How Does Good Friday *Work*, Exactly?

Today, Christians celebrate Good Friday, recalling the Death of Christ on the Cross for our sins. Virtually all Christians agree that Christ’s Death is an atoning Sacrifice for our sins. But Catholics and Reformed Protestants understand the nature of that Sacrifice very differently.  Is Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross the outpouring of the Father’s wrath upon His innocent Son? Or is it the Son offering up the perfect Sacrifice of Charity? Why do we think that Christ’s Death is capable of atoning for our sins, anyway?

I. Penal Substitution, and Why It Doesn’t Work

The penal substitution view taken by many Protestants (primarily Calvinists) is that on the Cross, God the
Father pours out His hatred and wrath upon Jesus. Here’s how Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll explains (and defends) this view of the Atonement:

God’s wrath begins in this life as He simply allows us to live out of our sin nature without stopping us (Rom. 1:18, 24, 26). God’s wrath continues to burn against us, forever (Deut. 32:21-22; John 3:36; Eph. 5:6; Rev. 14:9-11). The place of God’s unending active wrath is hell, which Jesus spoke of more than anyone in the Bible as an eternal place (Matt. 25:46) of painful torment (Matt. 8:11-12), like taking a beating (Luke 12:46-48), getting butchered (Matt. 24:50-51), and burned (Matt. 8:29; 13:49-50; 18:8-9; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:19-31) by Jesus (Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Rev. 14:10). Because God’s angry wrath is just, God is not obligated to lovingly forgive anyone, as is the case with fallen angels who have no possibility of salvation (2 Peter 2:4).

But, because God is loving, merciful, and kind, He has chosen to save some people. Furthermore, salvation is defined as deliverance by God from God and His wrath (Rom. 5:9-10). To both demonstrate His hatred of sin and love for sinners, Jesus averted the wrath of God by dying on the cross as a substitute for sinners.

So sin arouses the Father’s wrath, and He can either justly pour it out on the sinners who deserve it, or “mercifully” pour it out upon Jesus, who is innocent. Let’s consider some of the problems with this view:

    Simon Vouet, The Crucifixion (1622)
  1. It means that God isn’t just. Wrath for the wicked is just, but wrath for the innocent is unjust. If a
    judge imposed the death penalty on the defendant’s brother, we wouldn’t herald him for his mercy to the defendant. We’d recognize that he was acting unjustly. God’s Mercy cannot act contrary to His Justice, so this view can’t be right.

  2. It means that God isn’t all-good. Imagine an enraged man so furious over some offense that he’s swinging wildly: he doesn’t care who he hits, he just wants to hit somebody. Penal substitution risks reducing God to that sort of madman. Don’t get me wrong: there’s no merit to that “A loving God would never punish the wicked” line. But it’s certainly true that “A loving God would never pour out His wrath upon an innocent victim.”  As Bryan Cross put it, “One problem with the Reformed conception is that it would either make the Father guilty of the greatest evil of all time (pouring out the punishment for all sin on an innocent man, knowing that he is innocent), or if Christ were truly guilty and deserved all that punishment, then His suffering would be of no benefit to us.

  3. It would seem to require Christ to be damned.  If the Atonement is about the outpouring out of God’s “unending active wrath” upon His Son, this would seem to require the damnation of Christ. Certainly, that was John Calvin’s view:Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. […] Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God.” But the notion that God can go to Hell is incompatible with everything we believe about Hell; the notion that God can damn God is incompatible with the Trinity and the innocence of Christ.

  4. It makes no sense of the Trinity. God’s Triune nature works something like this: the Father gives everything (but His Fatherhood) to the Son, as Lover and Beloved, Begetter and Begotten. This communication of Persons is the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Penal substitution introduces a rupture into the Trinity, in which there’s a divorce between the Father and the Son. That sort of rupture isn’t possible, if we properly understand the Trinity as eternal, simple, and unchanging.  Cross again: “If God the Father was pouring out His wrath on the Second Person of the Trinity, then God was divided against Himself, God the Father hating His own Word. God could hate the Son only if the Son were another being, that is, if polytheism or Arianism were true. But if God loved the Son, then it must be another person (besides the Son) whom God was hating during Christ’s Passion.” And since the Persons of the Trinity are in complete union, if the Father has wrath for the Son, then the Son must have no less wrath for Himself.

  5. It reduces Christianity to human sacrifice. The Aztecs offered up human victims to appease the gods. Abraham was willing to do the same with Isaac, but was stopped by God. Jews and Christians rightly reject this sort of human sacrifice as barbaric, and contrary to the will of the God of Abraham. Penal substitution ultimately reduces Christianity to something akin to human sacrifice: we kill Jesus to appease the Father.

