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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Answers to a Defender of PST

On an internet forum called TheologyWeb, I sometimes discuss theological issues to see how Christians will respond. Many of the "apologists" on that site are young, immature and really know little about theology. They resort to name calling and personal insults as their rebuttal. However, today I responded to an excellent post from a PST defender named Terry. Below is his defense and my response. My responses are in bold.


Thanks for one of the most intelligent posts on this subject. You stand in sharp distinction to most of the TWEB "apologists." I appreciate the kind and thoughtful dialogue.


As I am more sympathetic to Penal Theory than any other model that will be the view I defend here.

It seems to me, FF, that you hold a somewhat slanted view of the atonement in that it fails to take both the voluntary nature of Christ’s death and the oneness of the Godhead into account, or, at least, it deemphasizes these aspects. These comparatively ignored components I believe give penal theory a greater degree of coherence which the model may lack otherwise.

I recognize fully that the NT teaches that Jesus gave his life willingly. I have never disputed that. I also recognize the classical Trinitarian view as described by Nicaea.

If I understand you correctly, your chief objection to penal theory is that it is “a miscarriage of justice to punish the innocent in place of the guilty.” Admittedly, it is the ethical concern that makes penal theory more difficult to swallow than other models such as the Satisfaction Theory. Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder if the difficulty has been misplaced. While I can certainly see coercing a person, innocent or otherwise, to die vicariously unjust, what about doing so voluntarily?

Whether the victim volunteers or not is not germane to my objection

Why think a vicarious death done voluntarily unjust? What if the vicarious death were to achieve some great good that can best or only be accomplished by doing so? In the minds of many, allowing oneself to be killed is often seen justifiable when it involves saving the life of another. Consider the soldier who jumps on a grenade in order to save one or more of his comrades. We neither judge such acts irrational nor suicidal, but, rather, virtuous, honorable, moral, and praiseworthy. I think what is at issue is more one of purpose, not fairness.

I agree that it is noble to lay down your life for others. But once again that is not germane to my argument. My problem is with an innocent one suffering the penalty of the guilty and being accepted as just by the judge (or in this case--God).

The analogy of a judge allowing someone, other than the perpetrator, to suffer a vicarious death is to a certain extent skewed also because it fails to reflect the oneness of the Godhead. You note, “You still have to explain how it’s a righteous thing for the judge of the universe to allow the innocent to pay the penalty for the guilty.” But on penal substitution, FF, the central claim is that God took on voluntarily the penalty due sinful human beings Himself. In your judge-of-the-universe analogy then, it is the judge himself who volunteers to take on the penalty, as oppose to an innocent, third-party bystander. There is nothing logically inconsistent with this chief assertion.

I agree that it is the judge who pays the price himself in the PST scenario. Or at least one member of the Godhead pays it to another member. That still doesn't explain how that is just. Its like there is some penalty out there that MUST be paid by someone and so the judge just decides to pay it himself. How does the judge paying the penalty that the sinner deserves resolve the issue? So long as someone pays, its okay? This runs cross grain to our innate sense of justice, which according to the Bible is derived from God himself.

Now let’s presume penal substitution is built upon a moral framework that argues that it is appropriate and good in some cases for punishment to be carried out. With that in mind, the question becomes can the goodness of the punishment still be achieved by God taking it on Himself? It seems to me it can. God is the victim of the wrongdoer. Left unpunished, misdeeds both diminish the value of the victim, in our case, the Godhead, and potentially trivialize the wrongdoings of the offender. Christ’s voluntary death on the cross makes it plain that sin against God is not to be trivialized. In that sense it was akin to the OT sacrifices which reminded the people of their sin (Heb 10:3). Furthermore, it reinstates the value of the God head. Thus, the goodness of the punishment, which, again, God took on Himself, is at least twofold. It stresses and affirms the value of the Godhead and shows that sin is to be taken with utmost seriousness.

Okay but what you are now advocating is much closer to the governmental theory of the atonement than to PST. And it still doesn't make sense according to our innate sense of justice. For example, if you break my arm and I press charges. Would it make sense for me to say: Well, you are remorseful and so I will forgive you and drop the charges but in order to show my value as a human being and how serious your crime was--I will ask the judge to send me to jail in your place.

Now, of course, one could argue that humans are the wrongdoers in this case, not God. It is not good for God to extend the privilege of physical and spiritual life to humans on earth because they have sinned repeatedly against Him and, therefore, do not deserve it. Humans have rightly earned the punishment due them. But we must not forget there is a difference between justice and vengeance. Here it could be argued that God’s wise and just plan of redemption is keeping maximally with His love, grace and mercy. Throughout human history, there are numerous examples in Scripture where God either delays punishment, or exacts it in some restricted way, or abstains from it altogether. In fact, this is not all that different from the way humans interact at times.

