".<<

I'm not making the entire case for PSub in Hebrews dependent upon Hebrews 9:22. I'm simply saying that the language of the text is consistent with it, because "the shedding of blood" that he alludes to was based on a system of animal sacrifices, at least some of which were penal substitutes.

>>I never suggested if an author makes one point he must be denying all others.<<

You do this repeatedly, as I have shown. Denying it doesn't change the fact. But perhaps this wasn't your intention. Still, you are given to framing the issues in either/or terms. I've seen you do it on a number of issues.

As for making up doctrine, please. That's the hallmark of Romanism.


Rufinus said...

Hi, Michael. A response to your earlier post.

Did Jesus experience the torments of hell on the cross? That's speculation to me. But it may be justified if the "wrath of God" toward sin is equal to the pains of hell. The only thing I can affirm is that he suffered unlike anyone else ever has because upon the Lord was pleased to crush him with our iniquities. Do the sum total of these amount to reprobation?

I don't know. I certainly do not believe Jesus suffered the pains of those who are now, or will be, in hell, for that would be unjust. Why would God allow, much less Christ volunteer to accept, the penalty for those who will end up having to pay the penalty themselves anyway?


The idea of "double jeopardy" is irrelevant here. Even though, according to the Reformed conception, Christ did not die for the reprobate, he did die for the elect, and the sins of the elect make the elect just as deserving of eternal torment as the damned. It is only by the free grace of God that they are spared.

If I'm right, then there are some things Jesus did not suffer on the cross, including the pains of those who are in hell. So it sounds like his suffering would be less than the combined suffering of those in hell. But I don't know that this is something we can quantify.

If Jesus truly took the punishment of the elect upon himself and suffered the punishment that was due to the elect for their sins, it follows that what Christ suffered must have been equal to what the elect deserved to suffer, viz., eternal fire.

What I do know is that the eternal punishment I deserve for my sins, I won't have to suffer, not because necessarily because he experienced hell in my place, but because he died in my place and because God accepts that death not only as reparation for my sins, but also as a pleasing aroma that brings reconciliation. To me, that is Psub or PSA.

No, that is not PSA. PSA is the doctrine that the sins of the elect were imputed by God to Christ and that Christ received the punishment that was due to the elect in their stead. Your doctrine may have a penal element and it may have a substitutionary element, but it is not the doctrine of PSA that I have heard Protestants teach.

Rufinus said...

Reading back over your post, I noticed something else that you said. You wrote, "he died in my place," and I would like to try to understand what you mean by this. You're still going to die, so you don't mean that "he died instead of me." It seems more likely that you mean, "he died instead of me suffering the eternal torments of hell." This also seems problematic to me.

I say this because you seemed to have located the punishment due our sins chiefly to his sufferings before he died rather than to the death itself because you believe that Christ experienced the torments of hell on the cross and do not believe that Christ experienced hell (after his death). If that is so, then didn't Christ finish paying the price for the sins of the elect before he ever died? Am I misreading you? Perhaps you can elaborate more on your view of the Atonement

Michael Taylor said...

Rufinus>>The idea of "double jeopardy" is irrelevant here. Even though, according to the Reformed conception, Christ did not die for the reprobate, he did die for the elect, and the sins of the elect make the elect just as deserving of eternal torment as the damned. It is only by the free grace of God that they are spared.<<

I think it is relevant for those who say that Christ died for everyone. Many Protestants hold that view and believe that Jesus even went to hell in their place.

>>If Jesus truly took the punishment of the elect upon himself and suffered the punishment that was due to the elect for their sins, it follows that what Christ suffered must have been equal to what the elect deserved to suffer, viz., eternal fire.<<

That does seem to follow. But it still seems speculative to me. Scripture, for example, can say Christ "tastes death for everyone" (i.e., the sons he will bring to glory), but it doesn't spell out the nature of "death." Does this include "the second death" as well as physical death? Perhaps it does. But again, I simply don't know the answer.

Rufinus>>No, that is not PSA. PSA is the doctrine that the sins of the elect were imputed by God to Christ and that Christ received the punishment that was due to the elect in their stead. Your doctrine may have a penal element and it may have a substitutionary element, but it is not the doctrine of PSA that I have heard Protestants teach.<<

I can't speak to your experience. I can only speak here of my understanding. Realize that I am not trying (nor could I, if I wanted to) speak for all Protestants because we are not a monolith. So when you say "this is not the doctine of PSA that I haveheard Protestants teach," I can only counter with, "But it is the doctrine of PSA that I have heard them teach, read in their sources, and which I find plainly taught in scripture."

