Sunday, January 18, 2009

Negative Constructive Essay

Penal Substitution Debate

Negative Constructive Essay

By Nick

Penal Substitution is grounded on the Protestant notion that justification is a legal event. As such, God must deal with sin in a legal manner, which (to Protestants) means sin cannot go unpunished without violating the very integrity of God's Holiness and Justice. God's Wrath (due to sin) must be legally satisfied (i.e. sin cannot go unpunished) in order for sinful man to be forgiven and justified. The “penal” aspect consists of both the temporal and eternal punishments due to sin which are to be punished in the guilty party, while the “substitution” aspect consists in the sinner's guilt being imputed (transferred) to the account of another, a substitute, in this case Jesus Christ, who then receives the punishment the sinner deserved. The Resolution of this debate sums up this concept: God imputed the guilt of the sins of the elect to Christ. In other words, the Wrath the elect deserved for their sins was instead poured out by the Father onto Jesus.

The following arguments I will present will show that Penal Substitution is unreasonable and un-Biblical.

1) Contrary to popular belief, the Mosaic sacrifices did not operate in a Penal Substitution framework.

1a) Nowhere does the Mosaic Law indicate the punishment for sin was transferred to an animal or God's Wrath being poured out upon it.

1b) Places like Leviticus 5:5-13 talk about what the guilty must bring for a sacrificial sin offering. In this description, the Law teaches that if the sinner cannot afford a lamb he must bring two pigeons. However, it continues, if he cannot afford two pigeons he must bring a bag of fine flour. If Penal Substitution were in mind here, allowing a bag of flour instead of a animal is illogical.

1c) The “scapegoat” was part of one of the most important ceremonies for the Israelites, the Day of Atonement, described in Lev. 16. The term “scapegoat” often conjures up images of an innocent party taking the blame and suffering the consequences for the sins of a guilty party. Yet, the description of the scapegoat in Lev. 16 (vv7-10 & 20-22) shows that this goat is never the object of wrath but instead released out into the wilderness. This is quite contrary to the notion of Penal Substitution.

1d) The Passover was a very important event in Jewish history, and St Paul tells us that Jesus is the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). Moses gives the instructions for the Passover to the Israelites in Exodus 12 (esp. vv1-13). Rather than being an object of wrath, the eating of the lamb and applying its blood to the door fame of the house is what turned away God's wrath. This directly corresponds to us partaking in the Eucharist and having Christ Blood applied to our souls, making them pure and pleasing in God's sight (Heb 9:14). It was the blood (merits) of the Lamb, not the death itself, which turned away God's wrath. This also does not fit a Penal Substitution framework.

1e) All through Leviticus (which deals heavily with sacrifices) there are numerous references to sacrifices being described as “an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (e.g. Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2). These sacrifices are pleasing to God because they are prepared 'the way He likes it,' He is pleased when such things are done in obedience to His teachings. It is no mistake that the sacrifice of Jesus is also described as a “fragrant aroma,” because He acted in love and obedience (Eph 5:1f). This is obviously not Penal Substitution, for this appeasing and pleasing God is not done by unleashing wrath but on account of obedience. Also, Eph. 5:1f calls Christians to imitate Christ's sacrifice, yet Penal Substitution is specifically intended so Christians wont have to imitate Christ's example of sacrifice.

2) The following quotes are from various Calvinist authors describing Penal Substitution as it unfolded at the Cross (emphasis mine):

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)

There are significant theological and Biblical problems with these descriptions, explained below.

2a) According to adherents of Penal Substitution, Christ suffered more than just a bodily death and physical tortures at the hands of men. The Gospel accounts are very clear what Christ endured was physical and emotional, no mention of spiritual punishment. It is very odd that the quotes say the physical death was nothing compared to experiencing the Father's wrath, yet the Gospel accounts say nothing of this 'more important' and 'invisible' issue.

2b) Theologically speaking, only God has the power to inflict divine punishments; men can only kill the body, while God can kill the soul in hell (Mat 10:28). This is very problematic for Penal Substitution because the Bible never talks of God the Father unleashing His Wrath on Jesus and corporal death alone is not enough.

2c) The Father could never turn His Wrath upon His Son, such a notion should make anyone cringe. The Father could never forsake His Son in a spiritual 'divine punishment' sense, nor could Jesus feel or experience what a condemned sinner before God feels, nor could Jesus experience the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, that is pure blasphemy and a form of Nestoriansim (if not worse).

3) Now to some popular Protestant proof texts for Penal Substitution. I will show that these passages, when read in context and without presumptions, don't unequivocally support the Protestant side, and in some cases actually contradict it.

3a) Isaiah 53 is one of the most popular OT passage Protestants turn to as support for the doctrine of Penal Substitution. I believe we should let the New Testament be our main guide, to see how OT revelation unfolds. When we see how the NT interprets Isaiah 53, it will be clear it is not teaching Penal Substitution. I will do a summarized verse by verse commentary on this chapter:

Verse 4a is directly quoted in Mat 8:16-17, and has nothing to do with Penal Substitution.

