Saturday, April 18, 2009

Was Jesus damned in your place?

I would hope that anyone reading the title of this post would consider the suggested question nothing short of blasphemy. For those who don't know, there are Christians who do give an affirmative answer to this question. While you might be thinking this is some fringe group, you will probably be shocked to find the groups who affirm this are Protestants of the Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) traditions.

The following quotes are from well respected Protestant teachers, going all the way back to Luther Himself:

When Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” it was the scream of the damned — damned in our place (John Piper, Desiring God Blog 3-18-14)
At 3 o’clock that dark Friday afternoon, the Father turned His face away and the ancient, eternal fellowship between Father and Son was broken as divine wrath rained down like a million Soddoms and Gomorrah’s.  In the terror and agony of it all, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Thabiti Anyabwile, What does it mean for the Father to Forsake the Son? Part 3)

We should remember that Christ's suffering in His human nature, as He hung on the cross those six hours, was not primarily physical, but mental and spiritual. When He cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," He was literally suffering the pangs of hell. For that is essentially what hell is, separation from God, separation from everything that is good and desirable. Such suffering is beyond our comprehension. But since He suffered as a divine-human person, His suffering was a just equivalent for all that His people would have suffered in an eternity in hell.
Boettner, Loraine. “The Reformed Faith.” Chapter 3.)
To [Jesus] was imputed the guilt of their sins, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on their behalf. And the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God's wrath against sinners. In some mysterious way during those awful hours on the cross, the Father poured out the full measure of His wrath against sin, and the recipient of that wrath was God's own beloved Son.
In this lies the true meaning of the cross.
(MacArthur, John. “The Murder of Jesus.” Page 219.)

Christ died in our place and in our stead - and He received the very same outpouring of divine wrath in all its fury that we deserved for our sin. It was a punishment so severe that a mortal could spend all eternity in the torments of hell, and still he would not have begun to exhaust the divine wrath that was heaped on Christ at the cross. This was the true measure of Christ's sufferings on the cross. The physical pains of crucifixion - dreadful as they were - were nothing compared to the wrath of the Father against Him. The anticipation of this was what had caused Him to sweat blood in the garden. This is why He looked ahead to the cross with such horror. We cannot begin to fathom all that was involved in paying the price of our sin. It's sufficient to understand that all our worst fears about the horrors of hell - and more - were realized by Him as He received the due penalty of others' wrongdoing. And in that awful, sacred hour, it was as if the Father abandoned Him. Though there was surely no interruption in the Father's love for Him as a Son, God nonetheless turned away from Him and forsook Him as our substitute. ( Ibid., Page 220-221)
Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God's anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. ... ... Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man. (Calvin, John. “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Book 3:Chapter 16:Section 10)
The penalty of the divine law is said to be eternal death. Therefore if Christ suffered the penalty of the law He must have suffered death eternal; or, as others say, He must have endured the same kind of sufferings as those who are cast off from God and die eternally are called upon to suffer. (Hodge, Charles. “Systematic Theology.” Vol. 2, Part 3, Ch 6, Sec 3)
Luther: ‘Christ himself suffered the dread and horror of a distressed conscience that tasted eternal wrath;’ ‘it was not a game, or a joke, or play-acting when he said, “Thou hast forsaken me”; for then he felt himself really forsaken in all things even as a sinner is forsaken” (Werke, 5. 602, 605) (Packer, J.I. “The Logic of Penal Substitution.” footnote 44)
So then, gaze at the heavenly picture of Christ, who descended into hell for your sake and was forsaken by God as one eternally damned when he spoke the words on the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!” - “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In that picture your hell is defeated and your uncertain election is made sure. (Luther, Martin. “Treatise on Preparing to Die.”)
The physical pain of the crucifixion and the [psychological] pain of taking on himself the absolute evil of our sins were aggravated by the fact that Jesus faced this pain alone. … Yet more difficult than these three previous aspects of Jesus' pain was the pain of bearing the wrath of God upon himself. As Jesus bore the guilt of our sins alone, God the Father, the mighty Creator, the Lord of the universe, poured out on Jesus the fury of his wrath: Jesus became the object of the intense hatred of sin and vengeance against sin that God had patiently stored up since the beginning of the world.(Grudem, Wayne. “Bible Doctrine.” Page 253-254)
“What prevents us from seeing God is our heart. Our impurity. But Jesus had no impurity. And Thomas said He was pure in heart. So obviously He had some, some experience of the beauty of the Father. Until that moment that my sin was placed upon Him. And the one who was pure was pure no more. And God cursed Him. It was if there was a cry from Heaven – excuse my language but I can be no more accurate than to say – it was as if Jesus heard the words 'God damn you', because that's what it meant to be cursed, to be damned, to be under the anathema of the Father. As I said I don't understand that, but I know that it's true.” (R.C. Sproul. Together for the Gospel. April 17, 2008. Louisville, KY. Session V - The Curse Motif of the Atonement. Minute 55:01)
“Hell is all about echoing faintly the glory of Calvary. That's the meaning of hell in this room right now. To help you feel in some emotional measure the magnificence of what Christ did for you when he bore not only your eternal suffering, but millions of people's eternal suffering when His Father put our curse on Him. What a Saviour is echoed in the flames of hell. So that's what I mean when I say hell is an echo of the glory of God, and an echo of the Savior's sufferings, and therefore an echo of the infinite love of God for our souls.” (John Piper. Resolved Conference 2008. Session 8 – The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell. Min 40:00)
“This moment in Mark chapter 15 [i.e. “My God, my God”], it is this moment, it is what takes place in this moment that delivers us from hell. This agony, this scream, is what delivers all those who turn from their sin and trust in the Savior from hell. On the cross, Jesus experienced hell for us. He experienced hell for us, bearing God's wrath and eternal punishment. And because He did, Heaven awaits all those who turn from their sin and trust in Him. He screamed the 'scream of the damned' [i.e., “forsaken me”] for us. Listen, this scream should be our scream. … This scream should be my eternal scream. He takes upon Himself my sin, the wrath I deserved for and against my sin, He screams the 'scream of the damned' for me.” (C.J. Mahaney. Resolved Conference 2008. Session 11 - The Cry From the Cross. Min 46:35)
“There are four ways that you can measure the love of God in Christ heard in the 'scream of the damned' … and all four of them are infinite, and they all point to the infinite value of the 'scream of the damned'. Now it's bigger than this, and the quote you just heard from 'Spectacular Sins' is my effort to get at it. Hell exists, sin exists, Heaven exists, cross exists, everything exists to magnify the worth of the 'scream of the damned'. Everything. That's the point of the universe.” (John Piper. Resolved Conference 2008. Session 12 - The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and New Earth. Min 00:15)
The quotes are very clear, these famous Protestant pastors and theologians believe Jesus received the punishments which the sinner deserved, including both physical death and hellfire. They teach God the Father poured out His wrath on His Son Jesus, which means Jesus underwent the equivalent of hell and was effectively damned as a sinner is damned.
Why would someone affirm such a blasphemous teaching? What most don't know is that Jesus getting damned in our place is the heart of Sola Fide. That's right, the doctrine of justification by faith alone requires this. Sola Fide teaches that by faith the sinner receives the righteousness of Christ, while acknowledging Christ received the punishment the sinner deserved. This teaching of Jesus getting damned in place of the sinner is popularly termed "Penal Substitution." If this doctrine is false, then Sola Fide collapses. Martin Luther realized this, and all other Protestant theologians since then recognized this as well.
The root of the problem is the starting assumption that Sola Fide is true, because once that is assumed, whatever doctrines are necessary to hold up Sola Fide will have to be affirmed in turn. If this means the Father damned His Beloved Son, then (as we have unfortunately seen) there will be people who have little trouble believing this.
While we could spend time refuting this abomination from Scripture, our Christian consciences should be a sufficient guide in telling us something this outrageous and blasphemous cannot be true.