True but God does ultimately, according to the Bible, unleash his wrath against mankind. Of course he already did it once in Noah's flood. So the fact he delays it is inconsequential.
And God is said to be vengeful in Romans 12 for example.

Secondly, you find it difficult to imagine exactly how the atonement plays out in the oneness of the Godhead. You write, “Why is it just the Father, presumably, who has to be ´propitiated´ and not the Son nor the Spirit?” While the doctrine of the Trinity and Incarnation cannot be reduced to mere formulas or a concise set of statements, it simply does not follow therefore that these essential Christian doctrines are incoherent. God leaves us with a sense of wonder and mystery. However hard we try, we will never be able to put God in a box. But why should that be required before placing our trust and faith in Him? While at the human level we cannot fully comprehend these truths, we can apprehend them nonetheless.

I think the doctrine of the Trinity does not make sense and the atonement is just one example of it. When pressed on this, Christians resort to saying, well god is beyond our comprehension and its a mystery, etc. To me that is a cop out.

Your view of the Trinity seems to stray somewhat from Christian orthodoxy. By overemphasizing the threeness it borders on tritheism, a form of polytheism. In other words, one cannot separate the Godhead as suggested.

The Bible clearly presents three persons. The Father sends the Son, the Son propitiates the Father, the Father raises the Son from the dead, etc. I am just following the Biblical language. the problem is that the Trinity doctrine is a human attempt to explain why the bible talks about three persons but yet insists there is only one God.

The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity stresses conversely the oneness of God who exists in three distinct persons coeternally—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Fundamental also to the orthodox view is the understanding that the three persons of the Godhead share one divine nature and substance coequally and can therefore be called “God.” None of the three persons of the Trinity is more subordinate to the other.

Correct, but as you say--the three persons share the divine nature coequally. If the atonement is required by something inherent in the nature of God, namely his holiness, then why does the Father alone have to be propitiated. The implication is that somehow the Son and the Spirit are not quite equal, which is a big problem for you and your belief system.

In order to accomplish the mission of restoring humanity to Himself, God takes on human nature without divesting Himself of his divine nature. Although the persons of the Godhead can be distinguished, they cannot be separated. There are not three discrete beings, but, rather, one. None of the three persons of the Trinity can exist without the other any more than, say, a triangle can exist without one of its three sides.

Okay but now you are teetering towards Modalism. In addition, you have the problem that the Son was separated from the Father on the cross while suffering the spiritual death that man deserves.

In the incarnation, Christ’s human nature is not essential to his existence as his divine nature. On the cross, Christ suffers, therefore, in his human nature both physically and consciously. The crucifixion does not diminish the oneness or the divine nature of the Godhead in any way. For example, as you point out, God cannot die. God cannot not exist any more than, say, a round square can exist. His human nature was crucified, not his divine nature. However, the conjoined life of the Trinity, as suggested above, means that Christ did not suffer alone. Each divine person of the Godhead experienced mutually the pain of the crucifixion as God, in Christ, reconciled the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19).

One of the most clever explanations that I have heard, but not without problems. First, you just said that the divine nature in Christ cannot die or suffer and then you say each member of the Godhead experienced the pain of the crucifixion. Isn't that contradictory? Second, if you say the Father suffered, how do you avoid the charge of Patripassianism?

Scholars often posit penal substitution as the best explanation for Christ’s voluntary death on the cross. Those who object penal substitution theory need to show why the model fails. I remain skeptical that that has been achieved here.

I think I have shown it. See my blog for a more thorough examination of PST. But not only me, I think Greek Orthodox theologians, Socinus, Gustav Aulen, Hugo Grotius and others have shown that it fails.

Moreover, even if one were to demonstrate that Penal Theory is incoherent or somehow fails to square with Scripture, all that would follow is that the model is not the best explanation for Christ’s voluntary death on the cross.

Okay but here is my point. I think the NT clearly teaches PST. So, in my opinion, if PST is wrong, then the Scripture is wrong.

But note that that conclusion is entirely compatible with the belief that God reconciled human beings to Himself through the voluntary death of Christ on our behalf as Scripture declares. Perhaps the Satisfaction Theory makes more sense or some other, yet-to-be-developed model best explains the innerworkings of the atonement. The lack of a coherent, human derived model that details the ins and outs of the atonement does nothing to make our belief in the atonement unwarranted.

