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.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Affirmative Answer to Question 5

Nick insists it is orthodox to say when Jesus slept that “God was asleep” because Jesus is the second person of the Trinity.

Here, Nick appears to part ways with folks like Ambrose.

Ambrose - Exposition of the Christian Faith - Book II, Chapter VII:

56. As being man, therefore, He doubts; as man He is amazed. Neither His power nor His Godhead is amazed, but His soul; He is amazed by consequence of having taken human infirmity upon Him. Seeing, then, that He took upon Himself a soul He also took the affections of a soul, for God could not have been distressed or have died in respect of His being God. Finally, He cried: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” As being man, therefore, He speaks, bearing with Him my terrors, for when we are in the midst of dangers we think ourself abandoned by God. As man, therefore, He is distressed, as man He weeps, as man He is crucified.

57. For so hath the Apostle Paul likewise said: “Because they have crucified the flesh of Christ.” And again the Apostle Peter saith: “Christ having suffered according to the flesh.” It was the flesh, therefore, that suffered; the Godhead above secure from death; to suffering His body yielded, after the law of human nature; can the Godhead die, then, if the soul cannot? “Fear not them,” said our Lord, “which can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.” If the soul, then, cannot be killed, how can the Godhead?

58. When we read, then, that the Lord of glory was crucified, let us not suppose that He was crucified as in His glory. It is because He Who is God is also man, God by virtue of His Divinity, and by taking upon Him of the flesh, the man Christ Jesus, that the Lord of glory is said to have been crucified; for, possessing both natures, that is, the human and the divine, He endured the Passion in His humanity, in order that without distinction He Who suffered should be called both Lord of glory and Son of man, even as it is written: “Who descended from heaven.”
When Nick asks, “Can the statement ‘God died on the cross’ be understood in a truly orthodox sense?” the answer seems to be “No.”

The expression "in an orthodox sense" invites trouble, since "God does not exist" could be understood in an orthodox sense if further qualified, such as by "in the thoughts of a fool."

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." The church fathers agree.

Thus, Leo the Great, in Sermon 68, explained:
The last discourse, dearly-beloved, of which we desire now to give the promised portion, had reached that point in the argument where we were speaking of that cry which the crucified Lord uttered to the Father: we bade the simple and unthinking hearer not take the words "My God, &c.," in a sense as if, when Jesus was fixed upon the wood of the cross, the Omnipotence of the Father's Deity had gone away from Him; seeing that God's and Man's Nature were so completely joined in Him that the union could not be destroyed by punishment nor by death. For while each substance retained its own properties, God neither held aloof from the suffering of His body nor was made passible by the flesh, because the Godhead which was in the Sufferer did not actually suffer. And hence, in accordance with the Nature of the Word made Man, He Who was made in the midst of all is the same as He through Whom all things were made. He Who is arrested by the hands of wicked men is the same as He Who is bound by no limits. He Who is pierced with nails is the same as He Whom no wound can affect. Finally, He Who underwent death is the same as He Who never ceased to be eternal, so that both facts are established by indubitable signs, namely, the truth of the humiliation in Christ and the truth of the majesty; because Divine power joined itself to human frailty to this end, that God, while making what was ours His, might at the same time make what was His ours.
Theodoret, in Letter 170, goes a bit further:
For in these very Chapters the author of the noxious productions teaches that the Godhead of the only begotten Son suffered, instead of the manhood which He assumed for the sake of our salvation, the indwelling Godhead manifestly appropriating the sufferings as of Its own body, though suffering nothing in Its own nature; and further that there is made one nature of both Godhead and manhood,— for so he explains "The Word was made flesh," as though the Godhead had undergone some change, and been turned into flesh.
And, further, he anathematizes those who make a distinction between the terms used by apostles and evangelists about the Lord Christ, referring those of humiliation to the manhood, and those of divine glory to the Godhead, of the Lord Christ. It is with these views that Arians and Eunomians, attributing the terms of humiliation to the Godhead, have not shrunk from declaring God the Word to be made and created, of another substance, and unlike the Father.
What blasphemy follows on these statements it is not difficult to perceive. There is introduced a confusion of the natures, and to God the Word are applied the words "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me;" and "Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me," the hunger, the thirst, and the strengthening by an angel; His saying "Now is my soul troubled," and "my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death," and all similar passages belonging to the manhood of the Christ.