Verse 4b is when the Jews considered Jesus to be under God's displeasure because God would not save Him (Mat 27:40-43).

Verse 5a is talking about the crucifixion where Christ was physically pierced and beaten.

Verse 5b does not use the Hebrew term “punishment” but rather “chastisement” (H4148) and is in reference to suffering that will correct a wrong (eg Job 5:17), which is not the same as a Penal Substitution which is concerned with the death penalty and eternal punishments.

Verses 6 and 7 are alluded to in 1 Pt 2, which I address later.

Versea 8 and 9 are talking about the way Jesus was treated like a criminal, unjustly tried, and murdered.

Verse 10 when it says it was the “Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer” it is interpreted by Catholics (eg St Thomas Aquinas, ST 3:47:3) as God Providentially planning the Passion. For example, God delivered Jesus into the hands of wicked men (eg Acts 2:23; Rom 8:32), though the Father never dumped His Wrath on Jesus, it was the wicked men who did the actual torture. A good example of God foreordaining a 'bad situation' but without any intent of punishing the individual is Joseph in Gen 50:20. Next verse 10 mentions that Christ's Passion was a “guilt offering” (or “offering for sin”) which is “asham” (H817) in Hebrew (and occurs frequently in Leviticus). Yet this is the same type of offering mentioned in Section 1b earlier in this essay, where if someone couldn't afford an animal then a bag of flour would work, yet Penal Substitution with a bag of flour doesn't make much sense, indicating the sacrifice was not of that nature. The same type of offering is made in 1 Sam 6, but the offering is obedience and gold, not something to kill.

Verses 11 and 12 talk of “bearing sin” which 1 Pt 2 alludes to, which I address later. The phrase “numbered with the transgressors” is in reference to the humiliation of being crucified among thieves (Mk 15:28KJV). Lastly, the verse says Christ will “make intercession” for the sinners, yet making intercession is not the same as Penal Substitution. Making intercession involves turning away the wrath, not diverting it.

3b) Galatians 3:13 talks about Jesus being made a “curse” for us and quotes Deuteronomy 21:22-23. This might sound like God the Father spiritually cursed His Son Jesus, but taken in that sense is quite blasphemous and not what Deut 21 was saying. Deuteronomy 21 is talking about the most humiliating form of death, crucifixion, and is described as a curse because the Jewish understanding was that someone had to be really bad to deserve that kind of death. The OT actually sheds valuable light on this understanding, two specific passages demonstrate this clearly:

Joshua 8: 28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29 He hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take his body from the tree and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.

Joshua 10: 26 Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening. 27 At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.

These passages show clearly that hanging someone on a tree is a form of grave humiliation, especially for a king. Notice how the passages indicate the bodies were taken down before sunset, this is according to the command in Deut 21 when this form of execution is carried out. Also, the bodies were thrown into a cave and covered with rocks. The parallels here to Christ's crucifixion are very clear, but this is not Penal Substitution because with this in mind passages like Phil 2:8 say Christ “became obedient unto death even death on a cross,” and thus the message is that Christ's perfect obedience (willing to undergo the worst humiliation) is what is carries the true value (towards making satisfaction), not the torture itself.

3c) 1 Peter 2:24 says Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree.” Protestants look to this as clear evidence that the guilt of the elect was imputed to Jesus and punished in Him. However, the context paints quite a different picture:

18Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

The context clearly indicates the theme of Peter's teaching is enduring unjust suffering, and that suffering unjustly at the hands of others for doing God's will is what is meritorious in God's sight. This context is definitely not Penal Substitution. This is in fact Peter's theme throughout most of this Epistle (eg 3:3-4; 3:9-14; 3:17-18; 4:12-16). What is even more significant here is that 1 Pt 2:22-25 quotes and alludes to Isaiah 53 (esp verses 5, 6, 7, 9, 12) more than anywhere else in the NT, thus it should be the main guide for interpreting Isaiah 53. Because 1 Peter 2 is not teaching Penal Substitution then Isaiah 53 cannot be teaching it either.

As for the term “bore” in “bore our sins,” that word in Greek (G399) means to 'take up' or 'offer up' either physically (Mat 17:1; Mk 9:2; Lk 24:51) or as a sacrifice (Heb 7:27; 9:28; 13:15; 1 Pt 2:5; James 2:21). In 1 Pt 2:5 it says “offer up spiritual sacrifices.” Given this, this phrase does not automatically mean imputed guilt, rather it can mean taking the burden of making satisfaction for the sins upon His shoulders, similar to how a father takes the burden of raising a family upon his shoulders.

