[Note from Jeremy (29 March 2006): I just noticed some of these links were dead and fixed them.]
[Note: the followup to this post, Penal Union, is now up.]
As I may have mentioned, I think that Penal Substitution is wrong. I've done the best I can to define what I mean by Penal Substitution in this post. I'd wait for more comments in that thread, but I just kinda want to get this written, and I don't feel like waiting forever.
Most of the critics of Penal Substitution (that I'm aware of) primarily attack the Penal part of the model. They also attack the Substitution aspect, but largely because they feel that seeing Atonement in a substitutionary light biases you into thinking about the Atonement in Penal terms.
This is one way that I differ from the average critics of Penal Substitution--I believe that the Penal aspects of PS are correct. I just feel that Substitution language is not called for to describe it.
Going back to my definitional post, that means that I agree with J1-J5. I also agree with S1-S3. After that things get shaky. I outright disagree with S4-S5, and would want to rephrase R1-R5 as a result. (As a by the way, I do believe C1.)
Adrian has asked the critics of Penal Substitution to give biblical arguments for why PS is wrong. I'm happy to oblige. I'll dispense with the logical and rational arguments against PS, as those were not called for and they are not nearly as authoritative as biblical arguments. As I noted above, I don't question the Penal part of PS, just the Substitution part of it. Biblically, I question Substitution from two fronts. 1) I don't see biblical language that demands Penal Substitution. What language that does suggest substitution actually lends itself more readily to language of union/identification. (more on union/identification in my next post.) 2) Penal Substitution, as I see it, does not require the Resurrection.
Objection 1: Biblical language does not demand Substitution.
First, a (very) quick lesson in Greek. There are two different Greek words which are translated as "for" in phrases like "Christ died for us": "huper", and "anti". "Huper" is generally used to mean "on behalf of", or "for the sake of" (though it can occasionally be used to mean "instead of"), and "anti" usually means "instead of" or "in the place of" (though it can occasionally be used to mean "on behalf of"). "Anti" is clearly the word of choice for people in favor of Substitution. Yet "anti" is almost never used in phrases like "Christ died for us"; "huper" is almost always used in these cases (e.g. Rom 5:6,8; 8:32). [Notable exception: Matthew 20:28/Mark 10:45, to be addressed below.] If Christ's death really was substitutionary, then "anti" should be used in all of these cases, as "huper" does not carry anything near the substitutionary strength that "anti" does.
"Huper" certainly can suggest substitution, but I would argue that it lends itself more towards union than substitution. (This statement to be made more clear in my next post.) Similarly, "propitiation" suggests substitution, but is actually more appropriate for union.
[Note on Matthew 20:28/Mark 10:45 "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." The word "for" in bold is "anti" in Greek. Proponents of Penal Substitution invariably trot out this verse as proof that the death was substitutionary. They claim that the "anti" here demands Penal Substitution. I have three responses to this verse being used as proof of Penal Substitution.
1) "anti" does not always demand substitution. As a stand-alone word in Greek, "anti" shows up 22 times. Of those 22 instances,
4 3 of them unambiguously most probably mean something other than "instead of" or "in place of":
Mat 17:27 (on behalf of)
John 1:16 (upon, in addition to)
Eph 5:31 (because of, therefore)
Heb 12:2 (for the sake of)
2) That being said, we need to actually look at the verse. If it said: "...and to give His life for many." then I would agree that this really is a verse about Penal Substitution. For if this were the case, then you could insert "in the place of" for "for" and have an entirely sensible statement. But it doesn't say that. Instead it says: "...and to give His life as a ransom for many." The insertion of "ransom" really changes things. "...and to give His life as a ransom in the place of many." just doesn't quite mesh. Now it seems that many were going to pay ransoms, but now only Christ does. But we were in no position to pay a ransom in the first place. We were the ones who needed ransoming. This verse is looking less and less like a verse about Penal Substitution.
3) In fact, this verse is looking more and more like a verse about Ransom theory. The death discussed in this verse is not a substitute punishment, but a payment in ransom. Now we see why the word "anti" is being used: when ransoming something, you exchange one thing for another. "Anti" conveys that well. I strongly suspect that you cannot use "huper" with the Greek word for Ransom. (Unfortunately, I am not enough of a Greek scholar to prove that this is the case. Ransom only occurs twice in the NT--in precisely these two verses.)
In conclusion, the use of Matthew 20:28/Mark 10:45 as proof of Penal Substitution is inappropriate. While it may carry some sense of substitution, it does so in support of Ransom, not in support of a substitute penalty.]
Objection 2: Penal Substitution does not require the resurrection [eta: for the remission of sins].
The previous objection was largely one from silence--the Bible doesn't demand, or even really mention, Christ's death as a substitute penalty. My next objection is much stronger.
Penal Substitution holds that Christ bore our sins on the cross (R1). Bearing our sins, He also take the penalty for our sins (S4/S5). If He is bearing our sins, then we no longer are. Even if this is not enough to make us righteous, justified, or sanctified, once Christ has borne our sins on the cross, we are no longer in our sins. Upon Christ's death on the cross, our sins are remitted and the penalty for sin is paid.
[Note that I also believe that Christ bore our sins on the cross. However, I believe He also bears us on the cross. That is not substitution. More on this in my next post.]
However, I Cor 15:17 states that: "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" [emphasis mine]. While Penal Substitution claims that the remission of sins happens because of the crucifixion, this verse makes it clear that the resurrection is the key requirement for the remission of sins.
In Penal Substitution, the resurrection plays no role in either the paying of the penalty for sin, nor for the remission of sin. If the resurrection plays any role at all, it is in conferring righteousness to us. I Cor 15:17 makes it clear that this is inadequate.
In conclusion, Penal Substitution is unbiblical in regards to the relationship of the remission of sins to the resurrection. The fact that the Bible contradicts Penal Substitution at once place and demands Penal Substitution nowhere forces me to conclude that Penal Substitution is an unbiblical concept that needs to be done away with. Much of the penal aspect is fine, but the framework of substitution must be discarded in favor of something more biblical: union.
[Note: the followup to this post, Penal Union, is now up.]