The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Myth of Penal Substitution

Well… I’m eternally grateful that you’re not the judge.

Vengeance belongs to God! Not Me! I trust God.

Justice (εκδικησις) belongs to God (Heb 10:30). Vengeance belongs to the devil and his followers.

Vengeance is God’s justice. It’s retributive justice. It’s all in the Bible that God’s justice is not only corrective but retributive. Even the New Testament. You’ve just called a Holy God the devil. This is blasphemy. You’ve hardened your heart against God because of His wrath.

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

The Universalism of Parry in Four Views on Hell is Orthodox. I’m thinking of going there. I’m hopeful universalist but Parry’s Universalism sees God’s justice as retributive and disciplinary. This is what the Bible teaches about God’s wrath in both Old and New Testaments. The pattern is one of destruction or judgment followed by resurrection and restoration.

Christ dies for the sins of all His people. That’s a huge concentration and amount of sin. We should expect the suffering to be severe. Especially since it lasted only a few hours. All punishment and discipline has some pain that comes with it. Moreover, In some instances sinners would die just by touching the ark of the covenant. But I think we can see why. The ark contained the presence and glory of God. The glory of God is the infinite beauty and worth of God. It’s the radiant outshining of His holiness. All sin is not only sin against others but the breaking of God’s eternal law. It’s a sin against God Himself. Indeed, sin grieves God as it belittles the infinite worth of His glory. The seriousness of a crime depends IN PART on not only the nature of the crime but the TYPE OF BEING sinned against. Different types of being have different value attached to them. For instance: slapping a tree isn’t as bad as slapping a frog. Slapping a frog isn’t as bad as slapping a human. This is true even if the types of being felt no pain. For instance: painlessly killing an ant isn’t as bad as painlessly killing a cat and painlessly killing a cat isn’t as bad as painlessly killing a human. The worst sin in History was the killing of the Son of God. This is because of the infinite worth of Christ. Because God is a TYPE OF BEING infinite in beauty and worth sin against Him is more serious than if it was just against another being. I’m not saying that the just punishment should be infinite but we can see how the punishment should be more severe because of who God is.

I assume H.T. - by this statement…that you are thinking of adopting, the Universalism of Parry…and NOT that you are going to hell (as if you have a burning desire - to go there). Can you please clarify this statement?

hollytree, I would argue that the Spirit of Jesus abides inside every Christian, alongside his own spirit. But that our soul (that is to say, our mind, will, and emotions) must be trained and renewed to recognize and submit to the Spirit. Otherwise, Jesus is not consistently expressed through us, coming from our innermost being out to a needy world. Would you agree?

So, as to the study of the Scriptures, whereas we are certainly to use our intellect, we are primarily to be led by the Holy Spirit in deriving their true meaning. The intellect is a great thing, but intellectualism is an idolization of the mind which impedes the pursuit of spiritually discerned truth. Furthermore, overcommitment to traditional interpretations of Scripture, coupled with the fear of man, are also impediments to recognizing truth.

“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6b

I used to believe as you do about God’s nature, because of my paradigm for reading the Scriptures. But now I seek to read the Bible with the lens of love. The Scriptures, while inspired by God, are themselves not the Logos-Word of God. Jesus is the Logos-Word of God. The Scriptures often quote God, and they are intended to point people to Jesus. But they are no substitute for the leading of the Holy Spirit. Please see, Is "the Logos-Word of God” the Bible?

Also, regarding reading the Scriptures, as I said elsewhere,


Yet more accusations! I could do the same with you,l but I’d never consider it. I’m a Christian—a disciple of Christ. I would fear to call you or any professing Christian whom I did not know, a non-Christian or a blasphemer. For if I were wrong, it would be a great offence against one of God’s children and against God Himself.

Just to show you that “εκδικησις” may not mean “vengeance” I want you to consider the use of it in a single sentence of the apostle Paul. Various translators translate the word quite differently from others—in some cases the exact opposite. For example, whereas the King James Version translates the word as “revenge” in this verse, the New King James Version translates it as “vindication.” To “vindicate” is to free from allegation or blame.

