This has been simmering on the back-boiler for a while, and now is the time for sharing. It is a (hopefully!) comprehensive rebuttal of Penal Substitution from a purely Scriptural point of view, rather than examining the logical inconsistencies*.
It is primarily aimed at encouraging those who have been taught Penal Substitution to openly examine the Gospel narratives for themselves. It has a flow: providing logical follow-on questions and a response to each.
It may also encourage those who are uncomfortable with Penal Substitution to realise they are on far more solid ground Scripturally!
Feel free to share with others if you find it helpful.
This Q&A with Brad Jersak gives a great illustration of where our own theology now sits. The Q&A starts with an intro and history of Brad’s early ministry, so if you want to cut to the ‘and how has my theology changed’ piece, that starts at about 20 mins in.
Hope you enjoy it (Oh, and be warned: there are a few “making s**t up” comments which are part of a shared joke, as becomes clear later in the chat).
Now that we are re-thinking the sacrificial system and how it pertains to Jesus’s sacrifice, many questions arise. Here a Presbyterian asks a key question over on PTM’s website, and Brad Jersak provides a clear and really helpful response…
Isaiah 53 is consistently used as a proof text for the penal substitution theory of the atonement. Whilst there is no doubt that this chapter contains prophetic echoes of Jesus’ sacrifice, we should not simply assume that we can apply the entire text literally to the events of Golgotha. The litmus test for how to understand Isaiah 53 must come from the New Testament and the Apostles.
Although we watched the “Monster God or Monster Man” debate between Dr Michael Brown and Brian Zahnd some time ago, we only recently stumbled across this interesting review of it (which contains a link to the debate). The debate is a great starting point to get a handle on the issues… and then Rob Grayson’s review provides helpful reflection.
We recently came across this article by Derek Vreeland. It is a thoughtful piece and makes a helpful contribution to the debate. You’ll need to read it through to the end, though, or you’ll entirely miss the point he’s making:
In this excellent article, Nick demonstrates why we need to understand Jesus’ cry of abandonment as a prayer, and that the entire Psalm was clearly in mind. He also addresses some of the issues with trying to use the ‘cry’ from the Gospel narrative as the basis for forming doctrine.
As long as our thinking remains shaped by the scheme of this age… our understanding of the cross will inevitably be conformed to the world’s ideas of justice and peace
Darrin W. Snyder Belousek has written a book that anyone and everyone who holds to the Penal Substitution view of the Atonement should read. Deftly and carefully he examines our presuppositions against the biblical text.
Early on, as he sets out the purpose of writing this book, he quotes J. Lawrence Burkholder:
References to Christ as a sin offering, a ransom, an atoning sacrifice, a passover lamb prove nothing about wrath or punishment
Proof Texts Unchecked
The arguments for PSA rely heavily on the same set of Bible verses. What is clear is that most of these are generic and common to all atonement theories. References to Christ as a sin offering, a ransom, an atoning sacrifice, a passover lamb prove nothing about wrath or punishment. These verses are also embraced within Ransom theory, Recapitulation, Scapegoat theory etc. Yet, despite their commonality across Atonement Theories, they are constantly traipsed out and used in defence of PSA. That Christ was pierced for our transgressions is universally acknowledged by all atonement theories, and so to bring it into the argument for PSA is surely an act of wilful misleading. Continue reading “What proponents of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) Theory need to address”