  6. It doesn’t require repentance. A former professor used to say, “You can speed all you want. You just have to be willing to pay the penalty when you get ticketed.” Likewise, in this penal substitution view, we can do whatever we want, knowing that Christ will pay the penalty.

    The penal substitution view is all about paying the Father with blood: the emphasis is on the offering of a sacrifice, rather than the turning of hearts. That’s exactly the wrong view, according to several parts of Scripture. For example, Hosea 6:6 says, “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.” And Hebrews 5:5-7 applies this passage to Christ’s relationship to the Father: “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’ as it is written of me in the roll of the book.” And Christ twice sends His hears to go learn the meaning of “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13; Matt. 12:17).

Fortunately, there’s another, older view of the Atonement: the Satisfaction theory. This view of the Atonement accounts for all of the Scriptural evidence and the demands of God’s Justice, without falling into of the traps described above.

II. A Better View of the Atonement: Satisfaction

Catholics more or less agree with the Reformed on the first half of the equation. By willingly sinning against God, we merit the “wages of sin,” death (Romans 6:23). We fall short of the glory of God, and God could justly condemn us for our rebellion.

But we disagree with how Christ solves this problem. We view the Incarnation and Passion of Christ as a manifestation of the Father’s love rather than His wrath, as John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  This view of the Atonement better accounts for the Justice of God, the Goodness of God, and the relationship between Persons of the Trinity. Bryan Cross provides this helpful chart:

How does this work, exactly?

Imagine that your neighbor reckless crashes into your car, damaging or destroying it. In justice, you can demand that your neighbor compensate you, and repair the damage. But perhaps your neighbor can’t do that: he can’t afford to repair the damage that he’s done (just as we can never merit to repair the damage done by sin).

Michaelangelo, Crucifixion (1540)

This creates quite a conundrum. In justice, you can hold this debt against your neighbor forever, but it’ll never get paid. But imagine that a mutual friend comes along on behalf of your neighbor and gives you a newer, nicer car. This satisfies the debt: you don’t need to hold out for your neighbor to pay. And your friend isn’t being punished. You’re not pouring out your wrath on your friend. You’re not furious with him for crashing into your car (which he didn’t do). Instead, he voluntarily offers a gift to you on behalf of your neighbor, reconciling the situation. If anything, such a selfless gesture should draw you closer to your friend: and it should certainly draw your neighbor closer to this selfless friend.

So it is with Christ, the Friend who reconciles us to the Father. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains:

A sacrifice properly so called is something done for that honor which is properly due to God, in order to appease Him: and hence it is that Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x): “A true sacrifice is every good work done in order that we may cling to God in holy fellowship, yet referred to that consummation of happiness wherein we can be truly blessed.” But, as is added in the same place, “Christ offered Himself up for us in the Passion”: and this voluntary enduring of the Passion was most acceptable to God, as coming from charity. Therefore it is manifest that Christ’s Passion was a true sacrifice. Moreover, as Augustine says farther on in the same book, “the primitive sacrifices of the holy Fathers were many and various signs of this true sacrifice, one being prefigured by many, in the same way as a single concept of thought is expressed in many words, in order to commend it without tediousness”: and, as Augustine observe, (De Trin. iv), “since there are four things to be noted in every sacrifice–to wit, to whom it is offered, by whom it is offered, what is offered, and for whom it is offered–that the same one true Mediator reconciling us with God through the peace-sacrifice might continue to be one with Him to whom He offered it, might be one with them for whom He offered it, and might Himself be the offerer and what He offered.”

Christ offers the perfect Sacrifice to the Father through His total self-sacrifice, and it is critical that it is done out of love. Using charity, rather than wrath, as the lens through which to understand sacrifice is crucial. It explains how we can “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” (Heb. 13:15; 1 Macc. 4:56), a concept that wouldn’t make sense if we understood a sacrifice as an object of God’s wrath.  This is also how David explains God’s desire for sacrifice in Psalm 51:16-17:

For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

So a penal sacrifice intended to satisfy some sort of imagined Divine bloodlust doesn’t please God. Charity and repentance does, and the epitome of charity is Good Friday.  In love, Christ reconciles us to the Father.  In love, the Father delights in His Son’s selflessness on the Cross, and accepts it as a satisfaction of the debt incurred by  our sins.  This reconciliation is where the word “atonement” comes from.  Once we are reconciled, we are “at one” with each other. And that is why Good Friday is so Good.

This view also explains why salvation is offered to men, and not fallen angels, but that is a conversation for another time (in short, our intellects operate in time, theirs do not, and so their choice is permanent, as ours will be at death). 

