Wright on Substitution

In a previous post I wondered whether Wright includes the notion of God’s wrath being satisfied by Christ on the cross in his thinking about Penal Substitution. Several quotes have come to my attention that indicate that he has affirmed this idea in writing, so to my thinking he has answered that question. Here are the quotes:

Wright, Matthew for Everyone:

“The Old Testament prophets speak darkly about the ‘cup of YHWH’s wrath.’ These passages talk of what happens when the one God, grieving over the awful wickedness of the world, steps in at last to give the violent and bloodthirsty, the arrogant and oppressors, the reward for their ways and deeds. It’s as though God’s holy anger against such people is turned into wine: dark, sour wine which will make them drunk and helpless. They will be forced to ‘drink the cup,’ to drain to the dregs the wrath of the God who loves and vindicates the weak and helpless. The shock of this passage is that Jesus speaks of drinking this cup himself” [pp. 60, 61]

From Wright’s Romans commentary:

“No clearer statement is found in Paul, or indeed anywhere else in all early Christian literature, of the early Christian belief that what happened on the cross was the judicial punishment of sin. Taken in conjunction with 8:1 and the whole argument of the passage, not to mention the partial parallels in 2 Cor 5:21 and Gal 3:13, it is clear that Paul intends to say that in Jesus’ death the damnation that sin deserved was meted out fully and finally, so that sinners over whose heads that condemnation had hung might be liberated from this threat once and for all.”

From ch. 12 of Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God:

“God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.”

I note also that in their response to Wright, the editors of Pierced for Our Transgressions say that the disagreement is methodological, and they don’t question his commitment to Penal Substitution.

UPDATE: Mike Bird has a helpful post here.

May the Lord give his people unity on this central aspect of the Gospel!

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  1. What he says positively isn’t the problem. Find out which formulations of penal substitution he considers a caricature and unbiblical, and I’m sure you can find a great many key Christian leaders who endorse the view he condemns. I’m convinced that he does hold to penal substitution under these formulations. It’s just that there are other formulations of the doctrine that are not heretical nor morally horrendous that he condemns with very harsh words, and he defends Steve Chalke’s willingness to do the same thing (although in Chalke’s case he simply calls the view he’s condemning “penal substitution”).

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