The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Penal Substitution passages: Romans 8:1-4

Paidion posted a thread a couple of months ago about whether people here subscribed to the traditionally-held idea of penal substitution. The general view was that the majority of people here don’t, at least to the view of it held by many.

I mentioned in that thread that I thought it would be a good idea if we could discuss some of the passages used to justify PS and what people think they mean so I thought I’d go ahead and start a thread

The first one I thought would be good to discuss is Romans 8:3-4. I’ll put the whole of the first four verses up because I think the first two verses are also important within this debate - for example, what it means to be “in” Christ Jesus (vs 1).

(ESV translation)
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

A few preliminary questions that might be asked:
What does it mean to be “in” Christ Jesus?
In what way did God condemn sin in the flesh?
How are we set free from the law if the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us?

Union with Christ is a spiritual union entered in by faith. We are crucified with Christ as sin is condemned and resurrected to new life with Christ as God’s wrath is removed from our vision so that we can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This spiritual beauty is first and foremost the humble love of Christ. One of the reasons people object to penal substitution is because they think it makes God abusive. But keep in mind that Christ was carrying the sins of all His people. That’s a lot of sin!! We should expect the suffering to be so severe. Especially since it lasted for only a few hours. In addition to the many things Christ was doing at the cross (when God allowed evil to have it’s way with Christ) was showing that the worst evil in history was meant by God for good. When God released His wrath by allowing evil to have its way with Christ - Christ defeated evil and showed His love for the world as He obeyed the Father with love. In this the Father was pleased. Not in the evil and suffering in and of itself at the cross but what Christ was accomplishing in loving sinners and redeeming His people. God’s intentions were good in allowing the murder of His Son for He had morally justifiable reasons for doing so. One act, two intentions. God’s intentions were good, Satan and evil man’s intentions were evil.

Thanks Jonny. I think this could be an excellent discussion. However, I would like to know how people get penal substitution out of the first 4 verses of Romans 8.

In any case, I’ll take a stab, in my simple way, at the preliminary questions:

  1. What does it mean to be “in” Christ Jesus?

To be in Christ is to be part of Christ’s Assembly (or “Church” if you prefer that designation), part of his “body” (a symbol for his Assembly). God adds people to the Assembly when they have repented (have had a change of heart and mind concerning their lives), have submitted to the authority of Christ as He expressed it in “the sermon on the mount”, Matt 5, 6, and 7, which is also known as “the law of Christ” (1 Cor 9:21, Gal 6:2), and have sealed their committment with baptism.

  1. In what way did God condemn sin in the flesh?

By sending his Son to live a righteous life and instruct disciples, and to die to “do away with sin” (Heb 9:26). After a building is condemned, it is destroyed. This is what God is doing though Christ with sin. He is destroying it in his disciples.

How are we set free from the law if the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us?

Paul is addressing Jews. If they are in Christ and are fullfilling the true law of God, the Law of Christ, the law as Jesus expressed it in Matt 5, 6, and 7, (and in contrast to the law of Moses, to which He referred as “It was said to you of old time…, but I say to you …”, then they are set free from the law of Moses, and its severe requirements. Paul expresses this in detail in his letter to the Galatians, in which the Galatians had been deceived by particular teachers who urged them to become circumcised and to strictly observe the Mosaic law. Here is just a small excerpt from that letter. I am sure there are even better ones which could be quoted:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Gal 4:21-26)

Cole, I think what you said above – that God allowed the murder of His Son for our sake. Very good point. A lot of people feel that Christians believe that God ordained the sacrifice of His Son to Himself, to satisfy His wrath.

Paidion, good points. I agree that I can’t see getting PS from this passage. Regarding the first question, the thing that came to my mind was 1 Cor 1:30, where Paul says: 'But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us–our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption . . ." I realize the context is different, but I think it’s still significant for this passage. Those who are in Christ, in His body (the ekklesia) are redeemed – and of course Jesus will draw ALL unto Himself as He predicted Himself – since He was “lifted up” on the cross.

