Editor’s Note: This article, written by Dr. Herold Weiss, is a response to Dr. Norman Young’s recent article, “O, Sweet Exchange,” published to the Spectrum website on October 2, 2019.
Norman Young honors me by taking seriously my writings and taking it upon himself to challenge them. His essay is designed to counter what “some Adventists” are questioning: “the penal substitutionary view of the atonement.” In a footnote he identifies me as one of those Adventists, and refers to two articles I had written lately. In one I wrote, “His [Paul's] is an apocalyptic, not a sacrificially substitutionary, understanding of the Christ Event.” In the other I pointed out that, “Although the doctrine of a substitutionary atonement may be derived from other biblical authors, the letters written by Paul the apostle do not support this understanding of righteousness by faith.” In both of them I argued that Paul understood the significance of the death of Christ within an apocalyptic framework. Substitution is not legal in any legal system, and apocalypticism is primarily concerned with the vindication of God's justice. My essays were not dealing with a substitutionary, or any other kind of doctrine of the atonement at all. The above two quotations are all I said about atonement in both of my articles.
It seems to me disingenuous to argue for a substitutionary view of the atonement on the basis of a preposition for which, as Young admits, the Lexicon lists nine different possible meanings, while overlooking everything else Paul or any other biblical author says about the significance of Christ's death, or, to formulate “a New Testament view” of the atonement by putting together texts written by different authors in quite different contexts. Norman Young ends saying, “I agree in part with Scriven and Weiss.” I am very happy to say that I agree with what he says in this essay, particularly when he applies to Adventists what he learned fifty years ago from C. S. Lewis, in toto.
Herold Weiss is professor emeritus of Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana.
I would hardly call Dr. Young’s well written article as a true rebuttal or counter argument to your questioning of substitutionary atonement. I could likely produce such for you from RTS or Westminster if you choose. I realize this isn’t truly the proper venue for scholarly disagreements because few have any mastery of the languages pertinent. I also realize there are multiple words giving us a larger meaning of the atonement. Often I find opposition creates a strawman about God angry with the person of Christ or making His Son die etc. to make their antithesis more acceptable.
I did comment to Dr. Young “some things he did not say concerning propitiation.”
"Thanks Dr. Young for your thoughtful and thorough commentary. I was blessed at RTS seminary to take a course on the Atonement by Dr. Roger Nicole. Roger was seen by some to be as informed on the atonement as any 20th century theologian. Especially in reformed circles. Leon Morris references Roger in his books on the cross and atonement. Roger pointed out mainly language of six types when speaking of atonement.
Court of law, sacrifice, reconciliation, propitiation, purchase and battlefield. Indeed all 6 are necessary to give us a fuller understanding of our saviors death for us.
Often it is what is avoided or not said that is as much an error as what is said. Perhaps a bit like the blind man grabbing parts of an elephant and then describing. However, even a child who sees standing by may laugh as the inadequate representation takes place. Even the blind might be correct yet miss the entire picture of the elephant. So many handicap the atonement by such words as mere justification, etc.
It seems that many get heartburn over the fact of propitionary (hilasterion) or substitutionary atonement. It seems like the blind man “one default” view comes up. “God didn’t punish Christ”…their main focus of “penal substitution.” Propitiation, as you know, has to do with the “turning away of wrath.” In the OT by the blood of the sacrifice of the “lamb” and in the NT by the “lamb of God”/Christ himself.
God was offended by sin which is a lack of faith in Himself the Righteous King. Christ willingly departed heaven and emptied Himself in our behalf. God was not angry at Christ but the sin of the whole world he bore. Was God angry at the OT lamb or was it simply the vehicle God chose to turn away His wrath against sin and unrighteousness.
Nicole puts it this way. “Propitiation is the gracious provision made by God Himself, whereby the effects of His righteous anger against sin may be averted and the sinner may receive the blessings of His eternal love without infringement on His holiness and moral government.“Standing Forth”, p.251.
Substitution indeed so that we sinners may have the promise of hope through faith in Christ, our atoning savior. Amen.”
What some may miss in the discussion about the atonement is that the Bible does not present a single, unified theology. For instance some of the major theologies of the New Testament are Pauline, Johannine, Jacobine, and Petrine. They do not always agree, especially on some of the finer points. Yet we feel all are inspired. Perhaps this indicates there is room for more than one perspective at the cross.
The idea of propitiation being “turning away wrath” makes much more sense to me when I realize that my human default is wrath against God. I was born “at enmity”, I didn’t trust Him, I didn’t love Him, I refused to obey or even listen to Him . . . until the cross where Jesus became the propitiation that turned my heart from an enemy of God into His friend and lover. Could it be that our wrath was the focus of Christ’s propitiation? After all, didn’t God always love us? God was never our enemy, but always our best friend. Christ propitiated God’s wrath against the sin that was killing His children by demonstrating to them God’s love for us and turning us away from our wrath toward God and our human family.