Tap said...

Calvinism, especially the strain expressed by many of the pop online apologist, is just a hair's breadth away from Atheism.

Nick said...

Thanks for your comment.

I'm not sure how you reason atheism out of this, but the notion of Jesus being damned is quite blasphemous and even heretical.

Tap said...

Sorry for not elaborating.

If God can be damned, where is his omnipotence?

If Some are already predestined to damnation, what need is there to strive at piety?

Nick said...

The question of his omnipotence is one of the multitude of Christological problems which result from saying Jesus was damned. To be damned is to be cut off, and that means Jesus was either cutoff as the Divine Son of God (arianism) or He was cut off from His Human nature (nestorianism).

As for God predestined men to damnation, the Church has long condemned such blasphemy, but you are right there are Protestants who believe it.

Dan Martin said...

There are Protestants who don't buy this either, Nick. I saw your comments over at New Ways Forward, and I agree with you. (of course, I'm not really a good protestant either, but an anabapbist--and the one thing historical Catholics and Protestants agreed on if nothing else, was that we anabaptists had to go!)

As I have argued on my own blog, I believe (as you have said) that penal-substitutionary atonement is completely extrabiblical and fundamentally wrong. I am as repulsed by the quotes you put up here, as you are.

Christ is risen victorious, and having vanquished death, the weapon of our enemy, he now invites us to do/be/become the kingdom he inaugurated with his father. And that, far more than some horrible doctrine of punishment and hell, is truly good news!



Nick said...

Thank you for your response Dan, I largely agree with you. I think we are in a time when people are starting to take a fresh look at Scripture and are rightly questioning and even throwing out problematic doctrines like PSA. Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that other doctrines like Sola Fide collapse as a result of rejecting PSA.

Dan Martin said...

Actually I think I'd look at it a little differently. It isn't that "sola fide" falls apart because of PSA; it's that "sola fide" and PSA are both founded on asking the wrong questions of scripture in the first place and are, independent of each other, extrabiblical doctrines.

I say this because biblical "fide" (well, "pistis") is not the assent to propositions, that theologians have made it. Rather, it's faithfulness to the king, which is a whole mess of doing and thinking and orientation as James makes so perfectly clear.

So the biggest problem with "sola fide" is that it misdefines "fide" to begin with. The next problem is that it misdefines salvation both in terms of what it is and how we get there. Salvation in biblical terms isn't something we GET by believing OR doing, it's the state of being a citizen of God's new kingdom. Which means that "how are you saved?" is a dumb question in Biblical terms.

Nick said...

Oh Dan, you are in so much trouble with other Protestants. LOL. I can see certain Protestants starting to label you as a Papist any second now because you dared question Sola Fide and Psub.

Dan Martin said...

