Why do Calvinist apologists such as John Piper teach that Jesus was "damned in our place"?

It turns out many Calvinist thinkers and apologists have a mistaken view of the Cross and Atonement made by Our Lord Jesus. They understand it as Jesus receiving the punishment our sins deserve (hellfire) and so they think Jesus endured our punishment so we wouldn’t have to. These Calvinists use phrases such as saying Jesus was “damned in our place,” and that Jesus “spiritually died” on the Cross and that God the Father broke communion with Jesus.

Here is a Catholic Apologetics article discussing Calvinist apologist/theologian John Piper who recently said Jesus was “damned in our place.”

If you’d like to discuss it or have any questions on why Penal Substitution is wrong (or maybe think this doctrine is right), then let’s discuss it here.

Any interest?

You know what I think? I think this is an extreme example of penal substitution. I don’t think St. Anselm or even Calvin went this far.

St Anselm didn’t believe in Penal Substitution, so he wouldn’t have said such a thing.

But Calvin did believe in PSub and for sure went that far. In Calvin’s Institutes 2:16:10, Calvin says:
[INDENT]Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. … … Hence** there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. **It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man.


You’re right about Anselm, sorry about that. You can really see Calvin’s background as a lawyer here - he used legal language to describe atonement (i.e. noting that man is guilty before God’s judgement and the only appropriate punishment is eternal death; Jesus was “made a substitute and a surety in the place of transgressors and even submitted as a criminal, to sustain and suffer all the punishment which would have been inflicted on them”).

I’m interested, what’s the Catholic view? I am very familiar with penal substitution and am interested in how Catholic teaching differs from it.

Does the Catholic view of Christ’s Atonement permit the Reformed view of “Penal Substitution”?

Thank you, most helpful (although a lot to take in!)

Good work here in your lengthy articles. Thanks for assembling this morning so much from church resources

Good to hear some people take the atonement seriously enough to learn about these things. :thumbsup:

I certainly do take it seriously - I honestly had no idea there was another view apart from penal substitution that came from scripture. this is a bit of a ‘lightbulb’ moment for me.

I would expect more such comments to come as Good Friday approaches

For the first time in my life I was confronted with this concept from my Evangelical wife yesterday. She offered “the thing I’m sad about today is that Jesus went to hell.” I was stunned for a minute. Upon recovering somewhat I allowed as how Jesus didn’t go to hell, he went to the limbo of the fathers to free the righteous souls there. I said heaven was not opened until Jesus opened it. She then opined that their “faith forward” opened it for them and that it was never closed.

She denies that there could be a “third place”.

This is crazy talk and is the result of every guy with a Bible who can talk to a group starting his own church in a garage or grade school cafeteria.

I’m late to the dance on this, but I think it is more main stream than you think. My wife is a formerly Catholic now non denom Protestant. She is coached in the theory of Protestantistic heresy by Calvinistic Bible study and a steady stream of pastor graduates from a Reformed seminary. She is appalled that I dispute her firmly held concept that Jesus descended to the hell of the damned to suffer all the slings and arrows of Satan.

One of the reasons these folks hold this view is that they refuse to believe in a 3rd state of being, that is, the Limbo of the Fathers or the Bosom of Abraham. Such thinking would lead, eventually, to the consideration of a state called Purgatory. And Purgatory is a concept up with which they will not put!

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