Does God Owe Us Salvation?

Franz Tymmermann, Law and Grace (1540)
Franz Tymmermann, Law and Grace (1540)

Hopefully, the title question in an easy one for Christians to answer. But listen to how Mark Driscoll (the Evangelical pastor of the Mars Hill megachurch in Seattle from 1990-2014) described the Cross:

Now, the way this works is the doctrine of propitiation is that Jesus substituted himself and died in our place for our sins. That unlike the angry, capricious gods of animism and Greek mythology and paganism who demand a blood sacrifice, that human beings do something to appease those gods, the God of the Bible is exactly the opposite. Rather than asking anything from us, he does something for us. Rather than giving us a mandate to shed our blood, he comes and sheds his own. It’s the ultimate love and mercy and grace. So that Jesus died in my place for my sins, that the wrath of God is poured out on the Son of God, so that the wrath of God is propitiated, diverted, taken away from me. [….]

Jesus has propitiated the wrath of God. And here’s what this means as well. When I suffer I do not assume that God is punishing me because that would be unjust. He already punished Jesus in my place. [….] Religion is such a shackle. It’s such a guilt-ridden system. The propitiation of Jesus reminds us that on the cross, when he said, “It is finished,” our salvation was accomplished. We don’t need to pay God back. We don’t need to suffer. We don’t need to make it up to him. We need to trust in his Son. And the wrath of God is propitiated, diverted, taken away from us and placed on Jesus.

The idea is simple: we are owed eternal punishment (death and hell) because of our sins, but God the Father punishes Christ in our place. This is called penal substitution,  and it’s an idea originated by John Calvin and some of the other Reformers. J. I. Packer, an outspoken adherent of a penal substitution view of the Cross, acknowledges that this peculiar theology of the Cross is only as old as the Reformation (“Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon and their reforming contemporaries were the pioneers in stating it”). Packer helpfully explains just how the Reformers broke with tradition:

What the Reformers did was to redefine satisfactio (satisfaction), the main mediaeval category for thought about the cross. Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo?, which largely determined the mediaeval development, saw Christ’s satisfactio for our sins as the offering of compensation or damages for dishonour done, but the Reformers saw it as the undergoing of vicarious punishment (poena) to meet the claims on us of God’s holy law and wrath (i.e. his punitive justice).

All Driscoll has done is spell out the implications of this Protestant theology. If Christ’s Sacrifice is (as the Christians before the Reformation understood it) something like an offering of compensation for the damages our sin does to God, we can still refuse that compensation.  But the Reformers viewed that as putting sinful man too much in charge of salvation, even if his role was only to accept or reject the free gift of salvation. And so they articulated this view in which the Father actually punishes Christ for our sins: that is, our past, present, and future sins. In this view, as Driscoll notes, punishing us for our sins would be an actual injustice: a sort of eternal “double jeopardy” precludes God from punishing both Christ and us for the same thing.

But if it’s true that it would be unjust for God to damn me for me sins (since Christ died for me), then God owes me salvation. And He has owed me salvation from Good Friday forward. This is nothing less than a repudiation of the Gospel of justification by faith. Look, I realize how weird it is that I, a Catholic, have to remind Protestants that we’re justified by faith (since we Catholics are allegedly the ones who deny this), but let’s go for it.

It’s important to note that this view of God’s predestination, whereby He owes me salvation, is not because I believe in Jesus.  It can’t be, because He’s owed me since Good Friday. Calvinists actually – explicitly – deny that God predestined the elect based upon foreseen faith. Canon 9 of the “Synod of Dort” (1619 A.D.) says as much:

This election was not founded upon foreseen faith and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the prerequisite, cause, or condition of which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc. Therefore election is the fountain of every saving good, from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to the testimony of the apostle: “For he chose us (not because we were, but) in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Eph 1:4).

So you aren’t saved because you have faith. You have faith because you’re saved. But compare that theology with what Scripture says. Romans 3:21-26 is a good place to start:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

So what does Paul say? First, that grace is a gift. Any theology that says God owes me salvation or that it would be unjust for me to pay the consequences of my own damnable sins is preaching a different Gospel than the one Paul preached. Second, that this gift – including the expiation of our sins by the Blood of Christ – is to be received by faith. Third, that this is what justifies us.

In other words, Christ freely offers us the payment for the debt of our sins, a payment we could never pay on our own. And we accept it in faith (or don’t, to our own detriment). It’s this accepting of Christ’s Sacrifice in faith that justifies us: that is, it’s this that makes us just before God. In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul says much the same thing:

And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Now, St. Paul is responding to those who believed we are saved by works of the Mosaic Law, rather than those who believed that we are saved by penal substitution… but that’s because the latter group wouldn’t exist for another millennium-and-a-half.  Nevertheless, Paul lays out a history of salvation that contradicts the bad theologies of both groups. Namely, he says that:

  1. Prior to receiving Christ’s free gift of salvation, we were unsaved. Why? Because we were living “in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind.” We were dead in our sins.
  2. Out of God’s love for us, He sent Christ into the world, Who died for us to reunite us with God.
  3. We are then saved (a) by grace, (b) through faith. Faithfully accepting Christ’s free gift transforms us from being unjust and unsaved, to being justified and saved. That is, our faith in Christ brings about our salvation, not the other way around.
  4. This salvation is a gift from God.
  5. This is only the beginning – in being united with the suffering and death of Christ, we’re also united with His Resurrection and His glorification

For those of us living after the Incarnation of Christ, the first two of those steps are in reverse order. Chronologically, Christ’s death preceded our births by nearly 2000 years. But that doesn’t change the fact that prior to being saved, we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10).

Consider the implications of the fifth point of these five points. Christ doesn’t suffer in our place so that “we don’t need to suffer,” as Driscoll says. Jesus suffers for us so that our sufferings can be united with His, and so our sufferings can have meaning. Jesus doesn’t say, “I’m suffering on the Cross so that you don’t need to take up your own cross.” Rather, He says the opposite: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). And it’s this participation in the life, death, Resurrection, and glorification of Christ that St. Paul can say, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking[e] in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Driscoll and the Protestant Reformers who taught penal substitution can’t really hold this. If God has owed us salvation since Good Friday, this salvation had nothing to do with whether we believe in or hate Jesus Christ. We aren’t saved because of faith, and we don’t need faith to be saved (in fact, we were saved prior to having faith!). This is the bizarre result of the Reformation: much of its original energy arose from a desire to preserve the doctrine of justification-by-faith from anything resembling Pelagianism, but the end result has frequently been a Reformed theology that renders faith and justification utterly irrelevant, and reduces Christ’s free gift of salvation to our birthright.

83 Comments

  1. Ooh goody! I LOVE this subject and I look forward to discussing this with our protestant friends. I contend that the protestant misunderstanding of Christ’s atonement is the basis for almost all of their theological errors. Before we even discuss scripture we can logically demonstrate numerous problems with penal substitutionary atonement (it psub for short lol). First of all and most importantly, it has God the Father positively damning His only begotten Son, the second Person of the Trinity. Not only is this categorically impossible, it’s actually blasphemous. The idea that the Trinity could be split, God the Father being at enmity with God the Son violates the ONE necessary thing which is that God remains God. If Jesus was separated from God the Father by being damned to hell, God would no longer be Trinity and therefore would no longer be God. And quite honestly, even though I know protestants who believe this do not intend to be blasphemous, it’s still a horrible doctrine. Look at what it does to the Gospel! “God so loved the world he damned his Only begotten Son.” The idea that Jesus could ever possibly experience damnation should offend the ears of all Christians. Then there is the obvious injustice of punishing an innocent man (Jesus) for something he didn’t do. Actually lots of things he didn’t do lol. Protestants who believe this doctrine like to say that God has to punish all sin in order to remain just, but then have God the Father commit the horrible injustice of punishing the innocent, His only Son no less! We can now show how incompatible this doctrine is with scripture. Proverbs 17:15 states:

    “He who justifies the wicked and condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”

    Yet this doctrine would have us believe that God himself does both of those things which He considers abominable! Both condemning the righteous (Jesus) and justifying the wicked (the elect whom God pretends to be righteous based on imputed righteousness but are truly still wicked).

    This doctrine also makes the resurrection of Christ Jesus altogether superfluous. If Calvary is all that is needed for the double imputation of our sins to Jesus and His righteousness to us, then there was no need for Jesus to rise from the dead. In fact, (as horrible as this is to even type) if Jesus truly has to experience eternal damnation as the elect deserve in order for the elect to be saved, then the resurrection would be impossible because Jesus would have to continue suffering eternal damnation in hell! But the fact is that He Is Risen!!! That’s proof enough that the psub doctrine is false. We also see from scriptures like Romans 4:25 and 1 Corinthians 15:13-17, the Resurrection of Jesus is necessary for our salvation. Especially from 1 Corinthians 15:17 which reads:

    “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

    But even that is not the end of the errors of this doctrine. Complete anti-nomianism also logically follows from psub. If all your sins, past, present, and future have been imputed to Jesus and he was punished for them, you can literally sin as much as you like and will experience absolutely no punishment. As Joe points out in his article, even having faith in/believing in Jesus is completely irrelevant. All those sins of unbelief could be just as easily imputed to Jesus and punished in Him as any others right? Of course that is flatly absurd and obviously contrary to scripture.

    It’s also worth pointing out that orthodox Christology is in trouble with psub as well. If Jesus was punished with eternal separation from God, then He couldn’t be God while He was experiencing this separation. That is of course, Arianism. Some try to maintain psub from this by stating that it was Jesus’s human self that was punished but that is Nestorianism, splitting Christ into two different people (one human, one Divine).

    Bottom line, psub runs into serious pitfalls with orthodox Trinitarian and Christological theology. It contradicts scripture, it cannot be found anywhere in the Church Fathers, and it’s a sixteenth century novelty. As a side note, I noticed some time ago that this doctrine implies a contradiction quite ironically and amusingly with Romans 3:28 which says:

    “For we hold that we are justified by faith, apart from works of the law.”

    Luther actually goofed up his doctoring if the text! Instead of inserting the word “alone” after “faith,” he should have just crossed out “of the law” after the word “works.” The whole idea of the “double imputation” that stems from psub is that to Jesus is imputed the sins of the elect and the elect are imputed with Jesus Christ’s active obedience…to the LAW! This makes justification entirely legal, forensic, and completely a work of the law! Oh the irony! Lol. What many fail to understand is that sinlessness while being a necessary condition to enter heaven is actually not sufficient. That’s why the idea of Christ’s active obedience to the law being imputed to us is actually a Pelagian one. Heaven is way more than “not hell.” Heaven is the ultimate participation in the Divine Nature. That is what the gift of grace actually is; participating in God’s own Divine Life. That’s the whole idea of being born again. Being a new creation in Christ Jesus is also necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. But that is entirely above the nature of created beings. We can only obtain it as a gift from God.

    May God be with you all!

    Matthew

    1. Matt,

      “If all your sins, past, present, and future have been imputed to Jesus and he was punished for them, you can literally sin as much as you like and will experience absolutely no punishment.”

      This is very astute. Luther wrote, “No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.”

      It is also important to note that Luther wrote that good works necessarily follow faith. So, while it is theoretically true that no frequency in sinning in Luther’s mind separates man from God, he also teaches that no faithful Christian will actually lead such a life due to the workings of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer.* So, the issue is on what we emphasize. Sure, the Christian is under no real law according to the Protestant (and the Scripture for that matter.) However, that does not practically result in hedonistic living.

      *I am aware that one can dig up tons of crazy quotes from Luther , but before anyone is tempted to do this I would ask that they check that Luther really wrote the passage, as many of these passages come from his tabletalk, which are oral traditions of Luther’s students and, being that a lot of this included drinking, might have been things not only said perhaps in jest (though this be sick) but distorted by the memory of the person relaying the tradition.

      1. “If all your sins, past, present, and future have been imputed to Jesus and he was punished for them, you can literally sin as much as you like and will experience absolutely no punishment.”

        This is very astute. Luther wrote, “No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.”

        This is exactly and precisely what we reject as Roman Catholics as being against the Holy Gospel.

        “So, the issue is on what we emphasize.”

