I may have stumbled upon a core reason as to another reason why the penal substitution atonement theory bothers me.
We say that God is just. The Bible has many sections where God's justice is praised, is sought out, and is seen as a wonderful thing.
We know what justice is. If we say that the society is just, we mean that is fair, it is equal, it doesn't oppress its people or exploit them. It's a wonderful place to live in.
If someone breaks a law, and we say that they must face justice, we mean that they must be held accountable for their actions. That person, and not anyone else.
If we look in a dictionary, "just" means as follows:
a: having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason : reasonable -- a just but not a generous decision -- : faithful to an original c: conforming to a standard of correctness : proper -- just proportions --
2 a (1): acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good : righteous -- a just war -- (2): being what is merited : deserved -- a just punishment -- b: legally correct : lawful -- just title to an estate --
However, we also have an idea that Jesus took our punishment in our place, thus satisfying God's justice. Therefore, if someone has wronged you, and then repented to God, Jesus has taken their punishment, and satisfied the requirements of justice.
Yet justice demands that the person who did the action is the one held responsible for the action. If Jesus takes on the responsibility for the outcome of the action ... can we still call this situation just?
Can we even still call God just? If our society suddenly changed the idea of justice to be that an innocent person could take the place of a guilty person, there'd be an uproar. Especially from those who are the victims, and the uproar would be because such a change would not be just.
Can saying "God is just" hold any meaning if an innocent man is punished in our place? Even if the innocent man offered to take the punishment, willingly offered with his whole heart, shouldn't the very fact that God is just prevent God from accepting such an offer in the first place?
If Jesus accepting the punishment completes God's justice, then it seems justice is no longer about what is right or what is fair, but justice becomes all about a punishment occurring no matter what. Doesn't this mean that the situation is no longer moral?
If the morality of the situation is violated -- the innocent in the place of the guilty -- then can we still have justice? Or does it just become about retribution and revenge?