Penal Substitution vs Vicarious Suffering

Monday, August 14, 2006

As you might have guessed from the articles, I am predisposed to disagree with Penal Substitution. Lets face it, its yucky. But I also wanted to be true to Scripture and not just arrive at a view of God reflective of what I think is "nice" as tempting as that may be.

I have found lots of Scriptures that speak of the cross in substitutionary terms, and in terms of not just its love, but also of its scandal, blood, and wretchedness. I'd therefore like to introduce two concepts:

penal substitution and vicarious suffering. The former is I think unbiblical, the later the core of the Atonement. Lets examine both:

They both consist of two elements
Penal Substitution means basically "punishment (penal) instead of (substitution). Vicarious Suffering is different in that it is vicarious ("for us") and one could even say in light of the incarnation "as us" (God becomes human and enters into all of that including sin) but it is not "instead of us". On the contrary, Jesus says "anyone who does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me" and Peter and Paul both tell us that we will suffer as we follow. So the first contrast is substitution/vicarious. Jesus died for us, with us, even as us. Not instead of us. In fact his death calls us to come and die with him.

Secondly there is the contrast of penal/suffering. There is a penal aspect to verses like Isaiah 53 for instance, but it is not only about Christ bearing our punishment, he also bears our sickness and sorrow. Because of this the suffering takes on more of a solidarity as God suffers with us bearing our sin sorrow and sickness. Rather than the sin bearing having the purpose of appeasing wrath, it both removes wrath and at the same time condemns wrath and the law and judgment in so far as these good things through sin have come to "lead us to death" and enslave as Paul says in Romans. Again, there is a penal element to the suffering of Christ but it is only one part of the whole picture of God bearing our injustice, abuse, pride, helplessness, doubt, hypocrisy, and hopelessness so that nothing would separate us from him and from Life. On top of that the cross and its conflicts of showing justice in its injustice or God's glory in humilation (what Luther called "God's revelation hidden in its opposite) entails a major critique of the fallenness of both us AND our systems, authorities, laws, and rules.

So rather than simply throwing out the ideas of "penal substitution" throughout Scripture, I propose that we think them as "vicarious suffering". I have found that this model makes much more sense and leads to a much deeper insight into the cross that is in keeping with the heart, actions, and teaching of Jesus.

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34 Comments:

At 12:14 PM, Blogger Luther's Stein said...

"there is a penal element to the suffering of Christ"

Perhaps a post on this alone will aid us in understanding your perspective.

 
At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Pitchford said...

I agree with Luther's Stein -- I was actually suprised when I came to that admission, thinking that you were entirely opposed to any idea of penal suffering.

I agree that there are other aspects involved with the atonement(as, for instance, the Christus Victor motif), I just think that none of them is in any way exclusive of penal suffering. I see that (penal suffering) as, not the only, but still a vital element of what was happening on the cross.

Anyway, I would also appreciate more of your thoughts on that point.

 
At 6:26 PM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

Well there are themes of "bearing punishment" in Isa 53 (and elsewhere)

"he was bruised for our iniquities and the punishment that brought us peace was upon him"

But at the same time there are similar connections made with bearing sickness and sorrow

"Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows"

and we see that punishment was not just but profoundly unjust

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter... By oppression and judgment he was taken away"

So while I see themes of "punishment" clearly in there - Christ taking the consequence upon himself for our sin - I do not see this as a fulfillment of the demands of justice, but rather a picture of God bringing about justice out of terrible injustice. Martin Luther commenting on Isa 53 writes

“Natural reason, divine as well, argues that everybody must bear their own sin. Yet he is struck down contrary to all law and custom. Therefore the prophet leads us so earnestly beyond all righteousness and our rational capacity and confronts us with the sufferings of Christ... This is the preaching of the whole Gospel, to show us that Christ suffered for our sake contrary to law, right, and custom"

With Luther I do not see this bearing of punishment as the requirement of justice, but that "Christ suffered for our sake contrary to law, right, and custom". Throughout Isaiah 53 the tone is that this is a shock, an affront, a scandal. That is why I find the model of vicarious suffering and Christ bearing our sin, sorrow, and sickness as an act of self-sacrificing love is a much better model then that of Penal Substitution.

