Critiquing Penal Substitution

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[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.]

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38 Comments

I think I have a few things to say, but they're on very particular issues and will have to be done in individual snippets because I need to go back and forth between this and other things.

First, the passages you cite as unambiguously meaning "on behalf of" rather than "instead of" do not so unambiguously mean "on behalf of". Matthew 17:27 refers to finding the money in the fish to use to pay for their tax instead of paying their own money. It's a substitution of the fish's money for their own.

D.A. Carson argues that John 1:16 refers to the grace of Christ instead of the grace of the old covenant. He has an extensive discussion of this in his commentary on John, most of the time spent critiquing other translations of this with soime time spent dealing with objections to his translation. Andreas Koestenberger's brand new John commentary takes the same view, and according to his footnote the classic commentary by Raymond Brown in the Anchor Bible series also does. He also cites Bruce Waltke's 1958 dissertation on 'anti' and 'huper as taking the same view. Rather than get into the details of that, I'll just leave it that "on behalf of" is indeed not without controversy here.

Eph 5:31 has it as part of an idiom ('anti toutou') meaning "because of this", synonymous with 'dia toutou'. In neither case is it closely related to the meaning of the root preposition.

As for Heb 12:2, that again has a rendering with "instead of". William Lane takes the view that this should be translated "who rather than the joy that was set before him..." He seems to agree with Carson, Koestenberger, Waltke, Daniel Wallace, and a number of other scholars who think 'anti' really always does have an "instead of meaning". This is probably a minority view with Heb 12:2, but these scholars are hefty enough figures that it's going way too far to say that these passages unambiguously mean "on behalf of" instead of "instead of" (sorry, I couldn't resist that one).

I believe argument 2 involves a false assumption. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this appears to be the structure of the argument:

1. Penal substitution provides no justification for the resurrection. (premise from penal substitution view)
2. Penal substitution is sufficient for salvation. (premise from penal substitution view)
3. Therefore, what is sufficient for salvation does not require the resurrection. (from 1, 2)
4. We would still be in our sins if not for the resurrection. (premise, I Cor 15:17)
5. Therefore, the resurrection is necessary for salvation.
6. Contradiction: How can the resurrection be necessary for salvation if penal substitution is sufficient, and penal substitution does not require the resurrection?
7. Therefore, some premise must be false. To reject 1 or 2 would reject penal substitution. To reject 4 would be to deny scripture. Therefore, penal substitution is false.

This is a valid argument (i.e. the conclusion follows from the premises). It's even a sound argument if you're careful to state the conclusion as: "You must deny 1, 2, or 4". The problem I have is that people who hold to penal substitution do not see penal substitution as sufficient for salvation, just necessary for salvation. If penal substitution is not sufficient but merely necessary, and the resurrection is also necessary for other reasons, then there's no contradiction. They are simply components of what was jointly sufficient for salvation.

So I see no problem then with holding to a substitutionary view as one of the elements of the atonement and then saying that if Christ hadn't be raised we'd still be in our sins, as the long as the sense in which we'd still be in our sins was not merely legal. (I'm not sure if I need that last clause begininng with "as long as", but it seems plausible to me without further reflection, so I'm leaving it in.) I do think this would be a good argument against a merely substitutionary atonement. I think there are plenty of other scriptures that explicitly say what else is in the atonement, though, so you don't need such a roundabout argument for that.

This is a subject I love, and I would love to partipate in the discussion more, but I've got other things I need to be working on. I'd just like to add this to Jeremy's comment:
First, the passages you cite as unambiguously meaning "on behalf of" rather than "instead of" do not so unambiguously mean "on behalf of". Matthew 17:27 refers to finding the money in the fish to use to pay for their tax instead of paying their own money. It's a substitution of the fish's money for their own.

It is very possible for something to be both "on behalf of" and "instead of". Just because something is "on behalf of" doesn't mean it isn't "instead of'. A proxy vote, for instance, is both "on behalf of" and "instead of". If someone pays another one's debt, it's both "on behalf of" and "instead of". A representative often acts as what might be called a substitutional representative.

More later, perhaps.....

Is the security code thing new?

