Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What sort of justice is this?

Our Christian doctrine explains that Christ had to die for our sins. This is because someone had to die and he died in our place. Why must God have someone die? Because He is a God of justice and if someone did not die justice would not be served.

But what kind of justice allows an innocent man to die in the place of the guilty?

18 comments:

His Name Extoled said...

A gracious one. God didn't force Christ to do something he didn't want to. That wouldnt be just. Christ volunteering for it is another issue. In monetary terms. I owe you $50k. I can't pay, but my dad volunteers to pay you the $50 on my behalf. If you don't black mail force or coerce him to do so, then the debt is payed and I am free. That's not unjust.

Steven Kippel said...

What you're describing there is not justice, but debt.

Jesus paying a ransom, not Jesus as substitution.

What judicial precedent allows one man to die for another man's crime?

His Name Extoled said...

not Jesus as a substitution? what gospel do you have? Jesus death was a ransom and a propitiatory act/substitution. Christ paid our debt, or the cost/penalty due our sins as an affront to God. of course the wrath of God is not equal to monetary debt, but its a parallel to prove a point. if you are accusing God of being unjust then you are saying God is not God. justice is one of the attributes of God. Christ's death must have been just, if God is to be just...at least if it was a propitiation. and also, ransom implies payment, so a monetary example is perfectly adequate to that end.

the short answer to "what kind of justice is that"? a divine merciful and gracious justice.

Steven Kippel said...

No need to get nasty. What I think we have here is a failure on the part of the metaphor.

But you still didn't answer the question, you just got offended.

Christ paid our ransom. This is explained through Christus Victor to mean the devil held us ransom and he paid that debt through his death but death could not hold him. This allows God to be merciful and just.

Penal substitution uses the court analogy describing justice. The way this defines ransom is that we are bound in slavery to sin and he bought us out of sin (death) to life. But it also says that we have committed crimes in our sin against the justice of God demanding punishment. This punishment was levied on an innocent man on our behalf.

Now the question is what kind of justice punishes the innocent man on behalf of the guilty?

We have the metaphor of the judge ready to convict the criminal and then the judge instead sentences his own son to death to pay for the crime.

We don't see this as justice in this world, we see it as an injustice. Imagine the judge sentencing a murderer, child predator, or other such criminal in a court of law and then punishing his own son instead. We would say the man got off scott free and the son was punished unduly. In fact this would actually go against the laws in this nation which dictate the criminal pay for his own crime.

So I ask how this metaphor holds up. Shouldn't we use the metaphor provided in the Old Covenant's animal sacrifice (symbolizing the death of Christ) instead of some western, British form of justice?

Steven Kippel said...

Also, a monetary debt is paid back in kind. It doesn't translate over to criminal justice which might warrant death.

His Name Extoled said...

im not getting nasty. im defending the character of God. God as the judge does not arbitrarily punish Christ. Christ volunteered and offered himself up as a sacrifice. that is VERY different from God just punishing the innocent unwillingly. it is the volunteering of the innocent to pay the price for anothers sin. what you described is unjust, but it is not complete. even using the language of the old covenant in animal sacrifices...the point is that sin deserves death. that is the cost of rebellion against God. Christ as the propitiatory (to use the language of scripture) sacrifice died in our place. that is substitutionary. it has the same meaning to the same end. Christ died for sins he did not commit. that is a make or break doctrine of christianity. taken further, whose sins were they? they were ours. whose death did he die? it was ours. how is that not penal (an act or offense punishable by law) substitution. God's law we violate. God demands justice. we dont die, Christ did. any way you slice it that is "penal substitution" and the metaphor of the animal sacrifice in the old testament preaches the exact same thing. blood bought atonement in our stead.
you said "But it also says that we have committed crimes in our sin against the justice of God demanding punishment." and my simple answer is yes! God does have his holy law, and we "commit crimes" and sin against and trample that law. That demands punishment. The metaphor of debt is used in scripture, as is the metaphor of slavery, and the metaphor of lawbreaking. They're not divided, but speak the same truth.
those who reject penal substitution and stick with a purely ransom idea of the atonement give Satan too much power. the one who demands the ransom is in control and has the power and makes the calls to the one who must pay the ransom. this is simply not the case with Satan holding us as a "ransom" Satan did not gain anything from Christ "paying our ransom" Satan lost everything. Satan never held us against God, and the "payment" offered on the cross did not get credited to Satan (the ransomer) but the God (the victim). it doesnt hold up, which is why penal substitution is a better was to understand God's justice in regards to saving sinners.

Steven Kippel said...

I may be wrong, but I understand that it was the Father's will that Jesus would suffer. It was the Son's obedience that led to the cross.

However, it still doesn't answer the question of what kind of justice allows the innocent to die.

Like I said, the judicial metaphor was added on top of scripture to give a picture we might relate with today, but I think this metaphor is weak.

His Name Extoled said...

