Schreiner on Penal Substitution

Second up in the presenters in The Nature of the Atonement is Thomas Schreiner. All in all it puts forward  a good representation of the Penal Substitution View of the atonement. While there weren’t many surprises for me (this is essentially the view I’ve lived with for as long as I knew there was such a thing as an atonement), it was a good read and didn’t say anything concerning the work of Christ on the cross that would raise my hackels (whatever those are).

 At one point he does take a preemptive poke at Joel Green (the Kaleidoscopic View) and his co-author Mark Baker who wrote Recovering the Scandal of the Cross. He says that while Green and Baker claim that the penal substitution view is one among many metaphors for explaining the atonement, they go soft in their view of penal substitution by not commending it in their book.

 The responses are somewhat predictable. Boyd says it is incomplete and says that while substitution is clearly a theme, penalty is not. He uses C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and the death of Aslan as a picture of both substitution without penalty and to defend the centrality of Christus Victor.

Joel Green is gracious, but he questions Schreiner’s theological method, says he finds things to be self-evident that may not necessarily be, and questions how Schreiner’s view of the atonement generates transformed lives.

Reichenbach is much less cranky in this response, saying, essentially, “Maybe, but not necessarily.”

In the end, I’m not driving stakes into the ground saying, “this one is tops and that one must be subordinate to it.” What has occured to me, which is not an insignificant thing, is that Christ did die here, on this planet, in this time-space world for man. He became a man, not a Martian or an angel or an aardvark or a tree. He didn’t do it in a different galaxy or a different dimension. While this is not necessarily a blow to the others, in some sense it lends (at least in my mind) credibility to penal substitution.

The sacrificial system as a sign and type of Christ and his work is also a cause for putting a lot of theological coconuts in this wagon. The sacrificial system didn’t demonstrate God’s overcoming the evil in the cosmos, but showed to man his need for, and in a sense was the promise of, the shedding of blood for the remission of sins.

I have a long way to go, and that long way will no doubt take me beyond the present volume, but it is helpful in getting the discussion (the one in my own head anyway) started.

Reichenbach is next with the Healing View. More to come.


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