The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Answering Objections To Penal Substitution


The first objection says that it is abusive to punish anyone the way Christ was punished. It’s cruel and unusual punishment.

For one Christ voluntarily entered into mystical union with humanity. Moreover, he took on the sins of the whole world (all evil). That’s a huge concentration and amount of sin. All punishment and discipline has some pain that comes with it. Seeing that Christ took on the sins of the whole world we should expect the suffering to be so severe. Especially since it lasted only a few hours. I trust God that the punishment was in direct proportion to the evil.


What makes us think that Christ was punished?


Another objection says that it makes God sadistic and bloodthirsty.

In the Bible blood symbolizes life. The blood of Christ was His love poured out. Confession and trusting Christ cleanses our sins. God is pleased with the blood because by it we are cleansed and healed. God doesn’t delight in suffering, evil and blood in and of itself. What God was pleased in was the love and grace Christ showed to the world in His suffering and death.


I’ll get to that when I give the scriptural evidence for penal substitution under the objection that says

Penal Substitution isn’t taught in the Bible. :smiley:


Agreed!!! :smiley:


Another objection says that it’s unjust to punish the innocent in place of the guilty even if it’s freely chosen by the innocent

This fails to take into consideration the Biblical doctrine of mystical union. According to John Owen:

Of course, the cross is across time and not time bound. So ego puncturing can happen tomorrow even though Christ was slain some 2000 years ago. For some, being crucified with Christ and resurrected with Him happens daily or over a period of time.


Another objection says that pits the Father against the Son.

For one they both were in agreement to it. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Moreover, God’s wrath at the cross was expressed the same way it is in the OT. God allowed evil to have its way with Christ for the greater good of eternal beauty with Him and the Trinity. God isn’t pleased with evil. He was pleased in the love Christ showed to the world and what He accomplished on the cross in perfect obedience to the Father. The paradox of God’s wrath and mercy kiss at the cross.


St. Michael, I don’t believe in penal substitution. That being said, millions of people throughout history have suffered horrible, violent deaths and still continue to do so. I would say then, that these have already paid the price for sin. If this is what God demands, then Jesus only suffered for those who died quickly and/or peacefully.



just because someone suffers naturally doesn’t mean that they have paid for their sins. My brother punched an undercover officer at a bar one time and the cop shot him. After he recovered in the hospital the police came and got him and took him to jail and then court where he went before a judge.

Which brings me to another objection that says God could have just forgiven us without justice.

But everyone knows that committing a serious crime (like rape) can be forgiven by the victim of the crime and justice still needs to be served. All sins are serious because they are against God. For God to sweep these sins under the rug would be unjust and God is just so justice must be executed. God forgave us at the cross but this wasn’t the only thing He was doing. There are a whole host of things Christ was doing on the cross. Those who believe in Penal Substitution believe that the atonement does a lot of things. Not just satisfy justice.


Another objection is that it causes a split in the Trinity

This is dealing with the paradox of Christ being both dead and alive. He died in His human nature. Indeed He said, My God, My God why have You forsaken me? As God Christ transcends our limited dimensions of space and time. This makes Him trans dimensional. He has access to all dimensions. The paradox of Christ being dead and alive would be a problem only if the time, place, and context of His death were identical to the time, place, and context of Him being alive. Because Christ’s identity as God and His access to dimensions and supra-dimensions God encompasses, He could experience suffering and death in all the human dimensions and then transition into any of His other dimensions or realms once the atonement price is paid.


Another objection is that Penal Substitution isn’t taught in the Bible

But we know Christ suffered under God’s wrath. When Jesus got up at the last supper before the drinking of the 4th cup of wine he went to the garden and prayed:

The Bible speaks about this cup:

The cup of wine (blood) is a cup of wrath. Indeed, for us it’s the cup of salvation as we drink the blood (love of Christ)

Indeed, Jesus asks His disciples:

In faith union we are crucified with Christ. Ego death is a painful crucifixion where the old self dies and a new self is resurrected. Paul said “I die daily”

Drinking the love of Christ washes away our sins. We die with Christ. It’s a painful ego puncturing. It’s the same for those in the Lake of fire. They are baptized and reduced to nothing (ashes). They become an empty vessel for the Spirit to fill. Indeed, it’s a baptism in a lake - into water death and fire. A painful ego puncturing that includes God’s wrath.

