, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 201-218
Date: 02 Nov 2012

Punishing and atoning: a new critique of penal substitution

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The doctrine of penal substitution claims that it was good (or required) for God to punish in response to human sin, and that Christ received this punishment in our stead. I argue that this doctrine’s central factual claim—that Christ was punished by God—is mistaken. In order to punish someone, one must at least believe the recipient is responsible for an offense. But God surely did not believe the innocent Christ was responsible for an offense, let alone the offense of human sin. So, the central factual claim is mistaken. In the final section, I show that this critique of penal substitution does not apply to the closely-related Anselmian satisfaction theory.