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Who is the Son?: Essays on the Articles of Religion part 2

Thursday, July 5, 2007 • 5:24 pm

We need to be careful here to recognize what Jesus was not. He was not a ghost or an apparition He had a real body. Nor was he a “flesh puppet”. He was not an empty covering of flesh fit over a divine being. Nor, finally, was Jesus a “demi-god” or, as one of our parishioners once said, a “were-God”…by which I beleive he meant something like a werewolf. Jesus was not half man-half God. Jesus was fully God, co-equal, co-eternal, and of one being or “substance” with the Father. And he was a full man with a body, soul, spirit, will and emotions.


Who is the Son?: Part 2 of a series of essays on the Articles of Religion
by the Rev. Matt Kennedy

Article II: Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man

The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

The second article has to do with the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Article begins with the usually insignificant word “the.” But, in this case the “the” is a vital one. Christ is not “a” son of the Father. He is not simply one more created being within the realm of created beings. He is unique and singular. He is “the” Son of the Father and to the extent that any one of us may be regarded as children, sons and daughters of God, it is in and through him alone. I am “a” son of God but not by natural birth or by right but by gracious adoption in and through “the” Son Jesus Christ.

It is one of the more difficult truths of the scriptures that human beings are not children of God by virtue of birth. We are certainly all his “creatures,” created in his image and likeness. But we are not, by nature, members of the Father’s household. Humanity has collectively and individually rejected the Father. We have taken our inheritance and spent it on wild living. We are born in and, by nature, choose to remain in the pigsty.

As Paul says in Romans 3:10-18:

“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Many read this and react defensively or dismissively. “This doesn’t apply to me!” they might say. And yet, God has rendered his perfect judgment:

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:22-23)

Who are we to argue? This is why Paul writes:

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (3:19-20)

And yet despite our guilt and rebellion, the Father’s offer of sonship/daughterhood remains open and free for all who are willing to repent, receive, and surrender to “the” Son, Jesus Christ. You may, in other words, become “a” son through faith in “the” Son. As John puts it:

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”(John 1:12-13)

Our adoption into the household of God is, then, through the one and only Son of the Father, the only rightful heir and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Son is described in the second article as “the Word of the Father.” The Son is the “Word.”

The word “Word” comes from the Greek term “Logos.” Logos, in Greek thought, refers not simply to the spoken word but to the ordering or organizing framework of all that is. The Logos is the founding principle of the universal order.

Within a Christian context, the Word, the Logos, takes on both a personal and a divine sense. Indeed, John tells us that the Word is not just a “thing” or a “principle” for framing the created order. The Word is God himself.

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

The Word of the Father then is not an “it” but a “who.” God made all things through his Son who is the Divine and Personal Word. Creation was the work of God alone, but it was a shared work. God the Father determined to create through God the Son. In Genesis 1:26 God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The “us” points both to the plurality or trinity of Persons in the Godhead and the cooperative work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in creation.

It is important, before moving on to discuss the word “begotten”, to make a distinction between “being” and “role.” When the Father sends his Son or when the Son and the Father together send the Spirit we, as creatures, as those who receive these gracious gifts, often make analogies to describe the inter-Personal relationships revealed in these acts. These analogies, though they generally reflect human relationships, are quite often true and founded scripturally. The Father “sends” the Son. The Son is “obedient” to the Father. These are not simply a figures of speech. They are biblically true.

The human Jesus, God the Son, did what Adam failed to do. He was perfectly obedient to the Father. But obedience was not and is not simply a function of Christ’s humanity. God the Son, prior to the incarnation, willingly and lovingly submitted submited to the will of Father. The Son has always been his Father’s Son and his obedient Servant. There has never been a time when this was not true.

But while affirming that truth, we cannot lose sight of the substantial equality of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is a distinction in the roles the Persons take in creation, redemption, and glorification, but there is no difference in their essence or being. The Persons are of One Substance.

Humans sometimes use terms like “obedience” in ways that point to a basic inequality of being. An obedient dog for example is obviously not equal in being to his master.

But an obedient child (or a disobedient one) is as substantially human as his parent. There is a distinction in role and a real hierarchy or order, but there is not a distinction in being. Both parent and child are fully human. This distinction between being and role also lies behind the biblical distinction between those in authority and those under authority. In Romans 13 Paul commands all believers to submit to the “governing” authorities.” This submission does not imply a superiority of being. Those in authority are not higher beings than those who are not in authority. Rather, they stand in and fulfill an authoritative role.

Though I already had a college degree, I experienced basic training as an enlisted man. My drill sergeant did not have a high-school diploma. He received a GED.

My educational status and, most likely, socio-economic status, were far higher than his. And yet his military rank was such that when he ordered me to spend a full day on my knees turning the pebbles on a pebble-parking lot from one side to the other so that “they could get some sun,” I did what he said. It was good for me.

In one context my status was higher than his and yet in another, his role was much more powerful than mine. But in both contexts we remained “co-equal” in our humanity. The onlydifference between us was the difference in our roles.

I labor this point because it is a crucial one when considering the relationships within the Godhead between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Son is the Word “of” the Father. He is, the second article goes on to say “begotten” of the Father. But this language, language of “generation” and “sending,” does not in any way suggest an inequality of being between the Father and the Son. The word “begotten” is an old word that was once commonly used to refer to the relationship between a human father and his children. A mother “bears” her children. A father “begets” them. The children are, in biblical terms, his “seed”.

It is in something akin to but not altogether like this sense that the scriptures speak of the Son as the only “begotten” Son of the Father. When applied to the Son of God, the word “begotten” does not refer to temporal “origin.” The Father did not “create” the Son. The Son, in his divine nature, is not the “seed” of the Father. The Son has been the only begotten Son from “everlasting” as the Article goes on to say. Rather, “begotten” refers both to the likeness or sameness of being between Father and Son in the same way that it refers to the sameness of “seed” between human fathers and sons and it refers to the eternal, loving, willful, “submission” of the Son to the Father not in being but in role and purpose.

We might also say that, in his human nature, Jesus was indeed “begotten” of the Father in the sense that Jesus’ mother Mary conceived through the power of God without a human father. But this human reference does not fully capture the “everlasting” begotteness of the Son to which the second article refers. The statement that “the Son is begotten of the Father from everlasting” points to the inter-Personal relationship between Father and Son within the Godhead. The Son, to use creedal language, is eternally begotten of the Father. He is eternally of one being with the Father and eternally obedient to him with regard to role.

This relationship is poignantly seen in Jesus’ prayer on the night before his death. Jesus prays to the Father:

“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:4-5)

The loving, glorifying, obedience of the Son and the everlasting equality of his being with the Father are both manifest in this text.

