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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

That time when Jesus came into His Kingdom - More Problems with Penal Substitution

I thought I was off the subject of Penal Substitution for a while, but I've come up with yet another serious problem with that heresy. The good thing is, this should be short. 

When the subject of Penal Substitution comes up, our attention is typically focused on the last hours of Jesus' life. But in reality, Jesus suffered for us the entire course of His earthly life. Even Protestants agree with this, though they interpret Christ's sufferings incorrectly. In the erroneous Protestant view of "imputing guilt," this means the guilt of the elect was imputed to Jesus from the moment of His Conception . . . which means the Father viewed His Son Jesus as a sinner from the moment of the Annunciation!

This error is so outrageous that everyone seeing this should automatically realize it's wrong. I shouldn't even have to dig up Scriptural support, but I will.

At Our Lord's Baptism, the Father's spoke from Heaven saying: "You are My Beloved Son, in You I am well pleased." This is impossible if Jesus was under God's displeasure! And yet the same words were spoken at another time in the Gospels, compounding the absurdity and blasphemy of that doctrine. In the Gospels we see Jesus making some cryptic comments: "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." Many people take these words of "coming in his kingdom" to be speaking about Jesus' Second Coming at the end of time, but the Early Church Fathers saw this as referring to the Transfiguration. But how? St. Peter himself tells us:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1)
A lot of people don't know about this passage and how it explicitly links Jesus' "coming in glory" comments with the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor - which is also why Jesus' words appear immediately before all three Transfiguration accounts, Mt 16:28; Mk 9:1-2; Lk 9:27-28. What amazing light is shed on that glorious event! As with the Baptism, this was a situation where God the Father was bestowing honor and glory on Jesus, again saying "I am well pleased". 

Penal Substitution makes it impossible for God the Father to view Jesus in a favorable way at any point in all 33 years of Jesus' earthly life. Therefore, Penal Substitution cannot be true.

7 comments:

guy fawkes said...

Nick, I clicked on the "even protestants agree with this" link which referenced John Murray's, "Redemption Accomplished And Applied". Murray quotes Hebrews about how "...Christ learned obedience through suffering". Could you comment on this? Thanks

Nick said...

Hi, sorry I missed this comment. In answer to your question, I assume you want to know how Jesus "learned" obedience. Jesus was able to experience real life events, and from those experiences grow. Being Divine, Jesus already knew everything there was to know, but only by means of human nature could Jesus actually feel/experience as a human can.

The lesson of that text is that faithful obedience to God is what is most pleasing to God, because it means you're putting God's agenda above everything else. This almost always involves suffering, because the world, the devil, and our fallen humanity all are battling against us daily to discourage putting God first.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>When the subject of Penal Substitution comes up, our attention is typically focused on the last hours of Jesus' life. But in reality, Jesus suffered for us the entire course of His earthly life. Even Protestants agree with this, though they interpret Christ's sufferings incorrectly. In the erroneous Protestant view of "imputing guilt," this means the guilt of the elect was imputed to Jesus from the moment of His Conception . . . which means the Father viewed His Son Jesus as a sinner from the moment of the Annunciation!<<

Nick,

This is a huge category mistake here and a failure on your part to understand the 3 imputations of Reformed theology. More anon on why...

Nick>>At Our Lord's Baptism, the Father's spoke from Heaven saying: "You are My Beloved Son, in You I am well pleased." This is impossible if Jesus was under God's displeasure!

Nick, can you find *any* Reformed thinker who thinks Jesus was *ever* under the Father's displeasure? Even one? [Sound effect: crickets chirping]. The only reason why you can state this is because you don't understand what imputation is. Your description of it amounts to the Father wearing sin-tainted glasses so that he can *only* see the Son as a sinner in whom he is displeased. But this reduces God's perspective of the whole to one, single, narrow focus (i.e., his displeasure of sin.)

Here's what I'm getting at. Think of a reprobate person who is now under God's wrath. Does God only have hatred toward this person? Of course not and no Reformed theologian would say otherwise. True, God hates both the sin and the sinner who commits the sin, which is why Scripture has no problem with phrases such as "Esau I hated," and calling us God's "enemies" prior to our regeneration.

But to say that this is the *only* way God sees the sinner is to ignore the rest of scripture. God also *loves* the lost and weeps over their impenitent, hardened hearts. In other words, we have to allow for the full range of feelings/emotions in God toward the sinner--not just hatred/rejection. Your objection effectively attributes to the Reformed view a position we do *not* hold. So you have set up a straw man and here you're knocking it down and pretty much convincing *no one.*

Nick>>Penal Substitution makes it impossible for God the Father to view Jesus in a favorable way at any point in all 33 years of Jesus' earthly life.<<

No, Nick. This is simply your *caricature* of Penal Substitution. Why is it that in order to make an argument against PSA you consistently have to distort what we (Reformed) mean by it? There's not even an attempt here on your part to *honestly* represent our view. For shame.

Nick said...

Michael,

I don't see the caricature. At times it seems as if I understand Reformed theology more accurately than you do, and this is one of those cases.

You asked me: "Nick, can you find *any* Reformed thinker who thinks Jesus was *ever* under the Father's displeasure? Even one?"