346 Comments

  1. Since this thread has been quiet for a few days, I’ll throw out a book recommendation to help the dialogue: Gary Anderson’s Sin: A History. He examines the Catholic doctrine of vicarious atonement (as opposed to penal substitution) by examining the Semitic metaphors for sin in the Old Testament. Briefly, prior to the Exile, the primary motif for sin was ‘bearing a burden.’ After the Exile, Hebrew thought adopted the Aramaic-influenced idiom for sin as ‘owing a debt.’ Hence, by the time of Christ (and the apostles), the primary idiom for Christ’s sacrifice becomes one which redeems and pays a debt. Both are “economic.” Interestingly, even ‘belief’ is rooted in economic language; think ‘credo’ (“I believe”) and credit. (Also why the Lord’s prayer points to the Father forgiving our debts and we forgive those indebted to us.)

  2. Joe,
    I should have been more precise with saying that all of the teachings of Christ can be found in the gospels only. That is true in the sense that all of His teachings while in the form a man can be found there. Its also true that the only other place that we have of His teaching-influence are found in the letters and Revelation. Outside of the NT there is nothing else that we know of.

    1. Where do the gospels state that all of Christ’s teachings are in the gospels?

      I think you need to be more precise and state while in a form that “literate” man can find there. Your worldview is sprinkled with gnosticism. Can you name one person in history (outside of scripture) who believed your statement above? You completely deny the concept of tradition (which you need to properly interpret scripture) and blatantly ignore the liturgy of the Mass that was happening while the gospels were being written or shortly thereafter.

    2. I should have been more precise with saying that all of the teachings of Christ can be found in the gospels only. That is true in the sense that all of His teachings while in the form a man can be found there.

      Where are you getting this? Because that idea is contrary to Scripture. In Acts 20:35, St. Paul quotes a teaching of Jesus (“It is more blessed to give than to receive”) that appears nowhere in the Gospels.

      And St. John says that “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30), and concludes his Gospel by saying: “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

      And 2 Thessalonians 2:15 says, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” This directly refutes sola Scriptura. If Scripture (Apostolic Tradition “by letter”) is all there is, why does Paul make sure to tell the Christians to obey it and Apostolic Tradition “by word of mouth”?

      Its also true that the only other place that we have of His teaching-influence are found in the letters and Revelation. Outside of the NT there is nothing else that we know of.

      See above for the refutation of sola Scriptura, but I’m confused by what you’re saying here. Jesus’ “teaching-influence” doesn’t extend beyond Scripture? What do you mean by this?

      I.X.,

      Joe

    3. What I’m saying is that all the teachings of Christ can be found in Scripture only. Directly in the gospels and indirectly in the letters, Acts and Revelation.

    4. cwdlaw223,
      I refined my comments on the teachings of Christ here April 9, 2013 at 7:36 PM and April 10, 2013 at 12:09 AM. I don’t know of anyone who would say that the teachings of Christ that we have are also found outside the NT. To be sure there are a couple of statements the there are other teachings of Jesus not recorded in John but we don’t know what they were. Paul also said something about his traditions but all we have from Paul is found in his letters and nowhere else. If you disagree then please give some specific examples of something that Jesus or Paul taught not found in the NT. I’d sure like to see it.

    5. meyu –

      You are the one asserting that scripture contains all of their teaching, not me. Therefore, you bear the burden of proving your position from scripture or else you violate the law of non-contradiction (which sola Scriptura does all the time). You make bold statements for your world views and are quick to try to turn the tables. I suspect this works with some ignorant Catholics but it won’t work here which is why you avoid answering hard questions that wreck your world views. You want Pism to exist, but it didn’t in history not was there a proto-Protestant church in history. Either Christ failed with Rone and he’s a liar or Rome is correct. It is that simple from a scriptural and historical perspective.

  3. meyu –

    What happened to the physical church created by Christ? You admitted that such a church existed at some point in time (most Ps won’t admit that it exists or just plain avoid the question – like you are doing right now).

    When did this Church stop being a physical church in history? What has this Church been known as throughout history?

    My soul is at stake, give me some evidence. You have consistently avoided answering this my question and Joe’s exact question with any evidence. If you don’t know the answer just say so.

    1. cwdlaw223,
      I asked you to provide evidence what happened to the physical church through time. I have no problem with a physical church existing throughout time.

      Your soul is safe 🙂

    2. The answer to your question is that physical church is known as the Catholic Church, or the Roman Catholic Church (even though Rome is the Latin rite of the Catholic Church). Easily found all across the world.

      What is the name that you call the physical Church created by Christ that has lasted until this day? Just the word “church”?

    3. Protestants can trace their history through the RCC and beyond. The church is to be grounded on apostolic doctrine which is found in Scripture.