The second article goes on to explicitly affirm the divine nature of the Son. He is the Word of the Father, eternally begotten. He is “the very and eternal God”. To say that the Son is “very” God is not to say that he is “quite” God or “very much” like God. It is rather to say that he is the one and only or the “true” God. He is the “very” God revealed in the scriptures, “of one substance with the Father.”

We have covered most of this in what has been said above with regard to the equality of being between the Father and the Son but one final thing must be noted before going on. The word “substance” here is simply another way of saying “being” or “essence.” It does not mean “material.” God is spirit, not matter. He took on a body in Jesus Christ. But he took on physicality without altering or transforming his substance.

The Son, in other words, was not “transformed” into a human being. He took on full humanity without losing or changing the nature of his divinity. The One man, Jesus of Nazareth, then, has two fully intact perfect natures: human and divine. In the words of the second Article, the Son:

“took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided,”

The Son’s humanity was taken from his mother Mary. The man, Jesus of Nazareth, was conceived, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in Mary’s womb and of Mary’s flesh. He shared her genes. He may have looked like her, smiled like her, shared her eye-color, skin color, and hair color. He was God the Son and he was the son of Mary.

We need to be careful here to recognize what Jesus was not. He was not a ghost or an apparition He had a real body. Nor was he a “flesh puppet”. He was not an empty covering of flesh fit over a divine being. Nor, finally, was Jesus a “demi-god” or, as one of our parishioners once said, a “were-God”…by which I beleive he meant something like a werewolf. Jesus was not half man-half God. Jesus was fully God, co-equal, co-eternal, and of one being or “substance” with the Father. And he was a full man with a body, soul, spirit, will and emotions.

But, having said that, the article goes on to affirm that the humanity of Jesus is not wholly like our humanity. Jesus’ human nature was “perfect” whereas ours is imperfect. The book of Hebrews reveals that Jesus was like us in every way yet without Sin.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Jesus lived his entire life without committing a single sin. But not only did he live without committng sin, Jesus, while sharing our humanity, did not share in our sin nature, our orientation toward sin. Jesus’ humanity was like Adam’s humanity before Adam sinned. Adam was created in the image of God. When he sinned, that image was twisted and marred. It remains so in us. Humans were created with an “orientation” toward God and away from ourselves. But when sin entered the world, that orientation was twisted. Now all human beings are born with an orientation away from God and toward the self.

As David laments, “I was a sinner from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

David does not mean that he was doing bad or evil things inside his mother’s womb. He does mean that from the very beginning of life the inclination or impulse or orientation of every human heart, mind, and soul, is toward evil. We are concieved as rebels.

As Paul writes to the Ephesians:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:1-5)

But Jesus was not “by nature [a child] of wrath.” He was wholly undefiled from conception to death and remains so today in his resurrected body.

The sinlessness of Christ is not just another ethereal theological proposition. It is part and parcel of his saving work. God the Son became man not only to die as our substitute, but also to live as our representative. He lived the faithful life Adam failed to live. He fulfilled the call and mission Israel refused to fulfill. He daily trod the obedient path in thought, word, and deed that you and I fail to tread.

When new believers hear of Christ’s sinlessness, they often shrug and say to themselves, “Of course he could do all of this. Jesus is God after all.” This response utterly misses the point. First, Christ, the man, by his perfect faithfulness undid or reversed Adam’s faithlessness so that while we are all by nature born under the curse of Adam and follow in his footsteps, we are by grace through faith reborn under the faithfulness or righteousness of Christ.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:12-19)

The sinlessness of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, is imputed or credited to all who believe by the grace of God through the instrument of faith. The perfect obedience of Jesus, then, counts before the throne of God as your perfect obedience. God in Jesus not only died in your place. He lived in your place as well. We mustn’t forget that.

The second article goes on to affirm the scriptural record of Christ’s suffering, death and burial.

Jesus, “truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried.” He did not swoon or pass out or fall asleep. He suffered in the body. He was hung on a cross. He truly died and was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. These are vital affirmations in the face of so many contemporary attempts to explain away the resurrection appearances of Christ by denying his death. The Son truly died. He bore the full weight and penalty of sin in his suffering and death and in so doing “reconciled his Father to us.”

The scriptural formulation reverses the one found in the Article. We, says Paul, are reconciled to the Father not the Father to us. But the present formulation is also true. As Paul observes in Romans 1:18, God’s wrath at sin is a present reality. God is holy and just. He will punish sin and sinners to the full extent of the law. The debt that we owe him for the least of our sins is beyond our ability to pay.

We cannot make up for the evil that we have done by doing good. Good deeds do not erase bad ones anymore than not robbing a bank in the future can make up for robbing one in the present. Nor can we expect that our perfectly just God will simply forgive us our sins any more than we would expect the same of an imperfectly just human judge. God is eternally at enmity with sin and sinners are eternally in his debt and subject to his punishment.

But God himself acted in Christ, on our behalf, to put an end to this enmity by bearing in himself the full measure of the Father’s just and holy wrath at our sin. God exhausted his eternal wrath on himself in Jesus Christ. The penalty we could not pay because we are finite, God in Jesus Christ paid because he is infinite. And once the just wrath of God was exhausted on God in Christ, God the Father was “reconciled” through the Son to all those who bend the knee and surrender to Christ. There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are found in Christ, because Christ was condemned on our behalf.

God in Christ became the one and final “sacrifice” of atonement to which the Old Testament law and prophets point. His death effected our salvation by dealing with both the offense of our “actual sins,” the sins we commit in thought word and dead, and with the “original guilt” that we inherited from Adam, the guilt that made us, as Paul wrote above, “children of wrath.”
 
We are then, in Christ, no longer children of wrath, but by grace through faith, we have have been made sons and daughters of the Father.

The second article is a glorious one because it deals with our Lord’s identity and, secondly, his saving work. When we read of Christ and his natures, his life and his passion, his death and burial, it ought to evoke both awe and humility: awe at the beauty and wonder of God and humility that he would stoop to take on human nature and die for the sake of those who so willingly and eagerly reject him.


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Comments:

Many thanks - really enjoyed reading that. Keep up the good work.

[1] Posted by driver8 on 07-05-2007 at 06:38 PM • top

Very clear. Thanks for the time you put into doing this.

[2] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 07-05-2007 at 08:23 PM • top

Very, very good Matt!  You are doing a wonderful service by exposing us to some hard-nosed dogmatic theology.  I would raise a couple of questions.  This confuses me:

Not only did the human Jesus, God the Son, do what Adam failed to do, but God the Son, prior to the incarnation, became man by and through his willing submission to the will of Father.

