Friday, 7 January 2011

Penal substitution

Am engaging someone on this subject. They hold that the cross is simply about Christ's victory.

1) We can respond from the whole sweep of scripture. I wrote:
"I agree with Christ's victory being a major aspect, but hold that the idea of substitution is also. Putting this together I would say that the latter is the means of the former. Ie. in the cross Christ is victorious over death and the devil's power in the sense that the cross pays the just penalty for sin so that we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. In being forgiven we therefore face not condemnation at the judgement but resurrection, so we no longer need to fear death. And in being forgiven we can now receive the Spirit of adoption so that we can turn from evil and do good through faith. This link seems to be explicit in Colossians 2v13-15: Forgiveness means we are no longer condemned by God's commandments and regulations which means the powers and authorities have been triumphed over at the cross.

What I would really value your comments on is therefore how the Christus Victor model sees the cross actually
achieve victory over death and the devil? How does it deal with the need for God to act justly towards sin - the point Paul deals with in Romans 3 and is raised by the whole OT history of Israel?

Also, how is Christ's concious and purposeful fulfilment of passover and the sacrifical system understood? I struggle to see how the idea within them is not that the animal is killed as a substitute for the sinful Israelite - especially within the priestly system."

2) We can respond from specific texts. I would mention these:
  • Isaiah 53v5, 10
  • Galatians 3v13
  • 1 Peter 2v24 with its allusion to Isaiah 53
  • the logic of Romans 3v25-26
  • Matthew 26v28 with its allusions to passover and the sacrifical system
  • Mark 10v45 with its allusions to Isaiah 53
Without penal substitution, God is not seen to be just towards sin as it is never punished, and so the glory of his justice is dampened. Moreover, we have no assurance that we will not have to face it ourselves on judgement day. Praise be to God for his grace to us.