Saturday, March 22, 2014

John Piper says Jesus was "damned in our place" - Do Calvinists realize what they're saying?

A few days ago I was skimming over John Piper's blog (he's a popular Calvinist author, pastor, and writer) and I noticed his post for March 18, 2014 contained an outrageous comment regarding Our Lord's Passion and Death. I didn't read the whole post since it was an odd mixture of thoughts, but his conclusion caught my eye just because it was so outrageous: 
When Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” it was the scream of the damned — damned in our place (Isaiah 53:5–6; Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:14). If we will repent and trust him, no Esau, no lesbian, no president, no pastor, no person will be condemned. Our sight and our reason will return to us.
This isn't the first time Piper has said such things about Jesus being "damned in our place," as I've recorded such comments of his in prior articles, but I wanted to post on this just for the record that he's still saying this stuff even today. And Calvinists really don't mind, because they agree that what he's saying is what the Protestant understanding of the Cross is all about: Jesus enduring the hellfire damnation that we deserved to endure, substituting himself to be punished in our place, also known as Penal Substitution.  

For those of us not caught up in Calvinism, to hear that Jesus was "damned in our place" should sound alarm bells in our head, because this is saying that the Son was cut-off from God the Father, which is rank heresy. It's just blasphemy to say for God so loved the world that He damned His only-begotten Son. It's unacceptable. Now these Calvinists don't intend to be teaching Christological heresy when they say these things, but the fact is they are. Sadly, many of them try to excuse themselves by saying things like 'well, the Bible teaches it,' which is just ridiculous because heresy is heresy and shouldn't be rationalized. 

And the claim that the Bible teaches PSub has been debunked on this blog and elsewhere so many times that nobody should even fall for that line. I just wish Calvinists would get more educated on that matter. Before ending this article, I want to briefly look at the verses Piper quoted to show just how desperate Calvinists are to find this pet doctrine of theirs in the Bible when in fact the Bible doesn't come anywhere close to it. Here are the passages Piper brought up: 
  • Matthew 27:46 - "My God, why have you forsaken me." - This is a text Calvinists cling to most dearly because it's the only scrap of hope in all 4 Gospels they can even find to even hint that God damned His Son. I've dealt with this numerous times, so all I will say is that Piper and Calvinists don't even taken into consideration the context of Jesus saying this and the fact Jesus was directly quoting Psalm 22, which is about how God doesn't rescue a person from persecutions. And if this is the most definitive proof that God damned Jesus, someone forgot to tell Luke and John, because they didn't include this quote in their Gospels.
  • Isaiah 53:5-6 - "Pierced for our transgressions . . . the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all." - Where does this say Jesus was damned? Calvinists have to read so much into these texts that it's scary how they get away with it and justify it. Jesus was obviously "pierced" by the nails on the Cross, done by the Romans. This isn't rocket science. And the Lord laying upon Jesus our sins doesn't mean the Lord damned Jesus for our sins. Again, pure desperation. I've written about the Protestant misunderstanding of Isaiah 53 numerous times also, so all I will say is that Calvinists really haven't done their homework, which is a shame. 
  • Romans 8:3 - "Sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh." - The footnote to the ESV says "for sin" refers to "for a sin offering," which is correct. So this text is saying God sent His Son to take on our humanity and to be a sin offering, and by doing this God dealt with our sin. The Calvinist wants to read this as God giving His Son a human body so that His Son was now capable of suffering damnation. That's totally unwarranted and reading a lot of assumptions into the text, just as I noted above. All that's being said is how the Son took on a human body to make atonement for our sins. This wouldn't even be an issue if Calvinists understood what "sin offering" even meant, and especially if they knew that to 'make atonement' never involves transferring a punishment.
  • Galatians 3:13-14 - "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." - The Calvinist assumes that "curse" here refers to damnation, which isn't supported by the Bible at all. The "curse" of the Mosaic Law which Christ redeemed us from isn't damnation, and we know this is speaking of the Mosaic Law because that's the next thing Paul quotes. The "curse" is clearly shown to be a humiliating death by crucifixion, being publicly displayed as a criminal. We know the Romans did this to Jesus, not the Father. I've written about this before also, if people are interested.
I've said this many times, but you'd think that for a doctrine so crucial as PSub that there would be very clear Biblical proof of God pouring out His wrath upon Jesus, damning His Son in our place. It's proof-texting like this that I've found to be the bedrock of Calvinist theology, taking a verse here and there and projecting all kinds of assumptions on it without regard for context or cross-referencing with more clear texts. It's just sad. And it's examples like this that completely debunk the Protestant lie that "Catholics don't care about the Bible," because we do care about the Bible very much, so much that we don't allow this kind of shoddy exegesis get a free pass.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget that we're damned as well and it is solely up to God to give us grace that cannot be resisted forever. Either you are one of the Elect or you are not. There's nothing you can do and common grace isn't enough.

I say sin boldly and if you are part of the Elect you will be saved since there is no way you can resist irrestible grace forever and if you aren't given irrestible grace well you're screwed anyway. Either way, you win. Why give up all of that sinning on this earth??? God saves you and it's his choice, not yours.

If any Calvinist thinks that I got it wrong, think again. That is the consequence of your worldview and if you argue against it, well, you're detracting from the power of God according to your own standards.

Nick said...


I don't really follow your argument, sine you seem to be neither Catholic nor Protestant in what you're saying.

If you want to interact, then please stick to the topic at hand, specifically whether you agree or disagree with something in the main post.

Anonymous said...

How could you not follow this argument. I am saying what Calvin said. Man is damned without saving grace and only God gives man saving grace. Therefore, if you are part of the elect you are saved and no amount of sinning in your life will eventually cause you to lose this election. Furthermore, you will not be able to resist this grace forever and you will be saved. If you are not part of the elect then you will never be saved no matter what you do on this planet.

The title of the article included the words "Do Calvinists realize what they're saying?" That is exactly the point I was making when it comes to "irresistible grace." Calvinists do not know what they are saying and fail to understand grace. There is such a thing as efficacious grace, but most are not given such grace and it is very, very rare. There is a mystery in this world of how man interacts with God's grace. Calvinists have created pure determinism and are closer to Pelagian then they think with their all or nothing views when it comes to salvation. All man = Pelagian. All God = Calvinists. Neither worldview fathoms the possibility that how we interact with grace is a mystery let alone where we can find such grace on this earth.

Nick said...

I do understand what you're saying, but I wouldn't say it's related to the specific topic of Jesus being "damned in our place."

God knows who will be in Heaven, so in that sense the number of elect is fixed. I agree that there is a sense in which God takes into consideration man's actions and that Jesus died for all men, but how it all works together is a mystery of the ages.

In fairness to the Reformed, they do not teach the Christian is free to sin, but rather that if the Christian is truly saved, they will gradually lose the desire to sin. Anyone who is sinning brazenly in both the Catholic and Reformed view is someone who is not on a good path and will certainly be damned if they keep it up. Of course, the Reformed dillema is that there isn't an upper limit to just how much sin is too much, which misses the fact that one mortal sin unrepented of is enough to damn. In denying the distinction between mortal and venial sin (and thus making all sin mortal), the Reformed are put in a certain bind, because then they're effectively saying even the Christian is constantly committing mortal sin and yet remains saved.

I wrote about this in an article last year:

Anonymous said...

Calvinists do not want to accept the fact that the logical outworking of their doctrine of irresistible grace is a pathway of sin. Why? Because: (a) they believe man is 100% spiritually dead as a result of original sin, (b) only saving grace (as opposed to common grace) can save man, and (c) God gives saving grace to those he pleases and such saving grace cannot be earned.

This is completely deterministic and if you are part of the elect, no amount of sinning in this world will change that fact. You cannot resist saving grace forever and if you were never given saving grace then you were dead to begin with!

This is the logical outworking of the doctrine of irresistible grace no matter how much Calvinists want to claim it is not. Man cannot lose this grace and there is no mystery.

Anonymous said...

If it is not true "the Son was cut-off from God the Father" why then did Jesus cry out "my God My God why have you forsaken me"?

Did the Father allow the Jews and the Romans to kill Christ?


Nick said...


I addressed that exact verse in my article, please read it and then tell me what you think. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Anonymous said...

What you wrote does not address why Jesus was forsaken by God. Why did Jesus say that His Father forsook Him? Why didn't He rescue Him?

Is 53 helps us to understand what Jesus accomplished on the cross:
"5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him."


Nick said...

Hi Frank,

You asked why was Jesus forsaken by God. Why did Jesus say those words? It was in fulfillment of the Psalm 22 prophecy of the Suffering Messiah.

It was God's Providential plan to send His Son into the world, knowing that His Son would be persecuted and murdered. This was given in prophecy in the OT, as you would agree.

In the Jewish mind, God would never allow an innocent person to suffer persecution, so when God forsook Jesus by not rescuing Jesus from Roman persecution, it seemed outrageous to the Jewish mind. But God held off rescuing Jesus (i.e. forsaking Him) so that Jesus could show what it means to truly love your enemy rather than retaliate on them. This love that Jesus showed was of infinite value before the Father and made atonement for all our sins.

