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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Teachings of Jesus Contradict PST

Another inconsistency faced by PST adherents is that their theory contradicts both the actions and the teachings of Jesus. In the life of Jesus one sees forgiveness granted freely, whereas PST argues that God cannot forgive freely but must first be propitiated.

For example, in Luke 5, four men lower a man sick of the palsy down from the roof so that he can get to Jesus through the crowd. The Gospel of Luke reports about Jesus: “And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee” (v. 20). Note he didn’t say that his sins would be forgiven after a sacrifice of blood was made to propitiate the Father but that they are forgiven now on the basis of their faith.

A similar story is told in Luke 7. A sinner woman (probably a prostitute) comes to Jesus and washes his feet with her tears and her hair. Luke records Jesus as saying:

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” (vv. 47-48).

Just prior to these verses, Jesus told a parable:

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? (vv. 41-42).

Now in the parable, it is clear that the creditor is forgiving the debtors freely. He is not demanding that they or someone else cough up the money first before he forgives. Immediately upon finishing the parable, Jesus tells the woman, her sins are forgiven. What is the proper conclusion to be drawn here? Jesus forgives the woman freely without requiring any type of payment up front.

Also in Luke, we have the account of the penitent thief on the cross. After the thief asks Jesus to remember him when he enters into his kingdom, Jesus replies: "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

Not only do the actions of Jesus demonstrate free forgiveness but he teaches his disciples to do the same. In the so-called “Lord’s Prayer”, which is really the model prayer for the disciples, Jesus teaches his followers to pray: "And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us" (Luke 11:4; see also Matt. 6:12)). It sounds here like God’s forgiveness of us is the same as our forgiveness of others. If we forgive those who are indebted to us, we must do so freely. It would be pure eisegesis (i.e., reading one's own ideas into the text rather than allowing the text to say what it says)to say that the people his disciples are to forgive must first make some type of restitution or pay retribution. In Matthew’s version of this prayer, he adds the following:

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:14-15).

Here Jesus makes it clear that his disciples must forgive freely those who trespass against them, if they expect their Father to freely forgive them. More examples could be produced but this is sufficient to illustrate the teachings of Jesus on this matter. Forgiveness is to be done freely.

Now, PST adherents know these verses as well as I do. How do they respond? Well as is typical of evangelical theologians, they read the actions and words of Jesus through the grid of the later NT writings. (Its interesting that this done on almost every point of doctrine by evangelicals. For example, see longtime Professor of Theology at Dallas Seminary, Charles Ryrie's book, So Great A Salvation). They argue that Jesus could forgive these people seemingly freely but that in reality, he could do so only because he knew that he was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) In other words, since God is eternal and Jesus is God, whether the death had taken place in time yet was immaterial. It was a certainty in God’s mind.

Well, it was not a certainty in the minds of the disciples and those who heard Jesus speak these words. Why didn’t Jesus clarify? Why did he leave them believing that forgiveness was to come freely? And why didn’t Luke who apparently wrote the gospel that bears his name, insert this little theological caveat? He was a companion of Paul and no doubt understood Pauline theology.

In the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus says:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:38-45).

Here Jesus is plainly teaching his disciples that they are not to seek retribution for wrongs done to them. They are to love their enemies and bless the ones who curse them and do good to the ones who hate them, and etc. Why should they do this? So that they may properly imitate their Heavenly Father who does the same. He sends sunshine and rain equally on the just and the unjust.

Once again, the PST adherents are faced with a problem. How do they answer it? They do what they typically do in interpreting the Gospels, they read Jesus’ words through the grid of Pauline theology. They reply that man is not to take revenge on those who do him wrong but rather he is to leave that up to God. Its God’s prerogative not man’s to seek revenge.(See Pierced for Our Transgressions, pp. 234-235). Paul wrote: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head" (Romans 12:19-20).

Once again, those who heard Jesus give the “Sermon on the Mount,” did not have access to Paul’s teachings. Not only that but Jesus teaches that his followers are not to seek retribution for wrongs done to them but to model themselves after the Father who sends rain on the wicked and the righteous alike. There is no intimation at all in Jesus’ words that one should just leave the “revenge-taking” up to God. To interpret his words this way is nothing but blatant eisegesis.

Why are evangelicals driven to eisegesis? Because, in my opinion, the teachings of the various writers of Scripture are not in harmony. Since evangelicals insist that the Bible is a unified, inspired revelation from God (some even say its inerrant),they believe it must be in agreement with itself. This presupposition drives them to "jump through hoops" and perform “mental gymnastics” in order to try to harmonize the Scripture.


  1. I've heard preachers encourage their hearers to apply the "heaping coals" principle to ensure their detractors will be punished with greater severity in the afterlife. Do all these nice things for your enemies ... not because you wish them well, but so you can compound their damnation. What amazing love!

  2. **They argue that Jesus could forgive these people seemingly freely but that in reality, he could do so only because he knew that he was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8)**

    This behavior just comes across as deceptive, though. For instance, when evangelicals share the Gospel today, it includes the idea that Jesus was punished for our sins, and God forgives us through Jesus accepting that punishment. If you accept Jesus as your Savior without acknowledging the whole punishment aspect, wouldn't evangelicals question your salvation? Wouldn't they say that by leaving the punishment aspect out, one is not accurately portraying the Gospel?

    Yet Jesus leaves out this huge, key piece of information in regards to the Gospel, and they say it's okay because he knew he would accept the punishment, and that's why he appeared to forgive freely. But wouldn't the people listening to him then not be following the true Gospel? Why wouldn't Jesus -- if PST is the right one -- not be upfront with all the crowds from the get-go, especially if people would be tormented eternally?