Jonny, excellent topic! Thanks for posting it. :smiley: I’ve thought a lot about how God condemned sin in the flesh through Christ Jesus. The picture Paul seems to me to be painting here is one of representative atonement. Jesus came as the representative/prototype human being, in the true image of God. As the head (the new head – the second Adam) of the race, He died as the representative of the entire race of the offspring of the old Adam. (If you read further in Romans – chapter 4 or 5, I’m thinking . . . – you’ll see this all laid out. “As in Adam all died, so in Christ, all are made alive.” How many died in Adam? ALL (which no one will dispute means all). How many are made alive in Christ? ALL. I see no reason whatsoever to interpret this differently from the ALL who died in the first Adam.

So I guess I’d say (probably with regrettable awkwardness) that God, in Christ, took ALL Adam’s race and our sinfulness and our shame and our death and the writing of the decree of the law which was against us, into Himself on the cross – where together, all died. That is the condemnation of sin in the flesh – His flesh. Have you seen the new Sherlock Holmes? The one where at the end, Sherlock “condemns” Moriarty in the flesh (so to speak) by dragging him out of the window of the castle where they both fall to their deaths? (presumably – except that one at least comes back, but you can’t take that analogy too far.) Jesus went to His death, but He dragged sin et al along with Him. If only the powers of the darkness of this age had realized what Christ was doing, they never would have crucified the Lord of Glory.

How are we freed from the law if the law is fulfilled in us? Like Paidion said, Paul is actually talking to the Jews here. But for a more general application, again Paul has already pointed out by this part of the letter that when a husband dies, the wife is freed from the law of her husband. Or when a slave dies, he is free from the law of his master. We (in Christ) died to this world; to the law – that we might live in Him, toward the Father. We (or specifically the Jews) WERE bound by law, but now we are under grace. Why is this better? Because Father is working the image of His Son into us as we follow the promptings of the Spirit. We are becoming the sort of people who need no law, but who do the things required of the law (ultimately, love) naturally – because we can’t imagine doing anything else.

Again, thanks for posting such a good topic!

Blessings, Cindy

I want to tag [tag]JasonPratt[/tag], since I’m sure he’ll also have good things to say.

Saw the tag, but super-busy at ‘work’ work today (and need to be super-busier! :wink: )

I would connect this to the Abrahamic covenant, which in Galatians 3 Paul says was actually between the Son and the Father (though only one Person of YHWH is immediately in view in what Abraham recalls of what happened back in the Genesis account) with the Son as a legitimate descendant of Abraham pledging for Abraham’s side of the covenant. It’s a rather different version of penal sub than most PSA proponents are expecting though: the Father isn’t angry at the Son or anything like that; the Son is demonstrating that He’s keeping the covenant by voluntarily dying to keep it after any sin of Abraham or any descendant of Abraham – which in the logic of the Incarnation would be any rational creature at all who ever sins, since the Creator of all rational creatures Incarnates as a descendant of Abraham precisely to keep the covenant between the Father and the Son. The end goal of the covenant is to bring every rational creature to righteousness (thus the poetic comparison with the number of the stars or the sands of the sea): the Son’s voluntary death for the sin of any rational creature expresses the continuing intention and goal of God to get it done.

(Notably, as Paidion mentioned, Paul goes on in Gal 4 to allegoricize the two covenants, the covenant of the promise by Sarah and the covenant of the law by Hagar. The covenant of the Law at Sinai could fail by the failure of people to keep their side of the covenant; the covenant of the promise, which precedes and supersedes the covenant of the Law, cannot fail. The allegory isn’t perfect, though, since God does promise to protect Hagar’s descendants, and anyway they’re also included by Christ their Creator in the covenant made by the Father and the Son in the presence of Abraham.)

Part of repentance from sin, as Paul says later/elsewhere, is to die with Christ, in penitent cooperation with Christ. So it isn’t a case of Christ dying instead of us, but voluntarily leading us in submission to God (which the Son does from eternity in union with the Father anyway as the ground of all reality).

Notably, Calvs recognize in the covenant the assurance that God will get the repentance of sinners to righteousness done; Arms recognize the super-extensive scope of God’s intention to save sinners from sin. Both together logically add up to, well, why we’re here. :slight_smile:

Some great responses here so far!