Anonymous said...

Is it not true that Jesus was not innocent in the eyes of the Jews?

Where in Scripture does it saying anything like what you wrote--"But God held off rescuing Jesus (i.e. forsaking Him) so that Jesus could show what it means to truly love your enemy rather than retaliate on them."?

Nick said...

A certain crowd of the Jews at that time saw Jesus as guilty, and some of them even deliberately made up charges against Him.

In Matthew 26 we read:

"52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?"

When Jesus was being arrested to be taken off to Crucifixion, Jesus teaches that God could have sent "twelve legions of angels" to the rescue. God permitted Jesus to fall into the hands of the Jews.

guy fawkes said...

I would be interested on the evolution of this bizarre doctrine.
I read once that is is related to the Divine Right of Kings. I couldn't really follow the explanation. We do know both Calvin and Melancthon were lawyers. Does this have something to do with it?

Michael Taylor said...


I am partially sympathetic to your position here. Personally, I would not use the language of "damned in our place," simply because "damned" suggests eternal conscious punishment. Jesus did not suffer "eternally" therefore he could not be literally "damned."

That said, because he was the God-man, he could suffer "infinitely" in our place, which is exactly what he did. "Infinitely" vs. "eternally" may seem like a distinction without a difference, but I think there is one. By "infinite," I mean that the offense against a Holy God was "infinite" because God is infinite. Therefore an "infinite" reparation/satisfaction had to be made, which is what Jesus did on the cross.

But, since this punishment was the equivalent to damnation, I can see why many in the Protestant tradition have used that language. The trouble I have with it is that it is open to misunderstanding and lends itself to drawing all the wrong inferences from it, which is exactly what you have done.

It strikes me that this might be a good topic for a debate. Let me know if you have the time/inclination.

Perhaps the proposition could be something like, "Was Christ damned in our place?" Or, "Is it a heresy to say that the Father poured his wrath upon the Son?" or words to that effect.

I would affirm (albeit with the qualifications I've outlined above) and you would deny.

Since I denied last time we debated, it's only fair that you get a chance to next time.


Nick said...


I agree with your 'infinitely' vs 'eternally' distinction, but I don't place it in the realm of punishment. As High Priest, Jesus offered from earth *UP TO* heaven a sweet smelling aroma to God, and being Divine this made Jesus' act of love of 'infinite' worth.

What the Protestant is saying is that punishment rained from Heaven *DOWN TO* earth to Jesus', and since He was Divine Jesus could endure the equivalent of damnation in the span of a few hours on the Cross.

I would be open to a debate, but I'm still not fully sure how you're viewing the situation. You seem to dislike the 'strong language' of people like Piper but none the less seem to affirm the substance of what Piper is saying.

Michael Taylor said...


I think you're misrepresenting both sides of this. In fact, the cross is both wrath coming "down" and an acceptable offering going "up," and both Roman Catholics (Thomists, anyway) and Protestants affirm this.

The wrath comes down on Jesus to satisfy the demands of justice. The offering goes up to God and is acceptable to him so that the wrath does not come down on us, which is the very definition of mercy.

In the cross, therefore, both justice and mercy kiss. You seem to be seeing it as all mercy and no justice, that is, mercy instead of justice.

Or look at it this way: We owe an infinite debt to God that we cannot pay. God accepts Jesus' death as payment of that debt. The payment in question is not only his physical death, but also his spiritual suffering (hence, those who say that Christ was "damned" in our place). So Jesus voluntarily accepts the wrath, thereby satisfying justice, and we get the mercy by being spared the justice that was otherwise due to us.

It seems to me that in your view God simply forgives the debt without actually paying it off, thereby leaving an "imbalance" in the ledger, which would be the perversion of justice. God may forgive our debt so that we don't have to pay it, but the debt still has to be paid. Providentially, God himself (the Son) paid the debt that we could not. He did this not just by dying, but by suffering the eternal penalty for our sins. This, I think, is why Protestants have historically used "damnation" language, since eternal suffering is equivalent to damnation....

Got to cut this short...


Nick said...

Wrath never comes down if a Sacrifice is going up. Protestants believe the Cross only involves wrath coming down, while Catholics believe the Cross only involves Sacrifice goes up. This is why Protestants see the Sacrifice of the Mass as an abomination, while Catholics see Sacrifice as the heart of true Sunday worship.

For you to say BOTH take place sounds completely illogical to me. You cannot have appeasement and punishment taking place at the same time each working towards the same goal.

This is *precisely* why the issue of Atonement - the proper definition of Atonement - is at the heart of the PSub debate. Atonement is about appeasing wrath (i.e. offering UP), Psub is about receiving wrath (pouring down). BOTH cannot be Atonement.

Michael Taylor said...


You said:

>>Wrath never comes down if a Sacrifice is going up.<<

LOL. Tell that to the lamb! Wrath is always diverted to a substitute, so it does come down, but just not on those for whom the sacrifice is offered.

>>Protestants believe the Cross only involves wrath coming down, <<

Lies. Protestants have a far more complex understanding of the Atonement. Wrath coming down is one facet of the Atonement, not the entire thing.

>>...while Catholics believe the Cross only involves Sacrifice goes up.<<

More lies. Many in the Catholic tradition have understood the penal nature of Jesus' sacrifice, which means the punishment "comes down" even as the sacrifice "goes up" as I have documented over and over again on my blog.

>>This is why Protestants see the Sacrifice of the Mass as an abomination,<<

It is a blasphemy, but that's not why. The Mass is blasphemy because it purports to be the *same* sacrifice as Calvary. If that were true, then the mass would accomplish exactly what Calvary accomplished every time it was offered. But by one offering Calvary forever perfected those for whom it was offered (so the book of Hebrews). It follows, therefore, that if the mass were identical to Calvary, that it too would forever perfect those for whom it is offered.

But the mass doesn't make you perfect. You could go to mass a thousand times and you would still lack the perfect righteousness that is required for you to go to heaven.

As a memorial of the atonement, we would say the mass is deficient inasmuch as the Roman Catholic doctrine of the atonement is deficient. In other words, Rome rightly affirms that the atonement renders true reparation for sins (satisfaction). But Rome denies that the atonement thereby perfects those for whom it is offered because so many more things must be added to it: cooperation, sacraments etc.

Further, insofar as Rome denies that satisfaction is rendered by means of penal substitution, Rome also misses the mark, and thereby misses the Gospel.

>>For you to say BOTH take place sounds completely illogical to me. You cannot have appeasement and punishment taking place at the same time each working towards the same goal.<<

That would be illogical. But that's not the claim. You're forgetting the Sub in Psub. Jesus died vicariously in the place of his people. He took the wrath, while his people got the mercy instead of the wrath. There's nothing illogical about that. Mysterious, yes. Illogical, no.

Nick>> Atonement is about appeasing wrath (i.e. offering UP)…<<<

That's part of it. Atonement turns away wrath, and does several other things as well. But the Atonement also requires that the wrath be satisfied, not just turned away from those to whom it rightly should have gone (God's people).

Like I said before, you affirm mercy to the exclusion of justice. The Bible, in contrast, holds both concepts together.

nannykim said...

Hi, Michael, I think you might find the post at CTC helpful on the differences between Catholics and Protestants on this view. You may have already seen this. Here in particular:

from comment 111
You’re using the term “PSub,” meaning “penal substitutionary atonement,” but it is very important to be aware that the term “penal substitution” has a different meaning in Catholic theology than it does in Reformed theology. At the beginning of the article at the top of this page, you will see a link to a video by R.C. Sproul explaining the Reformed conception of penal substitution. If you watch it to the end, you will see that according to Sproul the Father essentially says to the Son, “God damn You.” According to that conception of penal substitution, bearing the curse means bearing the full punishment under justice for every sin committed by the elect. But that’s not what the term ‘penal substitution’ means in Catholic theology. In Catholic theology, ‘penal substitution’ means that Christ endured the curse of physical death (which was the curse God imposed on man after Adam’s sin) for our sakes, and offered Himself in a perfect sacrifice of loving obedience, in our place as our High Priest and Victim. That is also how the Orthodox and the Church Fathers understand the curse; see, for example, the letter of St. Augustine to Faustus, linked in the article above. It is a completely different conception of ‘penal substitution.’ So it would be equivocation to use the term ‘penal substitution’ as if in Catholic theology it meant the same as it does in Reformed theology. (Hence the statement by Fr. Murray is not about the Reformed conception of penal substitution, or indicate that there is dogmatic ‘space’ with the Catholic Tradition for the Reformed conception of penal substitution.)

nannykim said...