Carson (in his Matthew commentary) says that the word for ransom can mean two different things. It can mean a price paid for freeing a slave or slaves. He even says there's good evidence that the word always involves a purchase price in the NT. However, some people think its use in the LXX (particularly when God is the subject) is more about deliverance from something without reference to a price paid. I'll quote Carson at length to make the issue clear:

Is wickedness a chain from which Jesus by his death delivers us or as a slave owner from whom Jesus by his death ransoms us? The paralle in I Peter 1:18 suggests the latter, even though ... there is never any mention in the NT of the one to whom the price is paid; and in Matthew 20:28 this meaning is virtually assured by the use of anti ("for"). The normal force of this preposition denotes substitution, equivalence, exchange. (D.A. Carson, Matthew 13-28, p.433; Carson's italics replaced with bold)

So it's not clear that the use of a term that sometimes involves paying a ransom price is necessarily about that rather than simply deliverance, and if Carson is right that 'anti' always has something to do with substitution or exchange, and the examples you gave above don't necessarily refute that, then this verse may very well teach substitution. That's not an argument that it does, but your argument that it doesn't isn't as strong Carson is right.

Rebecca, the argument you're giving is very much along the lines of what I have in mind. I'm waiting for Wink to post his next bit on the union/representation view of the atonement (which is penal and forensic) before I'm willing to get into that too much. In short, my view is that union, representation, and identification are one side of the same coin that substitution is the other side of. Wink thinks that rather than complement each other they contradict each other.

The security code is new. Someone decided to start sending randomized character comments to all three Ektopos blogs, and they had a variable IP address and no URL, so there was no way to block them with the ways we'd already implemented to stop spammers. It was getting out of hand. I think it was Monday morning that I had to delete hundreds of comments. It was easier to do because they kept hitting the same posts, and I could mass delete any on one single post, but it was still annoying.

Jeremy - regarding your counterarguments about "anti". Yeah, maybe "unabiguous" was a bit too strong. But I still stand by most of my choices:

1) John 1:6 - That interpretation did not occur to me. It certainly seems plausible, so I'll retract that one and throw it back into the ambiguous pile.
2) Heb 12:2 - While the big names certainly give me pause, their conclusions really sound like they've pre-supposed that "anti" must always mean "instead of", and then worked backwards. Their interpretation sounds like an incredible (meaning both "wild" and "not believable") stretch.
3) Matthew 17:27 - Your interpretation sounds to me barely plausible. The much more natural reading is to say "give him this money as our taxes", not "give him this money instead of our taxes". Again, this sounds more like pre-supposing the meaning of the word instead of letting context determine the meaning of the word. However, your interpretation here is definitely more plausible than the Heb 12:2 interpretation as this one at least makes some level of sense in context.
4) Eph 5:31 - Completely agree here. And your point here only supports my point that ransom + "anti" is idiomatic and thus might carry a different flavor than your standard "instead of"

Jeremy - regarding argument 2 holding a flase assumption:

Your outline of my argument was how I originally was going to argue it, but rebecca put me on a safer track in her comments to the definitional post. Unfortunately, I did not make my argument as clear as I should have. So here it is in clearer form:

1. Penal substitution provides no justification for the resurrection. (premise from penal substitution view)
2. Christ bore our sins on the cross (R1)
3. If Christ is bearing our sins, then we are no longer in our sins (definition of "bearing")
4. We would still be in our sins if not for the resurrection. (premise, I Cor 15:17)
5. Therefore, the resurrection is necessary for remission of sins.
6. Contradiction: How can the resurrection be necessary for remission of sins if penal substitution is sufficient, and penal substitution does not require the resurrection?
7. Therefore, some premise must be false. To reject 1 or 2 would reject penal substitution. To reject 4 would be to deny scripture. Therefore, penal substitution is false.

Jeremy - regarding Ransom:

I tried to note that "anti" used with ransom does denote some sort of exchange, as that is part and parcel of what ransom menas. It seems that, at least in this particular usage, you and Carson agree with me. What I tried to argue was that while this might in some way be exchange, it is not penal; rather, it is Ransom. There is no mention of penalty or judgement in Matthew 20:28/Mark 10:45. There is only talk of service via Ransom. In this verse, Christ is not exchanging His life for our lives, but His life to buy us out of slavery. As a result, I claim that these verses do not so much support the Penal Substitution view (as there is no penalty being substituted) as much as it is in support of the Ransom view.

rebecca and Jeremy - It is very possible for something to be both "on behalf of" and "instead of".