I do think that Penal Substitution and Christus Victor are as models incompatable and mutually contradictory. But Vicarious Suffering and Christus Victor go hand in hand. They are not simply compatable, they need each other to make a full picture.

 
At 6:33 PM, Blogger Luther's Stein said...

How would you understand God's involvement in the bruising of Jesus in Is. 53?

 
At 9:10 AM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

I see it in the sense of Jesus being a made a "guilt offering" (v 10). Further I see from a Trinitarian perspective that as part of the Trinity, Jesus was "fully God". God was on that cross. God gave himself. It is not a picture of God the executioner hurting and letting his anger and hatred out on Jesus the innocent victim in a travelsty of justice. God did not desire our suffering (let alone to see his beloved Son suffer), he desired our salvation. So in an act of giving and love of enemies he gave himself what he did not owe in order to restore us to fellowship.

The purpose of the sacrifice is not to punish, that is a pagan concept. It is to purify. The guilt offering had the specific purpose of making restitution for a wrong (Lv 5:16). It was a way of restoring what had been damaged (Lv 6:4-5) of making amends (1 Sa 6:3), and in keeping with Isaiah's theme of Christ bearing not only our sin but also our sorrow and sickness, it was not only for dealing with wrongs, but also with uncleanliness and disease (Lv 14:14).

At the same time, coupled to these themes of mending the broken is the context of how they were made whole through his suffering: his punishment brought us peace, by his stripes we are healed, and as we have seen this is all in the context of unjust suffering. Throughout the chapter, Isaiah returns to the theme of realization that while we considered him stricken by God, it was our sickness, sorrow, and sin on his back. We thought he must have been guilty, Isaiah says, but in fact it was we who are guilty. Isaiah through confronting us with the accursedness of of the Servant confronts us with our own sin. We did that to him. God in Christ scorning the cross, endured it for our sake as a Triune act of giving, humility and love.

 
At 9:30 AM, Blogger Buck Eschaton said...

Girardian theory pretty much explains what "by his stripes we are healed" means. Girard throughly explains how this works. How collective violence heals communities. How victims of collective violence heal and bring/hold together victims. There is a great feeling of camaraderie around the body of a victim who you and your community has just stoned. In collective stonings victims really did take away the sins of the community, this was temporary, though, until the next violent crisis hit and another person needed to be killed/stoned to restore the unity of the community.

Margaret Barker says that Isaiah 53:5 can be translated,
"The covenant bond of our peace was his responsibility".
Also, "With his stripes, hbrt, we are healed' would then become 'By his joining us together we are healed', forming a parallel to mwsr, covenant bond. The primary meaning of hbr is to unite, join together."
By taking on the sins of the community, by becoming the target of the violence/stones, the servant takes away the violent rivalries and restores peace to the community.
The servant gives himself over to the people, to absorb their sin, to heal them, to pour himself out to them, to unite them around his dead body.

 
At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Pitchford said...

To be more specific, what about the statement in verse 10, "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when you make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, etc."

This goes beyond the earlier verses, in that it clearly declares that God himself was pleased to bruise Christ, and that this was not merely in our estimation.

So how does this verse, which states that God was pleased to put his Son to grief, jive with your statement that "God did not desire our suffering (let alone to see his beloved Son suffer)..."?

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Buck Eschaton said...

If you're going to assume the servant only refers to Jesus then 53:10 makes no sense. The Lord (Yahweh, the Son of God) is bruising Himself (Jesus was Yahweh, the Son of God) then this verse makes no sense. So is Jesus bruising Jesus. Using PSA terms 53:10 makes no sense. Jesus is not bruising Himself.
The people thought Yahweh had bruised the servant, but this is not true, he may have been sick/ugly or in some way stood out, but it was the people who killed him.