This sounds as if you are advocating a theory of “pre-existent humanity,” with the language about the Son becoming man prior to the incarnation.  Do you really want to go there?  Also,
<blockquote> “The sinlessness of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, is imputed or credited to all who believe ...” <blockquote>  I’m with you on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the righteousness merited by His obedience both active and passive.  But is His sinless nature also imputed to us?  I don’t recall ever hearing it put that way exactly.  But it’s a splendid essay and it’s nice to be back on a thread where you and I are exceedingly close, with only small academic differences between us.

[3] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-06-2007 at 02:32 AM • top

I give up on block quotes!  Henceforth I will modestly use only traditional quotation marks.

[4] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-06-2007 at 02:34 AM • top

LKW+,

Thanks, I think my language is confusing that section. I’ll go back and edit. I am not advocating for a pre-existent humanity. I intended to say that his obedience was not merely a function of his humanity, but that the Son, prior to the incarnation, became incarnate out of willing obedience to the Father. I can see how that came out wrongly and I’ll correct it later today.

You are also correct about his sinless nature not being imputed. His actual sinlessness or, his righteousness is. I do think the new nature is infused…but that is not, logically speaking, a function of justification. We are justified by the imputation of his sinless life, not necessarily his sinlessness.

[5] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 07-06-2007 at 04:00 AM • top

Where does Scripture say that the Father must be reconciled to us?  I realize that this is logically where penal substitution theory takes us, but that is not what Scripture actually says.

[6] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-06-2007 at 12:17 PM • top

3rd Mill, do you agree that fallen humans beings are by nature objects of God’s wrath?

[7] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 07-06-2007 at 12:24 PM • top

I believe that human beings are held in bondage by the powers of sin and death, and that, by grace, we are the objects of God’s love.

[8] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-06-2007 at 01:05 PM • top

so you do not agree with Paul’s description of mankind in Ephesians 2:

“...among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind…”

[9] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 07-06-2007 at 01:07 PM • top

Certainly I agree with St. Paul - wholeheartedly.  Who am I to argue against the great apostle?  But I suspect that how you and I solve the antinomy between divine wrath and divine love quite differently.  You would no doubt see the demands of God’s justice being satisfied by a compensation paid by Christ, a second party, on our behalf - a compromise between justice and love, if you will.  I see atonement as God in Christ overcoming the curse imposed by the law (i.e., wrath) through an act of sheer love that doesn’t satisfy justice so as much as it overwhelms and conquers it (makes the law’s demands on us null and void, thus “conquering” God’s wrath).  I’m with Luther on this one, over against Calvin.

[10] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-06-2007 at 01:54 PM • top

Third Mill,

“But I suspect that how you and I solve the antinomy between divine wrath and divine love quite differently.  You would no doubt see the demands of God’s justice being satisfied by a compensation paid by Christ, a second party, on our behalf - a compromise between justice and love, if you will.”

Jesus is not a “second party.” He is the offended party. He is the party of the first part (if I am using my legalese correctly). Jesus is not some bystander pulled off the street as a stand in. God in Christ bore our punishment as our substitute. Nor would I agree that this is a compromise. God’s perfectly just wrath is perfectly carried exhausted on himself in the person of Christ. God himself pays the penalty in and through the Man, our representative substitute, Jesus Christ. God is perfectly just without compromise and, at the same time, through his perfect love, he is the justifier.

[11] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 07-06-2007 at 02:08 PM • top

I mistakenly said “second party” earlier (I think faster than I type, especially on blogs), but I meant “third party,” i.e., one who satisfies the demands of the Father’s justice in order to make way the possibility of salvation, thus reconciling two otherwise conflicting divine attributes.  Despite your insistence that Christ does not represent another (third) party in this transaction, the language of Article II does not allow you to deny this:

Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

The three parties are: (1) “The Father” who must be reconciled to (2) “us”; and (3) “Christ,” who does the work of reconciling the Father to us.

This goes back to my original question: where does Scripture actually say that the Father must be reconciled to us?  Is it not WE who must be reconciled to HIM?

[12] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-06-2007 at 05:49 PM • top

These articles are so good.  I need to read them slowly, carefully and repeatedly.  Are they available in a different format - one that I could print out or buy?

Thanks, joenpk

[13] Posted by joenpk on 07-06-2007 at 06:25 PM • top

3rd Mill,

The Christ who does the reconciling is also the “very God” offended by the sin of humanity. He is not a third party. He is the offended party. The Personal distinction between Father and Son is certainly in view here, but not there is no ontological distinction between Father and Son.

[14] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 07-06-2007 at 09:06 PM • top

Third Mill Catholic has a point with regard to the word “reconcile.”
Article II is askew in its language “to reconcile His Father to us.”  As the NT uses the terms reconcile/reconciliation (katallasso/katallage), it is arrogant rebellious sinful humanity which needs to be reconciled, not God.  This is a distinctly Pauline word family, clustering around Romans 5:10-11 and 2 Corinthians 5:18—20. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the reconciliation.”  “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself…. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  I wish the Article said “to propitiate His Father to us.” We find this term (hilasterion) in Romans 3:24-25, “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood…”  It should be noted that here the Father and the Son are not two independent parties (that would wreak havoc with Trinitarian theology!) but are in total cooperation.  That cooperation is foreshadowed in Abraham and Isaac going forth up Mt Moriah, “and the two went forth together.”  Propitiation, of course, means appeasement of the Divine wrath.  The Gospel of the Cross is that God Himself graciously provided the means of resolving or placating His own holy wrath, the only possible response of a holy God to the unholy rebellion of His creation-vassal.

[15] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-06-2007 at 09:10 PM • top

Thanks Fr Matt,
Having read your article here as well as Baby Blue’s on KJS’s theology of ‘inclusion’(apparently someone didn’t ever ‘get’ Col.2:8-10 eh,) on her blog and the Creeds this morning,I believe that Christology will have the potential to be as pivotal as sexual issues(or perhaps moreso)in the coming deliberations regarding the status of TEC and the Anglican Communion.

[16] Posted by paddy c on 07-06-2007 at 09:13 PM • top

The Christ who does the reconciling is also the “very God” offended by the sin of humanity. He is not a third party. He is the offended party. The Personal distinction between Father and Son is certainly in view here, but not there is no ontological distinction between Father and Son.

According to the Article, the Christ who does the reconciling does so between the Father and us, NOT between Himself as “very God” and us, which would be nonsensical, unless one holds to a Patripassian view of the Trinity.  Hence, third party substitution in this Article is unavoidable.

[17] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-06-2007 at 10:46 PM • top

Third Mill,

God the Son is not a “Third Party”. He is very God…of one substance with the Father. Certainly the Son is a distinct Person within the Godhead but that distinction does not represent the ontological chasm you seem to impose on the article. God exhausted his wrath on God himself. AND the Christ bore the wrath of the Father to satisfy his justice and make peace between God and humanity. The only way to read the second article as you do is to do so without reference to the first clause of the article itself and without reference to the article that preceeds it.