Patience. I'm getting there. But a little foretaste...I'm not trying to claim that "on behalf of" and "instead of" are incompatible. I'm going to be arguging that "together with" and "instead of/in place of" are incompatible. While so far I've focused on huper/anti, that was simply to undermine the idea that Substitution is required by Scriptire. When I build a positive view, I'll be bringing in a whole new set of verses whilch introduces the union language.

I'm reading through a later piece by Carson on the atonement in Romans 3, and he says that he does think ransom-terms always involve a payment, so now I'm not sure what he was trying to get at in the Matthew commentary. His statement in what I'm reading now is that Leon Morris argued convincingly in 1965 for this view and that later authors have confirmed it.

That's neither here nor there, of course, because of course Jesus paid a price with his death. The issue is whether a statement about paying a ransom can also be about substitution, and I think it can be in the same way that a statement about representation, identification, and union can be about substitution, but I want to wait for the argument that it can't before I give that response.

I'll have to look more carefully at Lane's argument in the Hebrews passage. My glance through it gave some indication why it would make sense. His primary argument for reading it that way is actually because he thinks it makes better sense of the context, so I'll have to see what that is.

In your reformulation of my formulation of your argument, don't you have to alter 6 to read "how can we be still in our sins if Christ bore our sins" rather than "how can the resurrection be necessary ... if penal substitution is sufficient"? At that point, I think you dodge the initial bullet. What I'm not sure you've done is avoid the one immediately following. If penal substitution isn't sufficient, then there must be multiple sense of 'Christ bore our sins'. In one sense, he dealt with the penal aspects of God's wratch. That's what penal substitution claims. If there are other elements of being in sin that the resurrection removes, then there's no contradiction. Do you yourself believe that the resurrection removes penal elements of God's wrath for our sin? I'm not sure scripture anywhere says such a thing.

Jeremy - If penal substitution isn't sufficient, then there must be multiple sense of 'Christ bore our sins'. In one sense, he dealt with the penal aspects of God's wratch. That's what penal substitution claims. If there are other elements of being in sin that the resurrection removes, then there's no contradiction.

I've never heard any version of PS (and I've seen some rather nuanced versions) that claim that there are multiple elements of being in sin. (There may be multiple consequences to being in sin, but not mutiple elements of it.) With PS, you are either in sin, or not. Either Christ has borne your sin, or He hasn't.

Your distinction of "penal aspects of God's wrath" as an element of "being in sin" seems off. With PS, Christ bears the wrath as a consequence of bearing our sin, not as a portion or element of bearing our sin. I can find no biblical support for dividing up the "bearing of sin" into multiple elements.

Because being in sin is a binary event--either you are in sin, or you aren't--I Cor 15:17 deals a fatal blow to PS.

As for what I believe the Resurrection accomplishes, that will have to wait for my next post. Rest assured, I deal with this issue.

OK. Here's Lane's translation of Hebrews 12:1-2:

Consequently, since we ourselves have so great a host of witnesses about us, let us lay aside all excess weight and the sin that so easly distracts, and let us run with endurance the race prescribed for us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the champion in the exercise of faith and the one who brought faith to complete expression, who rather than the joy set before him endured a cross, disregarding the disgrace, and has now taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

The overall context is perseverance in faith. There's the preceding call to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily distracts us. Then the example of Jesus comes in as an addition to the example of the heroes of faith (the cloud of witnesses but also the emphasis of chapter 11 beforehand). As the cloud of witnesses serve as an example of laying aside every weight and the sin that so easily distracts us, so too does the example of Jesus provide an even stronger example of the same sort of thing, as for Paul in Philippians 2.

In this context, it makes sense to mention what Jesus did lay aside, since it wasn't sin. He mentions Jesus' humiliation and shame on the cross later in the verse. Renouncing the joy that would otherwise have been his in his complete unity with the Father and his sinlessness, he gave that up temporarily and faced the shame of the cross. That's a supreme act of faith/faithfulness (the word can mean either).

Lane also says that the use of "set before him" elsewhere in Hebrews always has a present sense to the joy, not a future one, which would here mean not mean later returning to the joy with the Father or gaining a greater one but some joy he could have right now. I'm out of my depth on that one, but if he's right then it makes sense that the present joy would not be one he's gaining immediately while separated from his Father but rather one just within his grasp that he's letting go of for the present.

He also says the use of 'Jesus' rather than Christ emphasizes his humanity and favors this interpretation over the other one that emphasizes his divinity.

I can see pretty clearly how this makes sense in context. I'm having trouble why you don't see that, but maybe you weren't thinking about it in these terms. If there's some other contextual reason this can't be the right translation, let me know. I can't come up with one.

