Penal Substitution Theory of the Atonement and the Justice of God


The centerpiece of Christian theology is the atonement. Various theories of the atonement have been put forth by theologians throughout Church History but the dominant one in evangelical circles is the Penal Substitution Theory. To emphasize this point, John MacArthur states

The doctrine Anselm articulated, known as the penal substitution theory of the atonement, has long been considered an essential aspect of all doctrine that is truly evangelical. Historically, all who have abandoned this view have led movements away from evangelicalism.

http://www.ondoctrine.com/2mac0103.htm

In simple terms, the penal substiutionary view states that Christ suffered the penalty for sin in man's place by dying on the cross. His death satisfies the holy wrath of God against sin and allows God to justly forgive sinners. This view seems at its root to be unjust. How can it be considered justice for an innocent party to suffer the penalty due a guilty party? This seems to run contrary to the basic idea of justice; yet we are told that it is precisely because of God's unswervable justice that the death of Christ was necessary.

Some will argue that Jesus died voluntarily, therefore it is just. That misses the point. I am talking about the justice of punishing the innocent for the guilty. A person could volunteer today to be executed in place of a death row inmate but that would not be allowed because it would not satisfy the basic essence of justice which is that the person who commits the crime is the one who must be punished.

40 comments:

Jason said...

You're struggling with the 'justice' of one man saving millions. Christians don't have this struggle. What's the argument, exactly?

Consider also that Jesus was given eternal life after he was resurrected. Seems to be a pretty decent trade off, no?

Qalmlea said...

So what was his sacrifice? Where was the justice? Now, the answer I was given is that Jesus took on the sins of the world, so that when he died, they died with him. But if a sin dies with the one who carries it, then I don't see where the atonement is even necessary. "Original Sin" would have died with its carriers as well.

Jennifer said...

Hello FF,

I'm coming out of retirement for this one. :)

You're missing the point. You know that orthodox Christianity believes God is triune.

Not only did The Word voluntarily go...offered to come...He was not innocent. He was sinless and that is not the same as innocent. Innocence implies a naive state and Jesus was far from naive.

You are also confusing justice with punishment. Justice is the process by which guilt is determined, not the outcome. The process of justice is measuring in the balances and determining what the needed outcome must be. Mercy and grace are also part of justice. That's up to the judge.

A. Thinker said...

Jennifer:

Because of an impreciseness of definition, we can say that sinless is the same as innocent. Innocent, in this case, could easily just be the very first definition provided from dictionary.com:
"free from moral wrong; without sin; pure: innocent children."

Indeed, it mentions children there, but my point is that "innocent" in no way implies naivity. It does not come to naivity until the 6th possible definition (of the first entry).

I don't think FF is confusing justice with punishment at all. FF's point seems to simply be that the judge COULD say, "Yes, you should die for other peoples' sins, even though you're sinless", but is that really what you view as justice? It's the decision that one innocent person should die in place of the rest of the human race that makes penal substitution abhorrent.

I still find it disgusting to think that a father would say, "Yes, I'll kill YOU, my innocent son, in order to save my more sinful sons," as if he could not have just decided to save the more sinful sons AND the innocent son.

Jason said...

God could have sent a flock of pigeons to save mankind from sin but he didn't. It's irrelevant what we think God "could" have done because it's already a done deal. Jesus gave himself as a free-will offering and three days later he was resurrected, given eternal life and a position of authority on the right hand of God.

How is this "disgusting"?

Jennifer said...

a.thinker,
Again, you are missing the point.
I'll accept the definition of innocent as you stated.

Why can't the relationship between the Son and the Father be one of an adult son and father relationship? I'm assuming by that relational picture, you imagine that the Son is somehow controlled by or under the authority of, the Father.
I know I'm getting into Christian doctrine and you don't agree with the premise, but this is the topic so I'm sticking to the Christian perspective.

According to the Bible, all humanity deserves death. You don't agree and that's where you begin. Because we are talking about the God of the Bible I am beginning with Him.

According to Him, we all deserve death but He chooses not to give us what we deserve. As an equal to the Father, the Son chose to bear the death that we deserve because He was able to do it.

You might at this point bring up Philppians 2:6 but I ask you to keep in mind that this whole passage is about the position of servant Jesus took on as a human...not His position before the incarnation.

Jesus chose to do what He did fully aware and able to accomplish the task. He was able to bear what we consider to be unthinkable.

