28.1.11

Scrutinising Penal Substitutionary Atonement



Just a few thoughts as I prepare to debate the atonement.

Do our interpretations of the cross tell us more about the contemporary situation than about the cross?


So, for example, did a modernist obsession with individualism and punishment infect the penal substitutionary theory?

Does the story of the atonement need re-articulating as we take seriously the human condition from which people need salvation. Does the historical particularity of our human situation change? How does this kind of thinking become also a discussion about classic or open theism?

Must Christ's representative work on the cross be articulated in another way because it does not make sense to us? Does sense matter? How far to we take the idea of the 'foolishness' of the gospel?

Can PSA really be articulated as a denial of individualism? Is it really the case that no one has ever conceived of it as a transfer between two separate persons? Is there really a corporate Christ who is the ground for substitutionary atonement? Is he the federal head with those represented by him becoming one mystical body – so that we are punished too– and have paid in Christ himself? Is this classic PSA or a warp of it to combat charges of individualism-  that so-called pos-tmodern affliction?

What does it do to 'church' to argue that God is 'appeased' (propitiated) through an act of violence?

Does the wrath of God only take the form of his allowing us to go ahead with our actions so that we suffer their consequences? What about the actions of God in the Old Testament. I am about to start reading "Is God a Moral Monster," to help on this front. You can hear the book's author, Paul Copan talk about his book here

Am I more persuaded by the idea that Christ enters into our experience of sin and restores people to God so that sin is exhausted in Jesus? The cross absorbs. We must not describe it as penal because if we understand Paul aright, the poisonousness of sin has gone and the cross is preventative?

...to be continued.

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