        It’s not just a matter of emphasis, we teach explicitly that Mortal sin can cause a man to lose his state of grace with God.

        Sure, the Christian is under no real law according to the Protestant (and the Scripture for that matter.) However, that does not practically result in hedonistic living.

        1 Corinthians 9:21

        “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law.”

        Christians do have a real law: namely, the Law of Christ. The Law of Christ isn’t just believing in Him either, it’s Love:

        John 13:34-35

        “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

        And Love is not an automatic result of faith, but a natural result that can be resisted. One can have faith, but not Love:

        1 Corinthians 13:2

        “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

        This is not just a hypothetical that St. Paul is talking about either:

        Matthew 7:22-27

        “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’”

        No one calls our blessed Lord and God Jesus Christ “Lord” apart from faith. Therefore, these men had faith, but not Love — as a result, they weren’t justified. Love is the key of the gospel that seems missing from your theology.

        Without Love in his heart, man cannot be saved, and as St. John proves in his 1st epistle, mortal sin (he uses the example of hatred/murder) excludes Love from a man’s heart.

      2. Craig,

        I appreciate the admission but this is exactly why the reformation heresies are absurd and incredibly dangerous. Where as Luther said that he could commit adultery a thousand times a day and still enter heaven, St. Paul says:

        “DO NOT BE DECEIVED! neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor ADULTERERS, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

        Clearly, Luther was very deceived. And your absolutely wrong when you say we are “under no real law.” We are most certainly under the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, 1 Corinthians 9:21). I’m actually a little surprised you embrace complete anti-nomianism which even the WCF (Westminster Confession of Faith) specifically condemns. I believe they are inconsistent in doing so because of their support of psub but at least they recognized it as an error. Most reformed I’ve talked to on issues like this would say something like “well if one commits adultery after they came to Christ…they were never saved to begin with and never really came to Christ.” In fact, I think you’ve said that lol. As to your confidence to the fact that this doctrine never leads to hedonistic living, that’s incredibly optimistic. There are hedonists who are Catholics just as I’m sure there are hedonists who are Calvinists. And while Luther may have never actually committed adultery, he did have a ton of rage against anyone who dared disagree with him with no love for them demonstrated. I appreciate that we can even have frank, assertive discussions while still affirming that we want the best for each other (namely, salvation). Luther did no such thing. Calvin wrote with such venom against his opponents. I understand anger and even a certain amount of contempt but I have yet to find anything from Luther or Calvin resembling love for their enemies. Did their theology play a part in their behavior? Perhaps. That’s impossible for me to judge. But it’s perfectly consistent with their theology that they can completely ignore everything that Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount and spend their entire lives doing the opposite and still enter the kingdom of God.

        Here’s what I will say. We are not under the written code of the Old Law. It’s not the ten commandments themselves that are binding on us, but the righteousness that is behind them. I will warn you Craig as St. Paul warned the Corinthians, if you commit adultery (God forbid that that should happen) and never repent, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

        May God be with you

        1. It looks like the first half of my reply was read, but not the second half.

          I wrote that the Spirit will not allow the faithful to live wanton lives of sin. They are compelled to love the brethren and live faithfully.

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. Actually I read both but it wasn’t relevant to what my argument was. The statement made by Luther that “I could commit adultery a thousand times a day and not lose my salvation” is completely incompatible with Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 6 that “adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It wouldn’t matter if you thought that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow the believer to commit adultery. Evidently, Luther thought he was capable of it because he thought all of his actions were constantly mortally sinful.

            Which brings up another point. You believe all sins deserve eternal damnation right? That is what the reformed tradition claims at least. Well, don’t we all sin every day? I believe it was Michael Horton who said something to the effect of “even on a good day, the average Christian is wicked.” Which means that every day, everyone (believers included) commits sins that deserve exclusion from God’s kingdom. Adultery would be no more significant than shoplifting. Both would deserve damnation. If that’s true, then the Holy Spirit would have to prevent reformed adherents from sinning…all the time. Because if you say that if a reformed believer who commits adultery wasn’t actually a believer, then that has to be true for every sin that deserves damnation because to not do so would be ad hoc. Which means that every time you sin, you prove that you were never really a believer/never really saved to begin with. This is of course absurd given 1 John 1:8.

            And finally, do you seriously think that the Holy Spirit has prevented every reformed believer from ever committing a sin on Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 6? I would only need one counter example to prove that false. And 1 Corinthians 5 clearly shows that it was Corinthian believers who were commuting sexual sins (fornication, adultery, ect). Paul is actually condemning their anti-nomian behavior. These were people “in the Church” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). It’s just plain naïve to think that those sins are never committed by believers. I wish they weren’t but evidently, the Holy Spirit is content with allowing those sins because He can bring a greater good out of them. You are under the impression that the Holy Spirit ursurps our free will and “compels holy living.” If that were true, no believer would sin and 1 John 1:8 would be incorrect. The Holy Spirit certainly assists the believer in avoiding sin and hoky living. In fact, it’s impossible to do without the Spirit’s aid. But to suggest that the Holy Spirit never allows grave sins to be committed by believers just defies common sense. In fact, I can personally attest that that is false. For a long time, I was addicted to pornography. For several years in fact throughout high school and college I was guilty of terrible sins of the flesh. This was well after I had been baptized and confirmed. Thanks be to God for the gift of confession that He called me back to after I left college. But I know for a fact that if I had died in that state, I would have been toast. And I STILL struggle with the temptation and I probably will for the rest of my life, and sometimes I even do succumb to temptation. Again, thank God for confession without which, I would be lost.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          2. Matt,

            I appreciate you probing in the matter. For what it is worth, here are my responses.

            “You believe all sins deserve eternal damnation right?”

            Any sin not atoned for, yes. This is why Augustine and Prosper of Aquataine taught that unbaptized infants go to hell.

            “Which means that every day, everyone (believers included) commits sins that deserve exclusion from God’s kingdom.”

            Of course, this is the traditionally Augustinian view. Any sin not atoned for results in damnation.

            “Adultery would be no more significant than shoplifting.”

            Not true. The day of judgment is more tolerable for some rather than others.

            “Which means that every time you sin, you prove that you were never really a believer/never really saved to begin with. This is of course absurd given 1 John 1:8.”

            John and Hebrews teach that Christians will not continue in egregious sins. For example, if you shop lift once you are probably not a thief. If you committed a lewd sexual act, you would probably not be called an adulterer or pervert. However, if you do these things again and again unrepretantly, we easily will classify such a person by the sin: i.e. adulterer, thief, pervert, etc.

            “You are under the impression that the Holy Spirit ursurps our free will and “compels holy living.””

            Christians are given a heart of flesh that delight in doing God’s will, producing fruit of the Spirit.

            “And I STILL struggle with the temptation and I probably will for the rest of my life…”

            Everyone is tempted. Christ was tempted in every way we are.

            “I even do succumb to temptation.”

            If it is to the degree where you are unrepentant and can be classified by these sins, then such sinfulness leads to damnation. I trust this is not the case for you. If it is, I pray that you repent and trust in Christ and you will receive full pardon for your sins.

            God bless,

            Craig

          3. Craig, I keep trying to send you a reply but the site is having it for some reason. Suffice to say, most reformed folks I’ve seen on the topic make no bones about saying that Jesus suffered “hell, damnation, separation from the father.”

            There’s a post on Nick’s Catholic Blog that gathered all the quotes from various reformed authors but I’m having trouble linking to it.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          4. Also Craig,

            I do appreciate prayers as I need all the prayers I can get but you’re mistaken about Hebrews and John. Hebrews constantly warns about the danger of apostasy. We’ve been through this before.

            You say: “Any sin not atoned for, yes. This is why Augustine and Prosper of Aquataine taught that unbaptized infants go to hell.”

            Incorrect. They taught unbaptized babies go to hell because of original sin and a lack of grace, not because they committed any sins deserving of hell. Augustine never says that unbaptized babies committed any mortal sins. And he was in a very small minority on this point compared to the rest of the fathers, hence the speculation on limbo of the infants. This is one of the few areas where I disagree with St. Augustine but you still need to understand that his position was based on the necessity of baptism for grace/regeneration/heaven and the fact that there will be a twofold division of humanity at the final judgement.

            You say: “Of course, this is the traditionally Augustinian view. Any sin not atoned for results in damnation.”

            Also not true. Augustine affirmed the distinction between mortal and venial sin. Here he is commentating on the Creed:

            “I do not tell you that you will live here without sin; but they are venial, without which this life is not. For the sake of all sins was Baptism provided; for the sake of light sins, without which we cannot be, was prayer provided. What has the Prayer? “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” Once for all we have washing in Baptism, every day we have washing in prayer. Only, do not commit those things for which you must needs be separated from Christ’s body: which be far from you! For those whom you have seen doing penance, have committed heinous things, either adulteries or some enormous crimes: for these they do penance. Because if theirs had been light sins, to blot out these daily prayer would suffice. In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance; yet God does not remit sins but to the baptized. The very sins which He remits first, He remits not but to the baptized. When? When they are baptized. The sins which are after remitted upon prayer, upon penance, to whom He remits, it is to the baptized that He remits.”(Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed)

            We see the distinction here clearly and it is stated that yes, sometimes people in the Body of Christ commit serious enough sins that they require the sacrament of penance.

            You say: “Christians are given a heart of flesh that delight in doing God’s will, producing fruit of the Spirit.”

            That’s infusion language btw 😉 lol. This is true but we still have free will and unfortunately, we still have concupiscence. And yes, committing a serious enough sin like adultery even once will destroy the charity in the soul which will no longer be in a state of grace. Mortal sins are devastating to the soul and are statements that we prefer ourselves to God. Adultery is one of them. And that is why adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God.

            But I have a question for you Craig. If (God forbid) you fall into a habit of serious sins, what then? Was your entire life of belief beforehand a lie? Would you need to be re-baptized? Would that be proof you were never saved at all? Would it not even make a difference? Or would it be proof that you are one of the reprobate and are toast anyways? Okay, so that was a lot of questions lol. But they are serious and reformed doctrine doesn’t really have a good way of answering them. Either it doesn’t matter and I could keep sinning, or I was never saved and have to try baptizing again or being born again…again. And how could you or anyone ever know if it was real that time? Or any time for that matter? And I suppose there is one final possibility which some might consider which is that they in fact are predestined by God to hell anyways and have no hope and so despair.

            May God be with you

            Matthew

          5. Matt,

            “Incorrect. They taught unbaptized babies go to hell because of original sin and a lack of grace, not because they committed any sins deserving of hell.”

            Augustine taught specifically that all of us committed the sin in Adam, so yes, they committed at least one sin worthy of damnation.

            “Augustine never says that unbaptized babies committed any mortal sins.”

            He generally did not speak in those categories, much like the rest of the ancient Church.

            “We see the distinction here clearly and it is stated that yes, sometimes people in the Body of Christ commit serious enough sins that they require the sacrament of penance.”

            Other than murder and adultery (truly egregious, rare sins), Augustine felt the Lord’s Prayer was sufficient in place of public penance. So, weekly confession simply was not a paradigm that fit his mold, though you appear to misunderstand Augustine’s thought to be more modern, and Roman Catholic, than it really was.

            “That’s infusion language btw”

            No, that’s pretty much Gal 5 summarized. Protestants call it “the sanctification process.” I do not particularly like this terminology, and all of the ramifications of this doctrine, as it serves to make Protestants and Catholics speak past each other.

            “But I have a question for you Craig. If (God forbid) you fall into a habit of serious sins, what then? Was your entire life of belief beforehand a lie?”

            Yes. How can I have told my wife “until death do us part” if I do not fulfill this sacred covenant? Those who are faithful will persevere in the faith and will be kept from a life of faithlessness.

            “Would that be proof you were never saved at all?”

            The only proof we have is our works and our orthodoxy. John writes in 1 John 5:13 that he wrote the whole letter, which focuses on those two specific topics, so we may know we have eternal life. So, if we do not believe Christ came in the flesh or do not love the brethren in a material way, then we have no confidence of our salvation.

            Works, and doctrinal orthodoxy (i.e. faith), are the evidence of salvation. This is why several specific works are listed as fruit of the Holy Spirit.