Another point is that the Father did not kill the Son. Visit any playground in the world and watch children play...you've no doubt read Lord of The Flies?...you can see sin unrestrained in a group of unsupervised children. Then compare that to the depiction of the mob in the gospels. Not much difference.

The evil in man, the desire to maintain one's comfort with the sin inside is what causes man to desire the destruction of whatever is righteous.

Think about the last time you thought someone was a goody two shoes...were they really, or was it just your projection of what you saw without getting to know the inner workings of that person?

Jennifer said...

BTW, Hi Jason!
You study much more in depth than I have (thanks for your input on hell), what do you think about Philippians 2:6?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi all,
as I see it, the atonement is in jeopardy starting from adam and eve.

If we stipulate adam and eve were real, and the earth is no more than 10,000 years old, then scientific evidence shoots that down pretty easily, and only a minority of christians believe that, all on faith and doctored evidence.

If we stipulate that adam and eve were real and the world is 4.5 billion years old then the bible doesn't accurately reflect the state of the world and we need to figure out at what point in the evolutionary tree they appeared in if they weren't made from clay, but if they were made from clay we still need to figure out what time frame it was. If we say it was 10K years ago, then the state of the earth, according to scientific evidence doesn't reflect it. In fact no matter how far back we push the 'apparently human' adam and eve, the bible doesn't reflect the state of the world accurately. Thats a problem because if god helped write the bible, we wouldn't expect him to make so many mistakes, if he permitted them, then he didn't help very much since if it is not accurate in the things we can validate, it has set a precedent for inaccuracy that puts a reasonable doubt on all of it.

If we stipulate that adam and eve were metaphor, and god created us with free will and we continually choose to do wrong, then I say that biological bases for behavior substantially weaken that argument because each of our bodies are made slightly differently, each brain is more or less efficient in areas than others. Like it or not, the brain is where you store information that you use to weigh the outcomes to make decisions, and where the emotions such as love and allegiance come from. There is no equitable distribution of abilities in these areas as evidenced most by the striking difference between the psychopath, the person with mild difficulty in cognition (reasoning), the person with the major difficulty in cognition or the person with obsessive compulsion disorder. To say that it is fair and equitable for a 'normal' person not to choose god and go to hell and a psychopath not to choose god and go to hell is silly. A psychopath by definition cannot love. therefore they cannot love god. Why would god make a being that can't love him? Thats silly. So now all we can fall back on is the "test" theory. If we say that god creates these inequitable circumstances for the benefit of the normal people and the 'abnormal' people are going to get the chance to decide to accept jesus after they die (as it was described to me by a preacher, and who wouldn't choose jesus in that case [which isn't fair]) or they get a free ticket (which isn't fair either), then we have to determine how much we could expect this type of distribution by chance. If it appears that it matches what we would expect from chance, then god becomes equal to chance and we have minimized him out of existence. If anyone wants to challenge the fairness angle, then they have to admit that god sets some up for failure. If he knew from the beginning then what is the point? are we back to the 'test' theory again? if so and its all rigged then that weakens the test theory even more.

now in all cases where does the atonement fit in? If we stipulate that a man named jesus died and he was god,
- if scenario one is true, the atonement is fraud.

- If scenario two is true and we can't know anything with any certainty about the bible then the atonement is a fraud.

- If scenario three is true then the atonement is a fraud.

- If we stipulate that it all happened the way it was described in the word of god, we are ignoring some serious problems that weaken that claim.

So how do we account for the story of Jesus?
Simple, we can stipulate that it happened as it was told and either the body was stolen as the warning goes from the guards to pilate, or the body was discarded instead of put into a borrowed tomb and the apostles were too afraid to get it, or jesus survived and got the hell out of dodge like the muslims believe he did.

And thirty five years later, Mark (or any number of anonymous people) writes a gospel creating a tidy story for the believers that goes unchallenged because it is so far removed from the events. The believers want to believe it so it endures. Why would Mark do that? Why would anyone do that? Self-justification of course. Who wants to admit their religion is fraud?

Penal substitution theory is just another way to try to make sense out of something that doesn't make sense. Therefore, it doesn't make sense either.

I wrote the article in the link addressing reasonable doubt about the resurrection.

Here is a link to John's key posts where he has a category for the atonement.

Former_Fundy said...

No one seems to really grasp the point here.

The point is how does it accomplish justice, righteousness, equity, fairness, whatever term you want to use, for an innocent person to die in the place of the guilty? Is it just that someone has got to be punished and it does not matter who that person is? That sounds pretty petty.

