Sunday, April 26, 2009

Affirmative Concluding Essay

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Christ died for us, the elect, in our place. He is our substitute as this debate has established. And Tertullian understood it the same way:

If He kills me, how will it be His duty to preserve me? Once for all Christ died for us, once for all He was slain that we might not be slain. (Tertullian, Scorpiace, Chapter 1, ANF03)
And we have also seen that Athanasius would agree with us that Christ is our penal substitute:
He it is that was crucified before the sun and all creation as witnesses, and before those who put Him to death: and by His death has salvation come to all, and all creation been ransomed. He is the Life of all, and He it is that as a sheep yielded His body to death as a substitute, for the salvation of all, even though the Jews believe it not. (Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, Chapter 37, Section 7 – NPNF2-4)


We have shown that an atonement is necessary because of sin (this was not disputed by Nick). We have shown that justice demands that sin be punished (again, Nick was not able to dispute this). We have seen that death is the punishment for sin (Nick attempted to argue this, but couldn’t really argue with the fact that, as Scripture says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)). And we have shown that Jesus Christ bore that punishment for his people, as the high priest Caiaphas prophesied:

John 11:49-52
49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

For this to be a just punishment for sins, the substitute must have imputed to him the guilt of the sins of those for whom he substitutes. Thus, we affirm the resolution: God imputed the sins of the elect to Christ.
4. What does Faustus find strange in the curse pronounced on sin, on death, and on human mortality, which Christ had on account of man's sin, though He Himself was sinless? Christ's body was derived from Adam, for His mother the Virgin Mary was a child of Adam. But God said in Paradise, "On the day that you eat, you shall surely die." This is the curse which hung on the tree. A man may deny that Christ was cursed who denies that He died. But the man who believes that Christ died, and acknowledges that death is the fruit of sin, and is itself called sin, will understand who it is that is cursed by Moses, when he hears the apostle saying "For our old man is crucified with Him." Romans 6:6 The apostle boldly says of Christ, "He was made a curse for us;" for he could also venture to say, "He died for all." "He died," and "He was cursed," are the same. Death is the effect of the curse; and all sin is cursed, whether it means the action which merits punishment, or the punishment which follows. Christ, though guiltless, took our punishment, that He might cancel our guilt, and do away with our punishment. (Augustine, Contra Faustus, Book 14, Section 4, NPNF1-04)
From the above, one can see that Augustine held that it was necessary that Christ take our punishment and his logic is impeccable on this point. We also see essentially the same thing in Cyril of Jerusalem:
33. These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth Colossians 1:20 . For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness 1 Peter 2:24 . Of no small account was He who died for us; He was not a literal sheep; He was not a mere man; He was more than an Angel; He was God made man. The transgression of sinners was not so great as the righteousness of Him who died for them; the sin which we committed was not so great as the righteousness which He wrought who laid down His life for us—who laid it down when He pleased, and took it again when He pleased. And would you know that He laid not down His life by violence, nor yielded up the ghost against His will? He cried to the Father, saying, Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit Luke 23:46; I commend it, that I may take it again. And having said these things, He gave up the ghost Matthew 27:50; but not for any long time, for He quickly rose again from the dead. (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 13, Section 33, NPNF2-07)
Overview of (and General Rebuttal to) Negative

Nick tried to shoot holes in this relatively simple Biblical argument. While he did occasionally make reference to something that he considered “the Catholic position,” he did not provide any real attempt to harmonize the Scriptural evidence to that “Catholic position.”

We discovered that the position Nick was advocating was essentially a purely commercial satisfaction. This position, however, is an inadequate picture of Christ’s work. As we highlighted during the debate, there are commercial aspects to Christ’s work (he is sometimes called a ransom or a redeemer, for example) but that is not the whole or even the most common picture of his work.

Instead, as emphasized from the first essay, the Scriptures are replete with descriptions of Christ’s work in sacrificial terms. These terms are the dominant ones in the Old Testament ceremonial system, with all of the atonements for sin being sacrificial atonements. Cyril of Alexandria noted this multi-faceted view of Christ as follows:
But the Saviour comes in various forms to each man for his profit. For to those who have need of gladness He becomes a Vine; and to those who want to enter in He stands as a Door; and to those who need to offer up their prayers He stands a mediating High Priest. Again, to those who have sins He becomes a Sheep, that He may be sacrificed for them. (Cyril of Alexandria, Catechetical Lecture 10, Section 5 – NPNF2-7)
Nick primarily countered by arguing against individual verses based on sweeping and unsupported assertions. Several of the primary themes in his assertions were that verses don’t specifically state that the guilt of the sins is imputed to Christ, and that the verses don’t specifically state that the wrath of God was upon Christ.

We noted that the principle of guilt of the sins being imputed to Christ can be seen from sacrificial system, in which the sins (i.e. their guilt) are symbolically placed on the head of the sacrificial victim by the act of the priest placing his hands on the animal’s head.