It sounds to me like you're holding my "version" of it to some kind of objective Protestant standard. To that I would say, there is no such thing (ultimately), than the scriptures themselves, or else we're not being very good Protestants.

Since I cannot find any evidence for the idea that Jesus suffered "the torments of hell" in my place, I'm unwilling (for the time being, anyway) to say that he did.

I am willing to say that the sufferings he suffered in my place were sufficient to atone for my sins so that I would not have to. I also find that there is much reason to believe that the "second death" is really much worse than the first, and I so I restrain myself from saying that Jesus suffered hell in my place, even if other Protestants in your experience have confidently made such assertions.

Michael Taylor said...

>>Reading back over your post, I noticed something else that you said. You wrote, "he died in my place," and I would like to try to understand what you mean by this.<<

I mean what every Christian means by this who has contemplated the depth of his own depravity. When I see the cross I know that I should have hung on it instead of him. (No, I'm not be sentimentally dramatic.) But isn't it true of all of us? Couldn't we all say this?

>>You're still going to die, so you don't mean that "he died instead of me."<<

Again, PSA is not the claim that we don't die physically. And yet in dying Christ "destroyed death" (Hebrews 2) I believe that is true, not just because he died, but also because he rose again. So even though we die "yet shall [we] live" (John 11).

James Jordan said...

Note the one nagging little problem with what Hebrews say:

"22 Indeed, under the law ***ALMOST*** everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."

Many things are purified without blood in the OT. And even for the sin sacrifice, a poor man is allowed to bring a GRAIN offering if he can't afford cattle or even a pigeon.

Is it true then that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins"? NO!

Remember the Psalm "Sacrifice and offering THOU WOULDEST NOT" -- really? "ELSE WOULD I HAVE OFFERED THEM."

Remember how Nathan told David he was "already forgiven" in the matter of Bathsheba and her husband, and that without sacrifice?

The Old Testament is VERY clear, if you can get past the Penteteuch and read the whole things (which is Christians' problem, they can't, and if they ever do, they'll leave Christianity) -- then you will see SACRIFICE IS NOT REQUIRED For forgiveness.

Nick said...

Michael,

You said: "I'm simply saying that the language of the text is consistent with it, because "the shedding of blood" that he alludes to was based on a system of animal sacrifices, at least some of which were penal substitutes."

SOME of which were penal substitutes? Like where? The only thing that even comes close is the Scapegoat, but no shedding of blood took place there.

So what are SOME of these sacrifices that clearly modeled PSub? I haven't seen you put forth any examples, and I've read through Leviticus many times and each time I see proofs against PSub.

James Jordan said...

Calvinism is Mithraism reheated.

Nick said...

Michael,

You said: "Since I cannot find any evidence for the idea that Jesus suffered "the torments of hell" in my place, I'm unwilling (for the time being, anyway) to say that he did."

You said this elsewhere, and I must commend you for it, because it's a right conclusion to make. But please note that leading Reformed scholars have no problem saying Jesus endured the Father's Wrath and that this consisted in enduring the equivalent of eternal damnation in hell.

These scholars, as disturbing as it might sound, are simply being logical: We deserve hellfire, so Christ endured it for us. The physical tortures were nothing compared to the invisible spiritual tortures. A bodily death alone was insufficient.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>You said this elsewhere, and I must commend you for it, because it's a right conclusion to make. But please note that leading Reformed scholars have no problem saying Jesus endured the Father's Wrath and that this consisted in enduring the equivalent of eternal damnation in hell.<<

I also hold that Jesus endured the Father's wrath. And I can also affirm that it very well may have been "the equivalent of eternal damnation." But what I'm unwilling to say is that it was damnation itself. That seems to be a category mistake to me.

Also, look at it this way: Presumably there will be more people in hell than in heaven. If that's the case, and if, as we Reformed say, Christ only suffered in place of the elect (not those in hell), then to experience hell itself would in fact be to suffer on behalf of those in hell, which would be to suffer to no avail. That seems to me a travesty of justice since such suffering has no atoning value.

So, pending more study on the issue, I'm going to claim to be agnostic about the claim that Christ literally suffered "hell" in my place (especially if, as I hope, I'm not destined to go there anyway.)

But I do believe he suffered all the wrath I would have otherwise deserved. So--is that hell? Again, it might be. Or, as you have said, it might be something "equivalent to" hell. Whatever the case may be, I know that "upon him," God has laid my iniquity and that he has born my sin **in my place.** That's the clear teaching of Isaiah 53 and of the NT that interprets Isaiah 53 in the same way we Reformed do.