I think it does because it shows that the teachings of Scripture are really contradictory. Theologians have had 2000 years to come up with a unified, coherent, doctrine of the atonement and they haven't done so. What does that tell me? Its impossible to do so because the Scriptures are contradictory.

We can believe we have salvation through Christ while remaining agnostic as to how the atonement plays out precisely in God’s economy. Maybe God wants us to believe that Christ atoned for our sins simply by faith. The point is the failure of one or more models does not negate the truth that Christ died in our place so that we can, once again, have fellowship with God.

So in other words, just shut off your brain and have faith? I am sorry, I am not willing to do that.


  1. Interesting as usual! At some point can we discuss whether the NT clearly teaches PST? I am not convinced that it does. I do agree with you that there are tensions and even contradictions in the Bible, which negate the fundamentalist stance on the nature of the Bible. But I'm not sure that this nullifies the Christian faith, and I am positive that fundamentalism is not synonymous with Christianity. (I am not trying to be an apologist. I am seeking and working through these issues myself, and I know I don't have all the answers.)

    Personally, I reject PST and have explored various atonement models (or various windows into aspects of the atonement), but I am sure that all would be open to some kind of critique.

    Does your reading of the NT see the atonement presented exclusively as PST? Or are you saying that the NT presents multiple aspects of the atonement, one of which is PST? So you can say "if PST is wrong, then the Scripture is wrong" because PST is cleary taught in Scripture, even though it is not the only atonement model taught in Scripture?

  2. I hate PST, every month my wife gets that and acts all bitchy.

    Peace, feeno

  3. Hey Dr Pulliman: Thanks for sharing! I’m not challenging your reasons for leaving “the Church” in the slightest and while I agree that “substituting an innocent party, even if that party is willing, does not constitute justice”, I think it is possible that the real issue, at least in the case of Jesus, could have been Love not Justice if you don’t view the death of Jesus as a required sacrifice.

    Love can cause one to sacrifice ones self to save another. Aren’t we told that Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”? (John:15:13) I’m very doubtful of most of the greatly embellished Gospel of John, but I know for a fact the reality of this passage in my life.

    For me, the biggest BS ideas of Orthodox Christendom are “Original Sin” and the concept that “Absolute Truth” was dispensed to only an extremely small and “favored” tribe of humans and, to top it all off, there is the overtly evil (and unjust) nature of the Biblical God and the alleged requirement of Blood Sacrifice to appease this angry deity.

    Truth is, sacrificing to the (angry) Yahweh is just a “pagan” as sacrificing to the (angry) Zeus or the (angry) Thor! Unfortunately, the Jews adopted this “model for god” and the Christians bought it hook, line and sinker. This wacky metric for the nature of god permeates and corrupts most of the OT and NT writings.

    The above construct builds a strawman problem with all of humanity (past, present and future) and then attempts to dispatch it by revealing the “solution” to only a few while the vast majority of the residents of planet earth will be doomed to suffer, unspeakable torment in hell forever. Even though no human ever asked to be born, nevertheless even our physical deaths, as wages for our “sins”, is not enough! WTF?

    You talk about injustice? This must be the quintessential definition of injustice if there ever was one!

    Grace & Peace, John (ex-Baptist/Fundy yet still your Brother)

  4. Kyle,

    Thanks for your comments. I believe the Bible presents PST, not exclusively, but primarily. Therefore, if PST is wrong, then the Scripture is wrong and not a revelation from God.

    You are right to say that fundamentalism is not the only approach to Christianity. However, evangelicalism was the tradition from which I emerged and it is by far the dominant tradition in the US today. And, PST is a core doctrine among evangelicals.

    The problem as I see it with proposing an alternative theory is that the majority of NT passages on the subject support PST. You would have to re-interpret those passages or deny them in order to make them fit into a different theory.

  5. jfraysse,

    Thanks for your comments. The idea that the death of Jesus shows us how much God loves us is the theory of Peter Abelard in the 12th century.

    Here is my problem with that idea. How does Jesus being executed as a criminal show us that God loves us? I don't get it. God loves us so much that he allowed the wicked Romans to nail his Son to a cross and die in a most excruciating manner. If that shows love, then its not the kind of love I am interested in emulating. If you say, well, it shows us how much Jesus loves us, I still don't get it. By placing himself in a position (he knew that going into Jerusalem at the time of the Passover was going to be very dangerous for him) whereby he would be executed shows love? I think it shows stupidity. So for these reasons and others, I don't buy Abelard's theory.