3d) 2 Corinthians 5:21 is a very important NT passage in Protestant soteriology, especially Penal Substitution.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Protestants see the “Great Exchange” encompassed in this passage. The classic interpretation is that though Jesus was not actually a sinner, the sin of the elect was imputed to Him and He received the Wrath they deserved, while the Christian (who lacks righteousness before God) has God's righteousness imputed to them. The main problem is a lot must be read into that one verse. This interpretation is gratuitous at best, not to mention nowhere is the term “impute” used. Using the principle of having Scripture interpret Scripture, it is best to consult similar passages when trying to interpret this one.

Rom 8: 3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh

2 Cor 8: 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Regarding Romans 8:3, Jesus being sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh” means Jesus took on human nature, and thus “made sin” could easily be taken as sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” The phrase “for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” I interpret as being made a sin offering and made satisfaction for sin. Next, in 2 Cor 8:9 there is a clear parallel with 2 Cor 5:21. Christ doesn't become poor by infusion or imputation, rather He becomes poor in the sense of Phil 2:5-9 where Jesus humbled Himself to take on human flesh and become obedient unto death, and through His merits heal us and raise us up.

Also, the word “sin” in “made sin” can mean “made a sin offering,” and this is because Paul knew that in the OT some Hebrew words could mean both “sin” and “sin offering,” even in the same context. The Hebrew word Chattaah (H2403) is translated, in the KJV, 182 times as “sin” and 116 times as “sin offering.” Places like Leviticus 4 translate the word both ways in the same context:

Lev 4: 28Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. 29And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.

The highlighted words are the same word in Hebrew. This is a very similar situation to 2 Cor 5:21 in which the first occurrence of “sin” refers to actual sins, while the second occurrence refers to a “sin offering.” There is simply too much read into the text (without support) when Protestants interpret “made sin” as having guilt imputed to Christ and punished in Christ.

3e) Jesus asks the Father if the “cup” can be taken from Him (Mat 26:39). Some say this was the “cup of God's Wrath” which Christ must drink. However, earlier on in Mat 20:22-23 and Mark 10:38-39 Jesus asks if the Apostles can drink from this “cup,” and they say yes, and Christ says they will. This is impossible if the cup of God's wrath is in view and the purpose is Penal Substitution. Thus those texts can only mean enduring physical persecutions.

3f) When Jesus is on the Cross, He says “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46). Some Protestants mistakenly think this refers to some divine (spiritual) punishment being inflicted on Jesus (see the quotes in section 2), but that is blasphemous. Rather, Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 and applying that Psalm to Himself. The “forsaken” is clearly explained as God not providing rescue from Christ's attackers, not about a divine punishment being inflicted on Christ's soul. Reading the entire Psalm, it has nothing to do with Divine Wrath.

4) The Catholic position, popularly called “satisfaction” in Catholic documents (or even a “satisfactory punishment” in older works), basically consists in appeasing God's Wrath by good works rather than redirecting it onto someone else to endure. The next important issue is whether there are clear examples in Scripture of men turning away God's wrath by intercession and appeasement, without the hero having to undergo God's wrath in place of the guilty.

4a) Numbers 25:1-13, also quoted in Psalm 106:30-31, describes a situation in which the Israelites turned to immorality and God struck them with a plague. During that time, Phinehas – being zealous for maintaining God's honor - stepped in and turned away God's Wrath which stopped a plague and was said to “turn away God's anger” and “make atonement for the Israelites.” Phinehas undeniably foreshadowed Jesus, yet Phinehas did not have to bear God's Wrath in place of others.

4b) Deuteronomy 9:16-21 (Ex 32:30), also quoted in Psalm 106:19-23, recalls the situation where the Israelites made a golden calf idol, which greatly angered God. In this situation, Moses interceded for them, making atonement by laying on his face for 40 days and ate no food, and because of this God's wrath was turned away and listened to Moses to spare the people.

4c) Job 42:7-9 deals with the fact God was angry at the attitudes and actions of some of Job's friends. God said He required a sacrifice for their folly, but that He would only accept it if Job His Servant offered the sacrifices. Job's actions carried weight and were meritorious in God's sight because Job pleased God.

4d) Numbers 16:42-49 describes a rebellion in which God sent a plague to wipe out many Israelites. Moses and Aaron make atonement and turn away God's Wrath by appeasing Him with incense, but neither of the heroes are forced to endure God's Wrath instead.

4e) Proverbs 16:6 says: “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for,” and 16:14 says, “A king's wrath is a messenger of death, but a wise man will appease it.” Both passages use the same Hebrew term for “atone” used in some of the previous passages. In both cases, Penal Substitution is not required to atone.

5) One of the most devastating truths against Penal Substitution is that the Scriptures are clear that salvation can be lost. Calvinists are the most logically consistent in this regard, recognizing that Penal Substitution and losing salvation are mutually exclusive concepts. The following passages will demonstrate that salvation can be lost, and thus Penal Substitution must be false.