Well, here's a possibility. The legal consequences of sin are removed with the cross, since that takes care of the penal element. The conquering of sin and death, however, is not complete until the resurrection. So perhaps without the resurrection we would no longer have been legally accountable for our sin, but we'd still be slaves to it. Isn't that a plausible way of being in sin yet not being in sin?

Jeremy - The issue is whether a statement about paying a ransom can also be about substitution

I think that the issue is whether this particular statement about paying a ransom can also be about Penal Substitution. I just don't think that it can. This statement makes no mention or even implication of judgement or penalty. The exchange does not seem to be death in exchange for death (i.e. punishment for punishment), but death in exchange for slaves.

That is not to say that ransom and PS aren't compatible. It is just to say that this verse neither supports nor denies PS, despite the use of the word "anti" in close conjunction with Christ giving His life.

Jeremy - I'm having trouble why you don't see that, but maybe you weren't thinking about it in these terms.

Mostly because I'm having trouble with seeing joy as a negative thing (in this case a distraction), which is what this reading requires. Is joy ever discussed as a negative thing elsewhere? I'm probably a bit too conditioned to reading this verse the way Piper does. I'd love to see Lane and Piper fight it out over the interpretation of this verse, as this one is fairly centraly to Piper's Christian Hedonism.

Jeremy - So perhaps without the resurrection we would no longer have been legally accountable for our sin, but we'd still be slaves to it. Isn't that a plausible way of being in sin yet not being in sin?

It seems to me that you are saying that Jesus bore the consequences for our sins, but not the actual sins themselves. According to you, without the resurrection, we are no longer under the legal condemnation of sin, but we are still actually in sin. This seems dangerously close to (if not identical to) "legal fiction", though I'm sure you would find a way to safeguard against it.

The more serious problem is that in your scheme, it doesn't seem like Jesus is really bearing our actual sin on the cross. He's just bearing the judgement/consequence/guilt of our sin. But I Peter 2:24 doesn't really allow for that kind of interpretation. While certainly it is true that all who sin are under judgement, it is a fallacy to equate that judgement with the sin itself. Thus it is a fallacy to state that becuase Jesus bore the legal consequneces of our sin, he has therefore in some way borne our sin. As a result, under your scheme, Jesus hasn't really borne our sin, just the consequence. You still need to show some way that Christ really bore our sins on the cross.

The legal consequences of sin are removed with the cross, since that takes care of the penal element

There is no penal element to sin, there is a penal consequence to sin. You seem to recognize this in the beginning of the sentence, but have forgotten it by the end.

Well, Jesus didn't literally bear the sins, because that would involve doing all the things we did. Maybe you mean that he bore the sin of each person, but what does that mean? Isn't sin, as opposed to sin [should have read: sins], a disposition or tendency to sin? I wouldn't want to say that Jesus even had that. What he bore according to penal substitution is the legal status of having sin. That wasn't just a consequence, which is the punishment. He was legally sinful though he had not sinned and had no tendency or disposition to sin, just Spark is legally part of your family even though he wasn't born into it. There are consequences of Spark's being in your family, such as your legal reponsibilities toward him, but those aren't themselves the state of being in your family, which is a simply a matter of legal fiat far as the state is concerned. The same is true of the penal substitution view of Jesus' having our sins. It's not an ontological or metaphysical claim, as far as I know. Anything like that in the atonement goes beyond the penal substitution view, which is just about what the legal metaphors describing the atonement are referring to. They're referring to God's treatment of Jesus as if he had sin and thus treating us as if we don't. You need to go beyond the legal aspects of the atonement, or at least beyond the substitutionary legal aspects of the atonement to get anything more than that.

It would be like a legal fiction in some ways, but you have to remember here that the legal metaphor is not like the stories people tell in evangelism training about the judge who pays the parking ticket for the defendant, because that judge sits under some further authority, and the whole legal arena with the atonement is set up by God, because of God's righteousness, God's wrath, God's holiness, God's mercy, etc. The courtroom is in the deliberations of God. If God is satisfied in his wrath by something, then it's not because of some independent law allowing it. It's because God's wrath is satisfied, and that's what penal substitution presumably achieves. It's a separate thing to transform someone, to remove the effects of the sin, etc. As things stand, that's not even immediately anyway except in God's declarations. What else are we to make of all the statements that we are in fact justified but are being made righteous, that we are in fact sanctified but are being made sanctified. The already is a legal fiction in some ways, but it's a legal fiction that looks forward to a reality that is secured by the resurrection.