Affirmative Answer to Question 4

Nick asked for patristic support for the quotations he identified in Question 1. With the word limits it is impossible to identify all the relevant quotations or address every facet, but several quotations should illustrate the same kinds of thoughts:

Augustine – On the Trinity – Book IV, Chapter III:

6. Therefore on this double death of ours our Saviour bestowed His own single death; and to cause both our resurrections, He appointed beforehand and set forth in mystery and type His own one resurrection. For He was not a sinner or ungodly, that, as though dead in spirit, He should need to be renewed in the inner man, and to be recalled as it were to the life of righteousness by repentance; but being clothed in mortal flesh, and in that alone dying, in that alone rising again, in that alone did He answer to both for us; since in it was wrought a mystery as regards the inner man, and a type as regards the outer. For it was in a mystery as regards our inner man, so as to signify the death of our soul, that those words were uttered, not only in the Psalm, but also on the cross: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" To which words the apostle agrees, saying, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin;" since by the crucifixion of the inner man are understood the pains of repentance, and a certain wholesome agony of self-control, by which death the death of ungodliness is destroyed, and in which death God has left us. And so the body of sin is destroyed through such a cross, that now we should not yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.

The one death therefore of our Saviour brought salvation to our double death, and His one resurrection wrought for us two resurrections; since His body in both cases, that is, both in His death and in His resurrection, was ministered to us by a kind of healing suitableness, both as a mystery of the inner man, and as a type of the outer.
This quotation provides an example of the basic concept behind the “Reformed” quotations Nick provided: Christ’s one death substitutes for our two deaths. I’d love to provide many more quotations from Augustine, who consistently refers these words to Christ speaking on our behalf, as our substitute, and the representative of the old man. These may be found, for example in his Expositions of Psalms 22, 38, 42, 44, 50, 71, and 141. The issue of wrath, in particular, being on this representative head may be found in his exposition on Psalm 88: “Over that Body, which constitutes the unity of the Saints and the faithful, whose Head is Christ, go the wraths of God: yet abide not: since it is of the unbelieving only that it is written, that ‘the wrath of God abides upon him.’”

Leo the Great – Sermon 68:
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, that is to become the Saviour of the world and the Redeemer of all men, not by misery but by mercy; and not by the failure of succour but by the determination to die. But what must we feel to be the intercessory power of His life Who died and rose again by His own inherent power. For the blessed Apostle says the Father "spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all;" and again, he says, "For Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify it ." And hence the giving up of the Lord to His Passion was as much of the Father's as of His own will, so that not only did the Father "forsake" Him, but He also abandoned Himself in a certain sense, not in hasty flight, but in voluntary withdrawal. For the might of the Crucified restrained itself from those wicked men, and in order to avail Himself of a secret design, He refused to avail Himself of His open power. For how would He who had come to destroy death and the author of death by His Passion have saved sinners, if he had resisted His persecutors?
Leo the Great, unlike some of the other fathers, is willing to acknowledge that there is a sense in which Jesus was forsaken by the Father, though (of course) this was voluntary (as the Reformed acknowledge)

John of Damascus - An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (Book IV):
Others again are said in the manner of association and relation , as, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? and He has made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, and being made a curse for us; also, Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him. For neither as God nor as man was He ever forsaken by the Father, nor did He become sin or a curse, nor did He require to be made subject to the Father. For as God He is equal to the Father and not opposed to Him nor subjected to Him; and as God, He was never at any time disobedient to His Begetter to make it necessary for Him to make Him subject. Appropriating, then, our person and ranking Himself with us, He used these words. For we are bound in the fetters of sin and the curse as faithless and disobedient, and therefore forsaken.
John of Damascus appears to be recognizing that these words are spoken in Jesus’ appropriated role as our representative: receiving (and expressing) the forsakenness we deserve for our sins.


