Vicarious Punishmment

Hello Mr. Sungenis, I have a question regarding your discussions of the Atonement in Not by {Faith/Bread}Alone -- the first of which I've read and enjoyed, the second of which I haven't gotten my hands on yet. 
You write (I'm quoting this secondhand, so forgive me if it's not perfect): "Christ's atonement provides the means by which God can fulfill His desire to save mankind, while still remaining a just and honorable God who condemns sin." A few paragraphs later: "Did [Christ] take upon Himself all the guilt of mankind and suffer the specific legal punishment for their sins? The answer is no. The temporal punishment for sin is physical death, but the ultimate punishment is eternal damnation." 
Clearly you deny any Protestant ideas that the Son was forsaken by the Father, or that the Son suffered an eternity of hell in a finite amount of time; but the first quotation suggests that you do still think of Christ's death as a vicarious punishment in some sense. Do you regard it as a temporal punishment but not an eternal one? 
Thanks for your time!

Vicarious would mean that the punishment is sustained in place of someone else, but that can't be the case with Christ, since He did not suffer Hell in place of the sinner's punishment. Christ suffered the necessary agony in order to appease the wrath of God and to preserve God's honor. The extent of that agony was for Christ to suffer and die at the hands of men. With that satisfied, the Father would be satisfied. Only Christ could perform this task, since He was sinless and favored by the Father. No mere man laden with sin could do this, and thus, again, Christ's sacrifice is not vicarious. It is simply a voluntary (John 10:18) offer by Christ to the Father, which the Father accepts based on His love for the Son. Neither the Father nor the Son are legally bound, rather, both do their "offering" and "accepting of the offering" by the mutual love they have for each other.

I hope this helps.

Robert Sungenis
Catholic Apologetics International
July 19, 2001

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