            GOd bless,

            Craig

          6. “But I have a question for you Craig. If (God forbid) you fall into a habit of serious sins, what then? Was your entire life of belief beforehand a lie?”

            Yes. How can I have told my wife “until death do us part” if I do not fulfill this sacred covenant? Those who are faithful will persevere in the faith and will be kept from a life of faithlessness.

            Again, I point you to Matthew 7:22-27.

            “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’”

            No one calls our blessed Lord Jesus Christ “Lord” apart from the Holy Spirit:

            1 Corinthians 12:3

            “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.”

            Therefore, these men had true faith, but not Love — specifically because they were evildoers, as our Blessed Lord said. As a result, they weren’t justified.

            Also, Galatians 5:4-7:

            “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

            You can’t fall away from what you didn’t have in the first place, and Paul says they were running well and obeying the truth. Therefore, these men had true faith according to Paul, yet fell away. Therefore, someone can have true faith and still fall from Grace due to an act of the will (in this case, being circumcised and trying to follow the Old Covenant to be justified). Therefore, falling away from faith or committing a mortal sin does not mean that your faith was a lie.

            I think this sufficiently demonstrates that we have scriptural basis for our position.

            We’ve been through this topic before, and have made our appeals before. Can we focus on Penal Substituion vs Satisfaction?

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this article is destined for the calvinists rather that lutherans, right? You mentioned Luthern and Melanchthon there, but Lutheranism teaches that graces is distributed by the word, water, bread and wine, and that in order to be saved we must receive God’s grace, trough faith by this means: hearing the word, being baptized and taking the Eucharist.

    1. Dan,

      That’s basically correct. As noted in the article, Luther helps to get the ball rolling in this direction, but Calvin and the Synod of Dort go further; modern folks like Driscoll are inheritors of that Reformational tradition. I would say that Driscoll’s view is a natural conclusion based upon the theology of Dort, but it’s less of a direct outgrowth of Luther or Lutheranism.

      1. If it is true the Lutheranism is not as rigid about salvation by faith (alone), i.e. they receive saving grace by “hearing the word, being baptized and taking the Eucharist”, then why do Lutherans retain even today the tenant of salvation by “Faith Alone”?

        Luther even said that salvation by faith alone was “the article by which the church stands or falls.”

        It’s true that Calvin took Luther’s initial theology and ran it to it’s natural end point that included predestination. However, as far as current Lutherans are concerned it seems like either we are using the word faith in different ways or someone is trying to have it both ways.

        1. Tom.

          Lutherans reject double predestination, God sends the Spirit to create faith by different means, He never fails, but man can by his own doing reject the spirit and be damned by his own doing. Thus, saved by faith alone, and this is God’s doing not our own, however God does not “own” us salvation. As the Bible teaches he wishes that all be saved, and sent Christ to die for all, and all are covered by His blood, objective justification, however this salvation, is good of nothing if the individual hardens his heart or dismisses God’s gift, thus also subjective justification. But God will always try to reach, or flourish the faith. Does that make sens? Also is this also not the Catholic view? Thanks!

          1. Dan, thanks for the reply and thoughtful ideas.

            I do understand that Lutherans indeed reject double predestination at least as stated by Calvin.

            My issue comes with the claim of salvation by Faith “Alone”. As you so beautifully stated, God continually reaches out to us even when we are pushing Him away. It is through this loving free gift that we are led to eternal life with our Creator. I absolutely agree.

            However, it seems that by adding the word “alone” to the above premise Lutherans are stating that something specific is excluded from the salvific act. Of course they are guarding against the heresy of Pelagianism and I would agree this is completely appropriate. But the exclusion has gone so far as to exclude any actions of man’s free will and acts of charity that relate to salvation. Lutherans that I have talked to seem to accept man’s free will and his ability to reject God (as you did), but in the same breath say that man’s free will plays no role in his acceptance of God and thus his salvation. That is what I meant by trying to have it both ways. There are not two choices, there is only one choice – Accept God’s gift or not. Accepting God’s grace is equal to not rejecting it. Rejecting God’s grace is equal to not accepting it.

            At the simplest level, Faith is either a unilateral gift or involves a free will choice. Luther rejected the choice position in all cases (“Faith Alone”) which left him with only the faith as a gift option. The latter is dangerously close to predestination which Calvin refined in its most complete and untenable form.

            Dan, you stated that “God sends the Spirit to create faith”. This Lutheran perspective (as I understand it and if wrong please correct me) retains the obvious problem of mankind’s fallen state and his free will. Luther stated, and I agree, that in our fallen state mankind is incapable of reaching out to or even desiring God.
            One one hand, I can see how we might conclude that fallen mankind is able to reject God using his fallen free will. The implication is that without faith, then mankind could only reject God. This however leads us to the injustice of predestination that I think we both reject. In other words, if fallen man could only REJECT God’s gift, then how can God be just?
            The other side of the dilemma should be equally clear: if mankind is fallen and incapable of even desiring God PRIOR to having faith, then how can fallen mankind accept this faith and thus be saved? The logical answer is that mankind can’t accept God without faith which is why Calvin converged on the notion of TULIP and double predestination.

            It seems to me that the notion of salvation by “Faith Alone” has some serious logical inconsistencies in the end. Certainly “Faith Alone” merited the rejection of Pelagianism and the rejection of egregious abuses of man’s liturgical practices actions in the 16th century. However, to project salvation by “Faith Alone” to include any and all actions of mankind and his free will leads to other untenable theological difficulties which must be faced.

          2. Tom,

            “This however leads us to the injustice of predestination that I think we both reject. In other words, if fallen man could only REJECT God’s gift, then how can God be just?”

            I pretty much think Catholics and Lutheran agree on election. Catholics teach synergism (man trough free will and the Holy Ghost comes to Christ) and Lutherans monergism (the individual is corrupt, by original sin, but Christ alone will reach to him and free him!). So you see, it’s not about whether we are reached, we are reached! But just about how.

            Here’s a video of a LCMS pastor I hold dear:
            https://youtu.be/tfD_X7hWR1I?t=7m39s

  3. Good Article Joe!

    However, as a former Calvinist (now Roman Catholic), I can tell you already what their response is. They defend their monstrous error with an even more monstrous error: limited atonement. Refresher: limited atonement is the error that claims that our Blessed Lord only died for the sins of the elect, not the sins of the non-elect. Under that sort of theology, rather than salvation being something “owed by God” they would phrase it rather as a “gift that has already been given”. Consequently, this is why reformed preachers so frequently try to convince their audience that they are “already saved”.

    Monergism + Faithfulness of God to cause perseverance = Once Saved Always Saved + Limited Atonement. Since God is certainly faithful to cause us to persevere, I peg Monergism as the root for this bad theology. This also explains why it leads to the conclusion that Faith is indifferent with regard to Justification, since Faith necessarily implies cooperation of the will in believing. Ironically, Monergism was originally formulated in one of Martin Luther’s attempts at defending Faith Alone.

    1. You’re absolutely right Alex. What gets me though is that monergism is so obviously contradicted by numerous scriptures. Maybe you can play devil’s advocate with me lol. What was the Calvinist interpretation of 1 Corinthains 3:9 which literally calls us “God’s fellow workers” or “synergoi” in greek. They’re is your synergism! lol. I’ve actually spent a good deal of time looking for the word “monergo” in the greek New Testament and I’ve come up empty. Is it there somewhere and I’m just not seeing it? “Synergoi” and related words though are all over the place. I always thought though that Limited Atonement was a direct result of psub atonement theory. If Jesus is punished with eternal damnation for your sins, well, you can’t be lost and since universalism is obviously false, Jesus must not have been punished with everyone’s sins. Monergism is definitely a whopper though lol. The insidious thing about it is that it sounds so humble and glorifying to God. It’s honey-dipped poison because it leads to so many contradictions with scripture, tradition, and leads to complete anti-nomianism no matter what any reformed confession says.

      May God be with you!

      Matthew

      1. Matthew,

        You say: “If Jesus is punished with eternal damnation for your sins, well, you can’t be lost… ”

        But you can be, says Devils advocate, because Jesus also said:

        “I will come again, and will take you to myself; THAT WHERE I AM, YOU ALSO MAY BE.”

        Calvinists would have to say…”It’s OK Lord, I think I’ll pass on that.” 🙂

      2. I think a Calvinist would probably answer that, in context 1 Cor 3:9 refers to Paul (as an evangelist) working together with God, rather than the person being “saved”. Nevermind that this interpretation still undermines monergism, just for a different party. As far as sounding humble, I attribute it to Monergism having better “marketing”.

        Penal Substitution is a result of Monergism. If God does all the work; necessarily, full, complete, non-particapitory atonement without saving the entire human race demands Penal Substitution. Satisfaction theory doesn’t work, because under their theology, it would end up saving the entire human race rather than just the elect. Same problem with Christus Victor, both rely on Universal Atonement to work. Ransom theory doesn’t work because then they would need to maintain the freedom won for them in Christ by not selling oneself to the devil again. That leads to the formation of a totally new and bizarre theory where Christ receives direct punishment for all the sins of individuals from God the Father, rather than offering that penance and Love up as a sacrifice up to God the Father on mankind’s behalf as a meritorious sacrifice in such a way that we need to participate in it.

        1. So then evidently “building up the Gospel” doesn’t have anything to do with people getting saved. What on earth is the Gospel for then? lol.

          I think I can sum up what Martin Luther’s theology and Calvin that followed him in five words: “Don’t make me do stuff!” Luther had such a low opinion of himself and of humanity. He thought God hated him and everything he did, so he invents a theology where he can still be saved and nothing he does matters. Calvin takes it and tries to make it work systematically. It’s a safe bet that if your theology logically leads to complete anti-nomianism, you’ve gone off the rails. Universalism has that same problem. I respect that many reformed acknowledge that anti-nomianism is an error but I don’t see how it can be logically avoided given monergism/psub. And furthermore, it’s very unclear in reformed theology whether or not “sanctification” is really necessary for salvation. How would you respond as a Calvinist? lol

          May God be with you.

          Matthew

        2. I phrased this badly: “I think a Calvinist would probably answer that, in context 1 Cor 3:9 refers to Paul (as an evangelist) working together with God, rather than the person being “saved”. ”

          I think a Calvinist would probably answer that 1 Cor 3:9 refers to Paul (as an evangelist) working together with God on the other’s behalf, rather than the person working together with God on his own behalf.

          Calvinists are tough to argue with. I think a better approach is to point to the need for true Charity in a Christian’s heart in the economy of salvation. This is what they lack. You have no idea how much that heals Calvinist wounds and helps them accept the Catholic truth (I can tell you personally, this is what has helped me long term heal from the damage of sola fide). Dialectic with them doesn’t usually help much in experience, because most protestants are likely to simply retreat into their positions or permutate them to try to maintain sola fide (usually in attempt to comfort their scrupulous consciences in the case of fervent protestants).

  4. You write: ” Any theology that says God owes me salvation or that it would be unjust for me to pay the consequences of my own damnable sins is preaching a different Gospel than the one Paul preached.”

    How do you square the former with Canon 32 of the Council of Trent? “If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not **also the good merits** of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.”

    It seems there is a conflict between your position articulated here, that any Gospel which leads to human beings meriting eternal life is in conflict with salvation by grace, and the Tridentine position that grace and merit aren’t either/or categories.

    1. Al,

      What tension are you seeing between the passage that you quoted and Canon 32 of the Council of Trent? They seem to be entirely unrelated. One is about the Protestant position that it would be unjust for any of those for whom Christ died to go to hell; the other is about how good works are a result of grace and the good merits of the justified. How are those in conflict?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. You make an argument that Reformed soteriology won’t work, because it logically leads to the view that God owes us salvation, which would contradict St Paul’s teaching that salvation is by God’s grace.

        So, in making this argument you are presupposing that there is a dichotomy between grace and merit: if Reformed soteriology implies that God owes us salvation, then therefore it must by in conflict with salvation by grace.

        The Council of Trent clearly *does not* treat grace and merit as a dichotomy: rather it seeks to affirm that the good works of the justified, *in addition to being by the grace of God* are *also meritorious*.

        Therein lies the conflict.