Affirmative Answer to Question 3

I had pointed out that Deuteronomy 9:16-21 does not make reference to an atonement. Now, Nick has taken the position that “it turns out that the term ‘atonement’ is applied to this event,” citing Exodus 32:30.

The answer here is that Moses overestimated himself. Let’s examine the entire relevant passage:

Exodus 32:30-35

30 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. 31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.

33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. 34 Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. 35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.
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 and plagued the people because they made the calf.

Christ’s offer to substitute himself for the sins of his people is not refused by the Father. That’s one way in which Christ is much better than Moses.

Hebrews 3:3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

That would seem to answer Nick’s question, but again, Nick’s question also contains some faulty premises that need to be corrected.

Nick states: “Surely Christ’s ‘unjust sufferings’ were of infinitely more value than what Moses could provide.” There are a few things that should be noted:

(1) Yes, Christ’s sufferings were of more value than anything Moses could provide, because Christ did not deserve to suffer, but Moses did deserve to suffer, and because Christ was both God and man in two distinct natures and one person.

(2) Moses, to the extent that he saved the people in Deuteronomy 9, did not save them from hell: he saved them from immediate destruction. Thus, the nature of the salvation provided is quite different.

(3) Nick’s comment, though, seems to view the sufferings of Christ as the primary source of value, whereas it is by Christ’s death (sometimes called his “blood”) that we are saved.

Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

One can also this principle in the discussion, for example, of Tertullian (a discussion I almost included in responses to others of these questions):

Tertullian - Against Praxeas (Chapter 30)
You have Him exclaiming in the midst of His passion: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" Either, then, the Son suffered, being "forsaken" by the Father, and the Father consequently suffered nothing, inasmuch as He forsook the Son; or else, if it was the Father who suffered, then to what God was it that He addressed His cry? But this was the voice of flesh and soul, that is to say, of man— not of the Word and Spirit, that is to say, not of God; and it was uttered so as to prove the impassibility of God, who "forsook" His Son, so far as He handed over His human substance to the suffering of death. This verity the apostle also perceived, when he writes to this effect: "If the Father spared not His own Son." This did Isaiah before him likewise perceive, when he declared: "And the Lord has delivered Him up for our offences." In this manner He "forsook" Him, in not sparing Him; "forsook" Him, in delivering Him up. In all other respects the Father did not forsake the Son, for it was into His Father's hands that the Son commended His spirit. Indeed, after so commending it, He instantly died; and as the Spirit remained with the flesh, the flesh cannot undergo the full extent of death, i.e., in corruption and decay. For the Son, therefore, to die, amounted to His being forsaken by the Father. The Son, then, both dies and rises again, according to the Scriptures. It is the Son, too, who ascends to the heights of heaven, and also descends to the inner parts of the earth. "He sits at the Father's right hand" — not the Father at His own.
As you can see, Tertullian rightly focuses on the “suffering of death” (i.e. dying). There is some interesting ways in which Tertullian also addresses the issue of Jesus being “forsaken” (see Answer to Question 4) and of the Trinitarian and Hypostatic relationships (see Answer to Question 5).

Thus, likewise Augustine – On the Creed:
"Patience of Job, end of the Lord." The patience of Job we know, and the end of the Lord we know. What end of the Lord? "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" They are the words of the Lord hanging on the cross. He did as it were leave Him for present felicity, not leave Him for eternal immortality. In this is "the end of the Lord." The Jews hold Him, the Jews insult, the Jews bind Him, crown Him with thorns, dishonor Him with spitting, scourge Him, overwhelm Him with revilings, hang Him upon the tree, pierce Him with a spear, last of all bury Him.
So then, this humiliation up to and including Christ’s death was necessary for our atonement, though not for just any atonement.


