Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Scot McKnight on Penal Substitution

Over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight has a series on the atonement (a good little preview to his forthcoming book). He tackles the debates and furor surrouding penal substitution with soundess and insight. As I read him Scot is emphasizing two things: (1) An orthodox theory of the atonement is much broader than penal subtitution and we should get out of the default setting of thinking that atonement exclusively = penal substitution. (2) We should be wary of caricatures of penal substitution that do not account for the Trinitarian nature of the atonement or those that fail to demonstrate that substitution relates to representation, and that the cross relates to the resurrection and pentecost.

The posts can be read here under the headings "More Thoughts on Penal Substitution".

Since the term penal substitution are so theologically loaded, overly sermonized, miscaricatured and despised, perhaps there are other ways in which we can express the main point about the execution of God's justice against our sin in the Son (e.g. Rom 8.3). One way (which Scot intimates) is the idea of place-taking expressed best in the German word Stellvertretung.

Here we can have both inclusive and exclusive place-taking.

1. Inclusive: Jesus suffers inclusively and he takes the place of Israel and Adam as he is one of them and shares in the solidarity of their suffering, alienation and death (martyrological and representation).

2. Exclusive: As the representative of Israel and Adam, Jesus suffers exclusively as one who suffers for many, as their substitute, so that they need not suffer (substitution).

My thoughts here arise out of Peter Bolt's gem of a book The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark's Gospel, p. 70.

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