        1. Al B,

          It’s helpful to clarify as to what exactly is the definition of the word “merit” according to the Catholic Church. Here are paragraphs 2006-2011 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the matter:

          2006 The term “merit” refers in general to the recompense owed by a community or a society for the action of one of its members, experienced either as beneficial or harmful, deserving reward or punishment. Merit is relative to the virtue of justice, in conformity with the principle of equality which governs it.

          2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

          2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

          2009 Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.”60 The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.61 “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts.”62

          2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

          2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

          “After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.”

          This quote is from St. Therese of Lisieux.

          May God be with you.

          Matthew

  5. Seems so click baity. “Protestants think God owes them salvation.” No one affirms that, salvation is a free gift. I don’t have the citation in front of me but I recall Chrysostom writing something along the lines of “we contribute a great deal to our salvation, we contribute our faith.” By arguing over whether salvation is owed because faith contributes to salvation is simply terminology. If God supplies the faith and looks past wrongs committed, He is giving something gratis and it is not owed.

    I also do not like that you write incredulously, “they articulated this view in which the Father actually punishes Christ for our sins.” This view is very old. It is in more than a few fathers. This may be true as early as the first century. The Epistle of Barnabas calls Christ the scapegoat, which we well know, had the nation’s sins placed upon it. I know a lot of ink has been spilled by Catholics arguing that the scapegoat is not a type for Christ–and, for good reason, because of the ramifications on how we understand the atonement.

    By misrepresenting Protestant ideas and casting them in the worse, most biased light it misinforms both Catholics and unlearned Protestants who looking to dig deeper, will condemn their own beliefs when they read things like you wrote above.

    God bless,
    Craig

    P.S. For those looking to dig deeper on the issue of Penal Substitution among the early church fathers:

    Penal Sub Part 1
    https://christianreformedtheology.com/2015/06/03/penal-substitution-as-a-theory-of-atonement-in-the-early-church-fathers/

    1. Craig,

      (1) Did you read the Driscoll quotation saying that it would be unjust for God to damn him? If justice requires that God save us, then it’s what we are owed. And if it’s what we’ve been owed since before our birth, then it’s our birthright, and we can never speak of a moment in which we “got saved.” We were always saved, since God has owed us salvation from all eternity. I’ve showed my work on this one, in the post. You can’t just wave it away by saying that nobody believes this stuff, when I’m quoting directly.

      (2) Penal substitution isn’t actually found in the Fathers, although there are a handful of passages that can be forced into sounding like it. J.I. Packer admits this (as quoted above), and he’s one of the foremost pro-psub theologians out there. Stephen Holmes (who also supports psub) nevertheless admits that it’s not actually taught in the Fathers, with one possible exception:

      “In the following two chapters – Four and Five – Holmes sketches the tradition. Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, John of Damascus, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Luther, Calvin, Anabaptists and Anglicans, early Evangelicals, nineteenth-century liberals and twentieth-century neo-orthodox theologians, Aulén and liberation theology are all perused. Holmes argues – against Jeffery, Ovey and Sach in Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, who spill not a little ink trying to prove (force?) otherwise – that the claim that penal substitutionary atonement is found in the fathers is misplaced and that he can find only ‘one isolated passage in Gregory the Great, but nothing else’ (p. 57), the focus there being principally on ransom and sacrifice motifs. ”

      So you don’t even need Catholics to tell you that the idea isn’t found in the Fathers – Protestant scholars that don’t try to force the evidence will tell you just as much.

      The scapegoat example you raise is a great example of forcing the evidence. A simple reference connecting Christ with the Old Testament scapegoat doesn’t prove a belief in penal substitution. I’ve made that connection before; are you going to argue that this proves that I also believe in penal substitution?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      P.S. “Protestants think God owes them salvation.” Where is that quotation coming from?

      1. Joe,

        “(1) Did you read the Driscoll quotation…”

        Driscoll is almost universally regarded as a hack. He devoted his exegesis to Song of Songs to how to sexually pleasure his wife (including scandalizing detail about oral sex and his wife being a cuckold.). It would be like me quoting Tertullian and Origen about something you disagree with. All I would here are quotes about them being heretics, though both of them wrote questionable things when in communion with the Catholic Church.

        So, I do not need to defend the nuances and exaggerations of Driscoll.

        “(2) Penal substitution isn’t actually found in the Fathers… J.I. Packer admits this.”

        Did you read anything from the links I posted? You make an argument which amounts to nothing more than an appeal to authority (“JI Packard concedes this!”) when I can appeal to another authority (i.e. Michael J. Vlach, Assistant Professor of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), who argues the doctrine is found in several fathers, see: https://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj20i.pdf

        But, instead of making appeals to authorities let me simply quot one father, Saint Theodore of Heraclea:

        He bore the sum of human evils and every form of transgression, as well as their recompense and punishment. And as if he were our debtor, the only-begotten Word of God, coming into the world alongside us, fulfilled every law and all righteousness and did not stumble over sin but received it willingly so as to change our punishment into peace and harmony. For undergoing temptation he carried our rebukes and punishments, and by faith we make our own his suffering, and dying together with Him we are saved by grace. He was not delivered by force but by an act of obedience.

        If a Protestant wrote this, you would claim it to be an innovation, something the Fathers never held. However, Saint Theodore of Heraclea wrote this 1200 years before the reformation.

        So, now that you are aware of this, I think of it improper for you to act incredulously when I assert that there are clear, pre-reformation elucidations of penal substitution.

        ““Protestants think God owes them salvation.” Where is that quotation coming from?”

        You wrote: ‘Does God owe us salvation? Yes, if Protestant theologians…are right.”

        You are in my prayers. I am time strapped, so please do not interpret my frankness as anger or discontent. Computers have a way of not conveying tone.

        God bless,
        Craig

        P.S. The scapegoat reference pertains to other writers, such as Catholic Nick, who claims that the action of laying on hands does not transfer sins. But, this is a peripheral issue right now so let’s not get mired in it.

      2. Craig,

        (1) Ad hominems against Driscoll, while true, don’t actually respond to the substance. He’s taking a well-established line of Protestant (esp. Calvinist) thought and drawing out its natural conclusions. He’s not the only one who has done this, either. Do you need me to multiply examples?

        (2) There are a handful of passages in the Fathers which, if one is sufficiently motivated, can be read as supporting penal substitution. I think Matthew has done a more than adequate job of showing why those passages don’t mean what you’re trying to make them say. But it’s also telling that many (admittedly, not all!) Protestant scholars admit that they don’t say this.

        This isn’t just an “appeal to authority.” This is what is called, in law, “a declaration against interest.” This is why your appeal and mine don’t carry equal weight – if someone says “my side is right on this,” we don’t give that as much weight as someone saying, “my side is actually wrong on this.” Why? Because all of the fallen human motivations are to read the evidence in a way favoring one’s own side. That these scholars, who agree with your conclusions and aren’t immune from these universal temptations, can still admit that the evidence doesn’t actually say what you say it does is a point you need to grapple with more seriously than you are. (Also, I’m not just saying “a guy who calls himself a Protestant says this.” J.I. Packer’s Knowing God was ranked #5 on the all-time most influential books in Evangelicalism. He really is one of the leading theologians on the pro-penal substitution side, and still concedes that it’s a Reformation-era development/invention.)

        (3) What you’re doing, and what the scholars you’re citing are doing, would be a bit analogous to searching ancient texts to find evidence of “Marxism.” Could you find a few sentences that appear to support Marxism? Absolutely. Would that prove that Marxism predates Marx? Nope. So this discussion risks missing the forest for the trees, unless you’re claiming that Calvin was just some huge St. Theodore of Heraclea devotee.

        I.X.,

        Joe

        P.S. I think you’re missing my point on the scapegoat – I’m saying that people can speak of Christ and the scapegoat without meaning penal substitution… and that I’ve done as much in a prior blog post. But you’re trying to hold up the fact that the Epistle of Barnabas makes this connection as “proof” of first century belief in penal substitution. That’s not a view seriously held by any scholars that I know of (I think that there’s near universal recognition of Ransom Theory as the predominant theology of the Cross in this period.)

        1. Joe,

          Here’s the issue with your own, and Matt’s response. You accuse the Protestants of twisting the words of the fathers and shoe horning an interpretation of their words, but look how Matt explains away Theodore. Matt writes, “You confuse eternal death of the soul with mortal death of the body.” This shows that neither you, nor Matt, are seriously interacting with the evidence. No one is saying that Christ in body or soul eternally died.

          Rather, Theodore writes, Christ “bore the sum of human evils and every form of transgression, as well as their recompense and punishment.” You and others write that it is “Trinitarian heresy” for the Father to punish Christ, as God is punishing God, yet this is exactly what Theodore is saying–that Christ bore the punishment for the full sum of human evils.

          Responses like yours, and Matt’s show that you neither seriously interact with the evidence or seek to formulate an honest historical assessment of it. Rather, you have an agenda to repeat the myth PSub simply did not exist.

          You will find, if you approach the matter historically and not as an apologist with an agenda, that you will end up conceding more and more that the Fathers taught several elements (nearly all) of the PSub doctrine. While the Fathers lack doozies such as “God owes you salvation” or “Christ experienced Hell for you” (RC Sproul) they teach the rudimentary facts: that man is owed punishment for his sins and is under the wrath of God, but Christ stepped in and paid that penalty in man’s place. This, by definition, is Penal Substitution.

          When you have to attack the most extreme elucidations of it (i.e. Christ experienced Hell, etc) in place of its plain meaning and how most theologians have spoken of it, it just comes off as desperate and intellectually dishonest.

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. ^^^This is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. You write 5 paragraph random tirades on my blog, which I mark as spam because they contain only insults and no content, and you take issue with the fact that I point out that Driscoll is considered a disgraced non-theologian by practically everyone and that Barth is an adulterer (something many contemporary Catholic critics did not fail to point out either.)

            The error Joe made was quoting Driscoll as if he spoke for any respectable Protestants. This is the equivalent of quoting Pastor Steve Anderson in the same way. So, I am not bashing Driscoll for the fun of it. I am pointing out that this guy is not considered normal nor is he considered, by anyone, a theologian.

            KO, I understand that you hate Protestant doctrines with a passion, as you say, but do you actually desire a respectable dialogue or you prefer hurling insults around?

  6. Craig,

    When the Church fathers are brought to bear on the discussion on psub, there is a constant theme of eisegesis done by many reformed on this issue. It usually happens that when Church fathers quote scriptures that reformed consider proof texts of their doctrine and then attribute their doctrine to the fathers. I will discuss your attempted interpretation of every Church father you claim articulates psub.

    1. Cyril of Alexandria

    The simple question that hinges your entire basis for interpreting Cyril of Alexandria in this way is what exactly does he mean by “penalty.” You interpret Christ paying our “penalty” for sin as eternal separation from God. But that is not the only way to look at it. Throughout the entire quote you give, the penalty could just as easily be mortal death. Cyril refers to the Old Testament law where the punishment for sins was mortal death. Christ suffers the penalty of mortal death. The “curse” Christ bears for us is precisely His physical suffering and his physical death. Everything that you interpret as referencing “eternal damnation” in this passage could just as easily be interpreted as mortal death. Given all the logical difficulties with scripture and orthodox Trinitarian theology and Christology, let’s assume that Cyril of Alexandria did not make these errors.

    2. Athanasius

    Once again, this quote can see the “wrath laid upon him” as simply physical suffering and death. This is going to be a common theme.

    3. Jerome

    Here you acknowledge that he says “put to death” by God. Death being once again, physical mortal death. It is metaphysically impossible for Jesus Christ, God the Son, to die the second death of eternal separation from God the Father.

    4. (now from your part 2) Theodore of Heraclea

    Once again, you confuse eternal death of the soul with mortal death of the body. The apostle Peter specifically says that Christ bore our sins “in his body.” The end of the quote here shows that Theodore had no thought of the Calvinist conception of psub by saying:

    “For undergoing temptation he carried our rebukes and punishments, and by faith we make our own his suffering, and dying together with Him we are saved by grace. He was not delivered by force but by an act of obedience.”

