August 28, 2009

So I wanted to see what was out on the Internet on the topic of a Christus Victor view of atonement as it had relation to a view of restorative, rather than retributive justice. I came across, appropriately enough this article at Christus Victor Ministries. This article is by one Grey Boyd, who I was dismayed to learn, is some kind of open theist. Oh well, lets bracket that off. I think Boyd is a fairly able defender of a "different" model of atonement. But I find some things a bit odd. The article is all pretty much ok (I have some quibbles, or areas where I think he goes off the rails a bit; but I don't disagree that Christus Victor is an important theme in Jesus' work and life and self-sacrificial death.

Then Boyd discusses "Jesus [sic] Substitutionary Death"
The Christus Victor model affirms that Jesus died as our substitute, bore our sin and guilt, was sacrificed for our forgiveness and was punished by the Father in our place (e.g Isa 53:4-5, 10; Rom 3:23-25; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 2:17; 9:26; I Jn 2:2). But unlike the common substitutionary view espoused by many today, the Christus Victor view can affirm these important truths while avoiding a number of paradoxes that accompany the common substitutionary view ó that is, without supposing that our individual sins, guilt and just punishment were somehow literally transferred onto Jesus and without supposing that Jesus had to literally placate the Fatherís wrath.
That sounds fine, if it can work. "punished by the father in our place" but somehow not involving the transfer of just punishment from us to Jesus
In the Christus Victor view, Jesus died as our substitute and bore our sin and guilt by voluntarily experiencing the full force of the rebel kingdom we have all allowed to reign on the earth. To save us, he experienced the full consequences of sin that we otherwise would have experienced. In so doing, he broke open the gates of hell, destroyed the power of sin, erased the law that stood against us, and thereby freed us to receive the Holy Spirit and walk in right relatedness with God.
Ok. In an important sense this is true. Jesus doesn't die in fire that came down from heaven. He dies at the hand of lawless men. A "consequence" of our sin is death [ah, but WHY?] and Jesus experienced it on our behalf.
Along the same lines, in the Christus Victor view, Jesus was afflicted by the Father not in the sense that the Fatherís rage burned directly toward his Son, but in the sense that God allowed evil agents to have their way with him for a greater good. This is how Godís wrath was usually expressed toward Israel in the Old Testament (e.g. Jud 2:11-19; Isa 10:5-6). Itís just that with Jesus, the greater good was not to teach Jesus obedience, as it usually was with Israel in the Old Testament. Instead, God the Son bore the Fatherís wrath, expressed through the powers, for the greater good of demonstrating Godís righteousness against the powers and sin (Rom 3:25) while defeating the powers and setting humans free from their oppression. (17)
This is where the argument becomes a bit interesting, but also confused. Didn't Boyd say earlier that Jesus was punished by the Father in our place?

Here are some questions I want to sort out:

1. Is it anyone's view that the "Father's rage burned directly"?
a. Is the problem "rage"? (a term that seems to express passionate overcoming emotion?
b. Is the problem "directly"? In orthodoxy I think one could argue that God's wrath expressed towards Jesus is a bit "indirect". Its only at Jesus (who was sinless), because God is directing it at the transferred guilt and sin (which Boyd denied) that Jesus is now judicially responsible for (why? In my view, because he is the representative messiah)

2. It seems like Boyd engages in "slight of hand". What he opposes is direct rage towards the son. What he affirms is "the Father's wrath" and "borne" (directly? or not?) but it's for a purpose. ("the greater good"). This seems to come up in Wright/Chalke's caricature of penal substitution. Perhaps extracted from every other part of the Christian narrative, it takes on the nature of cosmic child abuse, but even if not, nobody says the punishing wrath of God was poured out for no good purpose!

3. The biblical citations are odd. Judges 2:11-19.
They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.
Ok, this apparently isn't God's "rage" (lets just say anger, ok?) burning directly against Israel. Because God has a purposes in it of getting the people to cry out (and in his compassion, saving them, even though they were ingrates and never changed). But when God allows evil agents to have their way with you, this IS God's direct wrath for your sin. Yes, he has a great purpose for it. And if you don't want to turn to him for salvation, he leaves you in it, and it leads to death.