Those in the lake of fire will be crucified with Christ as the die to self and resurrected to new life.

Next is the book of Romans. The background begins in chapter one speaking of God’s wrath:

And also warns of a future day of wrath (Romans 2:5) God’s wrath was always to punish and discipline. This text shows us that God’s wrath is involved. Romans 3:21-26 states:

In Romans 3:20 Paul is speaking of justification. Something has happened to remove God’s wrath from those who deserve it. In verse 25 Paul highlights Jesus blood as the means of redemption and the parallelism in Romans 5:8-9 makes it clear that Jesus death is in view. The fact that Jesus died in the context of the Romans shows Penal substitution. Death in the Romans world is the penalty for sin under God’s wrath. Jesus

Romans 8 begins:

The reason in verse 3 is that God has

The word condemnation in both verses is a judicial term referring to the act of passing and executing on one found guilty. Believers are no longer condemned because in Christ sin has been condemned. This is penal substitution.


St. Michael, what is the price for sin? Death by crucifixion is not a “natural” death. If this is the type of death that God demands as payment for sin, then Jesus certainly did not “pay the price” for His disciples because all except for John suffered violent deaths. Most of them were scourged and crucified just as Jesus was. Peter was actually hung upside down on the cross, and I think it was Andrew who was tied to the cross, taking two days to die.


So far you aren’t addressing the main objection: you aren’t defending penal substitution here per se. You’re defending penal solidarity, being reckoned with the transgressors instead of instead of the transgressors. :wink: They’re similar but not the same thing.

I mean, you occasionally say things like “Another objection says that it’s unjust to punish the innocent in place of the guilty even if it’s freely chosen by the innocent”, and you quote John Owen who thinks he is talking about “standing in their room ??] and stead as their substitute”, as though substitution is involved, but then he goes on immediately to talk about solidarity not about substitution; and you’re regularly following suit. Mystical union with transgressors isn’t substitution for transgressors.

(Worth noting is that John Owen is talking about penal solidarity with Christ, as though it’s substitution, for “the elect” – because he doesn’t think God suffers for the non-elect, even though he’s quoting federal headship language which in the scriptures Paul says is the goal of God for all rational creatures, leading them out of their rebellions.)

Again, you defend what you’re calling God’s wrath against the Son by stating “God allowed evil to have its way with Christ”. But that’s us hurting the Son, not the Father (aside from Their voluntarily agreement to submit the Son to our stripes – even though, per the context of your Isaiah prooftext we thought God was the one doing this to the Servant, and instead it was us.)

Basically a lot of your answers to objections to penal sub, come down to ‘I’m not defending penal sub.’ Penal sub does pit the Father against the Son, especially in its more popular mode, which is also the point(s) of the objection of the split in the Trinity (which objection(s) you haven’t understood and aren’t really addressing – other than by substituting in something other than penal substitution).

This makes the very common mistake of simply identifying “justice” with “punishment”. Which, not incidentally, is also a breach in the Trinity ultimately: it either makes God ultimately unjust (and therefore ultimately unjust in the relations between the Persons of the Trinity), or it means at least one Person of the Trinity eternally punishes at least one other Person for the sake of “justice”, at and as the ground of all reality – because that Person is guilty of rebellion or treachery within the Trinity? despite that Person being innocent, loyal, and faithful??! – even if there had been no creation of not-God realities.

Except you quote scripture (and John Owen) elsewhere to the effect that we still get punished for our sins; consequently, if all you’re talking about is a judicial meaning for condemnation, as the act of passing and executing (a noun here which you don’t include) on one found guilty, we’re still condemned. Which isn’t penal substitution; and also you haven’t figured out yet what condemnation we don’t have anymore.

