Penal Union

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[Note: Contrary to the Creative Commons license listed on this site, I, Wink, the author of this particular post am reserving all rights for this particular post. I don't mean to be a killjoy, but this topic is the basis for my as-yet-incomplete thesis. I'm tackling a controversial subject. As a result, I need to polish my ideas more fully before I can let it out into the wild under a CC license. Please respect my copyright on this post. Thanks.]

[Thanks for being patient everyone. This is the post many of you have been waiting for as it is the follow-up to my Critique of Penal Substitution. Enjoy!]

Mystical Union

First, some notes about mystical union. There are two major varients of mystical union, one that has been taken up by the New Agers, and the varient called marital mysticism. Guess which one I'm in favor of.

Marital mysticism gets its name from Eph 5, where Paul says "...the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." Marital because of the marriage imagery, and mystical because it is a great mystery. This union is described by many terms: spiritual union, mystical union, divinization, theosis, etc. I'm going to stick with either mystical union or spiritual union in this post. Usually, I'll just end up using the word "union" or "united" all by itself. When I do so, know that I mean this type of marital mystical union.

Mystical union is akin to the union of the members of the Godhead. (see John 17:20-23, we are united to Christ in the same way that Christ is united to the Father.)

This mystical union was a major element of Christianity during the patristic era. As the East and West split, the Eastern church retained its focus on mystical union, but that focus was greatly dimished in the Western church. While the early church had presumed that we were spiritually united with Christ starting at salvation, the Catholic Church started to see it as the goal of our spiritual life, not the grounds of it. For the Catholic Church, mystical union was attained at the end of sanctification, not at the second birth. The Protestant church has had a varying focus on this element of Christianity, but it is safe to say that it has nowhere near the importance that it has in the Eastern church.

Penal Union Presented

My understanding of the atonement is that we are mystically united with Christ. This union is the grounds or basis or machanism by which: God's wrath is satisfied, our sins are done away with, we are justified, as are sanctificed, we receive new life.

[Some others have taken to calling this model "Participatory Atonement" for reasons that I hope will become apparent. I like the name a lot. It certainly rolls off the tongue better than "Penal Union". However, at least for the purpsoes of this post, I am using the term "Penal Union". I do this becuase I want to emphasize the similarities that this model has with Penal Substitution. At the same time, the name highlights the differences with that same model.]

Many proponents of the Penal Substitution model do not acknowledge that Mystical union (or identification with Christ) is a major element of our Christian life. However, the more advanced and robust models do recognize it and will say that this union is necessary for us to be justified and to give us new life. I am in complete agreement with them on those points. However, I think that they do not go far enough. Typically, when they say that we are united with Christ, they imply that we are united with His post-resurrection life. That is certainly true, but we are united with more than that.

Gal 2:20 states that we "have been crucified with Christ". Not only do we die with Him on the cross, we are raised with Him too. It is clear that Paul sees this fact as a central part of our Christian existence. (See: Gal 2:20, 5:24, 6:14, Rom 6:1-11, 8:17, Eph 2:5-6, Col 2:9-2:14, 2:20, 3:1-4.) We are united with more than just Christ's post-resurrection life, we are united with His death and resurrection as well.

So what does this mean? Let us look at several aspects of atonement: Penalty, wrath, new life, justification/sanctification.

Penalty
We have died in Christ. Death is the penalty for sin. Christ has paid the penalty for sin by dying. Inasmuch as We are United with Christ (form here on out, abbreviated "IWUC"), we have also died and thus paid the penalty for our sins.

Wrath
God poured out His wrath on Jesus. IWUC, God has also poured out His wrath on us--the proper objects for His wrath. God's wrath, among other things, is an agent of healing and rehabilitation. I do not want to deny that God's wrath has an element of retribution, but I am here focused on the fact that God makes statements like:

"The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and He will respond to their pleas and heal them." (Is 19:22)

"...the Lord binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted." (Is 30:26c)

"Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds!" (Hos 6:1)

In light of such passages, we can see that God tears down in order to build better. Like a wall that is so crooked that the only way to make it straight it to knock it down and build anew, so it is with wrath. God burns away our sins like a crucible purifies gold.

New Life
Ah, but there is a problem. We are nothing but sin, or as Augustine likes to put it, we are nothing but a "mass of perdition" (translated into more modern terms, a "lump of sin"). [Note: this means that when Christ bears our sins, he is indeed bearing our entire selves--he is bearing us on the Cross.] Now if God burns away all of the sin in us, then there will be nothing left of us, right? Wrong! We are united with Christ. He is in us, just as we are in Him. So when we are all burned away by God's wrath, nothing remains of us but Christ.

Being united with Christ is great and all, but being united with the dead Christ does us no good at all. And if the story ended here, Christianity would be worthless (c.f. I Cor 15:17). But Christ rose from the dead. He has new life, and IWUC, we have new life too (namely, His).

Justification/Sanctification
Typically, the legal-forensic view of Penal Substitution talks about justification as God viewing us as righteous, even though we aren't really righteous. However, in the Penal Union view, IWUC we really are righteous. Justification isn't God somehow ignoring the reality of our sin. Rather, justification is God's recognition of who we really are now in Christ. Similarly with sanctification: IWUC we are truly holy. What to make of the language that we are both sanctified and being sanctified? IWUC, we are sanctified. Inasmuch as we are Not united with Christ, we are being further united with Christ, and thus we are being sanctified.

Analysis of Penal Union

Notice how carefully I've preserved the penal aspects of Penal Substitution. Everyone is born a sinner. Justice demands that sin be punished with death. That penalty is paid on the cross.

Now notice the big difference. Jesus does not die in our place. He does not die instead of us. Rather, we die with Him. We are united with His death. (While I have not directly dealt with Rom 1-3 as some of you have requested, you'll notice that those chapters are the basic axioms from which I'm working. I trust that you can see that nothing in my theory contradicts Romans 1-3.)

Union language is dominant in the Pauline letters, and shows up in Peter's epistles too. But actual substitutionary langue shows up not at all. Penal language, certainly. But you never find Paul saying that Jesus dies instead of us on the Cross. Rather, you always hear him saying that we have died with Christ on the cross.

Regarding propitiation and the satisfaction of God's wrath, we can see that this model deals with those issues in ways that should be acceptable to adherants of Penal Substitution. God's wrath is indeed expressed. It is poured out on Christ, and IWUC, on us as well. God's wrath is satisfied becuase it is exhausted. He has poured all of it out. The only reason we survive such a wrath is because we are united with Christ who is capable of surviving such a wrath (though not without dying first).

Objections to Penal Union

Objections to this model fall under 3 main categories: 1) We must not take part in any aspect of our atonement, 2) Can't it be that our atonement is substitutionary in some respects, and unitive in others?, and 3) This model grievously warps the idea of free forgiveness. I will deal with each in turn

1) The primary objection that people have to this theory is that it makes us participants in our own atonement. This seems to be a denial of grace and the of sola fides, for we are participating in the work of salvation. Thus, this is a work based salvation. I have three responses to this. First, I must insist that while we do indeed participate in the work of the Cross, it is a passive participation only. Notice how often I use the phrase IWUC. That is to emphasize that it is not us who do these things, but Christ. We do these things only inasmuch as we are united with Christ. This passive participation is akin (though only loosely, please don't press this analogy too far: we are all aware that analogies have their limits) to a benchwarmer's participation to a team's victory. The benchwarmer may have played zero minutes of the game, but it is still accurate to say that the team won. And as such it is accurate to say that the benchwarmer won, even though the benchwarmer didn't even play.

My second response to this is to say that the only thing we do on the cross is die. Dying isn't a work. Dying isn't something you do, it is something that happens to you.

Third, I would like to point out that it is no hard thing to pay for your own sins. Everybody is capable of paying for their own sins. Every adherent to Penal Substitution who is not a universalist should be agreeing with me here: all who die apart from Christ pay for their own sins by dying (and going to hell, for those who believe in hell). Paying for sins is easy, you just have to die. You don't have to be God to pay for sins. The hard part about paying for your sins is surviving to tell the tale. It is only those who have been united with Christ who can do so.

2) The next most frequent objection goes as follows: Penal union sounds kinda OK, but why can't you suppliment it with some Penal Substitution? Can't it be both? Why must you discard Penal Substitution? Well, the short answer to that last question is that I think that Penal Substitution is unbiblical. However, I'll take some time to explain in more detail why I think that these two theories are mutually incompatible. First, I want to point out again that this model is closer to Penal Substitution than it is to any other theory. There is much good to be found in the Penal Substitution model, and I've tried to incorporate all of those into this theory. However, they cannot both be true.

Penal Substitution is by definition a substitutionary model. That is to say that the death/penalty is substituted, Christ's for ours. The language of substitution is "instead of" or "in our place". However, "instead of" is a denial of "together with", which is the language of union. If Christ takes our place on the Cross, then we cannot be there together with him. Substitution does not allow for that.

In critiquing my position, Jeremy likes to claim that Christ dies instead of us in one respect, but we die in Him in another. Thus they can both be true. However, I deny that the two models are referring to different respects. In Penal Substitution, Christ's death is the payment for the penalty of sin. In Penal Union, Christ's death is the payment for the penalty of sin. In both models, the death accomplishes the same thing. These are not different respects. The difference in the models is in whether we are together with Christ on the cross, or whether He takes our place on the cross. The difference is not in what the death on the cross accomplishes.

3) There is the occasional critique of this model that it denies forgiveness. The complaint goes something as follows: Forgiveness is the absense of punishment. For us to be forgiven, we must escape punishment (by definition of forgiveness). But we experience punishment (death) in the Penal Union model. Therefore, Penal union must be wrong and/or Penal Substituion must be right (for we escape punishment in PS).

My only response to this is that this definition of forgiveness is just plain wrong. Forgiveness is not about the absense of punishement--that's mercy. Forgiveness is about the restoration of relationship. It is about reconciliation. It is perfectly consistent to say that you've forgiven someone, yet still punish that person. Take, for example, parenting. As Christians, we are to forgive all who sin against us. Our children frequently sin against us. Does that mean that we should never punish our children? If forgiveness is the absense of punishment, then yes. But that is clearly absurd. We have a biblical responsibility to discipline our children and that includes punishing our children (though it includes more than that too). So what is forgiveness about? It is about resoring relationships that have become broken by sin. This does not require the absense of punishment. In fact it may even be necessary ("without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" Heb 9:22).

In Penal Union, it is true that we do not escape punishment, but we are forgiven for our relationship with God is one of reconciliation.