For example:

Leviticus 16:21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:

We likewise noted that the Old Testament prophesies of Jesus include at least some that specifically describe Jesus as having the wrath of God lying against him:

Psalm 88:7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.

Lest you think it a uniquely Protestant view to apply these words to Christ, consider what Athanasius wrote:
For man, being in Him, was quickened: for this was why the Word was united to man, namely, that against man the curse might no longer prevail. This is the reason why they record the request made on behalf of mankind in the seventy-first Psalm: 'Give the King Your judgment, O God?' Psalm 72:1: asking that both the judgment of death which hung over us may be delivered to the Son, and that He may then, by dying for us, abolish it for us in Himself. This was what He signified, saying Himself, in the eighty-seventh Psalm: 'Your indignation lies hard upon me' Psalm 88:7. For He bore the indignation which lay upon us, as also He says in the hundred and thirty-seventh: 'Lord, You shall do vengeance for me' Psalm 137:8. (Athanasius, On Luke 10:22 and Matthew 11:27, Section 2, NPNF2-04)
We heard a lot of negative assertions from Nick, and especially an attempt to rely on the idea that I must establish my case from Scripture, whereas (as the Negative) he has no such burden. One of the problems with this approach is that his criticisms tend not to be consistent.

We saw that inconsistency in the cross-examination section, where we noted several important areas of inconsistency. For example, in Question 1, we raised the issue of the wrath of God and the floating definition of “wrath” in Nick’s claim that nothing has been presented to show that God’s wrath was against Christ in the crucifixion. We asked him to clarify what “wrath” entails, so that we could provide proof that agrees with his meaning, but he largely dodged the question giving a wide variety of possible meanings and trying to argue that his position is just that I have not proved that God’s wrath is necessarily shown in the fact that the animals and Christ were killed (even while admitting that physical death is one manifestation of God’s wrath).

We also saw that Nick could not justify his assertion that asserting that the wrath of God was placed against Christ was a Nestorian error. His inconsistency here was especially large, because while he insisted that God could not pour out his wrath on God, he did argue that God could die (and even claimed that it was heretical to say that God cannot die!).

One disappointing aspect of the debate was Nick’s frequent reference to the sayings of other Reformed (or close to Reformed) writers or preachers. Nick seemed to think it was my job to defend the writings of those other men, although he agreed to the rule: “(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.”

On the other hand, I think Nick was a bit surprised to see how often I pointed out that the Reformed position is consistent with a significant number of patristic authors, especially some major ones like Augustine, Athanasius, and Anselm. I didn’t expect him to necessarily defend them (since they did not hold to what he views as the “Catholic position” of a purely commercial satisfaction) but I do think that they were valuable to show that the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement is not a new doctrine that was unknown to the early church or even the medieval church.

Response to Negative Conclusion

Nick began his conclusion with some responses to the cross-examination. I’m mostly willing to let the cross-examination to speak for itself. As to his section 1a, I’d simply like to observe that he leaves off any response to Lamentations 3:1 or Psalm 88:7, both of which show that Jesus suffered the wrath of God.

As to his section 1b, Nick argues that there is a “simple fact [that] God can accept ransom and atonement on whatever grounds He chooses.” This argument is essentially a claim that God can ignore justice, accepting even payment (penal or commercial) that is not equivalent to what Justice requires. Such an argument actually undermines the perfection of God’s justice, and suggests that God is arbitrary (contrary to Scripture which describes God as being perfectly just – Deuteronomy 32:4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.).

Nick also argues that the ransom is the life of Christ, not his death – referring to the fact that it is the life-blood of Christ that is spilled. While the life of Christ is important (he could not be a suitable sacrifice if he had any sin of his own), it is the fact of his death that is significant, which is why his blood is significant. The role that blood played in the Old Testament sacrificial system was generally as essentially “proof of death.” You will recall that the blood of the Passover lamb was sprinkled on the door posts and lintel (Exodus 12:7 and 22), and that that the blood of the sacrifices was placed on the horns of the altar (Exodus 29:12).

That latter imagery is especially significant because it also shows the idea of satisfied wrath: like the horns of a bull become red with blood when its victim has been gored, so the horns of the altar become red with blood when a sacrifice is made. So, the references to the blood of Christ are not confirmation of an idea of Christ’s life simply being cashed-out, but of Christ’s life being forcibly ended.

As to his section 1c, Nick makes my point when he observes that the Lord’s response rules out the possibility of Penal Substitution in the case of Moses. Nick writes: “Whatever the offer might have been, Penal Substitution was excluded in God’s eyes.” (underline in original) That’s exactly right: Moses was not an acceptable penal substitute, though he was aware that such is what was needed. Thankfully we have a greater than Moses.