5a) Mat 18:23-35 is of the unmerciful servant who is forgiven but wont forgive others and as a result is forced to suffer what is in effect eternal torments. Jesus concludes this parable by telling His Apostles the same thing will happen to them if they don't forgive.

5b) Mat 24:12-13 teaches that as the world becomes more wicked “the love of most will grow cold,” while those who persevere will be saved. The “love” here is agape love, the highest form and only available to Christians by God's saving grace. Yet here it states it will grow cold for many of them, and thus they will fall away and not be saved.

5c) Mark 9:43-47 has Jesus teaching us that it is better to remove temptations in your life and enter into Heaven having “missed out” on those things rather than indulging in them and being damned.

5d) Luke 8:13 is the parable of the sower, and in this case the individual “believes for a while” but later falls away due to temptation. The person was a believer, and thus saved, and yet fell away.

5e) John 12:42-43 informs us that there were Pharisees who did believe in Jesus, but because they feared persecution they would not publicly affirm their faith.

5f) John 13:8 is when Jesus washes the disciples' feet and it is Peter's turn. Jesus tells Peter that if He doesn't wash him, Peter will have no part with Jesus. Jesus put Peter's salvation on the line, proving that salvation can be lost, otherwise it was a false threat (a lie in fact).

5g) Acts 8:9-24 describes the story of Simon Magnus. In verse 12-13 it says he “believed and was baptized” (cf Mk 16:16), and yet later on in the story Simon tried to bribe Peter and Peter told him he had lost his salvation.

5h) Romans 4:6-8 talks about David repenting of sin in Psalm 32, and Paul says this was a moment of justification. The only logical answer here is that David lost his salvation earlier on (and only recovered it upon repenting).

5i) Romans 11:19-22 describes the Vine of salvation, yet Paul says, in the past tense, that “branches were broken off” because they stopped believing (though they can be grafted back in if they turn and believe again). Paul also applies this warning to Christians, which would all be illogical if salvation could not be lost.

5j) 1 Cor 8:11 describes a situation in which we should not lead our Christian brothers into temptation. In this example, the Gentile Christian struggles with idolatry, and yet being tempted back into idolatry will cause that brother to fall away. Paul says this brother is someone “for whom Christ died” and yet he “perishes.” I cannot think of a stronger thing Paul could have said against Penal Substitution, in the same breath he says Christ died for him and yet he parishes.

5k) Galatians 5:4 talks about a person “falling from grace” and becoming “alienated from Christ,” which is impossible if the person was never saved.

5l) Galatians 5:19-21 shows Paul specifically warning the Christians if they engage in grave sins they will be damned.

5m) 1 Timothy 3:6 talks about the risk of a Christian becoming prideful and falling “into the same condemnation as the devil,” which is clearly losing salvation.

5n) 1 Timothy 5:8 says if a Christian father abandons his family he has “denied the faith” and is “worse than an unbeliever.” Both notions are impossible with Penal Substitution.

5o) Hebrews 10:26-29 is one of the strongest passages against Penal Substitution. It says if Christians keep on sinning “no sacrifice for sin remains” and that they can expect damnation. There is no way Hebrews could have advocated Penal Substitution and yet said something like that.

5p) 2 Peter 2:1 mirrors Jude 1:4 and says men whom Jesus ransomed will deny Him. Being ransomed obviously means salvation, yet these men will fall away.

5q) Revelation 2:19-22 has Jesus warning that if a group of Christians don't change their ways they will be damned. It makes no sense for Jesus to be talking to and warning people who are not even saved.

5r) Revelation 22:19 warns against having one's “share in the tree of life” and “holy city” removed, this can only be talking about salvation.

6) Other Philosophical and Theological problems with Penal Substitution.

6a) The notion that someone can receive the death penalty in place of another does not fit into any genuine justice system. It makes no sense from a justice standpoint for someone other than the actual offender to receive the death penalty.

6b) The notion that God cannot forgive without punishing someone is illogical. It cannot be “forgiveness” if God still inflicts the punishment. The Bible teaches we must forgive without retaliating, so it makes no sense for God to dump His wrath on someone else and call that forgiveness of another.

6c) Another significant problem is that Penal Substitution, in a sense, teaches that Christ pre-paid for sin. For a sin that has not actually occurred yet, for Christ to take the punishment for it is blasphemy. Worse yet, the sin would actually have to be carried out to 'balance the books' so to speak.

6d) The notion that a Christian is “eternally forgiven” (doesn't need to repent in the future) is a logical result of Penal Substitution, but that contradicts the passages in Scripture which call for regular repentance (eg the Lord's Prayer), and never says anything but past sins are forgiven (eg 1 Jn 1:9; 2 Pt 1:9)

After all is said and done, it should be very clear that the doctrine of Penal Substitution has no place in any justice system, nor is it a doctrine clearly and honestly derived from Scripture.