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88 Comments

I'm guessing the main thrust of your point is Romans 6:3-7?

I'd like to take a look at your thesis after you submitted it and have been published, etc.

Ray - Bingo. Got it in 1.

You're gonna have to wait a while for my thesis. I'm only half way through my 3 year program, and I'm only going half time. So it may be 3 years (or more) before I get this finished. Sigh.

Like Rey, I am interested in seeing your thesis. I'm bookmarking this site and will drop in from time to time. :)

My basic point is that substitution and union are both important parts of what the atonement attains, with the union elements possibly even more fundamental. Wink keeps saying that there's no way both can be true, even in different senses, because penal substitution theorists who hold both have affirmed them in the same sense. I think I can state clearly what I mean by saying they're two sides of the same coin, and it's going to rely on something Wink has made good use of, his qualifier 'insofar as we are united with Christ', which means there must be some sense in which we are not. That sense is exactly the sense in which he is a substitution for us.

There are clearly some ways in which we are/were not on the cross with Christ. Not one of us was even in existence at the time, but even those who were who were later saved were not on the cross with him in any physical way. In that sense, he took our place.

Ultimately, whatever way we did die on the cross with him was sufficient for meeting the penalty that we justly earned, and therefore it would be false to say that we deserved to die in a way we didn't. We had to die in the way that we deserved to, or justice was not satisfied, and God is unjust. This is something Wink would insist on. However, the sense in which we were not there is kind of important for daily life. We didn't experience the horror of it. I presume Wink would say that we didn't experience separation from God even though our union with Christ means we were separated from God with him between the cross and the resurrection. In that way, he took our place. He died so we wouldn't have to, even though in some more fundamental sense we did die with him. He paid for our sins so we wouldn't have to, even though in some more fundamental way we did passively end up in the position in which our sins were being paid for in the same action that would have counted as us paying for them if we were doing it ourselves.

The very fact that it's passive, though, suggests a way of speaking as if there's some element that we didn't do that we would have done if we were not identified with Christ. It's in that sense that he did it for us. Wink admits that he did it on our behalf, but that very way of speaking assumes, to my mind, that he did it on our behalf in a way that we didn't do it, and therefore he did it for of us in the sense that he did it instead of our doing it ourselvesl. In that sense it is substitutional while also being identificatory.

I'm a little suspicious of your tying together Paul's use of mystery terminology with anything mystical. It's largely agreed nowadays that 'musterion' in Paul doesn't refer to something hard to understand or something beyond reason but simply refers to something that wasn't known before Christ but is now revealed. Some commentators have claimed that Ephesians 5 is a different usage of the term (and some have even used that as evidence that Paul didn't write Ephesians), but the most recent commentators on Ephesians have argued that this passage does in fact use the word in the standard sense. What was not known beforehand is the oneness in the church and the oneness with Christ that marriage so amazingly illustrates, by its very design. Now that's revealed.

This is sort of irrelevant to any point you make, but it's a reason to question the terminology, most importantly that it's accurate to call this union mystical on the basis of Ephesians 5's use of 'musterion'.

Your response to objection three leaves you open to the objector just reframing the same sort of argument with mercy, as follows:

Mercy is the removal of deserved punishment. For us to receive mercy, we must escape punishment (by definition of mercy). But we experience punishment (death) in the Penal Union model. Therefore, Penal union must be wrong and/or Penal Substituion must be right (for we escape punishment in PS).

I can suggest a response. Insofar as we are united with Christ, we do not receive mercy in terms of avoiding the cross. However, insofar as we are not united with Christ (see the comment two comments up), we do receive mercy.

Of course, this response plays right into my hands, but it's one way to say that the cross does provide us with mercy. Another thing to say is that we do receive the mercy of not going to hell, but there seems to be some biblical sense of avoiding the wrath of God that Christ Jesus did not avoid. That's why I do think there's a sense of substitution in the NT accounts of the atonement.

This is another point that may not be relevant to the topic at hand. However, it's picky on a truly important issue. Do you really want to say that we're united with Christ in exactly the same way that the Father and Son are united? I know Jesus does hold these two relationships up in an analogy in the final discourse in John, but it's an analogy and not an exact relationship, right? Doesn't such an unqualified statement at least border on blasphemy? There must be some ways the Father and Son are united according to which we and the Son will never be united, or we will be God. This is another reason I want to shy away from the mysticism terminology, because most groups that use such language end up saying exactly the sort of thing I'm hesitant about here.

Jeremy - regarding the use of the term "mystical". I only use that term becuase historically, the union that I am referring to has been called marital mysticism. To use another name would just confuse things, even though using this name requires that I provide some explanation. While the original use of the word "mysticism" for describing this union may be wrong, it is nevertheless the name that is now associated with this particualr understanding of union. As such, I kinda have to use it. It is similar to how we must call a certain heresy "Nestorianism", even though most scholars now agree that Nestorius himself did not actually hold that particular heretical view.

Do you really want to say that we're united with Christ in exactly the same way that the Father and Son are united?...Doesn't such an unqualified statement at least border on blasphemy?

I actually do want to say that we are united to Christ the same way that the Father is united to the Son. But this in no way makes us God. Let me explain. The Father and Son are united in that they share the same Nature. Together with the Spirit, they are Three Persons, One Nature. Christ and His Bride, the Church, are Two Persons, One Nature. What Nature do we share? Certainly nothing of ours, as all that is of us perishes on the cross with Christ. So it must be His Nature. But He has two Natures: a Divine Nature and a Human Nature. So which one are we united to? Well, it can't be the Divine one, for that would make us God, and that would be blasphemy. Furthermore, I'm not sure that things of different nature can be united in this manner. So it must be Christ's Human Nature that we are united with. Thus our union with Christ (sharing the same nature--in this case, human nature) is the same union that unites the Father and the Son (sharing the same nature--in this case, divine nature).

Jeremy - regarding mercy.

I can actually defend against the "mercy charge" without resorting to the IWUC/IWNUC distinction. I should have included this in the original post, but I left it out because I was getting tired of writing. God still has mercy on us in that He did not punish us immediately. Historically, He withheld His punishment until Christ was available to take it. And personally , with each of us, He withheld His punishment until we are united with Christ. This "waiting to punish" is mercy, for it is God's right to punish immediately if He so desires and any delay in such a punishment can be considered mercy.

Jeremy - regarding your main objection that Union/Substitution are two sides of the same coin.

There are clearly some ways in which we are/were not on the cross with Christ.

Clearly. I will grant that we were not on the cross physically, nor did we experience the crucifixion. If you insist, we can call those substitutionary. However, that is not Penal Sustitution. Those may be physical substitution and experiential substitution, but neither of those is the substitution of penalty.

Penal Substitution demands substitution of Penalty. His death instead of our death. That is in direct conflict with Our death together with His death. Penal Substitution demands that we are not participating in the payment of the penalty (for Christ is doing that instead of us). Penal Union demands that we are participating in said payment.

insofar as we are united with Christ', which means there must be some sense in which we are not. That sense is exactly the sense in which he is a substitution for us.

If I am parsing you correctly, then you are saying: IWUC, we have died with Christ, and IWNUC, Christ has died in our place.

This does not square with Penal Union at all. Forgive me for not making myself clear in the original post, but IWNUC we completely perish. That part of us which is not united with Christ cannot be redeemed. To suggest that Christ died in the place of that part of us is to suggest that all is redeemed--that's universalism.

So while you make some interesting points in that comment, there seems to be a severe misunderstanding about the role that IWUC/IWNUC plays in the Penal Union model.

"In Penal Union, it is true that we do not escape punishment"

I cannot accept that any sense in which we share in Christs punishment is biblical and consistent with Romans 3 below.

I believe we are united with Christ, but remain distinct thus through the bond of unity certain things flow from us to christ ie our sins, and from christ to us ie his righteousness. We get let off the hook and are not punished, although wer are counted dead to sins since we were crucified with christ.

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for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Thanks all for the posts here and in the other threads. There are a lot of good issues on the table. I do like Wink�s emphasis on union a great deal, as I think that this is a crucial part of the work of the atonement, but I am in camp 2 that thinks we can have both union and substitution. I haven�t had time to get all my thoughts in order, but I did want to go ahead and throw out one question out that hasn�t been addressed yet.

How would you address Jesus� work on the cross in light of the Passover? Jesus Himself clearly intended this to be a central symbol of His work as evidenced by the last supper, the institution of communion to remember it, and the timing of Jesus� crucifixion corresponding to the sacrifice of the Passover lambs. Now a part of this clearly includes an aspect of God freeing His people from captivity, which I think is a central part of what Jesus is accomplishing on the cross. The Passover, though, also includes a protection from the pouring out of God�s wrath. The lamb is identified as a sacrifice (Exodus 12:27) whose blood keeps the destroyer from the Lord (Exodus 12:23) from entering and killing the firstborn son. It seems that a clear interpretation of this in Jesus would be that His blood keeps God�s wrath from being poured out on us as it will be on others who don�t have the covering of the blood.

Now I can see where you might argue that God was not pouring out wrath for the sins of the Israelites, so in that sense this isn�t a true substitutionary sacrifice. However, this still argues against those under Jesus� blood dying from wrath poured out by God as punishment for sin. I do agree that our flesh/sinful nature needs to die/be crucified, but I don�t think that it is by joining in the punishment/payment for our sin IWUC that kills it.

@Jeremy, regarding "mystery" and "mystical"--

I, too, am suspicious of appeals to mystery and to mysticism in theology. *However* I think you dropped something out of your discussion of Paul's usage that is important in the Ephesians "this is a great mystery" context.

Paul does, indeed, seem to be speaking of what was not apparent before Christ's First Advent, but was revealed in Christ's coming and the events of the Gospel. However, such things should be understood as matters of *special revelation*; that is, they were not accessible until Christ, and are not accessible except to those in Christ. There is a meaning of marriage which was not fully apparent until Christ appeared; and that meaning is, in that sense, supra-rational *though not, I think, irrational*. It could not be arrived at by reason, but it is not unreasonable once revealed.

Cheers,
PGE

Peter, assuming you mean a particular special revelation given to the apostles, then that was exactly what I meant. If it wasn't obvious in what I said, then my words failed to capture my intent. I do think the specific words of Jesus are part of this, and it need not be some private revelation to an apostle, but their understanding through the Holy Spirit is essential even to interpreting his words. I don't want to say that those who have the New Testament need some private revelation to make intellectual sense of these doctrines, though. Biblical scholars who are clearly not Christians have been able to do so, so it doesn't require special revelation in that sense now that we have the New Testament. Understanding them in a salvific way requires a work of the Spirit, but intellectual understanding simply requires reading the text without something interfering with understanding, and whatever original sin does it doesn't necessarily interfere with that, or nonbelievers would never be able to state what the Bible says.