    As for the injustice of sending people to eternal torment because they didn't happen to be a part of the chosen few, I agree completely. This is another classic example of the injustice displayed by the Bible God.

  6. Good Morning Ken.

    I see there is a phd behind your name, so maybe I'm in over my head and my thoughts will seem naive? But the bible makes it clear that without the shedding of blood there will be no remission of sins. God used animal sacrifices for that reason in the OT. But that was just a temporary fix until Christ died once for all. Now to answer your question about how Christ dying on the cross shows his love for us is this; He left the comforts of heaven, he took
    the form of man, he was belittled, mocked and severely tortured to put man's sin to death. And we he was raised 3 days later, mission accomplished. Why that was God's plan goes back to the remission of sin, by the shedding of blood.

    I'm also quite familiar with BJU. In your opinion do you think more people leave Christianity from legalistic faiths as those who from not so structured beliefs? This is not a indictment on BJU. It's a fine place, with many great alumni, but it does seem to have an uptight bunch of alums as well?

    I comment a lot on another Atheist site where Harry McCall used to be. I haven't "talked" to him in a while and tracked your site down through his "blogs I follow thingy"

    Peace be with you, feeno

  7. Two things that stuck out to me in this post were these:

    1. The satisfaction theory. I don't know what that is. It stands out to me because I was reading II Samuel 24 this week, and David offered sacrifices to supplicate God. The text doesn't say that the animals died in David's place, but that they supplicated God---which seems to imply that they satisfied him. Are there some who believe Jesus' death could do that without being a substitution?

    2. Patripassionism: I may have read about that in Quasten's Patrology, but it's a little vague to me right now. So it was considered a heresy to believe that the Father could suffer? If so, then that's an instance in which Christianity relied a little too much on Greek philosophy rather than Scripture.

  8. Good comments all around!

    jfraysee, your comments reminded me of how greatly Christianity was influenced (negatively) by Augustine, who developed original sin as original guilt deserving punishment and the source of all evil, moral and natural. More Greek philosophy in the form of neoplatonistic dualism at play here.

    As far a pagan sacrifices go, is anyone familiar with the work of Rene Girard? I only have a surface familiarity but find his premise intriguing. As a literary critic, he found in literature and religions of all cultures a common theme of escalating conflict which finds resolution through either mass communal violence or through a scapegoat mechanism in which violence toward a common “enemy” brings the group back together. He sees the OT as a record of this cycle playing out among the Hebrews, and the claims that God commanded violence such as the Canaanite genocide to be a revelation of the violent tendencies of all mankind. For Girard, the cross was the ultimate exposure of this bent toward unjust destruction and violence. It is a call toward peacemaking from a non-violent God. I recognize that my summary makes many leaps of logic and surely doesn’t do justice to Girard’s thought, but the point is that it is an alternate interpretation of the cross. Also, Girard does in fact believe that his interpretation arises from Scripture as he reads it through this interpretive lens, a lens which was developed through observing a common human phenomenon across cultures and religions. You (and I) would have to read the details to find out how and whether his view is legitimate or meaningful to you (and me).

  9. Ken,
    I agree that when read through an evangelical lens, there are passages of the Bible that support PST. I just don’t think those lenses are the correct ones through which to read Scripture. For example, Isaiah 53 is always used in support of PST. But I find it interesting that none of the NT writers cited Is 53. If it is such an obvious prophecy about the purpose of Jesus’ death, why would they not make this connection?

  10. feeno,
    I think it is inaccurate to view the purpose of the OT sacrificial system as a blood payment necessary for the remission of sins. The primary context of the sacrificial system is the covenant, which seeks to set up a proper interpersonal relationship between God and the Hebrew people. The sacrificial system was a continual ratification of this covenant, always in terms of relationship, not in terms of an abstract balancing of the ledger or sin and payment. Also, the sin sacrifices were for unintentional purity-type offenses, and not for intentional sins. There was no provision for sacrifices covering intentional disobedience, idolatry, etc. The NT support for reading PST into the OT sacrifices usually starts with Heb 9:22 “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” I think this is intended to indicate “without the covenant relationship (and the God desiring such a relationship) there is no forgiveness.” This is reading through a covenantal lens rather than a PST lens. I think the covenantal lens is the contextually appropriate reading.

  11. jamesbradfordpate,
    If by “substitution” you mean “punished in place of” then yes, there are those who believe Jesus provides “satisfaction” (“propitiation”) in other ways. These usually focus on both Jesus’ life and death or the incarnation event in itself. The original satisfaction theory was from Anselm in the 12th century. Anselm saw Jesus’ perfect life a gift to God that more than repaid the debt of honor owed to him (this was all set in a feudalistic framework of lord and vassal, etc.). Jesus’ death occurred because that is where his obedience led him, but it was not required by God. I think Anselm is wrong, but his theory is not as bad as PST, which arose in Luther and Calvin and became codified in the Calvinist scholastics.