This isn’t what Paul means by justification (although that’s admittedly the Roman pre-Christian legal concept which the RCC eventually borrowed and which you’re borrowing from along with many Protestants); which should be obvious enough in your repeated acknowledgments elsewhere that we still get punished due to God’s wrath against our sin. Including in the post where I’m quoting you from here, e.g. “Those in the lake of fire will be crucified with Christ as the die to self and resurrected to new life.”

So again, your basic answer to objections about penal substitution, is that you (currently, for now :unamused: ) believe in something similar to but different from penal sub, which you substitute in for penal sub when you run into insurmountable problems with penal sub.

But substituting something else for penal sub, isn’t defending penal sub. Irony notwithstanding! :wink:


That was as usual, very well said JP




You may be right. I just found an article called “Penal Union”. It’s more in line with what I believe rather than “Penal Substitution”



In union with You upon the cross
As love’s arrow pierces my heart
I die to myself and suffer loss
Then given a new life and start

Buried to my old self I then rise
Vision is now clear as I can see
New self reflects in Your eyes
The person I am and want to be

Looking deeper into Your Face
Beauty becomes brighter inside
With no more wrath only grace
In union with You I now confide

God’s arrow pierces the heart deflating our ego and creating the desire for Him. We want God.


etc.,etc., etc.

Michael, there is NOTHING in the New Testament about penal substitution.

As for your quote from Isaiah 53:4-10 from a translation of the Masoretic Hebrew text, consider the quote of this passage from a translation of the Greek Septuagint. The writers of the New Testament quoted either from the Septuagint, or from a form of Hebrew from which the Septuagint was translated. In either case, it differs substantially from the Masoretic Hebrew text (that was formed by scholars from the 6th to the 10th century):

Do you see penal substitution in the translation of the Septuagint above? Verse 4 doesn’t seem to be talking about his bearing a penalty, but enduring our sins (that is the sins of those who put him to death). Verse 8 clearly says, “because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death.” It was the very sins of “God’s people” the Israelites that delivered him up to the Romans to be crucified. Rather than the Lord being “pleased to bruise him,” just the opposite is stated in verse 10.

Rather than Jesus dying in our place to save us from God’s punishment, Paul gave a quite different reason for Jesus’ death:



I gave some NT scriptures that show Christ bore God’s wrath and compared scripture with scripture giving the background of the OT. The scripture you provided proves my point.

The text goes on to say:



You may be right. I just found an article called “Penal Union”. It’s more in line with what I believe rather than “Penal Substitution”


After considering it I have to say that I’m sticking with Penal Substitution. According to defenders of the model, mystical union has always been a part of it and it’s always been the answer of how the just is punished for the unjust. There is an element to it in that in a sense we die with Christ as we are crucified with Him baptized and resurrected. But there is a substitutionary element in that His death was different from ours in that it was both body and soul. We are however in mystical union with Christ and are not considered distinct from Him. This shows how our sins can be transferred or imputed to Him and His righteousness to us as we are resurrected with Him after being crucified with Him. Just as the penalty for sin was death of both body and soul for Christ and then He was resurrected so is the penalty for sin of those outside of Him in the lake of fire. They are destroyed both body and soul and then resurrected. God’s judgments have always been both retributive and restorative. This is the cup of wine that Jesus drank in His suffering and death. We drink the same cup.

The penalty for sin can’t be eternal suffering for Christ didn’t suffer forever

The penalty for sin can’t be eternal death for Christ was resurrected

Again, I would say that what happens to those in the “Lake of Fire” is that they are destroyed (body and soul) and then resurrected. As a human, Christ died both body and soul paying the penalty for sin and then resurrected. Just as the heavens and earth are destroyed with a fiery judgment but there will be a new heaven and earth.

He wasn’t punished by God for anything that He did wrong. But was punished by God for our transgressions as God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Again this transfer of guilt is rightfully and justly done because Christ enters into a real mystical union with people. The union is such that the two are one and not considered to be distinct.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes, his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.