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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Does the Catholic view of Christ's Atonement permit the Reformed view of "Penal Substitution"?

Some Reformed Protestants have commented to me that the Catholic Church doesn't have an official view of the Atonement and that the Catholic Church even permits the Reformed view of "Penal Substitution". The problem with these kinds of claims is that they don't understand what the Catholic Church means when the Church uses terms like "atonement" and "sacrifice" (and similar terms), so these Protestants end up reading foreign ideas into Catholic teaching. The fact of the matter is, the Catholic Church doesn't have to condemn every single error that comes up in history, especially if those errors are already condemned in other forms. So while you won't find any Church teaching that says "Penal Substitution is heresy," you will find the Church teaching things directly contrary to what Penal Substitution espouses. Typically, the Church lays out parameters for orthodoxy, and while one is free to work within those parameters, one is not free to transgress those parameters. For this post I'll be giving some examples of Catholic teaching that go against the concept of Penal Substitution, showing that a Catholic cannot embrace that view of the Cross and be within the parameters of orthodoxy and Catholic thought.


(1) The Catechism says: "The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception" (CCC605). The reason why Calvinists (at least the consistent ones) believe in a doctrine called "Limited Atonement" (the idea that Jesus didn't die for all men but rather only for the elect) is because Penal Substitution logically necessitates it. If Jesus suffered the same punishment all people of history deserved, then everyone would be saved, and since we know for certain that everyone is not saved, then this logically leads one to conclude Jesus did not die for all. Given this, it is only possible to say that Jesus died for all men if "atonement" is understood in a different manner than that of Penal Substitution, and thus Catholics cannot embrace Penal Substitution. This raises a follow-up question: What does "atonement" mean for Catholics? I'll address that next. 

(2) One Calvinist told me that Ludwig Ott's famous Catholic theology textbook, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, has a section on atonement that I should read because it will 'prove' that the Catholic view of atonement allows for the Protestant understanding. Here's what Fundamentals has to say on the matter of atonement:
By atonement in general is understood the satisfaction of a demand. In the narrower sense it is taken to mean the reparation of an insult: <Satisfaction is nothing more than compensation for an injury done to another.> (Cat. Rom. II 5, 59). This occurs through a voluntary performance which outweighs the injustice done. If such a performance through its intrinsic value completely counterbalances the grievousness of the guilt according to the demands of justice, the atonement is adequate or of full value . . . If the atonement is not performed by the offender himself, but by another in his stead it is vicarious atonement (satisfactio vicaria).
(Book3, Part 2, Section 10.1 & 10.3)
So "atonement" (also called "satisfaction") is doing a good work that counterbalances (or even over-balances) the injustice that was done. Ott draws this out from the Catechism of Trent's section on Penance, wherein a concise definition is given: "Satisfaction is nothing more than compensation for an injury done to another." And St Thomas himself teaches plainly in the Summa:
He properly atones for an offense who offers something which the offended one loves equally, or even more than he detested the offense. But by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race. (ST 3:48:2)
This is a good foundation to lay, because this is the essence of the concept of Atonement (Satisfaction) that the Church endorses and what Scripture itself teaches. [1] There is nothing wishy-washy about this concept; it's a firmly established idea within Catholic tradition. There are no alternate definitions out there. And just as Thomas explains Jesus making atonement by means of suffering out of love and obedience, so too the Catechism explains it: "It is love to the end that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction" (CCC#616). And the Compendium says on paragraph 122: "Jesus freely offered his life as an expiatory sacrifice, that is, he made reparation for our sins with the full obedience of his love unto death." [2] Notice that it's not receiving our punishment in which atonement is made, but rather the good work of Christ's commitment to loving sinful man even in the midst of persecution, hence why Christ's sacrifice is called a "pleasing aroma" in Ephesians 5:2 (as opposed to the stench of guilt which arouses God's wrath).

On the other hand, the Protestant view of "atonement" is that in which the guilt and punishment due to one person is transferred over to another. This Protestant understanding of atonement is foreign to Catholic tradition and the Bible. (More on this later.) In the true meaning of atonement, nothing logically demands nor requires guilt and punishment to be transferred. This also explains why the Catholic side speaks of Christ offering up a sacrifice while the Protestant side speaks of (God's) wrath being poured down on the sacrifice. [3]

(3) If good deeds are what cause atonement, then why is there so much talk of Jesus suffering? This question is especially relevant given that Jesus did in fact shed blood and die, and we know death is clearly a punishment of some kind. Since the mention of suffering suggests undergoing a penalty or punishment, this would thus seem to suggest Jesus was punished in our place, and thus supporting the Protestant claim. This is perfectly understandable, and this line of reasoning is why Penal Substitution is so easily affirmed. But this conclusion is very wrong for a couple of reasons. 

Before addressing the problems, we must define what death is. Death does not mean you cease to exist, but rather death means that you now exist under a different condition: You begin your existence in life as a person existing with a compound nature of body and soul perfectly united, but upon death your soul has separated from your body. You as a person continue to exist within your soul alone, while your body suffers decay and awaits the ultimate "healing" (reuniting body and soul as they were never intended to be separated) coming from the Resurrection at the end of time. 

What was just described is often called "physical death," even though it's properly and simply called death. But there is also a metaphorical death called "spiritual death" which occurs when you break communion with God. When you sin gravely, you lose sanctifying grace and thus the Trinity no longer indwells within your soul, hence the term "mortal sin" (sin which brings death [of the person's soul]). This is death in a supernatural way (since grace is not natural to man), and so death of this form is infinitely worse than natural death.

When Adam sinned, he underwent both types of death, and so do we. From this, Protestants understandably argue that Jesus must have undergone both types of death as well if He was truly going to suffer the punishment we deserve. Protestants say that for Penal Substitutionary Atonement to work, Jesus must have endured the spiritual death we deserved, the break off communion with God, otherwise Jesus wouldn't be suffering the punishment our guilt deserves. But this claim is incompatible with Catholic dogma for two reasons. 

First of all, Catholicism teaches what the Scriptures plainly teach, that Jesus only endured a physical death, without any mention of spiritual death. For example, in paragraph 624 the Catechism says: 
"In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only "die for our sins" but should also "taste death," experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead."
This quote is clearly talking about physical death only, which began the moment He died on the Cross (not before) and lasted until the Resurrection. And the Catechism of Trent confirms this in the Lesson on Article IV of the Apostles Creed (where the Creed says Christ was "crucified, died, and buried"):
The pastor should explain that these words present for our belief that Jesus Christ, after He was crucified, really died and was buried. It is not without just reason that this is proposed to the faithful as a separate object of belief, since there were some who denied His death upon the cross. The Apostles, therefore, were justly of opinion that to such an error should be opposed the doctrine of faith contained in this Article, the truth of which is placed beyond the possibility of doubt by the united testimony of all the Evangelists, who record that Jesus yielded up the ghost. . . . When, therefore, we say that Jesus died, we mean that His soul was disunited from His body.
Notice that spiritual death, which is more important in the Protestant scheme, is strikingly absent! Again, it is plain that when the Church speaks of Christ suffering death, the only thing meant is a physical death, not a spiritual death. [4] By this fact alone, the Church dogma doesn't allow Penal Substitution, since He didn't suffer the right type of punishment the Protestant view requires (i.e. spiritual death by the breaking of communion with the Father). [5] But there's more!

Second of all, it's theologically impossible for Christ to undergo spiritual death. Basic Christology, which was confirmed in the Ecumenical Councils, is reiterated plainly throughout Catholic tradition, and particularly clear many places in the Catechism, with paragraph 650 being the most helpful: 
The Fathers contemplate the Resurrection from the perspective of the divine person of Christ who remained united to his soul and body, even when these were separated from each other by death: [Gregory of Nyssa says] "By the unity of the divine nature, which remains present in each of the two components of man, these are reunited. For as death is produced by the separation of the human components, so Resurrection is achieved by the union of the two."
Again, this is basic Christology, and Catholics have always been careful to not violate Christology in any sense. [6] Unfortunately, Protestants often eschew advanced theology and philosophy, so they run right into Christological heresy when they insist that Jesus underwent a spiritual death. This weak theological foundation is why you have big name Reformed Protestants saying Jesus was cut-off from the Father, that the Father broke fellowship with the Son, that the Son was "damned," etc. But this is plainly impossible once you realize Jesus is a Divine Person with a Divine Nature and human nature permanently united. How could Jesus spiritually die (the soul losing the indwelling of the Holy Trinity) when the union was so permanent that His Divinity remained united to his body and soul even after the two separated? And even more problematic is that "spiritual death" means it was the Divine Person of Son who would be cut-off from the Divine Person of Father, not merely the Son being cut off from human nature. In other words, it's heresy (Nestorianism) to suggest the Divine Son (a Person) could only suffer broken communion in His humanity, since it is Persons who form communion with other Persons, not natures (alone) in communion with natures. So "cutting off" the Son would, by definition, destroy the Trinity, since it severs Christ's very Sonship

Even though Protestants are insistent that the Trinity was not destroyed, they lack the theological foundation to realize that is in fact what Penal Substitution amounts to. And since the Catholic Church affirms basic Christology, clearly affirmed in the above quotes regarding Christ's death (the very thing under consideration now), this makes it impossible for any Catholic to affirm Penal Substitution.

