Anyway, I found the following quote from Scot McKnight to be helpful. Scot was one of my profs in seminary (I studied the Synoptic Gospels under him). He offers this insight (from this post at Jesus Creed):
What is it about these two terms “penal” and “substitution”?
Here is what one is saying by using those terms: the atonement takes place at the cross; the cross is the place where God vented his wrath against sin; the cross is the place where God in Christ assumed the punishment for sin; the cross is the place where Christ substituted for my sins; the cross is the place where Christ was punished for the sins of the world (or, if you so think, the elect). The use of these terms suggests that it is stating atonement takes place on the cross (no resurrection, no Pentecost) and that is fundamentally about propitiating the wrath of God against sin. To clarify — I’m not suggesting for one second that those who believe in penal substitution do not think there is saving significance in the resurrection or in Pentecost; I’m suggesting the terms being used do not naturally convey those events as well. I’ve rarely heard anyone speak of a “vicarious” or “substitutionary” resurrection — though I think orthodoxy believes in such.
It is, in other words, this set of terms deals with not just substitution, but a restricted kind of substitution: a penal kind of substitution. This is too narrow, I am suggesting, to carry the load of what we (who are orthodox) believe occurs in the atonement ...
Let's admit that our churches are filled with folks who have embraced the gospel that Jesus died for my sins (understood in terms of guilt) and that in so believing or accepting that gospel the problem has been taken care of — and they need not get any further than that. I am suggesting that a reduced gospel emerges from a reduced atonement theory.
What I want to say is not that this theory is wrong, dead-wrong, or anything like that for any theory of the atonement must deal with the issue of God’s just justice with respect to sin; what I want to say is that the atonement is so much more than this. And, if it is so much more than this, then it follows that using “penal substitution” as our guiding term is inadequate and misleads others. At the least, it does not provide enough information to explain what one really believes occurs in the atonement.
But, I’ll say more so it is clear how I think about these terms as a defining instrument for our theory of atonement: because this is the category used by so many, it defines atonement into its category and actually damages the other biblical images for what God does in his atoning work. Using this category leads us to think of atonement in just these terms, and before long we have no room for the other theories. In other words, we need to give some value to what is called the "linguistic turn." If we use this category, we turn atonement into this theory.
technorati: emerging church, spiritual formation, theology, atonement