Saturday, March 14, 2009

Answer to Affirmative Question 1

Response from Negative to Question 1

The First Question begins by asking why I don't accept the various proofs put forward by you for penal substitution. I feel it necessary to quote part of the first question:

When I [Turretin Fan] present something that would support penal substitution you claim it’s not talking about God’s wrath being appeased, but something else. I see no consistent standard being applied from your side, so that I could see how to persuade you to accept that the atonement sacrifice (Christ) does turn away God’s wrath through suffering the punishment (death).

There is a critical distinction that must be made clear here which I feel you have not made. Penal Substitution is a specific understanding of the Atonement, but it is not the only understanding. Concepts such as making atonement and turning away wrath are not limited to the Penal Substitution perspective. The problem is that when proofs are put forward by you, you assume Penal Substitution is what is being discussed. My objection is simply that you are assuming Penal Substitution is what a given text says, but that is not enough to be considered proof. If I can take the same text and interpret it in a valid manner other than Penal Substitution, then it fails as a proof text for you. Certain elements must be present for a proof text to fit a Penal Substitution frame work. For example, one of the most critical elements we should see in a proof text is a description of God's wrath being directed onto Jesus rather than the elect. What ends up happening in most of the cases you present is that the proof text is so vague or lacking key elements of Penal Substitution (or even contradicting it) that I am well within my rights to object (and I have explained why for almost every case). The burden of proof is on the side taking the affirmative, in this case yourself, and if reasonable evidence cannot be produced (and I don't believe it has) then you fail to prove your case.

About the Passover, the plain fact is God's wrath was not on Israel but Egypt (Exodus 11). Thus, the only way an Israelite family would be harmed is if they disobeyed God's instructions. A similar example arises with Sodom and Gomorrah, where God's wrath is against the cites but not Lot and his family. Yet Lot and his family can and will be swept away in the process if they don't obey God (Gen 19:15).

The main question I am asked is how do I define and understand “God's wrath”:

So my question to you is to explain your definition of wrath, such that while Scripture seems to explain wrath as being expressed (among other things) by people dying (as seen in the examples the follow), somehow Jesus’ death (and the deaths of the animals sacrificed under the Old Testament administration) cannot be an expression of him bearing the penalty that God’s wrath against sin incurs. Note, this is not a question about whether or not such a view of the atonement would impact other issues of theology, or about anything except the definition of wrath within the context of this debate, from your perspective.

God's wrath, His demand for satisfaction or punishment, is what arises in response to sin. The punishments which result from this wrath – if it is not appeased- come in two forms. The first type are temporal punishments, such as sickness, disasters, misfortunes, and (most especially) physical death. The second and more serious type of punishments are the eternal punishments, which involve God's spiritual presence withdrawn from a soul, and this alienation becomes permanent and reaches its most extreme degree when a soul is cast into Hell.

Now, while Scripture does sometimes speak of God inflicting the punishment of death, the fact is not all death is described in reference to God's wrath against an individual. The most obvious example of death not resulting in relation to God's wrath is in case of murder of the righteous (martyrdom), which occurred as far back as Abel (Mat 23:35). Job is another example of one who underwent the most extreme misfortunes, but this is not described in relation to God's anger burning against Job's sinfulness, but rather more of a testing of Job's faithfulness. Given this, it is wrong for you to assume when death occurs it is due God's wrath, be it in the case of Levitical sacrifices or Jesus Himself. The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate God's wrath was on the sacrificial animal and especially Christ Himself. I have not only not seen any good evidence for such a claim, I see the Biblical evidence pointing in the opposite direction (eg Mat 17:5; Acts 3:13-15).

I am not sure why you quote those three passages in conclusion of your question, because while they all describe God's wrath, I never denied such a thing existed. What I have consistently denied is the notion God's wrath must have been on Jesus and the sacrificial animals because they were killed.

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