Wink writes: "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."

I fail to see how "huper" does not carry the substitutionary strength of "anti." If I pay your dinner bill "huper" you, or "on your behalf," or "for your sake," you do not participate one bit in paying the bill. There certainly is an element of "union" there, because the restaurant agrees to treat me as though I were you (you and I are united in that sense), but that does not for one minute detract from the substitutionary aspect of my paying your bill. Your dichotomy here between "anti" and "huper" seems a bit arbitrary.

Second, your claim that "you never find Paul saying that Jesus dies instead of us on the Cross. Rather, you always hear him saying that we have died with Christ on the cross." This is simply not true. Paul says BOTH. "He was delivered over to death FOR (on "on account of," "dia" + acc., not "huper") OUR SINS, and was raised to life for our justification" (Rom 4.25). "While we were still sinners, Christ died 'huper' us" (Rom 5.8). These are not statements of our union with Christ - though Paul clearly includes that as an essential aspect of our salvation: covenantal "solidarity" with Christ.

Third, you haven't addressed that very notion - covenantal solidary between us and the two "Adams," found in Rom 5.12ff. That solidarity includes substitution (covenantal representation). Not addressing the implications of this text weakens your overall argument here.

Fourth, you have failed to address the Old Testament background for the sacrificial language of the New Testament. The slaughtered lamb on the Day of Atonement was clearly a penal substitution.

I think you're bifurcating two things that must be held together: our covenantal union with Christ in past-historical terms is the BASIS OF his substitution for us; in present-existential terms, it is the MEANS BY which we take hold of our salvation, of which the substitutionary atonement is a vital part. Note I did not say ONLY part, or even PRIMARY part. That's another problem I see in your argument. The substitutionary model isn't intended to, nor does it necessarily compete with other aspects of salvation (e.g., mystical union). You've got a false either/or going here.

Anyway, thanks for the stimulating read...

Cary - great point about the Passover. I confess that I don't have a complete answer to it beyond what you (graciously) provide for me. More thoughts about substitution and its incompatability with union can be found in my post on What Substitution do I Deny?

Brian M - I fail to see how "huper" does not carry the substitutionary strength of "anti." If I pay your dinner bill "huper" you, or "on your behalf," or "for your sake," you do not participate one bit in paying the bill.

In that example, that would indeed be substitutionary. As I tried to note, "huper" can carry substitutional force. But it need not. For example, if I go shopping for ("for your sake") you, you can also come with me. This use of "huper" is perfectly compatible with union. This line of reasoning also hold true for the "dia" + acc you qoute in Rom 4:25.

Your dichotomy here between "anti" and "huper" seems a bit arbitrary.

I only mentioned "huper" and "anti" because many big names who hold to Penal Substitution make a very big deal about this distinction, and thus it would be unscholarly for me not to discuss it. The distinction didn't start with me. ;)

Third, you haven't addressed that very notion - covenantal solidary between us and the two "Adams," found in Rom 5.12ff. That solidarity includes substitution (covenantal representation).

I don't at all see how Rom 5 demands substitution. I feel that "covenental representation" is too weak a term (I don't deny the "covenental", I just think that mere "representaion" does not nearly capture what is going on there. I prefer "mystical/spiritual union" to describe the relationship between us and the the second Adam.

Fourth, you have failed to address the Old Testament background for the sacrificial language of the New Testament. The slaughtered lamb on the Day of Atonement was clearly a penal substitution.

As I've noted elsewhere, I think that the Israelites were meant to see themselves in union, not substitution, with the slaughtered goat on the Day of Atonement. It may have been misunderstood as substitution, but I think that it was meant to be understood as union.

You've got a false either/or going here.

Well, I think that logic demands that there is an either/or going on here. Either we are punished in Christ, or we aren't. I don't see how it can be both.

Adrian - I cannot accept...any sense in which we share in Christs punishment...We get let off the hook and are not punished.

I think that you more than anyone else in this discussion understand why Union and Substitution are mututally exclusive. You have hit upon the crucial issue. Below, I'll try to show how what I say is compatable with Rom 3.

But first: I believe we are united with Christ, but remain distinct

I would like to take this moment to point out that I believe this too, in case anyone thought that by "union" I was denying distinction from Christ.

Now, regarding Rom 3. You claim that "any sense in which we share in Christs punishment [cannot be] biblical and consistent with Romans 3." Then you go on to quote Rom 3:23-26. The only thing that possibly counts as "we are not punished in Christ" is Rom 3:25 "in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins."

However, to my best understanding, this verse is not saying that we are not punished. This verse is saying that historically, God in His forebearance waited to punish sin until the time of Christ. If He did not do so, then there would have been no hope for OT saints. (Note: I held this interpretation as one who held to Penal Sub long before I became convinced of Penal Union.)

This interpretation fits with Penal Union as the OT saints (nor anyone else) could not [ed. note: you forgot the 'not'] survive the punishment without being joined to Christ. So God mercifully held back his wrath on these "former sins" until Christ was crucified/punished, and we (and the OT saints) were then punished with Him.

That interpretation of Romans 3:25 is probably the most common among those who hold to penal substitution.

you forgot the 'not'

*ooops*

That interpretation of Romans 3:25 is probably the most common among those who hold to penal substitution.

That's what I thought. But if that's the case, then I don't understand Adrian's argument at all. How does Rom 3 demand the denial of "any sense in which we share in Christs punishment"

Dear wink and all

Is there not substitution as christ is substitute for adam. Contending as you seem to for the Alexandrian christological point that Christ assumed humanity in general and not a human. Therefore the whole of humanity is represented in Christ by his becoming flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone. We are then summed up in our union with christ.

Secoundly, I feel that the idea of reconcilation must be the key point of the atonement. Does the atonement cause forgiveness or does it presuppose it.

Thirdly, if reconcilation is the key model bearing the Wrath of God must be part but not the whole of it. How does christ affect an ontological change in humanity. viz torrances arguement for the vicarious humanity of Christ

Forthly, Would you contend that judgement is ultimately rebutive of restorative. To use Barth language is there a Yes hidden in Gods No to us that is revealed in the cross. Or is the cross a rearangement as of the divine atributes. I.e. as if Mercy and justice were in oposition.

Richard

Richard, would that be penal substitution? Wink doesn't deny substitution. He just thinks that whatever substitution went on wasn't penal, and whatever went on that was penal wasn't substitution.

I don't see how penal union requires saying "Christ assumed humanity in general and not a human". That seems to be a particular view about the incarnation, not at all what Wink is talking about. He's talking about what Christ assumed on the cross, not at the incarnation. Also, only those who are in Christ were actually united with him in his death and resurrection.

How could the atonement presuppose forgiveness? It wouldn't be necessary if forgiveness were already present, and Paul quite clearly states that Christ died while we were still his enemies.

I'm not sure why you need a key model. Penal union involves satisfaction of God's wrath and reconciliation. Why does one need to be labeled "key"? Both were accomplished. Both were intended from the outset.

The fourth issue has come up in subsequent posts. Most people in the discussion seemed to agree that punishment could be both retributive and restorative at once but that some acts of punishment are only retributive. If something is only restorative, it doesn't seem right to call it punishment (or at least it's not just punishment).

Maybe Wink has more to say about your comments and questions, but these are my initial thoughts on them.

The theology of the incarnation and atonement are Intimately intertwined. Christ was made sin for us by taking our sinful humanity. Or as barth said coming to our far of country.

The at-one-ment has to be the transformation of the nature of man not just his moral standing before God. Christ by assuming humnity in general reconciles us ontologicaly with God.

Richard

ps-the differance between christ assuming humanity in genral is the differenca between nestorianism and orthodoxy.

I'm not sure it's a good idea to derive your theology from the apparent etymology of a particular English word used in theological discussions. Shouldn't we be focusing on the Hebrew and Greek words used in scripture?

I think many would say that the atonement depends on the incarnation, but I don't see how the incarnation is sufficient for atonement, which is what would have to be the case if Christ's merely assuming humanity is going to reconcile us with God. Of course, it also raises the issue of why he had to die.

What Nestorius was falsely accused of was that Christ was two persons in one. I'm not sure how that relates to this.

I am totally new to blogs so please bear with me. Where does this post from Wink come from? I have a big interest the debates surrounding justification and the New Finish interpretation of Luther and I would be interested in reading what Wink would have to say on those issues in light of his discussions of union and the atonement.

The post came from Wink. He wrote it and posted it here. He's working on a much longer thesis on the topic, but it's not published or even close to being done as far as I know. Chances are he's not going to like revisionist notions of justification, because he holds very strongly to a forensic/penal view of justification itself, but I know nothing about this Finnish (I assume that's what you meant) view you're talking about. Maybe he'll comment himself if he does know anything about it.

Well there are various debates around justification. It is not really the New Perspective views such as Dunn and Wright that I am thinking of. I am more thinking of the debate between Gundry and Piper and the resulting discussion. This discussion is highly relevent to Wink's comments.

Thanks for correcting my typing blunder. I did mean "Finnish." The New Finnish interpretation of Luther suggests that within Luther's writings there is the idea that Christ really is present in faith. This has implications for Luther's understanding of justification and some have wanted to make it a basis of bringing Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox people together.

Keith - I'm just now getting around to reading "Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther" edited by Braaten and Jenson. I haven't heard about the debate between Gundry and Piper on the topic. Can you point me to some resources/intervies/books/article on their debate.

It is quite possible that the Finnish interpretation of Luther is highly relevant to my thesis, but I haven't read enough yet to know for certain. If you can recommend appropriate works for me to read on the subject, I'd very much appreciate it.

Thanks for the reply Wink. On the Piper/Gundry debate read "Justification" edited by Husbands and Treier (I can't recall the subtitle, but I can look it up if you need it). You might also find Richard Gaffin's "The Centrality of the Resurrection" interesting because Gaffin sees the center of Pauline soteriology being union with the resurrected Christ which has several facets. Thus, for him justification is a fact of being joined to the resurrected Christ (although it is the primary one).

As far as the New Finnish interpretation I was more hoping to hear your thoughts becaue I have only read a few things on it.

I have some comments you mind find interesting but I will write it in a separate comment after this one since I am not sure how long each comment can be. I will also set forth some of the issues surrounding justification that you might find interesting.