Affirmative Constructive Essay

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Resolved: God imputed the guilt of the sins of the elect to Christ.

This is a debate over substitutionary atonement, the idea that Christ served as a substitute for his people. I will be advocating the Reformed position on the atonement, which teaches that Christ was the federal head of the elect, just as Adam was the federal head of the natural human race. (1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.) Christ is the new Adam and greater than Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.)

This federal relationship is a familial relationship. We are of Adam’s family by nature – and consequently the children of his disobedience (Ephesians 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.) and children of the just wrath of God upon that disobedience (Ephesian 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.)

Nevertheless, without any merit of our own to commend us, we are adopted into Christ’s family – the family of which he is the federal head. (Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.) Adam merited death for us, but Christ has merited life for us (Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.). This adoption of us as sons of God was the reason for Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection (Galatians 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.). It was part of God’s eternal plan for the elect, who were predestined to become the sons of God via adoption through the work of Christ (Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,).

The atonement was variously represented in the Old Testament, but the primary way it was represented was by sacrifice (for example, Exodus 29:33 And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat thereof, because they are holy.) The sacrificial system provides us with a framework within which Christ, the sacrifice to which those sacrifices pointed, can be understood (Hebrews 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;).

Within the sacrificial framework, there were generally four involved parties: the beneficiary, the victim, the priest, and God (see, for example, Leviticus 9:7 And Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering, and thy burnt offering, and make an atonement for thyself, and for the people: and offer the offering of the people, and make an atonement for them; as the LORD commanded.). The beneficiary is the particular person or group of people for whom the sacrifice was to be offered. The victim is the person, animal, or other thing being offered. The priest is the person who performs the ritual of offering the victim. God is the one to whom the offering is made.

The role of priest was a special role, because the priests had to come before the Lord with the sacrifice (Exodus 28:35 And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the LORD, and when he cometh out, that he die not.). The priests themselves had to be pure in order to stand before the Lord, therefore, the priests would first offer for themselves and then for the people (Hebrews 7:27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.).

In Christ’s sacrifice, the person of the Father is God to receive the offering (Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.). Christ is both the high priest (Hebrews 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;) and the victim (Hebrews 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.). The elect of God are the beneficiary (John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.).

The basic concept of the sacrifice is one of putting away sin (2Sa 12:13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.). Indeed, this is the express purpose why Christ came (Hebrews 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.).

Similarly, in English, this concept is expressed as “taking away” sins (1 John 3:5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.). In fact, the act of taking away sins and purging them roughly synonymous (Isaiah 27:9 By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.).

This expression of sins being “purged” is also frequently used to describe the result of sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.). It is even used specifically with respect to the sprinkled blood of the Paschal lamb (Psalm 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.)

Certainly, more could be said about the sacrifice of Christ, but in order to keep this from becoming excessively long, perhaps it would suffice to focus on the reasons to view the atonement as being a penal substitution, that is to say, that Christ was punished in place of the elect.

Simply put, the argument may be presented as follows:

1) As demonstrated above, Christ came as a sacrifice for sin.

2) Christ’s sacrifice was necessary for the forgiveness of sins, because blood must be shed for remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.).

3) Christ himself taught that he laid down his life in substitution for his people, his sheep (John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. John 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.).

4) The Scriptures, especially in Isaiah 53, teach that the Messiah would receive punishment for the sins of his people.

5) The plain result of the work of Christ is the salvation of his people from their sins, which is the very reasons he is called “Jesus” (Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.).

More discussion will follow, to show not only that this is a matter of logical necessity, but it is the teaching of the Reformed churches and the historic Christian church, although it should be acknowledged that the doctrine is more systematically and clearly laid out in the Reformers than in the earlier writings.

The first argument used by the Reformers was drawn from those scriptural texts in which Christ is said to have redeemed us by his blood, by a perfectly sufficient price; and which assert that a satisfaction has been made. The next argument was drawn from those passages of scripture, in which Christ is said to have died, not only for the promotion of our interests, but also in our stead, as a substitute. A third argument, in favor of Christ’s having made such a satisfaction as that for which the Reformers contended, was derived from those portions of the Bible in which Christ is said to have borne our sins, and on account of them to have been afflicted, to have been wounded, and to have died. A further confirmation of the reformed doctrine of the atonement is confirmed by those scriptures that assert that Christ was made sin and a curse for us. (“A Historical Sketch of the Opinions on the Atonement” by James Renwick Willson)

Of course, we do not accept the Reformers arguments simply because they were made by such great luminaries as Francis Turretin, but because they are (as demonstrated briefly above) the teachings of Holy Scripture.

While the church fathers certainly present a wide variety of opinions with respect to the death of Christ, we see at least some of the fathers had some similar conceptions of Christ’s works as those discussed above.