    How can we “make our own his suffering and dying together with him” if Christ’s suffering and death were identical to eternal damnation? It makes no sense for us to participate in Christ being punished with eternal damnation. There is no room for participating in Christ’s atonement at all under psub. As Alexander Folkerts pointed out above, that’s because the goal in mind here for this doctrine is monergism. But monergism makes scriptures like Colossians 1:24 and 2 Corinthians 1:5 completely incoherent. This very quote shows that Theodore of Heraclea is not a monergist.

    5. Hilary of Poitiers

    This one isn’t even close to what Calvinistic psub is. Of course Christ is the sacrificial victim! That’s a pretty enormous “duh” lol. Christ is both the High Priest who offers the sacrifice of atonement and the sacrificial victim that makes the atonement efficacious. That’s just basic stuff that all Christians should be able to affirm. No where in this quote do we find anything remotely resembling an affirmation of Christ being eternally damned. And I’m being a stickler on that fact when discussing psub. Calvin and lots of reformed following him specifically claim that God the Father damned His only begotten Son. The “curse” Hilary mentions is once again easily seen as physical suffering and death. Why is that such a big deal? Think about this. God is impassable. Jesus doesn’t have original sin, and yet, He died! So right of the bat, if the Apostles want to talk about Jesus being God and sinless, they have some ‘splainin’ to do lol. They do this by revealing how Christ “became a curse” for us. That “curse” is assuming our mortality and passability. Augustine specifically mentions this in “Reply to Faustus” 14:4,5,6.
    Here’s St. Augustine (Reply to Faustus 14:4):

    “What does Faustus find strange in the curse pronounced on sin, on death, and on human mortality, which Christ had on account of man’s sin, though He Himself was sinless? Christ’s body was derived from Adam, for His mother the Virgin Mary was a child of Adam. But God said in Paradise, “On the day that you eat, you shall surely die.” This is the curse which hung on the tree. A man may deny that Christ was cursed who denies that He died. But the man who believes that Christ died, and acknowledges that death is the fruit of sin, and is itself called sin, will understand who it is that is cursed by Moses, when he hears the apostle saying “For our old man is crucified with Him.” Romans 6:6 The apostle boldly says of Christ, “He was made a curse for us;” for he could also venture to say, “He died for all.” “He died,” and “He was cursed,” are the same. Death is the effect of the curse; and all sin is cursed, whether it means the action which merits punishment, or the punishment which follows. Christ, though guiltless, took our punishment, that He might cancel our guilt, and do away with our punishment.”

    Look closely at “He died and He was cursed are the same.” Augustine repeats this in articles 5 and 6. Additionally, Hilary points out that Jesus secured “complete salvation for the human race by the offering of this holy, perfect victim.” Now if Calvinist psub was on his mind, that would make Hilary into a universalist. Every Calvinist recognizes that if psub applies to the entire human race, then no one could be lost. Hence the doctrine of Limited Atonement. It’s actually quite interesting that Calvinism is only one small step away from universalism.

    6. John Chrysostom:

    Once again, the “punishment/curse” Christ takes is physical death! Chrysostom specifically says dies for another “sentenced to death.” No where near is Chrysostom saying Christ is sentenced to eternal damnation.

    7. Theodoret

    Here’s actually the “satisfaction theory” you’ve been looking for lol. Jesus pays a debt He does not owe because we owe a debt we cannot pay. Going forward with “debt” as an analogy for sin, Jesus sacrifice gives God the Father infinity dollars lol. The sacrifice is of infinite worth and therefore, God’s righteous wrath against sin is propitiated (turned off if you will). Which is why the world could more easily survive without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Since God’s wrath against sin is expiated, He does not destroy us when we sin, but instead offers us grace in Jesus Christ through the sacraments of His Church, which is His body. Again, no where in this quote does Theodoret claim that Jesus was damned.

    8. Eusebius of Caesarea

    Once again, the curse is mortal death. Are we starting to notice a pattern here? Lol. Luther and Calvin were absolutely the first to make up the absurdity that Jesus Christ experienced damnation.

    May God be with you

    Matthew

  7. “Luther and Calvin were absolutely the first to make up the absurdity that Jesus Christ experienced damnation.”

    It’s absurd largely because Jesus spoke to the ‘good thief’ while suffering on the cross, saying:

    ” Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

    I wonder why in all of this controversy over PSUB, the words of Jesus are not given much weight? Jesus Himself gives evidence that He will be in ‘paradise’ on that very same day? And He will even have a companion to enjoy it with him.

    Now, that the 2nd thief on Calvary that day was not included, that is, as Jesus did not say “both of you will be with me in paradise”, indicates that the other thief actually DID suffer damnation. And, if Jesus was indeed ‘damned’ at His death, as PSUB adherents claim, then he wouldn’t be in company of the good thief, but on the contrary would be in the company of the ‘bad thief’. Why would this account be included in the Gospel in the first place if the Church was indicating in any way a PSUB doctrine? It’s so completely contradictory.

    And, that Jesus notes a time frame…that is…’TODAY’ you will be with me in paradise, indicates that even if there WAS some form of extra suffering after death, it’s duration was to be very minimal. That is, until the end of the day…by which time Jesus would achieve paradise in company with the good thief. And that Jesus said “Truly”, “Amen”…means one would have to consider Jesus a liar to affirm the PSUB theory. How can Jesus be both in paradise and be eternally damned at the same time, on the same day?

    Moreover, listen to the words of Christ moments before His death, and note the impact it had on an eye witnesses at this critical time, when psub adherents will say Jesus was beginning to suffer eternal damnation. Note how contrary is the Gospel account to this theory. Mark the love and compunction of the bystanders who witnessed the immense love that Jesus displayed:

    “And Jesus crying out with a loud voice, said: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And saying this, he gave up the ghost. [47] Now the centurion, seeing what was done, glorified God, saying: Indeed this was a just man. [48] And all the multitude of them that were come together to that sight, and saw the things that were done, returned striking their breasts. [49]

    To the end, Jesus lovingly trusts God His Father with His ‘spirit’. This is an act of love so impressive that even the pagan centurion, it says, ‘GLORIFIED GOD’.

    Do PSUB believers even consider these most essential eye witness accounts in the scriptures?

    1. “Luther and Calvin were absolutely the first to make up the absurdity that Jesus Christ experienced damnation.”

      Where? I cannot find it Luther and Calvin said Christ’s suffering was “like” damnation, but not that He was damned.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. If Jesus suffered AT ALL after his death, then why did He say to the good Thief:

        “Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) ?

        1. Taking “this day” literally, Jesus would be referring to seeing the good thief in the Bosom of Abraham (Sheol) – Luke 16:22. The gates of heaven would not be open even for the righteous/justified until the day of Christ’s resurrection.

          1. As Jesus is our ultimate teacher, per His teaching:

            ” But be not you called Rabbi. For one is your master; and all you are brethren.”, and “Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, Christ.” (Matt. 23:8-10),

            We have 2 definitions taught by the Lord regarding the afterlife. As you correctly mentioned, He referred earlier in His teachings to the ‘Bosom of Abraham’, but on the cross He gives us ANOTHER important definition: “PARADISE”.

            The point I was trying to make is that Jesus is clearly stating that both He and the ‘good thief’ that very day will be in a VERY GOOD STATE, “paradise” after their imminent departure from life. And this COMPLETELY CONTRADICTS the notion that Jesus was in a state of either near damnation, or complete damnation, after His death. It is not possible to equate paradise with damnation, or near damnation, as they are opposites. This is why I agreed with Matthew that this Protestant doctrine of PSUB is a complete absurdity.

            If we have a clear teaching of Jesus Christ to guide us, we don’t need to scrupulize, and philosophize, over obscure teachings from St. Paul or any other saint. As Jesus said…”one is your Master”, and we are all “brothers”. So, Jesus should be listened to first, over all other teachers, including any other saint. And if Jesus said He will be in ‘Paradise’ with the ‘good thief’ on that same day, we must believe him in a very simple way. It is as explicit as you can get. Thus, the claims of PSUB that Jesus is in an ‘evil’ state is false because it contradicts the clear teaching of ‘the master’, Christ Himself.

  8. “That unlike the angry, capricious gods of animism and Greek mythology and paganism who demand a blood sacrifice, that human beings do something to appease those gods, the God of the Bible is exactly the opposite.”

    No, the god of the Old Testament did exactly the same thing. And then, as Paul interprets it, he did the exactly same thing with Himself/and/or/His Son.

    “Rather than asking anything from us, he does something for us”
    Of course he asks something. Many things, indeed.

    “Religion is such a shackle. It’s such a guilt-ridden system.”

    Yes, sin is guilt. Original sin is genetic guilt. Religion is a guilt-ridden system, therefore religion is guilt. Well, taking aside that he’s using the Protestant derogatory term for “religion” (for a Protestant, “religion” is bad, and Jesus “didn’t teach religion”, as I’ve heard so many times).

    “When I suffer I do not assume that God is punishing me because that would be unjust.”

    OK, suffering is random. I’d assume the same thing, but for other causes, though.

    ===

    “You believe all sins deserve eternal damnation right? That is what the reformed tradition claims at least. Well, don’t we all sin every day? I believe it was Michael Horton who said something to the effect of “even on a good day, the average Christian is wicked.” Which means that every day, everyone (believers included) commits sins that deserve exclusion from God’s kingdom. Adultery would be no more significant than shoplifting.”

    That is why I despise Protestantism profoundly.

    1. KO,

      You say:

      “No, the god of the Old Testament did exactly the same thing. And then, as Paul interprets it, he did the exactly same thing with Himself/and/or/His Son.”

      The whole point of this post was to prove that this is not the case. This is not the Catholic position and it’s the Catholic Church that was established by Jesus Christ. You are misinterpreting both the Old Testament and St. Paul if you come to this conclusion.

      You also say: “Yes, sin is guilt. Original sin is genetic guilt.”

      That’s not true either. I am not punished for Adam’s sin. Think of it this way. Adam and Eve were given an immense fortune. Their sin was completely squandering it. Because they did so, they cannot pass on their fortune to me. That’s a much better analogy of original sin and it happens to be the Catholic understanding. I like that you recognize a lot of protestant errors but you seem to play fast and loose with terms and scriptures. Be more careful my friend.

      Matthew

  9. Serious question for Joe/others:

    If we remove the idea of our Blessed Lord having the guilt of Sin imputed, and remove the idea of the Father rejecting/turning his face away, and include the necessity of Sacramental union with Christ’s pennance for us on the cross, is this modified form of the Penal Substitution theory salvageable?

    The theory would end up working like so:
    1. When Christ died for our sins, he did actual penance for them in order to destroy them, thus removing the barrier between God and Man
    2. He did this by taking the sins as an ontological entity on His person, but not in such a way as to be considered guilty of them in an imputed sense, nor infected/dominated by them in an infused sense
    3. His death, while for all sins, only effectively destroys those sins laid upon him by participation in the sacraments in the case of Mortal sins (and venial sins), and union with Him in His sufferings devotionally in the case of venial sins (which is why some people tend to believe limited atonement, but His death was for all sins, but only effective for those laid upon him)
    4. The sins He died for that were not destroyed by having them laid upon Him end up earning abundant merit for the penance done, because of His Love for those that rebuffed him
    5. While those sins laid upon Him sacramentally are destroyed, their effects remain, hence why there is still temporal punishment for said sins.

    Is there anything wrong with this understanding? Is this just another permutation of the Ssatisfaction theory with substitutionary elements?

    1. Alexander,

      Is it really a necessity to understand the exact mechanics underlying the nature of the atonement? And if so, why don’t we have teachings on these minute philosophical and theological specifications provided to us in the Gospel accounts themselves? In the Gospels the focus is so different. Over and over again it stresses the love of God for mankind. And this great love incites us to desire greatly to follow our Good Shepherd of our own free will. Jesus Himself teaches us with his own mouth concerning His sacrifice, and the great love of God for mankind that is associated with it. Here’s one such teaching from John 10:11:

      “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. [12] But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: [13] And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. [14] I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. [15] As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep.

