Justification: Do Catholics Believe in Substitutionary Atonement?


#1

I come from a Protestant background, but I thought I heard someone mention a while back that Catholics do not necessarily believe in substitutionary atonement (Christ suffering and dying physically when sin results in spiritual, not physical, death) or in penal atonement (God’s punishment intended for us falls on Christ), etc., etc.

I’ve heard the satisfaction theory is preferred and some form of substitutionary atonement is generally affirmed, even if not what instantly might come to mind.

Can anyone break down the pros and cons of each briefly (and simply) and explain which views the Church favors and why?

Thanks!


#2

St_Aloysius,

As far as I understand, among the Fundamentalist Protestants, substitutionary atonement refers to Christ not only having gone through the passion and death on earth for our sins, but that He was also punished in hell for our sins, taking our place or the substitution.

The Catholic Church teaches that Christ went through the passion and death on earth for our sins (that’s the atonement, having died for our sins), but He descended into hell (that is hades/sheol, not the hell-fire/Gehanna of the damned) not to be punished, but rather to gloriously take with Him the righteous people of the Old Testament (those in Abraham’s abode or “bosom”).

There is an icon that teaches this mystery of faith:

http://www.ourladyofthecedars.net/maronite_icons/db_36-Descent_into_Hades.jpg

God bless,

Rony


#3

What’s the difference between Christ being punished in our place (penal atonement) and him suffering for our sins (substitionary atonement)?

What does it mean for Christ to have “suffered for our sins”?


#4

Though there are those who erroneously teach and believe that Christ descended into Hell and was punished there for our sins (i.e., spiritual death), that is not what is meant by a substitutionary sacrifice. “Substitutionary” simply means that ALL our sins were imputed to Christ on the cross and He died there, on the cross, in our stead. The whole work of redemption was accomplished through His substitutionary work (death) on the cross: “It is finished.”

According to the Scriptures, when Christ was buried our sins (all of them) were buried with Him in death:Rom. 6:10 "For the death that He died, He died TO SIN (our sins), once for all…"He rose again (bodily) to new life. And the true believer is now seen (identified) in the glorified, resurrected Christ. His relationship to sin now being that of Christ’s, “dead” to it, and raised to new life in Him:Eph 2:1-7 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly {places} in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Col 3:1-4 "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."For this reason “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are "in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Salvation is ultimately a LIFE issue (a believer’s possession of “eternal life” now in Christ), not a sin issue (Catholicism). God dealt with our sins, sacrificially, once for all, through the substitutionary death of His Son on the cross. Hence, that which God dealt with, once for all, sacrificially does not need to be dealt with again sacramentally. The true believer rests/trusts in the gospel message of what God accomplished, once for all, on the cross in regards to his sins. This is salvation faith.

Now “justification” is another issue, and just as glorious.


#5

What’s the difference between Christ being punished in our place (penal atonement) and him suffering for our sins (substitionary atonement)?

What does it mean for Christ to have “suffered for our sins”?

St_Aloysius,

Christ having suffered for our sins means that he went through the pain of the passion and death on the cross. So, He’s the sacrificial lamb slaughtered instead of us. If that is all what is meant by substitutionary or penal atonement, then Catholicism has no problem with that. Christ is the substitute lamb for us, having willingly received the punishment of suffering and death on earth for us, because of our sins.

This doesn’t mean that because of what He did on the cross, we then do not have to suffer in this life, rather, we still suffer, but that His finished work on the cross, once and for all, gives us the grace to rejoice in our everyday sufferings (see Col. 1:24). You see, we are His Body and He is our Head, and so we suffer with Him in death, and we are resurrected with Him unto eternal life.

We reject the teaching that says that Christ was punished in hell. Some Fundamentalist Protestants understand substitutionary atonement in this way, and so we reject that.

God bless,

Rony


#6

Though there are those who erroneously teach and believe that Christ descended into Hell and was punished there for our sins (i.e., spiritual death), that is not what is meant by a substitutionary sacrifice. “Substitutionary” simply means that ALL our sins were imputed to Christ on the cross and He died there, on the cross, in our stead. The whole work of redemption was accomplished through His substitutionary work (death) on the cross: “It is finished.”

moondweller,

If that is all what is meant by substitutionary atonement, then we have no problem with that.

According to the Scriptures, when Christ was buried our sins (all of them) were buried with Him in death:

Rom. 6:10 "For the death that He died, He died TO SIN (our sins), once for all..."