(4) How is physical suffering and death for a mere few hours sufficient to atone for an infinite offense against God? Catholic theology has a good explanation for this, and it's been consistently taught by all the great minds of the Church, especially by Aquinas (ST 3:48:2.3): "The dignity of Christ's flesh is not to be estimated solely from the nature of flesh, but also from the Person assuming it--namely, inasmuch as it was God's flesh, the result of which was that it was of infinite worth." And in Ott's Fundamentals we read:
The intrinsic reason of the adequacy of Christ's atonement lies in the Hypostatic Union. Christ's actions possess an intrinsic infinite value, because the [person doing the action acting] is the Divine Person of the Logos. Thus Christ's atonement was, through its intrinsic value, sufficient to counterbalance the infinite insult offered to God.
As a crude analogy, think about the King in a game of Chess. The King's life is of infinite worth, worth more than even all the other pieces put together. So a loss of just the King is a loss of infinite value. In fact, even the smallest suffering Christ underwent was sufficient to provide not just an atonement of equal value to the offense of all man's sins, but in fact Christ's smallest deeds sufficed as a super-abundant atonement. And this is well established Catholic teaching, as Ott references Pope Clement's VI Papal Bull Unigenitus Dei Filius in 1343, in which Clement taught that Jesus,
"Who innocent, immolated on the altar of the Cross is known to have poured out not a little drop of blood, which however on account of union with the Word would have been sufficient for the redemption of the whole human race, but copiously as a kind of flowing stream" (Denzinger #550).
Though this quote can be awkward to read, in it the Catholic Church teaches that a mere single drop of Christ's blood would have been sufficient for the redemption of the world. But in God's great wisdom, it wasn't just a little drop of blood was shed, but rather rivers of blood, to more magnificently show forth God's love. In fact, the very Catholic language and teaching that Jesus make "super-abundant" (not merely equivalent) satisfaction for our sin is illogical in Penal Substitution, because then it would mean Jesus suffered a punishment far worse than what our sins deserved to be punished for.

Since a Protestant cannot logically affirm (nor have I seen in practice) a mere drop of Christ's blood would have been sufficient (even super-abundant), this shows that the Catholic understanding of the Atonement is incompatible with Penal Substitution.

(5) But even if we say Jesus suffered only physical death, isn't that still saying Jesus endured a punishment? It is only true in the broad, non-judicial sense of "punishment" can we say that Jesus was punished for us. In fact, as an earlier footnote makes clear, Gospel accounts never mention the Father as inflicting harm on Christ. The only source of Christ's pains came from the miserable physical persecutions done by men, which Christ calmly endured as the "lamb who remained silent," and in this peaceful enduring of suffering turned this around into a sacrifice. As Ott explains: 
The act of sacrifice consisted in the fact that Christ, in a disposition of the most perfect self-surrender, voluntarily gave up His life to God by permitting His enemies to kill Him, although He had the power of preventing it.
(Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Bk3:Pt2:Ch2:Sec8)
And St Thomas confirms: 
"Christ's Passion was indeed a malefice on His slayers' part; but on His own it was the sacrifice of one suffering out of charity. Hence it is Christ who is said to have offered this sacrifice, and not the executioners" (ST 3:48:3.3)
So Christ, acting as High Priest, offered up his life by refusing to hate his enemies in the midst of persecution. [7] This is precisely what St Peter meant when he interpreted Isaiah 53 for us in his First Epistle (I wrote about this HERE). I don't really see how Protestants can affirm Christ as High Priest because in the Penal Substitution view it is God inflicting the "punishment" on the sacrifice, which effectively strips the High Priesthood from Jesus and gives it to the one Person who cannot be High Priest, God the Father (Who is on the receiving end of the Sacrifice)! (I wrote about this in ANOTHER ARTICLE). So, yet another reason why the Catholic understanding of Atonement isn't compatible with Penal Substitution. 

(6) Why do Catholic documents state that Jesus endured the worst sufferings humanly possible, particularly in His soul, if not to indicate He suffered the (equivalent) pains of hellfire itself? This is a good question and requires some explanation, as well as sufficiently understanding all of what has been said up to this point in the article. 

The Catechism of Trent explains in Article IV of the Creed (quoted freely):
It cannot be a matter of doubt that His soul as to its inferior part was sensible of these torments; for as He really assumed human nature it is a necessary consequence that He really, and in His soul, experienced a most acute sense of pain. Hence these words of the Savior: My soul is sorrowful even unto death. ... Although human nature was united to the Divine Person, He felt the bitterness of His Passion as acutely as if no such union had existed. 
That Christ our Lord suffered the most excruciating torments of mind and body is certain. In the first place, there was no part of His body that did not experience the most agonizing torture. His hands and feet were fastened with nails to the cross; His head was pierced with thorns and smitten with a reed; His face was befouled with spittle and buffeted with blows; His whole body was covered with stripes.
His agony was increased by the very constitution and frame of His body. Formed by the power of the Holy Ghost, it was more perfect and better organized than the bodies of other men can be, and was therefore endowed with a superior susceptibility and a keener sense of all the torments which it endured. . . . Christ our Lord tempered with no admixture of sweetness the bitter chalice of His Passion but permitted His human nature to feel as acutely every species of torment as if He were only man, and not also God.
It is important to distinguish between Christ suffering divine spiritual torments (i.e. the Father's wrath, spiritual death) versus suffering human emotional torments. This is why the Catechism speaks of Christ suffering in the "inferior part" of His soul, meaning the emotions and mental anguish. Aquinas elaborates on what this mental anguish consisted of in ST 3:46:5,
For Christ suffered from friends abandoning Him; in His reputation, from the blasphemies hurled at Him; in His honor and glory, from the mockeries and the insults heaped upon Him; in things, for He was despoiled of His garments; in His soul, from sadness, weariness, and fear; in His body, from wounds and scourgings.
Note that none of this suffering of Christ's soul is said to be of the divine type, God's anger, etc, as Protestants teach. In that link, Aquinas specifically rules out the idea Jesus suffered every type of suffering, because Jesus didn't endure every type of suffering, most especially not being cut-off from the Father. And that's the key. Even though Jesus was made capable of suffering worse than anyone ever suffered, this wasn't due to suffering certain types of pains. And thus there's no actual basis to say that Jesus suffered the equivalent of hellfire or anything similar, because intensity of suffering isn't the same as type of suffering. Christ's sufferings of body and soul were of the 'temporal' ('physical') type only.

Such distinctions show that in Catholic teaching, Jesus did not (and earlier it was shown He could not) suffer the pains of being spiritually cut-off from the Father, as Penal Substitution requires, despite affirming that Jesus did in fact endure the worst suffering a person has ever suffered, including in His soul. 

(7) A Reformed Protestant presented a few quotes (which I'll share below) from John Paul II commenting on Jesus' words "My God, why have you forsaken me" that seem to be compatible with the  Protestants understanding of those words. What did John Paul II mean in those quotes? 

First off, I've covered this verse numerous times, so please just search my blog if you want to know more. Briefly, the Reformed interpretation is that Jesus was spiritually cut-off from the Father when He uttered these words, as the Father's wrath poured down upon Him while on the Cross. The Reformed insist that if you fail to affirm their interpretation of Jesus' words, then you've missed the very heart of Jesus' suffering on the Cross. But Catholic tradition is clear how these words are to be understood, with St Thomas Aquinas in his survey of ancient Christian commentary giving us the understood meaning: "God is said to have forsaken Him in death because He exposed Him to the power of His persecutors; He withdrew His protection, but did not break the union." [8] No Catholic document I've ever seen permits reading Christ's words as signifying Jesus enduring spiritual cutting-off, broken fellowship, the Father's wrath, etc. In fact, such talk is the furthest thing from the orthodox Catholic mind, as I've shown throughout this article thus far.

Now the two quotes from Blessed John Paul II are as follows, which I'll comment upon as I present them:

More than an experience of physical pain, his Passion is an agonizing suffering of the soul. Theological tradition has not failed to ask how Jesus could possibly experience at one and the same time his profound unity with the Father, by its very nature a source of joy and happiness, and an agony that goes all the way to his final cry of abandonment. The simultaneous presence of these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects is rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union.
(Apostolic Letter: Beginning the New Millennium, paragraph 26)
From this quote, the Protestant made the claim that John Paul is saying here that Jesus could, in some mysterious manner, experience both perfect communion with the Father while simultaneously experience cutting-off from the Father. It would seem two polar-opposite ideas are being affirmed, and thus the Reformed are free to say Jesus was simultaneously suffering eternal damnation while at the same time enjoying perfect Heavenly bliss. 

With all that I've said thus far, it shouldn't be hard to see the fallacy and error in this Protestant's claim. First of all, this Protestant is assuming John Paul is actually talking about Jesus being spiritually cut-off from the Father. But that's not correct (which I'll further demonstrate in a bit). Second of all, John Paul is clear that the great theological minds have asked and addressed this question, meaning it is not an open question that Catholics can just believe as they please on. The great theological minds have demonstrated what is true and what is false on many facets of the Mystery of Salvation. As I've already shown, there's no basis whatsoever to think the great Catholic minds ever saw Jesus suffering God's wrath as an option. Thirdly, it's absurd to think that John Paul (or any great Catholic theologian) was asserting a blatant contradiction, as if Jesus could be simultaneously in communion and not-in-communion with the Father. That's ridiculous. 

