Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Schreiner on Penal Substitutionary Atonement

In 2006 InterVarsity Press will publish a book containing Four Views on the Atonement, edited by James Beilby and Paul Eddy (both of Bethel College in St. Paul). The contributors will be Greg Boyd ("Christus Victor" view), Bruce Reichenbach ("Therapeutic" view), Joel Green (all views are equally true), and Thomas Schreiner ("Penal Substitutionary" view).

Professor Schreiner recently gave his paper at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can listen to it online: Penal Substitution as the Heart of the Gospel.

His talk can be outlined as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Sinfulness of Humanity
  3. The Holiness of God
  4. The Sacrifice of Christ
  5. Concluding Reflections

And here is how his rich, exegetical address begins:

The theory of penal substitution is the heart and soul of an evangelical view of the atonement. I am not claiming that it is the only truth about the atonement taught in the scriptures. Nor am I claiming that penal substitution is emphasized in every piece of literature, or that every author articulates clearly penal substitution. I am claiming that penal substitution functions as the anchor and foundation for all other dimensions of the atonement when the scriptures are considered as a canonical whole. I define penal substitution as follows: The Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son (who offered himself willingly and gladly) to satisfy his justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The punishment and penalty we deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of us, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.

The riches of what God has accomplished in Christ for his people are not exhausted by penal substitution. The multifaceted character of the atonement must be recognized to do justice the canonical witness. God’s people are impoverished if Christ’s triumph over evil powers at the cross is slighted, or Christ’s exemplarly love is shoved to the side, or the healing bestowed on believers by Christ’s cross and resurrection is downplayed. While not denying the wide-ranging character of Christ’s atonement, I am arguing that penal substitution is foundational and the heart of the atonement.