Jeremy - Well, Jesus didn't literally bear the sins, because that would involve doing all the things we did.

I don't see why literally bearing sin would involve committing those sins. (see below for my discussion on "bore".)

Isn't sin, as opposed to sin, a disposition or tendency to sin?

I don't understand your distinction between sin and sin. I assume that there was a typo somewhere due to the lateness of the posting?

It's not an ontological or metaphysical claim, as far as I know. Anything like that in the atonement goes beyond the penal substitution view, which is just about what the legal metaphors describing the atonement are referring to.

I was combating the version of PS where the bearing away of sin is indeed an ontological or metaphysical claim. The purely legal-forensic model which you seem to be championing is (as far as I can tell) a less robust and less mature version of PS. Among the heavyweights, J. I. Packer and Millard Erickson (among others) seem to have moved beyond the purely legal-forensic model (if I understand them correctly) to adopt a more metaphysical understanding of the bearing away of sin. If I read her correctly, rebecca of everydaymusings has also moved beyond mere legal-forensic PS.

If you want me to refute your legal-forensic view, that is simple enough:

1) First, the "legal status of having sin" is precisely the definition of "guilt". And, as noted before, guilt is a consequence of sin, not sin itself. Therefore, the bearing of guilt is not the same as the bearing of sin. According to legal-forensic PS, the only things borne are the guilt and the punishment, not the sin itself. But, of course, PS either has Jesus bearing sin, or it denies I Peter 2:24

2) Secondly, the word "bore" in I Peter 2:24 is "anaferro", which means "to take away" or "to carry away". This word denotes far more than the mere transference of legal status. It really does denote some sort of ontological or metaphysical claim (without in any way implying that Jesus in the process commits the sins that He is carrying away). If Peter only meant the transference of legal status, he would have used something along the lines of "impute" (though in the opposite direction--"empute"?, "depute"?).

Conclusion: you are now in a double-bind. If you take the pure legal-forensic route, you end up denying I Peter 2:24 for Jesus does not end up actually bearing our sins; He just bears the consequences of our sin (both guilt and punishment). But if you take the ontological/metaphysical route, you run up against I Cor 15:17, for in this case Jesus has carried away our sins (leaving us no longer in our sins) without any need for the resurrection to do so.

That was supposed to be 'sins' vs. 'sin'. Literally bearing our sins would involve committing them. Literally bearing our sin would involve taking on this thing that we have that leads us to sin, whether we want to call it a nature, a tendency, a disposition, or whatever.

I'm not saying penal substitution advocates hold that there is mere penal substitution. I'm saying that what they add to penal substitution is not penal substitution but some additional thing. The ontological or metaphysical business is one of those additional things. It's not merely penal substitution if it's not substitution for merely legal purposes. If there's another kind of substitution going on, it's additional to the penal realm.

Therefore, it's a false dilemma to say that penal substitution has Jesus bearing sin or denies I Peter 2:24. The more accurate middle way would be that Jesus does bear sin, but the bearing of sin is not the forensic element of the atonement. It's a metaphysical element. The bearing of guilt is the forensic element. This seems to be so merely by the definition of the terms involved.

Good discussion, folks.

I will jump in more completely sometime soon, I promise. But for now, what about Romans 1 and 3?

Romans 1 and 3 seem to guarantee the penal element. Where do you see substitution there? I looked through Romans 3 yesterday and didn't see anything that seemed obviously substitutional as opposed to what Wink is going to detail in his next post.

I find the discussion very interesting, but am still a little confused at points. Disclaimer: I am a lay leader at a large Vineyard church, and although I read extensively I have not had formal theological training. Therefore, I may be a little na�ve in certain areas regarding the state of formal arguments. I was going to wait until I studied everything a little more, but Romans 3 is a key section of what I had questions about so I will jump in right here.

How do you deal with the Greek word hilasterion in Romans 3:25, translated propitiation in the NASB and atoning sacrifice in the NIV. (also in Heb 2:17, 1 John 2:2 & 4:10) This is defined in Thayer�s Greek definitions as follows.