Oh Dan, you are in so much trouble with other Protestants. LOL. I can see certain Protestants starting to label you as a Papist any second now because you dared question Sola Fide and Psub.LOL, yeah, but then the Pope would get mad because I don't recognize his authority either. Like any good Anabaptist, I'm screwed with both sides!

Brian David said...

I do fail to see how quoting individuals and your sentiment acts as an answer to what you see as a problem. While I cannot say that I agree fully with all of the above quotations in form, the fact that you do not like the sentiment does not matter.

Do you have a problem with the notion that Christ became sin for his people (that therefore His people might become the righteousness of God)?

Are you offended that Abram did not walk through the severed halves of heifers, rams, and pigeons, but only a smoking firepot with a flaming torch?

If you don't have a problem with either of the above, then you should not have a problem with penal substitution. If you do have a problem with the above notions, then, well, we have nothing further to discuss.

Dan Martin said...

If you don't have a problem with either of the above, then you should not have a problem with penal substitution. If you do have a problem with the above notions, then, well, we have nothing further to discuss.

But David, neither of the above two Biblical references necessitates that God demanded blood for sin, nor does it necessitate in any way that the Son absorbed God's wrath or punishment. The objection to PSA is not that Jesus took on the consequences of sin in our place, if those consequences are correctly recognized as the death that the Powers demanded. The problem is when (as PSA mandates) you claim that Jesus in his death took on God's wrath and was punished by God in our place. That claim requires putting together concepts that are not linked scripturally. It was a logical explanation, proffered by the Reformers and their many subsequent disciples, but it's a logic that misrepresents the Father's character and Jesus' work.

Nick said...

Brian: Do you have a problem with the notion that Christ became sin for his people

Nick: I pretty much agree with what Dan said. The problem is that many Protestants have been trained to read PSA into the text, and there are a special few they do this. All kinds of things are read into the term "made sin" when in fact such interpretations as God's wrath and such are unwarranted. All I ask is that you step back and realize "made sin" is obviously figurative, but doesn't automatically mean anything along the lines of PSA. The amount of weight people give to 2 Cor 5:21 is pretty unhealthy, treating it as the ultimate proof text for PSA.

Brian David said...

Nick wrote:
All I ask is that you step back and realize "made sin" is obviously figurativeOf course its figurative. But what else would it be referring to except that He became an object of God's wrath?

He became sin in the sense that God recognized him as such by giving the sins of His people to Him.

"He became curse for us." What does that mean except to say that He took the curse that belonged to us.

Dan wrote:
neither of the above two Biblical references necessitates that God demanded blood for sin, nor does it necessitate in any way that the Son absorbed God's wrath or punishment.The sacrifice of Christ parallels -indeed fulfills signification of - the severed halves which the smoking pot and flaming torch went through. The significance might not be readily apparent from the text, but the practice of walking through the severed animal halves was common in certain covenant ratifications the Ancient Near East between a lord and lesser lord or vassal. Two parties, in the covenant making process, would agree to stipulations and make a ratification certifying the stipulation. The ratifications varied, but one such ratification of a covenant involved walking through the severed halves of animals. The significance of which, for each party, meant that at the moment when a party would breach the covenant, their own punishment would be to be as the severed animals: broken and slain.

What is significant in the case described in Genesis 15 is that it is God alone who goes through the severed animal halves. He unilaterally ratifies the covenant, and will be as the severed animals if either He or Abram (and thus those who are recipients of this covenant) will break the covenant.

Now quite frankly, I have no idea what God requires, in and of Himself. That is not what I am talking about. Our concern should be according to how God has revealed Himself to us. That is not what most have been talking about when they talk about penal substitution (though I will grant that they have often not emphasized that point often, especially within this past century, and others simply are unaware of it). Hence of course, while I thoroughly enjoyed The Beauty of the Infinite, it was disappointing to read Hart's section on the atonement, which (seemed to) read the substitutionary position on the problem of sin as an ontological one, in which case would always already overcome by the interval/distance between the the Father and the Son: a goodness exceeding all debt. But of course, as I have tried to show, at least in a small picture, the problem of sin is according to our covenantal relation, and is overcome only according to prearranged covenantal agreement (the same would go for example, Moses' sprinkling of blood on the people to ratify the Sinaitic covenant). (I cannot hold this against Hart too much, his unfamiliarity with historic covenant theology is due to the lack of availability of older foundational resources, and the production of reduced and underwhelming versions in the 20th century.)

What is evident is that God has accommodated Himself to us and made a covenant with men. It is at that point that He takes upon wrath, a wrath that He has promised to take even if His own people are unfaithful to the covenant.

Christ, in becoming a curse for us, is took upon the curse that would have otherwise belonged to the unfaithful party. Those united to Him are recipients of all the promises of a covenant faithful God!

Brian David said...

sorry, I am still learning how to use HTML

Dan Martin said...

Brian, you make an interesting description of covenant, and you rightly point out that God is entirely the covenant-maker. While God's covenants throughout the Bible certainly impose conditions upon us in the keeping, the consideration for the covenant (to use a modern contractual term) is all his. In this I do not have the slightest dispute.

However, you have not connected the dots between the slaughtered animals as a consideration, or perhaps memorialization, or even more consecration, of a convenant; I say you have not connected the dots between this and sin. There is no condition in the covenant that the parties must be sinless when they enter into it. So to jump from the references you quote, to God requiring blood as expiation or atonement for sin, is to make a quantum leap neither envisioned nor put forward by the text.

