Return of/Bride of the Penal Substitution Atonement Debate

Steve Chalk just got kicked out of a major youth conference because of his position on penal substitution atonement, a perspective on Christianity that – in some instances – insists that God inflicted punishment on Jesus when he died on the cross.

It seems as if a sizeable number of Christians have decided that this issue marks the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy. From their perspective, if you can’t agree that God consciously and intentionally tormented Jesus on the cross, you aren’t a Christian, even if you otherwise profess that Jesus’ death saves us from our sins. 

Why is this such an important issue to supporters of this form of PSA? And why is there such a strong movement in opposition to it?

Clearly, something important is going on here, and I suspect that the answers to these questions are telling about the “break” that is occurring between mainstream evangelicals and post-evangelicals.

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6 Responses to Return of/Bride of the Penal Substitution Atonement Debate

  1. Jonathan Sharp says:

    I read that article earlier. Heartbreaking.

    This is why I hate systematic theology. Once a system is in place, a paradigm on which to hang every verse in the Bible, any interpretation outside of that system is by definition heresy.

    This is not unique to PSA. The Calvinist will assign people with different beliefs to the mass of heretics, as will the Arminian, and the list goes on.

  2. Matt says:

    Thanks for the comment, Jonathan. As always, a great observation.

    I guess I’m a supporter of systematic theology. Like it or not, people are going to form theological convictions, and systematic theology provides a way of expressing and testing those convictions.

    Still, I agree with this much – problems begin to develop when people begin to become overconfident that their own system is the “right” one.

    But all of this talk is going to get me back into Peter Rollins, and I suspect people are getting tired of hearing me talk about that book…

  3. curtis says:

    Yeah, that article was definitely a bummer…

    I agree that systematic theology is a good and necessary thing, but it’s just a tool that we have to try and understand something that is ultimately outside of what we can fully comprehend…

    It’s so upsetting when people are branded as Heretics simply because they’re looking at a different perspective. it’s not like this guy was making up something new, and it’s not even based on Biblical exegesis… Christos Victor has been around since the beginning of Christianity…

    such a bummer…

  4. curtis says:

    oops. I made an important typo:

    “it’s not like this guy was making up something new, and that’s not even based on Biblical exegesis… Christos Victor has been around since the beginning of Christianity and has TONS of support Biblically…

  5. Woody says:

    It is, “God was IN Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”

  6. celticbreathe says:

    maybe because we haven’t frackin evolved from bloody eastern nomadic tribe mentality here in churchianity, we still want eye for an eye. but what if as the ancient thought of christos victor says, that Christ was God’s guilt over what he allowed to happen, to me that helps me with my own guilt over things, not any conceptual psyching myself into a penal event.

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