Let me suggest to some modifications regarding the traditional Reformed understanding of justification that you might find interesting (justification and atonement are always intertwined).

The traditional view sees justification occuring at the time of faith where our sins are imputed to Christ and his righteousness is imputed to us. By "his righteousness" is generally meant Christ's so called "active obedience" of obeying the law and God. So roughly, Christ's passive obedience (death on the cross) took care of our sin while his active obedience (fulfillment of the law) can be given to us to put us in a positive standing. The resurrection becomes something to verify that God accepted Christ's death or something like that. One charge always brought against this view is of course the charge of "legal fiction" and this seems to be a big part of your motivation although I may be wrong. Another major weakness seems to be that there resurrection is not given a major role.

The major problem with the traditional view to me is that it seems to treat the "righteousness of Christ" as a distinct benefit that can be given to me. It is almost like merit that can be stuck into my account. Rather I believe that Christ himself is our righteousness. I don't think that when I express faith God credits the righteousness of Christ to me as some distinct substance and then he declares me righteous but rather Christ crucified and risen himself is the verdict in my favor, which I must grasp by faith.

Thus, the resurrection is necessary not just to validate the death of Jesus, but because the resurrection is the very verdict of justification.

Please feel free to comment or ask for clarification and in my next comment I will add some further dimensions to what I have set forth and raise some questions about your model.

I belive that righteousness language stems from a creation conext. Righteousness language has to do with God, the creator, restoring the creation order which includes God's relationship with the creatures and God's right to be God. For Paul there is a two party judicial contention. God has a contention with sinful man. See Romans 1 and particularly the failure of man to give God his due as creator. See also statements like Rom. 3:4 and 3:26 about the justification of God.

Now I believe that the nature of faith is determined by its object of Christ crucified and risen. Thus, the contention is objectively resoleved in Christ crucified and risen, but subjectively it is resolved in faith. Faith mirrors the cross in that in faith we say that God is righteous and we are not and that only he can justify and in doing so we acknowledge God as creator (I can back this up exegetically if need be).

Thus, it is no legal fiction. The verdict of justification rendered in Christ is preached and it creates faith. The verdict is indeed effective.

My next comments will relate my suggestions to your proposal and comment on your proposal.

Keith - just so you know, you can make your comments as long as you like.

Thanks for the reading suggestions. I'll have to pick some of those up.

As for your comments, I'll wait till you've finished them before responding.

Thus, I believe we avoid the charge of legal fiction in two ways without your proposal.
1. We are not given some merit Christ earned that is placed into our bank account and then announced righteous. But rather the verdict has been rendered in Christ crucified and risen and we lay hold of this verdict by faith.
2. This verdict is an effective verdict. God is no mere judge, but rather he effects reality. The preachign of Christ crucified and risen creates faith (2 Cor. 4:6).

I would see Jesus as substitute but more in a corporate sense, which benefits us nothing unless we grasp Christ by faith. Your issue about 1 Cor. 15 in a previous e-mail seems like the consideration that leads Calvinists to adopt limited atonement. The solution seems to be that we need to think of more of a corporate sense but that it does not benefit us unless we are joined to Christ. One of my profs' disseration is on the atonement in Calvin arguing that the place of union allows Calvin to see a penal substitionary unlimited atonement.

As far as your arguments about how there are no unambigious passages about substition, it would seem to me that you should do intense Greek homework since you admit you are no Greek scholars and you have some real heavyweights with dissenting opinions. Moreover, D.A. Carson has made an excellent point regarding the discourse of systematic theologians and biblical scholars. He uses the examples of sanctification and reconciliation. I am more familiar with sanctification so I will use that one. Strictly speaking, NT scholarship seems to say that sanctification is a one time event and not a progressive think (see for example David Peterson) and yet the way systematic theologians talk of sanctification is valid as a concept because it does capture other ideas that the NT talks about in different ways. There are ideas in the NT about growth as a Christian and so forth that does match the way systematic theologians speak of sanctification. My point would be, even if you can't find a clearcut passage expresing substition, are not theologians possible properly describing what is going on in the Bible. I say this, because I don't see how Christians can be said to literally bear the wrath of God. How do we participate in bearing the wrath of God? I can't see how that can be the case and so even if I couldn't find an exact passage saying substition I would have to say that the idea of substition is a proper way of explaining what is going on in the NT.

I also have one question. Is a person justified when they are first joined to Christ or later? You say that the union grows and grows but how much do we have to be joined before we are justified?

I have some further comments, but I need to look something up quickly.

I had a quote that I was looking for from Mark Seifrid from Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. The idea was that I don't think that your notion of union fits well with the Pauline indicative and imperative. I can't get to it now because it is in my bedroom and my wife is sleeping.

I just realized that you don't take a clear position on hell and so maybe that would open up avenues for seeing how we can bear the wrath also in union with Christ. Even if one were an annihilationist, how could we experience that in union with Christ?

Why is Christ's death and resurrection necessary? Could not God just send His Spirit to work in some sort of internal transformation in us burning off the bad stuff. If Christ did not objectively accomplish something that we don't experience in union, then why the death and union instead of God just effecting some work in us?

As a final comment, it seems that in your scheme that justifiction should be seen in degrees as well in accordance to our degree of mystical union with Christ. If this is the case then it seems to end up with a similar result to Catholicism and that justification can grow and is dependent upon infused righteousness.

Without some model like what I am suggesting or the traditional Reformed position, how can Paul say that we HAVE peace with God (also justification statements in the past tense)? If we are still growing in mystical union and sin is being burned off, then I have trouble seeing how we can have peace with God and it seems to me that any answer you could give would then be as open to the charge of "legal fiction" as my position.

My wife is up and so I got the article I wanted. In the "in Christ" article from Dictionary of Paul and His Letters Mark Seifrid critiques the idea of a quasi-physical image of union with Christ. His remarks seem relevant to your thesis as well.

He says that Paul derives his imperatives from what God has accomplished in Christ. So he tells the Corinthians, "Clean out the old leaven, that you might be a new lump of dough, just as you are unleavened" (1 Cor. 5:7). He also mentions Eph. 5:8. Notice the paradoxical nature of the command. They are unleavened but they are to clean out the old leaven. If they are unleavened then why clean out the old leaven? The key is that they are unleavened because of what Christ has done in a "positional" sense. Paul does not speak of a process of becoming unleavened. The same goes with the way Paul speaks of light in Eph. 5:8. He does not speak of a process of becoming light. They are light in the Lord. The paradoxical nature of these commands only make sense if there is some sort of "positional" sense in which we stand righteous because of Christ. And the only way we could have a sort of "positional" sense needs to be some sort of penal substitutionary view.

I would like to say that I really appreciate your recognition of union with Christ though. It is indeed very relevant to discussions of soteriology and has been undervalued but is now being recongized as very important. So I hope I have not been too harsh.

Keith, I would say that you should not only feel free to leave longer comments, but I would request that you do so rather than leave lots of little ones right after each other. It makes it much easier for us to see what the most recent comments are if they aren't all from one person on one post.

I'm not sure Wink's notion of mystical union with Christ admits of degrees. My impression is that it doesn't. You either have it or don't. You may be confusing it with a genuine mystical notion. This is why he doesn't like the term 'mystical' but merely uses it because others do. What he means is a real metaphysical union, not the subjective sense of a union. The former, I would imagine,- is all or nothing. The latter might admit of degrees.

I think you've misunderstood Carson and Peterson on sanctification. Systematic theologians tend to call the past elements of salvation justification, the present elements sanctification, and the future elements glorification. Carson and Peterson recognize that the biblical language doesn't reduce things to such an artificial classification. Each of the three terms, biblically, has a past, a present, and a future. In the case of sanctification we were sanctified at regeneration. We were made holy in some important sense. Yet our being made holy did not make us fully holy in the sense of living holy lives, and we are being sanctified as our lives become more holy with the work of the Holy Spirit. In the final consummation, we will be fully made holy. These are all biblical uses of the terms for sanctification.

Peterson's main thesis is that the most common uses of sanctification terms in the NT refer to the past sense of sanctification. That doesn't mean he or Carson would believe there is no ongoing sanctification or no future sanctification. Carson, for instance, considers that view to be one of the heresies confronted in I John, and I'm sure Peterson would agree with him, though I haven't looked at his book in detail yet. I know it's not the view he's arguing for, anyway.

Sorry for leaving so many comments. I will try not to in the future. Peterson is arguing that sanctification in biblical language refers to what systematic theologians referred to as "positional" sanctification. For Peterson it is not progressive. In other words, sanctification is an event which confers a "status" of one who has been set apart for God. Peterson believes that "transformation, renewal, and growth" come from different terminology. As far as Carson's comments see the "Justification" book edited by Husbands and Treier where he makes the comments that strictly speaking the NT language usage on sanctification and reconciliation does not exactly fit the way systematic theologians use the language.

I am not quite sure what the relevance of 1 John is since Peterson is not saying that we have some sort of complete sanctification like Wesley or anything like that. He is saying that sanctification is what systematic theologians (ST) call "positional santification." And what ST describe as progressive elements of sanctification really falls under the domain of regeneration, renewal, and other terms. Peterson does also think there is a future sanctification. but then again there is a future dimension to justification as well. In other words people have often used the idea of "be what you are." We have been "declared righteous" and so therefore we are to live like a righteous person. We have been given the status of set apart and thus we are to live like those set apart. Sanctification has a "status" like the "status" of being righteous. It is like sonship language. We are sons of God and therefore are to act like sons of God. We don't progressively grow as sons.

As far as Wink, under justification/sanctification he says that "we are being further united to Christ." This gives me the idea that he indeed sees degrees of participation. I could still make my point in another way even if there were no degrees. Clear there are degrees in terms of burning off our sin and bearing God's wrath. If this is the case, then how can we be said to HAVE peace with God in the present and how can justification be past tense? I surely, can't have peace with God now if my sin still remains and I am still under God's wrath can I? At least it doesn't seem possible without a penal substitionary atonement. If it is, then how?

Wink doesn't believe our sin remains or that we're still under God's wrath. That was removed when that aspect of us died with Christ. That wasn't resurrected with us. Penal union handles that as well as penal substitution. If it's resurrected with us at all, even if only some of it is, then we're not saved. If it's not resurrected with us, then salvation is possible. That's why the resurrection is crucial and the cross not sufficient for salvation. The result is an all-or-nothing categorization between the saved and the unsaved.