For example, Turtullian (circa A.D. 160-220) wrote:

Now, since hatred was predicted against that Son of man who has His mission from the Creator, whilst the Gospel testifies that the name of Christians, as derived from Christ, was to be hated for the Son of man’s sake, because He is Christ, it determines the point that that was the Son of man in the matter of hatred who came according to the Creator’s purpose, and against whom the hatred was predicted. And even if He had not yet come, the hatred of His name which exists at the present day could not in any case have possibly preceded Him who was to bear the name. But He has both suffered the penalty in our presence, and surrendered His life, laying it down for our sakes, and is held in contempt by the Gentiles. And He who was born (into the world) will be that very Son of man on whose account our name also is rejected.
(The Five Books Against Marcion, Book IV, Chapter 14)

Similarly, Hilary of Poitiers (circa A.D. 315-67) wrote:
The Only-begotten God, then, suffered in His person the attacks of all the infirmities to which we are subject; but He suffered them in the power of His own nature, just as He was born in the power of His own nature, for at His birth He did not lose His omnipotent nature by being born. Though born under human conditions, He was not so conceived: His birth was surrounded by human circumstances, but His origin went beyond them. He suffered then in His body alter the manner of our infirm body, yet bore the sufferings of our body in the power of His own body. To this article of our faith the prophet bears witness when he says, He beareth our sins and grieveth for us: and we esteemed Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted: He was wounded for our transgressions and made weak for our sins. It is then a mistaken opinion of human judgment, which thinks He felt pain because He suffered. He bore our sins, that is, He assumed our body of sin, but was Himself sinless. He was sent in the likeness of the flesh of sin, bearing sin indeed in His flesh but our sin. So too He felt pain for us, but not with our senses; He was found in fashion as a man, with a body which could feel pain, but His nature could not feel pain; for, though His fashion was that of a man, His origin was not human, but He was born by conception of the Holy Ghost. For the reasons mentioned, He was esteemed ‘stricken, smitten and afflicted.’ He took the form of a servant: and ‘man born of a Virgin’ conveys to us the idea of One Whose nature felt pain when He suffered. But though He was wounded it was ‘for our transgressions.’ The wound was not the wound of His own transgressions: the suffering not a suffering for Himself. He was not born man for His own sake, nor did He transgress in His own action. The Apostle explains the principle of the Divine Plan when he says, We beseech you through Christ to be reconciled to God. Him, Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf. To condemn sin through sin in the flesh, He Who knew no sin was Himself made sin; that is, by means of the flesh to condemn sin in the flesh, He became flesh on our behalf but knew not flesh: and therefore was wounded because of our transgressions.
(On the Trinity, Book 10, §47)

The same thing is taught by Augustine (circa A.D. 354-430), who wrote:
The believer in the true doctrine of the gospel will understand that Christ is not reproached by Moses when he speaks of Him as cursed, not in His divine majesty, but as hanging on the tree as our substitute, bearing our punishment, any more than He is praised by the Manicheans when they deny that He had a mortal body, so as to suffer real death. In the curse of the prophet there is praise of Christ’s humility, while in the pretended regard of the heretics there is a charge of falsehood. If, then, you deny that Christ was cursed, you must deny that He died; and then you have to meet, not Moses, but the apostles. Confess that He died, and you may also confess that He, without taking our sin, took its punishment. Now the punishment of sin cannot be blessed, or else it would be a thing to be desired. The curse is pronounced by divine justice, and it will be well for us if we are redeemed from it. Confess then that Christ died, and you may confess that He bore the curse for us; and that when Moses said, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,” he said in fact, To hang on a tree is to be mortal, or actually to die. He might have said, “Cursed is every one that is mortal,” or “Cursed is every one dying;” but the prophet knew that Christ would suffer on the cross, and that heretics would say that He hung on the tree only in appearance, without really dying. So he exclaims, Cursed; meaning that He really died. He knew that the death of sinful man, which Christ though sinless bore, came from that curse, “If ye touch it, ye shall surely die.” Thus also, the serpent hung on the pole was intended to show that Christ did not feign death, but that the real death into which the serpent by his fatal counsel cast mankind was hung on the cross of Christ’s passion. The manicheans turn away from the view of this real death, and so they are not healed of the poison of the serpent, as we read that in the wilderness as many as looked were healed.
(Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XIV, §7)

And there is no need to stay with fathers of the Western church. Theodoret of Cyrrhus (circa A.D. 393-466) commenting on Numbers 5:6, wrote:
“Only Christ the Lord, both as God and as man, is blameless. The prophet Isaiah foresaw this and said, “He commited no transgression, nor was deceit found in his mouth.” For this reason he took upon himself the sins of others, for he had none of his own. For Isaiah says, “He bears our sins, and he is afflicted for us.” And the great John says, “Behold the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world.” For this reason he is also called “free among the dead,” since he suffered death unjustly.”