When I said innocent, I meant that he is not guilty of the sins that Adam or David or Paul or whomever committed. According to the Bible he was sinless.

We all recognize that in human courts of justice this could never happen. Why not? Why shouldn't we just allow someone to take the punishment in place of another, as long as that person is willing? The reason is because we know that it is not just. Punishment is not just arbitrary. It is for the person who committed the crime.

Another problem here is why is it only the Father who needs to be propitiated? Isn't the Son God? Isn't the Holy Spirit God? Why don't they need to be propitiated? Why only the Father?

Jason said...

Fundy & Lee,

I fail to see how either of your arguments are debunking Christianity. Struggling with the 'sense' of why Christ died isn't an argument against the validity of Christianity or, for that matter, Christ's sacrifce.

Jason said...

Hi Jennifer,

Phil 2:7 says that Jesus took the "form" of God which is consistent with the NT message that Jesus was given authority and power by God and that all things were given into his hands. See Mat 12:18 & John 3:13.

However, Jesus chose to take on the "form" of a servant (Phil 2:8) and the nature of the "seed of Abraham" (Heb 2:16).

Cole said...

What you are missing is the doctrine of imputation. The doctrine of imputation is that our sins were laid on Christ and they were punished in Him and His righteousness is imputed to us whereby we are fully accepted and fully forgiven.

And no Jennifer God's justice in the Bible is His punishment.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
punishing someone else for an act rather than the person doing the act is dumb.

Its not likely that a god would do dumb things.

Its not likely that the atonement is true.

a central tenant of christianity is the atonement.

snap, drive by debunking attempt.

The atonement is to reconcile sins starting with the fall of man .

if the fall of man never happened, then its not likely the atonement is true.

a central tenant of christianity is the atonement.

snap, another drive by debunking attempt.

Former_Fundy said...

Cole,

thanks for offering a potential solution. I am glad that you actually see the problem which seems to fly over the heads of some.

The problem as I see it is that while we allow the transfer or imputation of monetary debts; we do not allow the same for moral debts. If I have a parking ticket, the court does not care who pays it as long as it gets paid. My friend can pay it. But if I get convicted of murder, my friend cannot pay it.

Even if your answer holds (which it doesn't in my opinion), then why is only the Father in need of propitiation?

Cole said...

Well, because the Father is Holy and he must punish sin to uphold His righteousness. In order to be acceptable before a Holy God we must be perfect. Christ being the second adam fulfilled the law that bound us. His righteousness is imputed to us and our sins are imputed to Him.

I don't see any problem.

Cole said...

Only Christ could have done that.
Christ was perfect.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi FF,
The problem as I see it is that while we allow the transfer or imputation of monetary debts; we do not allow the same for moral debts.
In this case the relative importance of the act plays a part. But you can pay my parking tickets all you want, but I believe that accruing a certain number of them comes back to me only.

however, if i don't know I'm breaking the law, by law I am still guilty. I guess this has been deemed a necessity in civilization. But in the context of not accepting god, there were some in the world that were not even aware of the god of the jews or the jews themselves. So the question raises "by what principle are those people so guilty of sin they were worthy of death?" and how is it 'just' to heap their sins on an innocent man, even if he did agree.

I can't see any rational principle behind 'penal substitution'.

Jason said...

Lee,

Nothing in Scripture suggests Jesus was 'punished' so it's your opinion against God's Word. Tough call. ;) Snap.

Jesus was given eternal life to sit on the right hand of God. Where's the punishment? Snap.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
you don't consider crucifixion punishment? How 'bout torture? snap, snap?

I hope thats where he's at cause if not then it would suck to be him even worse. snap, snap, circle.
;-)

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Some very interesting comments, particularly from you, Jason. As usual, you give your "I fail to see how either of your arguments are debunking Christianity" refrain. What is ironic is that you also give two comments that, themselves, would debunk evangelical, fundamentalist Christianity.

You say
a:)"Jesus was given eternal life after he was resurrected" [3:42 Aug 26]

and
b:)"[Jesus] was resurrected, given eternal life and a position of authority on the right hand of God" [9:55 Aug 26]

and
c:)"Jesus was given authority and power by God"
[9:18 AM Aug 27]

But, first, if he was given eternal life and a position of authority by God after the Resurrection, this implies he did not have them before this time.