The reference to Augustine shows what he meant by Jesus being cursed:
The article quoting Augustine For example here is part of the quote:
3. Death comes upon man as the punishment of sin, and so is itself called sin; not that a man sins in dying, but because sin is the cause of his death. So the word tongue, which properly means the fleshy substance between the teeth and the palate, is applied in a secondary sense to the result of the tongue's action. In this sense we speak of a Latin tongue and a Greek tongue. The word hand, too, means both the members of the body we use in working, and the writing which is done with the hand. In this sense we speak of writing as being proved to be the hand of a certain person, or of recognizing the hand of a friend. The writing is certainly not a member of the body, but the name hand is given to it because it is the hand that does it. So sin means both a bad action deserving punishment, and death the consequence of sin. Christ has no sin in the sense of deserving death, but He bore for our sakes sin in the sense of death as brought on human nature by sin. This is what hung on the tree; this is what was cursed by Moses. Thus was death condemned that its reign might cease, and cursed that it might be destroyed. By Christ's taking our sin in this sense, its condemnation is our deliverance, while to remain in subjection to sin is to be condemned.

4. What does Faustus find strange in the curse pronounced on sin, on death, and on human mortality, which Christ had on account of man's sin, though He Himself was sinless? Christ's body was derived from Adam, for His mother the Virgin Mary was a child of Adam. But God said in Paradise, "On the day that you eat, you shall surely die." This is the curse which hung on the tree. A man may deny that Christ was cursed who denies that He died. But the man who believes that Christ died, and acknowledges that death is the fruit of sin, and is itself called sin, will understand who it is that is cursed by Moses, when he hears the apostle saying "For our old man is crucified with Him." Romans 6:6 The apostle boldly says of Christ, "He was made a curse for us;" for he could also venture to say, "He died for all." "He died," and "He was cursed," are the same. Death is the effect of the curse; and all sin is cursed, whether it means the action which merits punishment, or the punishment which follows. Christ, though guiltless, took our punishment, that He might cancel our guilt, and do away with our punishment.

Michael Taylor said...

Hi Nannykim,

You said>>You’re using the term “PSub,” meaning “penal substitutionary atonement,” but it is very important to be aware that the term “penal substitution” has a different meaning in Catholic theology than it does in Reformed theology.<<

Actually, I was using the term as Nick uses it. As far as I know, he coined "psub" on this blog, whereas I usually use "PSA" on mine.

Further, I was not aware that "penal substitutionary atonement" is Roman Catholic lingo. It's not that we Reformed have cornered the market on the term; rather it's that most RCs shy away from that language.

That said, I quite agree that many whom you would identify as fellow Roman Catholics, do affirm the essence of what we Reformed mean by PSA, even if they do not use that exact nomenclature. (Please visit my blog where I document this extensively in several articles. I'd especially refer you to my dialogue with Matthew Nagel that centers around Aquinas' take on the matter.)

You said>>>At the beginning of the article at the top of this page, you will see a link to a video by R.C. Sproul explaining the Reformed conception of penal substitution. If you watch it to the end, you will see that according to Sproul the Father essentially says to the Son, “God damn You.” <<

For reasons already indicated, I think this language goes too far in that it lends itself to misunderstanding. That said, I agree with the Reformed tradition that Christ's penal substitution was the equivalent of damnation and arguably worse given that Christ suffered for the collective guilt of a people, whereas any damned soul could only ever suffer for his/her own sins.

You said>>According to that conception of penal substitution, bearing the curse means bearing the full punishment under justice for every sin committed by the elect.<<

I agree with this, even if this is not the totality of the Reformed understanding of the atonement.

You said>>But that’s not what the term ‘penal substitution’ means in Catholic theology. In Catholic theology, ‘penal substitution’ means that Christ endured the curse of physical death (which was the curse God imposed on man after Adam’s sin) for our sakes,<<

You're misrepresenting your own theology. In addition to physical death there was also spiritual death or mortal sin as well as concupiscence. You speak as if Christ merely died, and that the physical pains of crucifixion exhaust all aspects of his suffering, which of course, is ridiculous.

>>...and offered Himself in a perfect sacrifice of loving obedience, in our place as our High Priest and Victim.<<

Which we also affirm under the rubrics of active and passive obedience.

I'll stop here as there is enough to chew on already and I don't want to get too far afield from the topic at hand--namely whether or not we can safely say that Christ was "damned in our place."

I admit that many Reformed thinkers have used this language and that I'd prefer to clean it up in order to highlight the essential differences between the pains of the damned and the vicarious atonement. But in those contexts where one might be speaking in less technical terms, (such as Piper's blog article, that Nick cited) I'm actually okay with it. That is, I can affirm with Piper and Sproul that, for all intents and purposes, Christ suffered hell in place of his elect.

How could it be otherwise?

Nick said...


Before I get to your latest response, I feel I should mention that your use of the term "lies" against me is unwarranted and can give others the wrong impression of what type of people you and I really are. I have no problem with people objecting strongly to something someone else says, but I believe it's best to use language such as "he's wrong" or "he doesn't understand" rather than something like "lies". More often than not, when someone says something erroneous, they aren't intending to lie but rather are mistaken. Even misrepresenting an opponent shouldn't assumed to be "lies," since misrepresentation typically comes from simply not properly understanding the opponent (especially when it comes to using terminology differently). Apologetics is an area where you have to cut people a lot of slack, because people can repeat the same errors for a long time and yet have no ill will simply because they think they understand something when they really don't.

I try to be informed about issues before I speak on them, and I especially strive to understand *WHY* a person would hold a certain view, because I assume they hold a certain view for a rational reason, even if that view is downright wrong. In the case of PSub, I feel I understand perfectly well why Protestants (typically Reformed) hold to it, and that's because it's a lynchpin for Sola Fide. The problem then is that I see Protestants making all kinds of passing comments about Jesus being damned and cut off from the Father and such, without realizing the Christological implications run directly contrary to the long-settled dogmatic teachings of the early Ecumenical Councils.

nannykim said...

Oh sorry, Michael, ---I was not clear---that first comment I gave in reply to you concerning "comment 111" was all a quote from the link I gave. When it said "you" it did not mean you as in Michael. The comment 111 and link I gave was all followed by a quote from that comment. Sorry for the confusion!! I should have put quotes around it!

Michael Taylor said...


You're right, of course, I should probably not use the word "lie" in polite discourse. But I wasn't trying to be polite. I was trying to get your attention and I think I succeeded.

I believe that your penchant for framing the issues as either X or Y is dishonest. You've been corrected on this very point numerous times, yet you continue to assert it as before. Therefore, in light of your persistent restatement of the same misrepresentation of the Reformed view, what else should we call it? "Lie" was the first thing that popped into my mind, and so I went with it.

Notwithstanding your claims to do your homework first, it seems to me that you have an agenda to misrepresent the Reformed view and/or cast it in the most negative light possible.

Be that as it may, it is simply a "lie" to keep saying that the Reformed view of the atonement consists "solely" (your language) in the wrath being poured out upon the Son and not also a voluntary self-offering. That's not our view, Nick and so long as you keep saying it is, I'm going to keep calling you a liar.

If you find the term off-putting, here is what we can do: I'll change the word "lie" to "willful misrepresentation" instead.

Alternatively, you could repent of your caricatures of Reformed theology and then we can move on.

What say you?

Nick said...

Now I'll get to your latest response to me:

(1) I originally said "Wrath never comes down if a Sacrifice is going up." (I hold these two concepts as mutually exclusive.) You responded by saying the sacrificial lamb is the recipient of wrath, and that "wrath is always diverted to a substitute." This is where Scripture is key, because as I've shown many times, the Biblical term "atonement" never involves punishing an innocent substitute. Unless you can show clear texts where the lamb is *clearly* an object of wrath, you need to retract that assertion.

(2) I also said Catholics believe the Cross only involves Sacrifice going up. You responded by saying some in the Catholic tradition have understood a penal nature of Christ's sacrifice, thus proving both wrath comes down and sacrifice goes up. Assuming the theologians you have in mind are orthodox, I think you're misunderstanding what they are saying. Christ's sufferings did have punishment component in so far as physical death is a punishment for Adam's sin. But no orthodox Catholic theologian is going to say God poured out His wrath on Jesus, especially in the sense of us deserving hell so Jesus receives the equivalent punishment to our collective eternal damnation.

Sacrifice is about something good offered up to counter-balance something bad that was done. Offering a sacrifice can involve a loss of your time, energy, and finances, and so carry a penal component to it, but that's not the mechanism by which atonement is procured by the sacrifice. The point of sacrifice is not to transfer guilt to an innocent being and thus transfer the death penalty from you to the sacrifice.

(3) I said this radically different view of sacrifice between Catholics and Protestants is why Protestants
see the Mass as an abomination. You responded by saying: "It is a blasphemy, but that's not why. The Mass is blasphemy because it purports to be the *same* sacrifice as Calvary."

If it's the same sacrifice in *essence* as Calvary, with only the accidents changing (e.g. an unbloody manner), then nothing essential is really being repeated. A crude analogy would be watching the Crucifixion live in person versus watching a DVD of the same Crucifixion from your living room. The Crucifixion is not being repeated, it's the same Crucifixion, the only difference is that you're viewing it from your living room couch rather than being on site.

