For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is central to the Catholic Faith. But how does the murder of the eternal Son of God by human beings lead to their redemption, not further damnation?
During the sixteenth century, as Protestants rejected Catholic doctrine, a new answer to this question was proposed: on the Cross, God the Father subjected His divine Son to the wrath and retribution sinful humanity justly deserved. Having punished His Son in the place of sinners and having exhausted His pent-up anger, the Father could then turn to humanity in love and mercy. This theory—known as “penal substitutionary atonement”—caught on in many Catholic circles and is often the popular understanding of the Cross.
Thank God for What Is Redemption? by Philippe de la Trinité, a classic now back in print. This book shows the many fallacies in the penal substitutionary theory of redemption. But that’s not all. Trinité replaces this mistaken theory with the true Catholic doctrine.
In dialogue with the saints and doctors of the Church, chiefly St. Thomas Aquinas, he shows why St. John in his Gospel said it was for love—not for wrath—that God sent His only-begotten Son. Carefully distinguishing the key concepts in the doctrine of redemption, he explains the difference between saying that Christ made satisfaction for the sins of the world and saying that Christ suffered the punishment due to every sin. The Cross is not an oppression, but an exaltation—a triumph of divine love.
Philippe de la Trinité, O.C.D. was born John Joseph Rambaud at Grenoble in 1908. He studied at the Gregorian University at Rome, where he earned the degree doctor of philosophy. He served as president of the faculty of theology of the Discalced Carmelites at Rome and a consultant of the Congregation of the Holy Office. He was chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and the recipient of the French Croix de Guerre (1939–1945) and the Medal of the Resistance.
Catholic Studies Centre, St. Louis University
University of Notre Dame
Dominican House of Studies Washington, D.C.
Pontifical University of St. Thomas
Associate editor of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible