Friday, January 16, 2015

Penal substitution, Waldenstrom, expiation and propitiation

My response to the prompt, "Penal substitution. What are the problems with it or why is it not enough as a suitable explanation for the Crucifixion?"
Quid Est Veritas FB page, January 16, 2015:

Penal substitution pits one Person of the Trinity against another, and so "breaks" the Trinity. It teaches that the Father rejects His Son. If that is the case, then what hope do we sinful creatures have? I prefer Thomas McCall's explanation of Matt. 27:46 in his book, "Forsaken." He argues that Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, which should be read in its entirety. Verse 24 says,
"For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him."
This reading makes it impossible to claim that the Father "turns his face away" from Christ on the cross, contra what Stuart Townsend would have us sing in his popular song, "How Deep the Father's Love For Us."

Finally, IMO penal substitution gives a faulty picture of God's nature. Nowhere in scripture do we see God as essentially wrathful, but rather we read "God is love." In his sermon, "Be Reconciled to God," Swedish Pietist P.P. Waldenstrom (1838 –1917) outlined the reasons why the official Lutheran belief in the atonement was all wrong for those who live as citizens of the Kingdom of God:

1) "That through our fall no change has entered the heart of God.
2) That because of this it was no severity or anger against man which through the fall rose up in the way of man’s redemption
3) That the change, which occurred in the fall, was a change in man alone, in that he became sinful and thus fell away from God and from the life which is in him.
4) That for this reason an atonement indeed is needed for man’s salvation, but not an atonement which appeases God and presents him as being once again gracious but (an atonement) which removes man’s sin and makes him once again righteous, and
5) That this atonement is in Jesus Christ." (Covenant Roots: Sources &; Affirmations. p. 119-120).

In other words, the death of Christ does not change God from a wrathful God to a loving God. God has always been gracious and loving. And yes, God has hated sin but God has not hated us! It wasn’t humanity that God was wrathful about, but sin.

how does the atonement function? (or more specifically, the Crucifixion?)

The blood of Christ cleanses us from our sins. Christ's sacrifice is an expiation, not a propitiation. I think ἱλασμός is better translated as "sin offering" or "means of forgiveness," rather than "propitiation" ("sacrifice that appeases wrath").

1 comment:

Beth B said...

neither can the Lord be forsaken
by the Father, who is ever in the
Father, both before He spoke, and
when He uttered this cry.


For behold when He says,
‘Why hast Thou forsaken Me?’
the Father shewed that He was
ever and even then in Him; for the
earth knowing its Lord who spoke,
straightway trembled, and the vail
was rent, and the sun was hidden,
and the rocks were torn asunder,
and the graves, as I have said, did
gape, and the dead in them arose;
and, what is wonderful, they who
were then present and had before
denied Him, then seeing these
signs, confessed that ‘truly He was
the Son of God.’
– St Athanasius, Against the Arians