Also in this section, I note that Nick seems to want to take a piece from one account and a piece from another account and create an atonement scenario that is actually not described in Scripture – in which somehow Moses atones for the sins of the people through fasting. Contrast Nick's position with the following:
When his Lord wished to destroy them because of their sins, in that they worshipped the calf, Moses prayed and besought of his Lord and said:— Either pardon the people for their sins, or else blot me out from Your book that You have written. Exodus 32:31-32 That is a most diligent pastor, who delivered over himself on behalf of his sheep. That is an excellent leader, who gave himself in behalf of his sheep. And that is a merciful father who cherished his children and reared them up. Moses the great and wise shepherd, who knew how to lead back the flock, taught Joshua the son of Nun, a man full of the spirit, who (afterwards) led the flock, even all the host of Israel. He destroyed kings and subdued the land, and gave them the land as a place of pasturage, and divided the resting-places and the sheepfolds to his sheep. Furthermore, David fed his father's sheep, and was taken from the sheep to tend his people. So he tended them in the integrity of his heart and by the skill of his hands he guided them. And when David numbered the flock of his sheep, wrath came upon them, and they began to be destroyed. Then David delivered himself over on behalf of his sheep, when he prayed, saying:— O Lord God, I have sinned in that I have numbered Israel. Let Your hand be on me and on my father's house. These innocent sheep, in what have they sinned? 2 Samuel 24:17 So also all the diligent pastors used thus to give themselves on behalf of their sheep. (Aphrahat (about A.D. 270 – about A.D. 345) Demonstration 10, Section 2 – NPNF2-Volume 13)
In section 1d, I was a bit disappointed by Nick’s attempted treatment of the fathers. Rather than just acknowledge that the fathers confirm the position I had taken (such as Augustine noting that the single, physical death of Christ was sufficient to satisfy for both the physical and spiritual death of his elect), Nick attempts to find some hooks with which to quibble over whether the fathers disagree with the other Reformed authors that Nick has identified (whether or not Nick correctly understood them, something I’ll leave outside this debate in view of Rule 3, discussed above).

Nick even goes so far as to argue that when John of Damascus speaks of Jesus as being forsaken as our representative i.e. “appropriating, then, our person and ranking Himself with us,” that this cannot be interpreted as being Jesus being forsaken as our substitute, because John of Damascus had said earlier that Jesus was not, either as God or man, forsaken by the Father (although he says the same thing about him becoming sin and becoming a curse – both of which Scripture clearly predicate of Jesus as our substitute). In fact, the only reasonably interpretation of John’s words are that Jesus is not speaking of himself either as God or as man, but as our representative in each of those things: being forsaken, being made sin, and being made a curse (Nick’s explanation about it referring to Christ’s humanity “that means He took on our flesh and lived as one of us” is exactly what John of Damascus denies.

In his second section 1d, Nick complained that saying “To say ‘God is dead’ is heterdox,” is itself heretical and Nestorian. It should be noted, however, that I qualified my statement by noting that – with qualifications – practically anything can be orthodox. Thus we see in Augustine, speaking of the great exchange that is penal substitution, a statement that God died, with qualification that this does not refer to the divine nature:
In a word, He died, because it was so expedient, that by His Death He might kill death. God died, that an exchange might be effected by a kind of heavenly contract, that man might not see death. For Christ is God, but He died not in that Nature in which He is God. For the same Person is God and man; for God and man is one Christ. The human nature was assumed, that we might be changed for the better; He did not degrade the Divine Nature down to the lower. For He assumed that which He was not, He did not lose that which He was. Forasmuch then as He is both God and man, being pleased that we should live by that which was His, He died in that which was ours. For He had nothing Himself, whereby He could die; nor had we anything whereby we could live. For what was He who had nothing whereby He could die? "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." If you seek for anything in God whereby He may die, you will not find it. But we all die, who are flesh; men bearing about sinful flesh. Seek out for that whereby sin may live; it has it not. So then neither could He have death in that which was His own, nor we life in that which was our own; but we have life from that which is His, He death from what is ours. What an exchange! (Augustine, Sermon 30 on the New Testament, Section 5, NPNF1-06)
But properly speaking, immortality is an essential attribute of God. Thus, Aquinas states: “Such is God; and hence in Him principally is life. From this the Philosopher concludes (Metaph. xii, 51), after showing God to be intelligent, that God has life most perfect and eternal, since His intellect is most perfect and always in act.” (Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1:18:3)

We see this same principle reflected in Eusebius' discussion on Christ's penal substitution:
11. I may allege yet a third cause of the Saviour's death. He was the victim offered to the Supreme Sovereign of the universe for the whole human race: a victim consecrated for the need of the human race, and for the overthrow of the errors of demon worship. For as soon as the one holy and mighty sacrifice, the sacred body of our Saviour, had been slain for man, to be as a ransom for all nations, heretofore involved in the guilt of impious superstition, thenceforward the power of impure and unholy spirits was utterly abolished, and every earth-born and delusive error was at once weakened and destroyed.

12. Thus, then, this salutary victim taken from among themselves, I mean the mortal body of the Word, was offered on behalf of the common race of men. This was that sacrifice delivered up to death, of which the sacred oracles speak: "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29 And again, as follows: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb." They declare also the cause, saying: "He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in this way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins."