Likewise, Chrysostom (circa A.D. 349-407) commenting on Hebrews 9:28, said:
“So Christ was once offered.”: By whom offered? evidently by Himself. Here he says that He is not Priest only, but Victim also, and what is sacrificed. On this account are [the words] “was offered.” “Was once offered” (he says) “to bear the sins of many.” Why “of many,” and not “of all”? Because not all believed, For He died indeed for all, that is His part: for that death was a counterbalance against the destruction of all men. But He did not bear the sins of all men, because they were not willing. And what is [the meaning of] “He bare the sins”? Just as in the Oblation we bear up our sins and say, “Whether we have sinned voluntarily or involuntarily, do Thou forgive,” that is, we make mention of them first, and then ask for their forgiveness. So also was it done here. Where has Christ done this? Hear Himself saying, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself.” (John 17:19) Lo! He bore the sins. He took them from men, and bore them to the Father; not that He might determine anything against them [mankind], but that He might forgive them.”
(Epistle to the Hebrews, Homly 17)

This understanding of the atonement was not limited to the early fathers, but carried through into the middle ages. For example, Bede (circa A.D. 672-735) commenting on 1 John 2:1, stated:
“The Lord intercedes for us not by words but by his dying compassion, because he took upon himself the sins which he was unwilling to condemn his elect for.”

This view of the atonement continued through the middle ages (not as the only view, to be sure, but as one of the views), eventually finding powerful expression in Anselm’s classic work Cur Deus Homo.

In book 1 of CDH, Anselm explains that man is unable to pay for his own sins, those sins must be paid for if man is to be set free, and consequently someone must pay for them - and that someone is Christ. Thus, Chapter 25 poses the question:
B. How, then, will man be saved if he does not pay what he owes and if he ought not to be saved unless he pays it? Or how can we impudently maintain that God, who is rich in mercy beyond human understanding, cannot bestow this mercy?
Anselm goes on to provide as the central answer that,
A. From what I have already said, do you not realize that it is necessary for some men to attain happiness? For if it is unfitting for God to bring a man having any stain to that end for which He created him free of every stain—lest [by so doing] He should seem either to regret the good work He had begun or to be unable to fulfill His purpose—then, much more, because of this same unfittingness, it is impossible that no man whatsoever be elevated to the end for which he was created. Therefore, either the kind of satisfaction-for-sin which I earlier showed to be required must occur outside the context of the Christian faith—something which no sound reasoning can demonstrate—or else satisfaction-for-sin must assuredly be believed to occur within the context of the Christian faith. For that which on the basis of rational necessity is inferred really to be the case ought not to be called into any doubt, even if the reason why it is true is not discerned.

It is this satisfaction-for-sin by another than the actual sinner that we call “imputation” of their sin to him. Thus, Christ’s sacrifice was the way in which Christ obtained mercy for us, by fulfilling justice. In chapter 12 of Book 1, we see the following exchange:
A. Also consider the following point: Everyone knows that human justice is subject to law, so that God deals out the measure of recompense according to the degree of justice.
B. This is what we believe.
A. But if sin were neither paid for nor punished, it would be subject to no law.
B. I cannot think differently.
A. Therefore, if injustice is forgiven out of mercy alone, then injustice is more at liberty than is justice—something which seems especially unfitting. Moreover, this unfittingness is so extensive that it makes injustice resemble God, for as God is subject to no one's law, neither would injustice be.
B. I cannot oppose your reasoning.

As noted above, this view of the atonement was not the only or exclusive view of the atonement in the middle ages. For example, Aquinas did not share this view of the atonement. Instead, while Aquinas sometimes seemed to hint at a view of penal substitution (“It was not necessary, then, for Christ to suffer from necessity of compulsion, either on God's part, who ruled that Christ should suffer, or on Christ's own part, who suffered voluntarily. Yet it was necessary from necessity of the end proposed; and this can be accepted in three ways. First of all, on our part, who have been delivered by His Passion, according to John (3:14): "The Son of man must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting." Secondly, on Christ's part, who merited the glory of being exalted, through the lowliness of His Passion: and to this must be referred Luke 24:26: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His glory?" Thirdly, on God's part, whose determination regarding the Passion of Christ, foretold in the Scriptures and prefigured in the observances of the Old Testament, had to be fulfilled. And this is what St. Luke says (22:22): "The Son of man indeed goeth, according to that which is determined"; and (Luke 24:44-46): "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning Me: for it is thus written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead."” Summa Theologica, Third Part, Question 46, Article 1; “That man should be delivered by Christ's Passion was in keeping with both His mercy and His justice. With His justice, because by His Passion Christ made satisfaction for the sin of the human race; and so man was set free by Christ's justice: and with His mercy, for since man of himself could not satisfy for the sin of all human nature, as was said above (Question 1, Article 2), God gave him His Son to satisfy for him, according to Romans 3:24-25: "Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood." And this came of more copious mercy than if He had forgiven sins without satisfaction. Hence it is said (Ephesians 2:4): "God, who is rich in mercy, for His exceeding charity wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ."” Id. and “Through Christ's Passion we have been delivered from the debt of punishment in two ways. First of all, directly--namely, inasmuch as Christ's Passion was sufficient and superabundant satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race: but when sufficient satisfaction has been paid, then the debt of punishment is abolished. In another way--indirectly, that is to say--in so far as Christ's Passion is the cause of the forgiveness of sin, upon which the debt of punishment rests.” Summa Theologica, Third Part, Question 49, Article 3), nevertheless Aquinas elsewhere seemed to suggest a different view, one that he viewed in medicinal terms (“Christ by His Passion delivered us from our sins causally--that is, by setting up the cause of our deliverance, from which cause all sins whatsoever, past, present, or to come, could be forgiven: just as if a doctor were to prepare a medicine by which all sicknesses can be cured even in future.” Summa Theologica, Third Part, Question 49, Article 1).