Now for John Paul's explanation in his very next paragraph:
Faced with this mystery, we are greatly helped not only by theological investigation but also by that great heritage which is the "lived theology" of the saints. The saints offer us precious insights which enable us to understand more easily the intuition of faith, thanks to the special enlightenment which some of them have received from the Holy Spirit... Not infrequently the saints have undergone something akin to Jesus' experience on the Cross in the paradoxical blending of bliss and pain. In the Dialogue of Divine Providence, God the Father shows Catherine of Siena how joy and suffering can be present together in holy souls: "Thus the soul is blissful and afflicted: afflicted on account of the sins of its neighbor, blissful on account of the union and the affection of charity which it has inwardly received. These souls imitate the spotless Lamb, my Only-begotten Son, who on the Cross was both blissful and afflicted".13 In the same way, Thérèse of Lisieux lived her agony in communion with the agony of Jesus, "experiencing" in herself the very paradox of Jesus's own bliss and anguish: "In the Garden of Olives our Lord was blessed with all the joys of the Trinity, yet his dying was no less harsh. It is a mystery, but I assure you that, on the basis of what I myself am feeling, I can understand something of it".14 What an illuminating testimony!
So what John Paul was talking about is simply this: How can a person who is so closely in communion with God also suffer 'negative' feelings like sadness, affliction, loneliness, etc? Well, since it's not a contradictory proposal, it's not impossible. But it certainly is mysterious, because you'd think that being in such intimate communion with God would include a certain comfort and safety that precludes feelings of sadness and such. Clearly, John Paul was not suggesting Jesus was enduring spiritual torments by God's angry wrath upon Him! Instead, Jesus' 'cry of final abandonment' is to be understood more along the lines of (but infinitely more acute than) the sadness that we all feel when in the midst of major suffering we ask ourselves "Why is God letting this happen to me?"

The second quote this Protestant provided was from John Paul's General Audience lecture from November 30, 1998, where the topic of that day was Christ's words of abandonment.
Here one can sketch a summary of Jesus’ psychological situation in relationship to God. The external events seemed to manifest the absence of the Father who permitted the crucifixion of his Son, though having at his disposal “legions of angels” (cf. Mt 26:53), without intervening to prevent his condemnation to death and execution. In Gethsemane Simon Peter had drawn a sword in Jesus’ defense, but was immediately blocked by Jesus himself (cf. Jn 18:10 f.). In the praetorium Pilate had repeatedly tried wily maneuvers to save him (cf. Jn 18:31, 38 f.; 19:4-6, 12-15); but the Father was silent. That silence of God weighed on the dying Jesus as the heaviest pain of all, so much so that his enemies interpreted that silence as a sign of his reprobation: He trusted in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’ (Mt 27:43).

In the sphere of feelings and affection this sense of the absence and abandonment by God was the most acute pain for the soul of Jesus who drew his strength and joy from union with the Father. This pain rendered all the other sufferings more intense. That lack of interior consolation was Jesus’ greatest agony.


However, Jesus knew that by this ultimate phase of his sacrifice, reaching the intimate core of his being, he completed the work of reparation which was the purpose of his sacrifice for the expiation of sins. If sin is separation from God, Jesus had to experience in the crisis of his union with the Father a suffering proportionate to that separation.
Everything seems to be perfectly easy to understand and right in accord with the traditional Catholic interpretation of that verse. But then John Paul seems to throw a curve ball at the last sentence. This Protestant claims that in this last sentence, John Paul is indeed saying that Jesus did in fact suffer the equivalent pains of a lost soul in hellfire suffers. My response simply is that this is reading too much into the text. The context gives no reason to think this abandonment is that of a cut-off soul, and in fact the context already shows the type of abandonment. Jesus did experience the worst sufferings imaginable, and if the Father permitted all this to happen, then yes it's a profound mystery a loving God would allow that to happen to anyone, particularly His Son. And the fact that Jesus was still alive when He said "Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit" is in no way compatible with the idea that the Father was spiritually cut-off from Jesus.

In the end, these quotes this Protestant provided are simply pure desperation, scraping for whatever scraps Protestants can get their hands on to salvage a horribly blasphemous and unbiblical teaching.

Hopefully you enjoyed all this, and sorry for making it so long. I originally intended it to be much shorter.


END NOTES:

[1] Ott's Fundamentals goes onto say: "When Holy Scripture designates Christ's precious blood, or the giving up of His life, as a ransom-price for our sins, the basic thought is that the atonement offered is of equal value to the guilt of the sins. 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Cor 6:20; 1 Tim 2:6"
And the Catechism of Trent (Lesson on Article IV of the Apostles Creed) says: "The price which He paid for our ransom was not only adequate and equal to our debts, but far exceeded them."

[2] Ott's Fundamentals also explain what "sacrifice" means:
By sacrifice is understood in the widest sense, the surrender of some good for the sake of a good aim. The religious meaning attaching to sacrifice in the wider sense is every inner act of self-surrender to God, and every outer manifestation of the inner sacrificial disposition, e.g., prayer, alms-giving, mortification. Cf. Ps 51:19; 141;2; Hos 14:2; Ecclus. 35:4; Rom 12:1 In the narrower liturgical sense one takes sacrifice to mean an external religious act, in which a gift perceptible to the senses is offered by an ordained servant of God in recognition of the absolute sovereignty and majesty of God, and, since the Fall, in atonement to God.
Nothing in this definition of "sacrifice" has anything to do with punishing the sacrifice in place of another.  No transfer of punishment is taking place. See also Aquinas in ST 3:48:3 where "sacrifice" is similarly defined, and here I briefly quote: "A true sacrifice is every good work done in order that we may cling to God in holy fellowship."

[3] With that in mind, even though the end of the Fundamentals quote I gave says the Catholic view can be called called "Vicarious Atonement" (substitutionary atonement) it is crucial to keep in mind that "atonement" is being defined in a radically different sense than the Protestant Penal Substitutionary Atonement view. This is one reason why the Catholic Church doesn't simply condemn "Penal Substitution" by name, because terms alone aren't everything, concepts and definitions are what matter. And from this you can also see that the Protestant isn't even using the term "atonement" in a valid sense.

[4] John Calvin even admits the Creed is speaking only of physical death for Christ, but in a desperate attempt to find proof that Jesus died spiritually, Calvin went to the next clause in the Creed, which speaks of Jesus "descending into hell." In Calvin's Institutes 2:16:10, Calvin says, briefly: 
But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price - that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man. 
On the surface, this clause can be mistaken to mean Jesus suffered hellfire and spiritual death. But Catholic tradition has always been clear that Jesus didn't endure hellfire, and rather this clause is talking about Jesus "descending into Hades" to rescue the Old Testament Saints on Holy Saturday, which is also why the Creed puts this clause after mentioning Christ's death and burial (signifying it's not part of His suffering). The Catechism of Trent speaks directly on this clause, explicitly saying that this was not the hell of the damned where Jesus went, but rather that "To liberate these holy souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord descended into hell," and "Christ the Lord descended, on the contrary, not to suffer, but to liberate the holy and the just from their painful captivity." The Catechism says on this point that "he descended there as Savior" (See also CCC 632-633; Compendium Sec 125). So this "descent" of Christ had nothing to do with divine punishments.

[5] The Gospel accounts are clear that it was wicked men who inflicted the harm on Jesus, with no mention of the Father pouring out his wrath on the Son. I wrote about this HERE in an important article.

[6] And in CCC630: "During Christ's period in the tomb, his divine person continued to assume both his soul and his body, although they were separated from each other by death.
The Catechism of Trent confirms this, saying: "When, therefore, we say that Jesus died, we mean that His soul was disunited from His body. We do not admit, however, that the Divinity was separated from His body. On the contrary, we firmly believe and profess that when His soul was dissociated from His body, His Divinity continued always united both to His body in the sepulchre and to His soul in limbo."
[7] The Catechism of Trent speaks of this matter as well in Article IV of the Creed - all quotes trimmed down for size and without the use of ellipses:
This kind of death was chosen by the Saviour because it appeared better adapted and more appropriate to the redemption of the human race; for there certainly could be none more ignominious and humiliating. Not only among the Gentiles was the punishment of the cross held accursed and full of shame and infamy, but even in the Law of Moses the man is called accursed that hangeth on a tree. [Gal 3:13]
He therefore offered Himself not involuntarily or by compulsion but of His own free will. Going to meet His enemies He said: I am he; and all the punishments which injustice and cruelty inflicted on Him He endured voluntarily. Besides, to increase the dignity of this mystery, Christ not only suffered for sinners, but even for those who were the very authors and ministers of all the torments He endured.
Gentiles and Jews were the advisers, the authors, the ministers of His Passion: Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, all the rest deserted Him. It was the punishment usually reserved for the most guilty and atrocious malefactors, a death whose slowness aggravated the exquisite pain and torture.
Christ's pains (the "punishment" of the Crucifixion) came strictly from wicked men, no mention of Jesus enduring the Father's wrath. And it was these punishments that Christ endured voluntarily, to use this patient endurance of hardship as His very sacrifice.

[8] In the Summa, St Thomas again explains what "forsaken" refers to: "by not shielding Him from the Passion, but abandoning Him to His persecutors" (ST 3:47:3).

33 comments:

nannykim said...

Thank you so much for your work on this topic; you have answered some questions I had this very week!

Joey Henry said...

