Defending Penal Substitution

(Rob Golding – Fight of Faith) Penal substitutionary atonement is difficult to understand, in part because we fail to conceive of the parties involved properly. Matters are complicated when the likes of N.T. Wright hyperbolically refer to “justification” in the traditional sense as a mysterious “gas” that passes through the courtroom. Others imagine God is like a judge who condemns his son to prison because another man stole someone else’s car. If Sam steals Bob’s car, it makes little sense to imprison little Joey, the judge’s son. Many see here “cosmic child abuse.”

However, this is not the biblical picture. Rather, it is not Bob who has been sinned against, but it is God. Ultimately, every single sin ever committed is against God (Ps 51:4). If God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, decides to take the punishment for the crimes committed against Him, who can object? The analogy of Sam, Bob, and Joey then is faulty. Instead, we should imagine the judge’s own car being stolen. In response, the judge serves the jail sentence instead of Sam, the thief. He does this because he wants to forgive the thief, but he also wants to uphold the law. Serving the sentence is the only way to do both. View article →


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