Which means he was not God. You reject both the Trinity and the 'dual nature of Christ' that are part of evangelical, and most other forms of, Christianity.

(In fact, there have been various forms of Christianity that held this idea, that Jesus was a man who -- at some point -- had 'Godness' infused into him. But they are not the evangelical Christianity we usually deal with.)

Second, if Jesus -- as a man -- was given 'eternal life' again, this implies that men do not have this by nature, that the soul is not inherently immortal, that the choice after death is not
'heaven or hell' but
'eternal life or death.'

Again, a position that has been held by many Christians -- and by those Jews of the time who believed in an afterlife. But not a common one these days, and abominable to fundamentalists and evangelicals.

This is why I wish people, when they join the debate here, would explain which of the many branches of Christianity they adhere to, and wish they realize that 'Christianity' is not always equal to 'the Christianity I grew up with.' (And yes, this is a fault that is common not just on both sides of the divide here, but on many other blogs discussing atheism or Christianity.)

Cole said...

hahahaha you're crazy Lee

Cole said...

It wasn't unjust Lee, because Christ voluntarily took upon our sins.
God showed His love for us in that while we yet sinners Christ died for us. It's called grace.

I don't see any contradiction there.

Jennifer said...

Lee,
The first comment you made is what makes me wonder why you all ever go beyond the point of proving the Bible wrong. This topic is about a Christian doctrine so I'm only addressing it from that perspective.

I can't see any rational principle behind 'penal substitution'.

God is not only rational, He's also relational, which is not always rational.

Cole,
I agree with you in part...the Bible does use the word justice as being synonomous with punishment, but the end result of punishment is the outcome of justice. If a murder is committed, justice would be served for that person to die as well. If the judge decides that person should live and be given a prison sentence, that's mercy..to a degree and is still a part of justice. If that person is pardoned for a complete change in behavior and shows their repentance consistently, that is also justice because according to the judge, the person has earned their freedom and release from punishment. Feel free to disagree and show me what you mean by only punishment being justice.

FF,
Punishment is not just arbitrary. It is for the person who committed the crime.

Yes, but according to God the punishment is death. Is that a better solution? I sure makes more sense to the human mind I suppose.

As Cole said, God Himself took our sin and the requirement of death was satisfied. Jesus is God incarnate...God bore our sin and the life lived absolutely for the glory of God in human form became the substitute. Propitiation was made for God..three in one. Jesus was not called the Son before His time on earth...that I can think of...He was The Word.

The Bible says that not only did Christ become our righteousness, but He intercedes still. He holds back the wrath of God unitl judgement day.

I'm curious..if one of you were able to create your children in your own image, how would you go about that? And what would you do if you had an adversary who sought to destroy your children?

Jason,
Thank you:) I forgot you don't believe in the triune God..but I appreciate your answer.

Dillie-O said...

You're right FF and Lee,

Having Jesus take up the punishment for humanity's sins doesn't seem just at all, seems like a pretty big crock. I'd hate to be given THAT bill at the end of the day.

But the God of the Bible is also a loving God (yes I know you have qualms about this too) and in this case He chose to extend grace to humanity by having His Son pay this price for us.

At this point, I'm not sure what more to discuss on the issue. We can tangent to discuss the validity of the Bible and the testimony (as Lee did) or we can tangent and discuss the merits of God allowing sin in first place, which brought us to this atonement mess.

But ultimately (if you grant the assumptions about the God of the Bible that FF made in the initial post) you have to decide if God's sacrifice was a bad execution of justice or an amazing execution of grace. I personally am quite grateful for the latter.

John W. Loftus said...

Not only do we have the problem of a substitutionary punishment for crimes in a kingdom, but we also have to problem of the punishment deserved in the first place. Such a punishment is far and away unjust, especially since human beings have no clue that the punishment is so terrible. If we knew we'd be punished so severely we wouldn't sin, plain and simple...or as Lee would say..snap!

SteveJ said...

I gave up the penal substitution theory many years ago after reading some Socinian criticisms of the doctrine. They rightly pointed out that if God is punishing Jesus on the cross in our stead (because someone, somewhere must pay), then there's no such thing as divine forgiveness. If I owe back taxes and some stranger pays the taxes in my stead, is the IRS forgiving my debt? Absolutely not! The IRS is simply getting payment elsewhere. It's pardoning no one.

Jennifer said...

Assuming we are sticking to the Bible for this whole conversation.. what would you have to say about Gen. 4:10?
This implies to me that there is more than a simple moral dilema.
In the Bible, God also talks about the land being defiled because of sin and bloodshed.

