Let’s talk about PSA?

Posted: April 30, 2015 by J in General

A couple of years ago I posted this post. No go. I’m thinking it might be time to run this flag up the mast again, see what happens.


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 it’s difficult to achieve 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.

  1. J,

    I’m going to urge caution on this one. Not because I view PSA as a Sacred Cow (and I am definitely up for challenging received wisdom), but rather because I have hesitations about how the discussion might progress if you were the one doing the driving.

    I have always found your observations on New Testament exegesis helpful and genuinely insightful. It is, I believe, a true gift. Likewise, your missiological and ecclesiological questions are always to the point and very challenging. While I might want to qualify some of your points on occasion, I think that we are generally on the same page and if we were to hash out some difficult points in person I think that we’d be able to get to a common view quite easily.

    While I think that biblical studies and mission are your strong points, in my observation this is not so much the case with systematics. That you have read widely in the area is obvious, but you do not always read those with whom you disagree fairly or take full account of context or nuance. As such, you can tend to paint yourself into a corner and wind up with conclusions that don’t neatly balance against other systematic issues. This is reinforced by what seems a very linear approach to doctrinal questions – a great strength for exegesis but a disadvantage for systematics.

    If you want to go ahead with the conversation, then by all means. In my view, however, the church would be much more encouraged by you sticking to your strengths.

    In Christ,


    • J says:

      Luke, thankyou for thoughtful comments, and your kind words! I am sure you are right in your assessment of me re. systematics.

      I accept what you say, that you are open to rethink doctrinal issues. However, I would ask re. PSA, is anyone else in our diocese having this discussion somewhere else on the web? Because if not, it raises the question, is it better for us to avoid the issue altogether, or for a systematics-poor person such as myself to attempt to start it? Which would you prefer?

      Or perhaps you have someone else in mind who could do a better job?

      Perhaps brother, you yourself could start the conversation at a blog of your choosing? I’d settle for that.

      Or maybe I could ask you to take a firm role in a discussion here?

      What do you think?

  2. I am unaware of anyone else having this particular conversation at the moment. Unfortunately, I am unable to drive such a discussion as I am very deep in another area of research and I very much want to get this thesis finished within the next two years.

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