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Penal substitution and the possibility of unconditional hospitality.

Boersma, Hans
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Scottish Journal of Theology. 57(1):80-94.

Traditional atonement theories (and especially penal readings of the atonement)
are being challenged because they seem to be based on divine violence and
thus seem to condone or contribute to human violence rather than enable human
practices of hospitality. In the face of such criticism, this paper argues that
attempts to eliminate all violence from atonement theology do not contribute to the
flourishing of hospitality but imply an erasing of boundaries necessary to counter
unjustified violence and to safeguard the possibility of God’s eschatological
hospitality. Specifically, the paper critiques three stepping stones used in the
defence of non-violent theories of the atonement. They are (1) the definition of
violence as inherently negative, to which the paper opposes the possibility of
the Augustinian notion of justified violence as an act of love; (2) the ‘fall model’
of Constantinianism which erroneously regards penal atonement theories as the
outcome of the fourth-century Christianizing of the Roman Empire; and (3) the abandoning
not just of penal atonement theories, but necessarily of each of the three
main models, since each defends God’s involvement in violence. The paper then
argues that a penal aspect is indispensable to safeguard both God’s absolute
eschatological hospitality and its incarnation in human relationships. Author’s abstract.


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