Love of Enemies: The Way of the Cross - book excerpt

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I've decided to post a chapter from the book I am writing on the Atonement. This chapter excerpt "Love of Enemies: The Way of the Cross" deals with how to creatively apply love of enemies in every area of life, from interpersonal conflict to international relations. The intent of the chapter is of course not to exhaustively cover such a wide range of topics which would go way beyond the scope of a single chapter, but instead to lay the ground work for a creative dialog about what love of enemies could mean in our lives and world. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, so let me know what you think in the comments section here. Thanks!

read chapter "Love of Enemies: The Way of the Cross"

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Incarnational Penal Substitution

Friday, November 03, 2006

I've been reading Between Cross and resurrection by the late Alan Lewis, and came across this formulation in Calvinist terms

"Christ is not only the Elect in whom humanity is chosed and redeemed, but also the Reprobate on whom is laid God's judgment of humanity."

John Stott in The Cross of Christ speaks how we cannot think of the cross as God demanding an appeasement so that he will be persuaded to love us, but that God is the one offering the sacrifice because he loves us. I think we can take this a step further and say in Trinitarian terms that God is the one on the cross because Jesus is God the Son. Rule number one of Trinitarian thought is that God is one. There is complete unity in the Godhead. So if God the Son is there on the cross, we can truly say that God is up there. So taking that and combining it with the quote above we get

God became accursed and damned, that we might become the righteousness of God.

God took on human flesh, and out of love willingly submitted to all of our sorrow, helplessness, and separation. He "became sin". So that we might likewise inherit his purity. Here we have clearly substitutionary atonement. We can even say that it is a penal substitution is that God took upon Himself the judgment of sin, the curse, that was upon us. Seen from the traditional legal perspective, one cannot take the punishment for another.

Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae, which is recognized as codifying the idea of penal substitution that has become the doctrine of the Catholic church (I'm sure they call it something else) and was later adopted by the Reformation (i.e. the shift from Anselmian Satisfaction where satisfaction (reparation) is an alternative to punishment, to the punishment itself being what satisfied) explicitly denies that the substitution is a legal one:

"If we speak of that satisfactory punishment, which one takes upon oneself voluntarily, one may bear another's punishment... If, however, we speak of punishment inflicted on account of sin, inasmuch as it is penal, then each one is punished for his own sin only, because the sinful act is something personal. But if we speak of a punishment that is medicinal, in this way it does happen that one is punished for another's sin." (FS, Q. 87-A8)

St. Thomas does affirm that one can take the punishment for another, just not in a legal sense. I think anyone with children will understand the wish of a parent to "take the place" of your child when they are suffering or in trouble. We see it all the time in the movies when the hero says "No, let her go. Take me instead".

So have I just agreed with Penal Substitution? Well maybe. If
1) it is thought of in relational-moral terms instead of legal ones,
2) it is understood that it is ultimately God who offers himself
3) satisfaction is understood in its original meaning of "making restitution" rather that the modern meaning of "gratification"

The question I have, is whether a Calvinist would recognize the above as a legitimate understanding of Penal Substitution. Any takers?

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