13. Such were the causes which led to the offering of the human body of the Word of God. But forasmuch as he was the great high priest, consecrated to the Supreme Lord and King, and therefore more than a victim, the Word, the Power, and the Wisdom of God; he soon recalled his body from the grasp of death, presented it to his Father as the first-fruit of our common salvation, and raised this trophy, a proof at once of his victory over death and Satan, and of the abolition of human sacrifices, for the blessing of all mankind. (Eusebius, Oration in Praise of Constantine, Chapter 15, Sections 11-13, NPNF2-01)
While I appreciate that Nick is not so quick to condemn Abrose and Theodoret as Nestorians (and he should not do so), it seems that we see another of Nick’s inconsistencies in that he willingly gives them a charitable interpretation that he refuses to me and to the other Reformed authors that he quotes.

Turning to the second part of what Nick’s conclusion consisted of, I would respectfully submit that his section 2a is way off: not only did my opening constructive demonstrate that the sacrificial system unmistakably sets of a penal substitution framework, but my rebuttal further enhanced that explanation.

Nick’s section 2b is frankly moot in view of Rule 3 discussed above. While I don’t believe that Nick has properly (or charitably – refusing to extend them the same dignity he gives to the church fathers with whom he disagrees) understood those Reformed writers, I leave that for another time.

Nick’s complaint in section 2c is that there was not as much exegesis as he would like. Of course, as noted above, I encourage the reader to review my opening essay and my rebuttal to find such exegesis. Additionally, I note that a certain amount of exegesis was foreclosed by Nick’s apparent concessions (through failure to respond) with respect to the key passage of Isaiah 53 (see my opening statement and rebuttal).

Nick brings up the idea that since verse 5 uses the term “chastisements” it cannot refer to punishments. I note that this lexically fallacious argument is easily refuted in that the Hebrew word for “chastisement” is also found in the following verse (where it is translated “instruction”):

Jeremiah 30:14 All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.

This is the sort of chastisement that is being described in Isaiah 53:5 – it is the scourging that our Lord received immediately prior to his crucifixion.

In section 2d, Nick claims that “The Catholic understanding of Satisfaction … was shown to have solid Biblical support.” This is simply not the case. In fact, as noted above, Nick spent most of his time trying to attack (on various grounds) the various scriptural supports of penal substitution, not establishing his own case: no coherent and cogent alternative to penal substitution was presented by Nick, as the careful reader will note.

In sections 2e/2f Nick basically claimed that he hadn’t received a satisfactory answer to his points. I would respectfully submit that, again, the reader may investigate for himself whether these issues were addressed or not.

In section 2g, Nick makes some enormous claims regarding the patristic evidence. At least Nick does not go so far as to deny that some of the quotations are directly on point, in terms of specifically affirming penal substitution. As for whether (as he claims), he showed that the majority of the quotations “advocate nothing close to Penal substitution” or whether that was simply what he claimed, I leave for the careful reader to investigate.
For did not the disciples of Jesus see, when they ventured to prove not only to the Jews from their prophetic Scriptures that this is He who was spoken of by the prophets, but also to the other heathen nations, that He who was crucified yesterday or the day before underwent this death voluntarily on behalf of the human race,— that this was analogous to the case of those who have died for their country in order to remove pestilence, or barrenness, or tempests? (Origen, Contra Celsus, Book I, Chapter 31, ANF04)

I trust that the reader has seen that the sacrificial system of the Old Testament provided the victim as a penal substitute for the sinner. Within this framework, and especially in view of the many New Testament verses speaking of Christ “taking away the sins of the world” or dying “for us” and the like, we can see that the guilt of the sinners were judicially imputed to Christ, he was slain for them, and by his death we are free from the punishment for sin: he died so that we will not. In this we have rejoiced to find many kindred spirits among the early church fathers, though – of course – it is sufficient to show that Scripture teaches the doctrine: the numerous church fathers are just icing on the cake.

Moreover, in no other way was it possible for the Love of God toward us to be manifested than by making mention of our flesh, and that for our sake He descended even to our lower part. For that flesh is less precious than soul, everyone who has a spark of sense will acknowledge. And so the passage, The Word was made Flesh, seems to me to be equivalent to that in which it is said that He was made sin, [2 Corinthians 5:21] or a curse [Galatians 3:13] for us; not that the Lord was transformed into either of these, how could He be? But because by taking them upon Him He took away our sins and bore our iniquities. This, then, is sufficient to say at the present time for the sake of clearness and of being understood by the many. And I write it, not with any desire to compose a treatise, but only to check the progress of deceit; and if it is thought well, I will give a fuller account of these matters at greater length. (Gregory Nazianzen, Letters, Division I, To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius, Letter 101, NPNF2-07)
Gregory Nazianzen reminds us that the many verses we have cited are all interconnected in the atonement: the taking away of the sin is accomplished by Jesus being made sin. But I think the Venerable Bede puts the matter quite well:
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. (Bede on 1 John 2:1)
But let us conclude, as we began, with the clear Scriptural statement of the thesis:

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.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Negative Concluding Essay

This final essay will first examine the responses my opponent gave to my cross-examination questions, while the remainder of the essay will be a summary of my thoughts of the entire debate.