  4. meyu –

    How can a Protestant trace their church in history through Rome? One is sacerdotal and there is no one non-sacerdotal Protestant. The theology of those two churches are incompatible. You still haven’t named the Church physically created by Christ. What’s the name? Just church? Where is it located? Is this a moving target?

    1. cwdlaw223,
      The Protestant reformation was caused by the abuses of the RCC. Part of the result of the Reformation was a change in theology. The Protestant Reformers for the most part were RC’s at one time. Just open your phone book and find a Protestant church. Then examine its statement of faith on what it believes. If it believes and teaches the Scripture then you are well on your way in knowing if it is the church Christ established.

    2. meyu –

      The Reformation was about authority, taxes and sex. Man wants to be his own priest, Pope and Church, not have to pay a priestly tax and divorce women when he feels like it. The Reformation was never about theology because Rome’s theology never changed. The liberal/progressives known as Calvin and Luther wanted to be in charge. Nationalism also played a significant role.

      So you honestly believe that Chrust created a physical church that could fail in its theology like you claim Rome did? Where is your scriptural support that such failure could occur and not violate the protections Christ promised his bride?

    3. Rome wasn’t abusing its theology, the individuals in the Church just wouldn’t follow the teachings of the Church. Will happen until judgment day. Infalability does not guarantee sinlessness. The Apostles are great examples of this.

      Your worldview is premised upon a literate society and excludes about 1,500 years of human history. Gnosticism and scholasticism at work.

    4. cwdlaw223,
      Do you think the way Tetzel and the pope went about the selling of of indulgences was right even by RCC teachings?

      One of the things that troubled Luther was the way the leaders of the church were living in Rome in high fashion while there were so many poor people had trouble feeding themselves. Do you think he was right to be troubled by this?

    5. cwdlaw223,
      Here is my answer to your question–“So you honestly believe that Chrust created a physical church that could fail in its theology like you claim Rome did? Where is your scriptural support that such failure could occur and not violate the protections Christ promised his bride?”

      Jesus Himself spoke of the possibility of being deceived in Matt 24:23-24. Paul also mentions the church being deceived if they are not diligent–Acts 20:28-30. Peter says the same in 2 Peter 2:1.

      The idea that the church could not fail just does not comport with these warnings.

      BTW- it was not the Protestant Reformers desire to split the church but it became necessary when the leaders of Rome refused to repent and change. They were just to corrupt to do so.

  5. Restless –

    If meyu is unable to believe that Rome teaches the Scripture I doubt you’ll get an answer. His worldview of a church is warped and is not grounded in history or scripture. The historical church was sacerdotal (whatever you want to call it, I call it the Catholic Church). Rome and Pism are completely incongruent. The logical conclusion of meyu’s worldview is that Christ failed with Rome and then at some later point in time in the 1,500s the true church was resurrected for the literate. I wonder if meyu is a former Mormon.

  6. Next Scripture just plopped down from the sky and wasn’t given to man through Rome. Of course, that same Church that determined Scripture eventually failed in its sacerdotal based theology and needed to be replaced with man’s personal interpretation of scripture as his primary authority. Scripture doesn’t interpret itself and it’s impossible to interpret scripture without tradition.

  7. I wish the Scripture dropped down from heaven. It would simplify a defending it to one argument. It was not Rome that determined the canon. No bishop in the 4th century made some kind of ex cathedra statement what the NT canon was to be. It did not work like that.

    Christ calls all believers to know and understand the Scripture. See Col 3:16.

    1. >What does Clement say was the reason for the death of Christ? Was it for sin?

      In the quotation you gave above it says that was “Because of the love he felt for us…” (which sounds rather like Joe’s description to me…). But even if Clement also said it was “for sin”, it would not even come close to proving PSub.

      So now that I’ve answered your question, will you answer mine? Please, no more questions until you’ve answered this:

      Where does Clement say that the Father poured out His wrath on the Son?

      You may either:

      (a) give me a chapter/verse citation showing me where Clement explicitly says this
      (b) admit that Clement says no such thing.

      Remember, I’m just using exactly the same standard that you used for the Papacy, so if you can’t give me something solid from the Fathers then, according to you, the case for your doctrine is in real trouble…

      (Oh, and if you think my question is unfair, please feel free to explain why)

  8. meyu –

    Who determined the canon? The angel Moroni? Let me guess, some unknown church prior to Rome and then Rome stole it from that church and couldn’t interpret it properly? Please enlighten us on how it worked. Maybe you have some new history that will change the world.

    Hopefully Joe will respond and correct your misunderstanding about the canon. There is no Protestant Bible for over 1,000 years. The Bible came through Rome and that is a stone cold fact.