In John 10, Christ says that he lays down his life. It was the fathers will, but Christ's choice. Getting into splitting hairs here since theyre are one what one wills both will, and what one does both do. However the judicial metaphor parallels ideas already found in scripture. The main points being the law of God, the breaking of that law (or sin), and the required punishment (or wrath). That is a very legal concept. There are a few metaphors given to describe the death of Christ in scripture propitiation/substitution being one of them. None of them are air tight, all are meant to show some truth, and the propitiation/substitution demonstrates the divine mixture of justice and grace being simultaneously executed. If you cannot see the freewill sacrifice of Christ as just, then we have no more room for debate. I've answered the question the same way again now. It is the answer accepted by the reformed community, and I see no flaw to it.

Steven Kippel said...

Your answers tend to sound like, "this is the accepted answer, so there is no room for discussion.

J.I. Packer also made the observation that the metaphor is not complete because God is not a "16th Century monarch."

I'm discussing the metaphor and you're taking offense to the question.

There is great mystery in the work of the cross. Paul spoke of the "great mystery." Packer again says, "mystery of God is more than any one model, even the best, can express."

The model is flawed. We're trying to describe an eternal work of God in the language of John Locke, or sme other western political mind.

His Name Extoled said...

to imply God is unjust in killing "an innocent man" offends me. that is true. i never said any metaphor was flawless. i said they were all flawed at some level, but the penal substitution serves a purpose.

His Name Extoled said...

and to clarify my statement about the reformed community. i am of the opinion that all beliefs should be challenged to see if theyre biblical, however, when the majority of respectable, and noticably biblical theologians (as i esteem the reformed world to be) are in agree agreement on a certain topic, they should be given the benefit of the doubt unless the biblical evidence against them is incredible, as there is (generally speaking) safety in the like mindedness of a large group of men whose sole aim is the exposition of scripture, the authority of that scripture, and the glory of God. In essence, challenge everything, but be damn sure your right before you critique something cherished and held by a biblical majority.

and just for the record, JI Packer advocates Penal Substitution, so to use his quotes to challenge it is a bit of a misrepresentation

"This extended declaration and defence of the penal substitutionary view of Christ’s atoning death responds to a plethora of current criticisms, many of them in-house, with a thoroughness and effectiveness that is without parallel anywhere. The book’s existence shows that a British evangelical theology which exegetically, systematically, apologetically and pastorally can take on the world is in process of coming to birth. I hail this treatise as an epoch-making tour de force, and hopefully a sign of many more good things to come." - (JI Packer's endorsement of "Pierced For Our Transgressions: Rediscovering The Glory Of Penal Substitution")

His Name Extoled said...

If youre interested in seeing how old the doctrines found in penal substitution are, they date back to "Justin Martyr" in the second century. A series of ancient texts defending it can be found here.

Steven Kippel said...

No, my use of JI Packer is perfectly in line because we both believe in penal substitution, and we both see an err in the metaphor.

I think you're just missing my point, which I've declared explicitly several times. I'm not critiquing penal substitution, I'm saying the judicial metaphor simply doesn't work.

If you went up to Joe Schmo on the street corner and told him a judge killed an innocent man and pardoned the guilty man, they would say it was unjust. So when you use this metaphor, it is actually showing God to be unjust.

So your offense to God's justice being called into question is right, and is exactly why I brought this up. The metaphor shows God to be unjust, therefore it fails.

His Name Extoled said...

the simple fact. God killed an innocent man on behalf of guilty men. God is just. that is a fact. this post originally challenged just that. and once again. all metaphors are limited and incorrect when taken to an extreme. you say now that you adhere to penal substitution but in your second response you define it and argue against it.

Steven Kippel said...

I did define penal substitution, but I didn't argue against it, in fact I specifically said, "We have the metaphor of the judge."

His Name Extoled said...

How is asking this question right after defining penal substitution not a challenge of it. "Now the question is what kind of justice punishes the innocent man on behalf of the guilty?" if God did that (which i hope we both agree he did), and if God is just (which i hope we both agree he is) how is not the only possible answer to such a question rooted in the fact that divine justice is at some level beyond us, and we are to understand such a justice as gracious, merciful, and divine (because it is). that is now, and has consistently been my answer to the original question this blog addressed. once again, no metaphor is perfect, and ultimately accurate. they serve a purpose, sometimes very specific and narrow, but when logically continued beyond they're use they become flawed and incorrect. Your original post states nothing of the specific analogy of God as judge. It only poses a question of God being just in killing an innocent man for sins that were not his and then questions that same justice. The facts are that an innocent man did die for sins that were not his, and God is completely just, so it must be just because it happened, unless all of Christianity has missed everything from Christ to the nature of sin and the nature of God... but then what is our faith?

Steven Kippel said...

It is not questioning the justice, it is asking what kind of justice it is. It is not the court room metaphor justice. It is, as you say, a divine justice we can't explain with human metaphors.

levellers said...

Substitionary atonement is only one view of the atonement. I think it makes a mockery of justice. I hold to a version of the Christus Victor view which avoids this problem.

The ancient church had no one official view of the atonement. The substitutionary theory did not get a major proponent until Anselm in the 12 C. It has dominated Protestantism because of the influence of Calvin. But even in most Protestant confessions, substitutionary atonement is not a mandatory belief.