You then said:
"But the mass doesn't make you perfect. You could go to mass a thousand times and you would still lack the perfect righteousness that is required for you to go to heaven."

A Protestant could go to sit in a Protestant service every Sunday their entire life and not go to heaven. That doesn't mean the problem is the Sunday Service, but rather the person isn't being receptive to what's coming from the service. Similarly, the Cross only saves in so far as its merits are actually applied, so a Catholic sitting at Mass with their heart closed is not receiving the benefits of Mass.

(cont 1 of 2)

Nick said...

(cont 2 of 2)

The one *crucial difference* though is what each of us views the Cross as actually doing. For the Protestant, the punishment we deserved was transferred to Christ, so the only sense by which this is celebrated each Sunday is purely as a memorial of a 2000 year old legal-transaction. Re-living it makes no sense. But the Catholic view of Sacrifice is that of offering up the perfect prayer, such grace flows as often as you 'recite that prayer' (i.e. have Mass said), since it calls God to 'remember' and 're-live' the pleasing offering of His Son.

There is no legal transaction in the Catholic view, but rather a High Priest mediator, Jesus, who is *continually* mediating between God and Men. This is why I've said the Biblical passages that speak of Christ as Mediator in the *present tense* make no sense from the Protestant perspective.

(4) I had said: "Atonement is about appeasing wrath (i.e. offering UP)," to which you responded:
"That's part of it. Atonement turns away wrath, and does several other things as well. But the Atonement also requires that the wrath be satisfied, not just turned away from those to whom it rightly should have gone (God's people)."

The problem with this is that you're essentially making up your own definitions of what Atonement means. You're seeing atonement as a two-step process: (1) appeasing wrath, and (2) having the substitute receive the wrath. That's not what "appease" means, and that's not what Catholics are saying, so for you to say "that's part of it" completely misses the point.

If I pay $1000 to release you from the electric chair, with the implication that nobody has to die in the electric chair that day. The requirement of the electric chair has been dissolved by virtue of the $1000 payment. That's the Catholic view of justice. What you're saying is No, paying $1000 is only "part of it," because after paying the $1000 to release you, a substitute must now also step into the electric chair and die that day. These are TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT views.

You are misunderstanding the phrase "turn away wrath" - it is to be understood as wrath subsiding. You are interpreting it in a way Catholics do not intend. You are misunderstanding "turn away wrath" to mean the wrath remains but now someone else must be the recipient. Take a human analogy of a child apologizing to his angry father. In accepting the apology, the father relents of his anger; the father is no longer angry. What you're saying is that after accepting the apology the father turns his wrath from the bad child and now has to seek out either his wife or another child to beat up on.
Even in political/military terms it is understood that to "appease" an enemy nation makes the the enemy nation no longer threatening to invade you. But you're adding onto what appeasement means and saying the appeased enemy nation is *required* to seek out another nation to invade. But that's a logical fallacy.

Michael Taylor said...


>>A Protestant could go to sit in a Protestant service every Sunday their entire life and not go to heaven.<<

Very true. But we don't make the claim that a Protestant service is the same sacrifice as Calvary, so your point is entirely moot.

>>Similarly, the Cross only saves in so far as its merits are actually applied, so a Catholic sitting at Mass with their heart closed is not receiving the benefits of Mass. <<

And a Catholic whose heart is open isn't going to be perfected by the "sacrifice of the mass" no matter how many times he/she goes. That's the proof that it's not the same sacrifice (and by "same," I do understand what you mean by "essentially" the same.)

But that's where Rome is dead wrong. The mass is not even essentially the same as Calvary, for if it were, then it would accomplish "essentially" the same thing Calvary did.

Scripture makes it clear that the one-time offering of Calvary forever prefects those for whom Christ died.

The mass perfects no one. But if it's essentially the same sacrifice, then you should only ever need to go to mass once to be perfected.

The alternative is to admit that the mass is "essentially" different than Calvary. Remember, the liturgy itself is much older than the theology that later defined it as propitiatory sacrifice.

Also, your analogy that Jesus doesn't die over and over again, but rather we watch his death over an over again (as watching a DVD) is problematic on a number of levels.

1. Trent says Christ is "immolated" in every mass, which easily lends itself to the misunderstanding that Christ dies in every mass. I realize this is not the claim. But you have to admit that the language does seem to imply this.

2. Your DVD analogy also implies this. If we were to watch the same scene over and over again (the death of Christ), then we would see Jesus dying over and over again. It might a "representation" of the one death. But, in a real sense, the death is happening over and over again, even on DVD.

This is all the more the case with the mass, which isn't merely a representation of Calvary, but is in fact a mystical participation in Calvary.

See my article on this:

3. Finally, your DVD analogy amounts to the Protestant claim that the mass is at best a memorial of a sacrifice. We claim that in the Lord's Supper we are commemorating Jesus' death on the cross. We do not claim we are re-presenting it mystically. But our view sounds much more like watching it on DVD over and over again to remind ourselves of what happened.

Your view sounds more like getting in a time-machine that transports us back to the very event itself so that we can somehow participate in it as did those who originally attended the Last Supper and/or who were present at the cross.

It's a neat theory, but it still falls short. For if Calvary accomplished salvation for God's people, then the mass has to do the same. But it doesn't as you yourself have just admitted.

nannykim said...


You said in reply to me, "That is, I can affirm with Piper and Sproul that, for all intents and purposes, Christ suffered hell in place of his elect."

This would be a damning of Christ as far as I can see, unless I am misunderstanding you. One problem with this is what Bryan Cross states in part of another comment on the link I gave: "Let me add something as a point of clarification and qualification. To be damned is to be without hope, and without charity. It is to know that one is eternally separated from God, with no hope, not even the possibility of there being hope. That is utter despair. To be damned is to hate God, and to hate His justice. To be damned is to hate oneself with never-ending hatred that knows itself to be never-ending. But Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him; He always retained hope and charity. He did not despair (that would have been a mortal sin). Nor did He hate God. Thus He never hated Himself. Nor did He ever lose sanctifying grace; otherwise His human will would have been against His divine will. So, for these reasons, if we say that He experienced what it is like to be damned, we must include some very important qualifications. He experienced the external loss of divine protection, and the interior loss of spiritual consolation. The damned also experience that, so in those two respects Christ experienced what it is like to be damned. But Christ didn’t experience the despair, self-loathing, hatred for God and deprivation of grace that the damned experience. So in those respects Christ didn’t experience what it is like to be damned." But I see I am interrupting your discussion with Nick--so I will bow out for now. Thanks, Kim

Michael Taylor said...


Of the many things I've written, you lift this one citation out of context and then pounce on it, attributing to me views that I do not hold.

You spell out exactly the reasons why I shy away from "damnation" language since you, like Nick, have drawn all the wrong inferences from it.

No one is saying that Jesus "hated" the Father. If you think that's our view, cite one responsible Reformed thinker who believes that way.

I also agree with you that Jesus never despaired. I make the very same argument on my blog in my third response to Matthew Nagle. You can read that here:

So the language of "damned in our place" really doesn't hold up to technical scrutiny, but in certain contexts can be a convenient short-hand way of stating exactly what you say when you say that Christ's sufferings were comparable to damnation.

But it wasn't damnation itself, for many obvious reasons. That said, what do we make of the Reformed thinkers like Piper who use that language? My advice would be to read them in context to see what sort of discourse they're using.

If they're writing a theological piece, I would fault them for lack of precision and raise many of the objections you do. If they're making a comment in passing while engaging in more informal discourse, I'd give them the benefit of the doubt that they can see the differences between the pain of the damned and what Christ suffered.

Michael Taylor said...


I've put my responses to your latest on my blog if you'd like to read it all at once. But I'm also going to cut and paste it here.

Here's the link:

Michael Taylor said...

On second thought, I'm just going to leave it on my blog as the links don't carry over to com-boxes.

Nick said...

I'll read it now. Not sure if I'll have the time to respond until later.

Nick said...

Ok, here are my thoughts, broken down to what I see as the most essential points:

(1) Understanding the Biblical term “atonement” and how the Bible uses the term is vital. I have written many articles on how the Bible uses “atonement” and have shown that it never involves transferring a punishment. I stand by this. My most important article on this matter is “Atonement according to Scripture,” which it does not appear you’ve ever commented on. Unless you used a different name or I missed where you did, I don’t see any comments by you in the comment box of my main Atonement Article. In that article I show how the term “atonement” is used in texts clearly prefiguring Christ, such as Moses (Psalm 106:19-23), Phinehas (Numbers 25:1-13), and Aaron (Num 16:41-50), and I noted how the Hero makes atonement but does not have to suffer the wrath themselves. I’ve written about how Atonement is used in Sacrifices, especially in Leviticus, and shown that projecting PSub on the text simply doesn’t work. That’s why I’ve asked you and other Protestants to show even ONE verse where atonement is taking place where Psub is CLEARLY taking place, without begging the question. I’ve shown many examples where “atonement” is used and Psub is not taking place (e.g. Lev 12 when a woman gives birth, clearly giving birth isn’t a monstrous sin deserving the death penalty).

