What is Penal Substitutionary Atonement

In beginning to explain the reasons why I do not hold to Penal Substitutionary Atonement (hereafter PS) it seems necessary to explain and define, at least in general terms, what this view entails. I will do my best to be fair in explaining this doctrine but of course I am open to correction.

The best description I have found up to date is from the book Pierced for Our Transgressions, which I strongly recommend for anyone interested in understanding what the Scriptures have to say about Jesus’ death and its meaning. The description claims that PS is, “the idea that Jesus died in the place of sinners, bearing the punishment of God’s wrath due to them on account of their rebellion.”

The way that I understand the doctrine in question is that God is so “Just” that he cannot merely forgive sin it must be punished otherwise sacrifice was unnecessary or, more importantly for Christians, Jesus did not have to die on the cross. This may be found in the above quote when it says that this punishment was “due to them.” Another aspect of this doctrine is that atonement must involve punishment for something that is done consciously or, in other words, punishment for rebellion.

Initially, I will take up these two points in debate since I do not believe they adequately deal with all of the Scriptures that describe atonement. I believe that the Scriptures clearly narrate 1) God forgiving without punishing and 2) atonement is needed for non-sinful acts. If this is true, the doctrine of PS is not necessary.

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2 Responses to What is Penal Substitutionary Atonement

  1. Bob Hannah says:

    I think many of us non-Christians, on reading the doctrine
    of atonement, ask the question – how does the execution of Jesus
    2000 years ago possibly compensate for my sins here and now? Its a
    rather silly and barbaric idea. I will try to take responsibility
    for what I do here in this life, as we all should. I know that you
    are able to find in the Bible references to a “law” of atonement,
    but I think realistically its tied up with the practices of animal
    and human sacrifice carried on at that time.

    • I agree with u in that I do not think atonement equals to precise payment for sins. Matter of fact I think the point is that the death is much less than what it should cost (our death). I will have much more to say about this but I think u r on to something.

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