      [16] And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. [17] Therefore doth the Father love me: because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. [18] No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

      Are these teachings not infinitely more valuable than the philosophical speculations of Reformation theologians? And note all of the references to ‘love’ in the above teachings. Jesus here incites us to love and follow him because as a ‘good shepherd’, He loves and cares for us. It incites us to trust both God Our Father and Jesus our most caring shepherd. Moreover, through this great teaching of love, we are inspired to follow and imitate our ‘Good Shepherd’. We will likewise give our lives for the Lord’s sheep and lambs. We will listen, and act, when Jesus says to us: “Do you love me? Feed My Sheep”.

      And we do this not out of fear of damnation, or from base servitude, or spiritual slavery. We do it out of ecstatic love for our most loving Master and Shepherd who comes to find us when we are lost, and kills the wolves and lions who seek injure or kill us. We love, and follow, and imitate our ‘Good shepherd’, and are profoundly thankful to God the Father for sending us such a Lord and Savior.

      1. Fair enough. Thanks for the reminder — In my zeal to have a well thought out understanding of the Holy Catholic Faith, I can get a little on the hyper-intellectual side. My key verse that I need to keep reminding myself is this: “Knowledge puffeth up, but Charity edifieth.”

        Part of the reason for my zeal for such speculations though is to salvage as much common ground with Protestants as is possible in order to win them over as best as possible to the Truth. But you’re right — Charity in imitation of our Blessed Lord is more important than having the best answers.

        1. You’re a wise man, Alexander. And, all intellectualism isn’t bad. It’s just that in some area’s Jesus explains the truth more effectively through His use of imagery…i.e.. ‘the Good Shepherd’, Prodigal Son, Wise Virgins, etc.. so, we should trust His effective means of communication by these means.

          1. I do think though that this is a topic worth discussing. Many protestants justify their protesting against the One Holy Apostolic Church based on this mistaken idea and the monergism that comes along with it. If those can be shown to be false, that could help them on their journey home.

            Matthew

  10. Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ

    General Audience, Wednesday 30 November 1988

    Here is the link to the whole teaching. I’m only quoting part of it:

    http://www.totus2us.com/teaching/jpii-catechesis-on-jesus-christ/my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me/

    4. In reality, if Jesus had the feeling of being abandoned by the Father, he however knew that that was not really so. He himself said, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). Speaking of his future passion he said, “I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). Jesus had the clear vision of God and the certainty of his union with the Father dominant in his mind. But in the sphere bordering on the senses, and therefore more subject to the impressions, emotions and influences of the internal and external experiences of pain, Jesus’ human soul was reduced to a wasteland. He no longer felt the presence of the Father, but he underwent the tragic experience of the most complete desolation.

    5. 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.

    6. But 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.

    END OF QUOTE

    “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.”

    As Catholics, we believe that in His Divine nature, Jesus was never separated from the Father while He was on the Cross. He always maintained loving Communion with the Father. However, JPII is teaching us that He did experience “suffering proportionate to that separation” in His human nature.

    In other writings, JPII calls this a mystery. How can our Savior be in loving Communion with the Father, and also experience what it is like to be separated from the Father because of sin, in His human nature? It is a mystery.

    Any thoughts?

    Peace,
    Eugene

  11. Eugene,

    This is a very beautiful citation that you provided. And indeed it is full of mystery.

    However, we must really examine every word that Jesus spoke both on the way to the cross, as well as also on the cross, to get the clearest picture of His state of mind and soul during His holy sacrifice; And the words of the four Gospel accounts should be our primary source when trying to understand this. And not to be ignored are both His words of wisdom and words of charity that He spoke at this sacred ‘hour’ of His life. To the end he was considerate and charitable to the other’s around Him, accompanying Him. To his Mother He provided a new son, St. John the Apostle, who would now take care of her in his own home. And to John( and all other disciples) he gave a new mother. This is a very tender and charitable account, revealing the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the end:

    “When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.”

    And on the way to Calvary, carrying his cross, he was also very charitable to the women who were weeping around Him on the way. And he even gave a short teaching for all of his followers who would suffer in a similar way in the future:

    “And there followed him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?”

    To give a teaching AT ALL during this great suffering demonstrates the great charity that he had for these sorrowing women disciples who accompanied Him at this time!

    And I already mentioned Jesus’ charity on the cross towards the repentant thief:

    “And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation?
    And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:28)

    So we note again…great love and charity in the heart of Jesus.

    And, some of the other last words reveal His love and trust in His Father until the very end:

    “And Jesus crying out with a loud voice, said: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And saying this, he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46)

    It is important to note Jesus’ use of the term “Father”. It is most loving, and recalls His own tender and familial prayer that He taught to us: “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

    He teaches here that we cannot ever divorce the eternal and almighty God from the most loving term “Father”. So, this demonstrates Jesus’ charity once again….until the very end.

    The other words of Jesus that you mention above are indeed mysterious:

    “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [47] And some that stood there and heard, said: This man calleth Elias. [48] And immediately one of them running took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar; and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.”

    The desolation Jesus felt are well expressed by St. John Paul II. However, they must be put into the balance with all of these other words, and especially those who were reported by St. John the Apostle, who was an eye witness to the crucifixion.

    PSUB adherent’s seem to ignore these charity filled scriptures, and focus on the one desolation account. And even then, they would like to magnify this desolation account to include a union of Christ to Satan (ie..He has become a curse) at some point, either while on the cross or after his death. But, as charity and evil do not mix we can see that even as Jesus suffered tremendously His heart was filled with the most tender charity and care for others around Him on Calvary. And when he refers to his disciples as ‘ dry wood’, in the quote above, He contrasts them with Himself, who He terms as ‘green wood’. Here, Jesus is aware of His own dignity, strength and virtue (green wood), and uses this as a warning for His weak disciples (dry wood) in the future. That is, these weak disciples are also expeced to carry a similar cross, and to suffer similar things as their Lord and Master: “For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?”. So, we note that Jesus was charitably preaching ‘the word’ to the end. And then, even after His death it is taught that He also preached to the departed souls before His triumphant resurrection from the dead.

    I really don’t know why PSUB believers don’t consider these great examples of holy charity in the heart of Jesus right up to the very end? It’s right in front of them in these last words of Jesus. It seems they prefer to argue via philosophical intricacies to the ultimate degree…and then still don’t make any sense after endless supposedly logical deductions. Joe’s citation of Mr. Packer, in his post above, is a good example of this. If they would just simply read these quotes I provided above, which is the written Gospel, the “Good News”, given to us, they would learn a lot about the Most Sacred Heart… the Most Sacred Charity… of Jesus while he was suffering on the Holy Cross.

  12. Hi awims,

    “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.”

    What you have written about the charity in the heart of our Lord while He was on the Cross in no way contradicts the teaching of our late Pontiff. I’m sure he would agree with what you have written. But JPII is clearly stating that our Lord experienced a “suffering proportionate to…separation” while on the Cross but he places it in His human nature, and not in His Divine nature, thus avoiding the trap that Calvinists fall into. I’m sure that you would agree that JPII was not a PSUB adherent. But his thoughts on this thoughts on this aspect of the Atonement are clear.

    Surely no one here would suggest JPII was in error on his teaching.

    Peace,
    Eugene

    1. Eugene

      “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.”

      I think a good way to understand the sense in which Christ experienced a suffering proportionate to the separation of sin is to take a deeper look at the union between the Father and the Son itself. Jesus Christ in His human soul possessed the beatific vision from conception and the beatific vision contributed in a particular way to Christ’s redemptive mission b/c it enabled Him to see all the members (and future members) of his mystical Body, and to unite Himself to them in love, during the mysteries of His earthly life (see Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, n.75).

      Now this isn’t some pet theory of Pius XII, it was also the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and numerous other scholastic theologians. Even Pope St. John Paul II, in the very same catechesis says “Jesus had the clear vision of God and the certainty of his union with the Father dominant in his mind.” So I suppose the question is how can Jesus on the one hand have the Beatific vision in His human soul and experience a suffering proportionate to that separation? I would propose that this follows from the very fact he possesses the Beatific Vision – let me try to explain.

      St. Thomas Aquinas argued that Christ, in virtue of his possession of the beatific vision in His human soul, had unmediated knowledge of the divine essence and all created things in the word (ST III, q. 10, a. 1). In other words, Christ’s possession of the beatific vision not only meant that He knew and loved each and every one of us – that we were individually before His mind’s eye so to speak – during His Passion, but also that He grieved for every sin that was ever committed. Moreover His love for the Father and His beatific knowledge of how sin offends Father, would have only added to His sufferings.

      I guess what I’m trying to get at is the Christ’s possession of the beatific vision make Him bear “our griefs and carry our sorrows” in an incredibly more intense way than we tend to imagine. He saw all the sins and infidelities of all men of all times in all places. He saw them one by one, concretely, individually – He saw names and faces. Not only did He see all these sins but He grasped better than you or I can hope to grasp this side of heaven the the enormity of the of the offense they gave to the infinite majesty of Almighty God.

      Now is that suffering proportionate to separation? The key word is proportionate. What does that mean? It means He didn’t actually, truly, really suffer a separation from the Father. If the word proportionate means corresponding in size, amount, extent, or degree, then I would have to say JPII is absolutely right, especially when we think that Christ’s possession of the beatific vision in His human soul caused Him immense suffering during His Passion. Proportionate in the sense that He sees all of the sins of humanity individually, and He sees in a profound way the gravity and enormity of the offense caused by sin and He suffers immensely b/c of both. He sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane b/c of this after all.

      Eugene, I don’t know if this answers your difficulty or not – I know it can sound kind of abstract and technical, but let me know your thoughts

        1. Matthewp

          I appreciate the kind words, but i wish i had your responses above when I was working on my thesis on this topic…they’re great

      1. Hi Father,

        Thanks for the great insights! Lot’s to think about and meditate on.

        But do we know if this is what JPII meant when he wrote, “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.”

        I’ll write more later but this is just my initial reaction.

        Peace,
        Eugene

        1. Eugene

          Let’s look at the catechesis of JPII you cited: “Jesus had the clear vision of God and the certainty of his union with the Father dominant in his mind. But in the sphere bordering on the senses, and therefore more subject to the impressions, emotions and influences of the internal and external experiences of pain, Jesus’ human soul was reduced to a wasteland. He no longer felt the presence of the Father, but he underwent the tragic experience of the most complete desolation.” Earlier in the paragraph he said if Jesus felt abandoned by the Father he knew it wasn’t so.

          We can draw from this JPII taught Jesus possessed the beatific vision albeit w/out using the term itself. He does this elsewhere in his catechesis on the creed and in the Catechism (I can get you the references later -I’m on a kindle fire right now). Why not just call it the beatific vision? I’m not sure, but perhaps b/c ppl misunderstand what it means and think it makes true suffering impossible even though the opposite was true; which we can also conclude from the paragraph above.

          Plus he says at the beginning of paragraph 4: “In reality, if Jesus had the feeling of being abandoned by the Father, he however knew that that was not really so.” So He had the BV, He suffered still and even though he may have felt abandoned He knew that wasn’t the case.

          Now all that being said there is an element of mystery here even though revelation, the ordinary magisterium and theology can give us an adequate account of Christ’s interior state during His Passion. By no means does this exhaust the mystery of Christ’s human knowledge!

        2. Eugene,

          I have an avalanche of sources but for the sake of saving time and space I’ll give you three papal encyclicals that touch on this.

          Pius XII writes about Christ’s possession of the Beatific Vision in two encyclicals: First in Mystici Corporis Christi §75 he writes: “Now the only-begotten Son of God embraced us in His infinite knowledge and undying love even before the world began. And that He might give a visible and exceedingly beautiful expression to this love, He assumed our nature in hypostatic union…But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love. O marvelous condescension of divine love for us! O inestimable dispensation of boundless charity! In the crib, on the Cross, in the unending glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church present before Him and united to Him in a much clearer and more loving manner than that of a mother who clasps her child to her breast, or than that with which a man knows and loves himself.”

          Pius XII’s Haurietis Aquas also touches briefly on the beatific vision in paragraph 56.

          Probably a quote I should’ve brought out a lot sooner comes from St. John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte §26: “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.”

          For further reading:

          There is a theologian named Matthew Levering who has a great book that touches on some of these topics called Christ’s Fulfillment of Torah and Temple.

