Hey guys. This is the first time I’ve been on this forum for a while.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the atonement and was hoping to gain some insight into a few key verses. I currently land somewhere in N.T Wright territory and would say both that I believe in all the theories of atonement, and also that in a way we cannot really, FULLY understand what exactly transpired on the cross that day.
Issues I have against penal-substitution:
- Does God require suffering as atonement for sin? Why wouldn’t he just require reformation of character and recompense?
- I don’t think God needs someone to ‘get it’ in order to forgive anyone.
- Is God angry at us by default? Really? (Not all models of PS teach this but some do)
Issues I have in favor of PS:
- I’m not interested in throwing out teachings just because they’re unsavory to us. I think that a lot of times it is really a caricature that is being addressed instead of an actual doctrine (see MANY common, but false, ideas of Christian Universalism that are in circulation).
- How would God be able to save us other than giving us His righteousness? Can we ever be perfect enough for His presence? Is PS just the only way?
- Other texts such as Isaiah 53 and Jesus’ words about drinking a ‘cup of sorrow’
The prompt for this was that today I visited a new church that meets on my campus. The sermon given was essentially a reaffirmation of how important Christ’s substitutionary atonement is, given how much evil is in the world. I believe that the speaker was coming from a spirit of humility and authentic faith. She was not speaking to inspire fear and I believe her objective was simply to remind the flock how important Jesus’ atonement is and to inspire gratefulness.
One of the key texts she employed was Romans 3:24-26 (emphasis added)
24 Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
This seems like textbook penal-substitution to me. How would someone upholding the Christus Victor model or others respond to this?
She gave special emphasis to the apparent conflict of God’s mercy and justice, plus the idea that the Father turned his face away from Jesus on the cross. I spoke with the speaker after this and brought up Psalm 22, which I understand to be a prophecy/narrative of Jesus’ passion. In particular, I brought up what Psalm 22:24 has to say (emphasis added),
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
She listened but noted that the psalmist was jumping back and forth a bit between prophecy and their own context, and essentially told me it didn’t really matter. I think you can still believe in PS without including the whole ‘father turns His face away’ thing anyway. What do you guys think about this? Did the father really turn His face away? Was this necessary for our salvation? What’s up with this?
Many thanks friends Shalom