Further, this was a stipulated punishment from God ("as he had sworn to them").

4. What strikes me as very odd now about this is that Boyd is some kind of open theist. If there is one thing compelling about open theism, is it takes as literally and seriously all the language in the bible about God changing his mind and repenting and living a "risky" life. But apparently, God's wrath isn't "real" to Boyd. Its not really wrath or anger since there is a good purpose to it. (as if anyone seriously disagreed?)

So so far, though the Penal Substiutionary model may suffer from criticisms, I'm not very impressed with the attempt to find a different model of justice to account for all the biblical data.

Justin Taylor's blog posted comments from Carson and Gilbert to the topic of differing conceptions of "the plight" that Christianity is the answer to. For Carson and Gilbert, Wright and others have been too influential on young evangelicals to get them to talk about the brokenness of the world and the powers of hatred, but not enough about the Wrath of God as that which we need saving from.

For Carson and Gilbert, it seems to me that they take for granted that their understanding of 'justice' is the only valid operable one. Thus when Wright, et al, speak of God dealing with sinful humanity righteously without sufficiently highlighting the penal substitution of Christ for the wrath justly deserved, they are accused of simplifying or undercutting the honor and justice of God, downplaying his just wrath.

But is the "retributive justice" of God the only, or even most important model of justice? If it were, perhaps Carson and others would be right: God cannot show "justice" by forgiving people with nobody paying a penalty, he has to make someone pay for their crimes. But there are other models of justice, such as "restorative justice", where the issue, instead of being "does everyone receive their desserts" is something like, "does everyone get what they need". I want to explore some kind of alternate approach and 1) see if that's at the root of the disagreement 2) see if any alternative approaches to defining "justice" are helpful/more biblical.

I've been struck in a recent Sunday School class of the importance of the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. Too often its seems "simpler" to assume God is made up of parts, where his 'justice' part has certain desires and needs and his 'mercy' part has other desires. Thomas Boston (IIRC) even puts these two attributes of God in dialogue where the one pleads one thing and the other pleads something else. [citation needed] The orthodox doctrine is that there is no real distinction between the mercy and justice of God. They are attributes of the one God. His justice is merciful, and his mercy is just.

Is there an insoluble paradox? Probably. One big one seems to always be, if God is only forgives our sins because someone else pays the penalty, how is that actually merciful or forgiving? I forgive you the $5 you stole, but I don't take $5 from someone else. I'm just out $5. We think of mercy as the opposite of justice: we release the Locherbie bomber even though no full payment has been done for his crime, because if full restitution WAS made, then it wouldn't be "mercy" to release him, it would be justice.

Is God faithful and just to forgive us our sins only because a penalty has been paid by someone else, or is God just to forgive our sins because we are his charges/creatures/children, and we need his saving help?

It would seem there is room for more reflection. I've been intrigued for a while by this article by J I Packer on penal substitution and atonement, because Packer starts off criticizing the tradition
The almost mesmeric effect of Socinusí critique on Reformed scholastics in particular was on the whole unhappy. It forced them to develop rational strength in stating and connecting up the various parts of their position, which was good, but it also led them to fight back on the challengerís own ground, using the Socinian technique of arguing a priori about God as if he were a man ó to be precise, a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century monarch, head of both the legislature and the judiciary in his own realm but bound nonetheless to respect existing law and judicial practice at every point. So the God of Calvary came to he presented in a whole series of expositions right down to that of Louis Berkhof (1938) as successfully avoiding all the moral and legal lapses which Socinus claimed to find in the Reformation view. But these demonstrations, however skilfully done (and demonstrators like Francis Turretin and Hodge, to name but two, were very skillful indeed), had builtin weaknesses. Their stance was defensive rather than declaratory, analytical and apologetic rather than doxological and kerygmatic. They made the word of the cross sound more like a conundrum than a confession of faith ó more like a puzzle, we might say, than a gospel. What was happening? Just this: that in trying to beat Socinian rationalism at its own game, Reformed theologians were conceding the Socinian assumption that every aspect of Godís work of reconciliation will be exhaustively explicable in terms of a natural theology of divine government, drawn from the world of contemporary legal and political thought. Thus, in their zeal to show themselves rational, they became rationalistic
In the next 2(?) posts I'd like to first examine someone defending a purely "christus victor" view of atonement, and then look more at another critic of Wright.