    Patripassionism is the supposedly heretical charge that God the Father suffers. God was (is) said to be impassible, without passions, unaffected by events, utterly transcendent. You are right, this is completely Greek philosophy. PST is an inadequate and immoral theory, but I don’t think the charge of Patripassionism holds any weight against an attempted defense of PST. Jurgen Moltmann’s book “The Crucified God” has some great sections in regard to the error of impassibility in context of a trinitarian view of the cross event.

  12. I appreciate your comment, Kyle, on satisfaction, since I think a lot of people tend to conflate Anselm and penal substitution, but you point out examples in which they are different. I have a question about what you said on Jesus' obedience leading to death, which was an offering to God that made up for the debt of honor that all humanity owed (meaning Jesus paid our debt, not by dying in our place, but by living a righteous life on our behalf, a life that culminated in death). For Anselm, was Jesus' death an offering to God because Jesus was willing to die for his beliefs: through his acts of mercy, he challenged authorities that were hostile to God, realizing his acts would lead to his execution by those authorities? It would be like something I heard Mary Boys of Union Theological Seminary once say: Jesus didn't live in order to die; he died because of how he lived.

  13. Feeno, Thanks for your comments. You said: "But the bible makes it clear that without the shedding of blood there will be no remission of sins. God used animal sacrifices for that reason in the OT. But that was just a temporary fix until Christ died once for all. Now to answer your question about how Christ dying on the cross shows his love for us is this; He left the comforts of heaven, he took the form of man, he was belittled, mocked and severely tortured to put man's sin to death. And we he was raised 3 days later, mission accomplished. Why that was God's plan goes back to the remission of sin, by the shedding of blood."

    Okay but what you just described makes the Father sound like a blood-thirsty tyrant. Why does he insist that someone die in order for him to be happy? It also sounds sadistic that a Father would allow his son to go through such humiliation and suffering. It doesn't make sense outside of the PST. It doesn't make any sense in Abelard's theory. God could have showed us how much he loves us in a less gruesome and sadistic way unless his holiness actually demanded such a sacrifice which I think Paul implies and PST teaches. Steven Chalke who is an evangelical but not a PST adherent calls PST--"cosmic child abuse."

    As for BJU, yes they have a lot of rules although I understand they are loosening those somewhat now under the regime of Stephen Jones (I think Bob Jones, Jr. though is turning over in his grave). I don't know if more people apostasize from a strict religious environment or not, probably so.

  14. Kyle,

    Thanks for some good comments. I am trying to figure out exactly where you stand theologically. At any rate, I have not read Rene Girard, although his concept sounds interesting. As for Isa. 53, it is clear that the early church interpreted it to refer to Jesus as seen in Acts 8:32-33. I think that matthew may have had it mind in Matt. 27:12-14 although that is speculation on my part. You are right though that one would expect to see it more, especially in the writings of Paul but I don't think that eliminates the fact that Paul and the author of the epistles of Peter teach PST.

  15. Hello again Dr Ken!

    You wrote: “ … How does Jesus being executed as a criminal show us that God loves us? …”

    Ok, here’s my take and please know that I’m not trying to convince you – I’m simply sharing my perspective in response to your question - I don’t have to be right either.

    First off, I don’t actually buy Abelard’s Theory either because Abelard still viewed Jesus’ Death as a necessary Blood Sacrifice. I do not. Obviously, I don’t subscribe to Orthodox Dogmas nor do I believe that the Bible is God’s “perfect word”.

    I don’t think being executed “as a criminal” matters but Jesus NOT DEFENDING Himself is very important because this lack of action (assuming he had the power to do otherwise) debunks the false notion that “God is Angry” and vengeful. Jesus’ inaction proves God does not need appeasement nor blood sacrifice, in fact, we read that Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”. Clearly, the deity that Jesus called His Father was NOT the mythical desert war god of the Hebrews.

    It appears to me that Jesus’ “Mission” was to correct the false ideas about God amongst the Jews. Jesus claimed He had a message from God – Love, Forgiveness and Ministry to those less fortunate. The Jewish Priesthood didn’t like His caviler abrogation of the Law and plotted to have him killed, which they managed to do. Jesus taught us to “love our neighbor”, “turn the other cheek” and “not to repay evil with evil”. How else would you expect God’s Messenger to act? Maybe his trip to Jerusalem was stupid, but His response to evil was still consistent with His teachings - something you can not say for the biblical representation of Yahweh. The resurrection, if it actually happened, would have also been a powerful confirmation that Jesus’ message was from God.

