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A Response to Norman Young’s Essay


Editor’s Note: This article, written by Dr. Herold Weiss, is a response to Dr. Norman Young’s recent article, “O, Sweet Exchange,” published to the Spectrum website on October 2, 2019.

Norman Young honors me by taking seriously my writings and taking it upon himself to challenge them. His essay is designed to counter what “some Adventists” are questioning: “the penal substitutionary view of the atonement.” In a footnote he identifies me as one of those Adventists, and refers to two articles I had written lately. In one I wrote, “His [Paul's] is an apocalyptic, not a sacrificially substitutionary, understanding of the Christ Event.” In the other I pointed out that, “Although the doctrine of a substitutionary atonement may be derived from other biblical authors, the letters written by Paul the apostle do not support this understanding of righteousness by faith.” In both of them I argued that Paul understood the significance of the death of Christ within an apocalyptic framework. Substitution is not legal in any legal system, and apocalypticism is primarily concerned with the vindication of God's justice. My essays were not dealing with a substitutionary, or any other kind of doctrine of the atonement at all. The above two quotations are all I said about atonement in both of my articles.

It seems to me disingenuous to argue for a substitutionary view of the atonement on the basis of a preposition for which, as Young admits, the Lexicon lists nine different possible meanings, while overlooking everything else Paul or any other biblical author says about the significance of Christ's death, or, to formulate “a New Testament view” of the atonement by putting together texts written by different authors in quite different contexts. Norman Young ends saying, “I agree in part with Scriven and Weiss.” I am very happy to say that I agree with what he says in this essay, particularly when he applies to Adventists what he learned fifty years ago from C. S. Lewis, in toto.


Herold Weiss is professor emeritus of Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Photo by Thanti Nguyen on Unsplash


Further Reading:

O, Sweet Exchange” by Norman Young, October 2, 2019.


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