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On the cross when Jesus died, was ‘the wrath of God satisfied’?

I recently posted on Facebook a link to the decision in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to drop the  hymn “In Christ Alone” because the song’s authors refused to change a phrase about the wrath of God.

The original lyrics say that “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song wanted to substitute the words, “the love of God was magnified.”

The song’s authors, Stuart Townend and Nashville resident Keith Getty, objected. So the committee voted to drop the song.

Critics say the proposed change was sparked by liberals wanting to take God’s wrath out of the hymnal. The committee says there’s plenty of wrath in the new hymnal. Instead, the problem is the word “satisfied,” which the committee says refers to a specific view of theology that it rejects.

In my experience, many Christians want to revise this phrase, and sing something different in practice. When I highlighted this, I was taken aback by the intensity of discussion, which ended up with more than 100 comments. What is at stake in this particular phrase? There are three aspects: what the NT says about Jesus’ death; the status of particular doctrines; and the issue of copyright in hymns and songs.

51CAuxMGYLLOn the question of wrath in the NT, several things are worth bearing in mind. First, in the NT, whilst there is plenty of discussion about God’s wrath (or sometimes just ‘the wrath’) God is never described as being ‘angry’. Wrath is always a noun, and never a verb. Stephen Travis in Christ and the Judgement of God talks of it as an effectus not an affectus, an attitude rather than a feeling. I remember his former colleague Michael Green describing God’s wrath as ‘his settled opposition to all that is evil.’

Secondly, it is described as something both present (for example in Romans 1) and future (in Romans 5.9). In fact, Romans 5.9 is the only verse in the NT which links Jesus’ death with deliverance from wrath explicitly, and here Paul clearly has the final judgement in mind, not some transaction which takes place on the cross at the time of Jesus’ death.

Thirdly (for the sake of good Anglicans) it is important to note that the Book of Common Prayer does make use of the idea of satisfaction:

All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world…

But it is worth noting that the ‘satisfaction’ of honour is a mediaeval idea, originating with Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century, not one that is found in the NT in relation to Jesus’ death. In any case, the BCP does not talk of ‘satisfying God’s wrath’, and the emphasis here comes from its root in the Middle English satisfien, from Anglo-French satisfier, modification of Latin satisfacere, from satis ‘enough’ and facere ‘to do or make’ and thus means paid or discharged in full. Hence I am very happy to use the words of the BCP, but still not to sing the phrase in the Townend hymn.

The real danger in talking of Jesus satisfying God’s wrath is that we separate the actions of the Trinity in the cross. It appears to portray loving Jesus saving us from an angry God who metes out his punishment upon the innocent. Instead, we should see in the open arms of Jesus a welcome by a loving Father, who no longer counts our sin against us—it is from our sin and its consequences that Jesus saves us, rather than from a hateful God.

This moves us into the question of doctrine of the atonement. This is not the place to tackle this massive subject in full (!), but I noted in the FB discussion that the NT uses a whole range of metaphors for what happened on the cross—apart from the language of taking our place and bearing our sins (1 Peter), the cross and resurrection of Jesus dethroned the powers (Ephesians), ended our shame (Hebrews), brought us into friendship with God (2 Cor), recapitulated the story of Israel (Matthew and Acts), began the redemption of the whole creation (Romans 8), and started the recreation of humanity (Romans and 1 Cor). Tom Smail explores a whole range of images and ideas in his excellent Windows on the Cross which is a great resource for preaching. If we are going to engage our culture with the meaning of Jesus, we would do well to draw on the whole range of ways that Scripture uses.

However, in the FB discussion, one contributor commented:

I believe that the traditional language of the satisfaction of God’s wrath expresses the model at the very heart of the atonement and the Gospel…Further, if you don’t like the doctrine that the cross satisfied God’s wrath, don’t sing it, don’t call yourself a classical evangelical, and leave the COE. Since the BCP is part of the doctrine of the COE, to reject the BCP’s language about satisfaction is to reject the COE’s doctrine, and, for clergy, break their ordination vows. Further, Penal substitution has historically been a key belief for evangelicalism.

I began to see why so many comments were generated—if you don’t believe this phrase (even though it does not occur in the NT, is not found in the creeds, and does not in this form occur in the BCP) you are not really a proper Anglican, let alone an evangelical (though again the phrase is absent from both UCCF and CEEC bases of faith), so I suppose there is a question about whether you could call yourself a Christian at all! At one point, it sounded as though this correspondent was putting the doctrine of ‘penal substitution’ (that Jesus died in our place, being punished by God for our sins, and so satisfying God’s wrath) on the same level as belief in the Trinity, though in fact he pulled back from that in a later comment.

in-christ-aloneHere, as elsewhere, we have got ourselves into a very bad place of ‘culture wars’ in relation to doctrine, and on this (as well as eg the issue of women in leadership) it seems almost impossible to have a sensible discussion. More than that, for me it suggests a real problem in how we view doctrine. Is Scripture supposed to lead us to right doctrine, or does good doctrine help us to read the Scriptures? In my view, it is clearly the latter—it is Scripture that is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Tim 3.16) and not any doctrine textbook. This isn’t about saying truth is unimportant; it is saying that truth is not best expressed by a set of propositions alone. God did not make a mistake when he gave us the Scriptures, in all their variety and (apparent) contradictions. And our unity is not found in agreement on a particular statement of doctrine. It is found in the person of Jesus, crucified and risen, whom we proclaim as Lord. Our unity is, in fact, ‘in Christ alone.’

When Stephen Travis revised Christ and the Judgement of God, he included an additional chapter specifically responding to those proposing penal substitution as the main way to understand Jesus’ death. The chapter is a tour de force, a masterly exploration of the issue, fully engaging with alternative views, and is worth reading in full. He comments:

Most interpreters of Paul would agree with Howard Marshall, that ‘Paul’s vocabulary expresses the results of Christ’s death rather than its character, and this fits in with New Testament thought in general, which is more concerned with the nature of salvation than with the precise way in which it has been achieved.’ (p 181)

There is no place [in the OT] for the popular idea that in the sacrificial ritual God is somehow punishing the animal…or for the inference that something parallel to that is happening in the sacrificial death of Christ. (p 197)

Paul’s understanding of the death of Christ includes, but does not place at the centre, the idea that he bore the retributive punishment for our sins…To understand the atonement exclusively in those terms involves a misunderstanding of what Paul means by ‘the wrath of God.’ (p 199)

The meaning of the cross is not that God punished his Son in order to avoid punishing humanity, but that in Christ God himself took responsibility for the world’s evil and absorbed its consequences into itself. (p 200)

Finally comes the question of copyright. The Presbyterian Church were right to consult the hymn’s authors before changing the words in a published work. But what is copyright about? Principally two things: recognition of the author; and recompense for the work. It is not about hymn writers controlling our doctrine. In fact, if you read the words of the song, it is full of biblical language, and would be thought of as theologically conservative, even without this one phrase. There is plenty else here that I would hope the writers are pleased that people want to sing. So my recommendation would be to use it, to amend this one phrase, to credit the original writers, to note the amendment, and to pay up your royalty fee. Who knows? You might even end up provoking reflection on what Jesus’ death and resurrection (the NT holds the two together) actually mean for us.


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245 Responses to On the cross when Jesus died, was ‘the wrath of God satisfied’?

  1. Shelatabor September 4, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    In prayer I felt God say that the important thing to focus on is that God didn’t put Jesus on the cross, man did. And that is the whole point. Man is the enemy not God. We can lose site of this if we get too hung up on Gods wrath. Yes God hates evil but he came to highlight mans evil wrath not Gods. His is a holy wrath that fights evil on our behalf. Will we align with a wrath that kills or one that saves?

  2. Gloria November 16, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    Do denominations really matter? I don’t believe that they do. Where does it say in the New Testament that Paul was a Methodist? Or Peter was an Anglican? It doesn’t. We are ONE body. The body of Christ.

    So at the end of the day “doctrine” doesn’t matter. The Bible, The Word of God matters. Does a specific doctrine not line up with the Bible? Throw it out. Doctrine has NO place in comparison with the Word of God. The Word of God will stand. It’s the truth. Ultimately if a doctrine doesn’t line up with the Bible then it’s not the truth. So why do we argue about doctrine? Does it line up with scripture? Without being taken out of context?

    That’s our measure. The Word of God. If someone asks me what I believe..? “The Bible and everything in it.” I do not claim a denomination, because they do not matter. I am a Follower of Jesus Christ.

    Thank you for this article, I heard this song and I didn’t think that “the wrath of God was satisfied” was biblical but I wanted to make sure. Much appreciated.

    With Love,

    Your sister in Christ.

    • Ian Paul November 18, 2015 at 9:26 am #

      Thanks. I notice you put ‘doctrine’ in inverted commas. Doctrine is good if it is about systematic reflection on Scripture…as you say…

  3. David Shepherd November 18, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    ‘In fact, Romans 5.9 is the only verse in the NT which links Jesus’ death with deliverance from wrath explicitly,’

    That’s true, but what then is implied by ‘whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them’? (John 3:36)

    I think that the reason that abandoning Townend’s phrase has aroused such debate is principally because, for some, the word wrath has become full of pejorative notions, such understanding the cross as the means of placating God by invoking His consignment of Jesus’ to innocent suffering. Of course, that view is a complete distortion of the gospel .

    Nevertheless, we don’t abandon or replace the word ‘love’ on account of those who use it as the basis for affirming the unhindered continuance in behaviour prohibited by God’s prophets and apostles. We simply clarify and redeem the scriptural meaning of the word. The same should apply to wrath.

    That’s why I think your own words, ‘It appears to portray loving Jesus saving us from an angry God who metes out his punishment upon the innocent’ go too far. You would only be right if those who endorse Townend’s phrasing believed that, ‘He has made him to be sinner for us, who knew no sin.’ (Cf. 2 Cor. 5:21)

    Instead, be made sin for us means no more (and no less) than for the Word of God made human to suffer what the Jews (who were subject to the law’s explicit providences and sanctions) understood to be the eventual and inexorable consequence of sin: to be handed over to the custody of hostile heathen enemies and to suffer an ignominious death at their hands: ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”‘ (Gal. 3:13) Although Paul’s Greek metaphors are useful, they are tools for unlocking a meaning is principally derived from the entirety of the Jewish experience and revelation from God.

    What we translate as justification was initially applied to the prerogative to arbitrate and settle civil disputes, such as debt. Hence, Christ regularly employs the idea of debt as a metaphor for sin. So, the wrath (from which God saves us through Christ) arises from the law, by its nature, being inflexible towards our debt, that is any failure to supply what creation owes to the manifest majesty of its Creator.

    Central to notion of justification is divine sovereignty, that God has the supreme prerogative to decide how offence against His majesty should be settled, whether by law or an equivalent alternative.

    It is the supreme worth of Christ’s sacrifice that God has conclusively and graciously decided as the means of settling and removing the debt towards divine majesty. The alternative of offering reform is manifestly impossible in that it is motivated by fear of punishment, not a desire to restore honour and cannot compensate for the infliction of past disregard.

    To be made sin for us involved God accepting horrific and unfathomable injustices and indignities to perpetrated against the beloved image of His own transcendent being on earth. In the Father’s silent toleration of those injustices towards His Son, I can see no segregation of the will of the Father from that of the Son, nor the Holy Spirit.

    That filial obedience involved God temporarily permitting the horror of unrestrained lethal enmity of human evil towards Himself: the unmixed hatred of divine light.

    Christ himself declared of wrath, as you say, the effect of God’s holiness is a consequence of light-rejecting moral preference: ‘This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.’

    Again, anthropomorphisms, such as ‘angry’ and ‘punishment’ have now become distasteful pejoratives. Yet, abandoning such negative connotations, ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’ could just as easily:
    ‘portray a loving God, the Trinity, saving us TO himself from our light-rejecting choices by sharing in what God intended for humanity and, in His supreme act of perfect obedience, offering/yielding sinless perfection to the full enormity of lethal human evil perpetrated against God.

  4. Ann December 10, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    God’s wrath may always be a noun, but in Deuteronomy 29, it is used in connection with God’s anger. Deut. 29:24-28 says, “All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. They went off and worshipped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”

    Evidently, God gets angry when his people abandon their covenant relationship with him and worship other gods.

    • Ian Paul December 10, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

      That’s interesting. Do you think there is anything significant that you have to go all the way back to Deuteronomy in order to justify language that is used about Jesus’ death on the cross—and to a passage which the gospel writers make no reference to?

      • Philip Almond October 7, 2016 at 11:05 am #

        Ian
        In your article you say, “On the question of wrath in the NT, several things are worth bearing in mind. First, in the NT, whilst there is plenty of discussion about God’s wrath (or sometimes just ‘the wrath’) God is never described as being ‘angry’.”

        I disagree with this (and other things in your article) and may try to say why in another post. But in this post I just want to point out (as Ann in her post has already done) that in the Old Testament God is frequently described as being ‘angry’.

        Deu 1:37 Even with me the LORD was angry on your account and said, ‘You also shall not go in there.
        Deu 4:21 Furthermore, the LORD was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
        Deu 9:8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.
        Deu 9:20 And the LORD was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.
        1Ki 11:9 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice
        2Ki 17:18 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.
        Psa 2:12 Kiss the Son,lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,for his wrath is quickly kindled.Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
        Psa 60:1 O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;you have been angry; oh, restore us.
        Psa 79:5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?Will your jealousy burn like fire?
        Psa 85:5 Will you be angry with us forever?Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
        Isa 12:1 You will say in that day:“I will give thanks to you, O LORD,for though you were angry with me,your anger turned away,that you might comfort me.

        Are these statements true? Are you saying that God has stopped being angry with sinners?

        Phil Almond

  5. David Shepherd December 12, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    Ian,

    I’ve followed this debate closely and what’s clearly missing from the many theological arguments is the influence of Greek dispute resolution on Paul’s writing. KJV translates dikaiosunes as righteousness, despite what we know about the term and especially how it’s employed in the works of Homer.

    I would really recommend reading Eric A. Havelock’s ‘The Greek Concept of Justice’. He writes of Homer’s Odyssey and Ilead:

    ‘Both epics, however, are very far from identifying “justice” as a principle with a priori foundations, whether conceived as the necessary “rule of law” or as a moral sense in man. These “justices” administered in the plural by kings (archaistically) or by magistrates (realistically) are processes not principles, solving specifics, not applying general laws; they express themselves in negotiated settlement of rival claims. They operate to restore proprieties in human relationships’

    That last sentence is very significant to the NT. As an example of dikaiosunes, Havelock describes King Menelaus’ grievance with Antilochus’ obstructive cornering in the chariot race at the Funeral Games (Ilead book 23). After the race, Menelaus demands that Antilochus should declare under oath that he did not race obstructively.

    Antilochus promptly declines to make such an oath, but in seeking reconciliation, admits that his youthful impetuousity was the cause of his audacious and dangerous manoeuvre. As a conciliatory gesture, he offers prize (a mare) for second place to Menelaus.

    In the same spirit of reconciliation, Menelaus accepts the offer with graciousness, thereby concluding the dispute, saying: ‘I am a man of kind heart, never arrogant’. The focus is on achieving peace, not on exacting reparations.

    Also, dikaiosunes is not an exercise in averting a judge’s criminal penalty, but on dissipating grievance by resolving the dishonour and injury caused publicly, instead of allowing it to be ignored or trivialised.

    The cross of Christ is the horrific reminder that, despite God’s desire to forgive, offense against God is neither ignored or trivialised. The indignities and butchery that the transcendent Father’s ‘out-shining’ faultlessly endured in his body on the cross conclusively defeats the slanderous satanic accusation that redemption involves an ongoing dishonourable connivance at wrongdoing.

    The cross is the conclusive public demonstration of the rightness of God’s authority over rebellious mankind.

    Havelock explains ‘The episode conspicuously dramatizes the settlement of a dispute carried out orally in public and rendered effective because it is witnessed by the community acting as a body. Its “legality” depends upon an oath uttered by one party (or in this case declined) and heard by the other, in public, before witnesses. Equally, the episode illustrates how the procedure can be taken over by one of the litigants who himself becomes the utterer of a “justice” which is not less so because he speaks it. He does not pronounce a verdict, he demands one.’

    The equity of his management is guaranteed in this case not only by the agreement of the opposite party but *by the assent of the audience who would otherwise protest*. Both parties know that what they say and do is “public.”

    In the NT, dikaiosunes focuses on God’s publicly witnessed process of righting, or restoring a proper relationship between Himself and mankind through His Son.

  6. Tom Mason February 13, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

    Gods wrath is not His defining characteristic but instead comes about due to sin. His defining characteristics are mercy, steadfast love, and grace. I think that the purpose in sending His son is much better expressed as His Love. I don’t think appeasing His wrath ever entered into the equation. Has God ever expressed His wrath against the innocent? I think not; He is a just God. Christs death was substitutionary and He gave His life willingly which is the ultimate expression of love. I fully agree that the song would be much better if the lyrics were changed to “His love was magnified “.

  7. David Chang March 24, 2016 at 10:33 pm #

    God’s wrath is derived out of His holiness. If His holiness is offended, He demands punishment against the offender. God is a holy God (or simply put, God is Holy) and hHs wrath is real. He is not angry against a concept called ‘sin’, He is angry against the sinner who offends. This is why it is absolutely necessary for Jesus to pay for our sins on the cross. Jesus pleaded with God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane three time to ‘remove this cup’ from Him. (Matt 26)

    When Jesus was hung on the cross, right before He died, he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46) Jesus was, literally, forsaken by God who is Love Himself. No doubt God was angry! Angry even unto His beloved Son who took upon sin on Himself on the cross!

    Jesus’ death is real, the Father’s wrath against sin is real. Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross so that we sinners may not have to die the eternal death.

    After all, sin does not go to hell, but unsaved sinners do. This is why we need to ” Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20)

    Scriptures from ESV.

    • David Shepherd March 27, 2016 at 12:24 am #

      David,

      You wrote: ‘No doubt God was angry. Angry even unto His beloved Son’.

      Yet, Christ explained of His desertion and suffering on the cross: ‘”A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.’ (John 16:22)

      Clearly, the Father was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Yes, the wrath of God is real, but God was not angry with His Son; He was angry with the sin from which He has always sought to separate us.

      As scripture explains, Christ who knew no sin, was appointed to be sin for us. In other words, despite the Father being with Him, He endured the experience which the law appointed for sin: disgrace and violent death at the hands of rank heathens.

      God’s supreme act of love surrendered Christ not only to bear the offence of our sins, but also to offer Himself in an act which displays the supreme obedience that all creation owes to its creator, surrendering His own impeccable gift of life on our behalf. Thereby, He forever reconciled God’s eternal desire to grant us mercy with the demands of His infinite honour and universal majesty: as you say, His holiness.

      ‘That He might be just and the justifier of Him that has faith in Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 3:26)

    • David Shepherd March 27, 2016 at 12:26 am #

      David,

      You wrote: ‘No doubt God was angry. Angry even unto His beloved Son’.

      Yet, Christ explained of His desertion and suffering on the cross: ‘”A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.’ (John 16:22)

      Clearly, the Father was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Yes, the wrath of God is real, but God was not angry with His Son; He was angry with the sin from which He has always sought to separate us.

      As scripture explains, Christ who knew no sin, was appointed to be sin for us. In other words, despite the Father being with Him, He endured the experience which the law appointed for sin: disgrace and violent death at the hands of heathen enemies

      God’s supreme act of love surrendered Christ not only to bear the offence of our sins, but also to offer Himself in an act which displays the supreme obedience that all creation owes to its creator, surrendering His own impeccable gift of life on our behalf. Thereby, He forever reconciled God’s eternal desire to grant us mercy with the demands of His infinite honour and universal majesty: as you say, His holiness.

      ‘That He might be just and the justifier of Him that has faith in Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 3:26)

    • Joseph May 11, 2016 at 4:22 am #

      Your understanding of the heart of God is poor at best. I say that because you forget that the Son is also holy and in eternal union withe Father.

      God the Father cannot separate Himself from a God the Son, no matter what because God is omnipresent and eternally united to His holy triune self.

      If Satan was able to separate the Father from the Son, even from one moment, then he proved to be stronger than God, and that is impossible.

  8. David Y Chang May 13, 2016 at 6:34 am #

    The fact that God uses languages such as “husband and wife”, “father and children” in order to help us understand His relationship with His own people — Israel and the Church, signifies an exclusive relationship between Himself and us. He illustrates Israel’s idolatory as “adultery” so that we can relate. His wrath against sin and sinners is real and present.

    I believe God is holy, God is loving and God is angry against sinners.

    Christ’s death on the cross for our sin is the only propitiation that will satisfy the Farther’s wrath against us sinners.

    In Christ alone, God’s WRATH is satisfied.

    In Christ alone, God’s love pours out on us sinners who are condemned to the eternal lake of fire.

    In Christ alone, we are adopted as God’s beloved children.

    Simply enough!

    • Ian Paul May 13, 2016 at 8:22 am #

      Thanks David. ‘I believe that God is angry against sinners’. If that is the case, why does the NT never say so? It talks of the ‘wrath of God against sin and wickedness’ but never talks of God being angry with sinners.

      Why do you think that is, if it is so plain?

      • Philip Almond October 16, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

        “Thanks David. ‘I believe that God is angry against sinners’. If that is the case, why does the NT never say so? It talks of the ‘wrath of God against sin and wickedness’ but never talks of God being angry with sinners.”

        It only needs the extract below to refute your ‘never’. But there are others which also refute it.

        ‘But according to the hardness of thee and impenitent heart treasurest for thyself wrath in a day of wrath and of revelation of a righteous judgment of God, who will requite to each man according to the works of him….to the [ones] on the other (hand) of self-seeking and disobeying the truth but obeying unrighteousness, wrath and anger. Affliction and anguish on every soul of man working the evil, both of Jew firstly and of Greek…..’ (Romans 2:5-9, from Nestle-Marshall)

        Phil Almond

  9. Glenn Walters July 25, 2016 at 9:33 pm #

    John 3:36 says, He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.’ Does this not mean that God is angry with unbelievers?

    • Philip Almond October 7, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

      Well said Glenn! It also surely means that God is no longer angry with those who ‘believe in the Son’.
      Ian writes:
      ‘In fact, Romans 5.9 is the only verse in the NT which links Jesus’ death with deliverance from wrath explicitly, and here Paul clearly has the final judgement in mind, not some transaction which takes place on the cross at the time of Jesus’ death.’

      In this statement Ian is recognising two key points: deliverance from wrath is linked in 5:9 to Jesus’ death; and, wrath is something that we need to be delivered from, which means that wrath is something we face before that deliverance takes place.