Nick said...

Brian: But what else would it be referring to except that He became an object of God's wrath?

Nick: It means he was sent "in the likeness of sinful flesh" and was a sin offering (Rom 8:3).

Brian: He became sin in the sense that God recognized him as such by giving the sins of His people to Him.

Nick: I believe that's reading too much into it. I go over this in my Psub debate.

Brian: "He became curse for us." What does that mean except to say that He took the curse that belonged to us.

Nick: I also go over this in my Psub debate. The curse is having to die a humiliating death on a tree. This is especially humiliating for a king: Joshua 8:28f; 10:26f

Brian David said...

To Nick: thank you for pointing me to your other writings, I will respond shortly within the next few days.

Dan wrote:

However, you have not connected the dots between the slaughtered animals as a consideration, or perhaps memorialization, or even more consecration, of a convenant; I say you have not connected the dots between this and sin. There is no condition in the covenant that the parties must be sinless when they enter into it.Dan, I apologize, but I fail to understand your criticism. I never said nor did I mean to indicate that both members of each party must be sinless when entering into a covenant. Neither, do I see of course a necessary connection between bloodshed and the forgiveness of sins (not saying that there is not, but I think that is a different discussion - I do, however, believe that it is a consequential necessity), other than this is a stipulation of the covenant: "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin" (Heb. 9:22)

(Furthermore, on the point above, I think that the whole Sinaitic covenant was one that would have failed inherently because of the fact that all of the members within that covenant were simultaneously under the federal headship of Adam, being sinners themselves, there is no possible way that they would have kept all of the commands of Yahweh, even if they would have entered the land (and they did). By being under the law and under the curse of sin, their declaration "All the LORD has commanded we will do!" could have only led to eventual failure (which most of the subsequent Old Testament bears out). Both in the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant, the giving is unilateral, but the consequences for breaking would fall upon either parties only in the Mosaic.)

Brian David said...

Dan: Again, my point has to do with the nature of Ancient Near Eastern covenant patterns. The severed animals and blood shed is not needless embellishment, but a picture of a broken covenant.

Dan Martin said...

Brian, I fear we're talking past each other. I took your comment to state that because God used sacrifices as part of the process of entering into covenant, that this somehow proves the requirement of blood as expiation for sin. I merely responded that the two statements do not appear to have anything to do with each other. I do not see sin--Adam's, Abrahams, or All of ours--linked with the covenantal passages you cite.

In other words, my objection to your post was that it's a nonsequitur. Whether Abraham or God's smoking firepot passed through the heifer's halves says something about covenantal tradition; it says not a whit about sin or its expiation.

Anonymous said...

Do you really want a God that has not experienced life as you know it here on earth? If so, what kind of God is that. Jesus said, "Father why have you forsaken me", I do believe you have not clearly listened to these preacher's and as far as the atheism comment, brother you got a way to go, just like me. I challenge EVERYONE, to go one on one with the Lord, that he may reveal what is true and right," Through HIS HOLY WORD, and not all these commentaries, that I believe are taken out of context". Many Jesus said, "Many", think they are going to enter but won't, and I think it's more important to focus on these words, "I never knew you depart from me, you workers of evil". That's a bad day and well, Do you really KNOW JESUS or DO YOU JUST KNOW ABOUT JESUS? It's a relationship, not a ritual. I do believe this is healthy debate, and valid points are brought to the table, but I am more concerned for your soul's than whether who is right and wrong. That's why I hate religion, cause it says, "You do this , you get this, you do that, that will happen, and where does that leave Grace". I guess people are still trying to work their way in and the bible says, "Your righteous deeds, are but filthy rags before". Jesus did it all friends, and where is He really in all this? I think most of the people are arguing one side or the other for their own EGO, and really not for any valid point. handslifted, Mark P.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I linked this piece to a friend who replied with this:
"What was going on when the Father forsook the Son if Jesus was not taking our punishment both physically and spiritually on the cross?" Does anyone here have anything to offer in response to this question, that I could then forward on to my Baptist friend? I have some thoughts. But there's undoubtedly someone out there who can come up with something short and to the point that may address my friend's question more effectively than i can. thanks.

Nick said...

Regarding Jesus being "forsaken" on the Cross, there is a good orthodox answer to this question and it in no way requires the blasphemous idea that the Father was damning His Son.

Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 ("my God why have you forsaken me" is the first verse) and applying the whole Psalm to himself. Psalm 22 starts off sad but ends in victory! That Psalm describes the 'abandonment' as God not coming to rescue Him from those wicked men persecuting Jesus, here is the first verse but it's better to read the whole Psalm:

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?

Jesus isn't suffering His Father's wrath here, that's a terrible Protestant blunder.
Look what Jesus says in Matthew 26 when the soldiers come to get Him:

53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"

The Father could have rescued Christ from the Passion, but as we know Christ came specifically to end up on the Cross so there was going to be no divine intervention.

Dan Martin said...

I agree completely with Nick's reply above, but I would also add that Jesus was speaking from his humanity in extreme suffering. Just because he asked the question "why have you forsaken me?" does not necessarily mean that God had, indeed, done so. If Jesus was indeed tempted in all respects as we are (Heb 4:15), don't you think that might have included FEELING isolated from the Father?

mjandcj said...