It’s not a passage that I’ve seen heavily used to support the traditional idea of penal substitution but it’s definitely used quite a bit - mainly the part about God condemning sin in the flesh. The NIV actually adds in the word ‘offering’ to say that Jesus was a ‘sin offering’, but the word isn’t originally there and even if it were, you have to try and look at the intention and purpose behind the sin offerings in the OT sacrifice system (which admittedly, I know little about)

Of course, condemning sin in the flesh does not entail the notion that the Father personally punished Jesus - I’ve actually seen a video clip where N.T. Wright briefly acknowledged that he believed in penal substitution and pointed to this verse about God condemning sin in the flesh as if it was clearly obvious that’s what Paul meant by it! For me, you have to read into it to be able to correlate that God condemning sin in the flesh of Jesus means that he poured out his wrath on him (which it never says in the Bible).

I do find it very interesting about the righteous requirement of the law being fulfilled IN us. If you were reading traditional penal substitution into this passage you might expect it to say that the righteous requirement of the law was fulfilled FOR us. You might say that we have faith in Jesus and the work he has done for us and we then get off being punished because we are IN him and are automatically now seen as righteous. But the way I see it is that the law did not stop sin in itself, that it only led to death and was actually only a shadow of what was to come (as it says in Hebrews and Colossians) so Jesus comes to do what we didn’t do by fulfilling it, being killed by sinful humanity rather than God’s ‘righteous’ wrath and punishment (which also relates back to Jason’s point about the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15, where God pays the penalty when the covenant is broken, whether it was by him [which would never happen] or by us [which did happen] and thus the punishment comes from us not him) and then a new covenant is started, based on the ‘Spirit of Life’ rather than the law.


It did propitiate God’s wrath. Blood in the Bible symbolizes life. Sin brings spiritual death. In faith union with Christ, His blood cleanses and purifies our sins and gives us life as God’s wrath is satisfied. It brings a smile to God’s face when we are cleansed and purified. It’s not the suffering and blood in and of itself that pleases God but in what Christ was accomplishing in giving grace to sinners and cleansing our sins. God’s not a sadistic blood-freak. Jesus is our mercy seat where our sins are cleansed and expiated and God’s wrath is propitiated. This removal of this sin and wrath opens us up to see and feel the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ which is first and foremost the beauty of His humble and holy love.

Cole, I believe that Jesus’ blood cleanses us from sin in this way: His sacrifice makes peace with us and reconciles US to the Father. Scripture never ever says that God needs to be reconciled to us sinners. Yes He is angry when we are unkind and cruel to one another and forget to be grateful and loving toward Him. How could He not be? He should be angry about these things. But Jesus’ blood was not for the Father. Our Father can forgive us anytime He likes. He doesn’t need to let us kill His only begotten for his OWN benefit. That was for OUR benefit – because we had this NEED for something to cover our shame. We had to SEE that the sin was taken away. We needed that Scapegoat. The covenant was such (as Jonny says) that if either party broke it, God would pay. The covenant was broken, and God paid, to satisfy OUR need to have it paid. It was we who needed that sacrifice, just as it was ancient Israel who needed the sacrificial system – not God.

This is what the Hebraist said:

God didn’t will the sacrifices and offerings (approach presents), but nevertheless (yet) He prepared a body for Jesus so that He could do His Father’s will --which is to say, so that He could save the people – not from His Father, but from sin.

That’s the way I see this. It has a number of virtues in my opinion, not least of which is to absolve the Father of filicide (the killing of one’s own son or daughter). Also, it has reason and logic on its side. Jesus asked the priests & Pharisees, “Why do you not of your own selves judge what is right?” He expects us to use the mental faculties He’s given us. It simply doesn’t make sense to think that a father can be appeased for the disloyalty of his slaves by allowing those slaves to murder his obedient, beloved, and only son in whom he is well pleased.

Also, no court in the land would consent to put an innocent man to death in the place of a guilty man and let the guilty go free. That is not justice. God does need justice to be done, and for Him, justice is greater not less than it is for us. For Him, justice means that though we were yet His enemies, yet He would die for us – to bring us into His circle of love and family and rejoicing. Justice for God means making all things right. That is why Jesus died – not to appease God’s wrath. Genuine repentance instantly appeased God’s wrath toward David, though David’s sins were very great. We needed to be changed, and Jesus’ death was for that – for our reformation and our reconciliation to Love.


