This seems a curious thing to say; you’re not suggesting here that we are to categorize sins into obedient ones and disobedient one are you?? Are not all sins disobedience to the Law? If sin is disobedience, that would suggest a category of obedient disobedience – which I don’t think is your intent at all. I think maybe you’re conflating an attitude of remorse and sorrow with obedience… The point must be that sacrifice alone is meaningless; sacrifice as mere act is empty. But further, I get the strong sense that contrition, repentance, broken spirits, embrace of justice, obedience are far and away preferable to sacrifice; not just in addition to sacrifice. Mercy over and against sacrifice. (I’m hearing that you don’t share that sense.)
But as an aside, isn’t it also a huge problem for penal substitution (as well as for the sacrificial system) that there remains this large (maybe very large) category of sins for which there IS no solution; which implies that we first must somehow acquire an attitude of repentance and remorse and only THEN can we participate in God’s reconciliation. But this runs counter to the idea that Jesus gave His life before any such change – that is, while we were yet sinners! This all simply suggests to me that the idea of Penal Substitution simply can’t bear all the theological weight many seem to think it does. That is, it is one metaphor among many.
Now your suggestion that
is, I assume, derived from the idea that Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. But I’m still not entirely sure that sacrifice was God’s idea all along. For example, there is no record of God telling Cain and Abel to offer their sacrifices. We must go to Hebrews to learn that what rendered Abel’s sacrifice “better” (ie more acceptable?) was not the fact that it was a lamb (indeed grain offerings were very acceptable in the system under certain circumstances later on) or that it was carried out as commanded, but simply that it was offered in faith.
I am quite open to the idea that sacrifice was something already commonplace in that time and was already deeply ingrained behavior in the surrounding cultures and religions which predated the Hebrews but with which they were very familiar. God, recognizing this ingrained association of sacrifice with worship and connection with deity, wisely co-opted the practice for His own purposes. His intent then was to take an existing system which, in it’s pagan distortions had the sacrifice appeasing angered deities and altering that deities attitudes, and transform it into a system which, when properly understood in God’s new paradigm was instead teaching tool into HIs values of self-giving love, not conditional, coaxed forgiveness.
In a similar vein, the “pattern” of the tabernacle God commanded them to build (rectangle divided into one third most holy place and 2 thirds holy place etc) was already in widespread existence in the surrounding cultures. It was therefore easily recognized as a serious place of worship. Now I happen to see this as extraordinarily gracious of God to use what they were already familiar with, to make them comfortable perhaps, but transforming it to teach what HE wanted to reveal – which was markedly counter to the prevailing views held of angry gods whose attitudes could be effected into acceptance of the human supplicant.
When John the Baptist, on seeing Jesus, says “Behold! the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) the reflex is to assume this must mean via Penal Substitution – as if the only way to “take” sin “away” is via this “sin transfer” mechanism…
However, to my mind anyway, this simply cannot be for (at least) 2 reasons; reasons insurmountable for Penal Substitution models and therefore demanding a complete reevaluation of the events and relational dynamics interpreted as “Penal Substitution”.
First, sin is simply, and obviously, not a “thing” which can be passed around. Yet Penal Sub depends upon this transferability aspect of sin, which I think is quite mistaken. As Bobx1 noted, Eze 18:20 explicitly makes this clear; the soul who sins will die – the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. So not only is penal sub disallowed, so too is transfer of Christ’s righteousness to us not allowed. Do we also use that imagery? Sure; but it works only as metaphor.
Second, no legal system recognizes one taking another’s penalty; except maybe in civil law where I may, for example pay your speeding ticket. It is legal fiction to suggest that criminal punishment can legitimately and legally be borne by another. This simply cannot be literally true; so the intent of such language must be to compel a search for deeper meanings.
John the Baptist’s exclamation then would be more true if Jesus “takes away” the entire problem of sin and rebellion by the full revelation of the Cross which necessarily includes healing/transforming us so we don’t sin anymore. I’m not quite sure why so many have difficulty seeing Penal Substitution as simply a useful, but limited metaphor but that’s the way it is I guess. We have little problem with seeing as metaphor all the others in use; ransom from slavery (Mk 10:45), battleground triumph-over-evil images, commercial dealings (again, ransom), relational imagery like adoption and reconciliation, in addition to court of law images. None of these metaphors stand by themselves and all need each other for the full meaning to be realized.
In addition, this act of sacrifice had many other applications – not just dealing with sin. Sacrifice was to accompany thanksgiving, communion with God, worship, and feasting. In addition it seems the idea of “sin offerings” also covered things relating more to ritual purification (like, say, from menstruation – which can hardly be considered a “sin”.) This strongly suggests to me that associating sacrifice with Penal Substitution severely restricts and diminishes it’s intended purpose and meaning.
So I’m not sure I can even answer your question Jim
given that I don’t see as literal the whole “payment of penalty” premise. Both these questions are based on the premise that my penalty needs to be paid and/or that’s what Jesus did on the cross. (Though it does interest me that many of those who insist on it being literal are unwilling to answer the literal questions of who the penalty is paid to.) So yes; Jesus death on the Cross is the central and crucial and necessary and saving event (literal history) in history – it’s just that to my mind mere payment of penalty doesn’t come close to accomplishing all that.
Rambling on too long Jim.
Blessings and an early Happy Fathers day to all us fathers out there!!!
PS – still wondering what Bobx1 thinks is the association between Penal Sub and Universalism… Also, John 1:29 really can be seen as a wonderful text illustration Universal Reconciliation – though that could work for a Penal Sub believer as well.