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Friday, September 17, 2010

Francis Hall on Penal Substitution

Francis Joseph Hall (1857-1933) was an Episcopalian Priest and Professor of Dogmatic Theology at The General Theological Seminary of New York City. In 1918, he published volume 7 of his series on Dogmatic Theology entitled: The Passion and Exaltation of Christ. In the book he argued against the Penal Substitutionary Theory (PST) of the atonement. He rejected the PST for the following reasons:

1. The imputation of one man's sin to another is immoral.

First of all, we ought to eliminate the notion that the God of truth and justice resorts to forensic imputation, whether of our guilt to Christ or of His righteousness to us. The presumption is overwhelming that a method of dealing with sin which appears untrue and immoral to men cannot be divine. It took a long time for Israel to learn that "the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him," and that what is needed is the turning of men from sin to righteousness. But what was so slowly learned by the ancients has become a Christian truism, which only needs to be reasonably stated, in order to be ratified by the moral judgment of all enlightened and unprejudiced Christian believers(pp. 45-46).

2. To punish one who is not guilty is a parody of justice.

The punishment of one who is not guilty, followed by exemption from punishment of the real sinners, appears on the face of it to be a parody of justice, and to violate the moral requirement that "the soul that sinneth it shall die" (p. 49).

3. Jesus did not remove physical death as a penalty for sin nor did he suffer spiritual death.

The penalty of sin is twofold: (a) the temporary sufferings of men, which culminate in physical death; (b) the death of the soul, or its final or permanent exclusion from the divine communion and fellowship for which man was made. The former penalty has not been removed by Christ's death; and the latter was not endured by Him (p. 49).
[A]s has been shown, the sufferings which Christ endured still have to be participated in by us. Even on the Cross He is our example. There is, therefore, no penal substitution. It cannot be denied that the term "substitution" is in line with certain scriptural phrases, and also with many expressions in patristic literature. But in its formal use it gives emphasis where Scripture does not, and expresses a more determinative idea than New Testament teaching, comprehensively regarded, justifies. The subject will call for treatment later on. We content ourselves at this point with repudiating the theory of substitution which describes it as penal. Our repudiation of this is absolute (pp. 51-52).

Hall goes on to advocate a theory of the atonement that merges elements of Anselm's theory with elements of the Eastern orthodox theory of incarnational atonement.

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