The faith union with Christ is such that we become one with Him. He is in us and we are in Him. So, when our sins are imputed to Him they become His:

This is how the just is punished for the unjust

I agree with your point about forgiveness. But keep in mind that sins against God are serious. If someone rapes me I can forgive them while justice is still being done by punishing them in prison. God is just and He must punish sin even if He forgives it. Remember there were a whole host of things Christ and the Father were doing at the cross. Yes Jesus forgave, but considering the seriousness of sin, God must execute justice because He is just. Since God is just He doesn’t sweep these serious sins against Him under the rug. Not to punish would be unjust and the demeaning of God would be endorsed. A lie would reign at the core of reality.

If you read what I’ve already stated I believe the blood was for the purpose of cleansing our sins. Once our sins are cleansed God’s wrath is turned away. So, I believe the atonement was for OUR healing.

Also Cindy,

As I already stated, forgiveness was just one of the things Christ was doing at the cross. Here’s some more:

Removing God’s wrath

Purifying His bride

Showing love and grace to sinners

Canceling the legal demands of the law

Removing condemnation

Showing the worst evil in history was meant by God for good

Giving eternal life to all who trust in Him

Freeing us from the slavery of sin and death

Unleashing the power of God in the Gospel

Giving us an example to follow of humble and holy love

I’ll answer the first one for now, Cole. All sins that are sins are against God. If someone rapes you, they have raped Jesus. There are not sins that are NOT against God. But while such a person ought to go to prison, and it’s right that we send him there, sending the perpetrator to prison doesn’t actually do justice. It just represents our own feeble attempt at justice. The best we can do. REAL justice would be to restore you, and restore TO you the one who assaulted you as the dear and loving brother he SHOULD have been to you. Justice (true justice) makes things right, and even makes them better than before (the thief must restore seven-fold).

Yes, Jesus took our sin into Himself, and yes He did put that sin to death in His body on the cross. But God was not punishing Him wrathfully on that cross – rather God worked with the Son and the Spirit to destroy sin in the flesh (Jesus’ flesh). Whatever the reason this means of destruction of sin worked, it wasn’t because God needed to see His son suffer and bleed and die (or anyone suffer and bleed and die) before He could forgive. God isn’t bound by our impoverished ideas of justice. I believe that God’s justice is to restore – to make things “just as if we’d never sinned,” only better. The point isn’t that our Father is angry and needs to be appeased, but that there is a problem that needs solving and God (the three who are One) has worked together to solve the problem in this way – presumably because there was no other way to yield the kind of results God decreed must be achieved.

I do also think though, that while Jesus died to enable us to be set free from sin, we still suffer at least some of the consequences of that sin. Not only do WE suffer, but those who have been affected by our sin also suffer. A murderer who comes to Christ must usually still pay his “debt to society” by spending his time in prison. The person he killed is still dead, and his family still suffers. The murderer’s loved ones also suffer (presumably) for want of his presence and support. And there may be more suffering still. Will the murderer’s offspring follow in his footsteps and end up living a life similar to his? It’s very likely they will. Being set free from sin doesn’t take away the consequences from sin, and it shouldn’t. We probably NEED to suffer and even to see others suffer as a result of our sins, in order to learn to truly hate those sins. And if the suffering we experience in this life isn’t enough to turn us forever sour on sin, we will have the chance to suffer yet more in the age(s) to come. Only by then, our suffering might have a more limited scope, encompassing primarily ourselves. (Or maybe not . . . )

So, to sum up – I agree that God must execute justice because He is just. Only I believe that, in the same way that His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours, God’s concept of justice is far, far higher than ours. God’s idea of justice is to make things right. That is a thing that we cannot do, but which God CAN. He can restore the dead man to his family, the purity to the one who has been defiled, the childhood to the one robbed of it by abusive parent(s), the trust and security to one who has been made fearful, the love to the one who has been denied love. He wipes away ALL tears, destroys ALL evil, heals ALL relationships. THAT is His justice – not merely to exact vengeance, but to put all things back into the order needed to restore beauty, to make the entire living sculpture of nature and divinity whole and ravishingly lovely and perfect.