[18] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 07-07-2007 at 05:36 AM • top

Third Mill’s original question:  “Where does Scripture say that the Father must be reconciled to us?”

Third Mill:  if you own a concordance, try checking the number of occurrences of the word “wrath” (orgh).  You will find at least eleven in Romans alone.  Our interpretation of the death of Christ must come to grips with God’s holy reaction to our sin.  If we do not, then God must be very cruel to permit the crucifixion to take place (which He surely could have avoided in numerous ways).  The remarkable and strupendous thing is that God does not pour out that wrath on a “third party,” in the manner of a cruel and unjust deity, but rather takes it upon Himself in the person of His incarnate Son.  “God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.”

[19] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-07-2007 at 07:41 AM • top

joenpk:

At the very end of the original article (in kinda fine print) there is an option to click for a “Print-friendly” version.  That can be printed out nicely.
Or you can select the text, and cut-and-paste it into Notepad or Word, and then print that.
But the first option is easier.

[20] Posted by James Manley on 07-07-2007 at 07:58 AM • top

Our interpretation of the death of Christ must come to grips with God’s holy reaction to our sin.  If we do not, then God must be very cruel to permit the crucifixion to take place (which He surely could have avoided in numerous ways).

Lawrence, this reads as if the Father and Son are in opposition to one another, as if God the Father is pouring out his wrath on God the Son.  If God is one, then it is God himself who is taking upon himself the consequences of our sin in the cross.  God the Father did not crucify the Son.  We did.

Barth argues persuasively that the notion of judgment in the gospels is paradoxical and counter-intuitive. On the cross, God shows his judgment on our sins by taking upon himself our own judgment of himself (in Christ) as a law-breaker. By vindicating Christ in the resurrection, God the Father overturns our false judgment by judging his Son to have been in the right.

[21] Posted by William Witt on 07-07-2007 at 08:18 AM • top

William: Very well said.  Very few have been so eloquent in their articulation of the paradox of the atonement as Barth.

Laurence: I am not denying or avoiding wrath in the least.  I simply think there are much better ways of solving the antinomy between divine wrath and divine love without viewing Christ’s death as some sort of compensation to the Father for our disobedience.

And, finally, Matt: I’m not imposing an ontological chasm on the article.  If there is such a chasm it is built into the theory that the Article assumes, which would be just another reason why the penal substitution theory should be scrapped.  However, it is obviously not the framer’s intent to assume or create a chasm.  So I’m not going to suggest otherwise.  Rather, the distinction that the article assumes is hypostatic not ontological, and viewed in this way there are indeed three parties (two of which happen to possess a common nature): The Father (as Accusant, Judge and Executant), humanity (as the accused and indicted), Christ (as Substitute for the condemned).

[22] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-07-2007 at 10:24 AM • top

Bill writes:  “If God is one, then it is God himself who is taking upon himself the consequences of our sin in the cross.” 
Are you writing this as a unitarian or a trinitarian?  (A unitarian could write this with perfect seriousness.)
Yes, God is one, and all three persons of the Trinity are involved in our redemption.  But they function in different ways.  The Father “sets forth” the Son, exposing Him to the cruelty of mankind and allowing Him to be crucified.  The Son voluntarily offers Himself a sacrifice to satisfy the Divine justice, to propitiate the Divine wrath.
The Triune God could well have demanded and accepted some other sacrifice, say 10,000 Roman Virgins.  As the offended Creator, He would have been within His rights—even to destroy the entire creation.  But He did not.  He graciously saw fit to accept a substitute in the person of His own beloved Son, “the same in substance and equal in power and glory.”  As J. I. Packer writes in a fine article which came up today on Virtueonline, this is “the best part of the best news, Jesus, God Incarnate, has taken our place and endured our penalty.  Therefore “no condemnation now we dread.”  Any less atonement would leave us in doubt, uncertainty, and fear.
I don’t think I quite made my point in writing “then God must be very cruel to permit the crucifixion to take place (which He surely could have avoided in numerous ways).”  No matter what atonement theory we opt for, we cannot get around the fact that the Cross happened, “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”
There it is, hideous and distasteful, with all the stench of death about it.  What kind of God allows the crucifixion of an innocent man?
If this death, the most unjust of executions, was anything less a penalty endured willingly by God Himself Incarnate in Jesus Christ, then God must be very cruel indeed.

[23] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-07-2007 at 01:16 PM • top

I’m not sure I’m following you here, Laurence.  On the one hand, you suggest unitarianism in the statement that God is one, and takes upon himself the consequences of our sin upon the cross; then go on to assert that all three Persons of the Trinity function in different ways in the atonement.  But then in your last statement, you say:

  What kind of God allows the crucifixion of an innocent man? If this death, the most unjust of executions, was anything less a penalty endured willingly by God Himself Incarnate in Jesus Christ, then God must be very cruel indeed.

Is this statement consistent with your earlier assertion?

[24] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-07-2007 at 01:49 PM • top

“On the one hand, you suggest unitarianism in the statement that God is one, and takes upon himself the consequences of our sin upon the cross;”

I did not say the statement is unitarian; I said rather clearly the statement is patient of a unitarian interpretation.  Apart from a Trinitarian distinction of functions, and without a realization of the penal significance of Christ’s death, we have in the crucifixion only a hideous crime without redemptive power.  How do you think the cross saves us, if indeed it does?

[25] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-07-2007 at 05:42 PM • top

Bill writes:  “If God is one, then it is God himself who is taking upon himself the consequences of our sin in the cross.”
Are you writing this as a unitarian or a trinitarian?  (A unitarian could write this with perfect seriousness.)

Obviously as a Trinitarian.  Otherwise, I could not have written:

“God the Father did not crucify the Son.  We did.” . . . and “On the cross, God shows his judgment on our sins by taking upon himself our own judgment of himself (in Christ) as a law-breaker. By vindicating Christ in the resurrection, God the Father overturns our false judgment by judging his Son to have been in the right.”

I probably should not have stepped in for what amounts to a quibble.  I’m echoing Aulen who argues persuasively IMHO that Anselm’s model of the atonement disrupts the logic of the atonement as a single divine movement from beginning to end, that rather (as in patristic models) the atoning work of Christ is the work of God himself on our behalf.  In contrast, Anselm’s model sets the work of the Father (as God) and the Son (as man) over against one another, disrupting the organic unity of the incarnation and atonement.

Barth masterfully overcomes Aulen’s criticism by reinterpreting divine judgment in lines of the patristic logic.  From beginning to end, the atonement is a single divine work.  The missions of the Father and Son are distinct, but they do not represent an internal contradiction in the deity between God’s love and his justice, nor does it involve God the Father punishing Christ the man.  Rather, God in Christ (the second person of the Trinity) takes upon himself the consequence of our sins as we pour out our wrath upon him.

