I write first and foremost as a pastor. I’m aware from my own context and from other pastors that day to day ministry means we are looking after people who at any one time may be
– Suffering abuse
– Hearing that a family member has been killed
– Have children coming home from school, bullied
– Have experienced bullying, abuse, unfaithfulness and desertion from their husband
– Been unfairly dismissed at work
– Face meetings with harsh bureaucrats
When we talk about these pastorally situations, we are thinking both about the cost and challenge to those going through these situations and the affect on those who walk alongside them.
At some point pastorally, we cannot talk about God’s love without coming to the question of justice. Does my theology, my account of who God is and who we are actually recognise the full horror of evil and the need for justice.
Historically the Church Fathers did. In my last article I quoted from Athanasius, that quote shows a deep recognition of the reality of evil. It recognises that
1. We are ourselves guilty -the perpetrators of sin, deserving justice.
2. We are also victims of the deceit and murderous intent of Satan
3. We are helpless, sin corrupts -there is total depravity.
The contemporary expression of Penal Substitution is rooted in that historic understanding of the seriousness and cost of sin. It’s rooted in a Scriptural approach to suffering and evil. When you get a moment, read through 1 Peter. This letter tells us how to face suffering and especially injustice. At the heart of the answer is the message that Jesus suffered and died on behalf of us, our substitute.
Penal Substitution matters because it offers a compelling, Biblical account of what the problem of evil is and how Christ has dealt with sin and evil at The Cross.