      So what is Ian saying? That there is a link between Christ’s death and deliverance from wrath but that deliverance does not happen until the last judgment? This cannot be right because how then could Paul say in 5:1 ‘Having been justified therefore by faith peace we have with God through the Lord of us Jesus Christ…’. Peace with God while still facing his wrath? And how then does John 3:36 make sense, which surely contrasts those disobeying the Son who will not see life but on whom the wrath of God remains, with those believing in the Son who have life eternal and, by implication, on whom the wrath of God no longer remains? Peace is linked with justification which is linked with the ‘propitiation through faith by the of him blood’ of Romans 3:25. When we believe in Jesus we become beneficiaries of something that happened when he died and rose again, and included in this is deliverance from wrath and condemnation. The future tense of Romans 5:9 pointing, as Ian says, to the last judgment, is best understood as pointing to the time when wrath, which has remained on those disobeying the Son, will finally be poured out on those who are not saved, and from which the saved have already been delivered.

      Phil Almond

  10. P Ellingworth August 27, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

    My! this controversy rumbles on, with a valuable weight of scholarly input.
    Yes, the language of satisfaction in this setting goes back no further than Anselm, whose Cur deus homo refers to scores of biblical texts, but never in this context. The closest biblical collocation of ‘wrath’ and ‘satisfy’ is probably Ezekiel 5.13; 16.42; 21.17, in fairly lurid passages which would need a lot of eisegesis to apply to the atonement.
    The Church of Scotland’s current hymn book, CH4, omits the hymn; its Methodist counterpart, Singing the Faith, regretfully includes it (since there appear to be legal obstacles to omitting or modifying verse 2). But of course there is nothing to prevent worship leaders inviting a congregation to omit the verse.

  11. Philip Almond October 2, 2016 at 10:07 pm #

    Let’s just talk about condemnation rather than wrath for a bit. I invite Ian Paul to respond to the following questions about Romans 8:1

    In Nestle-Marshall this reads (re-arranging the superscripted words)
    ‘Then [there is] now no condemnation to the [ones] in Christ Jesus’

    Question 1: Do you agree, in the light of this verse, that it is true that the ones who are not in Christ Jesus are faced with condemnation?

    Strong’s definition of katakrima (the greek word translated as ‘condemnation’ in Romans 8:1) is ‘penalty; punishment following condemnation, penal servitude,’; and Strong gives the word origin as katakrino defined as ‘to give judgment against; I condemn, judge worthy of punishment’.

    Question 2: Do you agree that Strong’s definition and comment is right?

    Question 3: Do you agree, given the rightness of Strong’s definition and comment, that the condition of those who are not in Christ Jesus includes a juridical element, since ‘penalty, punishment following condemnation, bring a charge, give judgment against, judge worthy of punishment’ speak clearly of a law-court/legal/trial situation?

    Please note that in Question 3 I am not asking Ian at this point to agree that those who are not in Christ Jesus (and those now in Christ Jesus before they were in Christ Jesus) have been in that juridical condition since birth. Nor am I asking you to agree that the condition of those not in Christ Jesus is solely a juridical one.
    Phil Almond

  12. Will Jones February 11, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

    My view on this is that the primary scriptural image of salvation is union with Christ (‘in Christ’). That union is a multi-faceted spiritual reality on which all the scriptural images and metaphors cast some light (though some more literally and comprehensively than others).

    Within that I regard these to be clear scriptural truths. Humankind is under God’s wrath and curse because of sin. Christ’s death turns away that wrath; it is a sacrifice of atonement (propitiation). Through being in Christ we share in his death and resurrection, and thus benefit from both, and experience elements of both; this is a necessary element of possessing the salvation which is to be in Christ.

    The question of course is why Christ’s death turns away God’s wrath. This is closely related to the question of why Christ’s death is necessary for salvation – why can’t union with Christ (and his resurrection) be achieved without his death?

    A salient feature of Christ’s death is that it takes the same kind of form as the consequences of the wrath of God on humanity that it is serving to avert (the ‘wages of sin’): death and suffering, and being ‘forsaken’ by God. It therefore appears to be an undeserved punishment (it was an execution), of the same kind that it has the effect of averting from humankind.

    So we are left wanting to explain how Christ’s death turns away God’s wrath, while at the same time explaining why it has the same form as the implications of that wrath for humankind. It is the desire to explain both these things at once that explains the popularity of images of a transfer of sin, a transfer of punishment, and a payment to satisfy God’s justice. However, it is right to observe that the NT does not itself deploy these images directly, making them somewhat contentious.

    My own view is that Christ’s death is necessary for salvation because to rescue humanity from their fallen condition (accursed, subject to God’s wrath) Christ needed to enter into that human condition and thus, as human, become subject to God’s wrath against humanity. As human therefore he suffered the death (and forsakenness) that is the consequence of that wrath, but because he (uniquely) was himself innocent and perfectly holy those consequences for him were not final and he was raised and glorified. This now means that human beings who are united with Christ form a new humanity which share in this new reality in Christ, in which death is not the final word, and in which death and suffering (the consequences of the wrath of God) are transformed into a participation in Christ’s death and suffering, and thus a way of glory.

    Because of this, I am comfortable to sing of Christ’s death satisfying God’s wrath, not because I regard God as assuaging his anger on Christ (or transferring our punishment directly) but because I consider there to be a true sense in which Christ’s death satisfies the requirements of God’s justice and righteous anger which would otherwise have destroyed us.

    • Philip Almond February 13, 2017 at 10:42 am #

      Will
      I am not sure I agree with you completely but you make a good point that precision of language in this area is vital and that some ‘popular’ ways of describing the atonement lack this precision. I will try on this thread to be as precise as I can in future posts.

      Phil Almond

  13. Philip Almond February 11, 2017 at 7:31 pm #

    Oliver Harrison (Continued from thread ‘Is evangelical theology abusive?’)

    As you are probably aware this debate about the death of Christ is part of a wider (to me most important debate/disagreement) about the doctrine of justification and salvation associated with the ‘New Perspective on Paul’, the view of Dunn, Wright, Piper etc; whether evangelicals since Luther have got it wrong, reaching to the very heart of the Reformation controversy and disagreement with the Church of Rome.

    This post firstly makes further comments on Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2:24-25 and secondly explores further the common ground I assume we have from your ‘OK, let’s assume that premise’.
    You said “1 Peter 2:24 (“By his wounds you are healed” in the NLT). I accept that, but that is not the same as God punishing Christ in our place”. But it is clear that Peter is talking about the Passion of Christ and it is clear that ‘wounds’ are the wounds which Christ suffered. And as I pointed out it is likely that Peter has in mind the whole of 53:5 where the Hebrew word mu.sar is defined by STEP as ‘discipline, chastening, correction’.
    Furthermore, Ian Paul has supported your approach to linking the Isaiah passage with the Peter passage. This may point to a real difference with my approach to the Bible. My view is that Isaiah 53 is a true prophecy. Just as true as the Peter passage is true history. Therefore, ‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ will be/has been fulfilled. Given that it is common ground that Peter and John (John 12:37-41) are stating that the parts of Isaiah 53 they quote refer to Christ, and Peter is clearly talking about the death of Christ, we ask the questions: who is ’him’ on whom the iniquity of us all will be/has been laid; who is the one whom it was the Lord’s will to bruise? The very structure of the Isaiah passage makes it clear that these refer to the same person by whose wounds we are healed – Jesus Christ.

    On this thread Ian posted
    ‘Ian Paul May 13, 2016 at 8:22 am #
    Thanks David. ‘I believe that God is angry against sinners’. If that is the case, why does the NT never say so? It talks of the ‘wrath of God against sin and wickedness’ but never talks of God being angry with sinners.
    Why do you think that is, if it is so plain?’

    You will see that just after that post I made a post that I believe refutes what Ian said. Do you agree with me or do you agree with Ian?

    Last point in this post. I believe that God’s anger on the day of judgment (Romans 2:5) is a final punitive anger for those outside of Christ. In other words, the dreadful but true doctrine of eternal punishment. Do you agree?

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison February 12, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

      Thanks Phill, I appreciate this.

      OK, let me take your three points in order.

      1.) I disagree with you about the NT’s use of the OT, in this case Is 53. You said “it is likely that Peter has in mind the whole of 53:5 where the Hebrew word mu.sar is defined by STEP as ‘discipline, chastening, correction’.” You might think it “likely”, I might not; it doesn’t matter — the NT never quotes the whole of verse 5. I’ll stick to what the NT actually says, not what you think it “likely” that the writers “had in mind.” Crazy conjecture.

      2.) “Do you agree with me or do you agree with Ian?” I agree with you.

      3.) “the dreadful but true doctrine of eternal punishment. Do you agree?” Don’t know.

      So that’s a no, a yes and a don’t know!

      Pax

  14. Philip Almond February 12, 2017 at 9:16 pm #

    Oliver
    Thanks for replying. I will try to do the next post tomorrow.
    Regards
    Phil

    • Oliver Harrison February 12, 2017 at 10:14 pm #

      Looking forward to it. You say this is a “most important debate/disagreement” and I agree.

      The Greek of the NT contains all the words / concepts necessary to make an unequivocal statement of “classic” penal substitution. Yet nowhere do we get one. Consider how much the NT says about the death of Jesus. All the models and metaphors (mostly economic: debt, ransom, redemption), all the theology of restoration and reconciliation, all the talk of sin and salvation, holiness, mercy and justice. And yet you can’t give me a single reference. I’m not looking for a proof-text (a single, decontextualised verse) although that would at least be a start. I’m looking for some solid Biblical proof, not inferences or allusions that say more about the reader than the writer. The bottom line is it’s just not there.

      So this:

      “This may point to a real difference with my approach to the Bible. My view is that Isaiah 53 is a true prophecy. Just as true as the Peter passage is true history. Therefore, ‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ will be/has been fulfilled. Given that it is common ground that Peter and John (John 12:37-41) are stating that the parts of Isaiah 53 they quote refer to Christ, and Peter is clearly talking about the death of Christ, we ask the questions: who is ’him’ on whom the iniquity of us all will be/has been laid; who is the one whom it was the Lord’s will to bruise? The very structure of the Isaiah passage makes it clear that these refer to the same person by whose wounds we are healed – Jesus Christ.”

      And yet the fact remans: ALL the NT’s extensive use of Isaiah 53 stops short of penal substitution or God punishing Christ. It is quoted in a way that excludes those verses whilst retaining the sense of sacrifice.

      Finally, there’s the problem of the resurrection. Yes, problem. If Jesus is punished for our sins then how / why is he raised? Isn’t hell eternal? Everlasting? Yet Jesus rises after about 40 hours.

      If Jesus was punished for our sin he’d still be dead and/or in hell.

      • Will Jones February 13, 2017 at 11:11 am #

        Sorry to interject. Oliver – do you dispute that Jesus died as a result of suffering under the wrath of God on fallen humanity? Do you disagree that this sacrifice turns away God’s wrath from those who are in Christ (is a propitiation, as per 1 John 2:2)? Do you dispute that all this was required because of the requirements of God’s justice, which prevented his overlooking sin without the sacrifice of Christ?

        I appreciate that you reject the idea of a direct transfer of punishment (which I agree is problematic, for a number of reasons, including that it doesn’t explain the necessity of the resurrection, and it appears to entail either universalism or the double punishment of those who perish, once to Christ and once to them). But do you reject any of the above statements? If not, is your only beef with penal substitution the specific idea of punishment transfer? Or do you have a deeper disagreement with ideas of wrath and the necessity of sacrifice to turn it away?

        • Oliver Harrison February 13, 2017 at 11:45 am #

          1.) “do you dispute that Jesus died as a result of suffering under the wrath of God on fallen humanity?”

          It’s so much not that I “dispute” it, it’s that the Bible doesn’t say it. It might be true but it’s not in the Bible. Do I believe it? No. I have no reason to.

          2.) “Do you disagree that this sacrifice turns away God’s wrath from those who are in Christ (is a propitiation, as per 1 John 2:2)?”

          I refer you to my previous answer. I have no grounds to believe that and I dispute your use of “propitiation” in 1 Jn 2:2 (and elsewhere — e.g. Romans 3:25 etc.) May I ask how you would translate Luke 18:13?

          3.) “Do you dispute that all this was required because of the requirements of God’s justice, which prevented his overlooking sin without the sacrifice of Christ?”

          Let’s go back to Luke 18:13. I think propitiation and expiation are false categories when applied to the triune God: if God forgives us in and through Christ (“Christ pays our debt”) then the cost has been borne by God: for God to propitiate himself is expiation; expiation is always self-propitiation, because it means the forgiver paying the price of the sin at his own expense.  As Bonhoeffer said: grace is free, but is not cheap.  Which links in with the use of hilastheti in Luke 18:13 – there is no third party between the tax collector and God, and yet there is ‘propitiation’.  (Interestingly, the tax collector “beats his own breast”, as an outward sign of his repentance and so, perhaps, he propitiates himself: bearing wrath (his own) and being made right (“dedikaiomenos”) by God.

          How, then, does God deal with sin at the cross? By forgiving it. There are two ways of dealing with sin committed against us. We can forgive the offence or we can punish it. Both of these options are founded on justice, because both admit and acknowledge the offence. For God to forgive does not contradict or undermine his truthfulness, holiness and righteousness. Forgiveness is not the alternative or opposite or absence of justice; it is contingent upon justice, dependent upon moral and ethical framework of right and wrong. Forgiveness does not defy or deny justice but is only possible precisely because of it: after all, if there was no justice there’d be no concept or idea of forgiveness as no law would be broken nor penalty due. Forgiveness is not the same as overlooking or ignoring the offence. That course of action is not open to God, because God is just and righteous (being, of course, the same word in New Testament Greek). And forgiveness is not the soft or easy option: it is extremely expensive to the one who forgives, as the cross supremely demonstrates. Tim Keller says the most frequent question he gets from young people in Manhattan is this: “Why did God have to have a sacrifice? Why does he require blood? Why can’t he just forgive?” His answer is outstanding: 1. we do not “just forgive” — especially when the offense is great. Forgiveness means the forgiver pays the price. 2. God does not require innocent blood — he gives his own blood.”

          The trouble with your position is the underlying presupposition that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible only after wrath has been vented, punishment meted out and/or retribution exacted. But is that what Jesus teaches in the Gospels?

          Take the double imputation in 2 Cor 5:21. Christ bears, takes, even becomes our sin, and we become the righteousness of God. What action and attitude should a holy, truthful and just God (and that includes the Son) take towards that sin? Why, be wrathful towards it and punish it of course! Either that, or forgive it. But not both. When Christ is being crucified he does not say “Father, punish me” he says: “Father, forgive them.” And why is forgiveness explicitly and overtly used by Paul in relation to the cross (e.g. Ephesians 1:7, 4:32; Colossians 1:13, 2:13) but punishment is best only implied (others would say inferred). Is merciful forgiveness only possible once wrath has been vented and punishment meted out? No. In fact forgiveness is the mutually exclusive alternative to wrath and punishment. Hence the cross saves us from God’s holy wrath and the just punishment which we deserve (John 3:36; 1 Thess. 5:9).

          This does not to diminish or downplay the cross. When Jesus (who is God) took our sin he was torn apart from his Father. On the cross Jesus cried out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34). We cannot imagine the pain of that: God ripped apart by my sin. That was the price paid by Christ and the cost borne by God. That is the sacrifice and the substitution which takes away sin. (And sin, of course, is the root cause of God’s wrath and of our punishment.) I find that more humbling and more wonderful than any talk of Christ bearing our punishment or – worse – God’s wrath. It is also more terrifying and terrible: God has no punishment or wrath greater or worse than his absence. (Would you rather your father or friend or lover was angry with you or left you?)

          The message of the cross is that God loves us even more than he loves himself. God loves us, and so came to remove sin and reconcile us to himself at infinite cost to himself. In Christ, God became man to pay man’s debt to God: the problem (sin) is all ours (in its cause and effect); the solution is all God’s.

          With that in mind, two quotes.

          “Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who ‘forgives’ you – out of love – takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice. The price you must pay for your own liberation through another’s sacrifice is that you in turn must be willing to liberate others in the same way, irrespective of the consequences to yourself.”

          (Dag Hammarskjold, Easter 1960 from Markings)

          Do we believe that, or this, by C. J. Mahaney?

          “Who killed Jesus? The Father. The Father killed the Son. Feel God’s love for you revealed in Isaiah 53:10. He crushed his son. For you. He crushed him. He bruised him. He punished him. He disfigured him. He crushed him, with all of the righteous wrath that we deserved. That’s what the Father did.”

          • Will Jones February 13, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

            Thanks Oliver. What I don’t understand from your explanation is why Jesus had to die. You say that ‘in Christ, God became man to pay man’s debt to God.’ You also speak of the (psychological?) cost of forgiveness. But I don’t understand what you think that debt consists in, or why that cost was Jesus’ passion and death. What is the connection?

            You go on to say:
            ‘The trouble with your position is the underlying presupposition that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible only after wrath has been vented, punishment meted out and/or retribution exacted.’

            Actually that isn’t quite my position. You can see my position above, which I posted a couple of days ago (February 11, 2017 at 6:33 pm). My position is that God’s wrath on sin is real, and hence that the wages of sin really is death. God in Christ deals with that by creating a new spiritual reality (union with Christ) in which that due penalty can be avoided for human beings who share in it. Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection are all necessary elements of creating the new spiritual reality with the right properties which, by participation in it, will rescue a person from the ‘coming wrath’. It is because Christ has suffered under the effects of God’s wrath (i.e. he has received the wages of sin, which is death, despite being personally innocent), and yet emerged on the other side victorious, that union with him makes a person part of that victory. If Christ hadn’t become human and suffered under God’s wrath, and emerged victorious, union with him could not save us because we are human beings under God’s wrath.

            This doesn’t involve any concept of a transferral of sin or punishment or even of a paying a debt. But neither does it try to explain away the fact that we are under God’s wrath and that in his death Jesus allowed himself to be subject to the effects of that wrath as a necessary component of saving us from it. I think it is your denial of that that is the big problem, since without it you can’t explain why Jesus had to die – death being the wages of sin, which is a consequence of God’s wrath, with Christ bearing our sins in his body and becoming sin for us.

  15. Philip Almond February 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    Oliver
    You have not addressed my point, which I think Christopher has made on the other thread, that Isaiah 53 is a true prophecy and, whether it is all quoted by the NT or not, has all been fulfilled by the death of Christ. That is part of my case. The alternatives are either that some of it is not true or that some of it has yet to be fulfilled. Can you support either of those alternatives?

    Thanks for agreeing with me on point 2.

    Your Oliver Harrison February 13, 2017 at 11:45 am # post is very remarkable. Before I comment I will try to summarise what I understand to be our common ground.
    You agree:

    That we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards.
    That the NT does talk about God being angry with sinners.

    But (my point 3 from a previous post) you don’t know whether God’s anger on the day of judgment (Romans 2:5) is a final punitive anger for those outside of Christ. In other words, you don’t know whether the dreadful doctrine of eternal punishment is true or not. This question of the final consequences of God’s anger and condemnation for those outside of Christ is a terrible key point in our debate. I refer you to three passages from your post, and key sentences surrounded by *:

    “For God to forgive does not contradict or undermine his truthfulness, holiness and righteousness. Forgiveness is not the alternative or opposite or absence of justice; *it is contingent upon justice*, dependent upon moral and ethical framework of right and wrong. *Forgiveness does not defy or deny justice but is only possible precisely because of it: after all, if there was no justice there’d be no concept or idea of forgiveness as no law would be broken nor penalty due*. Forgiveness is not the same as overlooking or ignoring the offence. *That course of action is not open to God, because God is just and righteous (being, of course, the same word in New Testament Greek)*. And forgiveness is not the soft or easy option: it is *extremely expensive to the one who forgives, as the cross supremely demonstrates*. Tim Keller says the most frequent question he gets from young people in Manhattan is this: “Why did God have to have a sacrifice? Why does he require blood? Why can’t he just forgive?” His answer is outstanding: 1. we do not “just forgive” — especially when the offense is great. *Forgiveness means the forgiver pays the price*. 2. God does not require innocent blood — *he gives his own blood*.”
    “The message of the cross is that God loves us even more than he loves himself. God loves us, and so came to remove sin and reconcile us to himself at infinite cost to himself. *In Christ, God became man to pay man’s debt to God*: the problem (sin) is all ours (in its cause and effect); the solution is all God’s.”
    “Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he *who ‘forgives’ you – out of love – takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done*. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice. The price you must pay for your own liberation through another’s sacrifice is that you in turn must be willing to liberate others in the same way, irrespective of the consequences to yourself.

    If I am right about Romans 2:5-11, (and 2 Thessalonians 1:7:9 supports my view) then the final consequences of God’s condemnation and anger for those outside of Christ are:

    ‘wrath and anger, affliction and anguish’ which God himself requites on the Day of Judgment, and ‘paying the penalty eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of the strength of him’

    Given that I am right in this, the parts of your post that I have put * around are key points of my case:

    Christ in his death did take upon himself the consequences of what we have done; he did give his own blood; he did pay the price; it was extremely expensive to the one who forgives; forgiveness and justice do clasp hands at the cross (‘for the to be him just and justifying the [one] of faith of(in) Jesus’); he did pay man’s debt to God; there is a penalty due.
    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison February 13, 2017 at 5:52 pm #

      Phil Almond:

      “You have not addressed my point, which I think Christopher has made on the other thread, that Isaiah 53 is a true prophecy and, whether it is all quoted by the NT or not, has all been fulfilled by the death of Christ. That is part of my case. The alternatives are either that some of it is not true or that some of it has yet to be fulfilled. Can you support either of those alternatives?”

      Prophecies might have multiple “horizons” — some of Isaiah 53 might have been fulfilled before Christ, some by Christ and some maybe yet to come. All or any of those can overlap of course with multiple fulfilments.

      “I will try to summarise what I understand to be our common ground. You agree: That we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards. That the NT does talk about God being angry with sinners.”

      I do.

      “you don’t know whether the dreadful doctrine of eternal punishment is true or not.”

      True, I don’t. But don’t you believe in the doctrine of eternal punishment either because you believe Jesus bore the punishment and yet also rose from the dead. So therefore his punishment was not everlasting.

      “Christ in his death did take upon himself the consequences of what we have done; he did give his own blood; he did pay the price; it was extremely expensive to the one who forgives; forgiveness and justice do clasp hands at the cross (‘for the to be him just and justifying the [one] of faith of(in) Jesus’); he did pay man’s debt to God; there is a penalty due.”

      I’d agree with all of that except the final clause (“there is a penalty due”) as what is due is what is owed, nor more or less: it is a debt (and interest-free at that) not a fine — which is a penalty or punishment.

      Pax.