As for Peterson, Carson describes his book in the introduction (p.7) as arguing "that much of the New Testament treatment of sanctification stresses what used to be called 'positional sanctification' or the like". Carson intends to convey the sense that Peterson doesn't think this is the only New Testament usage of santification terms, just the primary one. I know Carson doesn't think it's the only NT usage. I've seen references by Carson to Peterson's book in a number of places, and he always says that the NT has different senses of santification, with positional as the primary one. Definitive or positional sanctification is foundational. That doesn't mean sanctification reduces to merely that.

In his summary of conclusions in the closing chapter of his book (on pp.136-137), Peterson says this explicitly himself. He says that santification is primarily positional. He admits that Paul speaks of a final consummation of sanctification in the future, something not attained now. He says that language of renewal, transformation, and growth is the more regular way the NT talks of what theologians have called progressive sanctification, but his language suggests that he doesn't think there's no sanctification language describing this process. After all, we are to seek a lifestyle of holiness.

"It would be more accurate to say that renewal and change flow from the regeneration and sanctifiation that God has already accomplished in our lives." (Peterson 136)

"Instead of speaking in terms of progressive sanctification, the New Testament more regularly employs the language of renewal, transformation and growth, to describe what is going on here and now." (Peterson 136)

"Some contemporary scholars go much further, and argue that all or at least almost all Pauline references to holiness/sanctification belong to this "positional" or "definitional" category." (Carson, Justification 48)

"In other words, he is talking about sanctification without deploying the hagios or kadosh words groups (the original quote contains actual Greek and Hebrew)." (Carson, 49)

"So the scholar deeply committed to exgetical rigor might well insist that Paul never, or rarely, talks about sanctification in a progressive sense; the systematician, by contrast, might lecture for a long time, and very faithfully, about Pauline teaching on sanctification." (Carson, 49)

Peterson's comments do seem that maybe he is open to something progressive regarding sanctification, but it seems to me that in his actual exegesis there are really no passages treated in that manner. Yes, we are told to seek a holy lifestyle, but that is just my point. We are to seek a holy lifestyle, because in status we are holy. Just as we are sons in status and are thus to seek to live as sons. By far Peterson regards the progressive aspects as attributed to other language such as renewal.

As for Wink, if our sin does not remain and we are not under God's wrath, then when did I experience God's wrath and when was my sin removed literally? How did I literally experience those things? If I did not literally experience those things then it seems that there has to be some penal substitionary aspect to the atonement.

Quotes from Wink:

"My second response to this is to say that the only thing we do on the cross is die. Dying isn't a work. Dying isn't something you do, it is something that happens to you."

"Third, I would like to point out that it is no hard thing to pay for your own sins. Everybody is capable of paying for their own sins. Every adherent to Penal Substitution who is not a universalist should be agreeing with me here: all who die apart from Christ pay for their own sins by dying (and going to hell, for those who believe in hell). Paying for sins is easy, you just have to die. You don't have to be God to pay for sins. The hard part about paying for your sins is surviving to tell the tale. It is only those who have been united with Christ who can do so."

"God burns away our sins like a crucible purifies gold."

It seems like Wink sees the dying with Christ as a continual thing and that the sins are being burned away even now and will end in our physical death, but then our life with Christ will remain. It seems like we keep paying for our sins now, but only "we live to tell the tale."

Sorry to make another comment. If Wink does not see some contiual, progressive thing, then I am not sure how he differs from a penal substitution view. I don't remember physically dying with Christ on the cross. It is not some literal experience I had. Now maybe Wink wants something stronger than God reckoning it the case that I was there or something like that. But the fact that I didn't literally and physically bear the wrath of God on the cross seems to mean that Christ indeed took something that I did not experience and that to me consitutes substitution.

It seems like Wink sees the dying with Christ as a continual thing and that the sins are being burned away even now and will end in our physical death, but then our life with Christ will remain. It seems like we keep paying for our sins now, but only "we live to tell the tale."

No, that's not his view at all. Nothing you said in the section I just quoted follows from the quotes you give from him. We died with Christ on the cross. That already happened. If you associate it with any event in our conscious life, it would be the moment of regeneration, which is an event after which we are saved and not something that coincides with the whole of Christian life.

OK, so maybe I died with Christ on the cross. But then am I not spared the conscious experience of the wrath of God? Christ bore the conscious experience of the wrath of God for me then. Then it would seem on Wink's view we would need to say that at least Christ was my penal substitute in bearing the conscious experience of the wrath of God for me.

If this is not what Wink is saying, then when did I or will I experience the conscious experience of the wrath of God? If I never had or never will, then how did I avoid it? If I consciously experienced the wrath of God already, then why I don't I remember the conscious experience?

I would also like Wink to comment himself as to whether I have misread his argument regarding the continual nature of our dying and burning off sin.

I think you're assuming that you need to experience everything that happens to you in a conscious way. He's not assuming that, and I wouldn't either. If my nature was with his on the cross, and it died insofar as it was sinful and continued on purified in resurrected form insofar as it is in the image of God, I don't know why I would need to experience that in a conscious, subjective way. I know he doesn't believe that we have that experience because that's one of the few ways he admits Christ substituted for us, in having the experience that we don't consciously have. Here is a quote from him in the comments above:

Clearly. I will grant that we were not on the cross physically, nor did we experience the crucifixion. If you insist, we can call those substitutionary. However, that is not Penal Sustitution. Those may be physical substitution and experiential substitution, but neither of those is the substitution of penalty.

I don't think I need to experience everything that happens to me in a conscious way. Isn't part of the penalty of sin the actual conscious experience of wrath? Did I really experience the FULL penalty if I didn't consciously experience it? Wasn't I spared some negative consequence that I deserved because of my sin?

Well, the rest of the quote is this:

Penal Substitution demands substitution of Penalty. His death instead of our death. That is in direct conflict with Our death together with His death. Penal Substitution demands that we are not participating in the payment of the penalty (for Christ is doing that instead of us). Penal Union demands that we are participating in said payment.

If he has more to add, then I'm sure he will, but this is what he said when I raised this issue before. I'm sure he hasn't changed his mind, but maybe he has more to say against your way of putting it.

I hope that you haven't taken any offense by anything I have said regarding either Wink or Peterson/Carson. I think I am basically in agreement with you and it is more semantic than anything else. Also, I appreciate your comments regarding Wink's views as I don't know that I am far different from Wink's views as you have explained. But I would have the one last caveat in my last post that still makes me think that penal substition is valid way of saying things at least in that sense.

I don't have time to sort through all the previous posts so could you tell me what sort of ontology or metaphysics Wink sees involved in our participation with Christ on the cross?

Sorry to post a separate comment, but I had another question come to mind. If we indeed did die with Christ on the cross in the sense that Wink means, then why do I still sin?

That last question reduces to a similar question asked of someone who believes in penal substitution. If Christ took away my sin, then why do I still sin? Both accounts have our sin removed in the end. Both accounts have us still sinning. The question boils down to the same thing.

On a penal subsitution view Christ bore the penalty of sin for us, but it will not be a reality in us until consummation. I think Wink has more trouble dealing with it with his view. The distinction would be like the separation of a verdict from the carrying out of the verdict. A judge pronounces the verdict of not guilty, but the carrying out of the verdict is physically being released from prison. The verdict has been announced in Christ's resurrection, but we wait for that verdict to be carried out in our own physical resurrection. I don't think Wink can make that distinction since for Wink, we were physically with Christ.

Isn't there still a distinction between cause and effect? The cause has already occurred, but the effect is still in the process of working itself out. The same is true of Peterson's account of sanctification. It doesn't undermine the already-ness of sanctification that it still needs to be worked out in our lives as we approach the holiness that's already true of us.

I can grant the idea of cause and effect distinction to some degree, but I don't think it can be combined with Wink's view. In a Penal Substitution view the cause is the death and resurrection of Christ, but the effect is ultimately our physical resurrection. If I was physically with Christ as Wink suggests, then in what sense do I still need to be physically resurrected? For Wink, what a Penal Substitution view would call the effect has already come about in the very death and resurrection of Christ since we were physically there already. In other words, I don't think Wink has any room for a not yet? While the Penal Substitution view can see an already and a not yet. Incidently, this is why I originally read Wink as thinking that things were progressive, because otherwise I saw no room for a not yet.

As far as Peterson goes, he seems to be saying that sanctification terms refer to past tense as an event of being set apart, present tense in terms of a status in which we are to try and live worthy of, and future tense in terms of what happens in us. Maybe this will help. Typically systematic theologians (ST) see sanctification as involving some sort of inward renewal. Peterson seems to be saying that those sorts of terms refer to renewal language and sorts. As a construct the way ST understand sanctification is correct, but as far as terminology goes, they are really combining renewal language with sanctification language. This really isn't important. I merely introduced Peterson as an analogy. The end result is that we end up with the same doctrine. Only I see it under two domains of renewal ideas and sanctification while you seem to think all of it to some degree can be seen under sanctification. Not very important in my mind, but hey scholars exsist to make distinctions I guess!

I am going to think out loud here and so forgive me if I say anything heretical or plain dumb.

With the Trinity we see three persons and one essence. Some have likened this to the one essence of humanity and many persons.

Could it be that Christ took on the essence of humanity and in that sense when Christ died I too died? But the reality is that me as a person was not present with Christ on the cross. Thus, there is a substitution in the sense that I as a person did not experience the cross. But in that the essence of sinful humanity died with Christ on the cross, I too died. Thus, we can hold to an already and not yet. The already is found in the common sinful human essence that died with Christ, but the not yet is that it still is a future experience for it to be carried out in my person. In this understanding it still seems to be appropriate to say that Penal Substitution is a valid way of saying things because in my person I didn't experience the wrath of God. But it is more realistic than God merely reckoning I was there. For I was there in the sense of the common essence of sinful humanity. And of course the key for me is faith. Faith connects the death and resurrection of Christ and my participation in my person in the future.

Again, I am talking out loud.

Jeremy, thanks for the dialogue. For quite awhile now I have appreciated the place of union in relation justification and I have realized that my new understandings would involve some modification on my understanding of the atonement. Yet I have never actually taken the time to try and think through what it might mean for my view of the atonement. So this has been very helpful!

Sorry to have been so absent from the conversation. I've been out running errands. And now I have to run off to the library to do research for a paper. I'll rejoin the conversation as soon as I can--probably after dinner.

Good conversation though. Jeremy understands me very well, though I do have a few things to add.

Since you have read these comments, Wink, and intend to reply sometime, I was wondering if you could clear up another quote which seems to imply something progressive.