          Finally there is an audio lecture from theologian Dr. Lawrence Feingold, a seminary professor of mine on Christ’s Fullness knowledge. You can listen to or download the file for free at this website: http://www.hebrewcatholic.net/06-10-christs-fullness-of-knowledge/

          hope those help

          God Bless
          Fr. Matthew Nagle

          1. Thanks again, Father,

            Here is a quote from JPII:

            “After the words in Gethsemane come the words uttered on Golgotha, words which bear witness to this depth—unique in the history of the world—of the evil of the suffering experienced. When Christ says: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”, his words are not only an expression of that abandonment which many times found expression in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms and in particular in that Psalm 22 [21] from which come the words quoted(47). One can say that these words on abandonment are born at the level of that inseparable union of the Son with the Father, and are born because the Father “laid on him the iniquity of us all”(48). They also foreshadow the words of Saint Paul: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin”(49). Together with this horrible weight, encompassing the “entire” evil of the turning away from God which is contained in sin, Christ, through the divine depth of his filial union with the Father, perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God. But precisely through this suffering he accomplishes the Redemption, and can say as he breathes his last: “It is finished”(50).”

            END OF QUOTE

            Father, you made this statement:

            “I guess what I’m trying to get at is the Christ’s possession of the beatific vision make Him bear “our griefs and carry our sorrows” in an incredibly more intense way than we tend to imagine. He saw all the sins and infidelities of all men of all times in all places. He saw them one by one, concretely, individually – He saw names and faces. Not only did He see all these sins but He grasped better than you or I can hope to grasp this side of heaven the the enormity of the of the offense they gave to the infinite majesty of Almighty God.”

            END OF QUOTE

            Would you say that JPII’s quote from the OT, that the Father “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” is the same as what you are saying, that our Lord “saw” all the sins of all of humanity and suffered because of them?

            Peace,
            Eugene

          2. Eugene

            I would argue it is. He saw the individual sins of all and He grieved immensely b/c (also in virtue of His possession of the Beatific Vision) He saw how greatly this sin offends the majesty of God.

            Sometimes a critique of St. Thomas Aquinas’ theology of the Cross is that it is too extrinsic. His critics argue that since there isn’t this interior identification of Christ with sin the atonement can’t be complete. But his critics are wrong. In virtue of the Beatific Vision Christ is able to see the effects of sin most completely and grieves over them immensely. He doesn’t identify with the sin to the point that it is as if He Himself had sinned (which is getting in Psub), but He sees, understands, grieves and suffers immensely interiorly (in addition to all His external sufferings)

          3. Hi Father,

            Sorry for the long delay in answering. Between family, job and deacon ministry, my free time sometimes gets swallowed up. I truly enjoy our discussion and have learned a lot from you. Also, your last reply did not have the Reply button so I am responding here.

            Here is my question.

            From the Catechism:

            The punishments of sin

            1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

            END OF QUOTE

            My questions refer to these parts of the quote:

            “Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin.”

            “These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.”

            Based on these quotes, can we say that the eternal punishment of sin, separation from God, does not come from God. He is not punishing us. His attitude toward us is always one of love. The punishment is inherent in sin itself. It is sin that cuts us off from God, and not God cutting Himself off from us.

            I hope you had a Blessed Thanksgiving. If for some reason you cannot continue our discussion, I will understand.

            Peace,
            Deacon Eugene

          4. Deacon Eugene,

            No need to apologize for the delay – if you ever figure out how to keep your free time from evaporating please let me know.

            I have to be honest I’m a little puzzled by the question you’ve posed and the Catechism quote you provide 1472. The reason is that Scripture is filled with references of God inflicting punishment. Think of the punishment inflicted upon Cain, the people in the time of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah – those are all from Genesis but you see the word throughout the Bible. In fact the term punish is used over 200 times in the RSVCE translation of the Bible.

            Now to be sure the idea that the punishment owed to sin is inherent in the sin itself – that sin is it’s own punishment certainly has merit. St. Thomas Aquinas in I-II 87 a. 2 says that there is a sense in which the punishment of sin proceeds from its effects, or the essence of sin, but there is also a sense in which the punishment owed to sin is from without.

            At the end of the Summa, question 99 St. Thomas pretty clear seems to think that God is inflicting an eternal punishment on the wicked.

            And then we find in the Catechism of the Council of Trent the following: “the pastor should also set forth the terrors denounced in the menace of God’s judgments – menaces which declare that He will not suffer sinners to run their iniquitous career with impunity; but will chastise them with the fondness of a parent or punish them with the rigor of a judge.”

            So what gives? Well I think the Catechism is trying to emphasize the points that (1) sin is a choice, and a choice has natural consequences – so there are effects (and serious ones from sin). (2) Perhaps the Catechism’s authors wanted to avoid confusion about God’s justice and punishment. God’s justice is not like man’s justice, and He doesn’t punish like men punish. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Man’s punishment is vindictive and easily goes beyond what is called for, beyond what is proportionate. B/c of our fallen nature we have a fallen experience of punishment, but human punishment doesn’t hold a candle to the punishment of God.

            I have to be honest it is difficult to reconcile, but I don’t think we want to say that punishment is only the punishment inherent to sin b/c I think to do so goes against so much of Sacred Scripture and a lot of the writings of the saints and the magisterium. I know that isn’t a satisfying answer b/c it basically is me saying I don’t know perhaps they didn’t want people to be confused so they said punishment for sin doesn’t come from God.

            Let me do some more digging and reading…I’ll see what I come up with – in the mean time your thoughts?

            Fr. Matthew Nagle

            PS here is a good look at Aquinas on the Debt of Punishment – http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/04/aquinas-and-trent-part-5/

      2. Hi Father,

        Sorry for the delay in answering.

        You said: “Eugene, I don’t know if this answers your difficulty or not – I know it can sound kind of abstract and technical, but let me know your thoughts.”

        ME: Not abstract or technical at all! You’ve given me and anyone who has read your remarks a way to meditate on the Passion of our Lord.

        Your analysis of the Beatific Vision as it relates to His suffering on the Cross is deep, very deep. Can you give me any works to read on this? Where did you get these remarks from? I’d love to delve further.

        Peace,
        Eugene

        1. Father, you said:

          “He doesn’t identify with the sin to the point that it is as if He Himself had sinned (which is getting in Psub), but He sees, understands, grieves and suffers immensely interiorly (in addition to all His external sufferings)”

          ME: Why would it be necessary for Him to experience this suffering in order to make complete atonement? (I believe He did, I’m playing Devil’s Advocate.) Some opponents of Penal Substitution argue that Jesus did not take our sins onto Himself. They might even argue against your position that He suffered for each and every one of our sins. They would say that His physical and emotional suffering is enough to atone.

          Father, I think you are taking a middle position between the proponents of Penal Substitution who say that all the sins of the world were imputed to Jesus on the Cross, and PS opponents who say it was not necessary. Again, I think you are correct. I am trying to see if there is a Catholic version of Penal Substitution that is acceptable.

          Penal means of or relating to punishment. Substitution means in place of. If Jesus saw each and every one of humanity’s sins and suffered, then He was undergoing the punishment due to sin.

          Let’s refer back to JPII. His comments: “Together with this horrible weight, encompassing the “entire” evil of the turning away from God which is contained in sin, Christ, through the divine depth of his filial union with the Father, perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God.”

          These are extreme words he uses: suffering which is the separation; rejection by the Father; estrangement from God. He is experiencing separation, rejection and estrangement, and He is experiencing it “through the divine depth of his filial union with the Father.” He’s experiencing it at the level of the Hypostatic Union. I don’t think anyone would say JPII had become Nestorian in his teaching but he’s definitely locating, if I can use that word, at the union of the human and divine natures.

          As you have stated, JPII also wrote that our Lord did experience loving union with the Father. So, can we say that Jesus underwent this suffering which is separation, rejection and estrangement, and also knew that He was in union with the Father? I think this is his argument. He certainly was not Nestorian but he is putting the separation at the level of the Hypostatic Union.

          Previously, I thought that this meant our Lord was experiencing union in His Divine nature, and separation in His human nature. Now, think JPII is teaching us He experienced this suffering in His human nature, and also knew in His human nature that He was still in loving union with His Father.

          Your thoughts?

          Eugene

          1. Eugene

            Sorry it has taken me so long to fully respond to your last post. Here are my thoughts

            Eugene you said the following: “Why would it be necessary for Him to experience this suffering in order to make complete atonement? (I believe He did, I’m playing Devil’s Advocate.) Some opponents of Penal Substitution argue that Jesus did not take our sins onto Himself. They might even argue against your position that He suffered for each and every one of our sins. They would say that His physical and emotional suffering is enough to atone.”

            Now in my original (and short) response to you I cited St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica III, q. 46, a. 3 – actually you want to read articles 1 and 2 as well to help you get the full sense of which the Passion can be said to be necessary. Ultimately he says it isn’t strictly necessary but it is the best or most fitting means of redeeming mankind. Furthermore, it wasn’t the suffering He endured that gave His sacrifice on the Cross the power to atone for our sins but the love by which He suffered (we will talk more about this below).

            Moreover, the merit Christ won didn’t merely atone for sins in a complete way, but rather His Passion was a superabundant atonement for sins. Why? Well any individual wishing to properly atone for an offense must offer “something which the offended one loves equally or even more than he detested the offense.” Christ’s Passion was something God loved superabundantly more than He detested the offense of mankind’s sin for three reasons: First, “because of the exceeding charity from which He suffered; secondly, on account of the dignity of His life which He laid down in atonement, for it was the life of one who was God and man; thirdly, on account of the extent of the Passion, and the greatness of grief endured” (ST III, q. 48, a. 2).

            You also say this: “Father, I think you are taking a middle position between the proponents of Penal Substitution who say that all the sins of the world were imputed to Jesus on the Cross, and PS opponents who say it was not necessary…I am trying to see if there is a Catholic version of Penal Substitution that is acceptable. Penal means of or relating to punishment. Substitution means in place of. If Jesus saw each and every one of humanity’s sins and suffered, then He was undergoing the punishment due to sin.”

            My response: First, as far as my position I am not sure where I am on the scale of this discussion board b/c I haven’t taken the time to read all the responses. However here is where I stand on the Redemption: Christ’s Passion was a first and foremost an expiatory sacrifice by which He offered satisfaction and atonement for our sins. Satisfaction is the key word here as it is essentially different from punishment for two reasons: (1) Satisfaction is distinct in that the one who offers satisfaction is willing to do so (and punishment is technically speaking done against someone who is unwilling) and (2) the efficacy of the satisfaction needs to proceed from charity (whereas punishment comes from carrying out the sentence or from the suffering itself I suppose you could say) In other words, the endurance of suffering is the material principle of satisfaction, whereas the charity by which it is endured is the formal principle (see ST, III, q. 14, a. 1 reply to obj. 1). Christ was offering a sacrifice and in His sacrifice on Calvary Jesus offered something to God the Father that the Father loves infinitely more than sin displeases Him: His only begotten Son. And it was this sacrifice which made satisfaction for our sins. It was not punishment that He suffered.

            Now the distinction between punishment and satisfaction is key b/c it shows us that a view of the Passion as a satisfactory atonement and a Psub view of the Passion are mutually exclusive. Christ is either offering satisfaction for our sins or He suffering punishment that is ours but it can’t be both. Moreover, the Magisterium has never formally condemned Psub, but it has generally interpreted the redemption in light of the wholly different and contrary theory: satisfactory atonement. Especially since the Council of Trent, the Magisterium has presented the redemption along the lines of satisfaction, merit and sacrifice, taking from the line of thought developed by St. Anselm and St. Thomas Aquinas.

            Furthermore, if it is Psub that is true then the Passion isn’t enough, then Christ needs to suffer damnation in hell for it to be true Psub and that is impossible (and a whole different issue altogether).

            You then wrote the following: “Let’s refer back to JPII. His comments: ‘Together with this horrible weight, encompassing the “entire” evil of the turning away from God which is contained in sin, Christ, through the divine depth of his filial union with the Father, perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God.’ These are extreme words he uses: suffering which is the separation; rejection by the Father; estrangement from God. He is experiencing separation, rejection and estrangement, and He is experiencing it “through the divine depth of his filial union with the Father.” He’s experiencing it at the level of the Hypostatic Union. I don’t think anyone would say JPII had become Nestorian in his teaching but he’s definitely locating, if I can use that word, at the union of the human and divine natures.”

