Penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) is not a single doctrine. As the name suggests, the doctrine comprises theological principles like a penalty for sin, a substitutionary saviour, and a particular vision of the atonement. And actually, it draws from even more theological first principles than this list.
The composite nature of PSA explains why few Christians before the reformation defined PSA exactly as the Reformed did, while most pre-reformation Christians affirmed the first principles that would make up the doctrine. Hence, the historical plausibility of PSA derives from the fact that each of its theological first principles finds clear affirmation among Christians and Scripture. So its composite conclusion not only follows from these but also has its roots in 2,000 years of church history.
These first principles include: God is just, we are unjust, and the man who ascended the cross substituted himself for us to bring us salvation. Put together, PSA makes good, biblical sense. And stated in this way, it is obvious how Christians throughout the ages have affirmed these biblical teachings using different idioms of theology. In the following, I explain these theological first principles, albeit in short form. [Read more…] about What Is Penal Substitutionary Atonement?