Friday, October 23, 2009

Ransom


I don't know why some conversations are so memorable while most are quickly forgotten. One that is memorable for me is a short exchange I had while in Seminary at Asbury. I don't remember who the conversation was with but it occurred after some professor in some class, theology or church history, briefly explained a position on the atonement sometimes called "Ransom Theory" where a "ransom" was paid to Satan in the atoning death of Christ. This view was not being supported by the professor but simply presented as a view that had been held by some in the history of the church. I remember saying to a classmate that I believed in a ransom but that the ransom had been paid to God, not Satan. My classmate wasn't too impressed with my point of view and said something like, "well that's not very palatable." I was interested to read something by John Piper though in his devotional book, The Passion of Jesus Christ. In this book Piper writes of "fifty reasons why He came to die." In the chapter I read last night Piper wrote:
There is no thought in the Bible that Satan had to be paid off to let sinners be saved. What happened to Satan when Christ died was not payment but defeat...

...If we ask who received the ransom, the biblical answer would surely be God. The Bible says that Christ "gave himself up for us, [an] . . . offering . . . to God" (Ephesians 5:2). Christ "offered himself without blemish to God" (Hebrews 9:14). The whole need for a substitute to die on our behalf is because we have sinned against God and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And because of our sin, "the whole world [is] held accountable to God" (Romans 3:19). So when Christ gives himself as a ransom for us, the Bible says that we are freed from the condemnation of God. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). The ultimate captivity from which we need release is the final "judgment of God" (Romans 2:2; Revelation 14:7).
So basically Piper articulated the view that I tried to argue for some years ago when I was much more unsure about what I believed. I can say now that I think the view supported here by Piper, that is, Penal Substitution, is central the gospel and necessary for faithfulness to Scripture, Old Testament and New Testament, in understanding what took place on the cross.


11 comments:

Jacob Aho said...

I'm not sure how this comment section works. However I'm going to attempt to use it.

The atonement made sense to me after I heard how Dr. Lutzer explained it. He said that the atonement was like the pitch on the inside and outside of the ark. It was an insulation against the wrath of God. So, the atonement insurers against God's wrath. Grace through faith insures against the wrath of God.

Matt Perkins said...

Jacob,
I like the "pitch on the ark" illustration. Unfortunately this doctrine is under attack by many claiming to be Christians. Thanks for your comment brother!

Nick said...

I would like to add an interesting note:

You say the picture being painted is that of "Penal Substitution," but I object on the grounds that the term/concept employed by Scripture is "Ransom". A ransom/redemption is the paying off of someone, not the transfer of punishment. Both the term itself and examples of Scripture demonstrate this.

As a result, while a ransom was paid to God, it was not in the form of Penal Substition. Earlier this year, I held a debate against a Calvinist on this issue, if you want to have a look:

http://catholicdefense.googlepages.com/psdebate

Matt Perkins said...

Hey Nick, I checked out your debate. To be honest I found your reasoning weak and disappointing with far too many appeals to feelings which may have nothing to do with the truth. At one point you say:

"The Father could never turn His Wrath upon His Son, such a notion should make anyone cringe. The Father could never forsake His Son in a spiritual 'divine punishment' sense, nor could Jesus feel or experience what a condemned sinner before God feels, nor could Jesus experience the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, that is pure blasphemy and a form of Nestoriansim (if not worse)."

Making a statement like "such a notion should make anyone cringe" is a very poor way of arguing and if that statement says anything about your methods in the rest of the debate I don't think it will be too enlightening for me. I know that this will sound arrogant but I don't think you as a Catholic take Scripture seriously in the same way that I do as you are willing to subscribe to doctrines concerning Mary and Papal infallibility which have no place in Scripture. As a Catholic you must use your interpretation of Tradition and the teachings of your magisterium to come to your conclusions, whether you admit it or not, so your arguments don't hold much weight for me. Also I'm very busy with medical school and being unimpressed with the level of writing I observed in the first couple of posts on your debate I don't think I'll be able to spend my time going through the rest of it.

Nick said...

Matt,

To my knowledge, the passage you quote is the only thing that comes close to appealing to feelings, but even then I would obeject. The reason why I said it would make someone cringe is precisely all the Christological and Trinitarian problems that would arise from it, and the main example I gave was Nestorainaism. Please tell me you too would cringe at a Christological heresy, and not consider it an appeal to emotion? And just for your information, my opponent ended up espousing pretty clear Nestorianism when this same issue came up in the Q&A part of the debate.

I would also caution you brushing off everything I say just because you see one flaw (in your eyes). Please, pick at least two texts of Scripture I cover, and present a reasonable case against them. This will demonstrate to me and others that my side of the debate really was as weak and disappointing. Apart from that, I don't think it's fair to throw out everything for a flaw or two (real or imagined).

Another note, again for your information, I covered far more Scripture, far more in depth, than my opponent did. Please, read more of the debate before you make such sweeping charges about me.

Matt Perkins said...

... okay I went back and skimmed the rest I am still quite unconvinced. You say of Christ being forsaken by God, "In order for this to happen theologically, the Second Person, the Son, would have logically had to cast off His human nature (ie God no longer being present with Christ's body and soul), and thus a purely human man named Jesus was speaking those words on the Cross." You also say that for the wrath of God to be poured out on Christ then the divine nature and human nature would have to "separate" from each other. I have no idea why you are so convinced of these things and I see no logical argument behind these conclusions... maybe I missed it though. To me it seems that because you can't understand Jesus experiencing hell as He died on the cross you reject it as heresy. I don't understand the Trinity but I believe in It whole-heartedly.

If you want to call men of God like Luther and Calvin "Nestorians" I guess I will just be a "Nestorian" with them although I certainly don't think they were guilty of the heresy you accuse them of. Calvin was a bit concerned about orthodoxy, I think, - I seem to remember an unfortunate heretic named Servetus who made the mistake of going to Geneva. And if you doubt Calvin's intelligence or regard for Scripture then you obviously haven't read him.

Peter+ said...

I agree with you Matt.

Nick said...

I'm not sure you understand what Nestorianism is. Jesus being God cannot be forsaken as a sinner in Hell (which is separation from God by definition) is forsaken by God. Such an argument either rips the Trinity apart or causes a duality in Personhood of the Son.

http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2009/04/was-jesus-damned-in-your-place.html

Matt Perkins said...

Show me where hell is separation from God by definition. Is that from Scripture or simply some platitude of American-style-religion that has been repeated so many times that people take it for granted. Hell is not separation from God. It is experiencing God's wrath. I do understand what Nestorianism is. Penal substitution in no way requires Nestorian christology.

Nick said...

Hell is first and foremost a state where a soul is permanently alienated from God's presence (the presence which only resides in Christians). That is the epitome of being under God's Wrath. God cannot have communion with someone and have them under His Wrath at the same time.

Matt Perkins said...

Nick, in my previous response to you I asked you to show me where you get the idea that hell is separation from God. Maybe you can show me this clearly in Scripture. I would say that hell is separation from the gracious or comforting presence of God but as God is omnipresent, the absence of God's presence can't be used to describe hell. You now say that hell is alienation from God and I think I would agree with you there but those who spend eternity in hell were also alienated from God in this life so obviously hell is something more than simple alienation from God. In the same way you have not yet shown me logically how penal substitution logically demands a Nestorian christology.