Is There Patristic Literary Support for Penal Substitution at the Core of the Atonement?


Hi Dr. Craig. A lot of the different
things that people say to go against penal substitutionary atonement they’ll
say that it wasn’t present directly after the apostolic era and that it was
created by later legal philosophers like Anselm and others. Do you find any
support that in the patristic literature that there were actually people directly
after the apostolic era that believed that penal substitutionary atonement was
actually at the core of the atonement? Yes there are abundant references in the
Church Fathers to penal substitution. Let me find an example from Eusebius’
demonstration of the gospel to quote to you. But let me as I look for it let me
say that’s also why I grounded this doctrine in the New Testament’s use and
employment of Isaiah 53. Even if the Church Fathers somehow overlooked penal
substitution in their espousal of ransom theories and Christus Victor theories
that’s irrelevant if this doctrine is firmly rooted in the
New Testament and in Isaiah 53. But in fact the Church Fathers didn’t overlook
it. One of the surprising things that I discovered in my work on the atonement
is how seriously misrepresented classical atonement theorists are in the
secondary literature, and this is just one aspect of it. The idea that the
church fathers were myopically focused upon Christus Victor or ransom theories
is just a demonstrably false, so let me read to you what Eusebius says in the
demonstration of the gospel chapter 10 section 1. The Lamb of God was chastened
on our behalf and suffered a penalty. …and suffered a
penalty he did not owe but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins, and
so he became the cause of the forgiveness of all our sins because he
received death for us and transferred to himself the scourging, the insults, and
the dishonor which were due to us, and drew down on himself the apportioned
curse being made a curse for us. And what is that but the price of our souls? And
so the oracle says in our person by His stripes we were healed, and the Lord
delivered him for our sins. Here Eusebius quotes Isaiah 53 and
Galatians 3:13 about Christ being made a curse for us and clearly affirms, I think,
or anticipates, penal substitution.

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