Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Did the OT Animal Sacrifices "pay the price" for your sin? - More Problems with Penal Substitution

People who frequently read this blog know that I have many posts clearly explaining why the animal sacrifices in the Bible were not 'taking the punishment the sinner deserved' (Penal Substitution). In this brief post I want to share a most significant aspect that is typically overlooked entirely. 

Many folks think the animal's getting slaughtered for sacrifice were 'paying the price' for the individual's sins, so that the individual would not have to 'pay the price'. But the simple fact is, animals were not free (cf 2 Sam 24:24). Whether you raised animals or whether you had to buy them, there was a noteworthy cost. I estimate that a lamb would cost around $300 dollars. Because finances were a factor in whether someone could meet their obligation, the Law makes room for those who could not afford a lamb, e.g., those who could only afford two pigeons (Lev 5:7), or even those who could only afford a sack of flour (Lev 5:11). The point remains though, even if scaled down, the person who sinned (unintentionally) was going to take a financial hit of $300 dollars (or equivalent) each time. That's not chump change, and it can add up. 

Imagine getting a $300 speeding ticket every month of the year (which is like a monthly car payment). That would be around $3,600 in fines per year. Thus, if you're an Israelite paying a few thousand dollars for animals each year, that's definitely a significant punishment. Financial punishments are no joke. And in the context of Penal Substitution, we can see that an Israelite taking the financial punishment, not to mention the time investment, means they were the one 'paying the price' for their sins. It makes little sense to think the animal being killed was being punishment in your place when just prior to the slaughter you had to pay $300 which you worked hard to earn. If someone was making minimum wage and working 40hrs per week, then to sin within the Levitical system meant you lost wages for basically a whole week of work! You definitely didn't escape personal punishment as an Israelite. And Leviticus 6:5 (Lev 5:16) explains that if you defrauded a neighbor, you had to pay back that amount, plus an additional 20%, plus offer a sacrifice! Ouch!

In closing, I should add that such a system seems unjust for God to put people under. The fact is, this 'burden' was not originally part of what God expected of them, but rather many of these rules and regulations were placed upon the Israelites only after they kept turning to sin. St Thomas Aquinas and other theologians explain that by putting all these expectations upon them, God was trying to not leave them with any time or resources to turn back to idolatry. But, this was only a temporary fix, as the real problem was an interior one, of the soul, which requires the Sacrifice of Jesus to heal.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How Mary became the Redeemer of Jesus - More Problems with Penal Substitution

The following is passage provides a quickie argument against Penal Substitution* as well as some other gold nuggets. In Luke 2:22-24, we read: 
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Here are the fascinating gold nuggets that are worth knowing.

First, the Protestant notion of the Cross & Atonement (what they call "Penal Substitution") is that a sinner's guilt is 'imputed' to an innocent substitute, which then takes the death penalty in place of the sinner. But in this case, what was Mary's (grave) "sin" here that had the death penalty hanging over Her head, which She had to then transfer onto two turtledoves? The obvious issue here is that Mary had given birth to the Messiah, Jesus. But this certainly was not a sin in any sense. Thus, Mary's sacrifices couldn't have been about imputing the guilt onto an innocent animal substitute, much less was the animal receiving the death penalty. Thus, an animal being killed in sacrifice should not be assumed to be modeling Penal Substitution. 

That said, a Protestant might object at say that this Mary situation doesn't affect Penal Substitution at all, since some sacrifices weren't about atoning for sin but rather simply about ritual purification. While there is truth to this claim, this Protestant "objection" actually backfires. The passage which Luke is referencing is Leviticus 12, a short chapter on childbirth ritual purification. (I brought this up in an older post, HERE) The plain fact is, Leviticus 12:6-7 explains it as "a turtledove for a sin offering, and the priest shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood." Notice the explicit mention of "sin offering" and "make atonement". This is yuge because it means the sacrifice Mary had offered was not something distinct from the standard "sin offering" which Leviticus 4-5 tells us about. In other words, this is clear proof that "sin offering" and "making atonement" don't need to involve Penal Substitution.

Note that Leviticus 12-15 are about various types of ritual purification, not having to do with guilt for actual sins, yet all involving "sin offering" to "make atonement". Also noteworthy is that these purification chapters come, right before Leviticus 16, which is the Day of Atonement ritual (centered on purification, see HERE and HERE). 

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