I’m saying more than I have time to elaborate here.  I would suggest reading Aulen’s Christus Victor and his The Faith of the Christian Church as well as Barth’s discussion of “The Judge Judged In Our Place” in the Church Dogmatics for further reflection.  I also have an article on my website here.

[26] Posted by William Witt on 07-07-2007 at 07:00 PM • top

The cross and the resurrection (not the cross alone) is the means by which God in Christ overcomes the power of sin, death, the flesh and the devil, which hold humankind in bondage.  God became flesh that he might destroy death and raise us up with him. 

That which must be propitiated are the demands of the law, which can never lead to salvation and life.  In this sense, the law is our “enemy” (Rom 7:9), and thus Christ voluntarily falls under the curse of the law (death) so that we may become dead to the law and “joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead” (Rom 7:4).

[27] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-07-2007 at 07:08 PM • top

I recommend again the splendid little essay by J. I. Packer “Penal Substitution Revisited” which appeared today on Virtueonline.
Yes, I have read Aulen, both of the titles you mentioned, although I cannot claim to have read the relevant section from the Church Dogmatics.  The case for penal substitution is for me secured, at least exegetically, by Leon Morris, “The Cross in the NT,” and “The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross.”  I also find a splendid defense of Penal Substitution in a surprising place, H. U von Balthazar’s Mysterium Paschale.  Would it be a fair generalization to say that the defenders of PS are more careful exegetes, while those who reject PS are more philosophical/historical in their approach?

Bill writes:  “nor does it involve God the Father punishing Christ the man.”  That would require a Nestorian Christology. Now has any half-way competent advocate of PS ever suggested such a thing?  Theologians of this tradition have been pretty consistent Trinitarians as well as quite clear about the unity of the two natures of the God-man.  So this is a straw-man.

[28] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-07-2007 at 08:46 PM • top

Would it be a fair generalization to say that the defenders of PS are more careful exegetes, while those who reject PS are more philosophical/historical in their approach?

I would not put the matter that way. The problem is that Scripture uses a variety of metaphors to discuss atonement, but does not provide theoretical explanations for any of them.  That the metaphors are not taken literally does not mean that they are “mere metaphors.”  It does mean that the metaphors are not explanations or theories. The military metaphors and sacrificial metaphors are clearly not to be taken literally as they stand.  Jesus was not a soldier, nor a four-legged fleece-bearing mammal.  Advocates of the PS theory seem to believe that the legal and penal metaphors (alone) are to be taken literally, or rather that in contrast to the military and sacrificial metaphors, the legal and penal language is not metaphorical.

Any theologian who talks about atonement is going to have to venture into theoretical speculation because Scripture itself does not provide theories about the atonement.  Those who question the PS theory as a theory point to the paradoxical ways in which Scripture itself uses the language of punishment and judgment and develop theories that take account of this paradoxical approach.  Thus, they differ from advocates of PS theories in arguing that the language of judgment and punishment is as metaphorical as the military or sacrificial language.  But they don’t ignore the teaching of Scripture. Barth’s exegesis in “The Judge Judged In Our Place” is masterful, and is just such an approach.

Bill writes:  “nor does it involve God the Father punishing Christ the man.” That would require a Nestorian Christology. Now has any half-way competent advocate of PS ever suggested such a thing?  Theologians of this tradition have been pretty consistent Trinitarians as well as quite clear about the unity of the two natures of the God-man.  So this is a straw-man.

Laurence, I was not saying that advocates of PS deny the unity of the two natures.  I was summarizing Aulen’s critique of Anselm, in which he contrasts the implicit logical structure of Anselm’s argument over against the implicit logical structure of the Patristic argument.  Aulen acknowledges that Anselm explicitly affirms the incarnation and the Trinity.  But he goes on to say: “It is essential . . . to the theory of Anselm that the Incarnation and the Atonement are not organically connected together, as they were in the classical view.  There we found a simple and straightforward connection of thought.  God enters into this world of sin and death that He may overcome the enemies that hold mankind in bondage, and Himself accomplish the redemptive work, for which no power but the Divine is adequate.  But for Anselm the central problem is: Where can a man be found, free from sin and guilt, and able to offer himself as an acceptable sacrifice to God?”

Aulen goes on to say: “All of this goes on to show that the doctrine of the Incarnation is no longer with him a fully, living idea, as it was to the Fathers.  It is a fixed dogma, which he takes for granted as beyond dispute; but his deductions only with difficulty succeed in relating it with his doctrine of Atonement. . . . Here then, the contrast between Anselm and the Fathers is as plain as daylight.  They show how God became incarnate that He might redeem; he teaches a human work of satisfaction, accomplished by Christ.”

The argument is rather lengthy and I am only quoting a few isolated sentences apart from the developed argument. I have read many works criticizing Aulen for careless exegesis or careless history: “Scripture uses language of punishment and judgment.  There are passages in the Fathers that speak of judgment and punishment.  Luther sometimes used satisfaction language.”  Aulen doesn’t deny or need to deny any of that. What I haven’t seen is anyone who actually addresses the substantive points Aulen makes about the contrast between the inherent logical structure of the different atonement theories.  He says that the logical structure of Anselm’s argument is a significant break from the inherent logical structure of the patristic connection between incarnation and atonement.  That’s a substantive point that needs to be addressed.

[29] Posted by William Witt on 07-08-2007 at 06:53 AM • top

Bill, what you have to say about metaphors in the various NT models of atonement is both true and important.  But fortunately we are not required to choose one or another metaphor on an either/or basis.
Certainly the NT uses language of combat and victory, just as it uses language of satisfaction and propitiation.  I must admit candidly that I have heard, from time to time, sermons on the atonement which depict a remorseless angry Father whose thunderbolts are restrained just in the nick of time by a sweet loving Jesus who rushes in and says “Oh Father, kill me in their place.”  That is a deplorable presentation, very far from my understanding of PS.  But abusus non tollit usum, and I insist on PS because it is the only atonement model which makes sense of or does justice to the hideous realities of the crucifixion (indeed, the entire earthly suffering) of our Saviour.  And those realities, as you agree, were not metaphorical.  But thanks for your comments and you have motivated me to return to reading Karl the Great.  I greatly enjoyed Aulen and at one time I was quite captivated by his Christus Victor.  It still comes comes through in my Easter preaching.  The weakness of this concept of the atonement is that the victory isn’t altogether visible most of the time.  As Fr Groeschel likes to say, We know what a crucifixion looks like, but we don’t know what a resurrection looks like.  The victory remains largely in the future, so Aulen’s atonement is only a work in progress.
It doesnt warrant John’s “It is finished.”

