John Owen (1616-1683, Puritan and Chancellor of Oxford University), R. L. Dabney (1820-1898, chaplain to General Stonewall Jackson and founder Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary), James Denney (1856-1917, Professor of Systematic Theology Free Church College Glasgow), J. I. Packer (1926-present, Professor of Theology at Regent College, Vancouver) and the authors of the recent book: Pierced for Our Transgressions, Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach (all affiliated with Oak Hill Theological College in London) have all written at length defending and explaining the PST. (See at the bottom for books and links).
Now its true that there are some who, while rejecting a limited view of the atonement, have also defended PST. Men such as I. Howard Marshall (1934- present, Professor of New Testament at the University of Aberdeen)and Robert Lightner, (1933-present, Professor of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary)to name a couple. Most of the defenders of PST, however, believe that PST demands one hold to either a limited atonement or universalism (i.e., everyone ultimately will be saved). They typically do not believe that one could, with consistency, hold to PST and an unlimited atonement (i.e., all could be saved but all won’t be saved).
That Christ’s penal substitution for us under divine judgment is the sole meritorious ground on which our relationship with God is restored, and is in this sense decisive for our salvation, is a Reformation point against Rome to which all conservative Protestants hold. But in ordinary everyday contexts substitution is a definite and precise relationship whereby the specific obligations of one or more persons are taken over and discharged by someone else (as on the memorable occasion when I had to cry off a meeting at two days’ notice due to an air strike and found afterwards that Billy Graham had consented to speak as my substitute). Should we not then think of Christ’s substitution for us on the cross as a definite, one-to-one relationship between him and each individual sinner? This seems scriptural, for Paul says, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20). But if Christ specifically took and discharged my penal obligation as a sinner, does it not follow that the cross was decisive for my salvation not only as its sole meritorious ground, but also as guaranteeing that I should be brought to faith, and through faith to eternal life?Now why does Packer maintain that PST demands either a limited atonement or universalism? Because according to PST, Christ bore precisely the amount of suffering that was due to sinners (either the elect or everyone). If he bore precisely the amount of suffering that was due to everyone, then it stands to reason that everyone should be saved because God has been propitiated through the death of Christ for everyone and everyone’s sin has been expiated. This is precisely what 1 John 2:2 teaches. “He himself is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” Packer and other Calvinists take “world” here to mean “the world of the elect” but if it doesn’t mean that, then it must mean the entire human population. If Christ paid the price for sin for everyone and then some do not receive the benefits, the result is that some people will have their sins paid for twice. Once by Christ on the cross and once by themselves in hell. This is a double payment which to all seems unjust.
For is not the faith which receives salvation part of God’s gift of salvation, according to what is affirmed in Philippians 1:29 and John 6:44f. and implied in what Paul says of God calling and John of new birth?38 And if Christ by his death on my behalf secured, reconciliation and righteousness as gifts for me to receive (Rom. 5:11, 17), did not this make it certain that the faith which receives these gifts would also be given me, as a direct consequence of Christ’s dying for me? Once this is granted, however, we are shut up to a choice between universalism and some form of the view that Christ died to save only a part of the human race. But if we reject these options, what have we left? The only coherent alternative is to suppose that though God purposed to save every man through the cross, some thwart his purpose by persistent unbelief; which can only be said if one is ready to maintain that God, after all, does no more than make faith possible, and then in some sense that is decisive for him as well as us leaves it to us to make faith actual. Moreover, any who take this position must redefine substitution in imprecise terms, if indeed they do not drop the term altogether, for they are committing themselves to deny that Christ’s vicarious sacrifice ensures anyone’s salvation. Also, they have to give up Toplady’s position. ‘Payment God cannot twice demand, First from my bleeding surety’s hand, And then again from mine’ — for it is of the essence of their view that some whose sins Christ bore, with saving intent, will ultimately pay the penalty for those same sins in their own persons. So it seems that if we are going to affirm penal substitution for all without exception we must either infer universal salvation or else, to evade this inference, deny the saving efficacy of the substitution for anyone; and if we are going to affirm penal substitution as an effective saving act of God we must either infer universal salvation or else, to evade this inference, restrict the scope of the substitution, making it a substitution for some, not all. (The Logic of Penal Substitution)
Why do I include this point in a discussion of why I reject Evangelical Christianity? It is because the vast majority of evangelicals today do NOT accept a limited atonement and yet they hold to PST. This is a logical and theological problem for them. It demonstrates in yet another way, the internal inconsistencies prevalent within evangelical theology. If Evangelical Theology is internally contradictory, then it is my opinion that it cannot be true.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, chs. 16-17
John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.
R. L. Dabney, Christ Our Penal Substitute
James Denney, The Death of Christ
Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach ,Pierced for Our Transgressions,
I. Howard Marshall, The Theology of the Atonement
Robert Lightner, The Death Christ Died: A biblical case for unlimited atonement