1a) My first question sought to find out what Scriptural evidence could be offered in support of the notion God poured out His Wrath on Jesus (as described by the various respected Reformed pastors). My opponent's proof texts were as follows:

-Matthew 27:46 (“why have you forsaken me?”)

-John 3:36 (“he that believeth not...the wrath of God abideth on him.”)

-Romans 5:9 (“we shall be saved from wrath through him.”)

-1 Thessalonians 1:10 (“Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”)

-1 Thessalonians 5:9 (“God hath not appointed us to wrath”)

-Lamentations 3:1 (“I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.”)

-Psalm 88:7 (“Thy wrath lieth hard upon me”)

My opponent's quotes from John 3:36, Romans 5:9, 1 Thes. 1:10, and 1 Thes. 5:9 are all interpreted with the understanding that, as my opponent put it, “either the wrath of God is against the Son or against us.” This is simply fallacious reasoning and improper exegesis to state that just because a passage states God's wrath is not on the Christian that it must have been re-directed onto Christ. What is also noteworthy is that throughout this debate my opponent seemed to want to shy away from the quotes of those Reformed authors I have quoted (on the grounds that Christ's physical death is sufficient), yet the very New Testament proof texts he offers deal with God's eschatological wrath, which is nothing short of hellfire. The two Old Testament verses given can simply be explained as not being Messianic, especially considering they are not quoted in the New Testament.

Matthew 27:46 appears to be the closest thing my opponent can offer in terms of clear evidence of Christ undergoing the Father's wrath. Having gone over this verse multiple times throughout this debate, it is very telling that this is the best Scriptural evidence the Penal Substitution side has to offer. Simply quoting Psalm 22:1 in full discredits such an interpretation:

1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?

As Catholic theologians have long maintained, the clear and proper interpretation of this is of the Father withdrawing His Divine protection which the Son up to the point of His Passion had enjoyed (cf. Matthew 26:52-54; John 7:30; 8:20; etc). The pains described later in this Psalm clearly alluded to (if not directly cross-referenced as) the physical and emotional pains Christ underwent during His Passion. None of these pains were in the form of God's wrath or a spiritual punishment (cf. Matthew 10:28).

1b) My second question asked whether atonement can be made without the use of Penal Substitution. My opponent responded by saying that while atonement in general “does not require a particular form,” he goes onto state “the case of God, however, is a special case.” There are two serious problems with this answer. First, no Scriptural support is given stating when it comes to God it is a “special case,” much less the specific form of “justice demands bloodshed.” Second, the very text I gave, Exodus 30:11-16, was explicitly dealing with making atonement to God for one's life.

He then errs when he argues that after David disobeyed the atonement instructions, he didn't try to collect the ransom money after all, but instead offered a sacrifice, supposedly proving blood offering was all that was acceptable. But that is fallacious, because atonement is only acceptable in so far as it is done according to God's instructions. If those instructions are not followed, then one is literally at God's mercy to try and appease Him in whatever way they can. With this in mind, the two objections my opponent later gives as to why the ransom system is not “a pure commercial analogy” falls through because of the simple fact God can accept ransom and atonement on whatever grounds He chooses.

Next my opponent discusses the ransom option available in the case of a negligent homicide, though offers no actual rebuttal to my point. He further states the ransom system is not wrong, but simply insufficient, and that “Christ's satisfaction was chiefly penal,” though no actual proof is given for this claim. The New Testament explicitly states Christ gave His life as a “ransom,” without qualification of it being insufficient (quite the contrary), and the fact is making a ransom is distinct from Penal Substitution. The fact the ransom Christ offered was his own life (ie the value of His life, not His death per se) doesn't change anything. I want to repeat, the fact Christ's giving of His life is said to be a ransom contradicts the notion of Penal Substitution, because ransom is specifically distinct as a means of making appeasement/atonement by setting a “buyout price” rather than simply a legal transfer of death penalty. This leads to one very important conclusion of how Christ's sacrifice connects to the Old Testament:

1 Peter 1:18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Lev 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.

This proves that the sacrificial value is in the life-blood, not in the death itself, nor in the transfer of punishment. The ransom-atonement value is attached to the value of His life. This passage reveals that OT sacrifices operated on a ransom system rather than on a Penal Substitutionary one. What is just as important is that the Hebrew term for “ransom” (H3724) is derived from the term for “atonement” (H3722). This further solidifies the fact atonement should be seen in terms of ransom (ie “commercial analogy”) rather than transfer of judicial punishment. To further prove that it is not the death itself where the value is, it is important to note that the one who killed the animal and the one who sprinkled the blood were not usually the same person. For example:

Leviticus 4: 27 If a member of the community sins unintentionally... 29 He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. 30 Then the priest is to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 31 He shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. In this way the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven.

