The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Implications of the cross

This is about something I am only now begining to understand. Starting from penal substitution theory and working through to our salvation and what is involved. So this could otherwise be a long read so I would rather cut to the case and say that is quite clear that penal substitution is taught in the Bible. It’s hard to avoid. But what dose it mean? Does it mean as a currently popular worship song asserts that God the Father turned His face away from His Son? Verse 24 of Psalm 22 would say not. I’m not at all sure I would ever be able to trust God if He did. Further in Romans 5 v8 we read that God demonstrates His love for us that while we’re still sinners Christ died for us. Who was the demonstration for - for us! Everywhere human engagement with the fear of the unknown was propitiated with sacrifice. For Jew and Gentile this was universally true. We need to see the sacrifice. God does not desire it. Ps 51 vs 16-17 ; Hosea 6 vs6 Every reference to it in the law and the prophets is a demonstration of God taking us from what we think we know to a better understanding of His nature. So penal sub is not wrong it’s just not the mature picture. Jesus did not die to save us from an angry God. He died that we might get to understand the love He (God) has for us sinners. Paul said: once I thought like a child and did childish things but now I am all grown up I have put childish things away.

I imagin a couple we will call Miriam and Abi who are Jewish farmers from Bible times. Ab goes up to the temple with his lamb. The best in his flock. Miriam is pregnant or she would have gone too. The priest looks over the lamb and pronounces it ok. He slits the lambs throat and does all the business that the law stipulates. Ab goes home with the bits of the lamb he is allowed to keep. Over their meal Miriam says well there we are, covered for another year. Do we treat the cross as an eternal insurance policy?

Hi Chris
Like you, I’m a little concerned that this notion of God ‘turning his face away’ has become ‘official’ doctrine for most evangelicals. And we evangelicals are, of course, the ones who insist that our teachings and beliefs are rooted in scripture. But this idea is not present in the text of scripture as far as I can see. I believe it’s been developed partly to try and explain why our Lord quoted these words from the psalm at this point, and even to try and answer some critics who have claimed that the cry showed Jesus doubted (his Father/mission?) at this point…

I often think that Christ’s atoning death was not ‘required’ by God as some kind of ‘satisfaction’ (modern hymn again… ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’) but was offered entirely for us; not only was ‘justice’ done, it was seen to be done, and is recognised, once for all, as having been done and instigated by God the Father. But it was an offering of pure love and self-giving for us.

I don’t think we treat the cross as an eternal insurance policy though. Would not this be ‘putting God to the test’? In my own view it would certainly seem to be presumptuous to look upon Christ’s self-giving in such a way.

God bless


We certainly should not treat the cross as an insurance policy rather as a demonstration of Gods love but if we do think as many evangelicals seem to that in essence that is what the cross provides then we have a one dimensional view. It is not a view that is in error it is just not mature. I would never cast doubt on anyone who sees the cross this way but I think I would want to say hey there is more to this mystery that is yet to be embraced. Here is a verse from one of John Wesly’s Hymns which may open the door a little:

Tis mystery all the Eternal dies
Who can explore His strange design
In vein the first born seraph try’s
To plumb the depths of love divine
Tis mystery all let Earth adore
Let angel minds enquire no more!

From the hymn And can it be by Charles Wesley

Interestingly however THAT very thought is the exact opposite according to the Peshitta as rendered here…

Mt 27:46 And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, Eli, Eli, lmana shabachthani! which means, My God, my God, for this I was kept/spared!

Mk 15:34 And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and said, Eli, Eli, Lmana, shabachthani! which means, My God, my God, for this I was kept/spared!

And thus according to the footnote, meaning… “This was my destiny.”

I have never heard of the Pashitta. Can someone explain please. I thought most of the NT was originally written in Greek.

Chris… the Peshitta is the OT/NT written in Aramaic… the local language, distinct from Hebrew, that Jesus is recorded on occasion as using as recorded in the gospels.

qaz… the Peshitta pretty much follows the Greek though there are some interesting variances. I have no real idea which came first between the Aramaic or Greek or whether they simply stood side by side… most in the know seem to assume the Greek but there are some critics out there who strongly argue in favour of the Peshitta.

Chris, you nicely capture many of my own perceptions (though I think for many, the term penal substitution, creates images in tension with your insights).

I agree that Jesus is quoting from Psalm 22’s reference to David feeling forsaken, and that vs. 24’s conclusion that God never actually took his presence away makes using this text to support God turning away from Jesus as he bore sin a weak argument. For it requires Jesus and the Gospel writer to require than we who know the Scripture must assume that Jesus was contradicting his citation’s meaning in its’ Biblical context.

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Yes Bob I’m sure it does. I find as I get older I am often questioning rusted on perceptions that I accepted before without question.