Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

10 Reasons Why I'm Not a Fan of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

#10 It's a long title that needs describing

Penal substitution is a theory of the atonement within Christian theology, especially associated with the Reformed tradition. It argues that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished (penalised) in the place of sinners (substitution), thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive the sins.

#9 It makes God look mean and angry

Was God's wrath directed towards Jesus instead of towards us? Did God the Father punish Jesus instead of me?

Is God not capable of loving sinners? Does God hate sinners?

Does God ever quit loving us? Did God stop loving Jesus when he was on the cross?

I'm OK with a loving father disciplining his children - but can killing ever be done in love?

The description of a Jesus who paid our debt makes Jesus look like a good guy. But it also makes God the Father out to be a God who requires human sacrifices to appease him (either ours or Christ's).

#8 It gets told over and over again in some evangelical churches

#7 I don't think bearing our burden means punished by God instead of me

The phrase "bearing our burden" is in Scripture but see this post for more on this.

#6 Contrary to popular belief, the Mosaic sacrifices did not operate in a Penal Substitution framework.

See this post for more on this.

#5 You won't find the phrase Penal Substitutionary Atonement in Scripture

#4 You won't find the phrase "Jesus Paid our debt" in Scripture

Scripture uses the word ransom, which I think is different. When you pay a ransom you are paying money to a bad or evil force who has held someone captive. Is God the bad evil force that needed to be paid? Or is it our selfishness/sin?

#3 You won't find the phrase "Jesus paid the penalty of man's sin" in Scripture

#2 Some people think Penal Substitutionary Atonement is the gospel

#1 The gospel that Jesus preached over and over again was about the good news of the kingdom of God.

There may be some truths in the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory. The work that Jesus did on the cross is a beautiful and complex mystery. But I don't think this theory deserves the emphasis it often gets.

Related Posts:


Cody Stauffer said...

Hey, Jon. Great thoughts here. Glad you linked to other posts. A lot of these are the same issues I have. Have you read a book by David I. Rudell called "Who Really Goes to Hell? The Gospel You've Never Heard." It's an indie pub, but it's pretty good.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Cody for the comment. Glad to hear I'm not the only heretic out there. :)

And thanks for the book suggestion. It looks like they have a free pdf available - published by 'biblical heresy press'. History has had some great heretics (Jesus, Luther, ... ), and some questionable ones... I'll take a look. :) Thanks.

Jonathan said...

Oops, I published this post too soon. I have another reason...

#11 Like many doctrines, this is used to divide and/or maintain divisions in Christ's church.

If we stick to teaching passages of Scripture in context we will find most Christians will agree. When we teach a doctrine that requires proof texting (copy and pasting a variety of verses from all over) there will likely be some who object.

I am one of those who object. But I will try to maintain unity with those who love Penal Substitutionary Atonement. I know many of them love Jesus. Maybe they came to conclude this theory from their personal time with my Lord, or maybe they are following traditions and teachings they have received from others.

Either way, I don't think it's so much what you know as who you know that matters. I certainly don't have it all figured out either. :)

Tiffany Jane said...

Thank you for this post!

I grew up being taught that Christianity IS penal substitution (although I didn't learn that phrase until fairly recently). And that has caused me at time to consider abandoning Christianity all together when penal substitution no longer made much sense to me.

It seems to me that we have frequently been taught that the cross did something for GOD. HE couldn't forgive us unless blood was shed...his hands were tied behind his back.and it puzzled me. If, as a broken human, we can forgive without getting retribution surely God is far more capable of forgiveness without "payback".

Only recently with much study have I been exposed to views within Christianity that open up the cross to be a much less confusing, more meaningful event.

But there are times, especially in the face of some views, that I feel lil none of it makes much sense at all....

Jonathan said...

Thanks again Tiffany for the encouraging comments.