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Faith and Philosophy

Volume 36, Issue 4, October 2019

William Lane Craig
Pages 522-544

Eleonore Stump’s Critique of Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theories

The first three chapters of Eleonore Stump’s Atonement are devoted to a critique of atonement theories she styles “Anselmian,” including penal substitutionary theories. I focus on her critique of the latter. She presents three groups of objections labeled “internal problems,” “external problems,” and “further problems,” before presenting what she takes to be “the central and irremediable problem” facing such accounts. The external and further problems are seen to be irrelevant to penal substitutionary theories once they are properly understood. Her four internal problems are shown to be far from conclusive. Finally, her identified central problem is seen to be spurious because (i) given Stump’s definitions of love and forgiveness, it is not true that God, as characterized by penal substitutionary theories, fails to be perfectly loving and forgiving, and (ii) Stump’s entire approach to the doctrine of the atonement is mistakenly predicated on construing God as a private party involved in a personal dispute rather than as a Judge and Ruler.

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