On the atonement
In my latest entry in the ‘shorter but more regular’ category, I harken back to the days when The Molinist was specifically a theology blog (and I a theology student) with a link to and question about a discussion on a favourite theology blog of mine. The most recent post on Theology Forum is an interesting discussion of the tenability of penal substution within an Arminian theological framework. In ‘Punished Twice Over?’, Steve Duby examines the suggestion that..
…penal substitutionary atonement without either particular redemption or universal salvation does involve a double punishment on the part of God and therefore does raise significant questions about the righteousness (and wisdom) of God.
The discussion raised a few questions in my mind, beyond even the big but perhaps off-point issue of ‘how many Arminians believe in penal substitution?’ Most interestingly it was the issue of whether Arminian theology allows for the problematic being described. Though far from an expert on Arminian soteriology, I am an Arminian, and a theologically-educated one, and I fail to see how Arminianism can coexist with a theology either of particular salvation or of necessarily universal salvation.
While I could discuss almost without end the degree to which Arminius’ distinct soteriology was motivated by Molinistic philosophical-theological considerations vs theological-proper assertations about the divine attributes (which sort of comparative historical question is sliding right into my area of expertise and is a question on which I intend one day to publish), I think it a fairly uncontroversial statement to make that Arminius asserted (specifically in his Private Disputations) that divine love demands that salvation be offerred equally to all and divine love that individual salvation be dependant upon every human being individually. While there are any number of interesting implications to these assertitions on which Arminius himself does not touch, not least because many, such as the dialectic of individual and corporate salvation and post-colonially inflected questions regarding salvation of non-Christians, would simply not become issues for centuries after his death, both were directed squarely at predestinarianism and limited atonement and both explicitly rejected the total abnegation of human agency in salvation (in favour of human-divine synergism).
I am unsure whether any necessary Arminian objection is to be raised to the notion of penal substition. While it offends a sensibility or two of this particular Arminian they don’t seem particularly or specifically ‘Arminian’ ones. Still, I would propose to problematise the above critique by Duby on the grounds that Arminian soteriology allows for neither particular redemption nor (necessary) universal salvation. Whether this problematisation speaks to the substance of Duby’s critique rather than to its theoretical subjects turns upon the question which I raised above but did not touch upon further: how many Arminians believe in penal substitution?