Part 1

Nick didn’t dispute that the RC Church did not canonize a single view of the atonement. This is because it is a fact. Vatican II came so close to canonizing one view, Psub was the most likely candidate rather than the Ransom Theory. Bishop Robert Murray, SJ wrote:

“Together with this text the commission slipped in another, ‘On Guarding the Deposit of Faith in its Purity’ which aimed to raise to the level of dogmatic anathemas some criticisms of theological trends expressed in the encyclical Humani generis of Pius XII (1950), and to define as dogma a ‘penal substitution’ theory of the Atonement, a mystery on which Catholic tradition has always declined to canonize one theory.” (Symposium at the Fortieth Anniversary of Vaticall II, Vatican II and the Bible, accessed online)

Currently, Psub has not been formally condemned as a heresy. It co-exist with earlier patristic theory such as the Ransom theory and Satisfaction theory of Anselm. An RC is not condemned for holding these theories although modern RC theologians would say these are deficient theories. This is the reason why there are RC writers who espouse such view as Psub. It exist side by side with other theories.

Unlike your opinion that it's heresy, these works have Imprimatur. For example:

“The Eternal Father had already determined to save man who had fallen through sin, and to deliver him from eternal death. At the same time He willed that Divine Justice should not be deprived of a worthy and fitting satisfaction. And so He did not spare the life of His Son who had already become man to redeem men, but willed that He should pay with the utmost rigor the penalty which all men deserved. He who has not spared even His own Son, but has delivered Him for us all [Romans 8:32].” (Alphonso Ligouri, Glories of Mary, accessed online)

“It seems impossible for God to solve the dilemma of justice versus mercy, but we know from the Gospel account how he does it. The problem is that he cannot, it seems, do both; he must either exact the just penalty for sin – death – or not. Mercy seems a relaxation of justice, and justice a refusal of mercy. Either you punish or you don’t. The laws of logic seem to prevent God from being both just and merciful at the same time… God solves this dilemma on Calvary. Full justice is done: sinis punished with the very punishment of hell itself – being forsaken of God (Mt 27:46). But Mercy and forgiveness are also enacted.” (Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics).

Now, there are faithful Catholics who also shares the view I have such as the website AskACatholic.com. In a question that Joe Mark asks whether Kreeft and Tacelli’s Psub theory is condemned by the Church, the lay apologist answered:

“I do not think the Church has every officially accepted some explanations while rejecting others… but I don’t think, properly understood, the Church has ever condemned it” (www.askacatholic.com/_WebPostings/Answers/2012JanlsThisTeachingRejected.cfm).

Joey Henry said...

Part 2

Even before the Reformation, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa already understood Psub as legit theory and he was a Catholic theologian. He preached:

“In its intensity of pain [His death] enfolded within itself the penalty of death of all those who were to be freed [from eternal death]. Thus, each individual who was rightly supposed to suffer death because of his transgression of, or disobedience to, the Law makes satisfaction in and through the death of Christ, even if [that individual] ought to have suffered the penalty of torment in Hell. Therefore, the intensity of the sorrow of Christ (who bore our sorrows and who took upon Himself the sentence of condemnation and who fastened the handwriting to the Cross, where He made satisfaction) was so great that no one could have suffered it except Him in whom there was most perfect love – which love was able to be present only in the Son of God. Hence, whatever punishment is either written about or thought of is less than that satisfaction – making punishment that Christ suffered” (Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, “Morever, For Our Sake He Was Crucified”, accessed online)

I begin with this to counter balance your opinion against Psub as a heresy. You might think that it contradicts Catholic Teachings. But, to be more accurate, it only contradicts your “understanding” of Catholic Teachings. There are faithful RCs with greater authority (with teaching offices and whose works have imprimaturs) than you who have espoused  the Psub view. In my next post, I will discuss the points you have raised.

Nick said...

Joey,

Judging from your first two posts, you are still not being careful with your theological language, which is the very heart of the problem with your assertions. To say that Vatican 2 came close to canonizing “Penal Substitution” is failing to realize that the Church’s traditional understanding of atonement concepts is not what Protestants are typically advocating. That’s why you pointed me to Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic dogma to ‘prove’ that “vicarious atonement” is acceptable for Catholics, upon which reading Ott I confirmed that Ott meant something substantially different than what a Protestant means by that phrase. So this is a textbook case of the word-concept fallacy on your part, where you see a word/phrase and assume what it means, when in fact it doesn’t mean that. Thus why I said it would be hard for the Catholic Church to simply ‘canonize’ a specific view based solely by a name. This is precisely why I said the Church often addresses things by setting ‘parameters of orthodoxy’. So your “Part 1” is really missing the big picture and the essence of the dispute.

For you to say PSub “existed side by side with other theories” is something I’m calling you to the table on. Give me some clear evidence from the Fathers or great Catholic thinkers who advocated Psub clearly, with clear evidence that they meant the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus. I don’t think you can find such proof, and I say this because of all that I’ve read, this is a foreign concept.

You’re not advancing your case one itoa if all you’re not able to grasp what Catholic tradition means by terminology such as sacrifice, atonement, satisfaction, etc. This is what *systematic theology* is all about, getting key terms defined so that it can be then shown (to the best of our abilities) how things fit together.

Second, appealing to folks like Peter Kreeft and AskACatholic are of limited value in this, because these are not of the caliber and precision of folks like Aquinas and Ott. Their language and responses reflect an obvious lack of adequate study on this matter. So that’s pure desperation on your part.

Your Nicholas of Cusa quote is yet another clear example that you’ve not really studied this issue but rather are just looking for cut-n-paste solutions. The quote you gave says nothing about the Father’s wrath or that Jesus was damned, but rather it affirms what my article already clearly affirmed: the “intensity of the sorrow of Christ… in whom there was most perfect love” is what made satisfaction. I’ve explained basically this same thing in my article. The very next paragraph, which you didn’t cite, adds even more detail, showing the sufferings were the physical humiliations and physical pains from the Jews, without any mention of divine wrath or spiritual punishments. And the next few pages of your source shed even more light, confirming what I’ve just said.

Your first 2 posts have not touched upon anything I’ve said, and you’ve offered no good proof (especially from Church authorities) to contradict anything I’ve said. Instead, you’ve shown that you’ve not grasped the key terminology as the Church understands it and that you’ve been hunting desperately from random sources (which seems like an internet cut-n-paste job considering the range of sources).

nannykim said...

I agree with Joey H. as far as Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa . I had quoted him at CTC---it does seem he held to the view Joey is talking about; here is the quote:

“Who by the Holy Spirit Offered Himself ” on pages 204-205 it stated:

"[21] The lower and deeper Hell is where death is seen. When God
raised up Christ, He delivered Him from the Lower Hell. In Acts 2 it
is said: “The sorrows of Hell having been loosed ….”
And the Prophet [writes]: “He did not leave my soul in Hell.”
Therefore, if you rightly consider [the matter], Christ’s suffering, than which there
cannot be a greater [suffering], was as [the suffering] of the damned
who cannot be more greatly damned—i.e., was [suffering] all the way
to punishment in Hell. As the Prophet said in Christ’s name: “The sorrows of Hell have encompassed me.”
From these [sorrows the Prophet] says that his soul was freed, stating: “You have brought forth
my soul from Hell.

But it is [Christ] alone who through such a death entered into
glory. He willed to suffer that punishment-of-the-senses like that of the damned in Hell
, [doing so], surely, for the glory of God His Father. [He
did so] in order to show that one must be obedient to God even unto
the ultimate torment. For this [obeying] is to magnify and glorify God
in every possible manner and is for the sake of our justification. In such
a way it was done by Christ. For in and through Christ we sinners discharge
the debt of infernal punishment that we rightly merit, so that in
this way we may arrive at resurrection of life.
[23] But those who are not Christ’s remain in [the state of] death
[and] do not arise with Christ; and they shall see death eternally. And
this seeing of death is the second death, for it follows after the temporal death of which John [speaks] in the Apocalypse. And, in the same text, it is called the pool of fire. And so, you [now] have a deeper
understanding of that which is read: [namely,] that Christ descended
unto the lower parts of Hell and overcame the power of death." {I can not see any other way of interpreting him, can you?]

Nick said...

Nanny Kim,

I'm looking up that quote now for some context. The funny thing is, when I looked up the context of that quote Joey originally provided, I kept reading to where Cusa went onto speak of Christ's descent into hell and the first few paragraphs were right in line with the traditional reading that Christ descended as Victor to free the Just souls.

This is the PDF I found quoted from another:
http://jasper-hopkins.info/SermonsCCLXXVI-CCXCIII.pdf

Nick said...

Nanny Kim,

That quote you gave is somewhat hard to interpret. As I had mentioned, earlier when I looked up Joey's quote, I kept reading where Cusa discusses Christ's decent and he makes comments such as these:

"Christ in that visitation [of Hell] gathered many purged souls which could no longer with just reason be detained, because of their returning virtue, which their suffering brought. [Christ] gathered and took with Him this holy booty snatched from Hell. And He left behind a regulation that those who were redeemed by His blood and imprinted with sacramental characters should no longer be held captive except in case of purgation (if it were needed), which He decreed was to be done mercifully by imparting grace and—on the basis of merit by granting indulgence. And He gave a regulation regarding those spirits that were to be [further] purged and confined. And He visited Leviathan, the Prince of death, whom He bound for a while in order that he would do no harm, as he was accustomed to do; and [Christ] established another day for judging fully all those who were visited." (P253-254 of the above linked pdf)

This is the traditional understanding of the Descent, following Christ's death and burial, as the Creed teaches. Cusay says Christ freed the just souls and Cusa said this 'region' of hell became what we call Purgatory for future believers. Christ also visited "Leviathan" and bound him, a clear reference to Revelation 20:1-3 where the Devil is bound, and Cusa adds anther traditional claim that Jesus preached a future Lake of Fire for the souls there.