Sorry to be late to the party, but I have a quick question for either side that would like to answer it:
1. If Christ "bore our sins in his body" 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)
2. And God is Holy (defined as being unable to be in the presence of sin).
3. How then can Christ's divine nature co-exist with man's sin?

All of this, of course, assumes belief in a triune God. Full disclosure: I am a Baptist, but one with an ecumenical bent. I personally feel that Catholics and Protestants are not nearly as far apart on these issues as either side likes to believe.

Dan Martin said...


I don't claim to fully understand what 1 Peter 2:24 means, except to suggest that in the context of the whole passage (at least verses 21-25), we are reminded of Jesus' own sinlessness in v. 22-23, and then states in 24 that he bore our sins "that we might die to sin and live to righteousness." So it's no more (necessarily) literal that he "bore our sins" than it is that we all died >2000 years ago on Golgotha. But somehow in the miracle of God's grace, Jesus' death enabled us to live as though we, too, had died vis-a-vis sin.

Regarding your point #2, I question your very definition that God being holy means that he is unable to be in the presence of sin. In point of fact, God has been in the presence of sin ever since there was sin. That's the miracle of his grace toward his fallen creation. "Holy," biblically, means "set apart for a purpose." God has designated us for his purposes despite our uncleanliness, and then set about cleansing us. Quite the opposite from being unable to be in the presence of sin, God in Christ came into the presence of sin precisely to bring us back into fellowship.

In other words, I'm saying the usual definition of God's holiness is hooey. The whole miracle of redemption is the story of a holy God re-engaging with his holy--but tarnished--creation because he's not willing to leave it broken.

Nick said...

Just to add to what Dan said:

1) The context of 1 Pt 2:24 starts at v18, not 21 as most people think. The context is that what is pleasing in God's sight is to undergo unjust afflictions for righteousness sake, and that's precisely why Christ's Passion was so pleasing in the Father's sight.

2) Christ's divine nature never did co-exist with sin in the sense sin "mixed" with His Divine Nature. Sin isn't a black blob, it has no physical existence. As for God allowing sin to exist and such, Dan is correct, it is a purely gracious act. The fact Adam was allowed to live for even a moment after disobedience was an act of mercy from the start, which indirectly undermines Penal Substitution (because so called "strict justice" would never allow that).
Paul even uses a special word here - forbearance - which means holding off punishing precisely so that a solution can be found and punishment avoided, the term appears in Rom 2:4 and 3:25!

mjandcj said...

Dan: I would agree that the mechanism by which we have been redeemed from the consequences of sin are beyond human comprehension (even though that was the gist of my question). I believe, however, that reading v. 24 as just a continuation of vv. 18 - 23 is selling it short. There is a significant change in tone and, again I believe, a signifcant change in theological message. I don't think either of you mean to imply that Christ's death is simply an example of how we should cheerfully persevere through unjust suffering, but I think that is the real danger in not reading a more advanced theological tone into v. 24.
In terms of your objection to my second point, let me expand on my thought process: Expulsion from the presence of the Lord is one of the consequences of sin (2 Thess 1:9). Now, God is omnipresent even in Hell, so I don't disagree with the things you said, but there is also much biblical evidence to support the idea that it is possible to be outside of God's presence and that happens as a consequence of sin. Given all of the above, if Christ, in fact, suffered the consequences of sin (a fact which I understand is not a given), wouldn't that necessitate a parting from his divine nature. This leads me to...
Nick: 1) I understand your position on 1 Peter 2 and while I don't necessarily dispute it see my response above.
2) Without getting into a discussion on the nature of sin, let me ask my question specifically to you in a slightly different way. When I wrote my original post, I had not yet read the entirety of your Psub debate(a situation I have since rectified). My original question, in essence agrees with your debate position that any attempt to impute the sins of man onto Christ would logically necessitate a splitting of the human and divine natures (for reasons I've outlined above); a view that would indeed be a form of Nestorianism. And yet it seems clear to me that is what the Bible implies. Can you help me understand your position on this? Is it your belief (or the Catholic belief) that Christ's physical death was sufficient atonement for original sin? Is your primary concern with Psub the concept of a spiritual punishment for Christ (rather than just a physical one)?

I apologize if this got lengthy. I believe I'm staying true to the originaly subject of this thread, but if either of you feel there is a more appropriate forum to continue this exchange (and would like to continue this exchange) please let me know.

Dan Martin said...


You are absolutely right that I do not mean to imply that "Christ's death is simply an example of how we should cheerfully persevere through unjust suffering." However, I don't think that's the only necessary alternative to reading classic PSub into the 1 Peter passage. Other scripture makes it clear that in his death and resurrection, Jesus defeated the powers of sin and death. This notion, commonly described as the "Christus Victor" view of the cross, makes it abundantly clear that Jesus' death was infinitely more than just an example, and I would suggest it is in fact a more cosmic view than even PSub.

In your second point to my second point ;{) you mention that God is omnipresent even in hell. . .huh? I don't see a scriptural foundation for that. I presume you might be referring to Psalm 139:8, in which the Psalmist describes that even in Sheol (the Hebrew place for all dead, righteous or unrighteous, not to be confused with a penal hell), God is there. In addition to the clarification on Sheol, I would add that David's poetry should not be taken as literal theology. His point was that we could not escape from God's presence (true), and he used figures of speech (not necessarily literally true) to convey that point. David could neither ascend to heaven, nor make his bed in Sheol, nor take the wings of the dawn, in any literal sense.