    Individuals cannot determine what is scripture. If so, why don’t you use my Bible? Too Catholic for you? That’s why the Jews rejected 7 books from the OT and the same reason the Protestants rejected those same books.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Christ warms your heart through these discussions and you convert to Catholicism within six months. The weight and logic of Catholicism warmed my hardened and heretical heart. I wanted not part of Catholicism before my conversion. You either admit that you’re a theological liberal/progressive and history was wrong or you convert.

    1. I have to hand it to you. Calvin was one of the greatest theologians to have ever lived and you call him a fool. We need more fools like him. Go figure!

    2. meyu –

      Most liberals/progressives are fools. Why do I call him a fool? Because he has caused more souls to stray from Ortodoxy than Joseph Smith or E. White. Calvin created a theological novum so that man could be his own Pope, priest and church. He has tried to destroy Christ’s bride. I’ll keep praying for you and hopefully you’ll realize your mistake about how the canon was determined.

    3. meyu –

      I’ve read his ridiculous theology more after I converted to Catholicism than I ever did when I was a Calvinist. So what? Calvin and Luther have done more to try to destroy the Church than most sinners in the history of the world. These men are sick liberals/progressives that created a theology out of thin air so that man could be the center of Christianity. Know it when you see it? That was Calvin’s answer to the problem with the cannon. The Mass was an abomination? That was his comment about the Mass and the sacerdotal church that lasts until today. Only someone totally ignore of history and scripture could logically follow scripture.

      The reason you struggle so mightily with the questions posed to you on this site is that history is not on your side and it is doubtful that you’ve ever encountered such questions. Sola scriptura violates the law of non-contradiction but it just has to be right. Nowhere does the Bible explicitly state that man is “justified by faith alone.” Of course, when Christ says you must eat his flesh and drink his blood to be saved Protestants just explain that away as symbolic. Where does the madness end with Protestantism? It doesn’t. That’s what happens when one is a liberal/progressive when it comes to the Orthodox. Pism doesn’t work because it isn’t true.

    4. cwdlaw,
      Do you deny what is called “the 5 points of Calvinism”?
      We are justified by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. Eph 2:8-9. James speaks of works justifying us. He is not saying they save us but are evidence of salvation. If you claim to believe in Christ and have salvation, then works will be manifested. If there are no works then your claim to believe in Christ and have salvation is not justified. It is a dead faith.

      Can you tell me what you believe Sola Scriptura means?

      Here is part of “The Text of a Sermon on Indulgences by Johann Tetzel
      “..You should know that all who confess and in penance put alms into the coffer according to the counsel of the confessor, will obtain complete remission of all their sins. If they visit, after confession and after the Jubilee, the Cross and the altar every day they will receive that indulgence which would be theirs upon visiting in St. Peter’s the seven altars, where complete indulgence is offered…” http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/tetzel.htm

      This is the kind of thing you bought into when you became a RC. This what you get when a church refuses to believe in the Scripture alone for doctrine and practice.

    5. can you tell me where scripture is self determining? Where it says its the only authority? Why you want to trace your church in history through Rome? Why nobody in history believed the man made nonsense that you do for 1,500 years? How the underpinnings of your theology are substantially different than any others heretic who tries to create a new form of Christianity off the back of Rome? Why the Mass dominated Christianity from day one? Why scripture does not state that man is justified by faith alone? Why honest Protrstants admit that justification by faith alone is a legal novum? Why Protestants don’t agree on even the most basic topics of baptism or the Eucharist?

      I already answered your question about sola Scriptura. Read Matheson’s heresy on this topic. Ps can’t even agree on the definition.

      I most certainly reject Calvinism and will beg for mercy in judgment day that I believed such heresy so that I could be in charge and not follow Christ’s physical church that he founded.

      Your objections are a mile wide and an inch deep and consistently wrong in the crucible of history.

      Either admit that Christ failed with his physical church or convert. There is no middle ground, Proto-Protestant Church. You do not hear the truth of scripture because your heart is hardened about the tradition behind scripture (and the Holy Spirit breathed into Christ’s physical church) to properly interpret scripture.

      I’ll continue to pray for you and hopefully God will forgive you with your invincible ignorance.

    6. meyu –

      You want no effort Christianity! That’s why justification by “faith alone” is so incorrect. Ephesians 2:8-9 does NOT state that man is justified by faith alone. Nobody interpreted scripture like you did for 1,500 years and that fact is just ignored by you. You honestly believe that you have better exegesis than Rome/EO for 1,500 years. That is pride at work, not logic or reason. You just want a non-sacerdotal form of worship where you faith is just a mental exercise.