I can find multiple, and I have a post with numerous quotes going back to Luther up to the present day of famous Protestant theologians saying Jesus endured the Father's Wrath. The only way 'out' of that conclusion is to say being under the Father's wrath has nothing to do with being under the Father's displeasure, at which point you'd be espousing a philosophy where truth is all relative to each person's perspective.

It looks like what you're doing is dampening the disturbing ramifications of imputation. The fact of the matter is though, imputation is 'whole' in so far as how God views a person, at least from the legal perspective. That's the only way the Protestant view of Justification even makes sense, because the justified believer is always seen as righteous by God, and never as a sinner, at least from a legal perspective. Without that, there's no once-and-for all justification and there's be no assurance. So when the guilt of men is imputed to Jesus, then God most certainly views Jesus as the worst sinner ever, at least from a legal perspective.

You said: "Think of a reprobate person who is now under God's wrath. Does God only have hatred toward this person?"

It's not a matter of "only" having hatred. The point is that there is hatred/displeasure/wrath, and more importantly this is an all-encompassing hatred/displeasure/wrath at least from the legal perspective. I cannot believe I have to stand up to defend the Reformed position here. From the legal perspective, a person is either in the guilty/displeasure camp or they are in the innocent/pleased camp. Otherwise Justification from the Protestant view makes no sense. There isn't an in-between.

So God can love sinners from other perspectives, just not the perspective that really matters, the legal one.

The idea that God has parallel views of Jesus is just ridiculous, but if Jesus is imputed with our guilt then you have to come to that conclusion. The only alternative, as I said at the start, is to embrace a relativistic philosophy. God wouldn't have even been able to vent His wrath in full at the Cross if God didn't see Jesus as the worst sinner.









Michael Taylor said...

Nick>>I don't see the caricature.<<

That's probably because you don't understand the view you are attacking.

Nick>>At times it seems as if I understand Reformed theology more accurately than you do, and this is one of those cases.<<

Bold words. Let's see if they hold up.

Nick>>You asked me: "Nick, can you find *any* Reformed thinker who thinks Jesus was *ever* under the Father's displeasure? Even one?"

Nick>>I can find multiple, and I have a post with numerous quotes going back to Luther up to the present day of famous Protestant theologians saying Jesus endured the Father's Wrath.<<

Apples and oranges. I asked you to produce evidence for anyone saying that the Father only had displeasure toward the Son, for that is your original claim. Are you now changing that claim?

Nick>>The only way 'out' of that conclusion is to say being under the Father's wrath has nothing to do with being under the Father's displeasure, at which point you'd be espousing a philosophy where truth is all relative to each person's perspective.<<

You're joking, right? If you understood Reformed theology, you could never draw this conclusion, much less make the strong claim that it's the "only" conclusion. Why? Because you're overlooking vicarious/substitutionary atonement. The Father is not displeased with the Son; rather he is displeased with sinners. The wrath that the Son endures on our behalf does not mean that God is displeased/angry with the Son, qua the Son, but rather with the sinner who by virtues of his union with the Son is "in Christ."

This is a variation of the distinction between punishment laid *upon* Jesus rather than *against* him. If you continuously overlook this distinction, then you misunderstand Reformed theology, notwithstanding your protests to the contrary.

Don't get me wrong, Nick. I think you're within your rights to deny the distinction. But don't overlook it. We make it, and therefore criticisms must take that fact into account. So if I may be of assistance, I'd phrase your argument as follows:

"Although the Reformed distinguish between punishment inflicted upon Jesus rather than against him, we nevertheless reject this as a distinction without a principled difference. Therefore, given the doctrine of imputation, if the Father is displeased with the sinner, then he must be displeased with the one to whom sin is imputed. And yet this clearly contradicts statements, which clearly state the Father is well pleased by the Son. The Reformed, therefore, have the unenviable task of explaining how the Father can be pleased by the Son and displeased with him *at the same time* and *in the same way.*

I think this is what you're trying to say. But it fails miserably because we don't make the prior claim that the Father is simultaneously pleased and displeased with the Son in the same way. That would be a caricature of our position which you claim to be representing accurately, but which is clear proof to me that you don't really understand it.

Nick said...

Miguel,

You said: "I asked you to produce evidence for anyone saying that the Father ONLY had displeasure toward the Son, for that is your original claim. Are you now changing that claim?"

Oh, now I see what you're saying, and I think you're right. Of course no Reformed scholar would say God ONLY had displeasure towards Jesus. They'd never say such a thing. But this comment of yours confirms my point indirectly though, by admitting God did have displeasure towards Jesus, just not "only" displeasure.

The problem there is that, at least from the legal perspective, they must explain how it was not "only" displeasure. In fact, I don't even see how Christ's Righteousness could be legally acknowledged by the Father that side of the Cross. It would have been a literal simul iustus et peccator, except not how Protestants understand that phrase.

I really cannot get my mind off this contradiction. Jesus' legal record in the sight of God is both chalked full of legal guilt and full of legal righteousness. With that kind of riddle it's no wonder the Father snapped and executed His own son.

Nick said...

Dang, the <"sarcasm"> and <"/sarcasm"> tags didn't show up on the last sentence.