First, I’ll list the various translations and which versions so render it, and then I’ll provide the verse and ask you to consider the meaning of the word “εκδικησις” in context.

Vengeance— Emtv, Darby, NHEB
Revenge— AV, Douay, YLT
Avenging— Weymouth, Tischendorf
Punishment— BBE, Diaglott, ESV, LEB, NRSV, RSV
Avenging of wrong— NASB
Justice— HCSB
Readiness to see justice done— NIV

Now let’s examine the verse to which I referred:

(2Corinthians 7:11) For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what εκδικησις! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in the matter.

Now just a little background for understanding. In 1Corinthians, Paul referred to a man in the church who had been copulating with his stepmother. He advised them to shun the man—“not even to eat with such a one” (1 Cor 5:11). However, the man repented—had a change of heart and mind about what he had been doing. Now in his second letter, Paul urges the Corinthian Christians to forgive the man and reaffirm their love for him:

And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure — not to put it too severely — to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Now looking at the sentence containing “εκδικησις” once again:
(2Corinthians 7:11) For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what εκδικησις! At every point you have proved yourselves guiltless in the matter.

What was this “godly grief” that the Corinthians had? They were grieved that they had allowed the sinning man to continue as a church member without disciplining him. They were “eager to clear themselves” of wrongdoing, and were zealous to carry out that discipline as Paul had instructed them. But “what vengeance!” doesn’t make sense. Nobody was taking vengeance on the church people. Nor was anyone taking vengeance on the sinner—neither Paul nor the Corinthian church. But “what vindication!” DOES make sense. The church people had cleared themselves from any longer doing wrong by allowing the man to continue in the church as if he were a proper Christian. How did they clear themselves? By disciplining the man. So now they were vindicated, that is, free from any allegation against them or from any blame.

Very good explanation Don. You have been on an extra good roll lately.


Those scriptures you quote aren’t the context of Romans when Paul 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.

When God says not to repay evil with evil for it is written “Vengeance is Mine I will repay” he’s referring to retribution. That’s what repaying evil with evil means. The Hebrew text is being quoted. Here’s the passages:

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.

The Hebrew word for vengeance here always means vengeance and it’s the context from which Paul is quoting. We are to trust God for vengeance belongs to Him. Sure He causes it to rain on the just and the unjust while we are here on earth and we are to imitate Him and love the enemy. But Vengeance here is speaking of the punishment in prison or the afterlife. 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)

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

Just for some further clarity… when <ἐκδίκησις> *ekdikēsis (and cognates) is understood in terms of vindication it is justice generally of a negative connotation describing a coming recompense (against another) that re-establishes divine order, i.e., to see justice done. Whether that be viewed as retributive OR remedial is NOT the issue; listen to Paul…

Rom 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Paul again gives this even more clear sense here…

2Thess 1:6-8 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These ARE stark warnings indeed and cannot seriously be marshmallowed away… as indeed is shown in Jesus’ own words here…

Lk 21:22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

Or even Peter’s words here…

1Pet 2:13-14 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.


The context is Paul saying not to repay evil with evil for Vengeance Belongs to God. That’s retribution. We also know it’s retribution because it’s a punishment in giving them what they deserve:

How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? ~~ Hebrews 10:29

Punishment that is deserved is retribution.

I keep thinking that many of these debates too quickly assume that both sides assume English words have the same connotations. I’m not sure that those who see punishment as focused on correction think any less that it is “deserved.” I suspect their resistance to the term “retribution” is that it sounds like taking satisfaction in inflicting pain for no essentially loving or redemptive purpose.

After all, it is often our instinct here concerning the implications of God’s consistent nature as love that led we universalist types to question the traditional conception of hell as simply endless pay back.

1 Like


I’ve stated repeatedly that I go along with Robin Parry in “Four Views of Hell” that the Bible is clear that the punishment is not only retributive but corrective and disciplinary. There’s nothing unjust about retributive justice As William Lane Craig has stated:

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 by itself doesn’t cause repentance. 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.

