Are we ready to talk about PSA?

Posted: November 11, 2012 by J in Theology

For a long while now there’s been aundefined question on my mind: are we at the Grit ready for a discussion about PSA? Penal Substitutionary Atonement: the way we use and abuse this doctrine has been a concern to me for a long while. I reckon its an area of our theological life that’s in the doldrums.

However, the doctrine is so politicised, PSA has been treated as a litmus test for orthodoxy for so long, that I’m conscious of the difficulties in achieving a calm and openminded discussion. Easy to generate more heat than light.

What do you reckon? Could we do it? Is anyone open to it? Willing to rethink, or be challenged or stretched a little in their thinking about the atonement? Is it the right time to talk PSA?

I’m really not sure – looking for guidance here.

See also The Cross as a Satisfaction

  1. Dan W says:

    Hey Jono,

    You’re a machine! Stretch us on incarnation; then Calvin’s view of suffering; next mission; and now PSA. My thought is, if people are really engaging with those other discussions you need to let the stretch normalise. You can/should only stretch people in one significant way at a time. I think…

    More generally, I have a feeling that people are more willing to think about the possibility that deeply held beliefs might need to be tweaked. But I don’t know why I think that! Perhaps I’m wrong!

    You know where I stand on the topic. Here’s a quote from Bird which I like;

    ‘I agree that CV and PSA go together because Jesus is only Christus Victor because he is also Agnus Dei (lamb of God). PSA deprives the Satan of his key weapon: accusation against the saints! However, I think CV is the most comprehensive model of the atonement for several reasons:

    1. Canonical: The first and last intimations of the atonement in Scripture are about the victory of Jesus’ death (Gen 3:15; Rev 12:11).
    2. Historical: CV appears to have been more popular in Church History as a model for the atonement than any other. Though PSA can be found in the fathers as a minor key, CV can be found among the Reformers as a minor key too.
    3. Biblical Theological: CV links together a lot more themes than PSA does. CV brings together kingdom, atonement, resurrection, and new creation.
    4. Pauline: Note how Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 both start off with the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ death, but then climax in affirmations of divine victory! PSA is the basis for CV, but CV is then the goal of PSA.’

    • Jonathan says:

      Aw Dan, but those other topics were, like, the day before yesterday. I can barely remember them!

      How long do you think it takes for the ‘stretch to normalise’?

      I like your Bird quote. Hang on, are we having a PSA discussion, or are we holding off?


  2. kristanslack says:

    Where did I miss the incarnation stretching? Point me to it…
    Bring on the PSA discussion. I didn’t spend much time on it at college so I’m happy to have a think about it. Where’s Bird’s quote from Dan?

    • Dan W says:

      Where’s all the incarnation stretching? Hmmm… I guess I was thinking about all the talk of focussing on Jesus’ humanity rather than deity. There’s been a fair bit of that over the months. I can’t think of a specific point – Jono? I guess it’s something Jono’s stretched me on for a few years!

      The Bird quote was just from his old blog Euangelion. He goes on to quote Calvin who says something not unlike what he says, ie. PSA serves CV.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Kristan, thanks for your comment.

      I’m sorry, but hundreds of people read this blog, and so far there’s only you and me interested to explore PSA. Plus big D is pushing the other way. So no go for the moment I’m afraid. At least not at* The Grit.* If more poeple show interest, that could change.

      I’ll try to track down the most stretchy posts on the incarnation for you.

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