But I think the more important point lies in your phrasing (quite correct, IMHO) that "Christ suffered the CONSEQUENCES of sin" (my emphasis). Yes, he did. The consequences of sin, from Romans and many other places, is death--not as punishment per se, but as a reality in the experience of fallen, sinful humanity. Jesus became mortal when he was incarnated "in the likeness of sinful flesh." Thus he suffered the same fate all humans suffer, though sinless himself. There is no conflict with his divine nature in this regard, as it doesn't take actual sinning to be mortal, even though mortality is in some respect the result of sin.

You might actually like to check out Michael Heiser's ongoing series on Romans 5 in this regard. He's working on unpacking and refuting the common doctrine of heritable original sin, over at his The Naked Bible blog. I recommend it.

mjandcj said...

Dan: My comment about God's presence in hell was not a biblical conclusion, but a logical one. The logic goes like this (please tell which if any of these statements you disagree with):
1. Hell exits within God's creation (for if it exists outside of God's creation we have an entirely different theological discussion)
2. God is present in all of his creation (omnipresent)
3. Therefore, God is present in Hell.
To deny God's omnipresence is to limit God and, again, opens up an entirely different theological can of worms. Additionally, several of the ECFs (I can't bring to mind which ones right now), speak to the idea that it is God's presence that sustains existence. To be outside of God's presence is to cease to exist. Therefore, even in Hell, God's presence is necessary to sustain the existence of those in torment. I'm not saying I agree with everything about that position, but it does provide some additional support for my logic chain. I'll attempt to provide references, but I don't think the support of the church father's is necessary to prove the logic. Thoughts?

Dan Martin said...

I know I'm treading in ground others may find uncomfortable, mcandcj, but I would have to respond to your propositions:

1) I'm not sure hell even "exists" in a physical sense. That there is some sort of separation from God is biblical, but the very fact that whatever "goes there" is not a material body suggests to me that, to the extent hell exists, it's immaterial. It may, however, be metaphorical for separation from God, and not "exist" at all. This relates to my larger thoughts on condemnation and hell, which when I studied the New Testament with that very question in mind, I came away concluding that a great deal less is certain, than most Christians think they know.

But to the extent that hell exists, I find it difficult to conceive that God created it. I can think of no place in Scripture that might be taken to imply otherwise, other than John 1:3 which, read carefully, leaves open the possibility that there are things that exist that were not made. I realize that epistemology bothers some people, but I submit the biblical case is not airtight.

2) God can be present in all of his creation; not entirely sure if he actually is. Nothing occurs within creation that is hidden from God, which I believe is what the notion of omnipresence is supposed to convey. Moving from "there is nothing about which God is uninformed" to "this is because God exists everywhere" is a logical, not a scriptural, leap IMO.

3) Obviously this doesn't follow if I haven't accepted 1 and 2 as read.

Honestly, I think Christians spend --if you'll pardon the expression-- a hell of a lot more energy on the notion of condemnation and damnation, than Jesus ever did, to our detriment and to the tarnishing of our gospel.

George said...

Then what about the cup of wrath that Jesus drank?

Dan Martin said...

Then what about the cup of wrath that Jesus drank?

What about it, George?

1) Jesus in the garden prayed "let this cup pass from me" (Matt. 26:39). He did not say "cup of wrath," that's an assumption you (and many others) make due--I suppose--to the cups of wrath in Revelation. "Cup" does not ipso facto mean "cup of wrath."

2) Jesus told his disciples in Mat:20:22-23, that they, too, would drink "the cup that I am to drink." If Jesus' "drinking of the cup" were the final satisfaction of God's wrath, it would be pointless -- and for that matter blasphemous -- for his apostles then to drink it.

An unfortunate result of much Christian study of apocalyptic literature is the conflation of dissimilar concepts. This is one such example.

あじ said...

Good observations, Dan. The "cup" can be blessing or cursing, joy or affliction, depending on the context. Those who equate it with damnation tend to do so independently of the context of the passage in question.

Unknown said...

I stumbled across this site and could only gasp at the deep ignorance displayed. As a Protestant and Bible student, I should inform you that the Scriptures do indeed teach penal substitution and I could easily debate you. Should you wish to set it up as a public debate on your website---I would accept in a heartbeat. One word of caution however: you would lose.

It is amusing to notice in your conversation that while you completely reject PSA, you do not offer anything in its place, nor do you interact with the Catechism which states under the heading:
"Jesus substitutes his obedience for our disobedience"
that, "[He] accomplished the SUBSTITUTION of the suffering Servant...[and] ATONED for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins..." (#615)

Hence, if words mean anything, Catholicism does indeed support a substituitonary atonement --and thus the penal aspects relating to Christ suffering as our Substitute simply cannot be denied when one has studied the biblical evidence, which obviously you HAVE NOT. Even tho the catechism makes this admission, they do not proceed to expound further on their position, so every Catholic is left up a creek as to the specifics of their statement. One thing is for certain: if you categorically reject the idea of substitution in its entirety, you are at loggerheads with your own church and have no right to be maintaing a blog in their defense, since you must, by defintion, be classified as an apostate by the Vatican.
Your statement that,
"All I ask is that you step back and realize [Christ being] "made sin" is obviously figurative, but doesn't automatically mean anything along the lines of PSA" complete hogwash. Being "made sin" MEEEENS, being "legally constituted sin". He Himself was not a sinner, but was legally constituted by God to be so, suffering in our room and stead, taking the punishment WHICH WE DESERVED, and hence, it has EVERYTHING to do with PSA.
The book, "Pierced For Our Transgressions" delves deep into the biblical data which completely abolishes all your unscriptural opinions and proceeds to expose the unspeakable beauty and logic of penal substitution by the work of our Savior in our behalf, squarely based on the Text. I strongly recommend you read it. Here is the link:

Nick said...