(part 1 of 2)

Nick said...

(part 2 of 2)


So what about the quote you gave? I can only make an educated guess as to what he meant.

First, I would say that this doesn't seem to be about God's wrath being unleashed on Christ. Rather than God being described as the source of the pain, Cusa is speaking about how God "delivered Christ from" this Hades-Hell place. And given that Cusa is speaking *after* Christ died, this doesn't fit with the claim God forsook Jesus while Jesus was still alive. It's possible that Cusa is saying not just physical death, but the soul being sent to Hades it also a punishment (i.e. consequence of original sin), an added humiliation that Christ underwent along with his humiliations on earth. This is perfectly in line with Catholic tradition.

In the prior paragraph, he quotes the Apocalypse (Revelation 20:13-14) which speaks of "Death and Hades" from which Christ was going to destroy both, and at the end of time both were going to be thrown into the Lake of Fire, along with unrepentant sinners. Cusa doesn't explain what he means by "lower hell," so either the original Latin uses the word Hades, or it could just be understood that Hades is what is meant when he says Hell. Hades is the realm of the dead souls, it's not necessarily hellfire, especially since hades will be thrown into the Lake of Fire at the end of time. The Scripture passages he does quote, all use the term Hades. So again, there's a perfectly natural way of reading this in line with Catholic tradition.

If that's the case, then "the suffering of the damned who cannot be more damned" can simply mean the souls are already at the worst place they can be, namely severed from their bodies and abandoned to this spirit realm. In paragraph 23 where Cusa speaks of the future Lake of Fire, this would suggest Jesus did not suffer this Lake of Fire, but only the disobedient souls will end up there at the Final Judgment.

I believe this interpretation I'm suggesting is a fair one and is in conformity with tradition. It also fits Cusa's last sentence: "And so, you [now] have a deeper understanding of that which is read: [namely,] that Christ descended unto the lower parts of Hell and overcame the power of death."
The idea of "overcame the power of death" could only refer to God Resurrecting Jesus' soul from Hades, which wouldn't make sense if Cusa's entire point was that Jesus endured hell (i.e. the Father's Wrath) to take our punishment. Cusa's point is that Jesus' soul went to the netherworld and rescued by God from that place.

Do you think this is a fair interpretation?

Nick said...

It looks like St Thomas says basically the same thing in ST 3:52. Here are some key quotes:

"It was fitting for Christ to descend into hell. First of all, because He came to bear our penalty in order to free us from penalty, according to Isaiah 53:4: "Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows." But through sin man had incurred not only the death of the body, but also descent into hell. Consequently since it was fitting for Christ to die in order to deliver us from death, so it was fitting for Him to descend into hell in order to deliver us also from going down into hell. Hence it is written (Hosea 13:14): "O death, I will be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite." Secondly, because it was fitting when the devil was overthrown by the Passion that Christ should deliver the captives detained in hell... Thirdly, that as He showed forth His power on earth by living and dying, so also He might manifest it in hell, by visiting it and enlightening it. ..."

And:

"As Christ, in order to take our penalties upon Himself, willed His body to be laid in the tomb, so likewise He willed His soul to descend into hell. But the body lay in the tomb for a day and two nights, so as to demonstrate the truth of His death. Consequently, it is to be believed that His soul was in hell, in order that it might be brought back out of hell simultaneously with His body from the tomb."

And:

"As stated above (4, ad 2), when Christ descended into hell He worked through the power of His Passion. But through Christ's Passion the human race was delivered not only from sin, but also from the debt of its penalty, as stated above (49, 1,3). Now men were held fast by the debt of punishment in two ways: first of all for actual sin which each had committed personally: secondly, for the sin of the whole human race, which each one in his origin contracts from our first parent, as stated in Romans 5 of which sin the penalty is the death of the body as well as exclusion from glory"


This conforms to my reading of Cusa. And Aquinas is clear in this link I provided that Christ was not suffering hellfire during this, nor was this part of His Passion. Christ went to Hades to experience the full course of human humiliations, which included being sent to the prison of Hades. As I see it, Hades was like a cold damp dark dungeon which the Old Testament Saints sat suffering in, awaiting their liberation. Christ had to "taste" what it was like for the OT Saints living in such miserable conditions all those centuries. This wasn't in the same 'region' of Hades where the unbelieving souls resided who had no love of God in them and were suffering a spiritually cut-off from God type experience.


Joey Henry said...

Nick,

Don't worry Nick, I will address your understanding Ott together with the two encyclicals you tried to exegete. We will go through the CCC also.

Word-concept fallacy can only be proven correct if the people I quoted did not portray Psub theory as a legit theory in Catholic Tradition.

We'll also touch the 'wrath of God' which your favorite.

nannykim said...

Yes, Nick, what you have stated makes sense. You are correct, too, in that he never says anything about experiencing God's wrath.

Joey Henry said...

Let's deal with 1 and 2 of the argument since this comment box has word limit.

1. PSub and Limited Atonement

The first argument assumes that one holds to Psub because one believes in Limited Atonement. If then the RC church does not teach Limited Atonement, it cannot hold Psub. The reasoning is faulty because experientially, there are theologians who do not adhere to Limited Atonement but believes in Psub. By this alone, the first argument has no weight. By the way, Ludwig Ott also limits the effect of the atonement objectively. He wrote: “In other words, in acto primo Christ’s atonement is universal; in actu secundo, it is particular.”

2. The Meaning of Atonement

The second argument is that atonement is doing “a good work that counterbalances (or even over-balances) the injustice that was done.” Thus, negatively speaking, “it's not receiving our punishment in which atonement is made, but rather the good work of Christ's commitment to loving sinful man even in the midst of persecution.”

First, Ott did not say that “good works” counterbalances the injustice done. Rather, he speaks of “a voluntary performance which outweighs the injustice done”. However, Nick limits this performance to the exclusion of a voluntary act of the Son in fulfilling the justice demanded by God of sin by taking the punishment of the sinner. This limitation is not found in any magisterial writings or Aquinas as I will discuss later. Furthermore, if the Father really sends the Son to bear their sin and take their place as sinners in order to redeem them, doesn’t this obedience qualify as good work? If so, there is nothing in Psub that is not in line with the definition of Ott and other magisterial statement.

I also notice that Nick would want to emphasize that it is love that atones for sin. He said, “Thomas explains Jesus making atonement by means of suffering out of love and obedience”. This implies that Psub does not have such a paradigm. This is not accurate because Psub holds that the primary reason the Son came to bear the penalty of sin is his love and obedience to the Father (vice versa, Father to Son) and to the people whom the Father will give to the Son. Thus, this simple fact makes Psub in line with Ott and Trent’s definition of the atonement.

Lastly, Nick wrote, “This also explains why the Catholic side speaks of Christ offering up a sacrifice while the Protestant side speaks of (God's) wrath being poured down on the sacrifice.” This, however, misses the point. All Psub theorists (both Catholic and Protestant” speaks of the offering up of Christ as a sacrifice AND that Christ bears the punishment of the sinners by being the sacrifice. I believe Nick is calling out the language of some Psub theorist which says “wrath was being poured out to the sacrifice”. Well all Psub theorist makes several theological nuances in such a language. More to this later.

Joey Henry said...

Part I

3. Physical Death versus Spiritual Death

According to Nick, “it is plain that when the Church speaks of Christ suffering death, the only thing meant is a physical death, not a spiritual death.” Now, I am not sure how Nick would define “spiritual death”. However, Catholic tradition does not limit the suffering of Christ to physical pain and death for the vicarious atonement to work. In his being the divine substitute, Catholic theologians have pointed out that it extends even to the suffering of the soul. Thomas Aquinas in his exposition of the Apostle’s Creed regarding Christ Descent into Hell, he wrote:

“There are four reasons why Christ together with His soul descended to the underworld. First, He wished to take upon Himself the entire punishment for our sin, and thus atone for its entire guilt. The punishment for the sin of man was not alone death of the body, but there was also a punishment of the soul, since the soul had its share in sin; and it was punished by being deprived of the beatific vision; and as yet no atonement had been offered whereby this punishment would be taken away. Therefore, before the coming of Christ all men, even the holy fathers after their death, descended into the underworld. Accordingly in order to take upon Himself most perfectly the punishment due to sinners, Christ not only suffered death, but also His soul descended to the underworld. He, however, descended for a different cause than did the fathers; for they did so out of necessity and were of necessity taken there and detained, but Christ descended there of His own power and free will: “I am counted among them that go down to the pit; I am become as a man without help, free among the dead” [Ps 87:5 Vulgate]. The others were there as captives, but Christ was freely there.” (Expositio in Symbolum Apostolorum, translated by Joseph Collins).

Now, I have already quoted Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa in the previous post who shared also Aquinas’ insight. Actually, these two theologians also would emphasize that Christ descent was triumphalistic in nature but did not shy away in saying that part of the process is Christ taking upon himself the punishment of sin which is not only limited to the death of the body. These are two pre reformation theologians.

Now let’s go to three theologians, two Popes and a Swiss RC theologian who also have some insight on the nature of the suffering of Christ. Hans Ur Balthasar is a very influential theologian in the 20th century. Yet, it is well known that his insights regarding the descent of Christ in Hell sparked some intramural debates among RC theologians. Balthasar followed Nicholas of Cusa and Aquinas in his view of Christ suffering in Hell in which he experienced what it means to be abandoned by God in the sinners behalf. He notes that:

“Maximus the Confessor, taking up the ideas of Diadochusand Evagrius, lists four kinds of God-abandonment: first, that found in Christ, in the context of the economy of salvation; where ‘by apparent abandonment the abandoned imposed as a test; thirdly, that which is sent for the purposes of purification; fourthly, the kind of abandonment with constitutes a punishment, on the grounds of turning away from God, as with the Jews. All four types serve the work of salvation.” (Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter, accessed online).