Hilasterion
1) relating to an appeasing or expiating, having placating or expiating force,expiatory; a means of appeasing or expiating, a propitiation
1a) used of the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, which was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement (this rite signifying that the life of the people, the loss of which they had merited by their sins, was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated); hence the lid of expiation, the propitiatory
1b) an expiatory sacrifice
1c) a expiatory victim

Not being familiar with the term expiatory, I looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary online, which had the following definitions.

Expiatory
Having the attribute of expiating or making satisfaction for an offence; serving to expiate. Const. of.

Expiate
1. trans. To avert (evil) by religious ceremonies; to avert the evil portended by (a prodigy or prophecy). Obs. exc. Antiq.
2. To cleanse, purify (a person, a city) from guilt or pollution by religious ceremonies. Occas. Const. of. Obs.
3. To do away or extinguish the guilt of (one's sin); to offer or serve as a propitiation for. to expiate oneself (rare): to do penance.
4. To pay the penalty of.
5. To make amends or reparation for.
6. intr. To make expiation for. Obs.
7. To extinguish (a person's rage) by suffering it to the full; to end (one's sorrows, a suffering life) by death. Obs.

This all seems to be substitutionary language to me, particularly in reference to the mercy seat over the ark that received sacrificial blood on the day of atonement. Now I think that the atonement involves much more than Christ being a substitution, but this seems to be a necessary part.

Propitiation is basically the satisfaction of God's wrath, which we deserve because of our sin/sins (see comments above). The question is whether propitiation is achieved through substitution (or partly achieved through substitution) or whether something else achieves propitiation. Wink thinks propitiation is achieved through our identification with Christ and his identification with us. He doesn't think it comes through substitution in any way. His next post will explain this.

What might be confusing here is that everyone else who denies substitutionary atonement does so by denying propitiation altogether and all the legal terminology to describe the atonement. Wink does not do that. So Romans 3 often comes up in responses to those who deny penal substitution, but what it contributes to the discussion is an explanation of why the atonement needs to deal with the legal problem. It doesn't involve substitution, according to Wink.

Well I guess I will have to wait for Wink�s post. I don�t currently see how propitiation can not involve substitution at all. It seems to be the very definition of the word. Substitution along with something else I could see, but not a complete lack of it.

A second question I had was regarding the emphasis on 1 Cor 15:17. Now here is where my lack of formal exegetical training may lead me astray, but my initial thoughts include:

1) It seems that the primary context of the whole passage, that this verse is situated in, is about Paul explaining that Christians have a future hope of a bodily resurrection, of which Christ was the firstfruits. Its primary focus is not an explication of how God�s wrath or penal issues were dealt with. Therefore, I think we should be careful in placing undue weight on the mention of sin in verse 17 since it is not the primary emphasis in the passage.

2) It seems that it could be plausibly be maintained that Paul is speaking in the sense that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead then He wouldn�t have really been the Christ or Messiah. In that case we would still be under the Law and sin because the new covenant would not have replaced it. Neither Paul nor us would have reason to hope in the work of Jesus on the cross apart from His demonstration of victory over it through His resurrection. As Paul says, our faith then would be worthless. This would make the resurrection not the reason that we aren�t in our sins, but the reason that we can have faith that Christ bore them on the cross.

Well I have some other thoughts, but I think this is enough for now. I hope that these posts have added to the discussion and not pulled it off track. I enjoy your site. Keep up the good work.

Jeremy - Literally bearing our sins would involve committing them.

I don't at all see why this would be the case. Since "bearing" literally means "carrying away", then bearing our sins no more means committing our sins any more than my carrying away someone's garbage means that I've generated that garbage.

That was supposed to be 'sins' vs. 'sin'.

As I've now revealed in my new post, I believe that Jesus bears us on the cross. As we are nothing but a "mass of perdition" or "lump of sin", then it is accurate to say that He bore ous sins on the Cross. Bearing us involve both bearing "sin" and our "sins".

As for your other arguments, I want to reiterate that "to bear" means "to carry away". Jesus either carried away our sins, in which case we are no longer in our sins, or he didn't. I don't see any sort of middle ground here where He can carry away one aspect of our sin, but not another. Sin, for these purposes, is atomic. Now under PS, if He carries our sin away, then you have problems with I Cor 15:17, and if He doens't carry our sins away, you have problems with I Peter 2:24.

Cary - Thanks for the comments. They are not derailing the conversation at all.

As Jeremy noted, your questions about how I deal with propititation are dealt with in my new post, which is now up.