Wink:
"IWUC, we are sanctified. Inasmuch as we are Not united with Christ, we are being further united with Christ, and thus we are being sanctified."

In what sense do we still need to be further united with Christ? Why is it proper to say we are being sanctified while not proper to say we are being justified since both depend equally upon our union with Christ?

You have to keep in mind that 'justified' is ambiguous, in both Greek and English, between "declared righteous" and "made righteous". Protestants have historically declared that the former comes at salvation and the latter throughout the Christian life. [Catholics, as it turns out, believe very close to the same thing, but that wasn't clear until the Catholic-Lutheran discussions within the last ten years, but that's for another post.]

My GRAMMCORD is down, can anybody do a search regarding "justification" language? Does it ever appear in the present or imperfect tense? Or is it always in the perfect and aorist? If always in the perfect and aorist, it seems hard for me to see it as a lifelong process. It seems to me that Protestants have historially read it as "declared righteous" and the latter they have called sanctification and not justification. The main protestants that I can think of that would see it otherwise would be something like Stuhlmacher.

As a caveat to my previous statement, it would seem hard for me, but not impossible if all the references are in the perfect and aorist. I acknowledge the possibility because of various issues surrounding the aorist tense, but it would seem strange to me that we find no perfect or imperfect uses.

It's present tense in James 2:24.

Do you think that the Protestants and Catholics are really close to each other on justification? If you do, then this may be a reason you have less of a problem with Wink's view than myself. Also, do you know of any other present or imperfect examples?

Plus, the existence of a present tense can still portray something other than something progressive. In fact verses 23 and 25 seem to point to a non progressive or continual understanding of the present tense in 24 since reckoned and called are aorists and in verse 25 it says, "when she received" (NASB), which seems to point to a point in time. Of course the "when she received" is an interpretive decision on the participle and could possible be something like "by receiving" but I don't feel like looking at the Greek now.

I am also fairly confident that historically protestants have wanted to call the "declared righteous" part justification and any sense of being made righteous as "sanctification." Again, if you depart from this and side closer with Catholics, then it seems that it could explain why you might be more positive towards Wink's view.

Actually I overlooked the most obvious issue regarding James 2:24. It is probably most likely a gnomic use of the present tense.

According to a recent Catholic declaration, the heresy they had condemned as Lutheranism turns out not to be Lutheranism after all. Luther wasn't a heretic, they now say, though the view they had condemned is a heresy. He just didn't hold it. They now understand Protestants to be using the word 'justification' the way Paul does, and they believe they've been using it all along the way James does.

Joseph Fitzmyer's commentary on Romans and Luke Timothy Johnson's commentary on James are both by Catholics in this new school, and both argue that Paul and James are consistent with each other, just using language different ways. Fitzmyer's interpretation of Paul is remarkably similar to historic Protestant ones, and Johnson's defense of James and Paul's consistency also sounds very Protestant.

The cardinals saw all this and discovered that they'd just been using terms in ways that aren't the primary ways they've been used in scripture, thus realizing that they don't disagree with Luther all that much after all. This was a truly historic document, one the Pope signed, and I think it will be his legacy in the long run far more than any of the stuff they're talking about 24 hours a day on the news right now. I was hoping to do a post on this tomorrow if I get time.

So then have the Catholics changed from seeing justification including a lifelong process of being made righteous?

If I remember right I have read a number of Evangelical articles arguing that the Lutheran-Catholic discussions have merely masked the issues. It seems that the Piper-Gundry debate may have some connection to this issue as well. I may be wrong though.

I believe some of the Lutherans involved with this dialogue may have tried to mask the issues with relativistic language, but I don't think it's a fair charge to say the Catholic contributors to the discussion did so. They were genuinely convinced by their thelogians' work that had gone back to the Bible to examine Protestant teachings in light of Paul rather than in light of traditional Catholic interpretations of Protestant language. The language of the document itself is what I described in my previous comment, regardless of the motivations of the people involved.

I find it hard to believe people like Cardinal Ratzinger would approve of relativistic smoothing over of differences. I hate to say this, but I even wondered if some of the critics probably just didn't understand the point the Catholic theologians were making due to being not philosophically acute enough to follow the discussion and just labeled it weaseling out via word games. I say this because some of them are the same people who said the same thing about John Kerry regardless of whether he was doing exactly that or whether he had a genuinely nuanced position, both of which he did at different times and with different issues.

I agree that there has been some definite movement in terms of Catholic commentators such as Fitzmeyer and Luke Timothy Johnson, but there have been a number of evangelical scholars and theologians who still think that issues were being masked in the Lutheran-Catholic discussions. I myself have never read the actual statements regarding Catholics and Lutherans, since it hasn't been that pressing for me to sort it out so I am merely going from the various articles I have glanced at. Anyway I seem to drag us onto far tangents!

If we're going to continue the Catholic discussion, I suggest we do it at my latest post unless it has direct relevance to penal union. That post raises this very issue, so further discussion on this topic can go there. This post is about penal union, and this is quite a detour from that.

Sorry for taking the posts on a tangent!

Wink, you had asked for some good resources regarding the New Finnish interpretation of Luther. See the Westminister Theological Journal 65 (2003). It has a collection of papers presented at an ETS conference in response to the book that you are reading on the New Finnish interpretation. I think you will find it very helpful and relevant to your ideas. There is just so much in what you say that reminds me of the New Finnish interpretation.

Wink, have you read Lewis B. Smedes work on union with Christ? If so, then how do you feel about his discussion and his categories? Also, how would you see your view in relation to his comments?

Holy Mackerel, you guys wrote a lot in the past day. Here's a mega-comment which attempts to answer all the questions raised in the last day.

Keith - First of all, thanks. I picked up "Justification" and "The Centrality of the Resurrection" today at the library.

Regarding "Legal Fiction". I didn't mean to attack Penal Substitution as necessarily being a legal fiction. I am well aware that a mature and robust version of PS does not fall prey to that charge. I don't remember the context in which I actually mentioned legal fiction, but I think that it was either in response to a weak defense of PS, or else just to say that PS, if not developed carefully, can fall prey to the charge even though it need not.

My point would be, even if you can't find a clearcut passage expressing substitution, are not theologians possible properly describing what is going on in the Bible. I say this, because I don't see how Christians can be said to literally bear the wrath of God. How do we participate in bearing the wrath of God? I can't see how that can be the case and so even if I couldn't find an exact passage saying substitution I would have to say that the idea of substitution is a proper way of explaining what is going on in the NT.

Two things here. First, I'll happily admit that there are doctrines that are true which are not explicitly stated in the Bible. The Trinity for example. However, you don't seem to put forth much of an argument as to why I should believe this particular non-explicitly-stated doctrine except that you can't see how it can be any other way.

Second, in regard to how we bear the wrath of God. Let me reiterate that we passively participate in the bearing of God's wrath in Christ. Let me also reiterate that bearing God's wrath = death. Thus, by dying in Christ, we have borne God's wrath in Christ. Union takes care of this idea neatly and substitution is not necessary.

I also have one question. Is a person justified when they are first joined to Christ or later? You say that the union grows and grows but how much do we have to be joined before we are justified?

We are justified and sanctified right from the beginning. Inasmuch as we are united with Christ, we are completely justified and sanctified. There is no progression or growth here. Our justification and sanctification do not admit of degrees. We are perfect in Christ. However, we are not yet completely united with Christ. It is fairly clear that the consummation of this union will not occur until the wedding supper of the lamb (Rev 19). Until then, our union with Christ has a now but not yet quality where our identity is in Christ and He is in us, yet in some way (that I don't really understand) our flesh is still alive in us as well.

Why do we continue to sin now that we have been united with Christ? How can we have peace with God if we still sin? It is not I who sin, but sin alive in me. Sin is now an alien thing within us, and our true selves are not sinning for our true selves are united with Christ and already sanctified.

Now in addition to saying that we have already been sanctified, Paul will often talk about not having been sanctified yet. I think that here he is switching word usage a bit. In these cases, I think that Paul is looking forward to the wedding supper of the lamb when our union will be fully consummated. But I think that IWUC, we are already sanctified.

Note: When Jeremy says "I'm not sure Wink's notion of mystical union with Christ admits of degrees. My impression is that it doesn't. You either have it or don't. You may be confusing it with a genuine mystical notion. This is why he doesn't like the term 'mystical' but merely uses it because others do. What he means is a real metaphysical union, not the subjective sense of a union. The former, I would imagine,- is all or nothing. The latter might admit of degrees." I totally agree. We either are united with Christ, or we aren't. But that union has a now but not yet quality to it. You may say that that admits to degrees, but that's not how I'd put it as that might imply that unbeliever might possibly have some marital union with Christ, just not enough. How I'd put it is that we either are maritally united to Christ, or we aren't. If we are united with Christ, that union has not yet reached its full consummation, but we are united nonetheless.

I just realized that you don't take a clear position on hell and so maybe that would open up avenues for seeing how we can bear the wrath also in union with Christ. Even if one were an annihilationist, how could we experience that in union with Christ?

I deliberately didn't take a clear view on Hell. I think that this model can support either view (Annihilationism or eternal suffering), and at any rate, as I feel that those two positions are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

As for how we bear the wrath of God, as I said before, we do so by dying in Christ.

As for Annihilationism, it seems patently obvious that the believer who is united with Christ is not annihilated. So it seems kind of a moot point.

Why is Christ's death and resurrection necessary? Could not God just send His Spirit to work in some sort of internal transformation in us burning off the bad stuff. If Christ did not objectively accomplish something that we don't experience in union, then why the death and union instead of God just effecting some work in us?

Why can't the Spirit just burn off the bad stuff? Because we are nothing but bad stuff! As Augustine says, we are naught but a mass of perdition. To simply burn off the bad stuff would be to obliterate us. Union with Christ is what saves us. Because Christ is in us (just as we are in Him), then we do have good in us: Him. When God burns away the bad in us (namely, us), what remains is Christ! It is no longer I who live, but Christ alive in me!

I would also like Wink to comment himself as to whether I have misread his argument regarding the continual nature of our dying and burning off sin.

You have indeed misread my argument regarding the continual nature of our dying and burning off sin. Jeremy has me right. Our death is a one-time past event. In our lives, that occurred at the moment of regeneration. As Jeremy quotes from me, I will admit that there is physical substitution and experiential substitution, just no substitution of penalty.

