The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Myth of Penal Substitution



I just found this. I guess I am wrong. The cup is both retribution and mercy.

Isaiah 35:4

say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”


Well I’m referring solely to the texts I gave above AND THAT is the context of my comments regarding WHAT Jesus accomplished ALONG WITH those followers cooperating with him in the outworking of Israel’s redemption (see my prior posts etc).


During the first half of the twentieth century, under the influence of social scientists, retributive theories of justice were frowned upon in favor of consequentialist theories. Fortunately, there has been, over the last half-century or so, a renaissance of theories of retributive justice, accompanied by a fading of consequentialist theories, so that we need not be distracted by the need to justify a retributive theory of justice. ~~ William Lane Craig, The Atonement pp. 68-69


While the cup of wrath is disciplinary it’s also penal. Christ would drink the cup and pay for the eternal punishment for our sins. But this isn’t the same as temporal punishment. The cup of wrath that Jesus said James and John would drink from was the temporal punishment and discipline for their sins. As the Bible states, God disciplines those He loves and punishes everyone He calls a son.


It has been six months since I last submitted a post in this forum. I have been grieving the loss of my wife, Alida. I have done a lot of studying and reading, as well as some travelling.

This topic makes interesting reading. We are dealing with a subject that goes to the heart of our faith, one that is essential to come to grips with if we hold or are leaning to a belief in evangelical universalism.

Those who have read some of the posts I submitted before Alida died may remember that I have departed from a long-held belief that Calvinist theology best explains the doctrine of the scriptures. As a lay preacher, I have delivered sermons on each of the five points of Calvinism (TULIP) as propounded in the Canons of Dort, including Limited Atonement (the belief that Christ’s death on the Cross was only effective to the Elect).

The Calvinist theory of the atonement, generally held, I believe, by the majority of evangelical Christians today, is that of penal substitution. It was proposed by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Hans Boersma explains that Anselm argued that ‘sin infringed on God’s honour or law and that the balance had to be redressed. The Cross thus became the way of restoring the balance, a method designed to satisfy God’s honour, his justice, or his law.’

Another medieval theologian, Peter Abelard (1079-1142) pictured God as sending his Son to die for the world as a demonstration of God’s love, intended to evoke a response of faith and love among people who were alienated from the love of God. That view has became popular among liberal theologians.

The atonement theory that I find most satisfying is the one held by many of the early Church fathers It is termed “Christus Victor”. It proposes that the death of Jesus was a climactic battle between God and Satan - a battle that God won and demonstrated by raising his Son from the dead.

We know experientially that Satan is real. We read of his hostility to mankind in Genesis 3 and on the pages of scripture thereafter. He still makes our lives miserable, despite the knowledge we have of God’s victory. Like Paul in Romans 7, we are well aware that we have an adversary who will plague us until the day of our death or until Christ returns. What a glorious day that will be!

Paul wrote that today “we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face”. We can’t hope to have a perfect theology of God, no matter how hard we try to study the scriptures and formulate systematic theologies. Irenaeus taught that “we must leave certain matters in the hands of God, and that not only in the present world, but also in that which is to come, so that God should for ever teach, and man should forever learn the things taught him by God”.

Until then, like Paul we are to proclaim the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8) which we are only now beginning to appreciate but will experience more and more throughout eternity.


For everyone’s info:

Allow me to share the Eastern Orthodox/ / Eastern Catholic theory of atonement - which I side with. NOT that other theories, can’t also be used - in conjunction.


The Orthodox model you linked to, Randy, was very well said. I especially liked this excerpt:

Some may say that I have simply rehashed what is commonly referred to as the Christus Victor model of the atonement, except that Christus Victor still suffers from the same Monergism, that concept that God gives salvation to an individual regardless of his cooperation, as does PSA. As highlighted above both in the commentary by St. Augustine and the Beatitude, these are actions that we ourselves must take. That is why the Orthodox Church espouses a synergistic concept of the atonement. There are actions we must take. Apply this to John 14: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life—they are intricately woven together. When you are on the Way, that is doing righteous works and learning the proper ordering of things, which is Truth, you are given Life.[end]


Coptic Orthodox teacher, Hany Mikhail, gives a series of 12 messages on the subject, “Divine Justice,” explaining how the Orthodox position differs from that of the Roman Catholic and Protestant positions.

Here is Part 1:


In scripture, divine judgment serves various ends. It has, as the tradition rightly points out, a retributive aspect. Someone is punished because they deserve to be. It is not hard to find this instinct in Scripture. But we err if we think that retribution exhausts what Biblical justice and punishment are about. Biblical justice is about putting wrong things right. As such, while retribution may possibly be a necessary condition of justice, it cannot be a sufficient condition, because retribution cannot undo the harms done and put right the wrongs. The primary end of God’s justice, with respect to creation, is not punishment, but salvation. And punishment itself is not merely suffering inflicted as a deserved consequence for wrong deeds. Punishment also functions as a deterrent…Furthermore it is also a corrective for those being punished…And these different purposes of punishment need not be mutually exclusive. God’s punishment of Israel say, can be SIMULTAEOUSLY RETRIBUTIVE AND RESTORATIVE ~~ Robin Parry in Four Views on Hell pages 113-114


Hollytree, are you a universalist at the moment?