The problem (as I see it) is that retribution is pilloried as vindictiveness… now for sure for some that could be the case, BUT THAT is no reason for a carte blanch assumption that retribution reflects vindictiveness; doing that just seems to me a more shallow and emotive way of avoiding personal doctrinal dissonance, i.e., asserting that if God deals in retribution He must thereby be vindictive, WHEN no one actually claims that, but that that is put out there as the inferred meaning.


I base my quote on “Vengeance is Mine I will repay” from Paul on the Hebrew Bible he’s quoting from:

The word retribution is there in the context.

Yeah… so I’m not real sure why you’re telling me this as your position is abundantly clear. I’m pointing to the fact that retribution in terms of God is NOT a matter of vindictiveness.

I doubt that I grasp this or have ever seen these scales. Do you think that imposing punishment on the innocent Jesus also in itself somehow fixed the universe’s scales?

Yes. If you want to see how I can repeat what I’ve said earlier in the thread or you can scroll up and read it.

My friend, I appreciate your clear “yes” confirming what I’d gleaned. I do remain unpersuaded that the universe has, or requires, such “scales,” and I perceive that the ultimate concern concerning righteousness is actually making things right, rather than seeing the infliction of suffering as an end in itself.

Indeed, the Bible’s declaration makes more sense to me that punishing an innocent one instead of the guilty is unjust. And that what makes Jesus bearing unjust evil redemptive is that it has the power to change our lives, rather than that in itself it carries out justice.

Quoting OT passages to support your view doesn’t cut it. Paul didn’t quote those passages, he quoted the applicable part. And he interpreted them to fit the point he was making. That kind of thing is done throughout the NT. For example:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)

Matthew was quoting from Hosea 11:10:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

Clearly, when Hosea stated that God said these words, he was not suggesting that God would call Jesus out of Egypt after His parents brought Him there. Rather God called His son Israel of out of slavery in Egypt. But Matthew APPLIED these words to Jesus’s parents bringing Him out of Egypt.

Sure, as recorded in the OT, Moses and the Prophets depicted God as vengeful. Jesus described Him quite differently—as one who was kind to evil people.

You have neither agreed nor disagreed with my explanation that “εκδικησις” in 2 Corinthians 7:11 does NOT mean “vengeance”, and so I will proceed on the assumption that you agree, but are maintaining that the word in Romans 12:17-21 means “vengeance.” I say that that word NEVER means “vengeance.” In Romans 12:17-21, it means “justice.” Yes, God gets angry. He gets angry when people sin, because others are HARMED by sin, and God whose essence is LOVE is displeased seeing people harmed. God will JUDGE people—reward the righteous and correct the unrighteous. ALL of God’s judgments against the unrighteous are REMEDIAL. Yes, God says, “Justice is Mine, I will recompense.” God will recompense the righteous with rewards, and recompense the unrighteous with correction. BOTH of these are done in LOVE. For God IS love and does nothing except from the motive of LOVE. Some translations render “εκδικησις” as “punishment.” I’m okay with that as long as it’s understood as corrective punishment and not penalty. In the following passage from Hebrews, it is said in the ESV translation, that the Lord DISCIPLINES the one He loves (and He loves everyone). The word translated “discipline” actually means “child train.” The Greek word that is translated as “discipline” is “παιδευω” (paideuō). The noun “paidion” (which I use as my name in this forum) means “trained child.”

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:5-11 ESV)

Some human fathers out of anger, penalize their erring children. “Okay, John, You know the family rule. Your are not allowed to go out after 10 P.M. And you know the penalty for disobeying that rule is that you will not be allowed to go out at nights for a week.”
God does not inflict penalties.

A good human father disciplines or teaches his erring children. He wants to train them to do better. In a case like this, he may also prevent his son from going out for a week. But he carefully explains to him that it is for his own benefit, and possibly his own safety.
Though God may become angry to see how we hurt ourselves and others by our wrongdoing, but out of LOVE, He wants to train us to do better.