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

The phrase "it pleased" simply means that it was God's will. It does not mean that God derived some sort of sadistic pleasure from inflicting suffering upon his beloved Son. This is something that I think even Calvin would agree with me on.

"We do not, however, insinuate that God was ever hostile to him or
angry with him. How could he be angry with the beloved Son, with whom his soul was well pleased?... But this we say, that he bore the weight of the divine anger, that, smitten and afflicted, he experienced all the signs of an angry and avenging God" (Institutes II 16.11)

It was God's will to subject himself to unjust suffering taking on the consequence and accursedness of our (not his) sin and evil for the purpose of redeeming us from it. Again Calvin says that the idea is not about desiring suffering, but about being obedient to holiness. Now I do not agree with everything Calvin says, but not even Calvin (nor any major proponent of PS including Stott, Forsyth, Denney, etc) make a claim like you seem to here.

Think about the implications of the two models: one is a picture of self-sacrificing love, the other of a God who takes "pleasure" in inflicting pain on his innocent child. How is that later not child abuse? You know that can't be right. And again I maintain that no major proponent of PS would claim this.

It "pleased God" to endure loss and suffering for the sake of love and redemption. God "scorned" the cross and "endured" it for our sake.

How does that work? God the Son in becoming fully man suffered the fate of man so that being also fully God he could lift us out of that pit.

 
At 10:31 AM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

Buck,

I have to say that I disagree with Girard's definition of sacrifice as a kind of lynch mob action. I think that this is a Pagan understanding of sacrifice not a Hebrew one.

The idea that God gave himself up to a lynch mob to satisfy their bloodlust thereby somehow condoning this abusive behavior strikes me as rather appalling. Is that really what Girard thinks?

I'd still like to know what you think of my idea that the Suffering Servant is God in non-PS terms.

 
At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Pitchford said...

Shark,

I think you misunderstood me, to some extent. I have no issue with Calvin's assessment, nor do I suppose that God was angry with his Son as such -- but he was in fact pleased to crush him, because he did in fact take our sins upon himself. So, I would agree with you that "it was God's will to subject himself on the consequence of...our sin..."

I'm only saying that it was God's will to bruise his Son because our sins demanded it, and he was pleased to take our sins upon himself, and so undergo their penalty in our stead. In other words, his vicarious suffering included an aspect of the vicarious undergoing of God's wrath against sin; because of which reality Isaiah is able to say that God was pleased to bruise him.

He was pleased to bruise him so that we might be forgiven, and hence the cross was motivated by redemptive love, not "divine child abuse," -- but the fact of his will to put the Son to grief, even in light of his more fundamental motivation -- our good -- argues that his just retribution of sins had to be answered. It was in fact his will that it be answered, even at the price of substituting his Son (or the Son's substituting himself, to phrase it in an equally appropriate way) to answer it for us, and thus purchase for us redemption and peace.

 
At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Pitchford said...

Sorry, I unintentionally left out part of your statement when I quoted you: the correct version that I intended is "It was God's will to subject himself to unjust suffering taking on the consequence and accursedness of our (not his) sin." I would just add the caveat that, although the suffering was unjust with respect to the person of the Son, it was nevertheless just in the sense that it involved the righteous response to "the accursedness of our sin."

 
At 11:51 AM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

Pitchford,

thanks for the clarification.

You say "I'm only saying that it was God's will to bruise his Son because our sins demanded it, and he was pleased to take our sins upon himself, and so undergo their penalty in our stead. In other words, his vicarious suffering included an aspect of the vicarious undergoing of God's wrath against sin; because of which reality Isaiah is able to say that God was pleased to bruise him"

I agree with your above statement.

you say "his just retribution of sins had to be answered"

This is where I begin to disagree. I agree that there is a consequence to sin, but the framework of retribution being required as a condition for forgivness is not one I agree with (i.e. I do not think it is biblical). I would say instead it is more like a little child who slips and falls from a ledge. His father sees his little one fall and leaps into the air after him, catching and cradling him in his arms as they both plummet to the ground below. As they both hit the ground the father sheltering his child in his arms absorbs the blow with his body, taking the full impact on himself.