August 17, 2009

I liked his sermon 2 Sunday's ago, on Hebrews 11:

"Faith attaches us to the infinte resources of the power of God. In each instance [in Hebrews 11:29-31] there is an obstacle; a call of faith; and divine intervention"

"Faith is something you live. Faith is such a deep belief in the presence and power and grace of God that I will do what he commands even when it doesn't make sense to me. That's faith. And its as you follow God's commands that you the experience the resources of his power. You don't experience that power when you're shrinking back and refusing to do what he's called you to do. You don't experience that power when you take life into you own hands and step outside of the boundaries of his commands.

Think about this, if Israel had panicked, if they waved the white flag and headed back toward Egypt they never would have experienced this moment of awesome redemption.

You attach yourself to that power...are you hearing me? by careful, obedient faith."

Why is a "public option" the only way to "keep insurance companies honest"?

Whenever oil prices are high, the feds launch yet another investigation into whether the oil industry is fixing prices. They always find no evidence of this.

If that's sufficient to determine the oil companies are "honest", why not insurance?

Or should we have a "public option" for oil, where the government sells some oil at the "correct market price" instead of what it gets in the actual market. I think Chavez tried that.

August 13, 2009

Explain how this works, somebody (there's issues with the numbers quoted, but lets just assume that this is right
Right now, if we paid a family ó if a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they are taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance.

But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, immediately, the surgeon is reimbursed. So why not make sure that we are also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation? Right? That will save us money.
Is Obama saying the problem is we reimburse the surgery a great deal of money, but we don't reimburse the regular care enough, so we end up with people who miss the prevention care, and end up with amputations. (What percent of diabetes patients need amputations, I wonder).

So what's Obama's solution? Pay the prevention care people more? How much more? 20K per patient? Per year? how will that SAVE money exactly?

And what about this "monitors whether they are taking their medications in a timely fashion"

So previously on ER, the doctor would send you home and say "hey, you need to take insulin in a timely manner" and be paid a small amount. So Obama wants the doctor to monitor the insulin shots? And he'll be paid more? So now the patient comes in once a week and gets paid $1000 for his time and he says "did you take your insulin at the right time? You should do that". Again how does that save money?

I think Obama should stop talking about this issue. Get Orszag up there, and I'd probably be more convinced.

August 04, 2009

Calvin (Institutes 3.20.45) wants us to know that we should not ask God for forgiveness unless we ourselves forgive.

"Wherefore, we are not to ask the forgiveness of our sins from God, unless we forgive the offenses of all who are or have been injurious to us. If we retain any hatred in our minds, if we meditate revenge, and devise the means of hurting; nay, if we do not return to a good understanding with our enemies, perform every kind of friendly office, and endeavour to effect a reconciliation with them, we by this petition beseech God not to grant us forgiveness. For we ask him to do to us as we do to others. This is the same as asking him not to do unless we do also. What, then, do such persons obtain by this petition but a heavier judgment?"

He also says that of course, our forgiving others is not a condition of the forgiveness, but that when we are conscious of having forgiven, the prayer becomes a SIGN to us that ASSURES us that we ourselves are forgiven.

"but by the use of this expression the Lord has been pleased partly to solace the weakness of our faith, using it as a sign to assure us that our sins are as certainly forgiven as we are certainly conscious of having forgiven others, when our mind is completely purged from all envy, hatred, and malice; and partly using as a badge by which he excludes from the number of his children all who, prone to revenge and reluctant to forgive, obstinately keep up their enmity, cherishing against others that indignation which they deprecate from themselves; so that they should not venture to invoke him as a Father. "

Interesting use of "badge" language there from Calvin.

De script shun




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