This method of the sinner slaughtering while the priest is the one who makes atonement is the norm, but it certainly makes no sense in a Penal Substitution framework where the transfer of death penalty is where the true value and atonement rests. The priest needs a slaughtered animal, but it is not the death itself that effects the atonement, rather it is in the offering of the life-blood. The only time the priest slaughters is if the offering is due to his personal sin or if it is for the nation as a whole who cannot all kill the animal at once. Thus the true value of Christ's sacrifice is in the (active) offering up of His life, and not in the death itself.

1c) My third question asked why Moses' form of atonement in Exodus 32:30 (cross referencing Deuteronomy 9:16-21 & Psalm 106:19-23) worked for Moses but could not work for Christ. The biggest shortfall of my opponent's response was he failed to link Exodus 32:30 with Deuteronomy 9, despite the fact it is a clear cross reference to the same event of making intercession for the golden calf scandal.

On top of this, my opponent's commentary on Exodus 32:30ff itself fell short of a consistent and reasonable interpretation. He states: “Moses apparently offered himself as a victim to atone for the sins of the people, but whether that was what Moses was trying to offer or not, God rejected his offer...

The first questions is where did Moses “apparently offer himself as a victim to atone”? If my opponent interpreted the phrase “blot me out of thy book” as a way of saying “kill me instead,” that is a serious misunderstanding of the passage, which is saying nothing of the sort. Rather, that phrase is akin to the notion of 'the captain goes down with his ship.' If my opponent is saying Moses meant some other offering than killing him in their stead, then this proves Moses understood atonement could be made apart from Penal Substitution (which would undermine his own thesis). What is even more problematic is my opponent says “God rejected his offer,” but the text does not say the “offer” was rejected on the grounds Moses offer was not good enough, but rather on the grounds of the most anti-Penal Substitution response imaginable: “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” Whatever the offer might have been, Penal Substitution was excluded in God's eyes.

The rest of his response consisted in recapitulating what I already affirmed: that Christ's offering is infinitely superior to Moses' offering. My only point was: if Moses could atone without Penal Substitution, then why not Christ? This is what was missed by my opponent.

1d) My fourth question asked for “quotes where an Early Church Father teaches concepts such as God pouring His Wrath upon Jesus, being forsaken by God in the sense of divine punishment, suffering more than a physical death, using “descended into hell” in a sense of undergoing damnation, etc.” I will briefly comment on the quotes my opponent provided:

-Augustine – On the Trinity – Book IV, Chapter III: This quote speaks of the “double death” we deserved being satisfied by Christ's “single death.” But he is clear this is physical death only, “clothed in mortal flesh, and in that alone dying,” contradicting the Reformed authors above who stated His physical death was nothing compared to the spiritual one he suffered when God poured out His wrath on Him. Calvin explicitly states, “nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death.” Augustine then quotes the “forsaken” passage, but does not interpret it as God's wrath nor something Christ literally suffered in the sense of divine torments, but rather a symbolic sign displayed outwardly in Christ's flesh of what our own souls suffer inwardly. Christ's outward (physical) sufferings were “wrought a mystery as regards the inner man, and a type as regards the outer,” meaning it signified the spiritual pain a sinner suffers as well as the bodily pain they will suffer in the future.

My opponent quotes St Augustine's comments on Psalm 88, but the passage states God's wrath passes over the Body of Saints and Head which is Christ, and it only rests on sinners.

-Leo the Great – Sermon 68: Here we see St Leo interpret “forsaken me” in the same sense the Church has always interpreted it: “Jesus, therefore, cried with a loud voice, saying, 'Why have You forsaken Me?' in order to notify to all how it behoved Him not to be rescued, not to be defended, but to be given up into the hands of cruel men.” This not only fully supports the Catholic interpretation, it directly contradicts the Reformed authors quoted earlier (as well as my opponent himself).

-John of Damascus - An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (Book IV): It should come as no surprise that St John interprets “forsaken me” in the same manner as the rest of the Fathers, stating clearly: “For neither as God nor as man was He ever forsaken by the Father, nor did He become sin or a curse.” This sentence makes it clear St John excludes any such interpretation which would indicate God's wrath or any other such divine punishment ever being on Christ. When he says “appropriating, then, our person and ranking Himself with us,” that means He took on our flesh and lived as one of us, though nothing in that quote indicates this was anything close to a Penal Substitution (quite the contrary).

Given what has been presented above as patristic evidence for what the Reformed tradition teaches regarding Penal Substitution, it is clear that the Fathers had nothing of the sort in mind. None of them came anywhere near saying God's wrath was poured out on Christ, or that Christ underwent the equivalent of damnation, or that Christ's outward/physical sufferings were nothing compared to the spiritual ones inflicted on his soul as divine punishment. What is most astonishing is that most of the patristic quotes my opponent cites actually explicitly contradict his own position.

1d) My fifth and final question addressed the issue of Nestorianism, which I argue is a theological ramification of Penal Substitution. Because I had suspicions on whether my opponent understood these ramifications, I asked this question: “Can the statement 'God died on the cross' be understood in a truly orthodox sense?”