Isn't part of the penalty of sin the actual conscious experience of wrath? Did I really experience the FULL penalty if I didn't consciously experience it? Wasn't I spared some negative consequence that I deserved because of my sin?

I think that Romans is clear that the penalty/wages of sin is death, not the conscious suffering that is associated with death. If we have died in Christ, then the full penalty is paid. We may indeed be spared some negative consequences, but it is a fallacy to say that all negative consequences are part of the penalty. Furthermore, negative consequences (or any kind of consequence for that matter) are a matter of cause and effect, not a matter of desert. Punishment, wages, and reward are the proper object of desert.

If I was physically with Christ as Wink suggests, then in what sense do I still need to be physically resurrected?...I don't think Wink has any room for a not yet

No, no, no. We aren't physically united with Christ. We're metaphysically united with Christ. As I said before, I do admit to physical substitution. Thus there is still need for a future bodily resurrection and there is room preserved for the "not yet" of consummation.

What sort of ontology or metaphysics [do you see] in our participation with Christ on the cross?

We have a spiritual union with Christ. That spiritual union takes the form of a marital union or a perichoretic union. That is to say the two become one spirit (not flesh, as this is a spiritual union, not a physical one). [Eph 5]. This is a union without fusion, distinction without separation. The language of John 17 is appropriate--You in me and I in you.

Could it be that Christ took on the essence of humanity and in that sense when Christ died I too died? But the reality is that me as a person was not present with Christ on the cross. Thus, there is a substitution in the sense that I as a person did not experience the cross. But in that the essence of sinful humanity died with Christ on the cross, I too died. Thus, we can hold to an already and not yet. The already is found in the common sinful human essence that died with Christ, but the not yet is that it still is a future experience for it to be carried out in my person. In this understanding it still seems to be appropriate to say that Penal Substitution is a valid way of saying things because in my person I didn't experience the wrath of God. But it is more realistic than God merely reckoning I was there. For I was there in the sense of the common essence of sinful humanity. And of course the key for me is faith. Faith connects the death and resurrection of Christ and my participation in my person in the future.

You are getting close to where I'm at, but I still want to go further than this. Paul consistently talks of us dying in Christ or being crucified with Christ. And as I've noted before, death = penalty/wrath. So it is not enough to have an impersonal common essence of sinful humanity be united with Christ. Paul's language demands that we personally are united with Christ on the Cross. And this is indeed through faith via the Holy Spirit.

In what sense do we still need to be further united with Christ? Why is it proper to say we are being sanctified while not proper to say we are being justified since both depend equally upon our union with Christ?

The consummation of our union will not occur until the wedding supper of the lamb.

Wink, you had asked for some good resources regarding the New Finnish interpretation of Luther. See the Westminster Theological Journal 65 (2003).

Thanks. I'll look it up.

Wink, have you read Lewis B. Smedes work on union with Christ?

Nope, I haven't, but I'll look that up too. Thanks again.

Thanks for the detailed response! To some degree I don't find myself very far from you.

Wink:
"I deliberately didn't take a clear view on Hell. I think that this model can support either view (Annihilationism or eternal suffering), and at any rate, as I feel that those two positions are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

As for how we bear the wrath of God, as I said before, we do so by dying in Christ.

As for Annihilationism, it seems patently obvious that the believer who is united with Christ is not annihilated. So it seems kind of a moot point."

I don't feel like you have fully addressed my concern regarding the issue of hell. You suggest that it doesn't matter whether we choose annihilationism or eternal suffering. The second view is called "eternal suffering." If this view is correct, then "suffering" is an important aspect of the penalty of sin and of wrath. You suggest that the wages of sin is death and that is clearly true since it is essentially a direct quote from Paul, but what about the images traditionally used to support an eternal suffering from other passages in the Bible? If those are true, then surely suffering is an element and thus my "escape" of the suffering of the cross is indeed a penalty that I escaped by having a substitute. In fact on an eternal suffering view of hell, I escaped an eternal suffering because of the suffering of Christ!

At the moment, I would grant that you would be correct if one takes an annihilationist view (I would have to think about it more to be completely sure). Although if I remember right, some annihilationist views see some period of suffering before being annihilated and those views would seem to have the same issue for your view as the eternal suffering view.

I understand your point in response to my suggestion of an impersonal common essence of sinful humanity. So let me state my idea a bit more fully. There are three sort of realities:
1. The essence of sinful humanity being crucified with Christ on the cross.
2. Our physical death and physical resurrection.
3. This third aspect relates to "faith" and addresses the issue of a more personal aspect. In a Westminster Theological Journal I cited above written by Mark Seifrid he says, "According to Paul's perspective, Christ's work is not an isolated event of the past: in that it took place "for me," it embraces me, and thus creates my faith here and now." This is why I went into the discussion earlier of faith mirroring the cross. Faith is nothing other than the death and resurrection of Christ embracing us. I don't want to say it is a union of sustances, or "merely" fellowship, but I think it is a union with Christ and his work. Seifrid reads faith as the presence of Christ and I would agree (he has some good exegetical arguments). But, again, when we say "presence" we then have to spell out in more detail what we mean. Robert W. Jensen in the Westminster Journal comments on the Finnish research saying that one presupposition of Luther is that "as person, Christ is not in re distinct from his word, so that the sounding of Christ's word is his own personal advent." In a similar way, I believe that faith being a mirror image of the cross and resurrection is the presence of Christ.

As for your comments relating to most of my other arguments, they revolve around my misunderstanding of your position. I thank you for your forebearance! Again, Jeremy, thanks for your time in explaining Wink's position.

One area I would like to comment though. In response to my issue that one doesn't need an exact passage (although I don't think you have proven that none of the passages DO refer to penal substitution, but only that there is no sense that they MUST). You said I have given you no reason to think that penal substitution is a valid way of seeing things. But I do think I have provided a reason if my above comments regarding hell are correct.

All in all, I find myself very close to your position. My only hestitation would be that there was an element of penal substitution because I do regard suffering as part of the wages of sin (see above argument).

Thanks for the dialogue! It has helped me think through my position in more detail. As I said, I have been seeing a decent shift in my soteriology in terms of justification, but have never tried to work out the implications for atonement.

Oh sorry, there is one other issue I would like to address.

Keith:
"Why is Christ's death and resurrection necessary? Could not God just send His Spirit to work in some sort of internal transformation in us burning off the bad stuff. If Christ did not objectively accomplish something that we don't experience in union, then why the death and union instead of God just effecting some work in us?"

Wink:
"Why can't the Spirit just burn off the bad stuff? Because we are nothing but bad stuff! As Augustine says, we are naught but a mass of perdition. To simply burn off the bad stuff would be to obliterate us. Union with Christ is what saves us. Because Christ is in us (just as we are in Him), then we do have good in us: Him. When God burns away the bad in us (namely, us), what remains is Christ! It is no longer I who live, but Christ alive in me!"

Why can't God just send his Spirit, burn off the bad stuff, and leave his Spirit in us remaining? I am still having trouble fully understanding why your view doesn't make the cross somewhat unnecessary. I die so the penalty is paid for, but I continue to live because of the Spirit of God in me.

Actually, I have an even better way of stating my previous argument. Why could Jesus not come and live a perfect life, ascend into heaven, and then send the Spirit? Christ then dwells in me by the Spirit, I die and thus pay the penalty for sin and wrath, then I continue to live because of the Spirit in me. Now maybe I haven't totally shown why the cross would be unnecessary, but I think it is fair to say that its role would be minimized. But I am open to you showing me otherwise!

Sorry, Jeremy, for the multiple posts. I just have a better way of stating what I was thinking.

Keith, how is God's wrath appeased in the example you just gave?

I have some additional thoughts that I am a bit more hesitent on, but I will go ahead and throw them out for the sake of discussion.

1. I think we may need to think more carefully about what Paul means when he says, "The wages of sin is death." Does he merely mean by "death," the cessation of life? It seems to me that eternal life is not just neverending life but says something about the quality. Similarly, it would seem that "death" should have some additional meaning. Of course all this is probably in some way tied to Old Testament understandings of life and death. Very much related would be the Old Testament blessings and cursings attached to the covenant. Those were very much qualitative issues. I see these issues as supplementing my comments that other passages make suffering a part of hell.
2. Now this is just a feeling I get and so take it as that. I tend to feel that you read the "I have been crucified with Christ" language and are trying to put us back there with Christ on the cross through "mystical union." I on the other hand see the cross coming to me. Now, I think Moo is right and that to some degree we can't really talk about whether this sort of thing occured when Christ died or when we came to faith. But I do feel that your position "leans" towards trying to get us back there while my position "leans" towards getting the cross to me. For me the sense in which I was back there is largely through the common sinful essence of humanity being crucified, but the "I have been crucified with Christ" language refers to the cross embracing me now bringing me to judge myself as wholly sinful justifying God in his contention with me and proclaiming that he is the creator who justifies the ungodly. This is the very presence of Christ, for me it is a union with the work of Christ.

The first issue is my primary issue with your model while the second issue more fully explicates how I see myself differing from you and shows the very "personal" nature of union with Christ.

God's wrath is appeased because remember for Wink, penalty of sin = death. Thus, God's wrath is appeased with physical death. Wink's model argues that it is appeased with Christ on the cross through mystical union. But I am suggesting that on his presuppositions my own death would do. It seems to me that he has no answer since he thinks in terms of purely physical death.

Then you're misinterpeeting him, because he's talking about spiritual death. Remember that he acknowledges that Christ's death is a substitute for us when you're talking about physical death. That's just not penal, because the punishment isn't physical death.

Well, I would think that the penalty is physical and spiritual death and not just spiritual. But either way your point remains. I see what you are saying.

Wink says,
"Paying for sins is easy, you just have to die. You don't have to be God to pay for sins. The hard part about paying for your sins is surviving to tell the tale. It is only those who have been united with Christ who can do so."

This quote just gives me the sense that my problem isn't appeasing God's wrath, but rather my problem is surviving it. He says, "You just have to die" to pay for sins. I am honestly trying to understand here so maybe you can help me out.

In regards to the issue of suffering and the penalty of sin, I might even go further than merely saying that suffering is an "element" to the penalty of sin. It seems that it is a very central element. Again, I point to the Old Testament understanding of cursings and blessing connected to the covenant and just the general perspective of life and death. Some Old Testament scholars have talked of death and life being a sliding scale because qualitative aspects are prominent (but I am no OT expert and so will have to take their word for it). Furthermore, in other passages suffering seems to be a very important aspect of hell. Now my point would be that if Christ was a penal substitute in this manner, then there would not merely be a small penal substitutionary aspect to the atonement, but rather it would be a very central or primary aspect to it.

