Dr. Joseph Mangina
28 November 2011
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14
In chapter eight of The Apostolic Faith, David Yeago begins his discussion on the atonement by taking a look at two theories of atonement which he deems inadequate. The second theory, and the subject of this essay, is the doctrine of penal substitution. Yeago builds his case against this doctrine on three points: (1) that it creates a conflict between God’s love and justice, (2) that it presents the goal of Christ’s atoning work as God changing his attitude towards sinners, and (3) that scriptural support for Christ’s death as the substitution for punishment is weak.
In this essay, I will argue that Yeago does build a convincing case against penal substitution as an explanation for atonement. He does an inadequate job of presenting the strengths of penal substitution, choosing instead to present and counter points that work to his advantage when he goes on to present his own model of atonement. I will show that his first two points do not actually discredit or disprove penal substitution. In fact, the alternative that he proposes for these two points would seem to harmonize quite nicely with the doctrine. Furthermore, his third point – that the scriptural case for substitutionary punishment is weak – is itself ironically weak, as it relies merely on the argument that the scriptural conclusions made by proponents of penal substitution are “illogical”, rather than being based scripture itself.