Affirmative Answer to Question 2

The question, briefly stated, was whether atonement can be made without penal substitution. The answer is that atonement (reconciliation) does not, as such, require any particular form: i.e., two parties can be variously reconciled.

The case of God, however, is a special case. Justice demands bloodshed. God is perfectly just, and consequently cannot simply overlook the demands of justice. Justice must be satisfied through punishment.

Thus, regarding God’s punishment against sin, there are two options: either the sinner himself is punished or someone else is punished in the place of the sinner.

There are, however, a number of premises in the question itself that need to be addressed:

The “atonement” identified by Nick in Exodus 30:11-16 is a special payment to be made when making a census. If it is not made, God becomes angry and sends judgment on the people. In 2 Samuel 24, David accidentally triggered this provision of the law. David performed a census of the people but did not collect the mandatory ½ shekel (a bekah). Accordingly, a plague came upon the people as promised in Exodus 30:11-16. This plague was the result of the omission of the ½ shekel census payments which would have kept the people atoned-for.

The plague was stayed by making burnt offerings and peace offerings as reported at 2 Samuel 24:25:

2 Samuel 24:25 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.

Contrary to the seeming presuppositions of Nick’s argument, David didn’t try to buy out God by providing ½ shekel per numbered person. The reason why, is that the sin had already been committed, so there was need to make a blood offering.

After all, this is the general rule, as Scriptures declare:

Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

The second case that was mentioned was not the case of negligent homicide (as Nick seems to think) but homicide by a dangerous chattel – homicide by an animal that was a known danger. It’s similar to negligent homicide, but it differs because there is another actor than the person himself who does the killing.

To understand the ransom involved here, it is important to recognize the way that the Jewish civil law worked. In general, the criminal could avoid the law’s penalty by paying off the victim. For example, if you maimed someone, the law declared that you should be maimed (eye for eye etc.). You could avoid this penalty by paying off the victim. The victim, however, could only demand so much from you, because you could always agree to receive the punishment instead of paying (which helped to keep the buyout amount reasonable).

In the case of the notoriously dangerous loose ox that gores someone, the death penalty was the judgment, but the criminal could pay off the victim’s family. This is significant, because there was a notable exception to permitting criminals to ransom themselves:

Numbers 35:31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.

In any event, Nick is right that Jesus’ death is sometimes referred to as a “ransom” or a payment of some sort. The commercial analogy is not wrong, it is just not sufficient. Christ’s satisfaction was chiefly penal: it was not “this much for that many” but the substitution of an innocent victim for the guilty people he represents.

The ½ shekel payment would not be a counter-example in favor of a pure commercial analogy for two reasons: (1) it is a payment not for those who have sinned, but for those who are in the army:

Numbers 1:3 From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.

(2) it is an individual payment, but it is not proportioned to individual sin. In other words, the payment is exactly the same for everyone, whether rich or poor. Thus, although it has definite “commercial” connotations, in that it is monetary, it is not an example of commercial satisfaction that can serve as a legitimate model for any alternative view for Nick.

Finally, Nick mentions the idea of “giving his life as a ransom” as referring to the life (as such) being of a particular value and quality. The first thing that must be addressed here is that “giving his life” means “dying.” It’s unclear whether Nick realizes this, or views the death itself as an inconsequential aside. The second thing is that the value and quality of life is important. The victim must be spotless, i.e. blameless (Cf. Lev 23:12 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.), otherwise his death would not be substitutionary: it would be for his own sins.

Christ is that spotless victim:

Hebrews 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The unique dignity of Christ’s person was important for our atonement too. The blood of bulls and of goats was never actually able to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.), but the blood of Christ can take away not just he sins of a single man (as perhaps the death of a righteous mere man might) but of the world (John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.).

So, our atonement from sin and hell is a penal substitution.

- TurretinFan

Affirmative Answer to Question 1

Nick’s first question was a puzzling question. Rather than cross-examining me on positions I had advocated, he asked me to defend the teachings of Hodge, Boettner, MacArthur, Calvin, Luther, Luther again, and Grudem, not all of which are particularly systematic (while those who are have extensive defenses of their own on this subject).