That kind of justice is true for those who are in Christ. Because those who have faith in Christ are in spiritual union with Christ their sins become His in imputation as the Bible teaches. The just is punished for the unjust. We are crucified with Christ as we die to the old self and are resurrected to new life and receive Christ’s righteousness. We have now been justified by His blood. We are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Christ’s people will reign with Him in the new creation. Not so for the evil outside the gates who don’t want the true God and stay evil forever. The only proper justice here is punishment. They stay evil forever and are punished forever as the brightness of God’s infinite glory shines forever. The glories of this justice make His love shine all the brighter. What God is mainly doing by punishing the wicked in hell and keeping them out of the new creation is showing love to His children by protecting them. God loves His children to a degree that He doesn’t love the reprobate and He will do anything to protect them from monstrous evil. Beautiful indeed.

This isn’t going to go anywhere, Cole. I know that, but once in a while I just feel like I ought to reiterate my position. I’ve done that, so I really don’t need to go over this debate again. I know what you think, and I think you know what I think. You are a dear brother, whom I regard, so don’t take it personally that I call Calvinism a doctrine inspired by hell for the purpose of hurting sincere believers like you and others you and I can both name. We disagree. Just the way it is. But you are still my brother for whom I care a great deal.

(I realize I’m not really replying to you but to whomever you’re quoting and paraphrasing this month. Thread readers should take this as replying about the principles expressed, therefore, not replying to Cole per se.)

Not only are the relevant words never used that way in the New Testament (we or our sins are propitiated, not God – though admittedly that’s entirely opposite to the natural religious expectation that the deity is who has to be propitiated), but the concept that God the Son has to propitiate the wrath of God the Son is nonsense; and the concept that God the Father has wrath against us, so has to be propitiated by God the Son is even more nonsensical. No trinitarian theist should ever take such positions.

(Edited to add: that God has wrath against us, sure, fine, not a problem for trinitarianism. That God opposes God regarding God’s wrath for us, very much not trinitarian theism. Or even non-trinitarian Christianity of any kind that I can think of offhand. Nor is the idea that God is intrinsically wrath against sin an idea coherent with trinitarian theism; nor is the idea that God does love but isn’t essentially love and therefore can choose not to love or to stop loving rational creatures – that’s nothing other than a tacit repudiation of ortho-trin. Pitting God’s love and justice against each other in God so that God does justice to one set of creatures and God does love to another set of creatures, also super-bad trinitarian theology. I would and did reject such positions, and several others like it, explicitly as a coherent orthodox trinitarian theist, before I became a Christian universalist. From which rejections and corrections, I became a Christian universalist – but as a corollary to ortho-trin. That level of theology has to come first, soteriology follows.)

It also doesn’t fit Calv notions of election, since God the Father already loves the elect (and only the elect) so much to send the Son to die for us while we are yet sinners; which is exactly opposite to the idea that God’s wrath has to be “propitiated” for the elect. Whereas on Calv notions of the non-elect, God doesn’t have (at least) saving love (and maybe no real love at all, Calv theologians disputing this point with each other) for the non-elect, so God’s wrath was never propitiated for them at all, nor did any Person of God even intend to propitiate the wrath of another Person of God for them (assuming such a schism of intention was even possible within ortho-trin theism, which it is not).

Except God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit for that matter) originally participates with giving grace to sinners and cleansing our sins, so at best we now have God the Father pleasing God the Father in order to turn away the wrath of God the Father. Even on a non-trinitarian theism this would be schizophrenic.

The mercy-seat concept of the term ‘propitiation’ (and its Greek original) is accurate; but all the Persons sit upon the mercy seat, and are already smiling (per the Greek term) and leaning forward (per the Latin term) to clean sinners who agree to cooperate with the cleaning – a cooperation only possible if God reaches out first to provide them with the capability to even agree to cooperate with the cleaning. On Calv theology God never reaches out like that for the chosen non-elect at all anyway (by God’s authoritative choice); but in regard to those elected for salvation (on any nominally trinitarian theology, Calv, Arm, or Kath) God doesn’t have to propitiate God’s wrath before or after reaching out from the mercy-seat of judgment to have mercy on sinners.