He then parallel these experiences to common people and saints then concludes,

“But all experiences of night in both Old and New Testaments are at best approaches, distant allusions to the inaccessible mystery of the Cross – so unique is the Son of God, so unique is his abandonment by the Father.” (Ibid).

(to be continued)

Joey Henry said...

Part II

Now, you might think that this kind of tradition is scant but two Popes, Benedict and John Paul II, also expresses the same theme that the suffering of Christ is not merely physical. Pope John Paul II also expresses the theme that the God-abandonment event is not only limited to physical death but to Christ suffering of his soul in solidarity with sinful men.
“In the sphere of feelings and affection this sense of the absence and abandonment by God was the most acute pain for the soul of Jesus who drew his strength and joy from union with the Father. This pain rendered all the other sufferings more intense. That lack of interior consolation was Jesus' greatest agony.

“However, Jesus knew that by this ultimate phase of his sacrifice, reaching the intimate core of his being, he completed the work of reparation which was the purpose of his sacrifice for the expiation of sins. If sin is separation from God, Jesus had to experience in the crisis of his union with the Father a suffering proportionate to that separation.” (My God, My God Why Have you Foresaken Me, General Audience, November 30, 1988)

Ratzinger also views the Descent of Christ in Hell as a suffering of emptiness. He wrote:

“Christ descends into hell and suffers it in all its emptiness... That Cross throws light upon our theme from two directions. First, it teaches that God himself suffered and died. Evil is not, then, something unreal for him. For the God who is love, hatred is not nothing. He overcomes evil, but not by some dialectic of universal reason which can transform all negations into affirmations. God overcomes evil not in a “speculative Godd Friday,” to use the language of Hegel, but on a Good Friday which was most real. He himself entered into the distinctive freedom of sinners but went beyond it in theat freedom of his own love which descended willingly into the Abyss... Jesus’ descent into Sheol, in the night of the soul which suffered, a night which no one can observe except by entering this darkness in suffering faith.” (Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, p. 216-217).

(to be continued)

Joey Henry said...

Part III

With this in mind, the atonement in Catholic tradition is not only limited to physical pain and death. After Jesus died, there are pious opinions which is accepted and not declared as heresy that the soul of Christ suffered in a place they call “hell” in solidarity with sinful man. Let me conclude with John Paul II writing in one of his apostolic letters:

“The intensity of the episode of the agony in the Garden of Olives passes before our eyes. Oppressed by foreknowledge of the trials that await him, and alone before the Father, Jesus cries out to him in his habitual and affectionate expression of trust: "Abba, Father". He asks him to take away, if possible, the cup of suffering (cf. Mk 14:36). But the Father seems not to want to heed the Son's cry. In order to bring man back to the Father's face, Jesus not only had to take on the face of man, but he had to burden himself with the "face" of sin. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). .. Jesus' cry on the Cross, dear Brothers and Sisters, is not the cry of anguish of a man without hope, but the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father in love, for the salvation of all. At the very moment when he identifies with our sin, "abandoned" by the Father, he "abandons" himself into the hands of the Father. His eyes remain fixed on the Father. Precisely because of the knowledge and experience of the Father which he alone has, even at this moment of darkness he sees clearly the gravity of sin and suffers because of it. He alone, who sees the Father and rejoices fully in him, can understand completely what it means to resist the Father's love by sin. More than an experience of physical pain, his Passion is an agonizing suffering of the soul. Theological tradition has not failed to ask how Jesus could possibly experience at one and the same time his profound unity with the Father, by its very nature a source of joy and happiness, and an agony that goes all the way to his final cry of abandonment. The simultaneous presence of these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects is rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union.” (NOVO MILLENNIO INEUNTE, accessed online)

guy fawkes said...

May I suggest we look at the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham was the type of the Father and Isaac the Son. Abraham did not want to pour out his wrath on Isaac but was willing to give him up.
Next, the suffering in the Garden of Olives was because Jesus could see our neglect of the graces He was going to merit for us.
He was not asking the Father to release Him from the cross as he had already done the first Mass in which, in the words of Gregory of Nyssa, His words were a "mystic sword separating Body and Blood". Some say the bloody sweat was initiated at the Supper when Christ "heart started to melt as wax" because of the words of Consecration. No man taketh away the life of the Son of Man but he giveth it up of his own accord.
Great work Nick!! Jim R in Portugal

Nick said...

Joey, here are my thoughts to your numbered points (it seems like your overall response is incomplete, see my last paragraph):

(1) You said: “The first argument assumes that one holds to Psub because one believes in Limited Atonement.” It’s actually the other way around, one holds to LA because one believes in PSub. The first argument wasn’t meant to hold all weight, it was one detail among many. The first argument also assumed both Catholics and Reformed were logically consistent on this point, which is surely a fair claim to make. For you to say “By the way, Ludwig Ott also limits the effect of the atonement” shows me that you need to do more study on this subject, because that has nothing to do with LA. It’s conflating two concepts. In the Catholic view, Christ died for all, but only those who come to Him in faith receive the benefits. That’s what Ott and Catholic tradition are saying. That’s very different than saying Jesus only died specifically for a limited number of people. In the Catholic view, the *atonement* is *not* limited, rather it’s for every human who ever lived, it’s just the salvific application of it is limited (i.e. to believers). In the Reformed view, the *atonement* is limited. Two different understandings of *atonement* are in view.

(2) Your response to my defining of “atonement” seems convoluted. The point is that “reparation” and “satisfaction” is being made, not that guilt is being transferred and the person receives God’s wrath for that guilt. One principle of Catholic theology is that you cannot read/interpret a teaching in a way contrary to as it has been traditionally understood, so your attempt to open the door to say “voluntary performance” can include receiving of the guilt and God’s wrath is simply unacceptable and really don’t fit the concepts Ott/Aquinas/Catechism express at all. Recall again the fact in Catholicism the satisfaction Christ made was “super-abundant,” literally beyond abundant, which is absurd if the whole point is that Jesus receives the punishment we deserve, since Jesus would be receiving more punishment than we deserve. You are simply not being consistent with definitions if you’re going to say Jesus’ acts of love and obedience procured atonement as well as saying Jesus taking God’s wrath procured atonement. One is passive reception of God’s wrath, the other is patient endurance of loving the enemies persecuting Him. Two different things. Loving His persecutors and being sad about the sins of mankind offending God is what Catholics say made atonement. That has *nothing* to do with Jesus enduring the Father’s wrath. The Father’s wrath was never upon Jesus and you won’t find that in any Catholic text.

Again, it’s pure desperation on your part if you’re going to appeal to Ott, because Ott isn’t on your side on this or any of the related atonement concepts. This is why you really cannot explain Ott’s Catholic definition of Sacrifice either. As St Thomas said (and I originally quoted): “ A true sacrifice is every good work done in order that we may cling to God in holy fellowship.” When a Paul tells Christians to offer themselves as a sacrifice, Paul is not saying they must take someone’s guilt and God’s wrath. I know you agree with that statement of Paul, but then that’s game over on Psub because then “Sacrifice” is clearly understood as not being intrinsically tied to receiving punishment.

(Part 1 of 2)

Nick said...

(part 2 of 2)

(3) You said you don’t know how I define “spiritual death” and then you said that Catholic theology teaches Christ also suffered in His soul for our sins. It seems like you didn’t read my article because I covered these issue pretty clearly. It seems that you commented on my article as you read through it, rather than waiting to read all of it, because your comments touch upon points I already touched upon and answered (showing they don’t entail Psub at all).

Your quote of Aquinas and Cardinal Cusa of Jesus descending into Hades has been addressed in the comments section (prior to your response), but also implicitly in my article already also. What Aquinas and Cusa are simply saying is that the punishment in question is the physical consequences of sin, namely the soul separates from the body and the soul then travels to the prison of Hades. That’s *not* the same as hellfire, and it is *not* part of Christ’s Passion & Death, but rather took place *afterwards*. So this has nothing to do with Christ’s “forsaken me” statement. This descent had NOTHING to do with imputed guilt and had NOTHING to do with suffering God’s wrath, but rather it was for Jesus to experience the whole course of our miseries (persecutions, sadness, tears, physical death, life disunited from your body trapped in Hades, etc).

So you’ve misunderstood the term “punishment” as Catholics are using it. You are looking at the term “punishment” and thinking that it means we deserved to be sent to Hades, but Jesus went to Hades in our place. That’s wrong. What you ultimately want to say is that we deserve broken communion with God for our sins, so Jesus endured broken communion in our place. Wrong! That’s not what Catholics are saying AT ALL. That has nothing to do with Christ descending to Hades as part of the natural consequences (aka punishment) of sin.


You basically talked about stuff I already addressed as if I never talked about it. All I can assume is that you commented and posted on my work AS you were reading it and thus missed out on the fact that everything you accuse me of failing to teach is stuff I did in fact affirm boldly later on. I’ve made that same mistake before of commenting too soon before I post (when in fact the person addressed what I brought up), so I’m not upset and do cut slack in fairness, but it does mean your “rebuttal” comments are basically invalid until the proper things are addressed.