Nick asserted that these gentlemen claim that Jesus "endure[d] not only a physical death, but a spiritual one as well." That's not quite right. They do say he experienced more than bare death, but specifically the wrath of God. Of course, that expression must be understood within their framework of thought. For them, suffering the punishments due to sinners is suffering God’s wrath: it does not mean that God the Father is displeased with the Son’s sacrifice (on the contrary – it pleases him). But, instead, it means that God’s judgment is on the Son.

Nick asks "Where does Scripture teach Jesus underwent a suffering more painful and serious than physical death?" This itself is trivially answered, since the actual experience of death isn’t something to which we attach any pain. It is the cutting off of soul from body. In Christ's case, however, the way this happened was crucifixion, an enormously painful means to that end.

What was more painful and serious than the physical pain of the crucifixion? It is apples and oranges, but Christ was humiliated in every way: he was condemned and betrayed by the leaders of his people to the gentiles. He was mocked by the gentiles. He was mocked by the thieves on the cross. He was not rescued from death by God. He was abandoned by his disciples. What more could have been done to him that was not done?

But Nick provided further provisos on his question: "Please quote and comment upon at least three distinct passages of Scripture which [sic] state Jesus endured a pain worse than physical death, specifically "the wrath of God" as described above."
I assume Nick's reference to "as described above" is not to anything I had written in this debate, but to other writers with whom it appears Nick would prefer to spar. The first verse in support of their claims is the verse Luther quoted, where Jesus cries out "My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken me?"

Nick's request for three distinct passages is a bit odd. I guess it would be nice if this facet of the doctrine of the atonement were brought out by numerous verses, but what if it were just that one that Luther quoted? Isn't the Scriptures saying something one time enough of a reason to believe?

Nevertheless, there are others that convey the same concept, more or less directly. For example, there are verses where salvation through Christ is contrasted with the wrath of God:

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

This is a general verse contrasting eternal life obtained through faith in the Son with the wrath of God that otherwise abides on us. Either the wrath of God is against the Son or against us.

Romans 5:9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

This verse makes it clear that the blood of Christ (that is to say, his death) is significant in our justification. That is to say, either the blood of the Son is spilled for us, or God will require our blood.

1 Thessalonians 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

This is yet another verse that provides the options of either Christ suffering death or us suffering the wrath of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

This is still a further verse in the same vein. (See also Romans 2:2-11)

We can see the same thing another way by looking at Lamentations 3. That chapter begins:

Lamentations 3:1 I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.

Now, whether we view this as simply referring to the prophet Jeremiah, or whether we view it as a prophecy of Jesus the Messiah, what is interesting is how “wrath” is manifested in that chapter. It is manifested by various physical trials, pains, and humiliations. This demonstrates that the wrath of God can be manifested against someone without the person spending an eternity in hell. And, of course, none of the theologians Nick identified think that Jesus had to spend an eternity in hell.

We could, of course, give other examples. Perhaps it suffices to add to this Psalm 88. Psalm 88 is about Christ, as Augustine recognized: “The Passion of our Lord is here prophesied.” (Exposition on Psalm 88 – And the Roman Catholic “Haydock’s Bible Commentary” agrees: “A prayer of one under grievous affliction: it agrees to Christ in his passion, and allude [sic] to his death and burial.”) When it came to verse 7, this was hard for Augustine to swallow, and he was concerned that there was a mistranslation in the copies available to him. But we have better access to (and better understanding of) the Hebrew originals and know that is says:

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

Though Augustine thinks that this just expresses the beliefs of those who crucified Christ, we recognize that on the interpretation of this verse, even the great Augustine was mistaken. That’s the nice thing about Scriptures being our rule of faith, we can read them without requiring that our view of them be precisely as the fathers, among whom (of course) there was disagreement. For example, Theodoret does not appear to recognize this Psalm as Messianic.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Question 5 from Negative


As you know, I argue that Penal Substitution entails Nestorianism (even if unintentionally). You asked me about this in your Fourth Question to me. As you were laying out your question to me, you stated the following:

Obviously Nestorianism (denying that Jesus was one person with two natures) is heretical. It appears, however, that your entire claim that somehow Jesus must be split into two persons two accomplish the penal substitution is just your own assertion, not a logical consequence of the doctrine itself.