  16. Oliver Harrison February 13, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    Will Jones.

    I think I basically agree with everything you’ve said except the parts about God wrath.

    e.g. this: “Christ has suffered under the effects of God’s wrath (i.e. he has received the wages of sin, which is death, despite being personally innocent)”

    I don’t like the term “wrath” — it’s archaic and unnatural in modern English.

    (One my pet hates is the phrase “the wrath of God” — an anachronism. Who says “wrath”? We say “anger”. And we seldom construct the possessive (genitive) in that form (“the x of y”) we say “x’s y”)

    The Greek word is the same for God’s anger as for anyone else’s so let’s just call it “anger”

    Now if we accept that anger is an emotion , a response or reaction to evil, and we say “God was angry with Jesus” — or better, “Jesus as the sin-bearer suffered under God’s anger” — then we are saying that God’s felt angry when Jesus died.

    If we say though that God’s “anger” is not the same a human or even animal emotion — and is certainly not “getting mad” or “losing his rag” or “seeing red” — but is, rather, “his settled opposition to evil” (I think that’s Martin Lloyd Jones’ phrase) then we might find some common ground. (That might be what you meant by “It is because Christ has suffered under the effects of God’s wrath (i.e. he has received the wages of sin, which is death, despite being personally innocent)” — so God’s anger is not personal indignity or vexation but rather the divinely-ordinated consequences of sin, impersonal and purely consequential.)

    Even then, Jesus *is* God; Jesus gets / is angry at sin (we see in the gospels and we are warned of the coming wrath of the Lamb in Revelation). So it’s not as if the Father is angry and the Son propitiates him; the Son, too, is justly and rightly (righteously) angered by sin (see Aristotle’s famous piece on “good” anger). So when we talk of the “wrath of God” we could just as well say “Jesus’ anger”.

    • Will Jones February 14, 2017 at 9:51 am #

      Thanks Oliver. Like you, I think I basically agree. And your point about wrath=anger=anger(in any context) is helpful.

      I think our one point of difference may be that I’m not averse to regarding God’s anger as a kind of emotion, albeit of the kind that God experiences. And indeed, you seem in your last paragraph to see it in that way too. Earlier though you seem to want God’s anger to be impersonal. But is God not a personal God? Consider the opposite: we might characterise God’s love as his settled affirmation of all that is good. That seems right. But do we really want to rule out it having a kind of emotional dimension too? Are our emotions not part of our being made in the image of God? We need to be careful with this because we mustn’t make God in our image. But equally we must keep in mind that we are made in his.

      • Oliver Harrison February 14, 2017 at 10:08 am #

        Will, yes, I was thinking about that myself last night. Is God’s anger an emotional response / reaction or his “settled opposition to evil”?

        I wouldn’t want to base an argument on God’s anger being equivalent to God’s love, though: God *is* love and his anger is a function of his love.

        I guess this comes back to the penal substitution issue: do we see God’s anger at the cross? I don’t think so. In terms of emotions the closest we see is Jesus’ scorn (kataphronesis, Hebrews 12:2). But the “wrath of God” vented on his son? No.

        • Will Jones February 14, 2017 at 11:25 am #

          I can agree that God did not vent his anger on his son. That is not the right way to view it. And perhaps images of God’s anger as some kind of emotion are often unhelpful. But I wouldn’t want to rule them out completely – they are found throughout scripture.

          So yes the wrath of God which is active at the cross is not best conceived as an emotion (and scripture doesn’t characterise it as such), but as something more impersonal, a kind of natural force against evil which God is dealing with in Christ rather than an expression of emotion.

          • Oliver Harrison February 14, 2017 at 11:57 am #

            God’s anger is real and just and righteous and good and holy and a product or function of his love. But we never see it in relation to the cross, except insofar as the death and resurrection Jesus save us from his anger.

            I’m not so sure that “scripture doesn’t characterise” the wrath of God / God’s anger as an emotion. I mean, what else *is* anger? It *is* an emotion in the same way that green *is* a colour.

            (Love need not be an emotion, a feeling is it a choice, an act of will.)

            As for the God’s anger being “something more impersonal, a kind of natural force against evil which God is dealing with in Christ rather than an expression of emotion.”

            How then it is either still “anger” or “God’s”? No, this will not do.

          • Will Jones February 14, 2017 at 12:27 pm #

            What else is God’s anger? His settled opposition to evil, as you say. God’s emotions, insofar as he has them, aren’t like ours.

            I can’t understand what your position is here. I thought you interpreted God’s wrath as his settled opposition to evil? I was basically accepting that, but calling it God’s wrath or anger, which is surely just substituting a term for a definition which you have accepted? And then I said that it was this that was engaged at the cross. Jesus did suffer and die. Death is the wages of sin, which is a result of God’s settled opposition to evil, which is his anger/wrath. So Jesus experienced the consequences of God’s anger (settled opposition to evil) on the cross. Given your own terms, what here are you disagreeing with?

          • Oliver Harrison February 14, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

            “What else is God’s anger? His settled opposition to evil, as you say.?

            I said it *might* be described as that. I’m open to it being his emotional, heartfelt response / reaction to evil. Or both.

            But in common parlance someone being “angry” is understood as a the latter (an emotional, heartfelt response / reaction). And then saying something like “Jesus died under the wrath of God” will be, reasonably enough, understood as “God was angry at / with Jesus on the cross” which is an appalling and abhorrent thing to to say.

            “God’s emotions, insofar as he has them, aren’t like ours.” If we are made in his image then maybe our emotions are like his — sin notwithstanding. Again, see Aristotle on “good” anger: “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

            So this:

            “I can’t understand what your position is here. I thought you interpreted God’s wrath as his settled opposition to evil? I was basically accepting that, but calling it God’s wrath or anger, which is surely just substituting a term for a definition which you have accepted? And then I said that it was this that was engaged at the cross. Jesus did suffer and die. Death is the wages of sin, which is a result of God’s settled opposition to evil, which is his anger/wrath. So Jesus experienced the consequences of God’s anger (settled opposition to evil) on the cross. Given your own terms, what here are you disagreeing with?”

            What I’m uncomfortable with is the slippage of meaning.

            So: “Jesus did suffer and die. Death is the wages of sin, which is a result of God’s settled opposition to evil.” Yes, I agree.

            “God’s settled opposition to evil [. . .] is his anger/wrath” Well . . . maybe, kind of. Perhaps.

            “So Jesus experienced the consequences of God’s anger (settled opposition to evil) on the cross.” Hmm, I’m less happy with that because it sounds too much like: “God was angry at / with Jesus on the cross” which, as I said, is appalling and abhorrent.

            Pax

          • Will Jones February 14, 2017 at 5:08 pm #

            I understand your reticence to say anything which implies that ‘God was angry at / with Jesus on the cross’. The NT seems to avoid language which directly implies this as well.

            But even so in speaking of Christ bearing our sins in his body, being made sin for us, being a sacrifice of propitiation (to take away wrath), and a sacrifice of atonement, and the identification of suffering and death with judgement and wrath (as in the wages of sin is death), the connection between Christ’s death and the pouring out of God’s wrath on human sinfulness is unmistakably made. Consider Romans 3: We deserve death under God’s judgement and punishment. Christ offers his life as a sacrifice to avoid that being necessary. The connection of human death with God’s wrath (Romans 1) and punishment is unmistakable.

            Now the NT authors clearly want to avoid the idea, put about by opponents of the church to discredit it, that Jesus’ death shows that he did not have God’s favour (which would have been the usual conclusion from such an ignominious exit). It is a fine rope to walk – Christ is giving up his life to death, which (everyone knows) is judgement, but not because he is guilty but because he is innocent and is the way in which humankind can avoid that death/judgement/wrath. Not an easy case to make!

            So I appreciate your uneasiness with the language because of what it might be taken to imply. I think it is an uneasiness evident in the NT itself, which (as has been pointed out) meticulously avoids quoting the parts of Isaiah 53 which might seem to get too close to that (even though the Suffering Servant is innocent). I think it’s deliberate because they don’t regard God as punishing Jesus (despite what Isaiah 53 might suggest); they understand that something deeper is going on than that, better encapsulated by talk of a sacrifice of atonement or propitiation.

            But even so I think your desire to avoid any role for God’s wrath/anger at the cross, even with all these provisos and clarifications in place, is problematic, because the close association between our death, judgement, wrath and Christ’s death makes the connection unmistakable. God’s wrath is the problem Christ is dealing with in his death, and it is no coincidence at all that the way of dealing with it looks very much like he is suffering the consequences of it himself. It’s because he is, and if he wasn’t it wouldn’t work.

          • Oliver Harrison February 14, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

            Will:

            “I understand your reticence to say anything which implies that ‘God was angry at / with Jesus on the cross’. The NT seems to avoid language which directly implies this as well.”

            Yes it does.

            “But even so in speaking of Christ bearing our sins in his body, being made sin for us, being a sacrifice of propitiation (to take away wrath), and a sacrifice of atonement, and the identification of suffering and death with judgement and wrath (as in the wages of sin is death), the connection between Christ’s death and the pouring out of God’s wrath on human sinfulness is unmistakably made. Consider Romans 3: We deserve death under God’s judgement and punishment. Christ offers his life as a sacrifice to avoid that being necessary. The connection of human death with God’s wrath (Romans 1) and punishment is unmistakable.”

            Whoa. Back up there. Let’s break that down. 1.) “a sacrifice of propitiation (to take away wrath)” No. Look at the my earlier points about Luke 18:13. 3.) ” the identification of suffering and death with judgement and wrath (as in the wages of sin is death)” Sin = death seems to be the Biblical deal. But wrath? In the serval parts of the Bible people sinned and God is described as “sad” (e.g. Gen. 6:6) rather than “mad”. Sin = death / separation (or alienation) from God. Look at where / when / why Jesus (who is God) got angry. Not every case of sin calls forth his wrath, makes him angry.

            OK, now this: [The writers of the NT] “don’t regard God as punishing Jesus (despite what Isaiah 53 might suggest); they understand that something deeper is going on than that, better encapsulated by talk of a sacrifice of atonement or propitiation.” Yes, but again NOT propitiation.

            “God’s wrath is the problem Christ is dealing with in his death, and it is no coincidence at all that the way of dealing with it looks very much like he is suffering the consequences of it himself. It’s because he is, and if he wasn’t it wouldn’t work.”

            No, sin — and its consequence death — is the problem Christ is dealing with. We are saved from God’s anger as a byproduct (as it were) of being saved from sin (which makes God angry).

            “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Not “”Behold the Lamb of God who bears God’s wrath”

          • Will Jones February 14, 2017 at 8:17 pm #

            You’re being very selective if you think the Bible does not describe God as being angry at sin. The most pertinent example of course is Romans 1: ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.’ But you yourself seem to admit this lower down when you say that sin ‘makes God angry’.

            So the sticking point seems to be that you don’t regard death, which you accept is the wages of sin, as an expression of God’s wrath. But wages here is a metaphor; it means what is due, and since it is negative (unlike wages) it means penalty, punishment, judgement. Which is wrath. I’m not sure where we’re missing each other here. Do you accept death is the penalty of sin? Do you accept a penalty is the consequence of God’s righteous judgement? Do you regard God’s righteous judgement as an expression of his wrath?

            Perhaps it is the last point where I lose you. I think that wrath in the Bible is a term for God’s righteous judgement. But perhaps you don’t? Or perhaps not always?

            Incidentally, I don’t think anger and sadness are mutually exclusive with respect to those you love.

          • Oliver Harrison February 14, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

            Hi Will

            “You’re being very selective if you think the Bible does not describe God as being angry at sin.”

            I didn’t say that and I don’t think it. Sometimes God seems sad rather than angry. Sometimes both, sometimes only angry.

            “So the sticking point seems to be that you don’t regard death, which you accept is the wages of sin, as an expression of God’s wrath.”

            Correct.

            “But wages here is a metaphor; it means what is due, and since it is negative (unlike wages) it means penalty, punishment, judgement. Which is wrath. I’m not sure where we’re missing each other here.”

            We certainly are missing each other here — and by a long way!

            Ok, let’s break that down.

            1.) Death is the consequence of sin (because God is the source of life and sin cuts us off from him). Death is NOT the punishment / penalty for sin; it is the effect.

            3.) “Wages” is indeed a metaphor and it is one that is neatly balanced in that verse by the unearned (sic) grace of God as a gift: wages vs gift, the earned or deserved vs the unearned and undeserved. (Rom 6:32)

            4.) So then you say: wages “means what is due, [correct] and since it is negative (unlike wages) it means penalty, punishment, judgement”

            No! What is due is due. There’s no logical necessity to talk of “penalty or punishment”. For example: I owe you £5. I must pay you £5 — there’s no fine or interest or penalty or punishment. You might be angry or sad or indifferent but what’s owed is owed.

            5.) Having fallaciously introduced “penalty and punishment” you then compound the error by saying “Which is wrath.”

            So your argument run thus: “Wages = what is due = penalty, punishment, judgement = wrath.”

            But is it death, not wrath, that is the ineluctable and inevitable outcome of sin. Death and wrath are not synonymous or interchangeable or coterminous: yes, they often appear together and yes both are brought about by sin but death is the divinely-ordained consequence and takes effect impersonally, as a kind of cosmic law, whereas wrath is God’s personal response.

            And that’s an important distinction. To me, at least.

            OK, back to what you wrote next: “Do you accept death is the penalty of sin?”

            To which I can only reply: No, death is the consequence of sin. Always has been.

            “Perhaps it is the last point where I lose you. I think that wrath in the Bible is a term for God’s righteous judgement. But perhaps you don’t? Or perhaps not always?”

            Not always. God judges in favour of some people sometimes. Or he might judge dispassionately. Not quite impersonally or disinterestedly but without emotion.

          • Will Jones February 14, 2017 at 10:30 pm #

            Our differences are coming into focus! So I think that death is part of God’s judgement on sin (which I take from e.g. Genesis 3 and an understanding of wages as due in the same kind of way that a penalty is due). I think that God’s judgement can be both in the form of a natural negative consequence of moral error and a due penalty for moral error. I regard God’s anger to be synonymous with his negative judgement on sin and how he responds to that, and see it to have personal and impersonal aspects (e.g. Romans 1, where ‘giving over’ people to sinful desires and their consequences is the chief temporal expression of his wrath).

            Since we don’t agree on this we’re not going to agree on the role of God’s anger in the cross.

    • Oliver Harrison February 15, 2017 at 8:13 am #

      Thanks Will.

      “Our differences are coming into focus!”

      Yes, it would seem so.

      “I think that death is part of God’s judgement on sin (which I take from e.g. Genesis 3 and an understanding of wages as due in the same kind of way that a penalty is due). I think that God’s judgement can be both in the form of a natural negative consequence of moral error and a due penalty for moral error.”

      Yes, that is a good point. If God has set up a system where sin = death then how is that (death) not God’s punishment for sin? But If I touch a fire a get burned that is not “punishment” is it consequence. If I drive in a way that is culpably bad and crash my car the crash is consequence. I may still face punishment (fines, bans, custody) as well. I will always face the former (consequence) as its inevitable but I may not face the latter (punishment) as the judge might have mercy on me or someone else might pay my fine for me or I might just plain get away with it.

      Consequences are impersonal. Punishment is personal i.e. it requires a “punisher”, one who metes out the punishment. (There’s no corresponding “consequencer”.)

      Now to the word you use: “judgement”. Is the fact that the consequence of sin is God’s judgement? Yes, in that he hath ordained it so. No, in that he does not actively execute the writ (or the sinner!) It’s perhaps a little like the difference between God’s permissive will (what he allows) and his sovereign / positive / perfect will — what he actively “wills” to be so.

      But is death God’s judgment? No more than any other of the laws of nature. (Which, of course, might be to say “yes, it it” if you “think that God’s judgement can be both in the form of a natural negative consequence of moral error and a due penalty for moral error.”)

      So then you continue: “I regard God’s anger to be synonymous with his negative judgement on sin and how he responds to that, and see it to have personal and impersonal aspects (e.g. Romans 1, where ‘giving over’ people to sinful desires and their consequences is the chief temporal expression of his wrath).”

      Yes, good point. I think I agree. But I’m not sure how that relates to the cross. Jesus bears / takes away (bears away?) sin and therefore removes the cause of God’s wrath. But he doesn’t take away God wrath in the sense that some advocates of PS say.

      An example: suppose a doctor took away the source of pain (an appendix or in-grown toenail). Have they taken away the pain? Yes, by dealing with the cause of it.

      “Since we don’t agree on this we’re not going to agree on the role of God’s anger in the cross.”

      Maybe not. When you can give me a scripture to support you view on the role of God’s anger in the cross I’ll believe. But all this secondary stuff remind me of the late Richard Ovey’s book “Pierced For Our Transgression” which was 400 pages of trying to make the Bible say something (“Jesus took our punishment and bore God’s wrath”) that the Bible never actually says. If a Catholic had produced a similar magnum opus on why Mary is the Queen of Heaven (she’s the mother of the King and therefore the Queen etc) most Bible-believing Protestants would have laughed and shaken their heads — or worse. But those same evangelicals are happy to do backflips and somersaults to argue the case for PS despite the whole of the NT never saying anything of the sort.

      • Will Jones February 15, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

        I certainly agree that Jesus doesn’t take away God’s wrath in the sense that some advocates of PS say.

        But I also don’t think he takes it away in the sense that you say. You say that he takes it away by taking away our sin, meaning the punishment/wrath is no longer due. I think your idea here is that he has ‘just forgiven’ us. As I said above, I don’t see why in this model Christ needed to suffer and die, and so I think it must be missing something.

        You do also say he bore our sins, which I accept is an NT quotation. But I must admit to not being able to get any concept of it except as a metaphor, in the sense that he suffered and died as though being punished for our sins – but we both agree that isn’t the correct picture of what is actually going on. He wasn’t actually punished for our sins, as though someone needed to be punished so it was him.

        A big problem with any literal understanding of bearing sins is that it isn’t clear how a sin – which is an action (or thought) – can be transferred from the person who did it to someone else. How can one of my actions be no longer mine? It would be a fiction to say that it was no longer me who did it. Say, though, that it was possible – that my wrong actions (sins) actually were transferred to Christ, rather than fictitiously, somehow changing the past. But now I actually am innocent and Christ actually is guilty, so he is deservedly punished and I am deservedly freed. That doesn’t seem right. It also wouldn’t work, since Christ’s resurrection etc depends on his innocence. So there can be no literal sense in which sins are transferred, and so in which Christ bears our sins.

        Perhaps though he just bears our guilt, the culpability for them? Again though, if he actually took on our guilt then he would actually be guilty, and that isn’t right. So it cannot be literal. It can only be as though he bears our sins and guilt, i.e. he bears the consequences even though it is undeserved.

        Thus my understanding of why Christ’s death is necessary for our salvation is because it was necessary for him to suffer death (and alienation from God), which is the consequence of God’s judgement/wrath on sin, in order to become the one in whom through union with him we can, with him, be raised and glorified. I really do think this is the right way to understand this, and I also think it is the primary picture the NT paints for us – with the odd extra metaphor (such as paying a ransom and bearing sins) along the way.

        • Oliver Harrison February 15, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

          Hi Will,

          “I certainly agree that Jesus doesn’t take away God’s wrath in the sense that some advocates of PS say.”

          Yes, you’d need to be Biblically illiterate or a completely ideologue to hold to that view.

          “But I also don’t think he takes it away in the sense that you say. You say that he takes it away by taking away our sin, meaning the punishment/wrath is no longer due.”

          Yes, just so.

          “I think your idea here is that he has ‘just forgiven’ us.”

          Slightly pejorative.

          “As I said above, I don’t see why in this model Christ needed to suffer and die, and so I think it must be missing something.”

          See my earlier quotes by Keller and Hammarskjold on the cost of forgiving; it ALWAYS entails a (self-)sacrifice. And the *death* of Jesus is important because death is the consequence of sin. (Could Jesus do anything other than die if he is our sin bearer? How could he not?)

          Re this: “You do also say he bore our sins, which I accept is an NT quotation. But I must admit to not being able to get any concept of it except as a metaphor, in the sense that he suffered and died as though being punished for our sins.”

          This might help (or at least be of interest): the Hebrew verb nasa (meaning “to bear, to carry” lit. “to lift” or “lift away”) appears in Isaiah 53:12 (“He bore the sin of many”). However, where God is the subject the verb then nasa can mean “to forgive” (e.g. Numbers 14:18; Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 25:16-18; Psalm 85:2; Psalm 32:1-5). If Jesus is God and if Jesus is also the subject of the verb nasa in Isaiah 53:12 then nasa in Isaiah 53:12 could be translated as “to forgive” rather than “to bear” (“He forgave the sin of many”).

          Next you raise some truly excellent points (does that sound patronising? Sorry.) about “how a sin – which is an action (or thought) – can be transferred from the person who did it to someone else”

          I think the idea is that “Jesus bore our sins in his body” (1 Pet 2:24) is not wholly metaphorical — we killed him; we whipped and nailed his body. He literally bore our sins. But that verse goes on to say “so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.” So there’s a context there.

          There’s also the idea that it is God who counted or considered Jesus as sinful, as bearing our sin. Not that the sin literally moved across to him but that inGod’s eyes, in God’s economy, the sinlessness of Jesus is imputed to us and our sin is imputed to him.

          (Also, sin is not a “substance” — Augustine held it was the opposite: a privation, an absence or loss. But that helps the idea of it being a debt. And the Greek for sin has overtones of “shortfall”. I digress.)

          “It can only be as though he bears our sins and guilt, i.e. he bears the consequences even though it is undeserved.” Yes, I think so. He bears our “sin-and-death” (I’ve linked the two as sin always causes death and death is always, ultimately, caused by sin.) Not our culpability or our punishment or God’s wrath but the sin (and death).

          But then you lose me with this: “Thus my understanding of why Christ’s death is necessary for our salvation is because it was necessary for him to suffer death (and alienation from God)”

          Yes!

          “which is the consequence of . . .”

          Sin! But no, you say

          “which is the consequence of God’s judgement/wrath on sin, in order to become the one in whom through union with him we can, with him, be raised and glorified. I really do think this is the right way to understand this, and I also think it is the primary picture the NT paints for us – with the odd extra metaphor (such as paying a ransom and bearing sins) along the way.”

          No! Nearly but not quite. May I re-write it?

          “My understanding of why Christ’s death is necessary for our salvation is because it was necessary for him to suffer death (and alienation from God), which is the consequence of sin, in order to become the one in whom through union with him we can, with him, be raised and glorified.

          I really do think this is the right way to understand this, and I also think it is the primary picture the NT paints for us and is in harmony with all the NT models and metaphors (such as paying a ransom / debt / redemption, being the ultimate — final and perfect — sacrifice and bearing sins)”

          I hope that’s acceptable?

          Pax

          • Will Jones February 15, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

            Thanks Oliver.