(2) You then went to the Day of Atonement as proof of Psub. I’ve written about this myself already, including responding directly to comments/posts you’ve made. You claim here that it is “obvious from immediate context that both goats were penal substitutes,” but I reject this for reasons I’ve already written about. For one, I said it’s illogical to claim that the SAME guilt and punishment was imputed to two different animals, because then the same sin is being punished twice. I went into detail on this onmy Scapegoat Article, which you originally responded to but you ran into problems as I continued to bring up key details about the situation.

(3) Attempting to bring Aquinas in as a Catholic testimony for PSub simply wont work because you don’t understand how Thomas is using his terminology. I’ve brought up how Aquinas teaches Atonement is made, and it never involves a transfer of punishment in the sense of receiving God’s wrath or the death penalty in place of another. Aquinas defines atonement in ST 3:48:2, “He properly atones for an offense who offers something which the offended one loves equally, or even more than he detested the offense.” Aquinas then explains that Christ’s love and obedience to the Father was what made up for the offences of the whole human race.

(4) I agree with you that the punishment Adam received was both physical and spiritual death, but how is that relevant? Because Atonement isn’t about receiving the same or equivalent punishment, then why does it matter that Christ only physically died? Surely you’re at least going to be logically consistent and say that if Christ can suffer the EQUIVALENT of whatever we deserved, and He being a Divine Person makes whatever punishment received get ‘multiplied’ by infinity, then the slightest pain Christ received would have been more than the equivalent punishment. So even in Psub physical death alone should logically be enough.

(5) You are not being careful with your language of Jesus ‘bearing our sin’. I’ve written about how this is properly understood in the Bible. In places like Leviticus 10:17 it explains that the High Priest “bears the sin of the people” in the sense it’s his duty to make sacrificial atonement for them. It does not refer to imputed guilt, a concept which simply is never taught in Scripture.
(page 1 of 4)

Nick said...

(page 2 of 4)

(6) Like many other Protestants desperate to find proof of Jesus suffering divine wrath in the Gospels, the “forsaken me” text is the go-to passage because nothing else comes close. So you and others desperately cling to it, when in fact there’s a perfectly coherent interpretation of “forsaken me” that fits and I’ve mentioned numerous times. For you to just say that “forsaken” means the Father separated from the Son such that the Son would “experience the separation that his people should have experienced and which all the damned will experience” is complete eisegesis and completely contrary to basic Christology. Yet the Reformed keep repeating this mantra as if saying it enough will make it true.

(7) You then accused me of only speaking of one facet of what “atonement” means and said I ignore/exclude the other facets. I read the link you provided and it’s largely a copy of what I already said a long time prior in my big Atonement Article (linked above). NOWHERE did you show where atonement involved transferring a punishment. You mentioned “averting God’s wrath,” which is fine, but you gave two clear examples where Phinehas and Aaron “averted God’s wrath” but these heroes were not suffering God’s wrath in place of the sinners. Your Conclusion to that link you gave highlights the problem most clearly:

“PSA is the clear teaching of Leviticus 16, which includes the notions of forgiveness, cleansing or purification, redemption and the averting of wrath (propitiation) within the prescribed rituals of the Day of Atonement. Both the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat function as penal substitutes for Israel. The first goat is killed in place of Israel and its blood secures redemption, purification and forgiveness. Its blood also averts God's wrath which would surely fall upon Aaron were he to enter the Holy of Holies without it (cf, Leviticus 16:1-2). The second goat (the scapegoat) bears the iniquity of the people and is "cut off" in their place and left to die in the wilderness.”

When you say “notions of forgiveness, cleansing or purification, redemption and the averting of wrath” you don’t stop to realize that NONE of these terms by their very definition logically requires transfer of punishment.
Further, you say the first goat secures redemption, purification, forgiveness, and averting wrath. If that’s the case, then that means ALL THE FACETS you gave are covered with the first goat! You’ve precluded the need for a second goat, or at least made the second goat somewhat of a redundancy.

You then say the second goat bears the iniquity of the people – as if the first goat did not bear their iniquity? This is simply logic Michael: If the first goat bears the iniquity, then why does the second goat even need to? If both bear iniquity, why is the same sin punished twice? But if only the second goat bears iniquity, then how in the heck is the first goat functioning penal substitute if no guilt is upon it to transfer the punishment upon it? That’s the very issue I brought up in the comment box of my Scapegoat Article to which you never responded (you left off right after I brought this up in the comment box).

Nick said...

(page 3 of 4)

(8) You said the reason why a priest lays his hand on the animal is to symbolize the transfer of guilt. I’ve addressed this many times and it’s simply false. The only time sin is symbolically transferred is the Scapegoat, no other time are those instructions given. I’ve pointed out how sacrifices that have nothing to do with atoning for sin, namely the Peace Offering of Leviticus 3, has the priest lay his hands on the goat, despite the fact there’s no sin to transfer.

(9) You then describe why an animal had to die:
“Two things must happen: 1) The animal has to die in place of the people (that's penal substitution) and 2) the lifeblood of the animal must be shed to cover the mercy seat (that's the blood atonement). Death, then, is the means by which redeeming blood was obtained.”

This description contradicts the whole notion of Penal Substitution. On one hand you want the death itself (the substitution of punishment) to be the mechanism of forgiveness, but then you turn and say the blood must be ritually sprinkled to procure Atonement. You cannot have it both ways. If Atonement is *not* procured by killing the animal, then simply transferring the punishment is not enough, and there goes the theory of Psub. An animal could technically take your punishment and yet not have atonement procured. Simply baffling. You’ve made atonement an *addition* to receiving punishment.

(10) I won’t go into your comments on the Mass here since this is long enough and the Mass issue is really an extension of properly understanding Atonement in the first place.

(11) I did call you out on your bizarre definition of Atonement, where you said atonement involves both turning away wrath and having the wrath be poured out on a substitute. You then proceed to give me the scholarly definition of Atonement: “The Hebrew word group that stands behind Atonement implies, among other things: 1) Ransom/redemption, 2) purification, 3) forgiveness, 4) propitiation or wrath-aversion.”

Again, I ask, where in these four facets is wrath being dumped on a substitute? Where? I see nothing here. I see wrath aversion, i.e. turning away wrath as one facet, but none of these facts say wrath is dumped on a substitute. And I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible, I don’t see it in the case of Phinehas, Moses, or Aaron, who all made atonement without any reference to wrath being poured out on a substitute. This is on the most fundamental level of defining terms, and I’ve shown throughout this response that you’ve consistently failed to be consistent/systematic with what you’re saying.

(12) You trivialize the physical sufferings of Christ, just as John Calvin did. You said (as did Calvin):
“That would be the smallest part of his suffering which lasted a mere few hours on the cross and was in fact probably no worse than any other person who suffered crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.”

This is a blasphemous trivializing of the *Cross*, making the physical sufferings not only incidental, but really not much worse than any mere human who was crucified. The Divinity of Christ and His Sinlessness accents any pain to an infinite degree, so His physical sufferings were the worst sufferings ever (as Aquinas even says), they just didn’t include spiritual sufferings in the form of God’s wrath being poured out – a detail which you consider absolutely critical and yet which the Gospels are SILENT about (Luke and John don’t even mention the “forsaken me”).

Nick said...

(page 4 of 4)

(13) Your failure to understand my analogy of $1000 and the electric chair just highlights the continual theme of you misunderstanding and having no consistent definition of “atonement”. Paying a ransom to get someone out of the electric chair does not mean the electric chair must still have a substitute sit in it. You’re defining it that way, but that’s wrong. Even if Psub was granted it would only mean Jesus could either sit in the electric chair in your place *OR* He could pay the ransom, but not both, because suffering both entails double punishment for the same crime.

(14) You denied my parent-child analogy but said: “the death Jesus died didn't just avert wrath; it in fact diverted wrath toward himself and away from me.”

You’re still misunderstanding the notion of “avert,” thinking that averting must also include diverting onto a substitute. That’s wrong. Averting is appeasing, which is why Phinehas was said to “turn away God’s wrath” and yet the text says nothing of this averted wrath also needing to be diverted to a substitute. You can either turn away wrath (avert) or you can divert to a substitute, but not both; you’re making both part of the equation when it’s not.

(15) You gave what you claim is a more accurate analogy than mine, that of several children making a mess out of their room and getting their father angry. But you have a situation of double jeopardy and are not really consistent in how you’re laying out the story. If the oldest son gets chewed out by the Father with the anger he had towards all the kids, then the Father should have no wrath towards the other children. But then you say that: “In seeing that the room is cleaned, the Father accepts the work of the older Son on behalf of his other wayward children and relents of his wrath toward them.” There shouldn’t be wrath to “relent” from after the father already rebuked the other son. The Father doesn’t even need to look at the clean room, for the punishment has already been meted out.

