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Christ Our Penal Substitute (Dabney)

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Sprinkle Publications

Dabney delivered a number of lectures on the "The Penal Character of the Atonement of Christ Discussed in the Light of Recent Popular Heresies" at Davidson College.  Of the first a spectator wrote:

"It was an inspiring sight and a striking testimony to the power of the human intellect to see this venerable servant of God, ripe in years and still riper in the the vigor of his mind, in total blindness, and thus thrown entirely upon the resources of his intellect, unfold, step by step, with the confidence and ease and skill of a master, the doctrines of a heretical theology, which it is the purpose of these lectures to controvert."

The introductory lecture was followed by five others, and of these the same writer said:

"One who listens to more in the series of Dr. Dabney's lectures is but more confirmed in the impression made by the first in the series, which was that, though his natural sight has become darkened, his mental vision is as bright and keen as ever, and if the voice may have lost some of its old-time strength and fire, certainly his power of expression and of acute analysis, his logical force and ability to argue his thesis to an incontrovertible conclusion, abide with him as in the days of yore. It is an intellectual delight, and, at the same time, a severe exercise of one's reasoning faculties to follow him as with force and in absolute confidence, he states the false postulate of his opponents, and then proceeds to annihilate them by pricking their fallacies and unmasking the hollowness of their claims."

From Davidson he went to Columbia Seminary after a short interval, on the invitation of the faculty, and there delivered again this course of lectures, having for its chief thesis, "Christ the Substitute and Sacrifice for Imputed Guilt." The course was received at Columbia with huge and generous appreciation, creditable alike to the lecturer and his auditors.


Table of Contents: 

  1. The Rationalistic Objections to Penal Substitution 
  2. Definitions and Statement of the Issue
  3. Objections Examined
  4. The Utilitarian Theory of Punishments
  5. Retribution, not Revenge
  6. The Witness of Human Consciousness and Experience
  7. Our Opponents' Self-Contradictions
  8. The Ethical Objection Considered
  9. What Scripture Says of Substitution
  10. The Testimony of Christendom



Robert L. Dabney (March 5, 1820 – January 3, 1898) was an American Christian theologian, and a Southern Presbyterian pastor.