Nick said...

Michael,

Interesting. What is suffering the Father's Wrath then?

The logic employed by Reformed scholars is pretty straightforward: our sins deserve a punishment more than just physical, but spiritual and even eternal.

So what did Jesus' soul experience?

While it is good to be agnostic on the matter, in turn that necessarily must cause you to back off and be agnostic about the issue on a broader sense. For example, you might need to be agnostic about saying Jesus suffered the Father's Wrath if you aren't sure what that entails.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick, I must have missed this....you said:

>>Interesting. What is suffering the Father's Wrath then? <<

I don't know, just as you don't know what he suffered either. In other words, I didn't have Jesus' experience on the cross and neither did you or anyone else, so anything beyond scripture is speculative.

I laid out in one of my articles all that Isaiah had to say:

His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness...
He as despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised...
we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted...
But he was pierced...
he as crushed...
He was oppressed and afflicted...
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter...
By oppression and judgment he was taken away
...he was cut off from the land of the living...
he was stricken...
he poured out his life unto death.
(Isaiah 52:14; 53:3-5, 7-8, 12)

So if that's the wrath of God poured out upon him, then we can see that it is has physical, emotional, psychological elements. But is it damnation itself? I don't think so. I don't think we have a biblical basis for saying that Jesus went to hell.

Nick>>The logic employed by Reformed scholars is pretty straightforward: our sins deserve a punishment more than just physical, but spiritual and even eternal.<<

Which Reformed scholars do you have in mind exactly?

Nick>>So what did Jesus' soul experience?<<

Beyond Isaiah, I don't think we have an answer. I could ask the same question of you and you would not be able to answer it from your point of view either.

>>While it is good to be agnostic on the matter, in turn that necessarily must cause you to back off and be agnostic about the issue on a broader sense. For example, you might need to be agnostic about saying Jesus suffered the Father's Wrath if you aren't sure what that entails.<<

If I'm not sure about one facet of the whole, I'm not sure about any other facet of the whole? Is that the logic your using here? Is the whole world for you all or nothing? You seem to think in these categories for almost every issue you write about.

Nick said...

Michael,

You said: "I don't know, just as you don't know what he suffered either. In other words, I didn't have Jesus' experience on the cross and neither did you or anyone else, so anything beyond scripture is speculative."

The question isn't about 'how did it feel', but about 'what' happened. The Bible tells us: Jesus endured persecution and crucifixion at the hands of men. Anything beyond that is speculation. The mere idea that Jesus endured the "Father's Wrath" doesn't even come from any Biblical text! Talk about going beyond Scripture!


You said: "So if that's the wrath of God poured out upon him, then we can see that it is has physical, emotional, psychological elements. But is it damnation itself? I don't think so. I don't think we have a biblical basis for saying that Jesus went to hell."

Correct. But Reformed theology must find 'more' than just physical pains (including emotional and psychological) because all those pains can be attributed to the Roman Crucifixion. Your own theologians teach Jesus endured some form of spiritual death and damnation, going back to Calvin and Luther.

HERE ARE SOME OF MANY quotes from Reformed theologians.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>The question isn't about 'how did it feel', but about 'what' happened. The Bible tells us: Jesus endured persecution and crucifixion at the hands of men. Anything beyond that is speculation. The mere idea that Jesus endured the "Father's Wrath" doesn't even come from any Biblical text! Talk about going beyond Scripture! <<

I agree that anything beyond scripture (or what can be reasonably deduced from it) is speculative, which is why I hesitate to say he was "damned in my place." That seems to "go beyond" anything that was written. But the idea of his bearing wrath that would have otherwise gone to others seems to be well within the bounds of scripture and, I would argue, is demanded by it. So the question is not whether he took on wrath but rather what the exact nature of that wrath was. I don't pretend to know because, as I said before, I didn't suffer it and no scriptural author spells it out for us in detail.

But what I can say is what scripture says. "Upon him was laid the iniquity of us all." But what does that mean at the level of experience? Who can say but Jesus alone?

Nick>>But Reformed theology must find 'more' than just physical pains (including emotional and psychological) because all those pains can be attributed to the Roman Crucifixion.<<

LOL. Seriously, Nick. Even Rome agrees that it was our sins he bore. Jesus' experience on the cross was qualitatively different than that of the two thieves crucified next to them. They died for their own sins. he died for ours. So how does one begin to compare the emotional and psychological "weight" of sin that Jesus experienced to that of the two thieves who only bore their own guilt?