In the Biblical model, the oldest son would have gone in to clean the room, and the father seeing the clean room would have favor towards the oldest son, and the son acting as intercessor would ask that the father not verbally chew out the other children. The oldest son doesn’t need to be verbally chewed out, all he needs to do is clean the room to appease the Father. The only “suffering” the oldest son has to endure is the labor of cleaning up the mess, but there is no guilt upon the oldest son.

You assigned “atonement” to the room cleaning rather than the taking of the father’s verbal rebuke when you said: “The Father accepts the cleaned-up room in atonement. But the wrath has already been visited upon the older Son in the form of a stern rebuke.” This is exactly the kind of inconsistent (and even erroneous) defining of your terms, because now “atonement” isn’t directly connected to the issue of wrath. Wrath “has already been visited upon” the Son, and yet the Son must now go make atonement? That’s ridiculous.

Michael Taylor said...


On point 1: You're right, I didn't read that article or comment on it. As for your claim that Moses, Phinehas and Aaron prefigured Christ but did not suffer the wrath themselves, so what? No one in the Reformed camp makes the claim in the first place that priestly predecessors of Christ were wrath-bearers or that they had to be. If you read my Isaiah piece, you'd see that I said there that the Suffering Servant is the first case of a human being having sin imputed to him as a penal substitute.

2) Your "double jeopardy" objection fails on a number of levels. First, it isn't double jeopardy in the first place for two animals to be used for atonement. See for example Numbers 8:12 where two bulls are needed to make atonement. But you wouldn't call that DJ. Second, DJ refers to being tried for the same crime after acquittal. That isn't the situation in Leviticus 16. Third, it isn't clear to me that animals can be put into DJ situations anyway. 4. God is within His rights to prescribe the use of more than one animal in sin-atoning rituals. 5. The two goats and one bull of Yom Kippur all had distinct rolls to play in the one, ritual. Your demand that each goat embody all aspects of PSA isn't reasonable. We only need show that all elements of PSA are present within the Day of Atonement ritual as a whole, which we have shown.

3. Two master degrees (an M.Div and an M.A in Philosophy) from Roman Catholic institutions say I do understand Thomas a lot better than you do. That said, I never make the claim that Aquinas held to the full-blown concept of PSA that developed after him in Reformed theology, only that much of what he says is congenial to that later development. You simply must read ST, III, 47, 3, reply 1 and also the the first objection. There, I think you will see, that you are playing the part of Aquinas' objector and I am playing the part of Thomas in his reply. For it is the modern RC today who says satisfaction is divorced from penalty, but it is Thomas Aquinas who says penalty is the means by which satisfaction is made.

That said, I agree with you that Thomas did not see Jesus suffering the wrath of those in hell, but rather his suffering far exceeded it. "The pain of a suffering, separated soul belongs to the state of future condemnation, which exceeds every evil of this life, just as the glory of the saints surpasses every good of the present life. Accordingly, when we say that Christ's pain was the greatest, we make no comparison between His and the pain of a separated soul…" (ST: 3: 46:6, reply 3). On this score I agree with Thomas because there are certain things the damned suffer that Christ never did: despair, eternal separation, eternal torment, personal culpability for one's own sin. We could probably multiply that list.

I would say, however, that comparisons between Christ's sufferings and those of the damned can be made. But a "comparison" implies both similarities and differences. For example, Christ did experience the abandonment of the Father, the desolation of the collective guilt of his people, infinite sorrow, and many other things that show that his Passion was in fact worse than hell. But it wasn't hell itself in the strict sense.

Michael Taylor said...

On point 4 above: The relevance in mentioning that Adam suffered more than physical death is to remind you that the Second Adam did as well and that therefore we cannot limit his suffering mere physical pain and death. As for Christ's suffering, I say it has to be at least equivalent to make satisfaction, but more likely was superabundant. On this I'm still a died-in-the-wool Thomist at heart.

On point 5: The language of "bearing our sin" or "bearing iniquity / guilt" is open to a number of interpretations and must be decided on a case by case basis. The Hebrew terms, nasah (to bear) and avon, (iniquity/guilt), are often used in contexts where it is clear that punishment is being imputed to the one who bears the guilt or iniquity. See, for example, Genesis 4:13; Leviticus 5:17; 24:14-16; Numbers 5:31; 14:34; Lamentations 5:7. In the case of the live goat in Leviticus 16, it is clear that it is goat who bears the guilt of others. This is the very definition of penal substitution. As for Leviticus 10:17, so what? Of course the priest, in making atonement, bears the guilt of the one making the offering, because it is by means of the priest that offering is killed. But even on your reading, you would seem to be forced to admit that the sin of another is imputed to the priest. (This would be a mistake, of course. It is actually imputed to the victim. But without a priest to sacrifice the victim, no guilt can be born anyway.)

Michael Taylor said...

On point 6: I read one of your articles in which you take on the "forsake me" text. You try to counter the force of this in several ways: 1. You take it as pointing us back to all of Psalm 22. Good on you. I quite agree that any part of the psalm was likely intended to evoke its entirety. But what you do is use the rest of the psalm to actually blunt the force of that part of it that is actually cited. You in fact give no positive account for what Jesus meant by those terms. In other words, whatever Jesus meant by those words, he didn't mean what he actually said: That seems to be your view.

I agree that the cry of dereliction is not, by itself, proof that Jesus suffered divine wrath. What I am doing is taking the words at face value. So I hold that Jesus is not only telling us how he felt at the moment, but also stating a theological truth. We have to account for what that sense of separation was. Obviously no one is saying the Trinity was divided. Nor are we saying that Jesus despaired. Nor are we saying that Jesus didn't know it would turn out well in the end. (My goodness, Nick, he predicted his Resurrection several times before his cry of dereliction.) The only plausible alternative that I can come up with is that God the Father permitted the Son to experience the same sort of abandonment that God causes the reprobate to experience when he hands them over to their sin. He who knew no sin was made sin, Nick. That was the only way Jesus could experience sin from the point of view of the sinner. As God, he can only be sinned against. But as the God-Man he could experience what it is like to be a sinner upon whom the wrath of God remains (John 3: 36; Romans 1:18) without himself being personally culpable of sin. That's what it means to suffer vicariously.

You, on the other hand, seem to be saying, that Jesus only felt as if God had abandoned him, not that God had actually done so in any meaningful sense of the word "abandon." But that contradicts what the text actually says.

On point 7 above, I'm not following you: First, it seems that you're saying that I never proved that atonement entails the transfer of punishment. In one sense, you're right. That's because I was speaking of the results of an atonement that has been made, namely purification, forgiveness, redemption and propitiation. Nevertheless, I think I dealt with the guilt-transfer piece in my articles on the Passover and Leviticus 16.

I guess my confusion is this: Are you saying that Atonement requires the transfer of guilt from the guilty to party to an innocent substitute? If so, then I would say that the entire sacrificial system takes this as its given. That's what it means to be reconciled, forgiven, cleansed and spared wrath. How is this accomplished? Animals die. So it seems to me that the guilt doesn't just disappear into thin air but rather it is transferred symbolically to the animal that dies, the death of which, shows that sin is costly, that God takes sin seriously, that justice must be restored, but that God is also merciful by allowing an animal to die instead of us. Honestly, Nick, I'm just not seeing what you're not seeing here.

Michael Taylor said...

8) I was speaking of the scapegoat when I mentioned the laying on of hands. But you are in fact wrong about the gestures. Leviticus 1:4 makes it clear that a hand was laid upon the sacrificial victim: "He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him." This seems to be the normative way to offer an animal before killing it, but in this case, I do not think the hand symbolizes the transfer of sin to the animal but rather the identification of the offerer with the animal. That said, think about what that means for a second. Clearly the animal is substituting for the offerer. In identifying oneself with the animal, the sinner is symbolically demonstrating that he is the one who truly deserves death. So even in this gesture we have the P, the S and the A of PSA. The animal dies (the P), in place of the sinner (the S) thereby making atonement (the A). Put that all together Nick and what does it spell?

On point 9: (9) Here you're giving another false dichotomy. No one is trying to have it "both ways" because it is both ways. The very blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the altar to make atonement for the Holy Place. But the blood of the very same goat was also used to make atonement for the people. One goat atoning for more than one thing! Mind blowing, Nick. The real problem with your analysis, of course, is that you don't see the death of the goat as punishment. That's where you're failing to understand the entire ritual. It isn't enough to have the blood, for you can do that without killing the goat. It is important to the ritual that the first goat die, not just that it shed its blood. The question is why? The reason is that death is a punishment. The death of the first goat, then, symbolizes the death that the sinner has been saved from yet nevertheless deserves.

So once again Nick: The first goat dies and it's blood is used to atone for the Holy Place (thereby cleansing it) and to atone for the sins of the people. The death itself is punishment transferred from the guilty to an innocent substitute. That's the P and the S. The end result is atonement which consists of purification, forgiveness, redemption and propitiation. That's the A. Put it all together: PSA.