I would also like this to be seen in conjunction with my comment that Wink has not established that no passages refer to the Penal Substitution idea, but rather that the grammar and prepositions don't demand it. But I would suggest that this is not that big of a thing since form almost never totally determines function in Greek. It will still come down to interpretation of syntax.

I have some other mixed comments. I think a verse like Rom. 6:6 supports my idea that the main sense in which we died with Christ on the cross is "common essence of sinful humanity." See Moo on the corporate nature of the idea of "old self." It seems to me that NT commentators are in general consensus that "old man" and "new man" ideas are corporate ideas.

I would also suggest that my way of handling things makes for an easier understanding of 1 John 2:2 than your explanation on another post.

Finally, in some way I think the idea of realms (or spheres), powers, and ages needs to be taken into account. These are essential to Paul's thinking in Romans 5-8 (again see Moo). This is why I suggested reading Smedes. He identifies three categories and two of the three are transactional and situational. What I am suggesting is that we are focusing totally on the transactional and it may help to also take into account the situational ideas. I am not sure how this ties in exactly, but I just thought I would throw it out there.

Sorry, I got busy and didn't have time to comment. Here's another long comment responding to a whole bunch of comments.

Keith - Why can't God just [insert hypothetical model of atonement here]?

I've long held that God could have saved us any number of different ways. I am always skeptical of people who say that God needed to do [suchandsuch] in [suchandsuch manner] because it is/was the only possible way it could be done. People who say such things seriously underestimate the creativity of God. So as for your question of why God couldn't have done it some other way...well, He could have.

But that isn't really my point.

The point of the Penal Union model isn't that God needed to have done it this way, or that He couldn't have done it some other way. The point it is that, given what God actually did do, I think that Penal Union does the best job so far of describing the atonement. The Bible records the death and resurrection. It makes it clear that both the death and resurrection were integral to the way we were actually saved. And it frequently discusses our death and resurrection in Christ. Penal Union seems to me to be the best way of describing what historically happened.

So when I say things like "the resurrection is necessary for our salvation", I don't mean that all hypothetical models of the atonement require the resurrection. I mean that any model that describes the actual, historical atonement requires the resurrection.

I think we may need to think more carefully about what Paul means when he says, "The wages of sin is death." Does he merely mean by "death," the cessation of life?...I see these issues as supplementing my comments that other passages make suffering a part of hell.

First off, I didn't say that suffering wasn't a part of Hell. I'm just claiming that the suffering isn't per se part of the penalty for sin. While certain forms of death entail suffering (and however you conceive of eternal death in hell will usually entail quite a bit of suffering), it is by no means a given that all death entails suffering. It is my contention that the death we share in Christ is not one that entails suffering on our part.

Going back to the question of if Paul merely means the cessation of life when he says "death". I'm inclined to say "yes". Every penal theory I've come across sees any suffering involved as being a part (or an aspect) of the death. In no cases have I seen suffering as being a punishment in addition to death. But since death does not by necessity require suffering (take as an example the death of an organism with no nervous system), suffering is not an integral requirement of the punishment for sin.

you read the "I have been crucified with Christ" language and are trying to put us back there with Christ on the cross through "mystical union." I on the other hand see the cross coming to me.

Interesting idea. I don't think they contradict each other.

he thinks in terms of purely physical death.

Jeremy is right, you misunderstand. I am thinking primarily of a spiritual death, though I don't deny that we physically die as well. (Note: I don't think that we physically die in Christ. I think that we physically die on our own.)

This quote just gives me the sense that my problem isn't appeasing God's wrath, but rather my problem is surviving it. He says, "You just have to die" to pay for sins. I am honestly trying to understand here so maybe you can help me out.

I think that people spiritually die in Hell. Thus, to pay for you own sins, you need only go to Hell where you will spiritually die. Thus, we don't need Christ to pay for our sins per se. We can do so on our own--it just isn't at all pleasant. But if we are to go from death to life again, then we need to be united with one who has done just that. And that would be Christ.

Is that clearer? (Probably not.)

Now my point would be that if Christ was a penal substitute in this manner, then there would not merely be a small penal substitutionary aspect to the atonement, but rather it would be a very central or primary aspect to it.

If you are correct that suffering is indeed a central aspect of our punishment, then indeed the atonement would be, at least in some way, penal substitution. I currently remain unconvinced that suffering is a required part of the penalty, but I am open to being convinced. If that happens, then I will recant and admit that the atonement is at least in that respect a substitution of penalty. However, I still think that the larger point is that of death as a penalty. Those who insist on PS usually will say that we in no way experience the penalty for sin. Thus we do not experience that death at all. But this seems to fly in the face of the passages that indicate that we have indeed died in Christ. So even if you convince me of the smaller point on suffering, I'll still insist that the PS stance of us not experiencing any of the penalty is wrong.

Thanks for your reply! I find your comments very stimulating and helpful for thinking more clearly and carefully on these issues.

Keith - Why can't God just [insert hypothetical model of atonement here]?

My point regarding this question was not quite meant in the way that you took it. My point was not exactly that God has to do it some certain way (I am not so sure on that question). Rather my point was simply that if my physical death would appease the wrath of God, then our death in mystical union with Christ would be a partially redundant feature. But seeing as how you are regarding the penalty of sin both physical and spiritual death, then that is not the case.

So now we have at least narrowed the crux of the matter. It is all in how we understand the penalty of sin. On this issue I have several points.

1. I think we really need to take into consideration that life and death are qualitative issues in the OT. In Galatians Paul specifically speaks in terms of Christ bearing the curse of the law. The covenant curses were very much qualitative issues. Moreover, when God's wrath is displayed in history and especially in Revelation, one very much gets the impression that suffering is an important part.
2. It seems that the penalty of sin must be paid for one way or another to satisfy God's justice. I think you would agree with that. If suffering is not a part of the penalty of sin, then isn't it cruel of God to make people consciously face suffering in hell. Could they not unconsciously experience spiritual death in hell? On the other hand, if one needs to be conscious to experience spiritual death, then it seems that there was no way that we experienced that conscious spiritual death on the cross. And if we avoided that conscious spiritual death which is essential to the penalty of sin, then PS is an appropriate idea. My point is that we seem to take suffering in hell as not making God cruel because it is part of the penalty of sin that satisfies God's justice. If suffering is not a necessary part of the penalty of sin, then is God cruel for the suffering in hell?
3. I feel that the idea of "spiritual death" is a bit vague. Can you expand on what spiritual death consists of? Moreover, would biblical authors think in such dichotomies of spiritual death and physical death?

I have another idea I am toying around with, which is really just an expansion of my thoughts already to some degree. But you would have to read Smedes before I could set it out. Otherwise I would have to explain and write out more than I want to.

Wink:
"Those who insist on PS usually will say that we in no way experience the penalty for sin. Thus we do not experience that death at all. But this seems to fly in the face of the passages that indicate that we have indeed died in Christ."

I agree you have a point that we need to be stronger than simply saying that we died with Christ in some legal sense or that God views it that way. And indeed some who hold to PS probably have the feeling that we should say something stronger. But the question is what stronger sense can we say? We know we want something stronger than merely legal or God viewing, but we want something weaker than that we physically were there. In that sense you are on to something. But I question whether mystical union really adds anything because the term is vague itself. It seems like by saying "mystical union" we really are saying "something strong than God viewing us that way but something weaker than physically there."

I still think the better way of handling things is with some sort of corporate category combined with my proposal regarding faith. It is stronger than a standard PS position, for God does not merely reckon we were on the cross, but weaker than a physical sense. Yet I still consider PS a valid way of describing things for the reasons already described.

I also have another sort of random point to add to my previous post. If the penalty of sin does not include suffering so that the justice of God could be satisfied apart from suffering, then why such a painful manner of death for God's own beloved Son? It would seem a bit inhumane even if it was not necessary for the satisfaction of God's justice.

I was trying to read through your view and see when the mystical union takes place. If I read Paul right, he seems to make union occur when we come to faith/baptized (see especially Rom. 6). If union takes place at faith, then how does mystical union help explain how we died with Christ in the past? If union takes place at faith, then I wasn't mystically united to Christ on the cross for it took place at faith. I am not arguing against your position with this comment as much as I am asking for clarification.

Also I want to further a comment I already made questioning the value of saying "mystical union." Your comments on the mystical union compare it to the union between Christ and the Father, but that seems like a vague idea. I feel as if it is trying to explain something obscure with something equally as obscure.

It seems to me that my way of explaining things works better. The sense in which we died back then was because of a common sinful human essence. Again I point to Rom. 6 and "old man" and "new man" as being corporate terms. Moreover, there are also the ideas of "condemned sin in the flesh" in Rom. 8. Sin and flesh seems to be aeonic ideas. They are more of corporate ideas or powers. Then faith is the mirror image of the cross and resurrection. We come to view the whole world as fallen and worthy of judgment (see Gal. 6), we justify God in his contention with us and proclaim him as the creator who justifies the ungodly (see Rom. 4). This coming to faith itself is the union or the presence of Christ. Christ is present in his actions. And faith is the result of the continuing work of the crucified and risen Christ. Thus, it is the very presence of Christ. Here is the key difference between our positions: I believe that it is the event of the cross and resurrection that spans the chasm of time while you seem to think it is the mystical union that spans the gap of time. I participate in the cross and resurrection because it spans the chasm of time producing faith.

Wink:
"Those who insist on PS usually will say that we in no way experience the penalty for sin. Thus we do not experience that death at all. But this seems to fly in the face of the passages that indicate that we have indeed died in Christ."

Do you believe that we can unconsciously experience something? Something can be done to me without me being conscious, but can it be said that I experienced it? For example, lets say that I am knocked unconscious and somebody kills me, did I experience that person killing me? I am open to being proven wrong here, but I am just raising the issue. Maybe you want to choose a different word than "experience."

Even if I were proven wrong on this point that would only prove that in gengeral it is POSSIBLE to experience something while unconscious. I would still hold to my previous objection that paying the penalty of sin requires suffering.

Would it represent your thought to say something like "Those who insist on PS usually will say that we in no way bear the penalty for sin"?

The link to why wink thinks Penal Substitution is unbiblical is dead.

The one at the very top of the post, where he links to the post that this is a followup to, is working fine. There's one later on that goes to the original URL before all my links got messed up in a new install of MT. I guess I only updated to fix one of them. I'm not sure why that would be.

Update: I've fixed the second one now.

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