    The Story of Jesus is an earthly example of how Love (not Justice) operates. Was Jesus death necessary – No! Why? Because if you say “yes” then Jesus becomes a Blood Sacrifice to appease an angry pagan god (PST) and this is inconsistent with a benevolent or even an ambivalent Creator.

    I think Jesus’ Life and Death (or willingness to die for what he believed in) clearly proves, by example, that Love and Forgiveness are God-Like precepts and are more powerful than hatred and/or revenge – they constitute the correct moral directions for our lives.

    The realization of these concepts is redemptive or “saving” and is part of a person’s “God-Consciousness” whenever they have this epiphany. We are “saved” from a Life where we do not understand real Love nor Forgiveness. I think there is great worth in this Lesson. Not learning it is what causes most of the “Hell on Earth” that some of us experience.

    In His Love, John

  16. **But on penal substitution, FF, the central claim is that God took on voluntarily the penalty due sinful human beings Himself.**

    The problem I have with this explanation is that it simply doesn't measure up to how the Bible describes it. Is there any verse that says in clear-cut terms, "God volunteered to take on the penalty." Not a verse that says "Jesus took on the penalty" and thus it's the same thing. Because if you look at the language, it comes across as two separate entities. "God sent His son ..." "Jesus took on the wrath of God ..." It never says that Jesus took on His own wrath. We even have a portion with Jesus pleading with God to let this cup pass from him, as though Jesus is pleading with an entity that's not himself. Why would God have to plead with himself if they're all unified?

    **ou write, “Why is it just the Father, presumably, who has to be ´propitiated´ and not the Son nor the Spirit?” **

    Is it just me, or did this question not get answered at all?

    **However, the conjoined life of the Trinity, as suggested above, means that Christ did not suffer alone. Each divine person of the Godhead experienced mutually the pain of the crucifixion as God, in Christ, reconciled the world to Himself**

    I think you've already addressed the contradiction here, but if they all suffered, then why does Jesus ask God why God abandoned him? Because wasn't the whole thing about the crucifixion was that Jesus took on all the sin, and God can't have sin in His presence, and so God turned away from Jesus?

  17. OneSmallStep,

    The Bible does indicate that Jesus gave himself willingly in several passages. The garden episode where Jesus prays for the cup to pass from him does seem contradictory to his willingness but it is usually explained as just normal human fear of death. Remember according to classical Christology, he was both God and man united in one person.

    You are right most of the problems that I have raised about the Trinitarian problems with PST were not answered.

  18. Ken,

    **The Bible does indicate that Jesus gave himself willingly in several passages. **

    But does it lay out in clear-cut terms of God voluntarily taking on His own punishment? Or does it separate the idea of God and Jesus, with Jesus giving himself voluntarily to satisfy something of God, and thus basically make Jesus as something separate from the God who had the wrath?

    **s but it is usually explained as just normal human fear of death. Remember according to classical Christology, he was both God and man united in one person.**

    That's never made sense to me. If Jesus was God, why would he fear death? Why couldn't he just plead to himself, since he was God? Why plead to something outside himself?

  19. Howdy Brother Kyle:

    You can “prove” just about anything (good or bad) with the Bible. But attempting to sugarcoat, gloss-over or ,worse yet, spiritualize and justify genocide, murder, rape, slavery, child abuse, the subjugation of women and generally a license to abuse and/or kill anyone who doesn’t believe the way you do, makes me physically sick! IMHO, there is no greater immoral behavior than this, that is, trying to justify abject evil and even calling it good somehow. But, it’s all in the Bible and allegedly condoned by god himself! Our Creator is NOT like this!

    The “god” of the OT is radically different than the God that Jesus called His Father. Marcion’s Antithesis pointed out this same problem between the OT and NT “gods”, some 1900 years ago. It was a problem then and remains a severe problem for many thoughtful Christians to this day.

    Marcion believed that following Jesus was diametrically opposed to Judaism. He rejected the entire Hebrew Bible and ultimately concluded that the Hebrew OT “god” was the source of evil. I tend to agree with Marcion on all three points. Eventually. Marcion was labeled a heretic and excommunicated – gee, how gracious!

    Seems the business of “The Church” can’t tolerate (then nor now) a consistently Good, Loving and Forgiving Creator God.