There are certainly many things that were true of Jesus as a man (such as that he got tired) that are only applicable to Jesus’ human nature. Take, for instance, this account:[Mark 4:37-39] In this account, Jesus was asleep. But surely it would not be proper to say that the Holy Spirit and the Father were also sleeping. To do this would be to flirt with Sabellianism – a confusion or conflation of the persons of the Trinity, as though they were but one person. In contrast, since Jesus is truly a different person than the Father, although they are both persons of one godhead, nevertheless it is possible for Jesus to stand in the place of sinners as their penal substitute to satisfy divine justice and reconcile the elect to God.”

Now, I am not accusing you of anything, but from what you have said above I'm not sure if you understand the reasoning behind my Nestorian charge. While you are correct to say there were actions Jesus performed which were attributes of only His human nature (eg sleep), it is also orthodox to say things such as “God was asleep,” because Jesus was a divine Person, God the Son. You would seem hesitant to affirm this statement of mine by the way you suddenly transition to “surely it would not be proper to say that the Holy Spirit and the Father were also sleeping.” I believe this comment is out of place because the issue of Nestorianism is not about the other Divine Persons (Father and Holy Spirit), but the Person of the Son and a potential human person. You begin by talking of Nestorianism and yet conclude (“in contrast”) by dealing with Sabellianism. What you appear to be alluding to is that “Jesus as a man” can be forsaken by God and die and undergo God's wrath, but “Jesus as God” cannot because “it would not be proper to say” the Holy Spirit and Father underwent those things. My final question to you is: Can the statement “God died on the cross” be understood in a truly orthodox sense? I'm talking about the statement as it stands, without modification of any words. Please explicitly state either “Yes” or “No” and then explain your reason for doing so, with as much detail as you can, in the span of 2-3 paragraphs.

Question 4 from Negative


For your Fifth Question, you gave me a list quotes from the Early Church Fathers which you claimed were advocating Penal Substitution. From the start of this debate I have argued the doctrine is more or less a invention of the Reformers. Because you seem to be well read in the patristics department, I have a question which I think shouldn't be too hard to answer. Do you know of any Early Church Father writings where they advocate Jesus enduring divine punishments along the lines of what the Reformed theologians in Question One above were advocating? I'm talking about quotes where an Early Church Father teaches concepts such as God pouring His Wrath upon Jesus, being forsaken (via “My God, My God”) 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. If you do know of such quotes, please list a quote from at least three different Early Church Fathers. If you do not know of any such quotes, then explain why the Reformers and Reformed theologians speak in that manner and why you think the Early Church Fathers missed “the true meaning of the cross” (to quote MacArthur).

Question 3 from Negative


During your Rebuttal Essay, you made the following comment:

Nick cited Deuteronomy 9:16-21 as another alleged example of a commercial satisfaction, and calls his act an atonement. The Scriptures, however, do not use that description, although they do speak of Moses turning away God’s wrath. How did he do so? He did so by making intercession for them, and begging for mercy.

While it is true Deuteronomy 9 did not use the term “atonement,” it turns out that the term “atonement” is in fact applied to this event:

Exodus 32: 30 The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin."

This chapter is dealing with the golden calf-idol, and these words come immediately after Moses finds out. He explicitly says he will “make atonement for your sin,” so what Moses did in Deuteronomy 9 (describing the same event) was in fact what you denied. My question to you is: Can you explain why Christ would have to atone by means of Penal Substitution when Moses didn't have to? Surely Christ's “unjust sufferings” (1 Pt 2:18ff, esp v20b) were of infinitely more value than what Moses could provide.