You can say that gravity is the punishing consequence of the childs actions. You can say that the child fell becasue it was disobediant. You can say the Father took the consequence of the childs disobediance upon himself. You can say that the law of gravity is in itself a good thing.

You say "it was nevertheless just in the sense that it involved the righteous response to 'the accursedness of our sin.'"

This (as in the above gravity example) I think is one part of the equation. But we can also be seperated from God not only by our own sin, but by being sinned against. Abuse, oppression, sickness, tradgedy, and dispair can all seperate us from God. God bore the consequence of our sin, but he also bore the "accursedness" of our being sinned against as well. We see several examples of this in the Gospels where Jesus speaks of sickness and oppression keeping people "bound by Satan". I think we need a model to understand both aspects of our need for redemption. The retribution model cannot do that.

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger Luther's Stein said...

I am falling out of the conversation due to constraints on my teaching schedule, but just a quick word here -- I do not think that the Penal Sub. model is incompatible with Christus Victor -- many who subscribe to the PS model would also see Christus Victor as a Biblical Theological theme in the Scripture.

Correct me if I am wrong, but you would not agree that God is active in executing the penalty of disobedience to the law -- is this correct?

 
At 9:11 PM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

Luther S,

hey well thanks for all your input so far, hope to see you back later!

"many who subscribe to the PS model would also see Christus Victor as a Biblical Theological theme in the Scripture"

This is true that many say this, but I don't think they have really thought it through. If you really consider the two side my side they contradict. One pays a ransom to God, the other to the devil. PS pretty much ignores the involvement of the devil and acts as if the transaction was entirely between God and man.

"Correct me if I am wrong, but you would not agree that God is active in executing the penalty of disobedience to the law -- is this correct?"

No. I see in the Prophets for instance personal aspects used to emphasize how God is personally involved in our lives, (even with the bad stuff), and I see especially in Paul the idea of "the wrath" as a consequence like gravity. Paul speaks of us "reaping" and of sin's "wage" and of "fruits". There is also in the NT the idea of the involvement of Satan as "the Accuser" and as an agent of wrath. So if I do speak of wrath in inactive terms, I do so like Paul to emphasize how it is not malicious but inevitable.

Out of curiosity, do you think God is actively involved in gravity or sickness?

 
At 7:34 AM, Blogger Buck Eschaton said...

Girard, I think, contends that not only is sacrifice based in human sacrifice, but that the very foundation of all human culture and religion originates from the unity found after a collective. The first experience of unity primitive communities experienced was after they had collectively stoned someone. Everything flowed from this unity, that is why the victim was turned into a god. The victim was not only evil, because he had brought on the crisis, but he was good because his death brought peace.
Primitive peoples ritualized this collective murder. In the society descended into chaos/crisis the attempted to reenact this original murder, because it worked previously. They do it with substitutes. In the Hebrew Day of Atonement ritual, the High Priest is a substitute for the people, and the goat is a substitute for the High Priest.
Jesus was a High Priest, but he didn't use the blood of any substitute human or animal. He substituted himself for us. He bore the natural consequence of our sin. He was like Aaron standing between the warring people and firing up a bunch of incense and stopping the violence of the people.

I do not believe that God is violent in any way. If we believe that God is a wrathful (in the actively violent sense) then how do we determine what is God's wrath and what is a natural occurrence today. If a nuclear bomb explodes, is it God's wrath or a human being hitting the button. I just think understanding God as actively violent requires too much magical thinking. Humans are responsible for violence and as Christians we are supposed to follow Jesus into the sacrificial machinery and absorb the wrath. We are supposed to forgive/bear sins.

I think I'm no longer making much sense in this post, so I'll just stop.

 
At 8:41 AM, Blogger Luther's Stein said...