Michael Taylor said...

On point 10: Yes, I quite agree. The mass is a rabbit trail that ends poorly for Rome's claims that it is essentially the same sacrifice as Calvary.

On point 11: Your objection seems to require that for any given atonement in the OT all four facets must be in place (i.e., redemption, purification, forgiveness, propitiation). But no one is defending that view. What we are saying is that when you consider the various meanings of the Hebrew, all four meanings emerge throughout the OT. It is probably safe to say that more than one meaning can be more or less in focus at any given time. But there is no prior claim on my part that all four elements are equally present all the time. Why you think they must be is something you'll have to justify, not assume.

On point 12: You're badly overreacting here, Nick. Aquinas made the same point with respect to the physical suffering of Christ in ST 3: 46: 5. My point was not to diminish the horrors of the crucifixion, but rather just the opposite: Far more than physical suffering was taking place. But in so saying, we do not exaggerate what literally took place. There is simply no reason to suppose that the crucifixion Jesus suffered more physical pain than any other person crucified. The idea that divinity gives Jesus a heightened physical sense of pain smacks of Docetism, Nick. Jesus became a human being, which means his pain sensor functioned like ours do. No need for pious exaggeration here, Nick.

That he suffered infinitely, however, is exactly what we affirm precisely because he was the God-man. So what does it mean to suffer infinitely? Here is where we can generically make comparison to the pains of the damned, without saying that Jesus was damned. Minimally, we would have to say that in bearing our sins on the cross, Jesus experienced at least the equivalent of the torment of the damned. Just as sinners must physically die, to too Jesus had to physically taste death. But then sinners go to hell. Therefore Jesus had to experience at least an equivalent suffering to those in hell and arguably much more precisely because Jesus, being God, is infinite and those in hell are not. They suffer eternally. Jesus suffered infinitely, which is fare more than eternally.

By the way, several times you mention that Luke and John make no mention of Jesus' cry of dereliction. That's no way to argue Nick. Mark and John make no mention of Jesus' virgin birth. Does that mean we ought to strike "born of a Virgin" from the creed? Mark, Luke and John make no mention of Peter receiving the keys of the kingdom. Are you therefore prepared to reject the primacy of the pope? John mentions no institution of the Eucharist. Are you therefore going to ditch your doctrine of transubstantiation? Conversely, Matthew, Mark and Luke make no mention of a foot-washing ceremony. Are you therefore going to remove this ritual from Holy Week? Honestly, Nick, you're arguing like a liberal here. How many verses does it take to establish a doctrine? Answer, one clear one. In this case, the wording is clear: Jesus claimed that he was abandoned by his Father. The question is, what exactly did he mean by that. Here's the one answer we can't come up with: That he didn't actually mean what he said. But that's been your answer all along.

Michael Taylor said...

On point 13: I understand your analogy, but I reject it precisely because it's not analogous. Jesus didn't pay money to prevent us from going to hell. He paid with his own blood. So where you think that one could either pay a ransom with money or sit in the chair, I say that the sitting in the chair was the payment, which would be far more analogous to what actually took place.

On point 14: Again, your analogy fails because it isn't analogous to what actually took place. Propitiation diverts wrath away from the sinner. But the wrath is still paid. This is implied every time an animal dies in an OT sacrificial context. As mentioned before, blood alone was not the payment, for that could have been obtained without the death of the animal. It was vital to the OT arrangement that the animal die. That's the ransom or payment aspect of atonement. In the case of Christ, his death provides the payment. The death itself, as you've already admitted in the case of Adam, wasn't just physical. So do you carry that same thinking over to the Second Adam? Do you admit that Jesus paid the ransom not just by physically dying, but also by bearing our punishment in our place? If so, then should be able to see that wrath is averted from us by means of being diverted toward our substitute, namely, Jesus.

Michael Taylor said...

On point 15: Alas, my analogy wasn't perfect. Say it isn't so! But your interpretation of it fails miserably on a number of levels. First, the Father has to punish in order for justice to be upheld because the room was left messy. Cleaning it up doesn't change the fact that a prior sin took place. So, following the analogy, the Father could have punished all the children who were guilty of leaving the room messy and would have been completely justified in doing so. But he graciously allowed the older Son to take the place of the other siblings. In the example, he vented his wrath upon the older Son who didn't deserve it, but who nevertheless willingly accepted it as the designated representative of his siblings. At this point, punishment for the sin has been meted out and atonement had been made because the older Son did clean up the room on behalf of his siblings, even though the older Son didn't take part in messing up the room.

You seem to be saying it has to be one or the other. If the older Son cleans the room, then there's no longer reason for the Father to be angry. But that's a mistake. Cleaning the room doesn't change the fact that a prior act of disobedience took place. That's like saying that giving back something you stole makes the act of steeling okay.

In other words, there still has to be a punishment. And so the older son receives it: In this case the stern rebuke. But in so receiving it, the other siblings do not. So the wrath that they would have received is averted away from them and diverted toward the innocent older Son who voluntarily accepts punishment as their representative.

As I had originally stated, I know it's not a perfect analogy, but it does illustrate the Biblical idea of vicarious atonement.

Now to deal with your closing words: Here they are again: "Wrath has already been visited upon the Son, and yet the Son must now go make atonement? That’s ridiculous." No, Nick, you've got it reversed. I said the Son already cleaned up the room (which atones for the messy room) prior to getting the wrath. In the real world, Jesus atoned for sin by means of accepting the penalty of sin, which was death on a cross: This is what Aquinas said (ST 3: 47: 3, r1):

"It is indeed a wicked and cruel act to hand over an innocent man to torment and to death against his will. Yet God the Father did not so deliver up Christ, but inspired Him with the will to suffer for us. God's "severity" (cf. Romans 11:22) is thereby shown, for He would not remit sin without penalty: and the Apostle indicates this when (Romans 8:32) he says: "God spared not even His own Son." Likewise His "goodness" (Romans 11:22) shines forth, since by no penalty endured could man pay Him enough satisfaction: and the Apostle denotes this when he says: "He delivered Him up for us all": and, again (Romans 3:25): "Whom"--that is to say, Christ--God "hath proposed to be a propitiation through faith in His blood."

Key to Thomas' argument tis that Christ willingly accepted the penalty due to our sin. But notice that satisfaction is not made apart from suffering a penalty--in this case Christ's passion, which I hope you agree entailed much more than the mere physical pains of crucifixion, but which was in fact an infinite suffering.

So here you have in Aquinas all the essentials of PSA. Thomas is here taking up the question of whether or not the Father delivered the Son to the Passion. Thomas answers in the affirmative. Then he goes on to say these three things:

1. Christ paid a penalty. (That's the P)!
2. Christ died in our place. Thomas cites the Apostle, "He delivered him up for us all." (That's the S)!
3. Christ made atonement. Hence the language of remitting sin and propitiation. (That's the A)!

Put it all together, Nick, and what does that spell?

Nick said...


(1) I'm not sure why you said "so what?" in regards to my Moses, Phinehas, and Aaron examples. In each case they are said to have turned away God's wrath - which the text also calls making atonement - and yet the wrath never went upon anyone or any animal. They each effected Atonement without any innocent substitute getting hurt.

(2) I never said it would be an unjust case of punishing the same sin twice if two animals are used for atonement, because an atonement ritual involving more than one animal doesn’t require any of the animals being punished. But applying PSA to such situations, I don’t how you can hold a consistent position, since (logically speaking) guilt can only be imputed once. If the same guilt can be imputed multiple times to put the same guilt on multiple animals, I don’t see how that really fits any legal or logical scheme. In the case of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, all the guilt is claimed to be transferred onto the scapegoat, and this happens after the first goat has already been slain.

(3) I don’t know why you’re quoting ST 3:47:3.1 since it clearly excludes the notion God poured out wrath upon Christ. Rather, Thomas interprets the Scriptures as saying God delivered (abandoned/forsook) Jesus into the hands of the Romans, and permitted the Romans to harm Jesus, which isn’t the same at all as the Father actively inflicting pains upon Jesus. Article 1 and 6 of the same section makes it very clear the Jews & Romans acted sinfully in harming Jesus; no mention of the Father harming Jesus. Your understanding of “atonement” and “sacrifice” are not at all what Aquinas teaches them to be. Even your appeal to ST 3:46:6.3 is distorted, as it talks about why Christ’s physical sufferings were the worst sufferings, despite the fact martyrs also died under similar conditions. In your view, physical sufferings alone couldn’t be worse because other people have died on the cross, but that’s a philosophilcal/theologial error about Who Jesus is, as Aquinas explains.