I’m not sure if you have more to say, but where you left off on your responses clearly has not addressed the rest of what I posted.

Nick said...

Also, I recently found out some comments were caught up in the spam filter and thus weren't appearing, but I didn't see any from this comment box marked as "spam" by the system.

Michael Taylor said...

Joey,

Well done in showing the pedigree of PSA/psub within the Roman tradition.

You can go back even further in history to see the "P" (penal nature of Jesus' sufferings), the "S" (substitution/vicarious suffering) and the "A" (a real atonement that accomplishes it's intended purpose) in the writings of many of the church fathers.

Much, however, depends upon the definition of "PSA" or "Psub" we are using.

In all my exchanges with Nick, I've never had the feeling that he and I are using the same definition of those terms.

You yourself pointed out the same either/or thinking I've called him out on numerous times--that is--the Bryan Cross-inspired dichotomy between Love going up (the alleged Roman Catholic view) and Wrath coming down (the alleged Reformed understanding).

In my view, the Reformed view incorporates both elements. But so too can one find both elements in the Roman Catholic tradition, as your quotes illustrate.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

You quoted Joey thus: >>For you to say “By the way, Ludwig Ott also limits the effect of the atonement” shows me that you need to do more study on this subject, because that has nothing to do with LA. It’s conflating two concepts. In the Catholic view, Christ died for all, but only those who come to Him in faith receive the benefits. That’s what Ott and Catholic tradition are saying.<<

Here's the thing, Nick. Joey is absolutely right that Ott is speaking of limited atonement here, especially if you read Ott in context (p. 189, FCD).
But--and here is where you're right--it isn't "limited atonement" as in the L of TULIP. But I don't think Joey was saying this in the first place, and so at best you've misunderstood where he was going when he made this point.

Joey and Ott are speaking of the limited efficacy of the atonement or the destination between its unlimited sufficiency and its limited efficiency. This is a distinction you also affirm. Please understand that we understand this distinction.

You said: >>In the Catholic view, the *atonement* is *not* limited, rather it’s for every human who ever lived, it’s just the salvific application of it is limited (i.e. to believers).<<

In other words, Nick, you do believe in limited atonement. You simply limit its efficacy, whereas we limit its scope.

You said:>>In the Reformed view, the *atonement* is limited.<<

Yes. By that we limit the scope of the atonement to particular people, which is why we more often call it "definite atonement" or "particular redemption."

Contrast that to your view which says that Christ died for everyone in general, but no one in particular. We Reformed, in contrast would say that he died for some in particular in order to secure their salvation, and the rest he left in their sin.

So, depending upon what is meant, Roman Catholics also hold to a doctrine of "limited atonement." You simply limit it's efficacy.

In fact, if you think it through consistently, the cross in and of itself saves no one. So where the author to the Hebrews can that the cross secured an "eternal redemption" (cf, Hebrews 9:12), Rome says the cross only made everyone "redeemable." What Rome cannot say, consistent with its system, is that the cross actually secured the salvation of anyone.


Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

You said:>>(2) Your response to my defining of “atonement” seems convoluted. The point is that “reparation” and “satisfaction” is being made, not that guilt is being transferred and the person receives God’s wrath for that guilt.<<

Here, again, is the either/or fallacy which you so often repeat: Atonement is either reparation/satisfaction or it's imputation.

But I ask, why can't it be both? We Reformed say it's both. We say it is the imputation of guilt and punishment inflicted upon (but not against) the substitute (Christ) that is the means by which reparation/satisfaction is made.

Aquinas said the same thing when he said God "would not remit sin without penalty" (ST, III, 47, 3, reply 1).

Even if you do not agree that such a teaching is now compatible with Catholic teaching, can you at least understand why others would?

The end: Reparation/satisfaction.
The means to the end: vicarious suffering in which the guilt of the the sinner is imputed to the innocent substitute.

If you can understand it, then please show us where it is flawed. To date, I've never seen you, Heschmeyer, or Nagle even come close to explaining why a vicarious, penal atonement cannot be the means by which satisfaction is made.

Anonymous said...

Christ died for the elect in the Reformed view that are preordained by God instead of merely foreshadowed. Only someone playing games with words would assert limited atonement as a form if Catholic belief as those words are used by Calvinists.

You don't need a Gospel when the elect are pre-ordained.

Joey Henry said...

Before proceding with points 4, 5 and 6 of Nick. I would like to make several brief response on his response:

1. Nick said: For you to say “By the way, Ludwig Ott also limits the effect of the atonement” shows me that you need to do more study on this subject, because that has nothing to do with LA. It’s conflating two concepts.

Response: I very well know the doctrine of RC regarding the purpose of atonement. This is shared with several evangelical protestants also. I only wish to point out that Psub works even when the purpose of the atonement is for all humans. Those who do not subscribe to limited atonement as to its purpose, limits it as to its effectivity as held by Ott. Thus, argument 1 has no force against Psub.

2. The second argument has been answered. Nick wants to limit the satisfaction made by the Lord for us by excluding his bearing our punishment not only by his body but also his soul under what Ott calls "voluntary performance". But Ott, Aquinas and several distinguished theologians show no limitation to that effect. On the contrary, it has been shown that there is a strong strand of tradition that says Christ bore our punishment not only physically but even through his suffering soul during his descent in hell. Nick failed to produce any magisterial statement that the atonement is merely involves physical death. In fact, in point 4, he is going to assert that physical death is unnecesary for the atonement to work since "a single drop of blood" is sufficient for the atonement to work. This is highly controversial in Catholic theology with regards to the atonement as I will show later.

Nick often emhasize that his "good work" theory as the means of satisfaction is irreconcilable to Psub. But, of course, it is only irreconcilable to his mind.

Turning to Aquinas, he tirns a blind eye to the overall theology of satisfaction especially to the atonement by focusing on the word "good work". I think that has been challenged already and the only rebuttal I see is to accuse his interlocutors of not understanding HIS definitions. I don't think I will bow down to your authority of defining terms.

3. Finally, some ad hominem have been thrown like I was responding in haste and merely reading through Nick's responses. I have read the responses several times.

The intereating argument at this point is his attempt to dichotomize the God-abandonment event from Christ's descent into hell. Well, there are several distinctions indeed but Ratzinger wrote, "When one ponders this question the "Scriptural evidence" solves itself; at any rate in Jesus' death cry "My God My God why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)" the mystery of Jesus' descent into hell is illuminated as if in glaring flash of lightning ina dark night" (Credo for Today: What Christians Believe, p. 86). In trying to understand death, Ratzinger admits the mystery of it but wrote: "We can try to begin formulating an answer by starting again from Jesus' cry on the Cross, which we found to contain the heart of what Jesus' descent into Hell, his sharing of man's mortal fate really means. In this last prayer of Jesus, as in the scene on the Mount of Olives, what appears as the most inermost heart of his passion is not physical pain but radical loneliness, complete abandonment" (Ibid).

This only proves that in the catholic thought the cry of dereliction is not separate from the creedal statement of Christ's descent into hell.

Thanks,
Joey

Nick said...

Hello Michael,

Even though both Calvinists and Catholics say the *application* of the Atonement is "limited", that isn't relevant because what is meant by "atonement" in each case is different. The Reformed Atonement is limited by it's very nature, since Jesus only took the punishment of a specific group of people. The Catholic Atonement is unlimited because it was satisfaction made for all the sins of all mankind, but not all will come to faith and receive it's benefits, and some who do come to faith will fail to persevere and thus lose the benefits.

Catholics teach Jesus died for everyone, whereas Calvinists teach Jesus only died for the elect. The distinction lies in the fact we each define "died for" differently.

As for your other claim of why cannot Atonement be both imputation of guilt and punishment as well as making satisfaction. I've tried to explain multiple times that this is conflating two separate issues. Satisfaction averts Divine Retribution (culminating in breaking spiritual communion with God) whereas Punishment receives Divine Retribution. They are two antithetical concepts.


Joey,

I will wait until you've finished with your full response before I address your latest comments.

guy fawkes said...

Joey, You allege that penal Substitution is orthodox view of the Atonement according to Catholic teaching. Sometimes it is better at come at a problem obliquely rather head on. Since Lex orandi, lex credendi is a rule of thumb, let's look at Papal Statements on Mary's role in in the four facets of the Atonement; Merit, Satisfaction, Sacrifice and Ransom/Redemption.
I have never in my life ever heard that Mary was punished in our stead.
On another blog, the Protestant owner managed to dredge up a statement by Peter Julian Eymard that seemed to say as much at first . Upon closer examination, it failed too.
So, I am not asking you to subscribe to co-Redemption. I am merely asserting that several Popes have done so without using Penal Substitution to explain her cooperation in the 4 facets I mentioned. If Mary did not have a role in Christ being crushed under God's wrath, it is because her Son wasn't crushed under God's wrath.

Samwise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samuel said...

According to Catholic theology, is there a sense in which Jesus’ death wasn’t absolutely necessary? If the smallest deeds or the smallest amount of suffering were enough for Jesus to make atonement to the Father, would that mean that God, if He chose to do so, could have accepted Jesus’ life before the Cross as sufficient?

Mark Sherring said...

Part 1 (of 2).....

