Saturday, March 14, 2009

Answer to Affirmative Question 5

Response from Negative to Question 5

For the Fifth Question you list various quotes from the Early Church Fathers and conclude by asking:

“In view of all this evidence, will you agree that the concept of penal substitution is not simply a doctrine discovered by the Reformers?”

The short answer: No.

The Reformers and Reformed theologians made claims about Christ's Passion that go above and beyond what the above Early Church Fathers would have ever dreamed about the Passion. Claims such as Jesus undergoing God's wrath and undergoing the equivalent of hell, as well as using texts like “My God, why have you forsaken me?” and “let this cup pass” as proof texts are things the Early Church Fathers would have condemned (in fact some Fathers did condemn such interpretations of “forsaken me”). And notice none of the above quotes come anywhere near affirming those claims.

Due to word limits, I can only briefly comment on the Church Father quotes you presented:

Augustine, Sermon 86:6 - As this single sentence stands, it can be interpreted in a way compatible with Catholic understanding of satisfaction and does not demand Penal Substitution. But there is more here than what this sentence sheds light on. The preceding context is of the story of Elisha raising a dead boy back to life, taken from 2 Kings 4:8-36, here is the passage St Augustine quotes and focuses on:

When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. … Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. … The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

What might appear like an odd way to resuscitate someone is seen by Augustine as a foreshadowing of Christ's taking on our human nature which is subject to the punishment of death. Just as Elisha became 'one' with the dead boy to bring him to life, Augustine says Jesus came to take on human nature to remove the illness impeding it (punishment of physical death) and bring human nature back alive. The context here is medicinal, not God's wrath on Christ.

Augustine, Against Faustus, Bk14:4 - This passage sounds very similar to the one just discussed. It turns out I already discussed this very context in my rebuttal essay when you quoted a passage from around this context the first time.

Augustine, Psalm 51 - This is basically a repeat of the previous two quotes, which by the way are about a single sentence long each (which is not enough context for you to draw fair conclusions from). The context is that of human nature subject to death, that is the punishment being discussed and that is what Christ takes upon himself to remove and heal our nature. The very next thing Augustine does is quote 1 Corinthians 15:22 “In Adam all die, but in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Augustine, Tractate 60 on John: There is nothing incompatible with Catholic theology here, and nothing demanding a Penal Substitution interpretation.

Athanasius, Letter 10:5 - As this very short quote stands, it likewise compatible with the Catholic understanding. Later, Athanasius talks more about Christ suffering in our stead:

“Who, being truly the Son of the Father, at last became incarnate for our sakes, that He might offer Himself to the Father in our stead, and redeem us through His oblation and sacrifice. This is He Who once brought the people of old time out of Egypt; but Who afterwards redeemed all of us, or rather the whole race of men, from death, and brought them up from the grave.”

All this fits with the Catholic notion of satisfaction, while showing nothing significantly of the nature of Penal Substitution.

Gregory Thaumaturgus, A Sectional Confession of Faith, Section 17 – This is a basic creedal (orthodox) statement, nothing specifically Penal substitution about it.

Athanasius, Discourse II Against the Arians, Section 55 (Chapter 20) – Here Athanasius is merely quoting Scripture (texts I have already addressed in a way compatible with the Catholic understanding), so the burden is on you to show he meant it as Penal Substitution.

Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit: Book I, Section 109 (Chapter 9) – He is commenting primarily upon 1 Peter 2:24 in in the limited information he gives can be interpreted in the sense I proposed for this verse in my previous essays. The fact he says in the same quote “do you also crucify sin, that you may die to sin” goes against the notion of Penal Substitution.

Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John: Book II, Chapter 21 – As this quote stands, it is no problem for the Catholic view and says nothing demanding a Penal Substitution interpretation.

Ambrose, On the Giving Up of the Basilicas, Section 25 – I would repeat my above answer. As this quote stands, it is no problem for the Catholic view and says nothing demanding a Penal Substitution interpretation. He is commenting upon Galatians 3:13 but does not interpret this “curse” as any form of God's wrath or divine punishments, but instead in a medicinal sense (ie healing human nature): “in his flesh bore our flesh, in His body bore our infirmities and our curses, that He might crucify them; for He was not cursed Himself but was cursed in you.”

Augustine, Letter 169 – You claim Augustine held to Limited Atonement because he said “not one little one perishes for whom He died.” In my previous essay I pointed out a passage where he taught not all the justified would persevere (while being a strong advocate of baptismal regeneration for infants). Thus he either contradicted himself (not to mention 1 Cor. 8:11) or meant something else (which I assume).

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