As for your points about I Cor 15:17

1) I agree that this is not the main point of the entire passage. However, minor points in one passage of Scripture can have huge impact on other parts of Scripture. Take for example Paul's emphasis in Gal 3:16 on the fact that "seed" is singular, not plural. The singular nature of "seed" was not the main point of God's original promise, and yet it bears considerable theological weight.

2) It seems that it could be plausibly be maintained that Paul is speaking in the sense that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead then He wouldn’t have really been the Christ or Messiah.

This is a common complaint. Most people (even seminary trained pastors--and in particular, the pastor of my church) who haven't spent a lot of time thinking about Penal Substitution think that the only purpose of the resurrection was to Prove that Jesus was God/Christ/Messiah.

Now, the resurrection certainly does prove that, but the resurrection is not necessary for Jesus to be God/Christ/Messiah. Jesus would still have been God even if He did not rise again bodily. We just might not have recognized it in that case. Nowhere can I find that God/Messiah/Christ must rise bodily from the dead in order to be God/Messiah/Christ. If Jesus had decided to end the crucifixion story in a different manner than resurrection, then He still would have been God/Christ/Messiah (and under the Penal Substitution model, that is certainly an option--God is creative enough to find a way to give us new life/sanctification without the resurrection).

As a result, I don't think that Paul could have been using I Cor 15:17 in that sense.

I don't at all see why this would be the case. Since "bearing" literally means "carrying away", then bearing our sins no more means committing our sins any more than my carrying away someone's garbage means that I've generated that garbage.

But the analogy isn't exact enough. Bearing sins is bearing an action, thus more like bearing the action of generating garbage. Garbage is just the effect of generating garbage. If someone bears my generation of garbage, then that person is now generating it instead of me. It's like the old joke of asking someone to go to the bathroom in your place because you're too lazy to get up off the couch. It doesn't make sense to me. That's how I think literally bearing sins must be. Now if we're there with him on the cross, that's different, since his bearing of us means bearing what we do, but I don't see how penal substitution can capture the literal bearing of sins.

Lets look at 1 Cor 5:17 in context-
------------------------------------
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

________________________

to me the argument here is much closer to what Cary said than Wink.

The agrument is that our faith would be futile if Christ was not raised, as if Christ was not raised it throws into question what he has accomplished, and makes us (and God) into liars. If there is no resurrection then hedonism (and not the christian variety either!) is the best tactic for life!

I really do not see any issue in this verse for substitution. Also, anyone who denies that we were crucified "with Christ" is just plain wrong so there has to be an element of union. But any hint that we are ourselves punished for our sin simply isnt there in scripture.

Now that I'm looking at it again in the context, I think Adrian and Cary are right. That does seem to be the movement of thought.

Now, the resurrection certainly does prove that, but the resurrection is not necessary for Jesus to be God/Christ/Messiah. Jesus would still have been God even if He did not rise again bodily. We just might not have recognized it in that case. Nowhere can I find that God/Messiah/Christ must rise bodily from the dead in order to be God/Messiah/Christ.

Jesus sill would have been God if had not resurrected but I don�t think he would've been the Messiah/Christ�the promised Son of David�if he didn't resurrect. The basis of the conversion of many Jews.

Acts 2:24-36, previously mentioned by the more knowledgeable 1 Cor 15; John 20:9; Luke 3:23-38; 24:26-27; Matthew 1:1- 17; Hagg 2:20-23; Jer 22:24; Is 9:7; Ps 16:8-11; Ps 89:4; 2 Sam 7:8-17

What do the genealogies in Matthew and Luke have to do with resurrection? I'm also a little unclear on why you think Jer 22:24 and Hag 2:20-23 are supposed to be relevant. I do understand how some of these have to do with his rule as Messiah, which couldn't have been fulfilled if he were to die and stay dead. Did these somehow tie in to that? I don't see the connection between those passages and resurrection, though.

The geneologies point to the lineage of David and to the promise being cutoff at Jehoiachin and picked up again from an alternate branch of Zerubabbel. The Haggai passage is the passing of the signet, the Jeremiah passage is the taking away the signet from Jehoiachin. Just connecting Messiah to David is all. Link of Messiah as being the Son of David. If the Son of David who fullfilled the requirements of Messiah died and stayed dead, one of God's promises would've been derailed...an impossibility.

Here's my two cents worth...well 4 if you count inflation.

