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April 4, 2007 / Daniel

Wright defends substitutionary atonement

N.T. Wright often takes a lot of heat from his Reformed critics for not talking about substitutionary atonement that much.  But check this out.  I guess some guy blasted on penal substitution on the BBC and Wright defended the doctrine and expressed concern about the BBC’s programming during Holy Week.   



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  1. Zack / Apr 5 2007 6:57 pm

    I happened across your website today and noticed you discussed N. T. Wright. Recently, we at Logos Bible Software have acquired Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, with the intention of developing an electronic version. You can visit its Pre-Pub product page here: The Logos edition will be fully searchable, and all references and footnotes will operate as hotspots, immediately presenting the cited information whenever the cursor rolls over them. All this and more make this esteemed work even more useful for study. And you can help us see this product get the attention it deserves! Contact me for more info: zrock [at] logos [dot] com.

  2. Matthew C / Apr 6 2007 4:35 pm

    That is re-assuring. I really need to read some of N.T. Wright’s books sometime. I doubt I will agree with a lot, but it is a gap in my reading I need to fill.

    God Bless


  3. existdissolve / Apr 9 2007 4:00 am


    I will have to check this out a little bit more. It seems that this blog post might be making more of Wright’s statements than what is there.

    1.) Contra the article, Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory is hardly the “traditional” understanding of atonement within Christian theology. If one is speaking about Protestantism, perhaps, but certainly not in light of the far greater history of Christian theological thinking extending beyond the relatively recent phenomenon of Protestantism.

    2.) Wright’s singular comment here, IMO, cannot be taken as a definitive defense of PSA theory. After all, the only thing that Wright (in this soundbyte) objects to is the fact that God is not displeased with the destruction and violence of human sinfulness. But what is that saying? All atonement theories start from that premise, for the impetus of the atonement is to rescue humanity from its sinfulness.

    What is not outlined in the above quotation is the means by which God accomplishes this: PSA theory imagines that God quenches God’s wrath by the punishment of Godself; other atonement theologies (I think rightly so), deals with what God in Christ does to defeat the powers of human sinfulness and to recreate human persons in the image of God.

    While I am not a Wright expert, I would suspect that his allegiances would be to atonement theologies of the latter, rather than former, stripe.

  4. fiester25 / Apr 10 2007 1:48 am

    I think that Wright believes that the atonement has many aspects to it. PSA is part of the answer to why Jesus died.

    I know for that Wright is a big advocate of the Christus Victor theory of atonement

  5. Theodore A. Jones / Dec 15 2007 3:54 am

    PSA and SA theories are assumptive that conclude the crucifixion of Jesus of being the resolution of all issues that God has against mankind. But since Jesus says that guilt relative to sin still remains as the outstanding issue AFTER his crucifixion, Jn. 16:8, it is clear that his crucifixion is not a resolution. Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the “Tenants” states that God’s intention toward the persons who killed his son does not result in exoneration from death. Instead God’s stated intention is to avenge his son’s death by putting the killers of his son to death. If it were true that Jesus died in place of those that believe his death is in place of theirs and by this faith they will escape death, the people in the parable of the “Tenants” should have been granted the same benefit believers of PSA and SA claim Jesus’ crucifixion gave them. However since God does not respect persons it is ludicrous for the believers of PSA and SA to expect a different outcome, “the guilty shall not go unpunished”. In Gen. 9:5 NIV God demands that whenever any man’s life taken by bloodshed he is owed an accounting. So then no person or group of persons has been given the latitude to obtain a direct benefit from God by taking the life of a man by bloodshed.

    If the mind is renewed to understand that the crucifixion of Jesus is the sin of murder caused by bloodshed. Progress to understand what his crucifixion has accomplished for men will be understood. In Gen. 9:5b God makes the declaration that each man will have to give him an accounting for taking the life of your fellow man because sin’s penalty cannot be removed without the shedding of blood. The crucifixion of Jesus has perfected the Way for God to demand this accounting from each man since bloodshed took Jesus’ life. What you are never taught in church is that the law of God has been changed by adding one word. The command in Acts 2:38 can only be obeyed by the faith of repenting of the sin of Jesus’ murder. A man, to save himself, must account directly to God in regard to the sin of Jesus’ murder or be punished with the guilty. For a disobedience of any command of God the penalty is death. God does not respect persons.

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