Ok, I am getting sucked back in, and I really shouldn't. 1) Christus Victor does not necessarily argue for a "ransom paid to Satan" -- though it does take this form, I think a direct identification of this theme with Christus Victor is a mistake theologically, biblically, and historically.

2) Shark, your language is confusing -- on the one hand you argue against an active penalty of God upon Jesus saying that sin is merely a "consequence" like gravity, and yet on the other hand argue that God is involved in all parts of our lives even these "consequences.

3) As an ardent Calvinist -- I believe God is involved in everything -- I like to call it providence :)

4)Buck said . . . "how do we determine what is God's wrath and what is a natural occurrence today. If a nuclear bomb explodes, is it God's wrath or a human being hitting the button. I just think understanding God as actively violent requires too much magical thinking."

I don't think we have to know what is punishment and what is not. Furthermore, I don't think it is fair to call this magical thinking any more than it is magical thinking to speak of the miracle of birth -- God works providentially. Throughout the Old Testament, in fact, tribulation and destruction (Is. 45:7) -- especially the exile (per N.T. Wright) -- is viewed as the punishment of God for Israel's sins. I think any reading of the OT that disregards God's involvement in these things will distort the worldview of the writers -- there is just too much evidence to support it.

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger Buck Eschaton said...

What I'm trying to get at re this whole active, violent wrath of God directed at humans thing is something like this.

In PSA what is the consequence of sin? Is the only consequence of sin punishment from God? Does sin have it's own natural consequence apart from God? What I'm saying is our sin will destroy us all by itself, it doesn't need any help from God. Sin will send us to Hell, God doesn't have to.
I think the Girardian idea of Hell is best exemplified by nuclear holocaust, where no life survives.
Girardian theory believes that even the smallest sin is leading us towards nuclear holocaust. Girard if anything takes the sin and its consequence very seriously. His whole exposition of the 10 commandments and on Skandolon is very persuasive.
According to Girard what used to stop this endless march to total annihilation/nuclear holocaust was the "scapegoat mechanism". This is the foundation of Satan's kingdom. The continual casting out of certain groups/individuals to restore a stability to society. Jesus came to put an end to this casting out, Jesus allowed himself to cast out to bring light to this practice, and thus begin the process of destroying the scapegoat mechanism. Thus we can no longer use the scapegoat mechanism, without turning to Jesus, literally following him, sin will destroy us. God doesn't have to punish or destroy we do that all by ourselves.

 
At 2:15 PM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

2) Shark, your language is confusing -- on the one hand you argue against an active penalty of God upon Jesus saying that sin is merely a "consequence" like gravity, and yet on the other hand argue that God is involved in all parts of our lives even these "consequences.

Luther S,

See if this helps: Scripture describes wrath as both personal (in the Prophets) and impersonal (in Paul). I think both are ways of describing somthing that is bigger than our language to really grasp, that's why we need to speak in analogies. So I dont think of either as "scientific" but as limited ways of grasping aspects of big stuff (how God governs the world). Every analogy has certain important aspects it can highlight, and certain limitations to it. So when I argue agasinst an active involvement in God in judgment I am arguing against the limitations of this fallible human analogy when applied to God who is neither a "process" nor is he "a big angry guy".

One place where we might disagree is that I do think that humans do have the abilty to make actions and choices that are not God's will. That is: they can sin and bear the moral responsibilty for it. That sin has real consequences in life (like being raped) that are punishing, but I would think it would be wrong/hurtful to say that God was "actively involved" in someone being raped or that this "punishment" was somehow deserved. So in that regard I see somethings as punishing but do not see God as actively involved in their execution becasue it would mean that God is the devil.

 
At 4:31 PM, Blogger Luther's Stein said...