            I think we’re just continuing to disagree over whether death, as well as being the consequence of sin, is also the due punishment for it and hence a manifestation of God’s wrath. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to agree on this point.

            To add to the likely disagreement, I should add that I also think that suffering as a general phenomenon is an expression of God’s wrath on sin – as per Romans 1 ‘due penalty’. Though of course that is not to say that every instance of suffering is deserved by any means. But suffering, like death, exists as part of God’s judgement and curse on fallen creation (the ‘sweat of your brow’), and hence is an expression of his wrath. This explains why suffering, as well as death, is integral to Christ’s passion, and why Hebrews says that he was ‘made perfect through suffering’. He endured the full consequences of/due penalty for sin in order to become the one in whom we could be saved from it. But I appreciate you dislike this general/impersonal understanding of God’s anger as being a generally active presence in creation. I understand it to be synonymous with the curse God placed on creation following the fall.

            I think the idea of something being imputed in God’s eyes is problematic if intended other than metaphorical, since it either suggests God is creating fictions which he somehow believes and commends to us also to believe, or it means he is actually changing something, which has the problems I outlined above. But I think you agree with what I go on to say, which includes the crucial ‘as though’, so perhaps we are not really disagreeing here.

            Apologies for the apparent pejorative – not intended. It was just meant to be a quote from earlier to fairly represent your view, so apologies if it seemed dismissive.

          • Oliver Harrison February 15, 2017 at 6:16 pm #

            That’s great stuff!

            “I think we’re just continuing to disagree over whether death, as well as being the consequence of sin, is also the due punishment for it and hence a manifestation of God’s wrath. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to agree on this point.”

            Yes, just so. I can see your point though. I guess my criterion for punishment and/or wrath vs. consequence(s) is the active agency of God, i.e. whether God gets personally involved or whether it happens as a result of how he has made things to be.

            “To add to the likely disagreement, I should add that I also think that suffering as a general phenomenon is an expression of God’s wrath on sin”

            Yes — that doesn’t add to the gulf between us because I can kind of agree with that. “Creation is groaning and has been subjected to frustration etc.” And yet God so loved the word (“kosmos”) . . . And those in Christ are no longer under God’s wrath — yet still suffer. Tricky eh?

            (Incidentally, the curse “sweat of your brow” etc I see as being a curse on Adam & Eve rather than on all humanity or creation.)

            You say “suffering, as well as death, is integral to Christ’s passion, and why Hebrews says that he was ‘made perfect through suffering'”

            Yes — a very good point. See also his obedience (Heb 5:8) — but these can also form part of other models of the atonement, e.g. Christus Victor, moral example etc. Worth remembering though.

            “But I appreciate you dislike this general/impersonal understanding of God’s anger as being a generally active presence in creation. I understand it to be synonymous with the curse God placed on creation following the fall.”

            Yes, I think it is, as it were, impersonal — hence “curse” is a better (i.e. more Biblical) term than “wrath”. (I also think that by “God” we need to mean “Jesus” as well, an obvious point but one worth keeping in view.)

            So then I could say (with Paul in Galation 3:13) that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law [and I would say from the curse on all creation] by becoming a curse for us” — curse, yes, but anger, wrath? No, it’s simply not there in the Bible. Anywhere. Ever.

            So Jesus obeys and suffers and dies to satisfy God’s righteousness, to make good our shortfall, to bear and bear away sin — and its ineluctable consequence death, to be the perfect self-sacrifice of God to God.

            Pax

          • Will Jones February 15, 2017 at 10:39 pm #

            Ok, so I’ve done a word search on wrath in the NT (in the NIV) and I’m going to concede to you that wrath is not used of the impersonal consequences of the fall and curse in the sense in which I am using it (except possibly in Romans 1, but it only appears once there and the usage is ambiguous).

            I have already acknowledged that the NT, surely deliberately, avoids drawing the implication that Jesus was being punished by God on the cross, even vicariously. So I can now also add, as you point out, that it avoids implying that Jesus was subjected on the cross to God’s anger, even vicariously. It avoids quoting directly parts of Isaiah 53 which appear to say this (though their presence there does help explain where the ideas have come from, so I think they can remain useful metaphors, as long as they are not pushed too far, as many teachers on PS do).

            I think I’d be happy in future to limit my explanation of Jesus’ death to suffering under the curse (of suffering, death and alienation from God) under which God has placed creation, in order to become the one in whom salvation from this curse (and hence the wrath of God on sin) is found.

            Is this basically equivalent to your position, or does disagreement remain?

          • Oliver Harrison February 16, 2017 at 11:11 am #

            Thanks Will I think we’re in agreement.

            I do think it can be said there is something cosmic and impersonal about God’s wrath but it’s very hard to put into words. God is love. He is holy and righteous (“righteous” = just / fair / good). His love is a product or function of his love and holiness. It’s a secondary attribute, as it were: God *gets* angry but he *is* love. Nevertheless the universe (creation or the cosmos in Greek) is under his wrath and people (plus possibly angels?) in particular subject to it (we should know better as Paul says in the opening chapter of Romans.)

            Jesus saves us from God’s wrath but not by bearing it for us (the whipping boy image). He saves us from it by bearing the cause of it: sin.

            So if I owe you £5 and you are angry with me. Then your wife or business partner — i.e. someone with whom you have a joint account — pays you the £5 I owe. Now you are not angry any more. But also the debt, while being seen to be repaid (justice is done) is actually cancelled (forgiven). You have paid me yourself, through your wife or business partner. You carry the loss. You bear the cost. You pay the price. The books balance — but at your expense.

            Now when I said this:

            “So Jesus obeys and suffers and dies to satisfy God’s righteousness, to make good our shortfall, to bear and bear away sin — and its ineluctable consequence death, to be the perfect self-sacrifice of God to God.”

            I should have added something else to that final part: Christ is “the perfect self-sacrifice of God to God and, as a human being, as the second Adam and son of man and dust of the earth and Israel incarnate, he is also the perfect sacrifice of humanity to God, of a human will in perfect obedience to God offering himself to redeem the whole human race; even a piece of creation, a parcel of dust, the fruit of the earth offered to redeem the whole of the cosmos, the whole of creation.”

            (I thought of that last night in bed! It’s the “Recapitulation” theory of the atonement; I’m sure you knew that.)

            You say this:

            “I have already acknowledged that the NT, surely deliberately, avoids drawing the implication that Jesus was being punished by God on the cross, even vicariously. So I can now also add, as you point out, that it avoids implying that Jesus was subjected on the cross to God’s anger, even vicariously. It avoids quoting directly parts of Isaiah 53 which appear to say this (though their presence there does help explain where the ideas have come from, so I think they can remain useful metaphors, as long as they are not pushed too far, as many teachers on PS do).”

            Yes!

            “I think I’d be happy in future to limit my explanation of Jesus’ death to suffering under the curse (of suffering, death and alienation from God) under which God has placed creation, in order to become the one in whom salvation from this curse (and hence the wrath of God on sin) is found.”

            Just so. I think that is Biblical and true and good.

            God bless you Will.

            Is this basically equivalent to your position, or does disagreement remain?

      • Oliver Harrison February 16, 2017 at 11:21 am #

        Sorry there’s three errors in my post dates February 16, 2017 at 11:11 am that starts “Thanks Will I think we’re in agreement.”

        Para 1 says “His love is a product or function of his love and holiness.” That should of course be “wrath / anger”. So it should read: “His wrath / anger is a product or function of his love and holiness.”

        The fifth (?) paragraph should say “Israel personified” not “Israel incarnate” (a theological point of some importance!)

        And of course there’s a stray random line of your at the very bottom left over from a copy and paste: it should end with a doxology (“God bless you Will”)

        🙂

        • Will Jones February 16, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

          Great! This has been a very useful exchange.

          I think I don’t quite share your literal understanding of the transaction of the cross – I don’t think of there being a debt to be paid etc. But otherwise I think we’re largely on the same page.

          • Oliver Harrison February 16, 2017 at 6:56 pm #

            Yes, I’ve enjoyed it. I guess my understanding of the “economic” metaphors (ransom / redemption / debt payment or cancellation or forgiveness) are pretty literal: I do think Jesus does those things. Not with money (obviously) but by his offering of himself as “obedient unto death”.

            Why?

            Because justice matters to God (see my earlier point about mercy being impossible without justice because it, mercy, is contingent upon justice). God is just and one who justifies.

            And the “balancing of the books” metaphors underline that. Even talk of sacrifice as “bearing the cost / paying the price” does.

            Jesus, as my substitute and representative, makes good my (our, humanity’s) shortfall.

            It’s not transactional so much as relational (reconciliation vs alienation — and all from God’s love) but these “money” models are very very good at stressing most aspects of the atonement and are, of course, Biblical (unlike talk of wrath and punishment — except as that which Jesus saves from, but not by bearing it / them for us.)

            This is the language that God himself has given in Scripture to speak of Jesus and I, of one, find it very helpful.

            It also informs my own praxis with regard to money, debt(s), generosity, economic justice etc etc.

            HTH

          • Will Jones February 16, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

            I should also have added thank you!

            I am going to suggest though that those economic images are not as biblical as you might think. Yes they appear a number of times in Jesus’ parables, as metaphors. But not actually in the theological explanations of Jesus’ death. Have a look: you won’t find any reference in the NT passages on Christ’s death linking it with paying a debt or price or a penalty. Any more than you’ll find it linked with a punishment or wrath. They’re just not there. The payment model is all Anselm. I suggest that economic images are all metaphors – very useful ones of course, but not a good literal account. Not least because, as in Jesus’ parable, a wealthy man might just forgive a debt because he is merciful with no appreciable cost to himself.

            The only one is Jesus’ own ‘ransom for many’ – but ransom is actually the least satisfactory economic model, because it involves God paying Satan’s blackmail demand. (This is probably what Paul has in mind in 1Cor with ‘you were bought at a price’).

          • Oliver Harrison February 16, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

            “The only one is Jesus’ own ‘ransom for many’ ”

            Not so:

            “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:18-20)

            And Rev 5:9 “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

            And 1 Timothy 2:5-6 “there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind: Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all”

            As for ransom being the least satisfactory economic model because it involves God paying Satan’s blackmail demand. It’s relative unpopularity is to do with the related issue that the payee is not specified: all the NT’s talk of ransom is about the payment (Christ) not the payee (unnamed). As a model it’s more to do with the cost or price (the sacrifice) rather than who the payment is made to. So it only deals with one side of the equation. That’s why I think it’s not a prominent model in the NT.

            “In Jesus’ parable, a wealthy man might just forgive a debt because he is merciful with no appreciable cost to himself.”

            No! That’s the WHOLE POINT of forgiveness: the forgiver who cancels (or even just reduces) the debt pays the price, bears the cost, takes a hit, makes good the shortfall at his or her own expense. In short, as I’ve been at pains to repeatedly point out, forgiving ALWAYS ENTAILS A SACRIFICE. (See the Hammarskjold quote above.)

            Sorry to shout but it’s important. 🙂

          • Will Jones February 16, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

            I don’t doubt that Jesus’ sacrifice saves us. But if that’s all ransom means then it’s not an economic model but a metaphor for a sacrifice that liberates (in some way).

            But how is that ransom or redemption actually achieved, since clearly God is not actually paying anything to anyone who has enslaved or captured us? Galatians says this: ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.’ i.e. the redemption is achieved through the means I described above, of entering into the effects of the curse (suffering, death) to become the one in whom these things are transformed.

            I appreciate what you’re saying about a cost of debt cancellation. But there isn’t anywhere in scripture that explains Christ’s death as a payment God makes to himself to settle a debt or make up a shortfall. It uses ransom and redemption imagery yes, but that clearly wouldn’t be a payment to God, and as you say it deliberately doesn’t specify the payee. When it does explain it further, in Galatians, it switches to curse imagery. Which I think is the closest we have to a literal picture, more than the economic concepts.

          • Oliver Harrison February 17, 2017 at 7:26 am #

            Will, yes, good points. Thanks.

  17. Philip Almond February 13, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

    Oliver
    Thanks for your response to both me and Will. I reply as follows:

    Isaiah 53, by the very structure of the text, is all clearly about the same person and the same incident – the death of Christ.

    Jesus suffered all the eternal consequences of our sin in the time he was on the cross. A mystery, I agree. The resurrection is the proof of that: ‘who was delivered because of our offences and was raised because of our justification’. I must point out that in my view ‘our’ is all those who have ever or will ever trust in Christ for their salvation and that, again a mystery, that justification is ‘actualised’ only when they come to Christ or, when, if they lack the faculties to make a personal response –infants or mentally disabled for instance, God, in his mercy, applies the fruits of Christ’s passion to them – another mystery.

    My “there is a penalty due” is taken from your “Forgiveness does not defy or deny justice but is only possible precisely because of it: after all, if there was no justice there’d be no concept or idea of forgiveness as no law would be broken nor penalty due.”

    I am glad that you might be finding some common ground with Will.

    Your final paragraph to Will raises an important and controversial point. I have a suggestion to make that might be regarded (and might be really) heretical.

    If the doctrine of the two natures in one Person of Christ is true then: theologians are prepared to say that Christ truly died but he died in his human nature – no heresy so far. But I suggest that he also suffered the eternal consequences of sin in his human nature. We are on holy ground. But, shielding my eyes with fear and trembling, I suggest that the ‘atonement transaction’ if I dare say that, is not between the Father and the Son but between Christ as Man and the Triune God – hence the ‘wrath of the Lamb’ as you rightly point out. This answers Ian’s point in the original article, “The real danger in talking of Jesus satisfying God’s wrath is that we separate the actions of the Trinity in the cross.”

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison February 13, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

      Philip: yes, funnily enough I too was thinking of Ian’s excellent line: “The real danger in talking of Jesus satisfying God’s wrath is that we separate the actions of the Trinity in the cross.”

      As for the rest of what you say, I agree, I think (!) — although my use of “penalty” was injudicious, I’ll take that back!

      The only thing I disagree with you on is this :”Isaiah 53, by the very structure of the text, is all clearly about the same person and the same incident – the death of Christ.”

      Clearly? Not to me.

      Pax.

  18. Philip Almond February 17, 2017 at 7:30 pm #

    Will and Oliver
    I note your interesting exchange. You will appreciate that it is quite a challenge to grasp the whole discussion in a fair and structured way. But I want to try to raise a number of points about what you have said and raise other points which I don’t think (I may be wrong – correct me if I am) have been aired hitherto.
    But as a preliminary: I start with Oliver’s post of February 13, 2017 at 11:45 am and the three passages from that post which I quoted in my February 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm post. In his February 13, 2017 at 8:36 pm post Oliver withdrew the use of “penalty due” in one of those 3 passages. Can I assume, Oliver, that apart from that withdrawal, you stand by the rest of what you said in those 3 passages; that is, subsequent exchanges have not modified what you said in those 3 passages. Is this correct please? I will await your answer before I go any further.
    Phil Almond

    • Will Jones February 18, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

      Phil – Jesus wasn’t punished by God in a literal sense, even vicariously. The reasons for thinking this are as follows:

      1) The New Testament does not say he was, and indeed is careful to avoid saying he was or implying it. That’s why it speaks of his death in terms of sacrifice or redemption or ransom rather than punishment – it is an offering to achieve liberation and a turning away wrath, not a vicarious punishment. It was Jesus’ enemies who thought he was being punished by God (for being a false prophet), and the church did not turn around and say: Yes he was, but it was our punishment transferred to him. That idea does not appear to have been in their mind (despite Isaiah 53). They said: No, he was offering his life as a sacrifice to redeem or ransom fallen humanity. It was people who did this to him, not God. The New Testament never says that God did this to him.

      2) There is no scriptural reason to think that God’s wrath must ‘go somewhere’ in order for it to be turned away, which is the idea this model tacitly relies on.

      3) Even if there was, it would not make sense logically that God’s justice and his just wrath could be satisfied by being exhausted on his innocent Son (i.e. on himself) rather than on the actual wrongdoers, however willing his Son might be. That’s not how just punishment works. The only person who can justly receive a punishment is the wrongdoer. To spare a wrongdoer is mercy. To punish an innocent person (even if willing) for a crime he didn’t commit is unjust. Mercy plus injustice don’t make justice.

      To answer these points I think you need to show where in the New Testament it speaks clearly in terms which imply God is causing Jesus to suffer and indeed is punishing him, as the explanation for how he is redeeming or ransoming (the NT’s preferred terms for describing Jesus’ death) humankind. Ideally you would also need to show where the principle that God cannot spare us without punishing someone is explained as the basic principle behind the cross (something to the effect of ‘God punished Jesus because he had to punish someone’). Finally, you would need to defend the logic and morality of the concept of vicarious punishment as a form of justice: that it is comprehensibly just to punish a (willing) innocent person while not punishing the wrongdoer.

      • Oliver Harrison February 19, 2017 at 7:19 pm #

        Will — I agree 100%. I think I’d add something about the cost of forgiving: as Bonhoeffer said: grace is free, but is not cheap.

        “Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who ‘forgives’ you – out of love – takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice. The price you must pay for your own liberation through another’s sacrifice is that you in turn must be willing to liberate others in the same way, irrespective of the consequences to yourself.”

        (Dag Hammarskjold, Easter 1960 from Markings)

        I’d also want to preemptively challenge all and any use of “propitiation” . . .

        But, yes, you and I are in total agreement.

    • Oliver Harrison February 19, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

      Yes, I think I stand by everything I’ve said. Always happy to revise (e.g. the use of “penalty”) through.

  19. Philip Almond February 18, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

    Thanks for your post Will. I would prefer to wait for Oliver’s reply to my February 17, 2017 at 7:30 pm post before continuing my attempt to make the case for Christ bearing the wrath and condemnation of God in his death. But if he chooses not to reply (and if so that’s Ok by me) I will continue anyway.
    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison February 19, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

      Go for it Phil! Make that case . . . I’m genuinely open-minded and happy learn.

      (There is actually one verse in the NT that *could* be construed as “Christ bearing the wrath and condemnation of God in his death” but it’s tangential and tenuous . . . I’ll leave that with you to ponder.)

    • Oliver Harrison February 21, 2017 at 9:10 am #

      You there Phil? I’m keen to hear your thesis.

      • Philip Almond February 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm #

        Yes Oliver. I am working on it. Sorry it is taking so long. I want to be precise in what I write.
        Phil

  20. Philip Almond February 21, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    Yes Oliver. I am working on it. I want to be detailed and precise. Sorry I am taking so long. Probably a few more days yet.
    Phil

    • Oliver Harrison February 21, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

      Ok. Sounds pretty comprehensive!

  21. Philip Almond February 21, 2017 at 8:35 pm #

    Oliver and Will

    I am studying your exchange of views and I noticed the following
    Oliver Harrison February 14, 2017 at 9:34 pm
    ‘Death is the consequence of sin (because God is the source of life and sin cuts us off from him). Death is NOT the punishment / penalty for sin; it is the effect’.

    I am not sure whether your discussion ended by you both agreeing that ‘Death is NOT the punishment / penalty for sin; it is the effect’. But I make this interim post to give my view that death is the punishment / penalty for sin. I reason as follows:

    Romans 5:16, ‘And not as through one [man] sinning the gift; for on the one hand judgment is of one [offence] to condemnation, on the other the free gift [is] of many offences to justification’

    Romans 5:18, ‘So therefore as through one offence to all men to condemnation so also through one righteous act to all men to justification of life’.

    The word translated as ‘condemnation’ in 5:16 and 5:18 is the Greek word katakrima. Strong’s definition of katakrima is ‘penalty; punishment following condemnation, penal servitude,’; and Strong gives the word origin as katakrino defined as ‘to give judgment against; I condemn, judge worthy of punishment’. The STEP definition is ‘punishment, condemnation, condemning sentence’. ‘Penalty, punishment following condemnation, penal servitude, give judgment against, judge worthy of punishment’ speak clearly of a law/law-court/legal/trial/punishment situation.

    Romans 5:12- 21 is one cohesive line of thought in which death and condemnation are closely linked.
    I don’t see how the sequence ‘sin – condemnation – death as punishment for sin’ can be avoided.

    Phil

    • Will Jones February 21, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

      As per my arguments above, I see death as being a general penalty or punishment for human sinfulness – the wages of sin. I initially argued that this should be understood as an impersonal form of God’s wrath. However, during the exchange with Oliver I revisited the passages in the NT which speak of God’s wrath and was persuaded that this was not really a scriptural idea.

      So I do see death as being like the penalty for, of wages of, sin. But this is not a personal punishment for one’s sins, as though it varies from person to person depending on one’s degree of sinfulness. It is rather more like a curse upon the human condition as a general judgement on its fallenness. So while I do agree that death is the penalty or punishment for sin, I think that needs to be understood in a certain general (impersonal) sense, and as having a certain relation to God’s judgement and anger which is not as immediate or personal as the ordinary concept of punishment might suggest.

    • Oliver Harrison February 22, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

      Phil, yes you are right that Romans 5:16 & 18 is in a pericope (vv12-21) which “is one cohesive [-ish, this is Paul after all!] line of thought in which death and condemnation are closely linked.”

      That’s true but it would be more true to say it’s a “line of thought in which sin and death are closely linked.” But let’s stick with what you said as that is also true.

      Then you lose me with your next sentence: “I don’t see how the sequence ‘sin – condemnation – death as punishment for sin’ can be avoided.”

      Except you don’t lose me because, perhaps in a Freudian slip, your comment gives away the problem: “I don’t see . . . .” That’s the key to unlocking this. With respect, no, you don’t see because you have been told and now believe something to be so that simply isn’t there in the text. So you “see” something that you don’t see and you can’t see how or why you are confused but you know you are.

      You want / need to see “the sequence ‘sin – condemnation – death as punishment for sin’” as the key to your whole position. If it’s not there you can’t merely tinker with it you need a radical re-think. And it’s not there . . . .

      Roman 5: 12-21 says exactly what Will & I have been saying: the death is the consequence of sin. Paul goes back to Adam in v.12 to make that point and sets Jesus up as the second (anti-) Adam. Death goes back before the Law (Torah, i.e. Mosaic covenant with specific commands including a penal code / punishments) as it is a natural Law – i.e. it’s a consequence. Now you could say it is a God-given or divinely ordained consequence and I’d agree but that is not the same as a punishment: which is particular and personal. Nowhere is God mentioned as the death-dealer / punisher: death is impersonal and cosmic (sin and death “entered the world”). It even spread to those who did not “sin” (i.e. who did not disobey God’s specific command as Adam had done). This, incidentally, is the cosmic dimension to Christ’s death and resurrection, the “making all things new” (I think N T Wright’s new book goes into that? I’ve not read it yet.)