    Also, for some very enlightening insight into how the OT came into being, you might want to investigate the Documentary Hypothesis by Richard Elliot Friedman. This epic work provides a very believable and rational insight into how the OT was written and explains how (and in many cases, why) the texts evolved the way they did. Fear, control and the perpetuation of the Priesthood (Religious Bureaucracy) are huge repeating themes.

    The old testament “god” has been perplexing humans and toxifying the Big Three Abrahamic Faiths for Millennia. Unfortunately, it seems we like it that way.

    Today’s “Church” smiles with its lips closed to hide the fangs of its vile Dogmas.

    In His Love, John

  20. Brother OneSmallStep: I believe Jesus was God’s Anointed – this is what “Christ” means. But if Jesus was actually God, then this would mean that God Himself was sacrificing Himself to Himself for something God Himself created, planned and knew about before the foundations of the World. (Ref John 1:1-4) Boy, THAT’S REALLY CLEAR?!

    To me, the churches Dogmas and its “explanation of the mystery” makes a mockery of Jesus’ death and it seems pointless with respect to PST.

    The “Message” that results from the above line of thinking is so convoluted and irrational, it must NOT be important. For if a Good God had an “Important Message” for Mankind, this message would have to be clear and obvious to all of us especially if there were dire consequences for not understanding or not accepting “The Message”.

    In His Love, John

  21. Onesmallstep,

    You are recognizing the problems that the doctrine of the Trinity and PST encounter. They are not compatible and that is one of the reasons why I left evangelicalism which holds both doctrines.

    I think the doctrine of the two natures in Christ suffers from some of the same kinds of contradictions. I will get to those eventually.

  22. jfraysse,

    I am trying to figure out where you are coming from theologically. You are a Christian, right? How would you describe your theology?

  23. Hi Dr Ken:

    I guess I’m the same type of “Christian” that Thomas Jefferson or even Thomas Paine were. If I had to type-class myself with standard definitions, I would call myself a Christ-centric believer with deistic tendencies. I’m a married, 60 year old, Aerospace Engineer and father of five kids – four of which are grown. Taylor, my youngest son, is 14.

    Out of nowhere I had an epiphany 33 years ago that pulled me out of tacit atheism and into a concern for “spiritual” and theological matters. Somehow I knew “my message” was from Jesus. This might have been caused by “bad pizza”, I don’t know. The Jesus part was probably due to my culture and I try to see things through a consistent “Jesus Lens” although I accept other morally consistent points of view (pov). The event resulted in a simple assurance that a Creator existed and that Jesus had some part in demonstrating the nature of my Creator to me. This just happened - I was cutting grass for heaven’s sake!

    Anyway, the message contained two seemingly simple ideas - to live thankfully and help others as I was able. I was changed from the inside out and “the fire” is still with me today.

    I was drawn into Bible study and began attending a very conservative South Baptist church. But Bible study made all the inconsistencies that I saw worse. I was not raised as a fundamentalist at all – far from it, yet I tried this POV for about one year but could not abide the mental gymnastics and cognitive dissonance required to hang on to it.

    I left fundamentalism and joined a slightly less conservative church but I basically ignored all of my theological problems for about 16 years. I kept busy with the music programs and worked in several local missions. I even taught Sunday School for many years, albeit, in Orthodox fashion. I was never comfortable with evangelism because I could not bring myself to recommend Christianity to someone when I didn’t understand it myself!

    The absolute end for me came in 2005 when I got into an argument with a 10-year-old on my church youth basketball team when he announced that all of his teammates were going to hell if they didn’t accept Jesus NOW!

    At that point it because abundantly clear to me that I had no business in ANY Orthodox Church and it was beyond stupid of me to think that I did. I do miss some of my friends though but I have made new ones over the Internet and have actually met several of them in person! (That was cool!)

    Theologically, my BS list includes:

    Biblical Reverence as a “sacred” and/or “holy” document
    Biblical Inerrancy
    The Evil and dualistic Nature of the Biblical God
    Blood Sacrifice
    Original Sin
    The “Personhood” of Satan
    The Trinity
    Eternal Hell
    Exclusive Revelation of Absolute Truth to only a few
    Most Biblical Prophecies concerning Jesus and in particular the “End Times”
    And the fact that the Biblical God IS a Big Time Respecter of Persons
    “Name it – Claim it” confessions and prayers.

    And there are more…

    Long list – Long Answer? More if you would like. This is your blog and I don’t want to screw it up.

    In His Love, John

  24. John,

    Your story is fasinating. When JW's or Mormons come calling at my door, I tell them I am a "Christian Agnostic." This usually so dumbfounds them that they don't know what to say and quickly leave (which is partly my intent). I do think some of the teachings of Jesus as found in the Bible are good and worthy of emulation. Yet at the same time, I don't believe in the god of the Bible.