Before I'd debate you, I'd need to know SOMETHING about your background and presence online (e.g. do you have a blog?). But even before that, based on what you've said, it seems you've not read my article ATONEMENT ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE, nor have you read the Penal Substitution Debate I had with Turretin Fan a few years back.

I've written numerous posts on PSub, almost all of which are based on examining what the Bible really has to say about the matter. I invite you to read some of it.

Brandon K. said...

(Part 1, due to space limitations)---
Nick.... you say:
"Before I'd debate you, I'd need to know SOMETHING about your background and presence online (e.g. do you have a blog?)".

However, in the prelude to your debate with Turrentinfan, he says, "I don't know much about Nicholas, as his website doesn't give out much information and I haven't asked for more.... So, I am assuming that he is a layman within Catholicism that has taken up a defense of his church/religion."

Consequently, you don't need to know much about MEEE either. I don't have a blog. I've studied Scripture for 30 years and I am convinced Catholics are lost. Make that last word with a capital "L" if you please.
With your suggestion, I did set out to read your debate and blog article and compliment you for your interaction. However, I detected so many holes in your arguments that I was reminded of a slice of swiss cheese. If you want to open up the subject again in a separate editorial without a debate (since you've already done one) may I suggest doing so in February? I'm in the midst of a hective move. Otherwise you could just
"re-present" the issue (kinda like the sacrifice of the Mass dontcha know) in a separate blog article in response to some of the things I've said below before February, in which case I may not be able to respond. It's up to you. If you decide to wait, kindly notify me at the address under my name so I will know.
I would recommend entitling your article
"Jesus substitutes His obedience for our disobedience" in accordance with CCC #615" ...and give us your thoughts on how this substitutionary obedience does not have anything to do with penal substitution (which the RCC supposedly rejects) as well as why this statement seems to promote the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; a distinctly Protestant doctrine that is chewed up and spit out (especially by big-time RC apologist Robert Sungenis in, "Not By Faith Alone"). Nevertheless, who cares what HE thinks: the RCC apparently duzzz believe in the imputation of the righteousness of Christ...(except that it be just "not to the exclusion of grace and charity"):
"If any one shall say, that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the righteousness of Christ. . . to the exclusion of that grace and charity which is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. . . let him be accursed." (Trent, Session 6, canon 11).

In my opinion, based upon what you have written heretofore, you would have to admit (and correct me if I'm wrong) that the Catechism in #615 contains "theological error" and is a "bit sloppy" in their statement regarding the concept of a "substituted obedience", just as you likewise accused Peter Kreeft of being sloppy in your debate, when heeeee stated that, "Full justice is done: sin is punished with the very punishment of hell itself - being forsaken of God" (Mt 27:46). "

Brandon K. said...

(Part 2)
A few other comments on the debate are in order, if you don't mind: You said:

"I reject most Protestant Confessional statements on the Cross because P.S. is what is implied even when they don't go into detail."

I found this amusing, because as much as YOU may have taken pains to go into detail, you don't seem to be concerned that the Roman Catholic Church has NOT (and they of course, are more official than you). The closest "official" statement on substitution available is, as just stated, in CCC #615; however, they basically dump that one sentence in our lap and let the laity think anything they want. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly agree with Turrentinfan who concluded that you had, "not established his own case: no coherent and cogent alternative to penal substitution was presented by Nick, as the careful reader will note." This is quite true. Because you are a member of an institution which claims infallibility, I was patiently waiting for you to show us the "official" word from the topdogs. But none ever came. And could that be because one does not exist? The closest thing you came to describing how the cross-work of Christ is applied to our souls was by stating that it was Christ's obedience-- (not His "substitutionary obedience" per #615 mind you), but rather His obedience to voluntarily undergo the worst sort of humiliation imagineable, and that it was specifically this unjust suffering that becomes meritorious in God's sight. "The RC position" you claim, "consists of appeasing God's wrath by good works, rather than redirecting it to someone else to endure." I not only find your theory absolutely outrageous, but no support was offered to show that this was indeed the "official" Catholic position! How can I know if the Pope agrees with you?
Answer? I can't.
I assert then, your urgent appeal that "unjust afflictions for righteousness sake is what really counts with God", is no more true than the blood of bulls and goats can take away sins! (Heb 10:4).
We may thank you for your glorious opinion, as well as that of Aquinas who (happily) reported that,
"Christ bore a satisfactory PUNISHMENT, not for His, but for our sins.".....
(reply to objection 3, bottom of page)...

But at the end of the day, we are all on the same ground and must rely on the illumination of the Spirit through the Word since an infallible entity has proven to be, for all practical purposes, useless.

Brandon K. said...