      OK, that’s by way of context. Now to “condemnation” in v16ff . Having outlined the consequence of sin as death in verses 12-15 Paul now, in verse 16, turns his attention to the penal side of sin – the “condemnation” / “katakrima”.

      Having introduced the penal side of sin v16, he loops back to consequence of sin v17 to pair the two up side by side before returning the penal side in v18.

      It’s as if I’d crashed my car by culpably reckless driving: there are two Bad Things I’d have to face 1.) the consequences (injury, damage, death) and 2.) the forensic guilt under whatever law or jurisprudence I was subject to. Rather wonderfully Jesus’ life and death and resurrection saves / heals / frees me from both.

      How? Verse 19 tell us that we are subject to both sin (consequence) and justice (condemnation) because of one’s man disobedience but now we are saved (healed) by one man’s obedience. I.e. by one man offering himself as the second Adam, so Christ is as much our representative as our substitute. This is pure recapitulation theory, not so much as whiff of penal substitution about it. (There is also a case to be made for universalism from this passage but I’ll leave that for now as I don’t find it wholly convincing and we’ve got enough on our plate as it is.)

  22. Philip Almond February 23, 2017 at 8:25 pm #

    Oliver, Will
    The following verses make the case that what happens to the unsaved after the Day of Judgment is active punishment from God, specific, personal and individual, and in accordance with sinfulness.

    ‘but according to the hardness of thee and impenitent heart treasurest for thyself wrath in a day of wrath and of revelation of a righteous judgment of God; who will requite to each man according to the works of him: to the [ones] on one hand seeking by endurance of(in) good work glory and honour and incorruption eternal life; to the [ones] on the other of self-seeking and disobeying the truth but obeying unrighteousness, wrath and anger. Affliction and anguish on every soul of man working the evil, both of Jew firstly and of Greek; but glory and honour and peace to everyone working the good, both to Jew firstly and to Greek. For not is respect of persons with God’ (Romans 2:5-11).

    The impenitent treasurest wrath ‘for thyself’ – individual and personal. It is God who actively requites. He requites wrath, anger, affliction and anguish. This must be deserved punishment. He requites ‘every soul of man working the evil’ – individual and personal.

    ‘since [it is] a just thing with God to repay affliction to the[ones] afflicting you and to you the[ones] being afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with angels of power of him in fire of flame, giving full vengeance to the[ones] not obeying the gospel of the Lord of us Jesus, who will pay [the] penalty eternal destruction from [the] of the Lord and from the glory of the strength of him’ (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

    It is God who justly repays. ‘giving full vengeance’ is active and ‘penalty’ is punishment.

    ‘The Son of Man will send forth the angels of him, and they will collect out of the kingdom of him all the things leading to sin and the [ones] doing lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be the wailing and the gnashing of the teeth’ (Matthew 13:41-42)

    The Son of Man sends forth his angels – active. The ones doing lawlessness – individuals. ‘Furnace of fire’ and ‘wailing and the gnashing of teeth’ is punishment.
    ‘Now if the unrighteousness of us commends a righteousness of God, what shall we say? Not unrighteous God the[one] inflicting wrath? According to man I say. May it not be; otherwise how will God judge the world?’ (Romans 3:5-6)

    It is God who inflicts wrath – active.

    ‘For wilfully sinning us after the to receive the full knowledge of the truth, a sacrifice concerning sins remains no more, but some fearful expectation of judgment and zeal of fire being about to consume the adversaries. Anyone disregarding law of Moses dies without compassions on the word of two or three witnesses; by how much think ye will be thought worthy of worse punishment the[one] having trampled [on] the Son of God and having deemed common the blood of the covenant, by which he was sanctified, and having insulted the Spirit of grace. For we know the one having said: To me vengeance, I will repay; and again:[The] Lord will judge the people of him. A fearful thing it is to fall into [the] hands of a living God’ (Hebrews 10:26-31)

    ‘zeal of fire’ is punishment. The ones disregarding the law of Moses suffer punishment. It is God who avenges and repays – active. It is falling ‘into the hands of a living God’ which is fearful – punishment.

    ‘Then he will say also to the [ones] on [the] left: Go from me having been cursed[ones] into the fire eternal having been prepared for the devil and the angels of him…..And will go away these into punishment eternal, but the righteous into life eternal’ (Matthew 25:41…46)

    The Son of Man dismisses them – active – into the ‘fire eternal’. This is eternal punishment.

    ‘and the Devil deceiving them was cast into the lake of fire and sulphur, where [were] also the beast and the false prophet, and they will be tormented day and night unto the ages of the ages. And I saw a great white throne and the [one] sitting on it from the face of whom fled the earth and the heaven and a place was not found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened; and another scroll was opened, which is [the scroll] of life; and the dead were judged by the things having been written in the scrolls according to the works of them. And the sea gave the dead in it, and death and hades gave the dead in them. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone was not found written in the scroll of life he was cast into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:10-15)

    The dead were judged according to their works – individual. The lake of fire is punishment.

    ‘And the heaven departed as a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island out of the places of them were moved. And the kings of the earth and the great men and the chiliarchs and the rich men and the strong men and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and they say to the mountains and to the rocks: Fall ye on us and hide us and hide us from[the] face of the [one] sitting on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of the wrath of them came, and who can to stand?’ (Revelation 6:14-17)

    It is the wrath of God and Christ that is feared. This is personal encounter.

    ‘will come the lord of that slave in a day which he does not expect and in an hour in which he knows not, and will cut him asunder, and the portion of him with the unbelievers will place. But that slave having known the will of the lord of him and not having prepared or done according to the will of him will be beaten [with] many [stripes]; bur the [one] not having known, but having done things worthy of stripes, will be beaten [with] few [stripes]. But everyone to whom was given much, much will be demanded of him, and with whom was deposited much, more exceedingly they will ask him’ (Luke 12:46-48)

    Punishment will be in accordance with sinfulness.

    I also draw attention to God’s punishment of sinners recorded in the Old Testament, for example:
    Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” (1 Samuel 15:1-3)

    I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.
    “‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.
    “‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. (Leviticus 26:13-19)

    And several more in the prophets.

    Phil Almond

    • Will Jones February 23, 2017 at 9:39 pm #

      Thanks Phil. But I don’t doubt that people will be punished by God after death for their sins personally. That’s exactly what I understand God’s wrath to be – the coming wrath. The point at issue is not whether people will be punished but whether Christ’s death should be understood as a punishment, and as an outpouring of God’s wrath on Christ. The passages you cite obviously don’t address that issue.

  23. Philip Almond February 23, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    Will
    No, they were not intended to. That is the rest of my case. I just wanted, as a preliminary, to establish whether or not it is common ground between Oliver, you and me that ‘people will be punished by God after death for their sins personally’ and that punishment is the wrath of God. I understood Oliver in his last post to be denying that my ‘the sequence ‘sin – condemnation – death as punishment for sin’ is true so I inferred that he would also deny that ‘people will be punished by God after death for their sins personally’ and that that punishment is the wrath of God. I’m sorry if I have misunderstood. Perhaps Oliver can clarify?
    Phil

  24. Philip Almond February 23, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

    Will
    I should have also asked whether you believe that my ‘the sequence ‘sin – condemnation – death as punishment for sin’ is true. Do you?
    Phil

    • Will Jones February 23, 2017 at 10:24 pm #

      I answered that above – yes in a sense, but not in the usual sense of punishment, more an extended and impersonal sense. As Oliver pointed out: sin and death ‘entered the world’, in a cosmic, natural law kind of way. God’s wrath isn’t linked in scripture to death in general – which makes sense, since the righteous die as well as the wicked, and the biblical authors are hardly likely to assert that when the righteous die (John the Baptist, say) that is God’s wrath falling on them.

    • Oliver Harrison February 28, 2017 at 7:42 am #

      Phil, you there? I’m going ask you one last time: Can you show where in the Bible it says Jesus was punished for our sins? Not inferred / implied, not by referring back to parts of the OT that the NT never uses, and not by the use of “propitiation” (a disputed and partial translation at best) but a nice clear statement by, say, Paul or John. It’s a simple question. I’m not looking for prooftext although that would at least be a start.

      Well, I think everyone knows there isn’t one. It’s not something the NT ever says.

      I think all the words/concepts are there (“punishment”, “substitution” even “wrath”) in the Greek so the writers could have said it but those ideas are never configured in that way. Now why do you think that is so? (Answer: because it isn’t true.)

      But maybe it *is* still true, right, despite the NT never saying it is? In which case maybe you know the mind of God better than the Spirit-inspired writers of Scripture did. Maybe you want to believe this idea that is not in the Bible. That’s your choice. Good luck with that.

      So: it’s time to put up or shut up. Over to you.

      • Philip Almond March 1, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

        Oliver
        I am not prepared to be constrained like that. I aim to complete my case and post it. Sorry it is taking longer than you would like. I just point out that there is nowhere in the New Testament where Jesus says ‘I am the second Person of the Trinity’. Do you believe that statement is true?
        Phil

        • Oliver Harrison March 1, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

          ” I just point out that there is nowhere in the New Testament where Jesus says ‘I am the second Person of the Trinity’. Do you believe that statement is true?”

          Neologisms (e.g. “Trinity”) are used as theological shorthand, algebra if you will. But Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) is the opposite: it uses extant and entirely Biblical words / ideas. So “x was punished by y in place z” or “x took the place of z and bore the wrath of y” are a neat formulae and ones I think that would have be understood by Greeks, Romans and Jews long before Jesus was born. All those words (but not in that order) appear in the NT. Now you might wonder why the writers of the NT — or at least even just one of them — didn’t put that formula down in a single, simple sentence. Unambiguous and clear. But they didn’t. (I think we are all agreed on that?) So we read what they write not what we would have liked them to have written. Do we see PSA? Many people do. But do they see it because they are looking for it, they have been told it is there and they already believe it to be true?

          To find PSA one must read between the lines, infer and selectively translate and jutaxpose texts out of context. A simple straightforward reading of the plain text will never give it to you.

          Looking forward to your piece. Sorry for being so grumpy in my previous posts.

          • Philip Almond March 1, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

            Oliver
            Not grumpy – just straight talking! thanks for your patience.
            Phil

  25. Oliver Harrison February 24, 2017 at 10:38 pm #

    Hi Phil, I’m not sure quite what your long post meant except to establish the Biblical premise for God’s eternal and eschatological justice and judgement (“wrath and punishment”). Well, as Will said, I think we are all more or less on the same page regarding that.

    Also, as Will said, “I understand God’s wrath to be . . . the coming wrath. The point at issue is not whether people will be punished but whether Christ’s death should be understood as a punishment, and as an outpouring of God’s wrath on Christ. The passages you cite obviously don’t address that issue.”

    You then said: “I understood Oliver in his last post to be denying that my ‘the sequence ‘sin – condemnation – death as punishment for sin’ is true so I inferred that he would also deny that ‘people will be punished by God after death for their sins personally’ and that that punishment is the wrath of God. I’m sorry if I have misunderstood. Perhaps Oliver can clarify?”

    Yes I can! I do deny your sequence “sin – condemnation – death as punishment for sin” for all the reasons I gave. Quite why you then inferred that I would also deny that ‘people will be punished by God after death for their sins personally’ and that that punishment is the wrath of God is a mystery to me. How does it follow that I wouldn’t believe those statements? Why wouldn’t I? That’s crazy. Because I reject something you consider orthodox? I find that, frankly, stupid at best and insulting at worst.

    Can we get back to the main point and stick to it, viz. the Bible never says Jesus was punished for our sins nor that he bore the wrath of God. You might choose to think those things but your beliefs are based on something other than Scripture. Unless, of course, you can show WHERE in the Bible it does say either or both of those things. In which case I’m all ears.

    If not, I’m out. I haven’t got time for your rambling “preliminaries”, so please cut to the chase and make your case for penal substitution.

  26. Oliver Harrison February 27, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    I have written a song (well, a hymn) that I think is more Biblical in its account of the atonement.

    At The Cross

    At the cross, at the cross
    See the man who is cursed
    When the all the powers of darkness
    Did their best to do their worst
    And when they were spent
    God still had power to spare
    At the cross, at the cross
    See God take all our sin there

    At the cross, at cross
    See the man who is blessed
    With all the grace of heaven
    With all forgiveness
    God pays himself
    The debt we owe
    It is cancelled, it is finished
    Sin and death are overthrown

    At the dawn near the grave
    See the man live again
    Mercy triumphs over judgement
    God’s King is raised to reign
    Christ lives in us
    And we in him
    He is our strength and our salvation
    And the song that we sing

    At the end of the age
    See the man come again
    To judge the living and the dead
    To burn the dross like a flame
    He’ll make all things new
    Reconciled and restored
    Each joins with heaven
    To proclaim that he is Lord

  27. Philip Almond March 7, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

    The case for Christ bearing the Anger and Condemnation of God in his death.

    Assumed Common Ground

    We all personally face God’s holy anger and just condemnation from birth onwards.

    What happens to the unsaved after the Day of Judgment is active punishment from God, specific, personal and individual, and in accordance with sinfulness.

    John 3:36 puts two truths beyond dispute. Firstly that those who disobey the Son will not see life but, rather, the anger of God remains on them; secondly, that those who believe on the Son have life eternal and, by implication, that they are delivered from the anger of God.

    Romans 8:1 also puts two truths beyond dispute. Firstly that there is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus; secondly that those not in Christ Jesus are still facing condemnation.

    So those who believe on the Son, those who are in Christ Jesus, are delivered from the anger and condemnation of God and the punishment that awaits the unsaved and are brought into a right relationship with him. Those in a right relationship with God, at peace with God and adopted as sons, cannot still be facing his anger and condemnation. It is clear from the New Testament that the death and resurrection of Christ play a key part in bringing sinners into this right relationship and therefore the death and resurrection of Christ play a key part in delivering sinners from the anger and condemnation of God.

    I assume that the above is common ground for Oliver, Will and myself in the debate on psephizo. If it is not I have misunderstood Oliver and Will and I apologise for that. If Oliver/Will could indicate where it is not common ground we need to debate those points since the above is the presupposition for my case.

    There is a view that for all the above to be true it is not necessary that Christ directly bore the wrath and condemnation of God in his death. Or, to put it another way, it is not necessary that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is true.

    The rest of this post attempts to make the case that Christ did bear the wrath and condemnation of God in his death.

    A further presupposition for my case (probably not common ground – which may be very significant) is that the whole Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is wholly trustworthy and the parts of the Old Testament not referred to in the New Testament are as true as the parts of the Old Testament which are referred to in the New Testament. This presupposition is based on:

    For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

    If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— (John 10:35)
    Etc.

    1 Condemnation and Death from Adam’s sin
    Romans 5:12-21 is widely regarded as one of the most challenging passages in the Bible. But the key points about sin, condemnation and death are clear:
    Sin entered the world through Adam’s sin, and through sin death, and death passed upon all men because all sinned. God chose not to reckon sin as disobeying the law before the law was given (cf Romans 4:15) but nevertheless all died between Adam and Moses. Some died because they, like Adam, disobeyed a direct command of God, and/or their conscience, but even those who did not still died. They must have died because of Adam’s sin. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22). So ‘all sinned’ means that Adam’s sin is reckoned to all humanity (apart from Christ). By the offence of the one (Adam) the many died (5:15); the judgement is of one[offence] to condemnation (5:16); by the offence of the[one] (Adam) death reigned through the one (Adam) (5:17); through one offence (of Adam) to all men to condemnation (5:18); through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) many were made sinners (5:19).
    So Adam’s sin (offence) results in death for all men; this directly links sin and death. Adam’s sin (offence) also results in the judgment of condemnation for all men; this links sin and condemnation. Given the meaning of ‘condemnation (‘penalty; punishment following condemnation, penal servitude’ – Strong) it is clear that Adam’s sin has resulted in condemnation for all and death for all. And it is clear that death for all is part of the punishment that we all deserve.

    In the debate Will stated that “God’s wrath isn’t linked in scripture to death in general – which makes sense, since the righteous die as well as the wicked, and the biblical authors are hardly likely to assert that when the righteous die (John the Baptist, say) that is God’s wrath falling on them.”

    But there is a difference between the death of the saved and the death of the unsaved. The unsaved die in their sins (John 8:21). The Christian’s life is ‘hidden with Christ in God’ and that life will never come to an end (John 8:51). Though justified in Christ and delivered from condemnation our ‘outward man’ retains the remnants of our fallen nature. God’s great salvation is a process punctuated by events( election, regeneration, justification, adoption, resurrection, glorification). A key part of that process is the daily renewal of the inner man while the outward man perishes. That perishing ends in the death of our mortal bodies which makes way for the ‘house not made by hands eternal in the heavens’ with which we greatly desire to be clothed. ‘Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants’ (Psalm 116:15).

    2 The appeasing of God’s anger and Old Testament sacrifices
    In Numbers 16:41-50 Moses tells Aaron to “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started.” The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.

    Burning coals from the altar, the place of sacrifice, avert the anger of God.

    The Hebrew word for ‘atonement’ here is kaphar

    In Numbers 25:3-13 Phinehas kills the Midainite woman and her Israelite lover and the plague stops. The LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”

    The Hebrew word for ‘atonement’ is also kaphar . The death of the man and the woman by the action of Phinehas averts the anger of God.

    According to STEP kaphar is used scores of times in the Hebrew Bible in connection with the sacrificial system. So whatever else the sacrifices achieve, the averting of God’s anger must be one of these achievements.

    For example:

    He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. (Leviticus 16:15-16)

    This is particularly significant because it brings together atonement (kaphar), atonement cover (mercy seat), and the sins of the people. This means that whether hilasterion in Romans 3:25 is translated ‘mercy seat’ or ‘propitiation’, we are still faced with the truth that the ritual is to symbolise the averting of God’s anger. Sending the live scapegoat into the wilderness is part of the atonement (kaphar) ritual, symbolising the forgiveness of sins which goes together with the averting of God’s anger.

    As Hebrews says, ‘It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins’ (Hebrews 10:4). Clearly the Old Testament ritual foreshadows the reality of the once for all self-offering of Christ. God does not change; the wrath which faces us all by nature needs to be averted.

    ‘Bright the vision that delighted once the sight of Judah’s seer…’ starts the hymn. Not so. Until Isaiah’s sin was purged (kaphar) by a live coal from the altar he was appalled at his own sin.

    3 Becoming a Curse on behalf of us, made Sin on behalf of us

    Galatians 3 develops a line of thought beginning with Paul’s rhetorical question in v2: ‘This only I wish to learn from you, by works of law the Spirit received ye or by hearing of faith?’ Then in verses 10-14

    ‘For as many as are of works of law are under a curse; for it has been written Accursed everyone who continues not in all the things having been written in the roll of the law to do them. Now that by law no man is justified before God [is] clear, because the just man by faith will live; and the law is not of faith, but the [one] doing them will live by them. Christ redeemed us out of the curse of the law becoming a curse on behalf of us, because it has been written: “Accursed everyone hanging on a tree”, in order that the blessing of Abraham might be to the nations in Jesus Christ, in order that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through the faith’

    The whole line of thought is about the Galatians and the law and how they received the Spirit. So the ‘us’ in ‘Christ redeemed us’ in verse 13 must include the Galatians, as must the ‘we’ in ‘that we might receive’ in verse 14. So the curse of the law hangs not just over Israel but over all mankind, as Romans: ‘But we know that whatever things the law says to the [ones] in the law it speaks, in order that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become under judgment to God’.

    The Old Testament passages are:

    ‘If a man guilty of a capital offence is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance’ Deuteronomy 21: 22-23.

    ‘Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out’ Deuteronomy 27:26

    ‘The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him’ Deuteronomy 28:20

    The man hung on a tree is under God’s curse because he is guilty of a capital offence and has been punished by death. The curse of the law, of failing to uphold the law, is the punishment of death. Christ becoming a curse on behalf of us, to redeem us, can only mean that he suffered the curse, our curse, the punishment which we as law-breakers deserve from God.

    ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

    The word for ‘reckoning’ is the same word used in Romans 4:3 and 4:24, righteousness reckoned to Abraham and to us. Not his own nor our own righteousness. The sin that Christ was made on behalf of us was not his own sin but ours, our sin which is inseparable from God’s deserved condemnation and holy anger.

    4 Strike the Shepherd, Passover, Passing by of sins having previously occurred in the forbearance of God, Luke 18:13.

    “Awake, sword, against my shepherd,
    against the man who is close to me!”
    declares the LORD Almighty.
    “Strike (na.khah) the shepherd,
    and the sheep will be scattered,
    and I will turn my hand against the little ones” (Zechariah 13:7)
    Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
    ‘I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ (Matthew 26:31)
    The LORD Almighty strikes the Shepherd with the sword. Clearly the Shepherd is Jesus. The sword is the sword of Judgment.
    In that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. (Exodus 12:12-13)

    God strikes (na.khah) the firstborn but passes over the Israelites because of the blood of the slain lamb
    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

    In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:25-26)

    Jesus is identified and identifies himself as the Passover Lamb

    …for a showing forth of the righteousness of him because of the passing by of the sins having previously occurred in the forbearance of God, for a showing forth of the righteousness of him in the present time, for the to be him just and justifying the[one] of faith of(in) Jesus (Romans 3:25-26).

    God sometimes delays the punishment that sinners deserve (passing by) knowing that Christ will pay the penalty on the cross. The tax-collector in Luke 18:13 is a case in point. ‘…just and justifying’. God always acts in a way that is faithful to who is and what he is like. At the cross God acts both in Mercy and Justice. And Justice for sinners means punishment.

    5 Isaiah 53

    There is a view that the New Testament, in quoting this passage as referring to Christ, carefully avoids the parts of this passage (53:6b, 53:10, 53:12) which have been used to support Penal Substitutionary Atonement. And this view has been coupled to the view that these parts of the prophecy refer to someone else. The convincing answers to that view are: the very structure of the passage makes it clear that it all about the same person; 1 Peter 2:24 has ‘by the bruise of whom ye were cured’ and ‘who himself carried up the sins of us in the body of him onto the tree’ which is quite close in meaning to Isaiah 53:6b. All of this prophecy is as true as the New Testament references to it. Any view that only the New Testament references are true sets the Testaments against one another.

    If all of Isaiah 53 refers to Christ, the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement cannot be avoided true.

    6 Bear, Carried Up, Offer up

    ‘And as it is reserved to men once to die, and after this judgment, so also Christ, once having been offered for the to bear sins of many, will appear a second time without sin to the[ones] expecting him for salvation’. (Hebrews 9:27-28).