      Until you can show your case with scripture and plain reason I will not follow your claims! 🙂

    7. cwdlaw223,
      It is quite clear that we are justified by grace alone, by faith alone in Christ alone as Eph 2:8-9, Rom 3:20 and Gal 2:16. It is not by “faith alone” we are saved but faith in Christ alone that saves. Its faith in Him and what He did that saves us. Sacraments have nothing to do with salvation. No sacrament can save you.

    8. Meyu

      You fail to realize the sacraments help provide the grace you reference. It is not quite clear about “justification by faith alone” because these words aren’t used in scripture which is why nobody created this heresy until the reformation. You’ve engrafted this legal concept onto scripture for your own prideful/selfish benefit when it was never there. I have no objection with complete faith in Christ, but he didn’t leave us alone and when you reject his church he physically built on this earth you reject him. You should repent and seek forgiveness. I will continue to pray for your conversion. Either admit that Christ failed with his church or convert. Pism is fiction and makes no more sense than Mormonism when examined against history. You want Christ on your own terms, not his. There is nobody that believed like you in history and that doesn’t cause you pause to re-examine your position when it should. Only the prideful would believe their intelligence is so great that they can have better exegesis than those in history who were closer to the Apostles and interpreted Scripture in the same language it was written.

      The least you could do is compel man to interpret scripture in Greek/Aramaic with sola scriptura. If you’re gonna engraft man made lenses to view scripture, you shouldn’t allow the Bible to be interpreted from its original language.

    9. cwdlaw223,
      Sacraments have nothing to do with grace. Grace comes directly through Christ. If “justification by faith alone” is not used in Scripture then what should I make of Rom 5:1?
      “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

      You need to study the history and doctrines of your church and compare them with Scripture. What you find is that your church is out of sync with Scripture.

    10. meyu –

      You are delusional at this point when it comes to the sacraments and history. Nothing to do with grace? Next Christ has nothing to do with crucifixion. Christ is in the Church he created and founded!

      What are you to make of that statement? Read what Joe has written in this blog on this exact verse. You are grafting a legal meaning about the word justification for salvation. Read Nick’s Catholic Blog as well if you want the etymology over the word justification.
      Why do you presume that you can interpret scripture properly on your own? Why do you presume that scripture is clear? The history of Protestantism itself should show you that any claim that scripture is sufficiently clear is ridiculous. Why? Because Scripture was never intended to be interpreted without Christ’s Church that he left for us.

      Justification by faith alone is a legal novum. You should recognize that Luther/Calvin were rejecting Christ’s Church and needed a new interpretation of scripture for their liberalism/progressivism to stick.

    11. cwdlaw223,
      The phrase “having been justified” is a one-time legal declaration with continuing results. The word “justified” is a forensic term comes from the Greek word for “righteous” and means to “to declare righteous.

      Who gave Joe and Nick the authority to interpret Scripture on their own? Do they speak for the RCC?

    12. Who gave you the authority? In fact, how could you ever interpret scripture properly on your own? Do you know the original Greek so that there aren’t any translation issues? Joe and Nick aren’t the Magesterium and there’s a reason the laity isn’t part of the Magesterium because the detailed needed for proper exegesis isn’t often found in the laity. Of course, that concept is foreign to Protestants who everyone thinks they’re more intelligent than their fellow man and no more than dolts in history.

      All Catholics are encouraged to read and interpret scripture, but that doesn’t mean every Catholic speaks congruently with the Magesterium. I believe that Joe and Nick are close, if not directly on point, with the Magesterium on this issue. If you think they’re wrong, show how they’re wrong with Rome.

      It does not mean a “one time legal declaration.” That’s the problem when scripture was interpreted from the Greek into an English translation and then the definition of the word evolves in the English language. Justification by faith alone as a legal contstruct was a legal novum (meaning created out of thin air). If you want to use the term justification in a legal context, it must be by faith, hope and charity and not just limited to “faith” (however you’re going to define that word). You are not “justified” by your thoughts or faith alone. The word alone is nowhere to be found near the word faith. Faith is extremely important, but so is ones hope and charity.

      Why didn’t the Eastern Orthodox come up with this interpretation? Because it’s wrong! Why didn’t anyone else come up with such interpretation? Because it’s wrong. This is like someone reading the passage about not calling someone father and then trying to claim that Rome is mistaken because it uses the term father. Absolutely horrible exegesis!

      You, like Luther and Calvin, want Scripture to be interpreted one way so that you can justify your break with Rome and be fully in charge. What you’re doing is claiming that the physical church created by Christ is wrong. Either reject Christianity in full because you reject Christ’s Church or convert. There is no middle ground (but boy people want to create new forms of Christianity for a middle ground).