My opponent was first asked to give simply a yes or no answer, his response: No.

He went onto clarify his answer: “Standing alone, the comment that 'God died' is facially heterodox, although it can be qualified to some other meaning. The Orthodox way to describe it is 'Jesus Christ died on the cross.' ”

This answer is material heresy (as opposed to formal heresy) and is embracing a form of Nestorianism. To say “God died” is heterodox, while “Jesus died” is orthodox, is Nestorian in that it makes 'God' and 'Jesus' in this context two separate persons.

There is an orthodox sense which “God died on the cross” can be understood. Death is not a ceasing of existence but rather the separation of body and soul (which the Divine Nature is not composed of, thus cannot experience death). Since God the Son had a human nature, He certainly could die, and did, but that simply means His human body separated from His human soul, not that the Divine Person of the Son or His Divine Nature ceased to exist or was somehow changed.

With the above explanation in mind, the Early Church Father's my opponent cites in support of his position can be properly understood. Ambrose is clearly speaking of the fact the Divine Nature cannot experience pain or death, in contrast to the human nature. Ambrose quotes 1 Corinthians 2:8 where it says they “crucified the Lord of glory,” which is equivalent to saying the Lord God, the Son, was crucified and died. The St Leo quote says this just as clearly: “He Who underwent death is the same as He Who never ceased to be eternal.” The “He” in this sentence is God the Son.
The Theodoret quote states it in the clearest terms in
condemning those who believe “the Godhead of the only begotten Son suffered, instead of the manhood which He assumed.” The Godhead is the divine nature, which cannot experience suffering, while the Person of God the Son suffered and died in His assumed human nature.

2) I will now offer a recap of the entire debate, touching on all the points I consider decisive against the Penal Substitution position.

2a) The Old Testament sacrifices were shown to not operate in a Penal Substitution framework. My opponent had virtually no response to this fact. Sacrifices such as the sin offerings, scapegoat, Passover, and pre-Mosaic offerings all pointed away from what one would expect to see in a Penal Substitution framework. Since Christ was prefigured in all these sacrifices, there can be no doubt the serious problems this puts my opponent in as far as Scriptural support is concerned.

2b) While my opponent seemed to shy away from the various descriptions of the Father pouring out His Wrath on Jesus, I have referenced numerous respected Reformed theologians and pastors who openly advocate such a view. They make it clear the importance of this aspect of Christ's suffering was second to none.

On top of the numerous quotes already given, last year two huge Reformed conferences were held with well known Reformed pastors such as R.C. Spoul, C.J. Mahaney, and John Piper. They gave lectures on Christ's atonement, and made comments such as these:

“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)

It is very clear how they are interpreting “My God, why have you forsaken me,” it is interpreted as the scream which the damned souls in hell scream, and that Jesus screamed it in their place.

These Reformed authors are unequivocally clear as to what Christ had to suffer. The sufferings described have no basis in Scripture and go above and beyond the emotional and physical pains the Gospels and New Testament clearly reveal.

2c) One issue that greatly disappointed me throughout this debate was the overall lack of engagement in any substantial Scriptural exegesis by my opponent. At the outset of this debate, I addressed the major Protestant proof-texts, and I showed they came nowhere near either advocating or demanding Penal Substitution. My opponent not only failed to interact with the exegesis I gave, he failed to offer any new and relevant Scriptural evidence of his own. Given this is a debate, the only way that this can be interpreted is that those popular Penal Substitution proof-texts fall very short of proving what is required of them. This debate was about Scripture more than anything, and my opponent repeatedly acknowledged this, yet the record shows I examined and commented upon far more passages than my opponent did.

After Psalm 22:1, I consider the issue of Christ “drinking of the cup” to be the next most important text that was considered in significant depth this debate. Yet, after careful examination, there is no doubt that since the disciples were to undergo “drinking” and “baptism” after the example of Christ, then not only was Penal Substitution not what was signified, such a notion was precluded.

One text which (unfortunately) received less interaction that I expected was Isaiah 53. Verse 5 is especially significant in that it uses a conspicuous word, “chastise,” rather than an expected term like “punish,” which is the exact opposite of what we would expect for a Penal Substitution text. Proverbs 3:11-12 uses the same Hebrew word for “chastise,” which is a passage quoted in Hebrews 12:6,10 and applied to Christians. There is an important distinction between the concept of chastisement and punishment, and the Reformed tradition has always (rightly) recognized it. The words of John Calvin state it succinctly:

For the sake of distinction, we may call the one kind of judgment punishment, the other chastisement. In judicial punishment, God is to be understood as taking vengeance on his enemies, by displaying his anger against them, confounding, scattering, and annihilating them. By divine punishment, properly so called, let us then understand punishment accompanied with indignation. In judicial chastisement, he is offended, but not in wrath; he does not punish by destroying or striking down as with a thunderbolt. Hence it is not properly punishment or vengeance, but correction and admonition. The one is the act of a judge, the other of a father.