He rose again (bodily) to new life. And the true believer is now seen (identified) in the glorified, resurrected Christ. His relationship to sin now being that of Christ’s, “dead” to it, and raised to new life in Him:

Eph 2:1-7 "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly {places} in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
Col 3:1-4 "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

No problem here.

For this reason "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are “in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Salvation is ultimately a LIFE issue (a believer’s possession of “eternal life” now in Christ), not a sin issue (Catholicism). God dealt with our sins, sacrificially, once for all, through the substitutionary death of His Son on the cross. Hence, that which God dealt with, once for all, sacrificially does not need to be dealt with again sacramentally. The true believer rests/trusts in the gospel message of what God accomplished, once for all, on the cross in regards to his sins. This is salvation faith.

Now “justification” is another issue, and just as glorious.

No condemnation for those who abide in Christ. Those in Christ who willing choose to reject their relationship with Him by committing deadly sins are choosing an eternity apart from Him. We reject “once saved, always saved”.

Salvation is an issue of both a turning away from sin (repentance), as well as, a belief and abiding in the grace and life of Jesus Christ. St. Paul warns us: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22).

Once one is born again by grace, he/she must abide in the grace of Jesus Christ. The Sacraments or Holy Mysteries are the graces of God. We enter into the life of grace through baptism, and we grow in Christ through the other Sacraments. The Eucharist, for example, is our nourishing food. As Jesus tells us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56).

Byzantine Catholics refer to this process as Theosis, a divinization, becoming like unto God, icons of Christ. Scripture tells us that we “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4)

Christ sufferered for us not so that we don’t suffer in this life, but that His grace may enable us to go through suffering, even to rejoice in suffering. Scripture says: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24).

God bless,

Rony


#7

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=2647158#post2647158


#8

You have no problem with it because you don’t understand it.

No condemnation for those who abide in Christ.

Paul didn’t say, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who abide in Christ Jesus.” He explicitly stated, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s statement concerning no condemnation relates directly to what you said you had no problem with.

But what you fail to understand is that there can be no condemnation for those whose sins were laid upon Christ, once for all, and He died in their stead, as God’s Substitute. There can be no condemnation for those whom Paul said died with Christ and were buried with Him.

You see, God can no more condemn those whom He raised up to new life with Christ and seated them with Him in the heavenly, than He can condemn the resurrected, glorified Christ Himself - to Whom they now belong and in Whom they now are.

You might believe many things “about” Christ, Rony, but you have not yet believed “in” Christ. There lies the difference. The former is religious belief, the latter salvation belief.1 John 5:10-12 "The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."As I said in my previous post, salvation is primarily about receiving LIFE - His life. Something the unbeliever cannot understand and distorts.


#9

You have no problem with it because you don’t understand it.

Paul didn’t say, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who abide in Christ Jesus.” He explicitly stated, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s statement concerning no condemnation relates directly to what you said you had no problem with.

He didn’t have to say it exactly how I said it. That’s what he meant. No condemnation for those in Christ means no condemnation for those who abide in Christ.

Jesus teaches:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:4-10).

But what you fail to understand is that there can be no condemnation for those whose sins were laid upon Christ, once for all, and He died in their stead, as God’s Substitute. There can be no condemnation for those whom Paul said died with Christ and were buried with Him.

Christ died for the whole world. Those who repent, believe, and are baptized are grafted unto Christ. We enter into His holy grace, which He gives to us as a consequence of His death and resurrection. Once we enter into the grace of God, there is no condemnation for us as long as we remain in this grace. Our sins are buried with Him in baptism so that we may live a new life, a new creation. But, we do not loose our free will, and so long as we choose to remain in His grace all the days of our lives here on earth, we will be with Him when we die.

You see, God can no more condemn those whom He raised up to new life with Christ and seated them with Him in the heavenly, than He can condemn the resurrected, glorified Christ Himself - to Whom they now belong and in Whom they now are.

God does not condemn us when we commit sins that lead to our death, we condemn ourselves. We retain our free will after we become a new creation in Christ. God can not force to heavenly life a new creature who later rejects the newness of his creation, because our Holy God is a lover, not a rapist. He respects the free will of His creation, those who reject Christ as well as those who initially accept Him but later chose to reject Him.

You might believe many things “about” Christ, Rony, but you have not yet believed “in” Christ. There lies the difference. The former is religious belief, the latter salvation belief.