We all know that life is in the blood...transplant patients report a range of personality differences, changes in preferences and even emotional attachements to people related to the person who's organ they received. Especially when it's the heart that is transplanted.

I think there is more to the story than a simple understanding of moral right and wrong. From what I have experienced and can read, God is not concerned with morality, He's concerned with righteousness. Doing what is right..in His estimation.

lowendaction said...

oI find it fascinating that Jesus is being described (mostly by the atheist side) in human terms: "I wouldn't want to be in that postition." or "That wouldn't hold up in court."

Presupposing that we are recognizing Christ as being one and the same as God, (if only for this conversation...) then His suffering, motivations, and purpose are far above ANY human could ever achieve.

I've mentioned this before...when attempting to Debunk Christianity it simply doesn't cut it to put God/Christ on human terms and then start applying our rules and logic in the process. Unless you can in fact prove that God does absolutely not exists, and you are still willing/interested in discussing His existance (if only to disprove Him) than the possiblity of His supernatural character must be taken into account.

And that leads to my answer to FF's post. God symbolically sacrificed a part of Himself for the sin of all mankind. I say symbolically, because God can not be destroyed, nor any part Him. Though Christ was a real person who did experience the suffering and death, He was resurected to be with God.

When you examine God's definition of Love, you'll find that Jesus actions where the embodiment of that love...and since God is Love...hmmm.

See, if you think God is bunk, and everything associated with Him is meaningless, then why bother having discussions about something that doesn't exist? But if you are interested in dialoge about God, then you must do so under the terms of His existance and character. You musn't accept it as truth, but what point is it talking about God as a non-God?

Jason said...

Lee,

Whether or not I consider crucifixion to be punishment is based entirely on the 'guilt' of the individual. Jesus was free of sin. Therefore it can't be claimed he was being punished for anything he did. Unless, of course, you think that innocent men and women who are killed by others are actually being 'punished'...?

Jesus was resurrected, given eternal life, and given a place of authority sitting on the right hand of God. A discussion on the 'fairness' of the death of Christ should logically include the blessings he received afterwards.

Jason said...

Prup,

Is there an argument somewhere in your post...?

I sincerely question why you're required to know which branch of Christianity someone adheres to. Based on the last twenty topics posted on this site, a full two of them are actually specifically directed at evangelical christianity. The rest consist of topics that seem to serve only as an excuse to use big words.

If the purpose of this site is debunk evangelical christianity, then do it. If, however, you're going to continue debating creation, the existence of God and the atonement, you're naturally opening the door for any and every Christian to come in and offer a defense of their faith.

Most of you atheists claim to be former Christians. I find it extremely surprising none of you use the very book you apparently know so well to debunk the false doctrines of evangelical christianity. Why is this?

Jennifer said...

xhbyqLowendaction and Jason,

What you both pointed out about the arguments here is one reason why I got out of it.

Jesus didn't enter into arguments and didn't even answer all of the questions He was asked...if someone is searching and wondering why I believe what I do, I'll share and talk with them but this is a waste of time for me now.

I wish you both the best in explaining who God is and exposing the false premises that prevail here.

lowendaction said...

jennifer,

I choose to spend my time here as much for my own benifit, as what little I might be able to contribute.

I too realize, that my presence here will do very little to change anyone, and thus it is not why I am here. I am searching for continued answers and validation as everyone here. If I can learn just a little more about the world around me, as well as challenge my belief system, through the insights and experiences of others (especially those with whom I don't necessarily share the same world view), than it's all worth while.

I totally respect your stance however, and could probably learn a thing or two about shutting up a little more, and not just spewing forth whatever comes to mind every 5 minutes...

good times.

Cole said...

Well, for God to sit back and watch His innocent son to be blugeoned to death doesn't really solve the problem either.

Cole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

If God has the ability of resurrection it seems His perspective of suffering and death is much different than many of the viewpoints voiced here. From the stance of resurrection, Jesus's life and sacrifice were more than worthwhile if it meant that people could see and embrace a God that desired our salvation in regards to the way we love and live.

Jospeh said...

Lot of "if's" in that last post. Now that I have more or less lost my faith, it is amusing to step back and listen to people arguing as I once did. How many assumptions Christians make about who God is, what he must be thinking, what motivates him, etc. All based on what?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
We do use the bible to debunk itself. I would be happy to create a page of articles using the bible to debunk itself if you'd like and even if you don't I think its a good idea anyway.