Jesus's sacrifice is a perfected version of the old animal sacrifices formally instituted in Jewish law and worship but which goes back to the very first animal slaughtered to cover the newly sinful nature of Adam and Eve in their newfound nakedness. God had every right to kill Adam and Eve, for the penalty of sin is death and proper payment is blood. However, God killed an innocent animal to pay/cover Adam & Eve's sin of rebellion because of God's grace and desire to have his children back in communion with him. We soon see the first "formal" version of the animal/blood sacrifice in Abel's offering of the choice meat not long after the expulsion from Eden. Abraham as he was about to kill his son at God's request ( and a Holy and Righteous request it was, because once again the penalty for sin is death and it was humanity, not the animals that first sinned) was stopped by God and shown the substitutional lamb instead. And, as I mentioned before, the once a year Temple sacrifices for the sins of the people. In any of these instances, the sins were paid for by the shedding of blood of an innocent animal not by the killing of the guilty and sinful human. In other words...penal substitution. At no time did the payment for sins rely on the animal/animals sacrificed to get up after being slain. Therefore, penal substitution does indeed pay for sin regardless of ressurection.

However, human blood was what has always been called for, for the perfect payment of sin. After all is was humans that first sinned, not animals. Therefore penal subsitution, the shedding of blood, while proper payment, is not perfected payment, hence the need to continually do it, for we all still inherit and live in sinful flesh that needs forgiveness (payment). And if God in his mercy and grace wanted us still as his children and yet needing payment for our sins, the only alternative was penal substitution of an animal's blood.

Thus enters Christ Jesus as the perfect penal substitute. He is fully human, thus He qualifies as not only a proper substitute for us but the perfect substitute. Remember, God's righteousness has always called for human blood, but His grace allowed a substitute. Either way it was the shedding of blood that paid the debt of sin. And thus, when Christ died, shedding his Perfected human blood in place of, as substitute to ours, for the first time a proper and perfect sacrifice was made.

BUT....every human living at the precise moment of Christ's death and every one born since inherited sinful flesh and nature which causes God's righteousness to cry out for payment. Here is where Christ's ressurection comes into play. Not as the source of remission, which the shedding of Blood is, but by elevating Christ's sacrifice to the Eternal Now. Christ would not have to die billions of times over every single time every human being sinned. Anytime a sinner prays the sinner's prayer, Christ does not have to die again, for He arose and in doing so made His penal substitutional death constant and for all time. Every time I sin as a Christian, I can claim the Cross of Christ, not to have Christ die again, but to acknowledge the risen Savior and in doing so invoke the shed blood which pays for my sins. Christ's ressurection did not pay for my sins, it allows Christ's penal subsitution to be eternal and thus my ability to be in Communion with the Father to be eternal as well.

Danny, I follow (though I don't entirely agree) until the last paragraph, because you make the assumption (jump to the conclusion, really) that the resurrection was necessary for eternal penal substitution. God is One, God is Eternal, and Jesus Christ is God every bit as much today as He was in 2005, 2005 BC, or during His time in the flesh on this passing plane of existence. To make the resurrection necessary for eternal penal substitution is to either 1)Deny that Jesus on the cross was God or 2)Deny that God is eternal (at least on that day) or 3)Include the resurrection as part of Christ's punishment (after the Lord proclaimed "it is finished"). Since all of those things are wrong: the resurrection was wholly unnecessary for penal substitution.

This introduces a problem for the adherent of penal substitution as a complete theory of the atonement, because the Bible makes abundantly clear that the resurrection was necessary in several passages, and I invite you to simply do a concordance search on "resurrection" if you don't believe me (or even if you do, Bible study is good for you, me, and everyone else), but most clearly in 1 Peter 1:3. We are begotten to God by the resurrection.

This is not to say that penal substitution is not a portion of the atonement, just to say that it is incomplete.

But has anyone ever asserted that penal substitution captures everything about the atonement? I'm not aware of anyone among the major proponents of penal substitution, now or historically, who would say such a thing.

Jeremy, you typically see it in Calvinist and hyper-Calvinist circles, as penal substitution is the "glue" that holds the 5 points together. More synergistic theories (such as participation) are wholly rejected.

Penal substitution is what makes grace "effectual" and makes the atonement "limited."

Piper and MacArthur would be two examples.

I don't know much about MacArthur, but I don't think that's fair to Piper. He'd be happy to say that there is an exemplar aspect to the atonement and that there's a union element. He just thinks they depend on penal substitution.

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