    **they read Jesus’ words through the grid of Pauline theology. They reply that man is not to take revenge on those who do him wrong but rather he is to leave that up to God.**

    Can this behavior really mesh with forgiveness, though? I've heard this thought quite a few times, that Christians will forgive the perpetrator, and let God dish out the vengeance later. But that always comes across as saying, "I'll forgive you, because God's going to punish you later."

    If the perpetrator is still getting what s/he deserves, and the only reason why you are to forgive someone is because God handles the punishment, then what exactly is the Christian letting go of anything? How is the Christian releasing the perpetrator from the debt the perpetrator owes?

  3. Good points, Steve and OneSmallStep.
    Furthermore, the different factions of Christendom cannot agree on how a person gets saved anyway. Some say it happens at Baptism. Others say one has to say a "sinners' prayer."

    If salvation is also dependent on one's personal knowledge of the gospel, what happens if you have an important point wrong? What about someone with impaired cognitive function or a child?

  4. Couldn't it be that Jesus forgave their sins based on their faith in him? They came to him for healing so it seems they believed he was the messiah. He did know that he would be crucified, so this doesn't seem like a stretch. People have always been saved by faith. Sins were until until Christ made propitiation for them. Just my thoughts

  5. Rover, what about Jesus' story of the sinful man who was in the temple with the proud, self-righteous man? The sinner simply beat his breast and said, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." And he went away justified. No atonement and no faith in Jesus. He was able to get forgiveness straight from God, just by asking.

    Traditional Christian doctrine will never mesh with the teaching of the Synoptic gospels, because they're two completely different religions. You might as well try to harmonize Mormonism and Islam.

  6. **Couldn't it be that Jesus forgave their sins based on their faith in him? **

    Yes, but which Jesus? Greek Orthodox Christians don't follow the same atonement theory as evangelicals do, and I believe -- though I could be wrong -- that many evangelicals wouldn't consider the Orthodox to be true Christians. Yet both claim to have faith in Jesus.

    And the people in that time who had faith in Jesus -- which Jesus? Did they understand that Jesus was part of the Triune God? Or that Jesus was God at all?

  7. Steve,

    I appreciate your time. Thanks for responding. But wouldn't a valid Christian response be that this man was responing to the light that he had and in faith. Just as Abraham was saved by faith before Christ died. Faith that God would provide for his salvation. Didn't the writer of Hebrews deal with this, ie, living by faith in the knowledge that one had about God?
    I agree that they did not know completely who Jesus was but they recongnized that He was a prophet or teacher sent by God. Those who repented under John's baptism were probably saved as well due to their faith in God represented by the baptist.

  8. Rover, what you're saying, then, is that some people (the ignorant) can be saved without faith in Jesus and some (the knowledgeable) can't be saved without faith in Jesus. Different standards of redemption for different kinds of people.

    If that's true, do you think it's a good idea for the church to send out missionaries to ignorant people? Making them knowledgeable is only going to switch them into the class that has a narrower salvation requirement

  9. Rover,

    **I agree that they did not know completely who Jesus was but they recongnized that He was a prophet or teacher sent by God.**

    But then you run into the situation that Steve is highlighting -- different standards of redemption, depending on the person. The people back then only needed one type of faith. The people today need a different kind of faith. That makes the requirements of salvation relative to the situation. And God/Jesus isn't supposed to be a relative type of person. It's the whole the same yesterday, today, and forever. And in talking to any evangelical today, it's not enough to identify Jesus as a teacher or prophet at all. Yet back then, the people had faith in Jesus as a teacher or prophet, which would've meant they believed they had faith in a man to heal them. Or faith that God have given Jesus a particular kind of power. But that faith is so different than the faith outlined today, where having faith in Jesus as the God who saves. Plus, there were people who healed in the Old Testament. People might've had faith in those healers, but that certainly didn't mean they were saved.

  10. In Matthew and Mark, there is a belief in atonement through the death of Christ (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28; 26:28). So, even though Jesus forgave sins before his death in those books, there was a belief that his death was necessary to accomplish atonement, in some way, shape, or form.

    On Jesus being the same yesterday, today, and forever, that occurs in Hebrews, which makes the point that God does different things in different times. Before, there were animal sacrifices. Later, Christ was the sacrifice. So I don't think Hebrews means "Jesus Christ the same" to mean God has to do everything exactly the same way, at all times.

  11. **there is a belief in atonement through the death of Christ (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28; 26:28)**

    But what kind of atonement, though? This post is dedicated to the idea that the teachings of Jesus don't mesh with the standard penal substitution atonement theory. And two of the three verses provided focus on a life as a ransom for many, which is a lot closer to the ransom atonement theory. The other verse talks about blood for the forgiveness of sins and mentions nothing about taking the punishment of another. Based on those three verses, we couldn't come anywhere close to the idea of atonement held by evangelicals today.

    **So I don't think Hebrews means "Jesus Christ the same" to mean God has to do everything exactly the same way, at all times.**

    Except this theory is coming from the same group of people who insist that the Bible holds timeless truths, that God does not change, that His standards do not change, and basically hate the idea of moral relativity. Yet the most pivotal aspect of their religion -- the faith/salvation area -- is relative?

  12. Of course it does, because Penal Substitution isn't even Biblical, you need to Repent and believe as Acts says,

    What did Jesus Christ say?

    Matthew 7:21 - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." - Jesus Christ

    Penal Substitution wasn't even conceived until 1000 years After The Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Being a "fundy" meant one thing according to Matthew 7:21, that you were never a Christian, you've always been secular.