    Glad to have you as a follower on this blog and I appreciate your comments. Now I know better where you are coming from with your comments

  25. Hey Ken:

    I tell the JWs and Mormons that I am a Universalist and I accept EVERYTHING they teach and then I ask for as MUCH of their Literature as the have but don’t allow them in nor give them any money. Then, of course, I throw it all away. They caught on after two or three trips and I haven’t seen them in years! Was I evil? (he-he).

    From my BS list, I think you can tell that I don’t believe in the Bible God either – way too man-like. We read that God created man in His image and it seems MAN returned the Favor. Ancient, ignorant and, in some cases, evil and power hungry men wrote alot of the Bible – not "God" – that much is clear.

    Yet, I think the “Heart of Our Creator” CAN be found if you go through the Bible will a “consistency comb”. I think you CAN find inspirational ideas and moralistic models. Even if Jesus never physically existed on Earth, it’s the “Spirit of the Words” that can edify. This is why I continue to study the Bible and discuss it and related issues with others.

    But, here I am - disfellowshipped by Christians and shunned by Atheists – what’s a guy to do? I believe all humans are brothers (or sisters) but Christian dogmas, as well as those of other religions, divide us.

    Sad, methinks - Thanks for your time, Bro!

    In His Love, John

  26. Ken,
    I am right there with you trying to figure out where I stand theologically. In regard to the current topic, I reject PST as you so, but I don't see if as a primary biblical position. Maybe that is because the tradition I studied in also did not accept PST.

    In any case, even if we established that the Bible does teach PST primarily, I wouldn't see that as cause for dismissing Jesus. I don't see the Bible an an inerrant depository of propositional truth. I don't believe that God commanded the Israelites to slaughter all the Canaanites. So if PST creeped into the Bible, I don't feel bound to buy into it.

    Exactly where that leaves me regarding the nature of the Bible, Jesus, the Trinity, etc., I haven't worked that all out yet. Actually, I'm not really trying to because working out the correct system of belief is no longer a priority.

  27. jfrasse,
    I'm not sure which comments of mine you are addressing, whether I was "proving" or "sugarcoating" something. In any case I agree with you about the illegitimacy of claiming God commanded the genocide of the Canaanites, etc. That is why I fing Girard's reading promising.

    I also agree with your BS list, except maybe the Trinity. I have no major issues with Trinity and think the Incarnation is very important. I'm not big on the technical philosophical development of Christology and Trinity that come out of the early councils. But God becoming human is inspiring. He just didn't do it so that he could get the punishment out of his system. I don't think Jesus' death was a necessity to God.

    Evangelism was a big annoyance to me also. Especially the evangelical sales pitch style.

    I do like your "heart of the creator" idea. I think the Bible, nature, and human experience and reason all have the potential to help us find this. But in the institutional church, the straightjacket of dogma often causes the Bible to have the opposite effect.

  28. Hey Brother Kyle:

    I wasn’t really talking about anything specifically that you said. I was venting. Sorry, bro! Please forgive me.

    You mentioned Girard. It does concern me that Girard seems to gloss-over the horror and abject evil of the OT atrocities by spiritualizing them. He seems to see these as “types” or a commentary on “how humans are”. He uses this approach with the cross as a symbol of the “futility of scapegoating”. Gee, humans can be evil is pretty darn obvious. We can be very good and Christ-Like too! I still don’t get it but maybe I do not understand something.

    Anyway, I think we are in violent agreement! And again, my apologies! (blush)

    In His Love, John

  29. Kyle,

    Interesting, so do you consider yourself an
    Evangelical? What would I hear if I came to listen to you preach or teach?

  30. Ken,
    (1) I love your writing. I hope as you write this blog you may consider using it as a notebook and re-organize, weed, re-write and produce a book for us eventually.

    (2) I am composing a simple post which lists the various atonement theories. I am new to this. I am stuggling to get the major groups together. If you have time to take a look and correct, I'd appreciate it.

    For instance, I am not sure how related Recapitulation theory is to Mystical Theory or if either deserves to be a major theory.

    Also, in "The Participatory Model of Atonement" (which you and I found independently, ironically enough), they list two theories I am not familiar with and yet do not seem to expand these:
    Pg 3 states: "Penal, satisfaction, merit and sacrificial models of the atonement are all deontic models"
    But which theories are the "merit" and "sacrificial" models?

    Thanks for considering helping me figure this out.