(Part 3)
Through debate, God wants the better argument to be made manifest (1 Cor 11:19). And may I say briefly that the concept of "redirected" wrath is certainly biblical. Need I remind you that Jesus was our Surety, per
Hebrews 7:22? A surety is one who becomes, by law, identified with the debtor so that the debt may be REDIRECTED to the Surety who will then be required to pay the debt of the debtor.
Q: What were those debts, and can it be said that the death of Christ was connected to those very same debts?
A: Yes. God orchestrated a plan which would involve Jesus being condemned unjustly, which signified in the eyes of Heaven, that the guilt of our sins (i.e., our debts) were being imputed to Him. No plainer statement could be found for this than Isa 53:6, which I was astonished to note you had no adequate response to; namely, that "the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." He was being treated as the sins He bore, DESERVED. It is written of those who sin by breaking God's laws that they, "will bear their iniquity" (Lev 5:1, 5:17, 7:18, 10:17, 16:22, 17:16, 19:8).. That is, "they will be held responsible" (!!!). Christ was being held responsible to satisfy divine justice in our room and stead. Again, if the iniquities of us all were laid on Him (Isa 53:6), and they were--- then He was enduring the wrath of God WHICH OUR SINS DESERVE, so that we would not have to! This is penal substitution!
Simple, yet profound.

The surety gives security FORRRR someone else, that he will perform for another, something which the other is bound to do, but either cannot or will not comply. From reading your debate, I seriously doubt you have ever pondered the thought of Jesus as our Surety. The law of God has been violated and Divine Justice now comes to us for the payment of our sin debt. The wages of sin is eternal death. Yet by the mercy of God, however, we have been by-passed, and His wrath...REDIRECTED. Christ, whom the Scriptures say is our Surety, has given Himself as the ransom price relating to our sin debt. He came to give His life a "ransom" for many (Matt 20:28)... The idea of ransom and redemption is something given IN PLACE OF the item held or person in bondage. Deliberately, freely and in perfect love, He has endured divine judgment for which we were otherwise inescapably destined.

And according to God, our sins DESERVE everlasting punishment (Mk 9:48, Matt 8:12, 13:42,50; 22:13, 24:51, 25:30). Such a severe punishment is not arbitrary or capricious because the heinousness of sin is directed against an infinitely holy God. How then, you might ask, could the INFINITE punishment of Hell be borne in a FINITE period of time?

The answer is that everything about Christ is infinite. His incarnation was an act of infinite condescension, and His blood (i.e., His death) is of infinite value. Thus, the infinite worth of Christ swallows up all the infinities of punishments due to us. Christ's suffering, though it lasted only a finite period of time, was infinite in value because He is infinitely worthy! And Hebrews 10:14 supports the INFINITE effects of an act of FINITE duration:
"by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

Brandon K. said...

You objected that the Protestant position poses a form of justice unheard of in all history. But why, pray tell, should you have a problem with THAT?

The infinite sacrifice of Christ and its infinite application of removing from us the consequences of an eternal Hell, is shown by the plural truth that He died for the sins of MORE THAN ONE PERSON. How could only ONE, die for multiple millions? Yet you believe THAT, don't you? How could only ONE, suffer an eternal Hell that so many multiple millions deserve? I quite understand it is beyond your comprehension (as it is mine) because this type of substitution and penalty is unknown in all of earth's judicial history. Yet in the logic of God, the infinite worth of Jesus Christ makes this possible and that's what we are called to believe, whether you like it or not. The atonement planned before the world began encompassed a mode of justice that would be completely foreign in the eyes of man (Isa 52:15). Even though we may understand only through a glass darkly this side of heaven, we DO know this heavenly form of justice is in effect since we read that countless thousands will indeed be saved BECAUSE of it
(Rev 5:11). This is a direct result of His one act of obedience per Romans 5:19--- which comprises both His life ANNNND His death, per Romans 5:8---and contrary to your ludicrous assertion that, "it was by His merits and not the death itself which turned away God's wrath."

Finally, I found your following statement completely mystifying and bombastic:
"This is not to be mean or rude, but the reason why P.S. is embraced so tightly is because a more important doctrine hangs in the balance: Sola Fide - Justification by Faith Alone.
The well informed Protestant knows that to let go of P.S. would mean letting go of Sola Fide - and that's not an easy thing to do. The Protestant pastor has the hardest time coming to grips with this, since if he loses his job, he'll have to find another way to feed his family, and that's a truly scary thought."

Penal Substitution does not for a MOMENT depend on the doctrine of Faith Alone. You may as well have said that P.S. depends on the migration of birds away from the equator at certain times of the year, it was THAT nonsensical. Not surprisingly, you failed to support it by any known Protestant, living or dead, who ever imagined any such thing (from which you could interact) nor did you attempt to defend your saying that, "I've studied this topic long enough to know what's at stake: Sola Fide - the Golden Calf of Protestantism." Therefore, the allegation is nothing but a canard.

Most Sincerely Yours,
Brandon K.

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Jean_Parisot_de_Valette said...

Would this be also correct? If Jesus(Begotten) was condemned to hell by the First Cause(Father) would this break the trinity? How could the Father be angry with the Son? This would break the continuity of the Trinity, it now becomes Binity. Finaly, once Jesus is resurrected, the church at that time, has made Jesus more important than God. In a sense, Jesus has become the First cause. Could this be the way Luther kept the Filioque? Jesus now is as equal to God? They now share the same properties. Before the Filioque, all had unique Properties and shared that same essence.
My understanding of the trinity: It is a monarchal trinity as the Father is the first cause, the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds. Thank you.

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