Except that when the term translated “imputation” occurs in the scriptures, it refers to an accurate accounting of the situation, not to a useful legal fiction which would be analogically tantamount to cooking the accounting books or embezzling. God of all people doesn’t pretend God is something God is not.

Fortunately, the scriptures don’t say that God (in any Person of God) imputes our sins to God (including in 2 Cor 5:21). Though on Calv theology our sins are in fact imputed to God (except when that corollary becomes theologically inconvenient), so I guess the theological inconsistency there is consistent in its own weird way. :wink: There is some scriptural evidence that we as sinners impute our sins to God, so again in a backhanded way this version of PSA fits scriptural testimony – but not in any way which says the standard PSA proponents are right to be doing so! :wink:

Calvs (and Arms to be fair) like to say that on a regular basis as though the people they’re talking to don’t believe or remember this. But that doesn’t make the arguments being salted with this saying any more coherent or accurate.

Mere punishment for legal purposes is meaningless, and puts God at the mercy of God’s own law at best: well, sin is really really serious, so even though God forgives the sinner and agrees not to punish him, God just has to punish someone in order to be just, so God punishes Himself – He doesn’t sweep these serious sins against Him under the rug because not to punish someone, even if the someone is completely innocent, would be unjust (the punishment of the innocent being justice instead of injustice on this account), and the demeaning of God would be endorsed if He didn’t find someone innocent to punish instead of the guilty! But since He finds an innocent person to punish instead of the guilty, now a lie will not reign (on this theory) at the core of reality.

Except for the lie reigning at the core of reality on this theory.

It would look a little better if the notion were more coherently kept in mind that God is punishing Himself for sins done against God – at least it would be that much more trinitarian – but that wouldn’t change the mere legalism involved. Nor would it comport very well with the intrinsic justice of God between the Persons from all eternity as the ground of all reality: the essential reality of the justice of God does not involve the Father pretending the Son is unjust and punishing Him as though the Son is unjust (much less does it involve the Son actually being unjust and being punished by the Father).

Beyond all this, on even non-trinitarian Christologies, much less on any coherent trinitarian Christology, the Father doesn’t punish the Son with some kind of hopeless punishment, whether eternal conscious torment or annihilation. So even on this merely legalistic account, the Son isn’t punished with the just punishment required by God’s justice, but with a lesser punishment! – God’s “just” requirements remain unmet! – the (merely) “legal demands of the law” remain un-canceled!

Well, then, if someone has raped you, you should pretend you raped yourself and put yourself into eternal conscious torment in a prison somewhere, in punishment of yourself, so that you can forgive the person who raped you; since without your hopeless (or hopeful?) punishment of yourself your wrath against your rapist will never be propitiated and you’ll never be able to forgive him.

On the Calv account you’re (going back to) accepting now, that’s what God does for those whom He intends to forgive; whereas the only people who actually go to prison are those He never even intended to forgive in the first place (by His own authoritative choice. Also they were incapable of doing anything other than sinning against Him, by God’s authoritative choice to bring them into existence without those capabilities, and to sustain them in existence without those capabilities which He could have chosen to give them but chooses not to do so.)

The Bible does teach this; it does not teach that the sins of sinners are accurately reckoned to Christ (or even that God pretends that they are accurately reckoned to Christ). In fact, on the standard model of PSA, there is less than no reason at all for anyone to be crucified with Christ, to die with Christ so that we may rise with Christ: Christ was supposed to be (merely) substituted for some (not all, per Calvs) sinners.

Except that even on this (highly broken) soteriology, everyone was outside the gate and didn’t want the true God but only wanted to stay evil forever; so If the only proper justice for such people is for such people to be punished instead of the most innocent person being punished instead, then every sinner should be punished forever so that the brightness of God’s infinite glory shines forever. Even the merciful salvation of Christ becomes improperly unjust on this theory – and moreso again because Christ the innocent is not hopelessly punished forever as an evildoer!

The end result of such a purely schizophrenic plan is that the brightness of God’s infinite glory is permanently and infinitely defeated by God’s own authoritative choice!