We would generally criticize Aquinas’ apparent view for one major reason, divided into several parts. The major reason is that the view Aquinas seemingly proposed is not scripturally supported. This major reason may be divided into several parts, as follows: (1) Aquinas would seem to make Christ’s deliverance of his people merely potential, but Scripture declares proper (i.e. actual) deliverance, (2) Aquinas would seem to fail to underappreciate the perfection of the work of Christ, in that Christ’s death fully expiates for all the sins and with respect to every punishment for those sins according to Scriptures, and (3) Aquinas seems to focus on merit as though sins were merely debt to be canceled out through payment of righteousness, whereas Scripture teaches the sins incur the penalty of death.

From all that has gone before, therefore, it is respectfully submitted for the reader’s consideration, that Christ has come as a sacrifice, specifically to suffer the punishment for sins, namely death. To conclude, I provide a brief summary from another great theologian on the atonement, A.A. Hodge:
There are several forms of expression which essentially present the same great principles, but with variations. His sufferings are said to be vicarious. He himself is said to have been the Substitute of his people, and a Ransom for them, that is, in their stead. He is also said to have been their Representative before God, and the one Mediator between God and man. We have before seen that Christ was accurately prefigured by the bleeding sacrifice upon the altar, and by the high priest who brought the blood near to God within the veil. He was in like manner prefigured, at the same time, by the slain goat upon the altar, and by the living goat carrying away the expiated sins of the people into the wilderness. His office as Mediator included the functions at once of Prophet, Priest and King, and yet not one of his personal types embraced, in one person, more than two of these, as David and Ezra. The reason for this, of course, lay in the fact that the type was finite and transient, while the antetype was infinite and eternal. He was at once God, and priest, and bleeding sacrifice, dead and alive again for evermore, offerer and offering. When we say, therefore, that our blessed Lord is, in the strict sense of the word, our Substitute or our Ransom, we do not mean that for any single moment these relations exhaust all the relations borne or functions discharged by his infinite person. At the very same moment he is God, whose justice demands propitiation; and Priest, offering himself a sacrifice; and the sacrifice, offered to satisfy that justice. Let it be distinctly understood, then, that when we say that Christ was the Substitute of his people, and his sufferings, in the strict sense of the word, vicarious, we affirm this to be true of him viewed in his function as a sacrifice. When we say that he is the Representative, we affirm this to be true of him as the second Adam or federal Head, undertaking and discharging all the obligations of the broken law in our stead. When we say he is our Mediator, we affirm that to be true of him as our High Priest, as he is ordained for man in the things pertaining to God (τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν).
(A.A. Hodge, "The Atonement," pp. 163-43)

To the glory of God,


Atonement Debate to Begin Shortly

A new debate is about to start. The following are the details.

Resolved: God imputed the guilt of the sins of the elect to Christ.
Affirmed: Turretin Fan
Denied: Nicholas E.

Debate Start: Jan 4.
1. Aff. Constructive and Neg. Constructive - Due Jan 18.
2. Aff. Rebuttal - Due Feb 1.
3. Neg. Rebuttal - Due Feb 15.
4. Aff. Cross-Ex. Questions to the Neg. - Due Mar 1.
5. Neg. Cross-Ex. Answers and Neg. Cross-Ex. Questions to the Affirmative - Due Mar 15.
6. Aff. Cross-Ex. Answers to the Neg. - Due Mar 29.
7. Negative Conclusion - Due April 12.
8. Affirmative Conclusion - Due April 26.
Debate End: April 26.

All Essays are 5k words maximum, while each of the 5 Questions are 1k words maximum. The word limits include any citations and quotes.

(1) Each person will post their own essays on their own blog. The opponent can then go and cut & paste the opposing response.

(2) Comment boxes for our Essays will be closed.

(3) Citing church documents, theologians, and other such references is allowed, though the opponent is not necessarily bound to defend any claims other than his own.

(4) Formatting essay text (ie size, bold, underline, italics, etc) is allowed.