The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Penal Substitution passages: Romans 8:1-4

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.

Does anyone have any particular passages in mind that we could start another thread on in regards to this subject? I’ve got a few in mind that I think would be really cool if we discussed.

I think you should go for it, Jony

There’s no reason anyone else can’t also start a similar thread, and I’m eager to see what you have to say. :slight_smile:

I welcome this as well. I’d love to see some of these verses hashed out.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor. 5:21

Time for my 2 cents, i think the correct translation s/b “he made him to be a sin sacrifice.”

That would be a good one to do. I’m also interested in discussing some other things that PSA believers use to support their theory, like the idea of passover - many of them would use that to say that Jesus is our passover lamb so that we ourselves are saved from the God’s wrath and destruction

When Jesus was in anguish in the garden He pleaded with God:

This cup of suffering that Jesus would drink from was the wine of God’s wrath. Anytime in the Bible it speaks of a cup of suffering it’s ALWAYS referring to God’s wrath.

The cup of suffering and punishment always refers to the cup of wine of God’s wrath. Show me in the Bible where it doesn’t.

So if we believe this literally—that Jesus became sin (or “a sin sacrifice” as Steve7150 believes), then do we also believe that in Christ we literally become the righteousness of God?

Our sins become Christ’s extrinsically just as His righteousness becomes ours extrinsically - not intrinsically.

So in other words, “Our sins didn’t really become Christ’s; they are only imputed (counted) as His, and so He got punished for them . Likewise we don’t actually become righteous like God. It’s only that His righteousness is imputed to us (counted) as if it were ours, while we continue in sin.” — all a kind of pretending game.