    ‘who has not necessity daily, as the high priests, firstly on behalf of the(his) own sins sacrifices to offer up, then the[sins] of the people; for this he did once for all himself offering up’ (Hebrews 7:27)

    ‘who himself carried up the sins of us in the body of him onto the tree, in order that dying to sins we might live to righteousness; by the bruise of whom ye were cured’ (1 Peter 2:24)

    All these passages link sins to the death of Christ. They are explicit that the sins Christ bore, carried up, offered up, were our sins. In Romans Paul begins his description of the human sinful condition with 1:18 ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all impiety and unrighteousness of men…’. The main problem for us with our sin is that it incurs the anger of God against us. So all these references to sin carry with them the anger of God which is indissolubly linked with sin.

    7 Condemned sin in the flesh

    ‘For the impossible thing of the law, in which it was weak through the flesh, God sending the Son of himself in likeness of flesh of sin and concerning sin condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the ordinance of the law may be fulfilled in us the[ones] not according to flesh walking but according to Spirit’ (Romans 8:3)

    Conservative exegetes differ about what Paul means in this statement. John Murray thinks that ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ refers to the breaking of the powers of sin. I am not sure what Cranfield’s view is: pages 382-383 Volume 1 of his commentary.

    Schreiner: ‘The sacrificial death of the Son of God, therefore, was the means by which sin was condemned. He took upon himself the punishment that those who violated God’s law deserved’ (page 403)

    Moo: ‘The interpretation that best meets the criteria above sees the condemnation of sin to consist in God’s executing his judgment on sin in the atoning death of his Son. As our substitute, Christ “was made sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21) and suffered the wrath of God, the judgment of God upon that sin…’ (page 481)

    Lloyd-Jones: ‘The expression “for sin” carries in it the notion of ‘a sacrifice for sin’, which is the central teaching of the Apostle everywhere. This is the gospel in which he rejoices, that God has established the way of salvation for us by what He has done in the sacrifice of His Son, the one whom He has ‘set forth to be a propitiation’, as he has already told us in chapter 3, verses 25 and 26’

    I think Moo, Screiner and Lloyd-Jones are right; This view of the verse explains why in 8:1, ‘then there is now no condemnation to the[ones] in Christ Jesus’

    8 Most Holy Place, Death, Veil and Approaching Boldly

    Before:

    Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the LORD, (Exodus 30:20)

    The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. (Leviticus 16:2)

    The Levites, however, are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the covenant law so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the covenant law (Numbers 1:53)

    After:

    And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51)

    But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:11-14)

    Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16)

    We are not saved by our correct understanding of doctrine but by the truth of the doctrine. As I keep on saying, ‘objective-fact’ Christians’, known by God to be Christians, may be in error in what they wrongly believe and wrongly deny but are saved by the truth of what they wrongly deny.

    The terrible thing about the punitive anger of God is that, when our conscience is thoroughly awakened, we may realise that we deserve that punitive wrath because of our sins. To those thus thoroughly awakened (again, I am not saying that people not thus thoroughly awakened are not Christians) the truth that Christ bore that wrath enables us to come boldly, through the blood of Christ and in the Spirit with a clear conscience into the very presence of the holy, loving, merciful, just, living and terrible God.

    9 Reconciliation, Redemption, Victory, Defeat of Satan, Example

    All these key themes are part of a full account of Christ’s death and resurrection. The case I have tried to make acknowledges this. But the case is that the truth that Christ bore the punitive wrath of God is an essential component of that full account.

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison March 9, 2017 at 11:33 am #

      I agree with 99% of what Will said. His reply would be pretty much mine except I don’t have a problem with the literal transfer of our sin onto / into Christ and him becoming sin for us. When I say literal what I mean is that if God says and sees it as so, then it is objectively so. Christ offers himself as/for our sin and God accepts that. (I don’t think sin is some sort of substance “detaches itself” from us and goes on or in Jesus; it is our Badness — our selfishness and separation from God — and the responsibility / culpability we have for our waywardness under God’s holy justice.)

      However, this was a good point:

      “Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
      ‘I will strike the shepherd,
      and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ (Matthew 26:31, quoting Zech 3:17)

      You then add the gloss: “The LORD Almighty strikes the Shepherd with the sword.”

      Yes, except the point Jesus is making is that “This very night you will all fall away on account of me” i.e. the sheep will be scattered. It’s not about the shepherd being struck, much by whom (God, in the original quotation) but that they, the disciples, will be fall away and be scattered.

      Then you end with: “the truth that Christ bore the punitive wrath of God is an essential component of [a] full account” of the atonement. With respect, it isn’t. Which is probably why it isn’t in the Bible, either.

      As I keep saying: all the words and concepts are there in the Bible. It would have been easy for Paul or John or Mark or Luke or the writer to the Hebrews or Peter to have said something short and simple and straightforward along the lines you are arguing. But they don’t. Anywhere. Ever.

      Your post looks, as most forensic attempts to prove PSA from Scripture look, like a long exercise in making Scripture say what you already believe and/or want it to say. You can’t give a nice clear passage that proves it (not even one) so you cut-and-paste and juxtapose and construct a case from decontextualised snippets and gobbets.

    • Oliver Harrison March 9, 2017 at 11:36 am #

      I agree with 99% of what Will said. His reply would be pretty much mine except I don’t have a problem with the literal transfer of our sin onto / into Christ and him becoming sin for us. When I say literal what I mean is that if God says and sees it as so, then it is objectively so. Christ offers himself as/for our sin and God accepts that. (I don’t think sin is some sort of substance “detaches itself” from us and goes on or in Jesus; it is our Badness — our selfishness and separation from God — and the responsibility / culpability we have for our waywardness under God’s holy justice.)

      However, this was a good point:

      “Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
      ‘I will strike the shepherd,
      and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ (Matthew 26:31, quoting Zech 3:17)

      You then add the gloss: “The LORD Almighty strikes the Shepherd with the sword.”

      Yes, except the point Jesus is making is that “This very night you will all fall away on account of me” i.e. the sheep will be scattered. It’s not about the shepherd being struck, much less by whom (God, in the original quotation) but that they, the disciples, will be fall away and be scattered.

      Then you end with: “the truth that Christ bore the punitive wrath of God is an essential component of [a] full account” of the atonement. With respect, it isn’t. Which is probably why it isn’t in the Bible, either.

      As I keep saying: all the words and concepts are there in the Bible. It would have been easy for Paul or John or Mark or Luke or the writer to the Hebrews or Peter to have said something short and simple and straightforward along the lines you are arguing. But they don’t. Anywhere. Ever.

      Your post looks, as most forensic attempts to prove PSA from Scripture look, like a long exercise in making Scripture say what you already believe and/or want it to say. You can’t give a nice clear passage that proves it (not even one) so you cut-and-paste and juxtapose and construct a case from decontextualised snippets and gobbets.

      • Will Jones March 9, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

        Thanks Oliver.

        I’m just trying to understand your view here, please help.

        You say sin is ‘our Badness — our selfishness and separation from God — and the responsibility / culpability we have for our waywardness under God’s holy justice’. And you say this is literally transferred ‘onto/into Christ’, and that Christ literally ‘offers himself as our sin and God accepts that’.

        I just can’t get a handle on what this means. So does Christ actually, literally become selfish and culpable? Surely not – Christ was never selfish and was not culpable, and God does not regard him as such, either as a fiction (how could God believe a fiction?) or as a reality (we don’t think Christ actually became culpable for our sin, do we?). So what do you mean by our sin/badness/culpability was literally transferred to him? I just can’t get a clear idea of what this can mean.

        The only meaning I can get is that in suffering under the curse of sin to save us it was as though Christ was bearing our sins for us, as though he had become sin for the sake of our salvation. That is completely fine, and a very helpful idea – but the ‘as though’ takes the literalness out of it and removes the difficulty.

        • Oliver Harrison March 13, 2017 at 11:43 am #

          Hi Will, I think it means he bears / becomes our sin for us but how that happens I don’t know. It’s substitutionary and it satisfies God. Remember, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness– I’ve his faith put him right or in right standing with God without sacrifice and prior to the Law. Pax.

          • Will Jones March 14, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

            Thanks Oliver.

            I’ve been reflecting on this a bit, and I think you’re right that there is a dimension to the atonement that I’ve been neglecting. I still have a problem with the idea of transferring sins in any literal sense, just as I have a problem with the idea of transferring punishment (though for slightly different reasons). But I think you’re right to highlight the idea that God has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as a kind of satisfaction on the basis of which he forgives sin and withholds punishment.

            I was struggling with this because I understood Christ’s death as primarily part of God’s remedy for the curse of original sin. But this isn’t about being delivered from original sin but being delivered from the penalty for our ‘ordinary’ sinful behaviour, being forgiven. So now I’m thinking: is God free to decree the grounds on which he will show mercy here (while avoiding being arbitrary)? Thus in addition to Christ’s death and resurrection being the remedy for the curse (through union with him) has God decreed that he will show mercy (in terms of forgiveness and withholding punishment) to those who avail themselves of the remedy he has provided for original sin (through contrition and faith)? This is merciful without being arbitrary, since availing oneself of God’s remedy for original sin in Christ (through contrition and faith) is an objective basis for showing mercy for ordinary sin.

            The part that was confusing me was that Christ’s death seemed to be doing two things: curing original sin and providing ‘satisfaction’ for ordinary sin. And I couldn’t understand how it was doing the latter and how that related to the former. But my thought now is that God has by sovereign decree declared that those who share in the cure, in Christ, will also receive mercy – hence making Christ’s death function as a sacrifice of atonement or satisfaction, as well as a remedy for original sin. This also explains why Christ’s death is necessary (being a necessary part of the cure) and so God’s decree is not arbitrary, but grounded in the mechanism of salvation from the curse and original sin which he has established in Christ.

            I don’t think this is quite the same as what you’re saying. But perhaps it is closer and addresses some of the same concerns – such as explaining Abraham’s faith credit as also an expression of God’s sovereign mercy (the same could be said for the efficacy of OT sacrifices).

  28. Will Jones March 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

    Thank you, Philip, this is very thorough, and most interesting.

    I agree that Jesus’ death is a sacrifice of atonement, which I agree can be understood as (in a sense) turning away God’s wrath from those who are in Christ. Since humankind is under God’s wrath and condemnation, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus those who are in Christ are spared that wrath and punishment, it is difficult to deny this, and not really desirable I don’t think (though Oliver might disagree?). You helpfully show some of the OT examples of atonement.

    I think we need to be careful though about what exactly is going on in these sacrifices of atonement. The Bible uses lots of images and metaphors for what is going on drawn from a variety of contexts, and they aren’t all literal – they can’t be, they contain contradictory elements. The heart of my disagreement with you is that you want to take literally pictures which are better understood metaphorically, and which if understood literally contradict one another and throw up logical, ethical and theological problems.

    Consider, to begin with, the OT stories of God’s wrath breaking out and being turned away by animal sacrifices or the execution of lawbreakers. In the case of animal sacrifices, we know from Hebrews that animal sacrifices are not in fact efficacious for taking away sins (and so presumably only worked here because of God’s decree). But in any case there is no suggestion here (or anywhere in the OT) that the sacrifice works by diverting God’s wrath or exhausting it or satisfying it on the sacrifice. So it does not assist your argument for this mechanism – which is the crux of our disagreement.

    Likewise with the execution of the lawbreakers by Phinehas – the mechanism here is presumably the removal of the offending parties, restoring peace with God, rather than any sense in which the wrath of God is diverted onto or exhausted on them.

    I accept that the NT speaks of Jesus bearing the sins of many, and bearing sins in his body, and becoming sin for us. My point is that this needs to be understood as a picture of what is going on and that there are significant problems in understanding it literally. The most obvious problem is that it is only one of a number of pictures, which include most prominently ideas of a sacrifice of atonement (which is a different picture – a sacrifice of atonement doesn’t involve the idea of a transfer of sins to the animal or object sacrificed), ransoming captives, and redeeming slaves. These pictures are mutually exclusive in their mechanisms: bearing sins pictures sins being transferred, atonement pictures anger being appeased by a sacrificial offering, ransom pictures a payment being made to an enemy, and redemption pictures a payment being made to a legitimate slave owner.

    Your theory of punishment transfer only works with the first, the transfer of sins. I suggest, though, that there are logical, ethical and theological problems with taking this picture literally, just as there are with taking the other pictures literally (I assume we agree that pictures of ransom and redemption are not literal). In particular, there is a logical problem with the idea of transferring sins, since this imagines sins as something detachable from the agent and transferrable to another, but that is not what sins are like, since they are our actions and thoughts and thus cannot be detached from us. But even if they could, this would mean that Jesus actually becomes guilty (assuming the sins are actually transferred, which is what your mechanism requires) and so is now justly punished – which is contrary to scripture and sound theology, and also doesn’t explain why he was then raised to life. This mechanism would also seem to imply universalism, since if God’s wrath is satisfied on Christ, why does God still need to punish anyone else? I suggest, then, that the image of bearing sins must, like the pictures of redemption and ransom, be understood metaphorically and not literally (and who can doubt that it is as though Jesus bore our sins, for he is the great substitute who suffered on our behalf in order to rescue us from the coming wrath).

    In trying to make this picture literal you find yourself having to assert things which scripture does not assert, such as that Jesus was being punished by God, suffering God’s wrath, receiving the punishment we are due, and satisfying God’s wrath – but these phrases or their equivalents are notably missing from scripture. You infer these ideas from pictures such as bearing sins, becoming sin, and the striking of the shepherd – but to make this the basic mechanism, as you wish to, you really need a straightforward scriptural statement of your idea, not an inference from a picture.

    What you say about humanity being under God’s condemnation due to sin, and death being the penalty for that is correct (though I think Oliver might demur here, he often prefers to speak in terms of consequences). But that doesn’t imply that Christ’s death is to be understood as a transfer of God’s wrath to Christ in order to exhaust or satisfy it. It just means that humankind has, justly, been placed in a fallen, condemned or accursed state (subject to God’s anger) from which they need rescuing. The question we are discussing is how God has done that. We know all the pictures scripture uses to explain this, but these are not all consistent (since they are pictures). What we are trying to ascertain is the actual, literal mechanism by which this is achieved. I contend that punishment transfer is no better than other non-literal pictures such as redemption and ransom in terms of logic, theology and ethics.

    The true mechanism is that Christ by becoming human became subject to the curse under which humanity has been placed, and thus became subject to suffering and death which were the penalty for sin even though he was without sin. By suffering and dying as a man and then, because innocent and divine, rising to life, he became the one who in whom, through union with him, humanity could find its fallen state transformed, and suffering and death even become the means to a greater sharing in the glory of Christ. Christ rescues us from the condemnation, the curse and the wrath by being the one who is God who has become man and overcome death, and to whom we can be united (this is a spiritual reality created by God) and so, by sharing in his suffering, share in his glory.

    You probably agree this is literally true. I imagine that you just think it is missing something, because it also needs something about how it has taken away God’s wrath, and so needs some kind of wrath transfer mechanism. I just don’t think it does though. I think it is complete as it is, and also that it fairly reflects biblical teaching on the matter. I don’t think scripture says or implies the need for wrath or punishment transfer. And I think there are logical, ethical and theological problems with any account of that. So I think we can just accept this mechanism of spiritual union with Christ (God become man, who died and rose again) as sufficient, and the rest as auxiliary pictures to aid comprehension and engagement with the heart.

  29. Oliver Harrison March 18, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    Hi Will,

     “God has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as […] satisfaction […] the basis of which he forgives sin and withholds punishment.”

    Is pretty much a perfect statement, imho. The good news of the gospel and a Biblical account of the atonement.

    As for God being arbitrary – well, no, that is a perjortaive term. But there is the mystery of election / predestination vs human (free) will and God’s sovereign / permissive will. These are matters too deep for me. “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated” (Rom 9:13) etc.

    You use the word “mercy” a lot and that’s good but I’ve been thinking about how Paul used the term “righteous” – i.e. Christ’s blood makes us right with God – that’s another aspect to this.

    I like your differential between Sin and sins – the former as our fallen, cursed state under God’s wrath as children of Adam (“original sin”) and the latter our culpable waywardness. I think (but I may be wrong) that Jesus alludes to that in Jn 13:10 (“You’ve had a bath so you are clean, although you may still need to wash your feet.”) We’re saved from the cosmic curse and anger of God AND from the smaller but no less deadly sins of self-will for which we are responsible. Not there is necessarily a clear cut difference – perhaps the two mesh and the former causes the latter while the latter entrenches the former.

    • Will Jones March 19, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

      Thanks Oliver. This has been very useful for me – I feel like I’ve come to a deeper understanding of the atonement.

      I wonder if Phil will reply to our response, or whether he’s given up on us as a lost cause!

      Incidentally we sang In Christ Alone this morning, and the wrath line stuck in my throat a little. I thought, what about if it was changed to “On the cross as Jesus died/ The wrath of God was turned aside/ For every sin on him a laid…”? Keeps the reference to wrath but drops the PSA. What do you think?

      • Will Jones March 19, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

        *was laid

        • Oliver Harrison March 19, 2017 at 10:16 pm #

          “On the cross as Jesus died/ The wrath of God was turned aside/ For every sin on him a laid”

          Yes that works fine. God did not vent his anger on his son (the plain way of saying “satisfy his wrath”) but the cause of God’s anger — our sin — was dealt with by Christ (and by God in / as Christ).

          And yet evangelicals of all people believe that. Evangelicals who pride themselves on knowing the Scriptures, on being Bible-based, believe this appalling and abhorrent rubbish. They can’t find it anywhere in the NT so they infer and decontextualise and appeal to authority and so on.

          But it isn’t in the Bible. Anywhere. Ever. And that’s a fact.

  30. Philip Almond March 21, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

    Will and Oliver
    I am not giving anyone up as a ‘lost cause’. My delay in responding is because I have stated my case and had decided to leave it to God to persuade you if I am right or confirm you in your stance if I am wrong. However Will’s prompt persuades me to respond.

    At the start of my Philip Almond March 7, 2017 at 4:43 pm post I had a section ‘Assumed Common Ground’. I’m sorry if you have already given your view on this but it would be helpful to me to have it explicitly confirmed before continuing the discussion.

    I think, but I am not sure, that we are all agreed with the part of the assumed common ground from ‘We all personally face…’ to ‘…that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is true’.
    Is that right please?

    I think, but I am not sure, that neither Will nor Oliver agree that regardless of the parts of that chapter quoted in the New Testament the whole of Isaiah 53 is about the death and resurrection of Christ.
    Is that right please?
    In fairness I should point out: if the whole chapter (Isaiah 53) is about the death and resurrection of Christ, I regard Isaiah 53 as a significant support for my case.

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison March 21, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

      Phil – your points numbers 1-3 and my interspersed answers (1a, 2a, 3a)

      1.) “I think, but I am not sure, that we are all agreed with the part of the assumed common ground from ‘We all personally face…’ to ‘…that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is true’. Is that right please?”

      1a.) Phil, yes, I think so.

      2.) “I think, but I am not sure, that neither Will nor Oliver agree that regardless of the parts of that chapter quoted in the New Testament the whole of Isaiah 53 is about the death and resurrection of Christ.
      Is that right please?”

      2a.) Phil, I can’t speak for Will but my use of Isaiah 53 in relation to the suffering and death of Christ is restricted to only the parts that are quoted in the NT. That’s not my limit, that’s the Bible’s limited use of that chapter.

      3.) “In fairness I should point out: if the whole chapter (Isaiah 53) is about the death and resurrection of Christ, I regard Isaiah 53 as a significant support for my case.”

      3a.) Phil, only “significant”? It would be downright conclusive if the authors of the NT had used the parts of Is 53 that support your case. But, as you know full well, they don’t. And so the NT never ever says that Jesus was punished by anyone or for anyone. You know it and so do I, hence your need to pull in parts of Isaiah 53 that the NT itself does not use.

      It is, however, true that parts of that chapter do indeed seem to be about someone who is punished on behalf of or in place of others. But the New Testament’s use of various verses from Isaiah 53 is very careful (one might even say selective) and never even comes close to implying that this was the case with Christ. In fact, it’s striking just how careful the New Testament writers (John, Paul, Matthew, Luke and Peter) are in their use of Isaiah 53, given how extensively they refer to it. They never even quote the ‘punishment’ texts, much less apply them to the cross. And if they (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) didn’t, then perhaps we ought not either. The New Testament writers clearly knew the ‘punishment’ parts of Isaiah 53 (verses 4b, 5, 6 & 10) and they knew of the crucifixion, yet they never make any connection between the two. In fact, those verses are delicately danced around, with the verses either side of them being quoted in full. There is a marked refusal to cite the verses about him being punished for us.

      Being generous, Isaiah 53:6 is strongly alluded to in 1 Peter 2:24-25 but without the bit about the Lord laying on him the iniquity of us all – i.e. without any hint of punishment. Rather, it is reworked as Christ taking upon himself the iniquity of us all. Notice the difference: no one lays anything on him; he takes it upon himself. That is a small but very significant detail that changes everything: here, Christ is not the one on whom God lays the sin of the world. Rather, Christ is God taking (and taking away) all our sin.

    • Will Jones March 21, 2017 at 9:32 pm #

      Hi Phil, good to hear from you.

      To answer your questions.
      1) Yes it is common ground – except that I take e.g. 1Peter 4:17, 2Cor 5:10, 1Cor 3:15 (and numerous others) to imply that Christians can still be subject to God’s judgement and anger, albeit in a different way than those outside Christ (being under grace). I take the no condemnation to be an eschatological reality of which we have a foretaste now through our inclusion in Christ.

      2) I think Isaiah 53 is about Christ – though it is interesting that not all of it quite fits, for example verses 2-3 seem to describe a man unpopular throughout his life and subject to sickness and suffering, but Jesus of course was hugely popular and is not described as getting sick or suffering aside from at the end in his passion (v4 even implies his sickness was a carrying of our sickness). But in any case I don’t think all the ideas there are to be taken literally. As I said in my response above, the Bible uses many images for Christ’s death and atonement which it states in literal terms, but since they are mutually exclusive they cannot all be taken literally in all their aspects. So I take the New Testament use of Isaiah 53 to be directive in how to understand it, and how not to understand it, and I agree with Oliver that the avoidance of the most direct penal aspects is deliberate and significant. I also think it is significant that v8 says ‘By a perversion of justice he was taken away’, since God cannot carry out a perversion of justice. My own view is that Jesus was of course being punished on the cross, but by men, not by God, and it was a perversion of justice, not a righteous act. The Isaiah 53 language of the Lord laying the punishment on him is to be understood in the sense of Christ’s saving death being in God’s will, and the suffering (which was a punishment, though from men) being a necessary part of it being effective, so that God does will it. The idea of it being God doing the punishing though is an image, and deliberately not repeated in the New Testament to avoid unhelpful ideas like PSA becoming prominent (note that PSA was not a mainstream view until the Reformation).

      • Oliver Harrison March 22, 2017 at 11:33 am #

        I think I agree with everything Will says here in his reply to Phil.

