The Heresy of Penal Substitution
Making God bound by necessity
The heretical doctrine of penal substitution was completely absent from the Church for over 1,000 years, and was only introduced by Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century. This false teaching of penal substitution was ultimately developed as seen in the West today, by 16th-century Reformers, but is a doctrine that has never been accepted by the Eastern Church, and not completely accepted by Roman Catholics.
The major problem with this teaching can be seen in the fact that had Christ died for our sins against God the Father, thus causing a division of God, with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity laid waste, with God pitted against God. This heretical doctrine divides God by implying that Christ isn’t fully God. It also suggests that there is a higher force than God, thus making, God Himself ruled by a “higher force”. In other words, God has no choice but to punish. By this notion, justice forces God to respond to our sin with His wrath, with love becoming secondary.
A close examination of the prophets and the Psalms of David, reveal that the word “justice” is linked to the concept of “mercy.” Justice is not penal in nature, but refers to a show of kindness and deliverance to those who are suffering oppression. It means that God’s justice destroys our oppressors, which in this case is sin, death, and even the power of Satan’s oppression.
To look upon propitiation in the classical pagan sense, we are forced to view our God as some sort of angry deity needing to be appeased by a blood sacrifice. This is completely different than the Old Testament view of a loving God whose Mercy Seat covered the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the ten commandments. While the law given to us by God demanded perfection and revealed our shortcomings, the Mercy Seat covered our failure to live up to the Ten Commandments.
From the viewpoint of the Ancient Church, Christ’s blood was the ultimate Mercy Seat. Christ covered and forgave our sins, and Himself showed the unconditional love that He commanded us to show one another. The Western churches would have us believe that God was angry over our sins, but the death of His Son caused Him to change His mind, and decide to love us. Yet the Scriptures tell us God is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16) from the very beginning, and is unchanging (Mal 3:6) and doesn’t change His mind (Num 23:19).
With love in Christ,