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Substitutionary atonement and the Church fathers: A reply to the authors of Pierced for our Transgressions.

Flood, Derek
June 4, 2015

Source: (2010) Evangelical Quarterly. 82(2): 142-159.

One of the most significant claims of the recent book Pierced for Our Transgressions
by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach,1 is that the doctrine of
penal substitution did not originate with Calvin, but was taught by the church
fathers. As the authors state, ‘It has been claimed that penal substitution is a
relative newcomer to the theological scene and in particular it was not taught
by the early church. These claims have no historical foundation whatsoever and
we hope to lay them to rest.’2 This claim is quite significant because it would
contradict a significant amount of patristic scholarship. To back up their assertion,
they cite a number of passages from patristic authors such as Justin Martyr,
Athanasius, and Augustine.
This paper will examine these quotations cited in Pierced for Our Transgressions
in the context of each patristic author’s larger soteriology. From this it is
concluded that the statements of the church fathers cited have been taken out of
their contextual framework, and placed in one foreign to their thought. It will be
concluded that while the church fathers do clearly teach substitutionary atonement,
they do not teach penal substitution as understood by Jeffery, Ovey, and
Sach. Rather, the dominant pattern found in these patristic writers is substitutionary
atonement understood within the conceptual framework of restorative
justice. (Author’s introduction).


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