        By the way, I hear Christians say “Jesus was punished for our sins” but I also hear them say “money is the root of all evil” and “love your neighbour as you love yourself” (both wrong, of course: all the right words but in the right order. Take the second “love” out of the second statement and put it at the front of the first statement thus: the “love of money is the root of all evil” and “love your neighbour as yourself”. Small but vital differences. Yet when I hear Reformed preachers say “Jesus was punished for our sins” I think they really should know better . . . . )

        Anyway, I think I’m all done here. Phil: read the NT. I can’t give you any more than that.

        Over and out.

        Pax

  31. Philip Almond March 21, 2017 at 8:21 pm #

    Oliver
    Thanks for your prompt response. I will await Will’s response before responding.
    Phil

  32. Philip Almond March 22, 2017 at 7:27 pm #

    Will and Oliver
    I am working on a thorough response to your posts since my March 7 post but this post is only to respond to your replies to my question about common ground and Isaiah 53.

    Oliver has stated, ‘I think I agree with everything Will says here in his reply to Phil’, referring I presume to Wills post Will Jones March 21, 2017 at 9:32 pm. Comparing Wills post with Olivers post Oliver Harrison March 21, 2017 at 7:42 pm, it seems to me that there are significant differences between them.

    On a February 13 post this exchange took place:
    Me:
    “You have not addressed my point, which I think Christopher has made on the other thread, that Isaiah 53 is a true prophecy and, whether it is all quoted by the NT or not, has all been fulfilled by the death of Christ. That is part of my case. The alternatives are either that some of it is not true or that some of it has yet to be fulfilled. Can you support either of those alternatives?”

    Oliver:
    ‘Prophecies might have multiple “horizons” — some of Isaiah 53 might have been fulfilled before Christ, some by Christ and some maybe yet to come. All or any of those can overlap of course with multiple fulfilments.’

    Oliver’s Oliver Harrison March 21, 2017 at 7:42 pm post says, ‘Phil, only “significant”? It would be downright conclusive if the authors of the NT had used the parts of Is 53 that support your case.’From which I deduce that Olivers view is that those parts of Isaiah that support my case do not refer to Christ. So, assuming that Olivers view is that the whole chapter is part of the wholly trustworthy word of God, either ‘those parts’ have already been fulfilled by someone else (not Christ) or they will be fulfilled in the future by someone else (not Christ). That means that either in the past or in the future the LORD will lay on someone (not Christ) the iniquity of us all. Is that a true summary of your view, Oliver?

    Oliver also says:
    ‘Being generous, Isaiah 53:6 is strongly alluded to in 1 Peter 2:24-25 but without the bit about the Lord laying on him the iniquity of us all – i.e. without any hint of punishment. Rather, it is reworked as Christ taking upon himself the iniquity of us all. Notice the difference: no one lays anything on him; he takes it upon himself. That is a small but very significant detail that changes everything: here, Christ is not the one on whom God lays the sin of the world. Rather, Christ is God taking (and taking away) all our sin’.

    I reply: ‘For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Don’t you agree that the ‘he’ in ‘he hath made…’ is God? In carrying up our sins in his body onto the tree (1 Peter 2:24) Christ was obeying his Father: ‘Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which has given me the Father, by no means shall I drink it?’ The cup which he prayed, if it were possible, would pass from him; ‘yet not as I will but as thou’. What was in that cup?

    On the other hand, Will, if I understand him aright, agrees that the whole of Isaiah is about Christ (though he raises an issue about verses 2-4 which I might try to answer eventually). But Will, partly agreeing with Oliver, distinguishes between the parts of the chapter quoted in the NT and the parts that are not – the latter not to be taken literally. Will is saying ‘Jesus was of course being punished on the cross, but by men, not by God, and it was a perversion of justice, not a righteous act’ and that ‘It pleased the LORD to bruise him’ and ‘The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ are to be understood ‘in the sense of Christ’s saving death being in God’s will, and the suffering (which was a punishment, though from men) being a necessary part of it being effective, so that God does will it’.

    See my remarks to Oliver above. Crucifixion is an agonising death. But in describing Christ’s Passion the New Testament emphasises being made sin by God, becoming a curse on behalf of us, drinking the cup which the Father had given him.

    Will also said:
    ‘As I said in my response above, the Bible uses many images for Christ’s death and atonement which it states in literal terms, but since they are mutually exclusive they cannot all be taken literally in all their aspects’.
    I don’t think they are mutually exclusive and hope to comment on that in my next post. Also, I perceive that the phrase ‘literally’ is significant in this exchange – I hope to say something about that next time. I also plan to comment on Will’s remarks about common ground.

    Phil

  33. Philip Almond March 22, 2017 at 7:57 pm #

    Recently I read Tom Wright’s ‘The Cross and the Caricatures’ for the first time. Of course, Tom may have modified his views since he wrote it (perhaps you will point this out if he has) in which case the quotes below lose their significance. I certainly would not agree with all in the article but I was surprised and pleased to read the following: (I don’t think I am quoting out of context but you may correct me if I am)

    In criticising an article by Jeffrey John, Tom does write:

    “That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song ‘In Christ alone my hope is found’, and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’.”

    But goes on to write:

    What does he (Jeffrey John) make of the explicit statement – this, I think, is as clear as it gets in Paul – in Romans 8.3, where Paul says explicitly that God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ? Paul does not say that God condemned Jesus; rather, that he condemned sin; but the place where sin was condemned was precisely in the flesh of Jesus, and of Jesus precisely as the Son sent from the Father. And this, we remind ourselves, is the heart of the reason why there is now ‘no condemnation’ for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8.1).

    Or what account does Dr John give of Romans 3.24–26? Here, whatever we may think about the notorious hilasterion (‘propitiation’? ‘expiation’? ‘mercy-seat’?), in the preceding section of the letter (1.18—3.20) God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and wickedness, and by the end of the passage, in accordance with the ‘justice’ of God, those who were formerly sinners and under God’s wrath are now justified freely by grace through faith. To put it somewhat crudely, the logic of the whole passage makes it look as though something has happened in the death of Jesus through which the wrath of God has been turned away. It is on this passage that Charles E. B. Cranfield, one of the greatest English commentators of the last generation, wrote a memorable sentence which shows already that the caricature Dr John has offered was exactly that:

    We take it that what Paul’s statement that God purposed Christ as a propitiatory victim means is that God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved. (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. 2 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark; vol. 1, 1975, p. 217.)

    And:

    “In particular, the early Christians were clear that Jesus’ death was to be understood in terms of Isaiah 53, and they were equally clear that this was not a new idea they were wishing back on Jesus. ‘The Son of Man,’ he said, ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10.45). These words – which many have of course been unwilling to credit to Jesus precisely because of the frantic attempt to prevent him alluding to Isaiah 53 – capture the very heart of that great chapter, and as I and others have argued elsewhere it is extremely likely, historically, that he made that entire section of the book of Isaiah thematic for his self-understanding.

    Ironically, Dr John himself alludes to Isaiah 53 at the end of his talk, suggesting that Jesus ‘bears our griefs and shares our sorrows’, without realising that if you get one part of Isaiah 53 you probably get the whole thing, and with it not only a substitutionary death but a penal substitutionary death, yet without any of the problems that the caricature would carry:

    He was wounded for our transgressions
    and bruised for our iniquities;
    upon him was the punishment that brought us peace
    and with his stripes we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    We have turned every one to his own way;
    And YHWH has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
    (Isaiah 53.5–6.)

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison March 22, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

      Re the Tom Wright stuff: I suspect his latest book (“The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion”) is closer to my position / further from your position but I’ve only read reviews of it so far, not the thing itself.

      NTW is wrong about this though: “in Romans 8.3 where Paul says explicitly that God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ? Paul does not say that God condemned Jesus; rather, that he condemned sin; but the place where sin was condemned was precisely in the flesh of Jesus, and of Jesus precisely as the Son sent from the Father.” No, Romans 8:3 only says that “that he condemned sin in the flesh” NOT “in the flesh of Jesus”. Look at the Greek if you don’t believe me.

      As for you (Phil) saying “I deduce that Olivers view is that those parts of Isaiah that support my case do not refer to Christ.” Correct. I have made that point repeated and can do no better than say what I said before: “Prophecies might have multiple “horizons” — some of Isaiah 53 might have been fulfilled before Christ, some by Christ and some maybe yet to come. All or any of those can overlap of course with multiple fulfilment.”

      As for you (Phil) saying about the cup (“Christ was obeying his Father: ‘Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which has given me the Father, by no means shall I drink it?’ The cup which he prayed, if it were possible, would pass from him; ‘yet not as I will but as thou’. What was in that cup?”) Well, whatever was in that cup (suffering according to John 18:11) the disciples were going to drink from it, too, sooner or later (Matt 20:23 & Mark 10:39)

    • Will Jones March 22, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

      Hi Phil.

      Is this the full response or should we expect more?

      I agree with: ‘Something has happened in the death of Jesus through which the wrath of God has been turned away.’ The question is what.

      The problem with this: ‘We take it that what Paul’s statement that God purposed Christ as a propitiatory victim means is that God…purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.’ is that the NT doesn’t say this, so why do we take it as that? If Paul meant that why didn’t he say it? Apart from anything else, propitiatory sacrifices in the OT were not understood as a transfer of wrath or punishment. They were a peace offering to the deity and accepted by him as the basis on which he would withhold judgement. It’s quite different.

      But what does Paul say? He says: ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.’ Not by being punished by God.

      Also, the word or concept of ransom does not appear in Isaiah 53. So why would Mark 10:45 be an allusion to Isaiah 53?

      Ideas are being connected here which are in the mind of the commentator but not in scripture. Remember: PSA was not a mainstream view of the atonement until the Reformation (I’d be happy to be informed of the actual time when it came into mainstream usage; I know it features in the Westminster Catechism).

      You have to take the images deployed in Isaiah 53 in the context of all the images used in the Bible, and especially the OT. You need to give more weight to the fact that the most PSA friendly ideas are not repeated in the NT, while other ideas (not in Isaiah 53) are. You need to get away from the idea that Isaiah 53 is the sole key to understanding the atonement. If it was the NT wouldn’t use lots of imagery from elsewhere, especially ransom imagery, redemption imagery, and spiritual union imagery. Your fixation with Isaiah 53 is why we disagree.

      • Oliver Harrison March 22, 2017 at 9:02 pm #

        What Phil said +1

        • Oliver Harrison March 22, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

          I meant Will, not Phil. I’m losing the Will to Phil this thread up with any more replies! 🙂

      • Will Jones March 22, 2017 at 10:11 pm #

        *and especially the NT (correction to above)

  34. Philip Almond March 22, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

    Will

    You said:

    ‘You need to get away from the idea that Isaiah 53 is the sole key to understanding the atonement’

    I don’t believe it is the sole key.

    And you said:

    ‘Is this the full response or should we expect more?’

    I plan to post again as I said.

    Oliver

    I will have to read Tom Wright’s latest book to see if he has moved away from ‘Caricatures’.

    Romans 8:3 says:

    ‘For the impossible thing of the law, in which it was weak through the flesh, God sending the Son of himself, in the likeness of flesh of sin and concerning sin condemned sin in the flesh’

    In whose flesh did God condemn sin? In the flesh of Jesus, who came in the likeness of sinful flesh.

    I take your point about the cup.

    Oliver: Are you agreeing that ‘That (your view of Isaiah 53) means that either in the past or in the future the LORD will lay on someone (not Christ) the iniquity of us all’.

    Will: what do you think that of this possibility?

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison March 23, 2017 at 8:05 am #

      Phil:

      1 Question: “In whose flesh did God condemn sin? In the flesh of Jesus, who came in the likeness of sinful flesh.”

      1 Answer: You say so. Paul doesn’t. Me? I’ll stick with Paul. Again: read what the NT says not what you want it to say. But let’s say you’re right and sin is condemned in the flesh of Jesus: is Jesus condemned? No, sin is. And is condemned the same as punished? I don’t think so. So even your wonky reading does nothing to further your case.

      2 Question: “Are you agreeing that [. . .] either in the past or in the future “the LORD will lay on someone (not Christ) the iniquity of us all’.”?

      2 Answer: Well, it depends on who / what “all” means. It can mean “all” at particular time / place or “all” of a subset. See Paul’s use of it in 1 Cor 15:22 — “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” That second “all” is usually taken to mean “all in Christ”, although a universalist reading (where all means all) is a very viable option. As for the bit in Isaiah I don’t see why it couldn’t refer to Jesus (whom God made sin, after all) and/or to others or another but the NT never uses it about Christ. But I’m not saying that therefore necessarily rules out a Christological interpretation.

      I can only keep repeating what I have already said: read the NT. If you can find any passage where it says Jesus was punished by God for our sins then show and share it. But we both know it’s not there.

      Frankly, Phil, this is getting embarrassing. Huge parts of the NT are explicitly about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The models and metaphors are many, manifold and myriad. The implications, consequences and ramifications are truly cosmic and transcendent as well as intimate and immanent. And yet for all those wonderful words in the gospels and epistles there is no mention of Jesus being punished by God for our sins. Never. Ever. Anywhere.

      That the simple fact which you are unwilling to face. So you cast your net wider and make the mesh finer to try and find some text that supports your case *but it isn’t there*.

      And that is a fact. I’m sorry that you seem determined to believe in something the Bible doesn’t teach but you do and that is your problem, not mine. I can’t prove a negative, I can only keep on dismissing your increasingly barrel-scraping attempts to bend the Bible to your beliefs.

    • Will Jones March 23, 2017 at 11:17 am #

      I think that it is referring to Christ: God laid on Christ the iniquity of us all. And Christ bore our sins in his flesh on the tree. And he was made sin for us. And the punishment that brought us peace was upon him. And by his wounds we are healed.

      And he gave his life as a ransom for many. And he redeemed us by his blood. And he is the propitiatory sacrifice presented by God for the sins of the world.

      I don’t deny any of these statements about Christ. But I take them to be employing imagery some of which is figurative, not literal – I don’t think he was actually paying a ransom or redemption to anyone, I don’t think sins were actually transferred to him in any metaphysical sense, and I don’t think God was actually punishing him (though men were) – you see it’s not just that image that I’m not taking literally, there’s elements of all of them that I’m saying, look, that’s a picture, it’s not literal, it’s figurative. The reason the ransom is not literal is because Jesus’ death was not a payment to, say, the devil to free his captives, and the reason the Isaiah 53 characterisation of God punishing Jesus is not literal is because God does not punish the innocent, neither does he need to in order to spare the guilty – that would, in Isaiah’s own terms, be a perversion of justice. The truth is much more subtle, and involves the spiritual entry of the Son of God into the fallen and cursed condition of humanity in order to share in it and glorify it and thus create a new spiritual reality for a new creation and new humanity in himself. That is the literal truth, and it is the primary image which the NT uses for salvation – you are in Christ, joined to Christ, clothed with Christ, sharers in his suffering and resurrection.

      Besides, you’re not actually quoting the most perspicuous verse for your argument anyway. That is v10: ‘Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.’ That is the clearest statement of the idea that it is God who is inflicting the pain, that he is the agent of the punishment in v5. As I say, I understand this figuratively (though I do think it was God’s will that Christ suffers, obviously, because it was necessary for salvation). And I think this verse is a very flimsy base (and not one quoted in the NT) on which to build a theory of the atonement. Stick to the images from the NT, and avoid taking literally, and making the foundation of your theory, unquoted portions of Isaiah 53.

  35. Philip Almond March 23, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    Oliver

    I am puzzled by your:
    ‘As for the bit in Isaiah I don’t see why it couldn’t refer to Jesus (whom God made sin, after all) and/or to others or another but the NT never uses it about Christ. But I’m not saying that therefore necessarily rules out a Christological interpretation’.

    By ‘Christological’ interpretation are you now saying that ‘the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ might be true of Jesus even though the NT does not say this? In the light of your previous ‘Phil, only “significant”? It would be downright conclusive if the authors of the NT had used the parts of Is 53 that support your case’ I am puzzled. Could you clarify please. I have more to say about Romans 8:3 etc in future posts.

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison March 23, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

      Yes, the part is Isaiah about the Lord laying the sin of all him (53:6b) is congruent with the what the NT says about Jesus. So although it is not actually quoted in the NT it seems to fit. So it may be about Jesus. Or not. I’m open to either option and easy either way.

      Parts of Is 53 *are* quoted in the NT and so they therefore *are* about Jesus. Other parts of Is 53 seem not to fit with what the NT says and/or are not quoted (or vice versa, if you see what I mean).

      But for safety’s sake let’s stick to parts that the NT quotes. That, after all, is the parameter set for us.

      Anyway regarding 53:6b it’s moot as I don’t think that verse *is* cited in the NT.

      Romans 8:3 is very difficult verse. I don’t think it’s a helpful place to start and is poor bolthole of last resort in which to go to earth among the tangled roots of Paul’s syntax and etymology. I’m not sure up I’m to exegeting that text and, with respect, I’m not sure you are either.

  36. Philip Almond March 23, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

    Oliver
    OK. But if it is about Jesus you have posted that it is ‘downright conclusive’ for my case. Or are you withdrawing that view?

    ‘But for safety’s sake let’s stick to parts that the NT quotes. That, after all, is the parameter set for us’ Set for us by whom? As far as I am concerned the whole Bible is the parameter set for us.

    As I have already stated, there are differing views on 8:3 – see section 7 of my 7 March post. As I see it, we are all called to scrutinise the text as carefully and as humbly as we can, comparing our conclusions with that of others, including scholars, and ready to be humbled and proved wrong. But at the end of the day, deciding in conscience before God what the text means for faith and life – the right, duty and necessity (J.C. Ryle) of private judgment.

    I plan to say more on 8:3 in another post.

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison March 23, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

      Q1. “But if it is about Jesus you have posted that it is ‘downright conclusive’ for my case. Or are you withdrawing that view?”

      A1. No, I didn’t say that. I said “it would be downright conclusive if the authors of the NT had used the parts of Is 53 that support your case.” (And they don’t.)

      Q2. ‘But for safety’s sake let’s stick to parts that the NT quotes. That, after all, is the parameter set for us’ Set for us by whom? As far as I am concerned the whole Bible is the parameter set for us.

      A2. OK, fine, then you’ve no need to get all forensic on Romans. Just use Isaiah 53 and walk away, job done.

      Re “differing views on Romans 8:3” You’ve already said “Conservative exegetes differ about what Paul means in this statement.” Blimey, if those of the same school and strip disagree what of the wider field? That basically proves my point about it being a difficult text. I think it comes as the answer or resolution to Rom 7 and needs its context; then there is the verse itself, which is far from easy.

      • Will Jones March 23, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

        Even if you include Isaiah 53 I think you still have to take account of figurative language. The NT speaks directly of Christ as a redemption and a ransom, but none of us, including Phil, think that there is a literal redemption or ransom being paid to anyone. It’s figurative language. The same goes for punishment (and I would say for Christ bearing sins, but I know we disagree on that). God has laid our sins on Christ and crushed him with the punishment that brings us peace. This is no less figurative language than saying Christ has given his life as a ransom payment to whoever is holding us captive, or as a redemption price to whoever has enslaved us.

        Having said this, I agree with Oliver that the fact that the most penal parts of Isaiah 53 are not quoted directly in the NT should be regarded as significant for how helpful those pictures are deemed for accessing the reality.

        • Oliver Harrison March 23, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

          Will, I hear what you say here: “none of us, including Phil, think that there is a literal redemption or ransom being paid to anyone.” Yes and no: it’s a metaphor but not entirely . . . If sin is a debt and Jesus pas our debt, then. . . And forgiveness means a creditor cancelling a debtor’s outstanding balance at his own expense. The economic metaphors are so good precisely because they combine justice AND mercy. It might be better to think of justice as foundational and social interactions (inc. economics) based on that divine attribute.

          So when speak of forgiving a debt or redeeming a voucher we are not using economic language but ethical ideas of justice and mercy and making things right and balanced and fair.

          I guess what I am saying is that justice (and mercy) existed before money or anything else; they are aspects of who God is. That they then run through creation like letters though a stick of rock is hardly surprising; even this corrupted cosmos has it’s maker’s marks and we carry his DNA.

          It’s the same with, e.g., “Father” — God is the first and perfect dad, the pre-existent, divine ideal. All other fathers are more or less bad copies of the one true and eternal, the good father.

          It’s not that ransom or father or shepherd are figurative, metaphorical language for God’s attributes and actions it’s rather than every ransom, father, shepherd etc is a small, imperfect reflection or image of one or more facets of God.

          • Will Jones March 23, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

            I don’t think we’re going to agree here. I take economic imagery to be figurative and you take it to be a reflection of the divine economy.

            I guess I can kind of go along with what you’re saying. I know that our sin stands like a charge against us and God needs some basis on which to justify forgiving it and withholding punishment from us, so sin is like a ‘debt’ to God. And I know that he has decreed that that basis is Christ’s death (or rather our participation in Christ, which includes in his death), and so it is like Christ’s death or blood has ‘paid’ our debt. And I know that Jesus himself particularly favoured economic imagery, including in the Lord’s prayer – though ideas of debt payment are oddly absent from Pauline theology and the rest of the NT (unless you take redemption imagery to relate to slavery caused by indebtedness).

            But I just struggle to take this literally. A debt is something you incur if you borrow money, or if you use services, or if you cause harm to someone which is translated into a financial cost or fee. So are you suggesting that God translates our offence into a ‘financial’ harm, which can be resolved by a fee or fine of blood/death, and then provides Christ as the blood/death to pay the fee/fine? I just can’t quite get this to be literal – except in the sense I give above. If that’s essentially what you mean then we agree. But if it isn’t then I don’t think I can follow you.

            Also, a debt isn’t really the same as a ransom or redemption – though they are all economic/financial images.

  37. Will Jones March 23, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

    Phil, can I interrogate your view a little?

    You state above that you are not a universalist. So can you explain why, if God has satisfied his wrath on human sin in Christ, why he still will punish many people after death? If Christ’s death is about God redirecting (venting?) the anger he must show on sin to Christ (having transferred all of humanity’s sin to Christ) why are some people still subject to judgement and wrath for their sin? Hasn’t it been transferred to/exhausted on/satisfied in Christ? If the whole purpose is to satisfy justice in God’s expression of anger, why does he punish the unsaved twice – once transferred to Christ and once direct to them? If this is the mechanism, why doesn’t it require universalism? If the wrath of God has been satisfied in Christ, why is it still active?

  38. Philip Almond March 23, 2017 at 8:48 pm #

    I plan to reply to both Will and Oliver tomorrow (Friday)
    Phil Almond

  39. Oliver Harrison March 23, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

    Will — re figurative / metaphorical language: yes, I agree with you. How to speak of sin, salvation etc without concrete images or familiar analogies?