    13. What counter facts can you give me that the way justified is used in Rom 5:1 “It does not mean a “one time legal declaration”?

      I never claimed to be justified by faith alone. Faith needs an object to believe and trust in. That’s why the Bible tells us that we are justified by faith in Christ alone. It is Christ by His life and death that secured salvation for those who would entrust themselves to Him by faith in Him.

      Putting faith in your church will not save you. Jesus nor His apostles ever taught such a thing because that is not the function of the church.

    14. You have no faith that your Church can guide you properly? Sad. You might as well reject the Trinity as well since it was never taught. Why you presume that everything must be in scripture is beyond me. You create a form of Christianity off of the back of Rome that has no support in history.

      Do some research on this blog and Nick’s blog about this issue. They state it better than I do. Google justification by faith, hope and charity by Mark Shea if you are so hung up on a legal declaration. How about you provide some facts of someone stating “justification by faith alone” in early Christian history.

      I’m glad you don’t claim to be justified by faith alone. There is hope for you. Prayer works!

    15. Meyu –

      Jesus said the Church he created was his bride. If you can’t put faith in the bride of Christ you might as well stop being Christian. End the charade and be a pagan if you are unable to accept his hard sayings and reality.

  9. meyu –

    Joe nailed it with this post in one of his many articles about the Canon:

    Claim: Catholics think that the Church must authoritatively confirm the canon for a canon to exist.

    False. The Church doesn’t create Truth, She recognizes It. So the Church simply affirmed the canon of Scripture which most people knew to be true once a vocal minority began to question it. Likewise, She did the same thing with the Trinity, once non-Trinitarian heresies became a threat. In both cases, the underlying belief (the canon of Scripture and the Trinity) were widely believed before the formal definition. And significantly, that canon of Scripture was the Catholic one.

    Another link that you need to read: http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/was-the-canon-of-scripture-determined-before-the-church-councils-that-decided-it

    Your claim that scripture was not determined by Rome is completely false.

  10. meyu –

    I just read your post about Tetzel and the Pope. Do you believe an indulgence allows one to pay money to absolve one of future sins? I think that you do.

    1. Mike,

      This is a thoughtful and well-written response that I think gets some important things wrong. It warrants a deliberate response, which I hope to manage soon (no promises). Four immediate questions, though:

      1) Do you think that penal substitution requires your view of federal headship? Because your defense of it seems to be based on your view being correct, and I probably don’t need to tell you that this view of federal headship is controversial even within Reformed circles.

      2) In his famous interview with David Frost, President Nixon said, “Oh, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” It sounds like you’re saying something similar in Part I of your response: that if God does something (like punish / damn the innocent for the sins of the guilty), this means it’s not unjust — since you seem to suppose the alternative would require imposing an external standard upon God. Is that a fair characterization of your position?

      3) Are you claiming that St. Thomas Aquinas held to penal substitution?

      4) I know you claim that the system of penal substitution existed from the time of the Old Testament (I think you’ll find that both Catholics and Jews view that as a misreading of the Old Testament data). Can you point me to an unambiguous early adherent of the penal substitution view, pre-Anselm?

      God bless!

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. Joe,

      Just saw this. (Forgot to hit the “subscribe” button). These are all good question that would each merit a long response. Let me give the skinny here. I’m going to spend exactly 1 minute doing so as I have to run…

      1. Not necessarily. But I think FH and PSA harmonize well together.
      2. Might does not make right. If God does X then X is right by virtue of the fact God has done it.
      3. Not full-blown PSA. But he is one important stepping stone to the fuller expression of it. The very quote I provided in my article shows that he understood the cross as both penal and vicarious.
      4. See previous articles on my blog dealing with particular OT texts. For what it’s worth, the counter-arguments to these texts invariably end up attacking a version of PSA that no one in the Reformed tradition actually holds. To date I’ve yet to see anyone who denies that said texts teach PSA actually define PSA in a way that would be acceptable to most Reformed adherents of PSA.

      Okay, that was like 3 minutes. Now I’m running late.

      Blessings to you…

      Mike Taylor

  11. Joe, you said: “So sin arouses the Father’s wrath, and He can either justly pour it out on the sinners who deserve it, or “mercifully” pour it out upon Jesus, who is innocent. Let’s consider some of the problems with this view: It means that God isn’t just. Wrath for the wicked is just, but wrath for the innocent is unjust. If a judge imposed the death penalty on the defendant’s brother, we wouldn’t herald him for his mercy to the defendant. We’d recognize that he was acting unjustly. God’s Mercy cannot act contrary to His Justice, so this view can’t be right.”