[30] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-08-2007 at 11:23 AM • top

Finally got to read this article…..Fabulous Matt+, Thank you! In reading the tennis match between you and 3rd Mill Catholic one things comes to mind.

without viewing Christ’s death as some sort of compensation to the Father for our disobedience.

I hve a question for 3rd Mill Catholic….
Then why would Jesus have taken all our sins and the sins of past and future generations upon himself to reconcile us to God? Isn’t reconciliation a two way street, not a one way street? Isn’t Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross the “bridge” between us and God and God to Us?

[31] Posted by TLDillon on 07-08-2007 at 11:39 AM • top

Laurence,

I absolutely agree with you that we do not (and should not) have to choose between metaphors. One of the things I try to do in the article I referenced (which was initially published BTW) is to show how all three of the dominant metaphors might be appropriated.

I do not believe that PS is the only model that does justice to the crucifixion.  The key question I believe is: Who is it that is on the cross?  Any model that says or implies that one crucified is any less than God is subject to the criticism that it makes God a tryrant.  But, if Jesus Christ truly is the second person of the Trinity incarnate, then we can say truly (as Cyril insisted against Nestorius), “my God suffered.”

The key difference IMHO is between a constitutivist model of redemption and an illustrative model.  Do the actions of Jesus in his life, crucifixion, and resurrection actually constitute or accomplish salvation, or are they rather illustrative of some greater truth we can discern elsewhere as well, i.e., do they merely provide an example to emulate?

Only a constitutivist view that does justice to the identity of the Crucified Christ as God incarnate does justice to the problem of justice.  As Barth says, the Cross relativizes the question of theodicy, for the question is no longer that of how God can allow evil to exist in a world that he has created good, but rather how the Creator of the universe can allow himself to be betrayed and crucified by his own creation.  As Dorothy Sayers writers, the cross means that God takes his own medicine.

[32] Posted by William Witt on 07-08-2007 at 11:46 AM • top

I hve a question for 3rd Mill Catholic….
Then why would Jesus have taken all our sins and the sins of past and future generations upon himself to reconcile us to God? Isn’t reconciliation a two way street, not a one way street? Isn’t Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross the “bridge” between us and God and God to Us?

You’re correct, ODC, reconciliation is a two-way street.  The difference is that PS theory posits that Christ’s role in the atonement is as the perfect man who offers himself up to the Father on our behalf, thus making the atonement “godward,” i.e., MAN’S offering to God—an action which placates the Father in return for his grace (thus reconciling the Father to us, primarily).  The classic view, brilliantly explained by Gustav Aulen as noted earlier, holds the atonement to be wholly God’s action in reconciling the world to Himself, by becoming flesh and destroying the enemies that hold mankind in bondage.  William Witt, about four entries ago, articulates this much better than I.

The other problem I have with the PS theory is this notion, often set forth, that Jesus “pays” for our sins, as if our sins are quantifiable and/or incur some kind of “debt” that must be satisfied before the Father can redeem us.  Indeed, the entire Medieval system was built on this premise, and Protestants have never seriously addressed or challenged it.  I don’t question for a moment that the atonement involves Jesus’ undergoing of the curse of death and the outpouring of God’s wrath on our behalf.  Indeed, I affirm this!  However, the atonement is not about how Christ pays back a debt owed by us to God so much as it is about how God in Christ assumes all costs of reparation and reconciliation unto Himself. 

To put it in contemporary economic terms: the atonement is about “debt forgiveness” rather than “debt consolidation and repayment.”

[33] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-08-2007 at 08:34 PM • top

Third Mill: If the atonement was about “debt forgiveness,” why was the Cross necessary?  Or was it necessary?

[34] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-08-2007 at 09:04 PM • top

For some reason, my first response did not publish.  Here’s the gist of what I tried to send earlier:

As far as I’m concerned, Jesus execution at the hands of sinful men constitutes not only the worst crime ever committed, but the worst transgression conceivable (deicide).  As such, the cross is the ultimate paradox of God’s grace and mercy, where the worst crime in history becomes God’s very means of redeeming us.  We killed God; in return, He conquers death and saves us from death.

But I might ask you the same question, Laurence: why is the cross necessary for PS Theory?  If all that was necessary for atonement was that one who deserved not to die (Jesus) would become subject to the sentence of death for all, then couldn’t ANY means of death have been sufficient?

[35] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-09-2007 at 12:25 PM • top

I see.  So it wasn’t really necessary for Christ to suffer, and Jesus was only kidding when He said, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer all these things and enter into His glory?”  You are telling it that the crucifixion was indeed an unfortunate occurrence, but not strictly necessary for God’s work of redemption.  I hear you saying that perhaps God could have solved the problem of sin merely by a flick of the wrist, a judicial pardon, a generous act of “debt forgiveness.”
Let’s move back a step and ask, with St Anselm, why was the Incarnation itself necessary?  Couldn’t God have just exercised His act of “debt forgiveness” right there in the Garden of Eden itself?

[36] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-10-2007 at 12:03 PM • top

Laurence,

You haven’t answered the question which I posed back to you: why is the cross necessary for PS theory?  Are you suggesting that human sin requires a quantifiable amount of human suffering, in addition to death, in order to placate an angry God?  This seems to be what you’re saying, so please jump in and correct me if I am reading you incorrectly.

Needless to say, what you “hear” me saying is certainly NOT what I’m saying.  What is needed for our redemption is NOT simply some flick of the judicial wrist, but rather the CONQUERING OF SIN AND DEATH.  This can only be accomplished by the Incarnation of the one who has power over sin and death.  And so that sin may be revealed for what it truly is, God allowed the WORST sin in history to be the very means by which He woud CONQUER sin for those who are united to his Son in his death and resurrection.  Such a view reckons together the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection/Ascension as one seamless, continuous divine act of redemption.

In contrast, what I hear you saying is that God’s wrath can only be satisfied through a certain amount of human suffering and death.  This renders the Incarnation a “means to an end” (the end being Christ’s sacrificial death), rather than the end in itself.

[37] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-10-2007 at 02:15 PM • top

I could say that I will answer your question when you answer the one I asked first, as you still haven’t said whether the crucifixion was necessary or not.  But to answer your question, “why is the cross necessary for PS Theory?”  Well, the P of PS stands for “penal.”  What do you make of a text like this:
“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried out sorrows.
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten of God and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities,
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
That chapter (Isaiah 53) is quoted over and over in the NT, and the mysterious “he” is simply Jesus Himself.

[38] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-10-2007 at 06:28 PM • top

Third Mill writes, “Are you suggesting that human sin requires a quantifiable amount of human suffering, in addition to death, in order to placate an angry God? “

This is such an uninformed parody of PS that I am tempted to ignore it altogether.  Please do some reading in order to discuss this in an intelligent manner.  J. I. Packer’s essay “PS Revisited” now on Virtueonline would be good for starters.