    Take “sin” — is it a debt (of honour owed to God)? Or a rebellion against God, a rejection of Him? Or a sickness or ontological state (of ‘fallenness’)? Is it a stain or pollution? Or lawlessness and anarchy? Or self-will? Active “transgression” and “trespass” or passive “sleepiness” and “sloth”?

    And then there’s the related issue of our culpability: if it’s Original Sin, transmitted down the line from Adam, then are we really responsible? If it is a “weakness or negligence” are we as culpable as if it were an choice, decision, a conscious act of will?

    I quite like the word “waywardness” and the definition of sin as “self-will”, also the idea of being “out of tune” with God — so e.g. sometimes anger or rest is the will of God in a given time / place or as a right response to a situation, other times getting angry or going sleep might be exactly the *wrong* (i.e. sinful) thing to do.

    All of this calls for wisdom and a sensitivity to God’s will — although he is merciful and remembers that we are but dust.

    Pax

  40. Philip Almond March 24, 2017 at 11:24 pm #

    Oliver and Will
    First: I apologise to Oliver for misquoting him, as he pointed out in Oliver Harrison March 23, 2017 at 3:44 pm. But he does seem to be accepting that Isaiah 53: 6b ‘may be about Jesus. Or not. I’m open to either option and easy either way.’ Oliver Harrison March 23, 2017 at 2:15 pm.

    Second: This debate is throwing up some connected questions and issues which are very important in their own right. I want to pause and try to gather the threads together and answer the challenges and points which Will and Oliver have put to me.

    The question of assumed common ground, set out at the start of my 7 March post. Oliver replied, ‘Yes I think so’. Will replied:
    ‘Yes it is common ground – except that I take e.g. 1Peter 4:17, 2Cor 5:10, 1Cor 3:15 (and numerous others) to imply that Christians can still be subject to God’s judgement and anger, albeit in a different way than those outside Christ (being under grace). I take the no condemnation to be an eschatological reality of which we have a foretaste now through our inclusion in Christ’.

    Assumed Common Ground is in two parts: a statement of the position of all of us as unsaved sinners in the sight of God from birth onwards (the diagnosis); and a statement the position of those on whom God has bestowed the blessings of Christ’s death and resurrection (the blessing). I take it that my statement of the diagnosis is common ground, but that my statement of the blessing is common ground between Oliver and me but possibly not of Will in the light of the qualifications he states.

    If I am right that we are all agreed on the diagnosis, that is very encouraging. As I keep repeating (I know I can’t prove it and would be humbled and pleased to be proved wrong) I surmise that only a minority of ordained persons in the Church of England believe that this is the true diagnosis of the human condition, and I regard this as the most serious disagreement in the Church of England

    On Will’s ‘qualification’ verses I comment: Part of the assumed common ground was ‘Those in a right relationship with God, at peace with God and adopted as sons, cannot still be facing his anger and condemnation’. I agree of course that when Christians sin, their relationship with God is damaged and that God is angered by our sins, and we have to seek his face by repentance. I agree that throughout our lives we face God’s chastening (sometimes bitter, like David’s after Bathsheba) and Christ’s refining fire (who can endure it?). But the point is that our relationship with God has been permanently changed, from condemned criminals before a just Judge to disobedient children before a loving Father. I see 1 Peter 4:17 and 1 Corinthians 3:15 (which latter I take as applying to all Christians though I can appreciate the view that it applies principally to those with a teaching ministry) as making essentially the same point: good works are an essential proof of justification (letter of James, though they do not contribute to our justification), but even our best works may relatively speaking be wood, hay, stubble which will be consumed with loss on that Day ‘but he will be saved yet so as through fire’. 2 Corinthians 5:10 I take to be making a similar point about reward or loss. Perhaps Will agrees with all that; if so I apologise for saying it. On Will’s point about no condemnation being ‘an eschatological reality of which we have a foretaste now through our inclusion in Christ’ I comment: Romans 8: 1 says, ‘[there is] then now no condemnation to the [ones] in Christ Jesus’. This says that ‘no condemnation’ is a present reality for all in Christ – as is justification. I agree that full salvation is an eschatological reality, when we are fully conformed to the image of Christ.

    So if the diagnosis and the blessing are the book ends, our disagreement is about what comes in between in the death and resurrection of Christ to get from the diagnosis to the blessing.

    In his thoughtful response Will Jones March 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm to my case (stated in my March 7 post) after outlining his objections to my case, states:

    ‘The true mechanism is that Christ by becoming human became subject to the curse under which humanity has been placed, and thus became subject to suffering and death which were the penalty for sin even though he was without sin. By suffering and dying as a man and then, because innocent and divine, rising to life, he became the one who in whom, through union with him, humanity could find its fallen state transformed, and suffering and death even become the means to a greater sharing in the glory of Christ.’

    How does Will’s ‘became subject to suffering and death which were the penalty for sin even though he was without sin’ differ from my point of view, as Will sees it? Who is inflicting the ‘penalty’?

    In the same post Will also mentions ‘This (my) mechanism would also seem to imply universalism, since if God’s wrath is satisfied on Christ, why does God still need to punish anyone else?’ which he has reiterated in a more recent post.

    A good question. My answer is two-fold. Firstly, I can’t understand why Will’s mechanism quoted above is not open to the same objection.

    My second answer raises an even more controversial issue. It is an exegetical certainty that God has not predestined all fallen human beings to eternal life. I agree with Warfield when he wrote: ‘The dreadful fact stares us full in the face that God has thought well to leave some men eternally without the Spirit of holiness’. As I have said before I believe it is equally true that God and Christ sincerely and genuinely invite all men to submit to Christ in repentance, faith, love obedience and fear. How can these two doctrines be simultaneously true? How can God and Christ sincerely invite, command, exhort a person to come to Christ who has not been predestined in eternity to eternal life? That is one of God’s secrets and, I believe, we must resist the temptation to speculate how they can both be true at the bar of fallen human reason. ‘Besides, it is not surprising that our eyes should be blinded by intense light, so that we cannot certainly judge how God wishes all to be saved, and yet has devoted all the reprobate to destruction, and wishes them to perish’ (Calvin). So, confronted with a mystery and without speculating further, the answer has to be along the lines that salvation is a gift (Romans 5:17) which God distributes according to his sovereign will: ‘whom he wishes he has mercy, but whom he wishes he hardens’ (Romans 9:18).

    Sorry- I have run out of time: to be continued.

    Phil Almond

  41. Will Jones March 25, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    Hi Phil.

    I agree with your expanded account of the believer’s relationship to God’s judgement and anger, so we can take that as common ground.

    My account of the atonement does not imply universalism because the new creation which God has effected in Christ, in which there is forgiveness of sins and sanctification through participation in Christ’s suffering and glory, is only found in Christ. So it is only those whom God joins to Christ (by grace, through faith and contrition) who benefit from it. Why would this have any suggestion of universalism? It is the same reason in fact that the NT does not envisage universalism: because salvation is only found in Christ, that is, in union with Christ. This is why the effects of Christ’s work are limited to the saved.

    You seem to concede that your account does appear to imply universalism, which is why you appeal to the ‘secret’ of predestination to avoid it. So help me to understand your view. Are you saying that God, by his foreknowledge (and predetermination) of those who are to be saved, has only satisfied his wrath on Christ with respect to those he knows (has chosen) will be saved, but has not satisfied it with respect to those he knows (has chosen) will not be saved? Why not just satisfy all of it and therefore not need to punish anybody except Christ? That presumably is the secret. And does this mean we should sing, not ‘the wrath of God was satisfied’, but ‘some of the wrath of God was satisfied’, since it is misleading to suggest it was all of it? In fact, if true believers are few, perhaps it is only ‘a bit of the wrath of God was satisfied’?

    The point is though that we don’t need to believe in this secret resolution to the difficulty generated by the mechanism of wrath transfer, because it is not the mechanism that the NT gives us for salvation – the difficulty exists solely in the minds of advocates of PSA. The NT is clear that salvation comes through being united to Christ, and that it is because we are in Christ that we are spared God’s wrath (though we must still share in his suffering to share in his glory). So the difficulty disappears when we actually use the NT’s account of salvation – no secrets needed.

    You point out that I allow that death is the penalty for sin, and that Christ suffered death and so has suffered the penalty, and ask who is inflicting the penalty. Oliver and I discussed this point at length above. You may recall that initially I argued that this was a sense in which Christ was suffering under God’s wrath, for the reason you imply. However, I was convinced by Oliver to go and look again at how the NT actually presents these things, and saw (to my surprise) that while the wages of sin is death, the Bible does not present death in general as God’s anger (you might remember that I noted that the righteous die also, and that the Bible does not anywhere regard the death of the righteous as God’s anger falling on them). So I argued (and I think Oliver does too) that while the wages or penalty of sin is death, it is a general manifestation of judgement and condemnation on human sin, a central part of the curse which God has placed on humanity within creation. And Christ suffers it, not as wrath transfer, but as part of entering the fallen, cursed human condition (‘becoming sin’) in order to rescue us from it (through resurrection). It isn’t personal anger, and the NT nowhere presents it that way. So it can’t get you PSA or wrath transfer. But it is the real sense in which Christ has suffered the penalty (or wages) of sin, despite being without sin, in order to rescue us from it.

  42. Oliver Harrison March 25, 2017 at 10:48 am #

    We seem to have strayed a long way from the original premise / question, viz. Is it Biblical to sing “And on that cross as Jesus died / The wrath of God was satisfied”?

    Let’s leave aside any minority reading of the meaning of that couplet (e.g. ‘it was satisfied because Jesus took away the sin that caused the wrath’) as I think we all agreed that it says what it means and vice versa. Anyway, I have asked Stuart Townend about it and he is clear it means that Jesus was punished in our place and bore the wrath of God etc.

    So, leaving aside the fascinating issues of free will / predestination and universalism, as well the issues of metaphorical language and semantics / etymology can we answer this with a simple “yes” or “no”?

    My answer is “no”, on the single basis that the NT never teaches any such thing.

    Phil has yet to demonstrate that the NT does although he can show texts from Is 53.

    My reply to that is to say (repeatedly) that Is 53 is quoted and referred to over and over in many books of the NT so the authors clearly knew it well. That they did not cite the parts that Phil now wants to present as evidence is, to me, a very very interesting point. The key point. Now: why did they not? And, second, if they didn’t are we free to? Do we know better than the Spirit-inspired men who wrote (edited, complied, etc) the NT? Or, to put it another way, does Phil know the means and meaning of the atonement better than God himself?

    If we read the NT we’ll see a lot about the death of Jesus (also his life, works, teaching, suffering, resurrection, ascension, rule / reign, intercession, return and judgement). There are many things the NT says about him. And then there are many that it does not say. This (“Jesus was punished in our place and bore the wrath of God”) is is one of those things in the latter camp.

    Slice it how you will, the NT never says it and that, for me, really is that. Clear, plain, simple.

    • Will Jones March 25, 2017 at 11:06 am #

      I agree with this, Oliver. My additional points can be thought of as answering your question ‘Why did they not?’, and trying to show the theological problems with PSA. Your exegetical points are valid. But the additional arguments help address Phil’s response of (I paraphrase) ‘I use the whole Bible; if the rest of Isaiah 53 was not fulfilled in Christ then who was it fulfilled in? etc.’.

  43. Philip Almond March 25, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    Will

    In one part of your reply (Will Jones March 25, 2017 at 10:28 am) I am understanding you to say that you would no longer express your view as ‘became subject to suffering and death which were the penalty for sin even though he was without sin’, because you have been persuaded ‘that while the wages of sin is death, the Bible does not present death in general as God’s anger (you might remember that I noted that the righteous die also, and that the Bible does not anywhere regard the death of the righteous as God’s anger falling on them)’.

    In Section 1 (Condemnation and Death from Adam’s Sin) of my March 7 case I pointed out that in Romans 5:12-21 sin, condemnation and death are closely linked and ‘Given the meaning of ‘condemnation’ (‘penalty; punishment following condemnation, penal servitude’ – Strong) it is clear that Adam’s sin has resulted in condemnation for all and death for all. And it is clear that death for all is part of the punishment that we all deserve’. And that is personally deserved (We all personally face God’s holy anger and just condemnation from birth onwards – first sentence in assumed common ground).
    I then went on to explain that the death of the saved is fundamentally different from the death of the saved. Have you answered this point? I am sorry if I have missed it if you have.

    You say, ‘the Bible does not present death in general as God’s anger’. I have argued from Romans 5:12-21 that death for the unsaved is part of the punishment from God’s condemnation.

    But your final sentence, ‘But it is the real sense in which Christ has suffered the penalty (or wages) of sin, despite being without sin, in order to rescue us from it’ you refer again to Christ suffering the penalty of sin and you identify ‘penalty’ with ‘wages’, which in Romans 6:23 is death. So I remain unsure how this differs from my view.

    It was not my intention to concede that my account does imply universalism. I was arguing that universalism is ruled out because of the ‘dreadful (but true exegetical) fact’ that God has not predestined all to salvation. It is true that a case can be made that Christ died only for his sheep, as Owen argues at great length in his ‘The death of Death in the Death of Christ’. I was reluctant to say that explicitly partly because I am not fully convinced it is right and partly because it raises the debate to an even more controversial level. So I was making the case that God is sovereign in salvation and that this doctrine and the doctrine of Christ bearing God’s wrath and condemnation are both true doctrines.

    But any view of salvation and the atonement has to face the issue of why God will not save everyone, including your view. You say, ‘So it is only those whom God joins to Christ (by grace, through faith and contrition) who benefit from it.’ My question is: ‘Why does he not join everybody?’

    Phil Almond

  44. Will Jones March 25, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

    I fear we’re going round in circles now so may need to stop before we get dizzy.

    Romans 5 is describing the curse, which is a judgement and condemnation on sin to which all are subject – including the righteous/saved, including even Christ himself when he took on the likeness of sinful flesh. Yes it is a penalty, so yes Christ suffers the penalty on sin (though I think Oliver would emphasise it as wages and more like a natural law or consequence), but in any case it is not an outpouring of God’s wrath in any personal or direct way. In particular, it is not a transfer of wrath from anyone else, and you can’t get that from Romans 5 or anywhere else. It is just a sharing in the fallen human condition and its penalty (while being without sin). I don’t see how you can get to wrath transfer from there.

    Re: universalism: From your response can I assume that you only regard God as transferring to Christ his wrath on the saved, using foreknowledge/predestination to be selective in which parts of his wrath he satisfies on Christ? Selective satisfaction theory. I’m sorry but I just find this whole image utterly implausible. God is not selectively satisfying his anger on Christ using foreknowledge, and nowhere in the Bible says he is. It’s a theory created by people looking too much to Isaiah 53 to answer questions which the NT can answer for itself, and much more plausibly.

  45. Philip Almond March 25, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

    Will
    You agree ‘Christ suffers the penalty on sin’ and I think you are agreeing from Romans 5 that the penalty results from condemnation. Whose condemnation? Surely it is God’s condemnation. Who is inflicting the penalty which Christ suffers?. Surely God. If you agree with ‘We all personally face God’s holy anger and just condemnation from birth onwards’ (common ground) then God’s condemnation is personally faced by each of us and it is this condemnation and penalty which Christ suffers when he died on the cross.

    My stated aim in my March 7 post was:

    ‘The rest of this post attempts to make the case that Christ did bear the wrath and condemnation of God in his death’.

    You seem to be agreeing, at any rate, ‘that Christ did bear the condemnation of God in his death’.

    You have not answered my question:

    “You say, ‘So it is only those whom God joins to Christ (by grace, through faith and contrition) who benefit from it.’ My question is: ‘Why does he not join everybody?’”

    If you read Owen’s book (argued on Biblical grounds) and Packer’s foreword you may find that his view is not so easily dismissed.

    Isaiah 53:5a, 6b and 10a are either not true, or about someone other than Christ, or about Christ. The first option denies the truth of that part of the Bible; the second option is just incredible; which leaves the third.

    Phil Almond

    • Oliver Harrison March 25, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

      Isaiah 53:5aOpen in Logos Bible Software (if available), 6bOpen in Logos Bible Software (if available) and 10aOpen in Logos Bible Software (if available) are either not true, or about someone other than Christ, or about Christ. The first option denies the truth of that part of the Bible; the second option is just incredible; which leaves the third.

      For a start let me just note that Is 53 is a notoriously difficult text (a bit like Romans 8:3!). I’ve just been reading Goldingay’s translation (and commentary) which, e.g., renders 6b as “Yahweh let fall on him the waywardness of us all”. Anyway, that’s not main issue with what you’ve said. My objections are twofold:

      1.) You present a false set of options; prophecies can have multiple “horizons” and these can overlap. So your second and third options (i.e. either about Christ OR about someone else) is a false dichotomy.

      2.) “the second option is just incredible” — in your opinion, which reinforces your case = a subjective AND circular argument: well done, that’s two boxes ticked on the Bad Reasoning Scoreboard Of Shame.

      I think I’m done here.

      I’m reluctant to post any more as I don’t think we’re making any progress.

      • Philip Almond March 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm #

        Oliver I don’t mind if you stop posting. But I point out that my ‘incredible’ applied to the view that the verses mentioned are about someone else and not about Christ. Incredible because that would mean that someone else (not Christ) was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, that the LORD laid on someone else the iniquities of us all, that it was the LORD’s will to crush someone else (not Christ) and cause him to suffer. If you are saying that these verses are about both Christ and someone else – then – they are about Christ.

        If ‘God punished sin in the flesh of Jesus on the cross’ is, for the sake of argument, as you say, true, then that means that God punished our sins in the flesh of Jesus on the cross (notice the difference to what you said), the sins that Christ carried up and bore. Which other sins were being punished? This is the point that Tom Wright made (at least in the state of his thought when he wrote ‘Caricatures’) -What does he (Jeffrey John) make of the explicit statement – this, I think, is as clear as it gets in Paul – in Romans 8.3, where Paul says explicitly that God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ? Paul does not say that God condemned Jesus; rather, that he condemned sin; but the place where sin was condemned was precisely in the flesh of Jesus, and of Jesus precisely as the Son sent from the Father. And this, we remind ourselves, is the heart of the reason why there is now ‘no condemnation’ for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8.1).

        • Oliver Harrison March 25, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

          “Paul says explicitly that God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ”

          No he doesn’t.

  46. Oliver Harrison March 25, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

    Rom 8:3b “God condemned sin in the flesh” does not necessarily mean “in the flesh of Jesus”, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it does mean that.

    “in the flesh of Jesus” does not necessarily mean “in the flesh of Jesus on the cross” (it could refer to his entire sinless incarnation as condemning sin) but, again, let’s say for the sake of argument that it does mean that.

    So then we have “God condemned sin in the flesh [of Jesus] [on the cross]]” –not what Paul says, but for the sake of argument we’ll say that’s what he means.

    Now does the statement “God condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus on the cross” = “God punished sin in the flesh of Jesus on the cross”? No, but again for the sake of argument let’s say that’s what it means.

    So now must ask does the statement “God punished sin in the flesh of Jesus on the cross” = “God punished Jesus [in my place / for my sins] on the cross”?

    No.

  47. Will Jones March 25, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

    Phil

    Christ did not bear God’s condemnation and wrath in his death; if he did the NT would have told us. That phrase would appear somewhere, and not be left to be inferred from uncited parts of Isaiah 53. I agree that he suffered and died, which was the penalty for sin in condemned humanity. But he did not suffer it *as condemnation* because he was only in the *likeness* of sinful flesh – that’s the whole point, that’s why his death saves whereas no one else’s does. So his death was only in the likeness of condemnation – it looked the same, but it was actually something completely different (a sacrifice of atonement). Romans 5 doesn’t mention wrath, and death in general is not described as God’s anger, so I don’t think I need to deal with that as well.

    But even if Christ’s death was, in this particular sense, a bearing of God’s condemnation and wrath (which it isn’t, but let’s suppose), you still wouldn’t have an argument for wrath transfer – Christ would then just be suffering, as a human, under the general condemnation of humanity. There is still no concept of a massive transfer of wrath from every saved individual to Christ. So even if you gain this point you still don’t get PSA.

    On the other issue: Your question ‘Why does he not join everybody?’ misses the point. The point is that if the mechanism of salvation is union with Christ it is obvious why not everybody is saved; it’s just part of the mechanism that those who are joined to Christ, and only those, are saved (i.e. the limitation is internal to the model). Whereas if the mechanism is wrath transfer it is not at all obvious why not everybody is saved, since if God is satisfying his wrath on Christ he has to use foreknowledge of predestination to be sure only to transfer the wrath from the saved (i.e. the limitation is external to the model). Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on this, it was just another way of showing why I regard the theory as straining plausibility, particularly when a theory which makes much more sense, and is much more biblical, presents itself so clearly.

  48. Philip Almond March 25, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    Will

    What is your definition of a ‘sacrifice of atonement’?. I ask this question because I am still not clear what your ‘mechanism’ is that gets Christians from the agreed diagnosis to the blessing.

    What in your view brings anyone into union with Christ?

    I point out that my case is not ‘left to be inferred from uncited parts of Isaiah 53’, though the whole chapter supports my case.

    Phil Almond

  49. Will Jones March 25, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    My definition of a sacrifice of atonement is a sacrifice which turns away wrath (propitiation), so it is the basis on which God (mercifully) withholds (just) punishment. That I believe is how it is understood in the OT.

    The mechanism of salvation, as I understand it, is that Christ by his incarnation, death and resurrection has created a new humanity, a new creation, one in which he has taken upon himself the consequences of the curse under which fallen humanity has been placed (suffering and death) and thereby transformed it into a means of blessing and glory (thus we share in Christ’s glory/life by sharing in his sufferings/death – Romans 6). Believers share in this new creation (which is the kingdom of God) by being joined to Christ, and are thereby rescued from the curse because in Christ suffering and death are no longer a condemnation but a sharing in Christ’s suffering and death and a means of glory. Individuals are joined to Christ by grace, through faith in Christ and his saving work and through contrition for sin. This is a spiritual union which God effects in response to the necessary faith and repentance.

    In addition to this, I take it that God has decreed it is fitting that those who are joined to Christ in this way should be mercifully spared his anger and punishment for sins committed. So he has decreed that Christ’s death, which is the remedy for the curse and its consequences, is in effect also the sacrifice of atonement that he will accept as the basis on which he will withhold wrath from those who are in Christ.

    Thus in Christ there is both remedy for sin and forgiveness for sin.

    In doing this God has shown how seriously he takes sin, that it required his Son to suffer and die to deal with it, while still showing mercy to those who avail themselves of the remedy he provides in Christ.

    • Philip Almond March 25, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

      Will
      Thanks. I will reflect on this and your other posts and respond.
      Phil Almond

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