Could it be that our wrath was the focus of Christ’s propitiation? After all, didn’t God always love us? God was never our enemy, but always our best friend. Christ propiated God’s wrath against the sin that was killing His children by demonstrating to them God’s love for us and turning us away from our wrath toward God and our human family.<<
I would suggest “our wrath” is a byproduct of sin and the cure a by product through the Spirit of God’s saving act for us. It was God who first loved us. He owes Satan and no one else anything. Sin and unrighteousness is what creates God’s righteous anger and wrath against sin. God remains an enemy to those not accepting Christ and embracing darkness. Jn. 3:16-
Philo and Greek Philosophy at the time of Christ & Paul considered “wrath/anger” inappropriate for a godlike being. Paul was “in your face” against the view and points out the righteous anger/wrath of God against unrighteousness.
This anger is turned away from the sinner by Christ who bore our sins and iniquities and was a propitiation that turned away God’s righteous wrath from us. Having been JBF we have peace with our Lord and Savior rather than the proper fear fallen mankind experiences. It was Grace that taught my heart to fear and Grace my fears relieved.
Why do we think we can understand a divine legal system that would punish billions of people–and the members of the Godhead–with pain and heartbreak because one human being was deceived into trying to be more like her heavenly Father, and the other chose not to abandon her to face her fate alone?
Adventist theology insists that the serprent lied, but did he?
…in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:5)
…the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…(Gen 3 :22)
I have come to suspect that the A&E story is an ironic allegory. The all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God we know would have given them a no-cost second chance. Why shouldn’t He (They)?
You would like reading Scot McKnight’s section in the book
“Adam and the Genome - reading scripture after genetic science”
He attempts to parse out how the Bible writers in the Old Testament
times perceived Adam[and Eve], and how Paul perceived Adam.
, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen 2:17)
But they didn’t die in that day. A&E were still on track to “live for ever” (vs 22)…so God had to come up with a plan B:
Bottom line: They didn’t die that day and they did become like God knowing good from bad. The snake didn’t lie; he just didn’t tell the whole truth. (Did God?)
Hmmm. It just occurred to me. God also said, “…neither shall ye touch it lest ye die.” If the snake had died immediately when he touched it, no way would Adam and Eve have eaten it and they would still be alive today…and several billions of descendants.
Harry, imagine if one of us were in A&E’s position. We would have had the burden of figuring out who had more credibility, if God or the intriguing serpent. Well, they didn’t die that day… For them, there was no reason for not believing that the serpent was more reliable and more truthful.
Well, let’s move on. I also believe that the story in Genesis is an allegory, thus it’s not worth spending time on those silly conjectures and details anyway. Just my opinion though.
No, he didn’t. I think we also may have forgotten that the tree in question was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Not an evil tree, not a tree that made you evil or sinful. One that, described another way, gave Eve and Adam a conscience - the understanding of good and evil and the difference between the two.
I have heard and find it interesting that when Jews read Genesis they don’t see a “fall”. They see a story of humanity’s beginning. Adam and Eve were created in a child-like state and then grew up, became aware of good and evil, covered their bodies, moved out of the nursery, and became parents.
I think what it meant was that they only had knowledge of good before disobeying God. But by leaving God, their minds were filled with evil. So they lost their innocence and now knew both good and evil. It’s like not they were enhanced in any way. It’s like you only know what light and seeing looks like, until you turn off the light.
When mentioning ‘jews’, do you refer to all of judaism, or specific branches? Because the explanation you give seems to correspond to kabbalism, which considers the patriarchs as initiates into the mystery religions, that the serpent is the savior of man by giving him intelligence and was the real God, while Yahweh is the devil, and more such interesting doctrines.
Frank, you are a professional translator, so please translate your statement explaining what kind/amount of evil entered their minds at the moment when they “left God.” Also, when exactly was the moment when they actually left God?
Translation is actually not the same as explaining.
You could simply ask me to explain what I mean, that would have conveyed the message George. No need to add personal details about who I am, and what I do. It is completely irrelevant to the discussion.
Frank, so let’s do this, just never mind about my request. Just ignore it.
You are (and have been) way too sensitive about yourself. At one time you referred to me as “Clinical Psychologist,” (more than once I believe) and it’s not a problem at all since I am actually one, so what?. Nobody here has ever had a problem with others knowing their profession. But, apparently, you do, although the public at large knows it from your own public advertisement.
I am of course aware that translation and explanation are different things. I mentioned you as being a translator because in your profession people are usually very good with words and clarity of writing (accuracy), and I thought you could do a good job explaining that issue accurately and properly since you can do it with maximum clarity. And since it was not an Y/N question, I honestly believed that you would explain it.
However, never mind, just forget my request. That’s it, no longer interested.
When I was about 11 I shot a bird with a BB gun. I had never killed anything and when I went and picked it up I was mysteriously sorrowful inside.
I suspect A&E experienced something similar and a departure of innocence and feeling of guilt.
That’s my best experience of how they may have felt.
That day they died from perfection. They began to physically die ( process) and spiritually sensed loss, guilt and shame and that were based on reality. They hid.