            My response: I think you are reading too much into this statement from John Paul. My take is St. John Paul II is basically saying that the one person of Jesus Christ suffers immensely on the Cross – one person, true God and true man. And the key word here is perceive – Jesus “perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God.” In virtue of His possession of the Beatific vision He perceives in a humanly inexpressible way our sins and the suffering that follows from them and He grieves over this immensely.

            Let me know your thoughts

  13. Eugene,

    You might appreciate these further quotes from Pope JPII regarding the most important elements of PSUB…that is the words of Jesus on the Cross “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” It offers additional insight into JPII’s views:

    John Paul II:

    “At the same time the dying Redeemer’s entreaty rings out in the liturgy: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27: 46; Mk 15: 34). We often feel this cry of suffering as “our own” in the painful situations of life which can cause deep distress and give rise to worry and uncertainty. In moments of loneliness and bewilderment, which are not unusual in human life, a believer’s heart can exclaim: the Lord has abandoned me! However, Christ’s Passion and his glorification on the tree of the Cross offer a different key for reading these events. On Golgotha the Father, at the height of his Only-begotten Son’s sacrifice, does not abandon him, but brings to completion his plan of salvation for all humanity. In his Passion, Death and Resurrection, we are shown that the last word in human existence is not death but God’s victory over death.” [General Audience, Wednesday 19 April, 2000]

    John Paul II:

    “When he is on the Cross, the spectators will sarcastically remind him of his declaration: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, “I am the Son of God’” (Mt 27: 43). But at that hour the Father was silent in his regard, so that he could show his full solidarity with sinners and redeem them. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned. But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin” (n. 603). On the cross Jesus actually continues his intimate dialogue with the Father, living it with the full force of his lacerated and suffering humanity, never losing the trusting attitude of the Son who is “one” with the Father. On the one hand, there is the Father’s mysterious silence, accompanied by cosmic darkness and pierced by the cry (Mt 27: 46). On the other hand, Psalm 22, quoted here by Jesus, ends with a hymn to the sovereign Lord of the world and of history.” [General Audience, Wednesday 3 May, 2000]

    John Paul II:

    “Then Jesus adds: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mt 27:46; cf. Ps 22:2). These words of the Psalm are his prayer. Despite their tone, these words reveal the depths of his union with the Father. In the last moments of his life on earth, Jesus thinks of the Father.” [Good Friday, Stations of the Cross, 2000]

    John Paul II:

    “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. 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, or even through their personal experience of those terrible states of trial which the mystical tradition describes as the “dark night”. 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 neighbour, 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“. 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“. What an illuminating testimony!” [Apostolic Letter NOVO MILLENNIO INEUNTE]

    Derived from: http://www.creedcodecult.com/part-ii-understanding-christs-cry-of-abandonment/

    1. Hi awims,

      The last quote is incomplete. Here is what you left out, in between “what it means to resist the Father’s love by sin” and “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.”

      Here it is:

      “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.”

      Why did you skip this section?

      The explanation of Therese of Lisieux does not explain the mystery. She still calls it a mystery, as does JPII. Father Nagle’s explanation takes away the mystery. Our Lord experienced a real separation but at the same time maintained His loving Communion with the Father. This is the mystery, is it not? This is what makes JPII write: “The simultaneous presence of these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects is rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union.”

      Looking forward to more discussion.

      Peace,
      Eugene

      1. Careful though. The Pope said “seemingly irreconcilable.” If it’s a contradiction to state that Jesus was simultaneously in ontologically in communion with and ontologically separated from God the Father. Both cannot be true. It’s also rather nestorian to claim that Jesus was united to the Father in His divinity but separated from him in His humanity. Because Jesus is one Person, either He is united to the Father or He isn’t. Since the latter is impossible to maintain along with the Trinity, we can safely say that Jesus was never ontologically separated from the Father. It can still be a mystery and Christ’s cry of abandonment is probably the hardest saying if Jesus to interpret. But we must tread cautiously here because any doctrine that logically leads to Arianism or Nestorianism is obviously false. Of course the Pope wasn’t doing that which is why cautionary prudence should be employed here.

        May God be with you.

        Matthew

        1. Hi Matthewp,

          You said: “Careful though. The Pope said “seemingly irreconcilable.” If it’s a contradiction to state that Jesus was simultaneously in ontologically in communion with and ontologically separated from God the Father. Both cannot be true.”

          ME: Both cannot be true?

          God is both Unity and Trinity. Are both true?

          In the Holy Eucharist, the bread and wine look like, smell like and taste like bread and wine and yet it has been changed into Christ Himself. Are not both true?

          Peace,
          Eugene

          1. Except that the Holy Eucharist is precisely not “bread and wine” as well as Christ’s Body and Blood. That’s the Lutheran error of consubstantiation. The whole idea of Transubstantiation is that the substances of bread and wine are no longer present after the consecration. The accidents or appearances remain but the substance is now wholly Christ’s Body and Blood. Si it is not both true that the Eucharist is “bread and wine” while still being Body and Blood because Christ’s Body is not “bread” and His Blood is not “wine.”

            The Trinity is still One Being in three Divine Persons that share the same Divine Nature. There is no contradiction there. But there is a contradiction between Christ being in communion with the Father and being separated from the Father if being separated means “not in communion with.” Where there is separation, there is not unity. Christ’s two natures are distinct, but not separated as the Council of Chalcedon specifically says (you quoted it below). The two natures are united specifically because they are united in the One Person of Jesus Christ. Saying that Christ experienced separation from the Father in His humanity but remained united to the Father in His Divinity is to drive a wedge between Christ’s two natures (ie separating them).

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          2. To illustrate the point further, because Jesus is one Person with two natures, saying one nature is in communion with the Father and the other Nature is not in communion with the Father amounts to a contradiction in the Person of Jesus. If I asked is Jesus in communion with the Father, the answer would simultaneously be “yes and no” which is unreasonable. The only way to maintain it is if there is one Jesus who is in communion with the Father and another Jesus who isn’t. But that’s pure Nestorianism.

            Matthew

      2. Hi Eugene,

        I wasn’t aware of the exclusion you provide above in the quote, as I copied it from the source I cited. If you go to the cite you can see that indeed these words of Pope JPII are not included there. I don’t have any idea why the poster (Nick?) left this out, as they are very important for context? But this is great to catch to note on your part!

        I think the deleted portion that you provided sums up the mystery inherent in the atonement pretty well, saying: “….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.”

        This mystery is intensified partly because there is not only 1 account of the last words of Jesus, ie. “…why hast thou abandoned me?”. But, as I noted earlier, above, there is the whole story regarding the 2 thieves to consider, and dissect. Every part is important to consider, and there is also a consideration of Jesus’ analogy of His suffering as a type of ‘baptism’. Both of these scriptural references need to be analyzed, as they are associated with each other, to help aid in understanding the mystery of the atonement :

        “… one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.”(Luke 23:28),

        Note the words of the blaspheming thief: “Save thyself and us”. He speaks of Jesus ‘saving’ their own physical well being in this world, the extension of their mortal lives on Earth. Not only is this a worldly orientated desire, but also a source of temptation for Jesus, because it goes against the mission and ‘baptism’ that He has already accepted beforehand, i.e…: “I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized: and how am I straitened until it be accomplished?” It’s a type of temptation as was seen in the desert when satan encouraged Him to turn stones into bread to either relieve His great hunger, or even to possibly save His physical life. It is a temptation regarding physical well being in this world.

        Jesus’ uses this analogy of ‘baptism’ when talking to Sts. James and John earlier, refers to the atonement also. this is the account: “… they said: Grant to us, that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. And Jesus said to them: You know not what you ask. Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of: or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized? But they said to him: We can. And Jesus saith to them: You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of: and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, you shall be baptized…”

        So, this also needs to be considered when analyzing the nature of the atonement, it is shown as a type of ‘baptism’. And we note that not only is Jesus is ‘baptized’….but others of His disciples, i.e.. James and John, at least, also.

        That Jesus says to the Good thief “this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.”, indicates that Jesus and the good thief will imminently be, in only minutes or hours, in a good state of being…that is, ‘paradise’. That Jesus also refers to the sacrifice of the cross a ‘baptism’, also indicates that there is a ‘time frame’ involved in His sacrifice. This is to say that everyone understands that a baptism is not a prolonged event. A person does not stay submerged below the water indefinitely. It is a fairly quickly performed event. And what is more interesting, is that this type of baptism is not for Jesus alone. Amazingly, Jesus actually agrees with St. James concerning his future martyrdom when He tells him : “You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of: and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, you shall be baptized…”

        So, these teachings of Jesus need to be considered to help us understand the mystery of the atonement better. Why would these words be included in the Gospel teachings if they weren’t meant to teach about this very subject matter?

        It also appears that these texts contradict many elements that Psub adherent’s are teaching. But they support the Catholic position found in JPII’s quotes above, and especially regarding the ‘saints’, as Jesus himself associates the martyrdom of St. James as a similar type of baptism that He himself would under go… saying to him: ” You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of: and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, you shall be baptized…”

        Any further insights on this Eugene, or anyone?

  14. Hi all,

    Thanks to everyone participating in the side discussion on the meaning of JPII’s words in catechesis. I have a busy schedule and cannot answer completely on a daily basis but I do wish to continue the conversation.

    Please elaborate on why it would be Nestorianism to state that Jesus experienced separation from the Father in His human nature but not in His Divine nature. Father Nagle, since you have formal theological training, I look forward to your thoughts but, everyone who wants to join in, please do. (I am not slighting anyone here without formal training.)

    Peace,
    Eugene

    1. For the purpose of our discussion, I am posting the relevant section from the Council of Chalcedon:

      “So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity, and in the last days the same for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer as regards his humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being; he is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-begotten Son, God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the beginning about him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ himself instructed us, and as the creed of the fathers handed it down to us.”

      END OF QUOTE

      “…acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being…”

      There is a union between the two natures yet the natures are not confused, they are not changed, yet at the same time they are neither divided nor separated. This is a great mystery, it it not? Who can fully understand this?

      Peace,
      Eugene

  15. Eugene

    (1) In regards to your question about Nestorianism: Nestorius argued that the Blessed Virgin Mary could not be the mother of God (Theotokos) b/c God is eternal and w/out origin. That is, of course true – Mary is not the mother of the eternal divine nature. However, b/c of deficient philosophy, Nestorius failed to distinguish between person and nature. The term person refers to the individual subject who exists in a rational nature, while the term nature refers to what a thing is. Christ has revealed Himself to us as one subject (one Person) who has both a human and divine nature. So it would be Nestorian to say Christ suffered in his human nature and not divine b/c the one person Jesus Christ, true God and true man suffered.

    (2) It is a great mystery, and we can’t fully understand it if by fully understand you mean exhaustively comprehend it; yet we can adequately grasp the reality…otherwise theology is pointless.

    God bless

    1. Father Angle,

      Excellent again! Am I correct in saying that it is Nestorianism to say that Jesus was separated from the Father in humanity but not His Divinity? I don’t want to overstep my bounds lol. I sometimes worry that I might go to far in the other direction like the Monophysites.

      Matthew

  16. Matthewp

    You are correct and I don’t think you are overstepping your bounds, at all. The Nestorians basically wanted to divide the words predicated of Christ in such a way that what pertained to His human nature should not be predicated of God, and what pertained to His divine nature should not be predicated of the Man (See St. Thomas’ excellent summary of this:ST III q. 16 a. 4).

    In regards to the death of Christ, St. Thomas writes: “the attributes of human nature are predicated of the Son of God only by reason of the union. But what belongs to the body of Christ after death is predicated of the Son of God–namely, being buried: as is evident from the Creed, in which it is said that the Son of God “was conceived and born of a Virgin, suffered, died, and was buried.” Therefore Christ’s Godhead was not separated from the flesh when He died.”

    The one person Jesus Christ, true God and true man, died on the cross and rose from the grave. He is not two but one person.

    1. Matthewp

      the citation for my quote from St. Thomas regarding the death of Christ is ST III, q. 50, a. 2

      God bless

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