Nick,
thanks for your valuable analysis & comments on Catholic teaching re PenSub. I have looked at this theory (& many others) from catholic, orthodox & protestant angles for some time. For the most part I agree with your summaries on the matter, they point up the inadequacies in the protestant view quite well I would say. One important aspect that was touched on but could be expanded a bit more, I thought, was the place of Ps.22. As I understand it, Yeshua was using the traditional Jewish practice of quoting the first line, which was understood as a reference to the entire Psalm, and his hearers would have brought the rest of the Psalm to mind; the 'cry of dereliction' of the first line (& the supposed division of the Godhead) is resolved when it ends with a positive, 'restorative' spiritual understanding that directly contradicts the standard PenSub position (esp. vs 24 - "For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard" [NASB]
This view avoids the trap of 'dividing the trinity' (per PenSub). Martin Luther apparently said this verse ("Eloi, Eloi,...") was the most difficult in the NT, and its easy to see why when you take the verse by itself, out of the context of the Psalm (certainly I wrestled with this for some time...). Interestingly, the E-Orth never had such a problem with this because they have (usually) interpreted it within its context & in light of the Jewish practice of the time, & because they adopted an essentially 'medical' (healing) view of the Atonement, as opposed to the 'legal' (forensic) view of the reformers. PenSub is also readily challenged by Matt. 8, which also proceeds from a 'medical' view.
While we say the Atonement is a mystery "rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union", we don't need to create 'impossible' difficulties & logical contradictions to hinder our understanding (e.g. dividing the trinity). There is substantial disparity of the internal logics between PenSub & non-PenSub versions of atonement, so much so that some have concluded PenSub to be mutually inconsistent with any (all) other theories. Yes, while there are nuances/variations, and allied versions (e.g. Anselm's 'satisfaction') as some persist in hammering, the fundamental logic is the same - God's wrath poured out, so that God Himself needs ‘healing’, etc (Packer, Stott, Macarthur, Piper, Morris, etc) & the same inadequacies of internal logic also apply.
On the other side, it seems right to conclude that Yeshua also underwent such a travail of the soul in His descent to Sheol (Ratzinger captures the thought well) that was 'parallel' to his physical suffering, but without undergoing 'spiritual death' - otherwise His sufferings would have been incomplete and it would have been a case of "that which is not assumed is not redeemed" (per Gregory of Nazianzus & Athanasius in slightly different but related contexts).

Mark Sherring said...

Nick,
thanks for your valuable analysis & comments on Catholic teaching re PenSub. I have looked at this theory (& many others) from catholic, orthodox & protestant angles for some time. For the most part I agree with your summaries on the matter, they point up the inadequacies in the protestant view quite well I would say. One important aspect that was touched on but could be expanded a bit more, I thought, was the place of Ps.22. As I understand it, Yeshua was using the traditional Jewish practice of quoting the first line, which was understood as a reference to the entire Psalm, and his hearers would have brought the rest of the Psalm to mind; the 'cry of dereliction' of the first line (& the supposed division of the Godhead) is resolved when it ends with a positive, 'restorative' spiritual understanding that directly contradicts the standard PenSub position (esp. vs 24 - "For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard" [NASB]
This view avoids the trap of 'dividing the trinity' (per PenSub). Martin Luther apparently said this verse ("Eloi, Eloi,...") was the most difficult in the NT, and its easy to see why when you take the verse by itself, out of the context of the Psalm (certainly I wrestled with this for some time...). Interestingly, the E-Orth never had such a problem with this because they have (usually) interpreted it within its context & in light of the Jewish practice of the time, & because they adopted an essentially 'medical' (healing) view of the Atonement, as opposed to the 'legal' (forensic) view of the reformers. PenSub is also readily challenged by Matt. 8, which also proceeds from a 'medical' view.
While we say the Atonement is a mystery "rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union", we don't need to create 'impossible' difficulties & logical contradictions to hinder our understanding (e.g. dividing the trinity). There is substantial disparity of the internal logics between PenSub & non-PenSub versions of atonement, so much so that some have concluded PenSub to be mutually inconsistent with any (all) other theories. Yes, while there are nuances/variations, and allied versions (e.g. Anselm's 'satisfaction') as some persist in hammering, the fundamental logic is the same - God's wrath poured out, so that God Himself needs ‘healing’, etc (Packer, Stott, Macarthur, Piper, Morris, etc) & the same inadequacies of internal logic also apply.
On the other side, it seems right to conclude that Yeshua also underwent such a travail of the soul in His descent to Sheol (Ratzinger captures the thought well) that was 'parallel' to his physical suffering, but without undergoing 'spiritual death' - otherwise His sufferings would have been incomplete and it would have been a case of "that which is not assumed is not redeemed" (per Gregory of Nazianzus & Athanasius in slightly different but related contexts).

Mark Sherring said...

Part 2 (of 2)...
It seems that, as a generality, the 'catholic' position that Nick has outlined is closer to an E-Orthodox view of atonement than to the protestant PenSub, esp. in its approach to the place & purpose of suffering. In this regard, Joey has emphasised the standard 'punishment' motif out of proportion to other parts of Aquinas, unfortunately. This really begs the question of what/how we understand 'sacrifice' of course. That is, Aquinas also highlights an important aspect when he recasts 'sacrifice' in terms of good works (properly understood) so that we might "cling to God in fellowship", and so making one's life itself a 'sacrifice' - and he says this in contradistinction to his emphasis on 'punishment'.
As an aside, I think it is instructive to look at some of the (il)logical extensions of PenSub. The word-faith movement has some peculiar takes, including claims that Christ took on Satan's 'sinful nature' (Ken Copeland), that Christ was utterly separated from the Father (division of the trinity), & similar extremes.
On 'limited atonement', the Reformed are necessarily constrained to this position because they are tied to a particular view of 'predestination'. To simply claim that RC's hold to 'limited atonement' is unfortunate; instead, such 'limiting' is/was for them always understood sacramentally - that is, atonement was 'limited' to those who were baptised (going back to, e.g. Fulgentius), but is otherwise available to all - this is/was not the Reformed version because of this critical difference. It was Gottschalk (ca. 850 A.D.) who properly delineated the 'limited atonement' position found in today's protestantism; this was part of his 'unfriending' with the catholic church at the time.
In reality, it is not God Who must be healed, but we humans. Mark.

Chris said...

Nick, I'm a Protestant, namely a Reformed Presbyterian in the PCA, and I wanted to give you some feedback about this post. I actually appreciate your clarity in the subject, as I've been looking for a more in-depth look at what Roman Catholics generally believe about the atonement. It's clear to me that we believe very different things. Simultaneously, however, I did want you to know that a lot of the things you suggested in regards to the Reformed are actually inaccurate. Maybe you've met some Reformed folks who have suckled on a more popular form atonement theology, but a lot of that stuff is by no means orthodox Reformed theology. Also, I just wanted to list my points of agreement and disagreement with what you've been saying.

First, I agree with yo that Christ did not experience "spiritual death" or a death in which his human nature was severed from the Father. If you look at the Westminster Confession of Faith, a subordinate standard of the PCA, you'll not find one statement about that.
Second, I read in another blog that some people think the Reformed doctrine of penal substitution entails that we do not believe in the immutability or impassionate-ness of God, because He went from a state of wrath to no wrath. But this is just wrong. God's wrath isn't an attribute, but occurs in the economic Trinity, or however you want to state it. He doesn't experience a change of being in having His wrath propitiated.
Third, I agree with you that Christ's suffering was "human [physical and] emotional torments" and not an extra sort of torment in which His human nature was severed from communion with the Father. I get ticked off when I hear guys in my denomination talking like that because it's just not what we teach. Even people who affirm a teaching about Christ descending into Hades don't believe that this descent was concerned with bearing God's wrath. So, I too, like you, have heard people speak like this, but they shouldn't. It isn't what we believe. Jesus' suffering was physical and emotional, and spiritual in the sense that He felt isolated like any person does when they suffer.
Fourth, and last, I disagree with you that Christ's death is not a sacrifice to appease God's wrath. To me it just seems like a false dichotomy, an either/or fallacy, to suggest that Christ's death was either a bearing of God's wrath, or an offering up of love. Hear what the Westminster Confession of Faith says in 8.5, "The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God [a sacrifice of love], hath fully satisfied the justice of the Father [a sacrifice that bore wrath in another's stead], and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him." What we believe is that Jesus' sufferings and death are, in themselves, God's wrath being meted out. There isn't some invisible secondary layer of God's wrath that is reserved for Jesus' soul, but the suffering and death are God's wrath poured out. He drank the cup of wrath that the Father gave Him. Grace and Peace. -Chris

Nick said...

Hello Chris,

Thank you for your post. I try to take care not to misrepresent the theology of opposing views (even when some accuse me of doing so, which isn't my intention).

In this case, I have found popular (conservative) Reformed folks saying things such as Jesus "spiritually died," and I have posted about this on prior blog posts. I have also heard conservative Reformed people say such things in real life.

In fact, on one post I have listed quotes going back to Luther and Calvin of a strong testimony in Protestant history of claiming Jesus suffered the Father's Eternal Wrath, so it's not just John Piper and Sproul explicitly saying Jesus was "damned in our place."

Dr R.Scott Clark from Westminster Seminary recently wrote a blog post stating how the Apostles' Creed where it says Jesus "descended into hell" does not refer to Hades, and Clark appeals to the Heidelberg Catechism where this 'descent' is understood FIGURATIVELY as happening on the Cross and Jesus suffering the pains of hellfire during that time. So while these things might not sit well with you - and it's good that they don't, because they are erroneous ideas - the fact is this is Reformed Theology from the mouth of it's most faithful defenders.

I welcome any further comments, either here, in a related post, or in email.