To break it down:
(1)  God is both loving and holy.  Any doctrine of the atonement must hold on to both attributes.
(2)  Sin is a very real, very serious affront to the very nature of this loving and holy God.  Sin violates God’s law and requires punishment.
(3)  In justice, God was entitled to pour out this punishment on rebellious mankind. 
(4)  Acting in love, God arranges a substitute who is none other than His eternal Son, God in the flesh.  His love for mankind was so great that “God spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.”
(5)  The death which the Incarnate Son suffered and endured, we may see with the light of Easter morning, was nothing other than the penalty we deserved, the penalty which He voluntarily took upon himself.
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside His crown for my soul, for my soul.”

I find your notion of “debt forgiveness” horrifying.  That trivializes sin, makes nonsense of God’s holiness, neutralizes God’s moral order in the universe, and leaves the debt unsatisfied.  No Gospel there at all.
When you write, “Such a view reckons together the Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection/Ascension as one seamless, continuous divine act of redemption,”  I wonder if you might also add the adjective “painless.”  This suggests that the atonement just happens somehow, somewhere in between Bethlehem and the first Easter.
And did Jesus have to die such a horrible death just to show how bad sin is?  If so, then John Spong’s accusation of “child abuse” is highly meritorious!  And the Incarnation is not “an end in itself,” but a means to the supreme End of God’s glory.

[39] Posted by Laurence K Wells on 07-10-2007 at 06:52 PM • top

Laurence: Believe it or not, I am familiar with Isaiah 53.  Either you are being unnecessarily sarcastic or I’m coming across as a complete novice.  For the sake of charity, I will assume the latter and try to explain myself a little better.

Was an actual crucifixion necessary?  I suppose, hypothetically, that God could have used another means of execution, like stoning, beheading, or the electric chair had Jesus been born in our time. But, metaphorically speaking, crucifixion does fit the OT sacrificial imagery better than other means (though obviously lacking altar, priests, and temple of course). 

However, it’s not the manner or mode of death as much as it is the CONTEXT and CIRCUMSTANCE that is important.  Where else is the nature of sin realized to its fullest degree then in its most profound expression in man’s attempt to ACCUSE, TRY, and EXECUTE his Creator? 

The paradox here is that the lawbreaker becomes judge, jury, and executioner, while the true Judge becomes (i.e., assumes the position of) the accused, tried and convicted, and suffers the punishment due to the one who actually broke the law.  The world is indeed turned upside down, and NO OTHER SCENARIO could communicate this better than an execution.  So, yes, the crucifixion was necessary.

But the paradox does not end here: God turns the tables on mankind by overcoming death and destruction, and using this as the means of man’s own redemption, assuming all costs of reparation and reconciliation on to himself.  Simply put: What mankind intends as an execution, God accepts as a propitiation.

[40] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-10-2007 at 07:30 PM • top

Laurence: I know Packer.  I’ve read him.  I’m not convinced.  Sorry.  And please keep the sarcasm to a minimum (e.g., your “intelligent manner” remark).  It’s not helpful nor appreciated.

Let’s put this in economic terms.  We both agree that a debt is due.  The question is who should pay it?  There are three possibilities:
(1) The debtor
(2) The Creditor
(3) A third party
If I follow your argument (correct me if I’m mistaken), you would understand it as perfectly just for the debtor to pay his own debt or that a third party (Christ) pays the debt on behalf of the debtor.  On the other hand, you see it as UNJUST or INCONSISTENT with the nature of God for the Creditor (God) to write off the debt—(i.e., “pay” the debt himself).  Is that correct? 

The problem with this illustration, obviously, is that monetary debt is not a very apt analogy for sin.  A much better analogy would be that of a capital offense, in which case we should set up the choices as follows:
(1) The criminal is punished for his own crime.
(2) The Offended Party freely chooses to bear the damages of the crime.
(3) A third party steps in as substitute and is punished for the crime of the criminal (in this case death).
We both agree that the criminal deserves the punishment for the crime, and thus God is “entitled” (as you say) to exact judgment for the crime committed against him (a perfectly just solution).  Where we seem to disagree is that you see it as perfectly just for a third party to step in as substitute for the condemned, and UNJUST for the Offended party (God) to “turn the other cheek” so to speak.

I see it as the opposite: a third party substitution for a capital offense is the EPITOME of injustice, while “turning the other cheek” (freely chooseing to bear the damages of the crime) is the EPITOME of God’s mercy.

At this point someone might protest that the doctrine of the Trinity renders a “third party” redundant, that there are actually only two parties, not three.  Indeed, this is precisely what Matt asserted earlier.  I agree, in which case the only two choices left for us are:
(1) The criminal is punished for his own crime.
(2) The Offended Party freely chooses to bear the damage of the crime Himself.

[41] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-10-2007 at 08:52 PM • top

Hello Third Mill,

You said that you follow Luther in denying Penal Substitution.

In that case you might be interested in some of things he said regarding Penal Substitution.

Here are a couple of examples.

From Luther’s Table Talks:
‘There is but one God,’ says St. Paul, ‘and one mediator between God and man; namely, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself a ransom for all.’ Therefore, let no man think to draw near unto God or obtain grace of him without this mediator, high priest, and advocate. It follows that we cannot through our good works, honesty of life, virtues, deserts, sanctity, or through the works of the law, appease God’s wrath, or obtain forgiveness of sins; and that all deserts of saints are quite rejected and condemned, so that through them no human creature can be justified before God. Moreover, we see how fierce God’s anger is against sins, seeing that by none other sacrifice or offering could they be appeased and stilled, but by the precious blood of the Son of God.”

From Luther’s commentaries on Galatians:
“He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: “Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them”

God Bless,
William Scott

p.s. It should be noted that not only Sacred Scripture, but also the Historic Church teach Penal Substitution.

Gal 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

[42] Posted by William on 07-14-2007 at 12:54 AM • top

<blockquote> p.s. It should be noted that not only Sacred scripture, but also the Historic Church teach Penal Substitution. </blockquote>

You are quite mistaken here.  The early fathers, those living closest to the biblical milieu, were not penal substitutionists.  Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo, the seed bed of PS theory, was not written until the 11th century and was only influential on the Western Church.

Gustav Aulen’s Christus Victor does a wonderful job showing how Luther followed the classic view of the atonement (that expounded by the fathers), while at the same time not shying away from juridical metaphors (like those you note above).  I neither deny nor avoid the juridical metaphors (read my posts above).  Indeed, they are rich and extremely important for a comprehensive view.  Rather, I criticize the Penal Substitutionary construct that, since the middle ages, has twisted the juridical metaphors to the neglect (and most often the denial) of the more prominent Christus Victor motif emphasized in the Bible and taken up by the fathers.

