11 June 2007

Is it PSA? Or not?

In the post below, I recommended Myron S. Augsburger's article Justice in Forgiveness.

Some comments have been made to me elsewhere (i.e. not on this blog) to the effect that the article: 1) Does support Penal Substitutionary Atonement; 2) Does not support Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

Perceptions are interesting. For anyone who thinks that communication through language is easy or that communication of ideas is straight-forward, here's a great example of how people might have very different ideas.

What do you think? Does the article support PSA or not?

1 comment:

Peter Kirk said...

I held back from commenting myself until others had had a chance, but now I will go ahead ...

It was me who wrote, here, that Augsburger's model of the atonement "is not precisely PSA". And yes, I should qualify that.

Augsburger's model is certainly not the variety of PSA which Adrian Warnock and some others have been promoting, in which the heart of the atonement is that God punishes his innocent Son for our sins, and can only forgive because someone has been punished.

But can Augsburger's model in fact be considered an alternative presentation of PSA? There certainly are presentations of PSA which are significantly different from Adrian's variety, like those of NT Wright and JI Packer which carefully avoid saying that the Father killed the Son, yet continue to deserve the epithets "penal" and "substitutionary". Is Augsburger's presentation one of these?

There is certainly a substitutionary element in Augsburger's presentation, for he writes "God suffered for the guilty". Note that the substitute is not just Jesus Christ, but the entire Trinity. Also Jesus "When Jesus was lifted up to die on Calvary’s cross, he was absorbing all of humanities’ [sic] sin into himself." Augsburger rightly denies that sins can simply be ignored; they have to be forgiven, and forgiveness is costly.

But I don't see Augsburger mentioning any penal aspect of the atonement, except to partially deny it: "Some people have read this passage to mean that God had turned his back on Jesus. They say this from the mindset that salvation means that God had to punish Jesus enough to be equal punishment for the sins that humanity has committed, and Jesus was good enough to go to the cross as a trade. That is not fair to our Father God." Now Augsburger is not totally denying that there is any punishment in the atonement, but neither is he affirming it. And there is no other mention of "punish" or "penal" in the article, except to contrast this with forgiveness.

So I conclude that Augsburger's position is substitutionary atonement, but not penal substitutionary atonement.