During the Reformation, the reformers favoured the doctrine of penal substitution to describe how Jesus’ death on the cross saves us. Penal substitution means that the Father punished (penal) the Son instead of us (substitution) for our sins.
Some people have found this doctrine offensive because it constitutes child abuse. As this reasoning goes, if a father punishes an innocent son by placing him a cross (a tortuous death), this would be child abuse. Likewise, God the Father would be committing child abuse by punishing the Son on the cross. Others may disagree with penal substitution because it sounds like a pagan idea rather than a Biblical idea. Still others might simply assert that penal substitution arises out of medieval worldview, where God is a wrathful god who punishes sins and a person must receive punishment to satisfy justice.
It is this latter accusation, which I would like to respond to. The doctrine of penal substitution is not a medieval idea. It is a Biblical idea and an early Christian doctrine. I will focus on this latter idea (penal substitution as an early Christian doctrine) here. [Read more…] about Is Penal Substitution a Medieval Idea?