That PS advocates continue to advance the notion that the punishment of a third party for the sake of the offending party (the criminal) is a “just” and “righteous” solution is incredible to me.  It is anything but just.  The only JUST solution would be for the criminal to be punished for his own sins.  Believe me, we don’t want justice, we want mercy.

As I said in my earlier postings, the message of the Cross is that God assumes all costs of reparation for the reconciliation of the world unto himself in the person of Christ.  The offender pays nothing, the offended party freely pays all (a cosmic “turning of the other cheek”).  God’s wrath is appeased by Christ’s sacrifice, not because he finally gets to pour out his anger on someone, but because Christ’s ultimate act of obedience in self-sacrifice is pleasing in his sight.

[43] Posted by Third Mill Catholic on 07-14-2007 at 12:55 PM • top

Hello Third Mill.

While I understand that there can be honest differences in the exact way one defines Penal Substitution it is definitely found both in the Scripture and the Historic teaching of the Church.

Going to one of your statements—I believe the phrase “judicial metaphors” in describing Luther’s views on Penal Substitution is far too weak of statement, and appears to essentially be a means of denying his belief in Penal Substitution. Luther believed firmly that God was a Just Judge Who required all sins to be punished—and that Christ took this punishment upon Himself—making “payment” and “satisfaction” for our sins on the Cross and thereby “appeasing God’s Wrath.”

And Luther’s belief in Penal Substitution (which are the very same belief that Article 2 affirms) simply follow the belief in penal substitution maintained in the Historic Church-here are a few examples from the Church Fathers.

Justin Martyr:
“If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God.”
http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/view/84/52/

St. Athanasius wrote:
For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (S. John 3:17). All mankind had formerly incurred the sentence of the Law, and were guilty criminals; but the Word of God took upon himself the punishment to be inflicted, and thus justice was satisfied; and, by undergoing punishment in our nature, He applied to our persons the redemption wrought by it. And this was what S. John meant when he exclaimed, “The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (S. John 1:17). How much more excellent is grace than the Law, and how far superior is truth to a shadow of it.
-Athanasius, O.C.A. 1.60

St. Ambrose:
“He also took up death that the sentence might be fulfilled and satisfaction might be given for the judgment, the curse placed on sinful flesh even to death. Therefore, nothing was done contrary to God’s sentence when the terms of that sentence were fulfilled, for the curse was unto death but grace is after death.”
http://piercedforourtransgressions

St. Augustine:
“For even the Lord was subject to death, but not on account of sin: He took upon Him our punishment, and so looses our guilt.”
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1801051.htm

“But as Christ endured death as man, and for man; so also, Son of God as He was, ever living in His own righteousness, but dying for our offences, He submitted as man, and for man, to bear the curse which accompanies death. And as He died in the flesh which He took in bearing our punishment, so also, while ever blessed in His own righteousness, He was cursed for our offences, in the death which He suffered in bearing our punishment.”
http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/view/80/52/

St. Chrysostom:
On 2 Cor 5:17
“But now He has both well achieved mighty things, and besides, has suffered Him that did no wrong to be punished for those who had done wrong.”

“If one that was himself a king, beholding a robber and malefactor under punishment, gave his well-beloved son, his only-begotten and true, to be slain; and transferred the death and the guilt as well, from him to his son, (who was himself of no such character,) that he might both save the condemned man and clear him from his evil reputation;”
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/220211.htm

On Col 2:13-15:
“Do you see how great His earnestness that the bond should be done away? To wit, we all were under sin and punishment. He Himself, through suffering punishment, did away with both the sin and the punishment, and He was punished on the Cross. To the Cross then He affixed it; as having power, He tore it asunder. What bond? He means either that which they said to Moses, namely, “All that God has said will we do, and be obedient” (Ex. xxiv. 3.)”
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/230306.htm

On Heb 9:15-18—-(Example of the relation of God’s Wrath to the Substitutionary Atonement of Christ):
The Son became Mediator between the Father and us. The Father willed not to leave us this inheritance, but was wroth against us, and was displeased [with us] as being estranged [from Him]; He {Christ} accordingly became Mediator between us and Him, and prevailed with Him.
And what then? How did He become Mediator? He brought words from [Him] and brought [them to us], conveying over what came from the Father to us, and adding His own death thereto. We had offended: we ought to have died: He died for us and made us worthy of the Testament. By this is the Testament secure, in that henceforward it is not made for the unworthy. At the beginning indeed, He made His dispositions as a father for sons; but after we had become unworthy, there was no longer need of a testament, but of punishment.
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240216.htm

Also, see Pierced for our Trangressions site—which has a number of other excellent quotes from the Church Fathers. And in addition to those listed in this site other Early Church writings such as those of St. Ireneaus and the early Epistle of Mathetes of Diognetius speak of Penal Substitution.

William Scott

p.s. An Excellent comment in an article on the Pierced for our Transgressions site:

To focus on one example, Athanasius’ treatise On the Incarnation contains a persuasive argument for penal substitution based on Genesis 2:17 – a text largely ignored by recent studies of the atonement. Athanasius reflects on the fact that Adam’s sin seems to place God in a dilemma:
It would, of course, have been unthinkable that God should go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die; but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption [...] what, then, was God to do?
Notice that God cannot ‘simply forgive’ people in such a way that the judicial consequences of sin are waived: in the light of his promise in Genesis 2:17, that would make him a liar. But nor can his creative purpose be allowed to fail. The only solution, according to Athanasius, was for the Son of God – ‘the Word’ – to take upon himself a human body and allow God’s promise of death to be fulfilled in him as our substitute, whilst at the same time overpowering the corruption of death through his resurrection.
The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father’s Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection. It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent. For naturally, since the Word of God was above all, when He offered His own temple and bodily instrument as a substitute for the life of all, He fulfilled in death all that was required.
Thus the penal substitutionary death of Christ, according to Athanasius, was central to the purpose of the incarnation, and was absolutely necessary in order to vindicate God’s truthfulness and his creative power. Given that Athanasius was writing in the fourth century, the recent scholarly consensus regarding the doctrine’s supposed lack of ancient pedigree seems rather difficult to defend.


http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/view/93

p.p.s. I’m planning on making a further response to your post when I get the chance.

God Bless.

Gal 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

[44] Posted by William on 07-16-2007 at 06:00 AM • top

I am waiting to see what Matt will do with Art. XXI when he gets to it.  I think that a good case could be made for saying that the problems within TEC started way back when it was first organized and decided not to include this article.  Clearly Article XXI would prohibit General Convention from making up new theology every 3 years.

[45] Posted by Russell on 07-20-2007 at 02:44 PM • top

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