I believe in Christ. I have a personal and family relationship with Him. I don’t just believe about Christ. I am a member of His Body, the Church He founded. He is my head, and I am one of His body parts. I love Him and He helps me keep His commandments, and I can not do this without His grace.

As St. Paul teaches: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion” (1 Tim. 3:16). Great indeed is our Christian faith and salvation, the salvation Christ obtained for us by His death and resurrection.

1 John 5:10-12 “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

Amen.

As I said in my previous post, salvation is primarily about receiving LIFE - His life. Something the unbeliever cannot understand and distorts.

“And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3)

“For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom. 2:6-7)

“Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. **I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. **But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another” (Gal. 5:19-26).

God bless,

Rony


#10

“As I said in my previous post, salvation is primarily about receiving LIFE - His life. Something the unbeliever cannot understand and distorts.” Even Scripture can be used out of context to distort God’s testimony concerning the believer and His Son.


#11

“As I said in my previous post, salvation is primarily about receiving LIFE - His life. Something the unbeliever cannot understand and distorts.” Even Scripture can be used out of context to distort God’s testimony concerning the believer and His Son.

Yes, the “once saved always saved” people use Scripture out of context to distort God’s testimony concerning the believer and His Son.

God bless,

Rony


#12

"…Catholic understanding must reject the erroneous idea of substitutionary atonement or ‘penal substitution.’ You see, if evil has been done in the world does it make sense to only deal with the punitive consequences of sin? Is there not a much larger series of problems? The attraction of sin, he sinner’s bad habits, the benefits that one has accrued from that sin, the injury that had been done, the bad example, the disruption of society. Limiting atonement to penal subsitution deals with the least important part of the real problem of sin.

In the OT they new that a deliberate sin done with “the high hand” (shaking one’s fist at heaven) could never be forgiven. Only inadvertant sins could be forgiven. But, by repentence, a sinner wished that the sin had not been committed and in that way, a deliberate sin could be considered inadvertant and thus forgiveable. (Read the commentaries of Jewish scholar Jacob Milgrom on Leviticus.)

So the Bible makes it clear that forgiveness of sin requires repentence: a complete turning from sin, a turning toward God, sorrow for what had been done, recompense made and a sacrifice given to God (Read Numbers 5:5 and Leviticus 5:5). Jesus came not merely to forgive sins but to grant us new life. (Read Rom 6 and Rom 8).

That is why the Catholic Church rejects substitutionary atonement or ‘penal substitution’ as inadequate and unbiblical."

Art Sippo
surprisedbytruth.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=5348&whichpage=5


#13

The problem with the above explanation is that (1) sacrifices are by nature and purpose substitutionary, (2) the Son didn’t come into this world to clean up the world but that the world (i.e., individuals) might be saved through Him:John 3:17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."Through His substitutionary, sin sacrifice those who turn from unbelief to belief in Him are saved (Eph. 2:8-9), justified (Rom. 3:24) and gifted eternal life (Rom. 6:23).

Now it is true that the redeemed have the responsibility to walk according to their calling in Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:1-2). But it’s not the walk that saves, redeems, or justifies them, but the One who took their sins upon Himself through His substitutionary, sacrificial death on a cross (1 Pet. 2:24; cf. Is. 53:5, 10-12).

Limiting atonement to penal subsitution deals with the least important part of the real problem of sin.

WOW! I think the cross of Christ would testify otherwise.


#14

I hate this thed died out I’m learning from it

One thing I would like to add is that Jesus did not come to cover our sins but to give us the grace not to sin big difference


#15

Some Pentecostals teach this. I can certainly understand why you’d define some Pentecostals as fundamentalists, but scholars of American religion distinguish them sharply. That distinction is helpful here, because fundamentalists in the stricter sense of the word consider this particular teaching to be a vile heresy. I have heard many fundamentalist polemics against it.

It was taught by Hans Urs von Balthasar and has never been condemned as far as I know by the Catholic Church, although it’s been fiercely attacked by other Catholic theologians and scholars.

Edwin


#16

Thanks fot sharing this material and scriptures. I have noted some of your points for further consideration. But you appear to be of the OSAS category. Once saved always saved and so you see no need for a further sacrament of reconciliation. I am not so convinced. If we take all related scriptures into accpunt I find I cannot believe in OSAS. It does not fit with our general experience of know professing Christians who have fallen away from the faith either, who had been assured of their OCAS status by their Churches. But thanks!


#17

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