The point of 46:6.3 is that Jesus experienced the worst pains humanly possible, not that He endured a suffering which was the same in *essence* to the suffering of what damned soul endures. You’re conflating the experience of physical pains with the *nature* of different kinds of punishments. Jesus was never spiritually ‘cut off’ from the Father (as the damned souls are), but Jesus *felt* the worst physical pains humanly possible due to the physical tortures. It’s not about the *intensity* of pain, but rather the *type* of punishment. A child being spanked is a different *type* of punishment than a child being disowned. What people like Piper are saying (even if they don’t realize it) is that Jesus had to suffer the same *type* of punishment the damned souls suffer – and this is typically stated in terms of the souls in hell being ‘eternally’ spiritually cut off from God while saying Jesus was only ‘temporarily’ spiritually cut off from God. This is precisely why Aquinas can say things like “The very least one of Christ's sufferings was sufficient of itself to redeem the human race from all sins” and yet you must downplay His physical sufferings on the basis that the physical couldn’t have the same *intensity* of hurt as a the *intensity* of hurt a damned soul feels. And that’s because you’re conflating two issues.

(post 1 of 4)

Nick said...

(post 2 of 4)

(4) Point #4 is addressed in Point #3. For you to say you’re “a died-in-the-wool Thomist at heart” is completely off base, for you reject Thomas’ categories/definitions. Thomas doesn’t define atonement in terms of Jesus suffering the equivalent or superabundant punishment we deserved, which is what you’re doing. And on that note, your comments of Jesus suffering a punishment ‘superabundantly’ more than what we deserved is illogical, because it ruins the very thing you’ve been trying to preserve, namely “justice,” by having a punishment meted out that is actually more severe than justice demands. Thomas can use “superabundant” precisely because he’s not speaking of taking the punishment we deserved.

(5) You are not being careful with your terminology nor your Scriptural references when it comes to the issue of “bearing sin”. None of those texts you gave speak of imputing sin in the sense of transferring guilt, and even in the case of the Scapegoat you cannot just assume the “sin” put on the goat refers to “guilt”. Sin and guilt are related but not the same. In Isaiah 53, the same Hebrew word for “bearing [of sin]” in v6b is the same Hebrew word for “make intercession” in v12b. The priest doesn’t become guilty in place of the people, as if there’s an imputation of their sin to him and then from him to the animal.

(6) How can you say I give no coherent and straightforward meaning to Christ’s “forsaken me” words? I’ve repeatedly said that Christ was *truly* forsaken in a very real way. And the way Christ was truly forsaken in a very real way was precisely in the Father not intervening, just as God didn’t intervene with David when David spoke those words. Was David spiritually forsaken by God, or did David “not mean what he actually said”? Of course David meant what he said, the key is that David didn’t *mean* God forsook him in a spiritual sense.

This is a perfect example of the problem of the Protestant hermeneutic. When turned around, you are forced to say that David himself must have been damned by God when David penned those words of Psalm 22. Otherwise David didn’t mean what he said or else you’re not taking David at face value. Clearly the problem is simply one of Lexical definition: what can the term “forsaken” mean? Does it strictly mean suffering spiritual wrath? Certainly not. In fact, where does it ever mean suffering spiritual cutting-off from God? I know of no such verse.

(7) You said: “Are you saying that Atonement requires the transfer of guilt from the guilty to party to an innocent substitute? If so, then I would say that the entire sacrificial system takes this as its given.”

Atonement doesn’t involve any transfer of guilt onto an innocent substitute. Many times atonement is effected in the Bible where no death takes place! The sins that Phinehas atoned for were WORSE than what the Levitical Sacrifices atoned for, and yet Phinehas didn’t receive guilt nor was wrath dumped on any substitute. And you think the mere killing of an animal demonstrates the death penalty being transferred from the sinner to the animal? Even if it makes sense on the surface, that’s still pure assumption and contradicted by the Biblical evidence. Why is a sack of flour allowed as a sin offering if the sack of flour cannot die? (Lev 5:11-13) Why did the peace offering which had nothing to do with sin or atonement involve the death of an animal? (Lev 3) Why does a woman giving birth have death-penalty guilt upon her requiring her to offer a sacrifice? (Lev 12) Why do sins that warrant the death penalty not allowed to be atoned for in sacrifice? (Num 35:33) This is the kind of Scripture study I’ve invested lots of time doing, with eyes wide open as to the Biblical facts. What you’re doing is repeating ‘traditions of men’ from Protestants past who assumed what the Bible means, without actually analyzing the evidence.

Nick said...

(post 3 of 4)

(8) You completely missed the point I was making. The Peace Offering (note the term) has nothing to do with atoning for sin, nothing to do with guilt. It’s a Thanksgiving Offering. So why do the instructions say “lay your hand on the head” of the lamb and kill it? You cannot answer that question. Why did Noah offer sacrifices after he got off the Ark (Gen 8:20), when the whole point of the Ark was that Abraham was righteous and not under God’s wrath? Again, you cannot answer that question *if* all you’re going to say is that an animal’s death can only mean substitutionary-punishment.

(9) Nothing you said requires the death of the goat be seen as death-penalty transferred to the goat. The text says the blood has an expiatory/cleansing function, that’s where atonement is being made. So you cannot connect atonement to the killing itself. It’s atonement that saves, not a dead animal. And the sins being cleansed here are “the unintentional sins of the people” (Heb 9:7), not for golden-calf type sins. So this cannot be seen as death of one goat sufficing as the equivalent punishment for all kinds of massive sins.

(10) We’re skipping the Mass stuff.

(11) I never said all four facets must be present for any given sacrifice or atonement. What I said was that it’s ironic that NONE of the four facets you mentioned say anything about wrath being dumped on a substitute.

(12) You said: “There is simply no reason to suppose that the crucifixion Jesus suffered more physical pain than any other person crucified. The idea that divinity gives Jesus a heightened physical sense of pain smacks of Docetism”

You’re *completely* contradicting Aquinas here! And you’re in heresy as well, because what I’m saying is not Docetism, but you’re seeing it as Docetism. This is trivializing the Crucifixion so that the physical pains were only as painful as any other crucified person. Deja vu.

The physical pains *alone* caused Jesus more human pain than the human pain a damned soul cut-off from God would feel. Jesus didn’t have to be cut-off to experience worse pains than a damned soul. This is simply a failure to make the proper distinctions on your part, between intensity of pain and type of pain. Again, deja vu.

(13) My analogy is saying there’s a distinction between paying a ransom and taking someone’s punishment. You’re not getting that distinction. If I must pay a ransom to prevent you from being thrown into a lions den, that doesn’t mean I have to jump into the lions den. In the case of Christ paying a ransom to get us out of danger of hellfire, He could pay a ransom simply by physical death without having to suffer hellfire. We see this all the time when a major figure gives himself up to release many other people from captivity, because of his inherent dignity he is worth more than any of those people individually. Take even the analogy of Chess: the King is worth more than all the other pieces combined, so capturing the King is worth more than capturing all the other pieces. In the case of Jesus, He is the King who gave Himself up for the lives of many pawns. There is *no comparison*, the King’s life is worth infinitely more. The King doesn’t have to suffer whatever the paws are subject to suffer, because He is already worth more than them.

Nick said...

(post 4 of 4)

(14) Again, you’re not making proper distinctions: to avert wrath is not understood as simply re-directing it. The way “avert wrath” is being defined by the Bible and Catholics is that the wrath subsides, it goes away, just as the heat vanishes when you throw water on a fire. What you’re saying is that the only way to put out a fire is if an innocent person falls on top of the fire and burns to death. That’s a logical fallacy. Phinehas put out the fire of God’s wrath, but neither Phinehas nor any substitute had to take the wrath on themselves.

(15) The damage sin does (messy room) is not the same as the punishment sin deserves (verbal rebuke), that is true. But properly understood, atonement cancels the need for the verbal rebuke, whereas you’ve limited it to merely undoing the damage. Christ made atonement to avert the punishment of sending us to hell, but we still suffer the consequences of sin (the world is still fallen). I see no reason why the room must even be cleaned in your analogy, rather than simply left messy after the older son receives the rebuke. What I’m saying is that the older son doesn’t have to clean the room, but he knows it will please his dad, and his dad seeing the love his older son has for his siblings in fixing the mess is what makes atonement. The father is pleased with the older son because the older son acquired a newfound favor. The father then says to the other kids, “Do you see what your brother did for you? He cleaned the room to make me happy, and because he did that and I’m impressed at his act of service, I’m not going to yell at you guys.” That’s a perfectly legitimate analogy. The older son made atonement without having to receive verbal rebuke. The son did suffer penalty in the sense he gave up his time and energy on Friday and Saturday to clean the room, which wasn’t easy considering the mess, but that made the father all the more pleased. When Thomas speaks of suffering penalty, he is not saying the punishment we deserved had to be transferred, but rather that making atonement isn’t free, it costs time, energy, finances, etc.

When Moses made atonement (turned away God’s wrath) from the golden calf incident, this required a lot of suffering on Moses’ part. He had to lay on his face prostrate in a cold cave for 40 days. Moses didn’t have to do that, but Moses wanted to win God’s favor, and he did win God’s favor. And Moses requested God spare the Israelites, and God listened to Moses’ request. Moses suffered for his people, he even could have given his life, and yet God was never mad at him and God’s wrath was never upon him.

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