I’m thinking it over. While I believe God’s justice is retributive it’s also disciplinary and corrective. The word Kolasis means:

Correction, punishment, penalty

Thayers Greek Lexicon

Correction could be eternal if those who are disciplined refuse it because of hardened hearts.

Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding ~~ Proverbs 15:32

Poverty and shame come to him who ignores discipline, but whoever heeds correction will be honored. ~~ Proverbs 13:18

A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction is prudent. ~~ Proverbs 15:5

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,
the oppressing city!

She listens to no voice;
she accepts no correction.

She does not trust in the Lord;
she does not draw near to her God.~~ Zephaniah 3

I guess you could say that at the moment I’m a hopeful universalist.


First, what does it mean to “deserved to be punished”? Does this desert depend upon the breaking of some rule?

Secondly, what purpose does such punishment serve? Unless it’s corrective, it does the punished person no good. Also, it does the punisher no good. It doesn’t even satisfy his anger. Nor does it restore a relationship between the punisher and the punished.



During the first half of the twentieth century, under the influence of social scientists, retributive theories of justice were frowned upon in favor of consequentialist theories. Fortunately, there has been, over the last half-century or so, a renaissance of theories of retributive justice, accompanied by a fading of consequentialist theories, so that we need not be distracted by the need to justify a retributive theory of justice. ~~ William Lane Craig, The Atonement pp. 68-69

Retributive justice is the mainstream. Besides, Parry said it’s both retributive and disciplinary. This comes from the Bible. Retributive justice balances the scales of justice.


Retributive “justice” does NOTHING, either for the offender or the offended. God is not interested in making a person suffer for his sins for no purpose whatever. He is interested in seeing the sinner repent, and be delivered from his wrongdoing.



It may not cause repentance but it does balance the scales of justice. When someone commits a crime he is punished. He’s brought back to the order of justice by justice imposing on him a punishment against his will. This punishment introduces a contrary movement which restores the scales of equity. This is the retributive purpose for the punishment.


Jack Benny once said the same thing!

“You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler.”-- Denis Waitley


Oh yes! An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. You destroy my eye, and I’ll destroy yours. You knock out my tooth, and I’ll knock out yours. This will “restore the scales of equity.” But that is the thinking of fallen humanity, and is contrary to the thinking of God.
As recorded in Matthew 5:38-45, Jesus taught His disciples:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.


Paidion quoting H.T.

But if someone insults your mule, give them a chance to apologize to ti first.



The way we genuinely love the enemy is by having faith in God like Jesus did. It’s faith working itself out through love. Trusting God pushes the desires that lead to sin out of the heart. Jesus didn’t retaliate because He trusted the Father to handle it.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting to him who judges justly. - 1 Peter 2:23 (the word himself isn’t in the original)

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” - Romans 12:19

Paul is telling us that personal vengeance belongs to God. There are ways we are to be like God and ways we are not. My faith is in God to handle my accounts. If justice isn’t done in this lifetime it will be done in the next. In this way I will be loving the way Jesus did while He was on earth. When I let go and let God handle my accounts I am free to forgive. Vengeance belongs to God but He gives some of His authority to the Governing officials. They are not obligated to turn the other cheek. As Paul tells us in Romans:

There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…(This authority is) God’s servant for your good…he does not bear the sword in vein. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:1-4).

A Time Under Heaven

Let us deal in peace and tenderness
Lest love and compassion become a hindrance
Then unmix the wine and make it sour
Drinking the blood of judgments power
For there’s a time for peace and a time for war
A time to speak and a time to roar
A time to hate and a time to love
A time and season under heaven above

Paul in Romans is quoting from the Old Testament. Paul’s using the OT God as his background.

Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul. He will return the evil to my enemies; Destroy them in Your faithfulness. ~~Psalm 54:5

He has brought back their wickedness upon them And will destroy them in their evil; The LORD our God will destroy them.~~Psalm 94:23

And in Your loving-kindness, cut off my enemies And destroy all those who afflict my soul, For I am Your servant. ~~Psalm 143:12

Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalms 56

Just as the writer of psalms 56 does we put our trust in God when He says:

Romans 12:17-21
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ““Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord; On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” is a direct quote from the Hebrew that has the context of vengeance and the word always means vengeance. We trust God and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Leviticus 19:18 ~~ 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Deuteronomy 32:35 ~~‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’

Proverbs 20:22~~Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Proverbs 24:29~~Do not say, “Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.”

Jeremiah 51:36~~Therefore thus says the LORD, "Behold, I am going to plead your case And exact full vengeance for you; And I will dry up her sea And make her fountain dry.

George MacDonald denies the vengeance of God. In Unspoken sermons “Justice” page 232 he states:

But vengeance on the sinner, the law of a tooth for a tooth, is not in the heart of God, neither in his hand.

But the Bible says God will repay. Vengeance belongs to Him. This is why it also says:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also;…Matt.5:38

George MacDonald had a false God. It wasn’t the God of the Bible.


Everyone thinks they have, the God of the Bible. Including you, H.T. You can pick a popular one, like R.C., E.O., Lutheran, Baptist, etc. Or a minority, non-traditional viewpoint - like you might find - on this forum. Or perhaps that of Christian Science and Mary Baker Eddy. Normally, I side with the EO / EC theological positions. At times, I even struggle with who is right. Like I see BOTH Rev. Leroy Jenkins and Rev. Peter Popoff - offering miracle spring water - on TV. Which one should I send for???