Steve Chalke infamously wrote that the penal substitutionary view of the atonement is tantamount to,
‘child abuse – a vengeful Father punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed.’ (The Lost Message of Jesus, 2003, Zondervan, p. 182).
I don't know if Miroslav Volf had Chalke's words in mind, but in his book Free of Charge, he gives this response to such sentiments,
"God loves us and wants to spare us the burden of our sin, but Christ suffers because of it!? Is this fair? By "putting forward" the Son, as the apostle Paul wrote [Romans 3:25], isn't the Father abusing the Son? Doesn't substitution constitute another wrongdoing, this time against the innocent Christ? How can one wrongdoing heal another? Doesn't Christ's death on our behalf compound sins rather than take them away?
The Father would be abusing the Son and committing divine wrongdoing - rather than taking away human wrongdoing in Christ were a third party, beyond God who was wronged and humanity who wronged God. But he isn't He stands firmly on the divine side of the forgiving God, not between the forgiving God and forgiven humanity. "In Christ," wrote the apostle Paul, "God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses unto them" (2 Corinthians 5:19). Not: Christ was reconciling an angry God to a sinful world. Not: Christ was reconciling a sinful world to a loving God. Rather: God in Christ was "reconciling the world to himself".
What happened then when God "made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21)? The answer is simple: God placed human sin upon God! One God placed human sin upon another God? No, there are not two Gods. The God who is One beyond numbering and yet mysteriously Three reconciled us by shouldering our sin in the person of Christ who is one of the Three. That's the mystery of human redemption made possible by the mystery of God's Trinity: The One who was offended bears the burden of the offense."
From Free of Charge: giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of grace, Miroslav Volf, 2005, Zondervan, p. 144-145. I hope to post a review of this helpful and challenging book sometime next week.