What you would like to see debunked? I'll do my best to give you a sound debunking.

Jason said...

If you do use the Bible to debunk itself, I must be missing it. Are the Bible references buried somewhere in all the technical and scientific posts?

How about debunking Satan as a supernatural evil entity. He's always a party favourite.

cornerstone said...

Justice is a legal term, the same as law. The ten commandments are the moral Law of God that you have written on your hearts. You know by your God given conscience that it is wrong to lie [9th commandment] Steal [8th] use His name in vain [3rd] If you have done any of these things even once, then you are a criminal before a holy and perfect God. The punishment is infinite because the crime is infinite. It is justice if the Judge Himself pays the fine. Please don't trifle with your eternity!!!

Tom said...

The Apostle Peter testifies that God judges justly and then in the very next verse affirms that Christ bore our sins. (1 Peter 2:23-24)

Again, the apostle Paul declares that putting forth Christ as a propitiation for our sins was a demonstration of God's justice, not a violation of it (Romans 3:25). Right at the outset, then we must say that it is unbiblical to charge penal substitution with injustice. Nonetheless it wll be fruitful to spend a little time considering why penal substitution is not unjust.

It is correct to assert that the willingness of Christ suffering is not a satisfactory explanation by itself. The reason is obvious. If an innocent person suffers the punishment for a crime for which he bears no guilt, then it makes no difference whether or not he does so willingly. It is a miscarriage of justice, pure and simple. The Bible condemns such a thing when it comes to human courts, and it would seem strange if Christ did not adhere to the same standard Himself.


To see why penal substitution is not a travesty of justice of exactly this kind, we need to recal the doctrine of union with Christ. The believer is not seperate from Christ. He is in us, and we are in Him, indwelt by His Spirit. It is easy to understate the significance of our union with Christ, for it is not visible but spiritual-it exists by faith. But this is not at all to imply that it is not real. The spiritual in spiritual union means it is God's Holy Spirit who creates the union between Christ and believers; it does not imply that this union has no real consequences. Our justification, our adoption as God's children, and our present reigning with Christ in heavenly places are all real although spiritual and invisible, being perceived in the present only by faith.

The doctrine of penal substitution thus does not propose a transfer of guilt between unrelated persons. It asserts that guilt is transferred to Christ from those uninted with Him. In fact transfer may not even be the best term, since it could imply a seperation between dstinct persons. It may be better to say our sins were imputed to Christ while His righteousness was impted to us. That Christ bore our sins willingly furthers the point: He was not forced or coerced into this union with us, but entered into it voluntarily.

Union with Christ eplains how the innocent could be justly punished-He is judged for others sins, which by virtue of their union with him, become His. Conversely, it explains also how the guilty can be justly aquitted-believers are one with innocent Lord Jesus Christ, and so His life of perfect righteousness is rightly imputed to us.

God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sometimes people use the terminology of Christ dying as our representative in an attempt to give a coherent account of the atonement that incorperates the truth of faith union. Whatever Christ did as our representative, we also did by virtue of being in Him. Thus, in this sense, we died on the cross (2 corinthians 5:14)


John Owen:

God might punish the elect either in their own persons, or in their surety standing in their room and stead(as their substitute); and when He is punished, they also are punished (in their representative): for in this point of view the federal head and those representated by Him are not considered as distinct, but as one; for although they are not one in respect of personal unity, they are, however, one-that is, one body in mystical union, yea, one mystical Christ-namely, the surety is the head, those represented by Him the members; and when the head is punished, the members also are punished.


We are now in a position to answer the objection that penal substitution entails unjustly punishing an innocent person. This rests on the claim that our sins cannot be imputed to Christ, which in turn is grounded on the assumption that we are entirely seperate and distinct from Him. But the reality is that believers are united to Christ by His spirit. The imputation of ou guilt to Christ does not violate justice, because He willingly consents to real, spiritual identification with His people.
In short, this objection to penal substitution arises from a failure to understand the significance of union with Christ.

Not only that but the punishment does fit the crime. Since God is infinite in value and worth and I have sinned against Him then I deserve infinite punishment and suffering. Christ being infinite in value and worth endured infinite punishment and suffering.

The dignity of an infinite God swallows up all the infinities of punishment due to me.

Not only that but the death of Christ being infinite in value and worth is more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world because it's infinite.