    ME: In the spirit of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, I am wondering how you square your view with these prayers from the Missal:

    For the Laity – Prayer over the offerings

    “O God, who willed to save the whole world
    by the sacrifice of your Son,
    grant through the power of this oblation
    that your servants living in the lay state,
    whom you do not cease to call to the apostolate,
    may imbue the world with the spirit of Christ
    and be the leaven of its sanctification.
    Through Christ our Lord.”

    For Several Deceased Persons or For All the Dead – Prayer over the offerings

    “In this sacrifice, O Lord,
    your Son, though innocent, was slain for us
    and took away all the sins of the world;
    grant, we pray,
    that it may set your servants (N. and N.) free
    from every failing of the human condition.
    Through Christ our Lord.”

    Proper of Saints – Prayer over the Offerings

    “May the offering made with exultation by your Church
    be pleasing to you, O Lord, we pray,
    for you willed that your Only Begotten Son
    be offered to you for the life of the world
    as the Lamb without blemish.
    Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.”

    From Palm Sunday, the Passion of our Lord:

    “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks,
    Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord. For, though innocent, he suffered willingly for sinners and accepted unjust condemnation to save the guilty. His Death has washed away our sins, and his Resurrection has purchased our justification. And so, with all the Angels, we praise you, as in joyful celebration we acclaim…”

    END OF QUOTES

    ME: If I am reading these prayers correctly, the Father willed that the Son, though innocent, would suffer death by sacrifice on the Cross to save us, a death to which He was unjustly condemned by His enemies.

    “O God, who willed to save the whole world by the sacrifice of your Son…”

    “In this sacrifice, O Lord, your Son, though innocent, was slain for us and took away all the sins of the world…”

    “May the offering made with exultation by your Church be pleasing to you, O Lord, we pray, for you willed that your Only Begotten Son be offered to you for the life of the world as the Lamb without blemish…”

    “…For, though innocent, he suffered willingly for sinners and accepted unjust condemnation to save the guilty…”

    ME: Apparently, it is not unjust for the Father to will that His innocent Son suffer an unjust death to save us, the guilty. Or am I missing something here?

  12. Joe, you said: “So sin arouses the Father’s wrath, and He can either justly pour it out on the sinners who deserve it, or “mercifully” pour it out upon Jesus, who is innocent. Let’s consider some of the problems with this view: It means that God isn’t just. Wrath for the wicked is just, but wrath for the innocent is unjust. If a judge imposed the death penalty on the defendant’s brother, we wouldn’t herald him for his mercy to the defendant. We’d recognize that he was acting unjustly. God’s Mercy cannot act contrary to His Justice, so this view can’t be right.”

    ME: In the spirit of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, I am wondering how you square your view with these prayers from the Missal:

    For the Laity – Prayer over the offerings

    “O God, who willed to save the whole world
    by the sacrifice of your Son,
    grant through the power of this oblation
    that your servants living in the lay state,
    whom you do not cease to call to the apostolate,
    may imbue the world with the spirit of Christ
    and be the leaven of its sanctification.
    Through Christ our Lord.”

    For Several Deceased Persons or For All the Dead – Prayer over the offerings

    “In this sacrifice, O Lord,
    your Son, though innocent, was slain for us
    and took away all the sins of the world;
    grant, we pray,
    that it may set your servants (N. and N.) free
    from every failing of the human condition.
    Through Christ our Lord.”

    Proper of Saints – Prayer over the Offerings

    “May the offering made with exultation by your Church
    be pleasing to you, O Lord, we pray,
    for you willed that your Only Begotten Son
    be offered to you for the life of the world
    as the Lamb without blemish.
    Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.”

    From Palm Sunday, the Passion of our Lord:

    “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks,
    Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord. For, though innocent, he suffered willingly for sinners and accepted unjust condemnation to save the guilty. His Death has washed away our sins, and his Resurrection has purchased our justification. And so, with all the Angels, we praise you, as in joyful celebration we acclaim…”

    END OF QUOTES

    ME: If I am reading these prayers correctly, the Father willed that the Son, though innocent, would suffer death by sacrifice on the Cross to save us, a death to which He was unjustly condemned by His enemies.

    “O God, who willed to save the whole world by the sacrifice of your Son…”

    “In this sacrifice, O Lord, your Son, though innocent, was slain for us and took away all the sins of the world…”

    “May the offering made with exultation by your Church be pleasing to you, O Lord, we pray, for you willed that your Only Begotten Son be offered to you for the life of the world as the Lamb without blemish…”

    “…For, though innocent, he suffered willingly for sinners and accepted unjust condemnation to save the guilty…”

    ME: Apparently, it is not unjust for the Father to will that His innocent Son suffer an unjust death to save us, the guilty. Or am I missing something here?

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