(And then the supposed “glories” of “this justice” supposedly makes “His love shine all the brighter.”)

So, the other part being schizophrenic nonsense (God’s main purpose in punishing people being to ensure that His infinite glory fails in several ways, which by the magic of wishful thinking also counts as His infinite glory shining forever), someone goes on to say this sort of thing instead. Now God’s main purpose, since the other main purpose clearly and in several ways fails by God’s own authoritative choice, is to protect His actual children instead of His children who aren’t His children (by nothing other or greater than God’s own authoritative choice). God will “do anything” to protect the children He chooses to protect, except to actually protect them from such monstrous evil, since such monstrous evil only exists by God’s authoritative choice in the first place (unless we’re hewing straight into God/anti-God dualism, which isn’t even supernaturalistic theism, much less trinitarian theism); and since the children He chooses to save from sin are still afflicted by monstrous sin to start with, and they continue being afflicted by it, at least externally and (per even St. Paul also internally, though there is dispute about this among theologians) until God sequesters off the other children He chooses never to save from sin (or possibly annihilates them out of existence). Leaving the other children behind who shall be forever and only ever afflicted with monstrous sin: by God’s authoritative choice.

That people are taught to call, and to even value, this idea as beautiful indeed… is not beautiful, indeed.

The people you’re getting all this from, Cole, are spazzing theologically all over the place, and are doing you no favors thereby. You yourself used to realize this, or so you said. I’m sorry they’ve got hold of you again. But the truth, and the infinite glory of God’s actual eternal and positively righteous justice, will come forth eventually. And that will be beautiful indeed. :slight_smile:

Incidentally, 2 Cor 5 has nothing to say about God reconciling only a chosen elect to Himself through the sacrifice of the Son – no more than Colossians 1 restricts the reconciliation of sinners to a chosen elect – much less does it have anything to say about God reconciling God to the world – much less the Son reconciling the Father to the world.

But instead, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself (5:19), for which reason (the reconciliation of the world, not only of a chosen elect – the archetypical error of Israel even when being otherwise faithful to God), we (who are chosen by God to be such, as Israel was chosen) are now the ambassadors of God to the world exhorting people and and begging them on behalf of Christ “Be reconciled to God!”

As Arminians (and their catholic predecessors) are aware, and emphasize, God graciously reconciles the whole world to Himself through Christ.

As Calvinists (and their catholic predecessors) are aware, and emphasize, God’s grace was not and shall not be in vain. (6:1)

Just as God’s grace in saving the Son was not in vain, so the Son’s sacrifice on the cross will not be in vain: the world will be reconciled to God

Similarly the love of Christ compels us who have concluded that One died for all, therefore all died, and He died for all that they who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (5:14-15) To preach less than Christ’s goal of reconciling all, or to preach that Christ’s reconciliation of any to God shall be in vain, is to receive the grace of Christ in vain (and, not incidentally, this routinely gives cause for offense, discrediting our ministry!)

(Nor is this topic foreign to Isaiah 49, which Paul is citing in this portion of the epistle. I posted up my notes on that portion of 2 Cor, and its contextual connections to Isaiah 49, at that link, back on Jan 3 this year, so I’m mostly copying from my previous notes there.)

:astonished: Jason,how can our sins be appeased? Isn’t that the meaning of “propitiate”? Or who would be appeasing or placating us?

I don’t think that is the meaning of ιλασκομαι. Nor do I think expiate (to make up for) is the meaning as some modern translators have it. As I see it, the meaning is clear in Luke 18:23 in which the tax collector beats his breast and says, God BE MERCIFUL to me a sinner." He is not saying, “God appease me a sinner” or “God expiate me a sinner.” I think “be merciful” is the meaning of ιλασκομαι and that the nominal form “ιλασμος” should be translated as “a means of mercy.”

Nope; and I didn’t say that was the meaning in the part you quoted.

I did say (later),

It is certainly very odd for the Hebraist, for example to write (citing several OT prophets in a sort of patchwork quote), “For I will be propitious to their injustices, and of their sins and their rebellions shall I under no circumstances still be reminded.” Heb 8:12. Still, “their injustices” are the object of the action “be propitious”, and YHWH is the doer of the action.