Scripture goes so far as to say he "became sin" itself. That suggests something far beyond the mere physical and psychological/emotional pains of Roman crucifixion.

I know you want to say it was something far less than hell. But surely it was far more than the mere physical pains of crucifixion that he endured (as well as the psycho-emtional trauma that went along with it). The "man of sorrows acquainted with grief" suffered far more than crucifixion. He bore the full measure of divine wrath poured out upon him, but against sin.

I just stop short of equating this wrath with "the fires of hell," because I don't see anything in scripture comparing his pains to hell. I know many Reformed folks have, and perhaps they are right to make such comparisons. It's just that I'm not willing to go along with them on this point because I haven't spent much time studying it. (I know that must be hard for you to understand, Nick. But we don't view tradition as you do. We are free to disagree with it when it doesn't align with scripture, even when it's our own traditions.)

In fact, one of the reasons why I don't think it's the same as hell is because I actually believe he suffered much worse. If someone goes to hell, he will suffer for his own sins. He won't be suffering the torments reserved for his cellmate in hell.

But if we're right, then Jesus suffered for the combined sins of a multitude, which would seem to be much worse than any one person could ever suffer in hell.

Nick>>Your own theologians teach Jesus endured some form of spiritual death and damnation, going back to Calvin and Luther. <<

Most of the quotes you provided stopped far short of saying Jesus suffered hell on our behalf, although they made comparisons to the torments of hell. Further, many of those quotes took for granted the legitimacy of the clause "he descended into hell" from the Apostles' Creed. I question that phrase. I think it's redactional and therefore do not believe there is any reason to believe Jesus actually went to hell, much less that he suffered there.

Nick said...

You asked: "So how does one begin to compare the emotional and psychological "weight" of sin that Jesus experienced to that of the two thieves who only bore their own guilt?"

The 'weight' and 'feeling' was different because the suffering was of a different form and to a different ends. Jesus suffered persecution, the thieves suffered judicial execution. Jesus suffered with the motives of making atonement, the thieves suffered with the motives of regret and self-condemnation.

You said: "Scripture goes so far as to say he "became sin" itself."

That's not true. The reason why Protestant scholars talk like that is because they must desperately find proof for doctrines that are not there. To be "made sin" is a Hebraism to mean "made a sin offering."

You said: "In fact, one of the reasons why I don't think it's the same as hell is because I actually believe he suffered much worse."

This is inconsistent with your prior methodology. You keep saying you refuse to say it was hellfire because the Bible says nothing of this, and now you're saying it was much worse, yet the Bible doesn't say this either.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>The 'weight' and 'feeling' was different because the suffering was of a different form and to a different ends. Jesus suffered persecution, the thieves suffered judicial execution. Jesus suffered with the motives of making atonement, the thieves suffered with the motives of regret and self-condemnation. <<

These distinctions do not begin to account for the biblical interpretation of his death. Jesus bore our sins. The iniquity of his people was laid on him. God was pleased to crush him. He became sin in our place. Your view is entirely too reductionistic. It limits his death to the mere suffering of persecution (to which I would add that it was an unjust condemnation on the part of man as he was morally and legally innocent).

I said: "Scripture goes so far as to say he "became sin" itself."

Nick>>That's not true.<<

Then apparently 2 Corinthians 5:21 isn't in your Bible.

>>The reason why Protestant scholars talk like that is because they must desperately find proof for doctrines that are not there. To be "made sin" is a Hebraism to mean "made a sin offering." <<

That's a distinction without a difference. Of course he was made a sin offering, and we're not saying otherwise. (You have read Hebrews 9:26, right?) But read the verse in context and you'll see what it means to be a sin offering. It was so that we might become "the righteousness of God."

You said: "In fact, one of the reasons why I don't think it's the same as hell is because I actually believe he suffered much worse."

Nick<<This is inconsistent with your prior methodology....<<

I also gave you the reasons for why I said this, reasons that you simply ignored in your response here. As I said before, those in hell suffer individually, not corporately. That is, they suffer only for their own sins. The same is not true of Jesus who suffered for the corporate sin of his people. So Jesus suffered well beyond any single person in hell, right? If you disagree, then give a good reason for suggesting otherwise.

This is a separate question from the nature of the wrath itself. You keep conflating these into the same issue. They're not. It's one thing to speak of the *scope* of his suffering. It's quite another to speak of the *nature* of the suffering. To as if he suffered more than any individual in hell is not to ask if he suffered the torments of hell itself.