"One place where we might disagree is that I do think that humans do have the abilty to make actions and choices that are not God's will. That is: they can sin and bear the moral responsibilty for it. That sin has real consequences in life (like being raped) that are punishing, but I would think it would be wrong/hurtful to say that God was "actively involved" in someone being raped or that this "punishment" was somehow deserved. So in that regard I see somethings as punishing but do not see God as actively involved in their execution becasue it would mean that God is the devil."

This is off topic, but you should know that you are seriously distorting the Reformed idea of Providence . . . seriously, this is a bad representation of it. Read Feinberg, No One Like Him, on Causality.

Back to the topic at hand, either God does act wrathfully toward humanity (on the level of his intention, though not necessarily in acts identifiable to humans) or he does not have wrath against humans.

Do you believe in hell?

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Good stuff, Derek.

I have a couple of quotes from Luther to toss into the discussion.

--------------------

Therefore Christ not only was crucified and died, but by divine love sin was laid upon Him. When sin was laid upon Him, the Law came and said: "Let every sinner die! And therefore, Christ, if You want to reply that You are guilty and that You bear the punishment, you must bear the sin and the curse as well." Therefore Paul correctly applies to Christ this general Law from Moses: "Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree." Christ hung on a tree; therefore Christ is a curse of God.
(LW 26, p. 278)
--------------------

and

--------------------
This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. When the merciful Father saw that we were being oppressed through the Law, that we were being held under a curse, and that we could not be liberated from it by anything, He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: "Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men, the one who has committed the sins of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them." Now the Law comes and says: "I find Him a sinner, who takes upon Himself the sins of all men. I do not see any other sins than those in Him. Therefore let Him die on the cross!" And so it attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil. But when sin and death have been abolished by this one man, God does not want to see anything else in the whole world, especially if it were to believe, except sheer cleansing and righteousness. And if any remnants of sin were to remain, still for the sake of Christ, the shining Sun, God would not notice them.
(LW 26, p. 280)
--------------------

References here are to the American edition of Luther's Works. These are both from his lectures on Galatians.

It seems to me that what Luther says here fits very nicely with what you are saying about vicarious suffering, but to someone who wasn't looking for it, these could easily sound like penal substitution. Luther is like that.

An important concept that Luther introduces, which is both critical to understanding Luther and helpful more generally in understanding this topic, is the concept of Deus Absconditus.

When Luther talks here about how "the Law came and said..." he is implicitly aware that this is an action of God, but he would see it as a hidden action of God. It's not something that God does in plain view, so to speak, and we should not pretend to understand what God means by it. Nor should we ask what it means, in Luther's view. Instead, we should cling to God as he is revealed in Christ.

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Andy said...

By the way, if you haven't already, you should check out Stephen Finlan's Problems with Atonement. You'll probably ultimately disagree with him, but he's got a fantastic analysis of the scapegoat motif in the New Testament and its implications for the idea of atonement.

Among the very interesting aspects of the scapegoat ritual is that the goat upon which the sins of the people are laid is not the one that is killed, and thus the one that is killed cannot be viewed as having been killed as punishment for the sins.

 
At 4:49 PM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

"you should know that you are seriously distorting the Reformed idea of Providence"

That's entirely possible. I was not intending to represent it, but to encourage you to explain your perspective. Do you believe in the devil? Or are all things either caused by man or God?

"either God does act wrathfully toward humanity... or he does not have wrath against humans"

What does wrath mean? Intent to harm? Emotional anger? What is the end purpose of wrath? Is it in conflict with love or an expression of it?

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger Buck Eschaton said...

While we're speaking of Atonement I thought I would present this essay. It's by an Old Testament scholar by the name of Margaret Barker. She's an expert in First Temple symbolism. As much as the work of Rene Girard and friends interested me, I never devoured their works like I did with Margaret Barker. I would guess those of you who are Biblical literalists will dismiss her right away, because she refers often to Enoch, the Qumran writings and other ancient and extra-Biblical writings. But from symbolic standpoint, trying to get to the origins of the symbols, it's amazing.
Atonement: The Rite of Healing (PDF)

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Luther's Stein said...