…To have a short and clear view of the whole matter, we must make two distinctions. First, whenever the infliction is designed to avenge, then the curse and wrath of God displays itself. This is never the case with believers. On the contrary, the chastening of God carries his blessing with it, and is an evidence of love, as Scripture teaches [footnote 370: Job 5:17; Prov. 3:11; Heb. 12:5].(Institutes Bk3:Ch4:Sec31,32)

So, rather than Christ receiving divine punishment while Christians receive chastening - which is what Penal Substitution requires - Scripture actually applies the same concept to both. And Scripture brings out this point even more clearly:

Hebrews 5: 7During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

This is precisely how Isaiah 53:5 is to be understood when it says: “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” The Protestant scheme simply cannot do justice (no pun intended) to what Scripture has to teach about the nature of Christ's sufferings.

As far as imputing guilt is concerned, not only did my opponent fail to establish this concept in the Old Testament, the closest New Testament evidence for the guilt of the elect being imputed to Christ was 2 Corinthians 5:19 (which fell well short of proving such a thing, as I previously noted).

2d) The Catholic understanding of Satisfaction (which was shown to be very different from the radically redefined definition of the Reformers) was shown to have solid Biblical support. On top of that, my opponent had no genuine explanation for why this couldn't apply to Christ, especially given the clear foreshadowing in some of the texts. The Catholic understanding of satisfaction is based on the Biblical term “propitiation” which means to turn away (appease) wrath, rather than re-directing that wrath on an innocent party. My opponent, for the great majority of this debate, failed to realize this distinction, and as a result frequently assumed passages relating to the atonement must automatically be advocating Penal Substitution. The Old Testament testimony, especially of Moses and Phinehas, proved beyond a doubt atonement could be made to God without requiring Penal Substitution. Given this, the Catholic understanding is the only correct way of understanding the key notion of “intercession,” as Jeremiah's own testimony makes clear: “Remember that I stood before you and spoke in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them” (18:20; cf. Sirach 34:19; 35:6-7).

2e) I made the argument that since Scripture teaches salvation can be lost, the implication is that Penal Substitution must be false because Penal Substitution when carried out systematically precludes the possibility of losing salvation. My opponent had no response to my passages, and the two texts he did deal with fell well short of a reasonable counter-interpretation.

2f) I also gave a list of philosophical and theological problems with Penal Substitution, but again received not much of a response either from Scripture or logical counter-argument.

2g) From the start of the debate, I planned to steer away from focusing on what the Early Church Fathers said. I approached the debate with this in mind because I realize my opponent's final authority is Scripture, and that's where this debate ultimately comes down to. That said, my opponent quoted the fathers over 20 times. Upon examination of the great majority of those quotes, they were easily shown to advocate nothing close to Penal Substitution, and in most of the cases the Father interpreted Protestant proof-texts the opposite of how a Protestant would interpret them! For the most part the Fathers simply affirmed the fact humanity is subject to the (temporal) punishment of death and decay and Jesus underwent these punishments by virtue of His Incarnation, not by a legal imputation of the sinner's guilt to His account.

Concluding Remarks:

In this debate, the burden of proof in proving Penal Substitution was upon my opponent, not me. The ultimate and final standard for judging this doctrine is Scripture, and my opponent failed to prove his case with Scripture. He failed in this regard on the following grounds: (1) to provide clear evidence of guilt being imputed; (2) to provide clear evidence for Penal Substitution taking place in the OT and the NT; (3) to interact with my very reasonable interpretations countering major Protestant proof texts; (4) to explain my clear Scriptural evidence of atonement being made without the use of Penal Substitution; (5) to show clear evidence for the Father pouring out His wrath on Jesus.

Being that we are in the final round of our essays means my opponent has no more opportunity to introduce any substantially new evidence, he can only clarify what has already been addressed up to now (including my final essay), thus there should be no doubt where the Biblical evidence points. The Biblical testimony points clearly away from Penal Substitution and strongly in the direction of Catholic Satisfaction.

While this point was only implicitly touched up in my previous essays, the doctrine of Penal Substitution is directly linked to the key Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide. If Penal Substitution is false, then Sola Fide is likewise false. This debate wasn't just about a different way of understanding the Atonement, it had much deeper underpinnings, namely holding up the most important doctrine of the Reformation: Sola Fide. If Sola Fide is the doctrine which determines whether the Church stands or falls, as the Reformers have always described it, then I would describe Penal Substitution as the doctrine that determines whether Sola Fide stands or falls. I believe Penal Substitution is not accepted based on solid Biblical exegesis, but rather accepted and presupposed in order to hold up an even more important and presupposed doctrine: Sola Fide. I don't believe any theologian would go down the path of advocating Penal Substitution in the first place, unless something greater was at stake. And the fact is something greater is at stake.

I want to conclude by thanking my opponent for having this debate with me. He showed respect throughout the entire debate and demonstrated his passion for this issue. My hope for this debate was to get my opponent, as well as others, to rethink the doctrine of Penal Substitution, because I as a Catholic honestly feel it does not represent the Truth, and in fact harms it.