I put that example second in my list, back in 2009 when I wrote the thread on the use of the term and its cognates in the NT, because I knew how unexpectedly bizarre it was going to look. The metaphorical concept seems to be that God is voluntarily smiling (in the Greek original, leaning forward in the Latin translation from which we get the English term) upon our sins, not for the sake of accepting them but for the sake of dismissing them out of us.

Call it being merciful on our sins (though really God is being merciful on us, not on our sins); “our sins” are still the objects of the action and God is the doer. Perhaps even more to the point, as I mention later in the article, the OT reference involves God “propitiating” the injustices of people who are already being punished by God for being unjust.

Then I go on to note the Hebraist is using a different cognate of the term to talk about the throne in the tabernacle at Heb 9:5; connecting it to the river of life flowing out of the never-closed gates of the New Jerusalem from under the throne of God, by which those still fondling their sins outside the city are exhorted to drink freely and wash their robes without cost, obtaining permission thereby to enter the city and be healed by the leaves of the log of life and eat of its fruit etc. (Also the saints under the mercy-seat earlier in Rev 6.)

It’s in that context, having explained it, that I talk about the publican at Luke 18:23, with the same conclusion you reached, though a little more particular about the background for the super-unexpected grammar, “Lord propitiate me the sinner”. The publican is asking God to make a place for him under the mercy-seat, but the action is still first and foremost God doing the propitiation of “me the sinner”.

Of course, even the notion of “appease” could fit: we’re the ones rebelling in our sins against God, and God is the one Who acts to make peace with us – not by comporting Himself to our sins, but by bringing us to reject our sins and thus to be at peace with Him. There are a significant number of OT prophecies along that line, too. It might sound wildly daring to say God “appeases” our sin, but it’s the same kind of “appeasement” by which Jesus calms the tornado and the roiled-up lake: “Be muzzled!” – our sinful behaviors, at war with God, are brought by God to be at peace with God.

Anyway, I have a lot more discussion in that thread. My conclusion was:

Okay, Jason. But why confuse people by using the word “propitiate” as a translation rather than the expression “be merciful”? When the average person encounters “propitiate”, he does not think “be merciful”, and to the best of my knowledge, no dictionary so renders the word either. For example, in the oxford dictionary,
the definition of "propitiate is :

And the following sample sentences are given:

The pagans thought it was important to propitiate the gods with sacrifices.
The Samhitas are hymns addressed to gods representing the forces of nature, followed by rites and sacrifices to propitiate those gods.
The death of Christ propitiates God, and the word ‘propitiation’ contains the thought of averting the wrath of God.
Plotinus and Porphyry felt reserve towards participation in sacrifices to propitiate the spirits.

So the usual understanding of “propitiate” is indeed “appease”.

Mainly because I like to watch people’s minds go boom when I use the term they’re familiar with in the actual direction of the Greek grammar. :laughing:

Everyone already knows pretty well that God is merciful to us.

The idea that God “propitiates” us or our sins :astonished: on the other hand is super-unexpected. So putting it that way lets me directly challenge the common notion that the Son propitiates (MAKES PEACE WITH?!? HAS MERCY ON?!?) the Father, or the Father’s wrath, or whatever.

It’s one of those things that most people think they already know and can confidently deploy whenever they want, when actually it’s false both to the grammar and to the theology: they aren’t getting it ‘from the Bible’, much less from a coherent theology, but they think they are. So I think it’s important to call attention sharply to it, when given an opportunity.

In other words: most people are already confused about the proper usage of the term in Christian theology, but don’t realize they’ve got it completely backward. (Same confusion with atoning or reconciling.) Psychologically they don’t feel confused, of course, partly by habitual usage and partly because the natural religious expectation is that the deity has to be convinced to lean toward or to smile upon the creature (or to make peace with or to have mercy on, etc.)

Calvinists, in their disputes with Arminians, really should have been the ones to dig out this point and promote the correction: it fits well with the emphases they specially protect. :slight_smile:

Thanks Jason. I get it now. You just want to shock’em into a correct understanding of the Biblical word.