Andy,

I think you have proved my point with your Luther quotations -- God stands behind the accusations of the law. God accuses mankind's sin through the law, and thus executes the punishment of death in accordance with the law. Christ's death as a substitute, then, is under the curse of the law intended for us. Thus Christ is "guilty" of our sin -- a legal term. Thus the law stands over Christ and condemns him in his death, where we deserved to be condemned.

 
At 11:36 AM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

"I think you have proved my point with your Luther quotations -- God stands behind the accusations of the law"

Actually I think your above assertion does not hold up to either Luther's nor Paul's view of the law. The majority of both Paul and Luther's writing consists of a major criqique of the law.

Have you read Alistar McGrath's "Luther's Theolgy of the Cross"? He would also disagree with you here. I've noticed you've quoted him a few times...

 
At 11:39 AM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

Hi Andy,

I have read "Problems with Atonement", and did end up disagreeing with most of it :)

Have either you or Buck read Walter Wink's "engaging the Powers"? I think this is the best job I've seen of making sense of Girard. Phenomenal book.

 
At 12:25 PM, Blogger Buck Eschaton said...

I've got a whole collection of Walter Wink books on my book shelf, but I haven't got around to actually reading them yet. I would consider Gil Bailie's "Violence Unveiled" as the best introduction to Girardian theory. It's a fairly easy to read entrance into Girard.
Here's a Google link to excerpts from Violence Unveiled. (via the most excellent Girardian Lectionary

I like Bailie's Satan & Scandal and Fires of Hell

Here's a page filled with Girardian links regarding the Atonement.

 
At 12:35 PM, Blogger Buck Eschaton said...

If I were going to write an actual essay on the Atonement it would be something like James Alison's Some Thoughts on the Atonement. Does a pretty good job of mixing Girardian theory with Margaret Barker's research into First Temple Atonement symbolism. It's a little wordy, but I really like this essay/speech.

 
At 1:05 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Derek,

I haven't read Wink. I can't remember the details, but I remember basically agreeing with Finlan's critique of Girard.


Luther's Stein,

I don't think you can quite say that "God stands behind the accusations of the law" in Luther's mind. Almost, but not quite. This is where his idea of deus absconditus becomes important, and, if I may be so bold, the failure to appreciate Luther's idea of deus absconditus is the reason most Calvinists misunderstand Luther and think he's basically a Calvinist (which he most definitely is not).

Look at this from his lectures on Galatians:

-------------------
True Christian theology does not inquire into the nature of God, but into God's purpose and will in Christ, whom God incorporated in our flesh to live and to die for our sins. There is nothing more dangerous than to speculate about the incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty of God when the conscience is in turmoil over sin. To do so is to lose God altogether because God becomes intolerable when we seek to measure and to comprehend His infinite majesty.

We are to seek God as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1:23, 24: "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." Begin with Christ. He came down to earth, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and then He died, standing clearly before us, so that our hearts and eyes may fasten upon Him. Thus we shall be kept from climbing into heaven in a curious and futile search after the nature of God.
-------------------

Now the Calvinist mind is never content to stop at such a road block and will say, "Yes, but if you follow this thread to its logical conclusion, then obviously...." But the Lutheran, so long as he is thinking like a Lutheran, will always refuse to follow any such thread.

The conclusion may seem to be logically irrefutable, but you must remember Luther's deep mistrust of reason.

I would further note that the passages I quoted from Luther do not emphasize the guilt of Christ but rather they emphasize Christ taking our sin upon himself -- not the consequences of the sin, but the sin itself. That is what Luther is emphasizing there.

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

Andy,

I was inspired by your post on Luther's "Deus Absconditus" to write part II of Luther's Theology of the Cross for today's blog. Check it out.

 
At 1:12 PM, Anonymous sharktacos said...

You all really need to read Wink. One of the best books I've read in a decade... and I read a lot :)


Engaging the Powers

 
At 2:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I know whether you are a Catholic priest?

 
At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

No, I am not Catholic.

 

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