Substitutionary punishment
January 15, 2008 — 10:45

Author: Alexander Pruss  Category: Uncategorized  Tags:   Comments: 12

The main problem with the idea of Christ’s suffering as substitutionary punishment is the agent-centeredness of punishment (to use Mike’s idea): justice does not say that someone is to be punished but that the malefactor is to be punished. I want to offer three considerations which go some way–probably not all the way–towards alleviating this concern. I suspect they are complementary parts of the truth.
1. The Church: It is a mistake to think of justification as simply something individual between me and Jesus. Salvation is through incorporation in the Church, the Body of Christ. But Christ is the Head of the Church. He suffers on behalf of the whole Body of Christ of which we are members. The punishment of a sin committed with the hand need not involve the hand. If we take seriously the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ, we might have the resources to understand how the Head can take on the sufferings due to the rest of the Body. Of course we have to be careful. The idea is a metaphor. But it indicates a reality, and it is not, I think, implausible that the reality of identification between Christ’s body and his Church be sufficient for an account of substitutionary sacrifice.
2. Love: Nozick in “Love’s Bond” particularly clearly brings out an aspect of love already found in Aristotle’s account of friendship and central to Aquinas’ account of how we love God in loving neighbor: When x loves y, the increases and decreases in y’s welfare are directly (i.e., constitutively, and not mediated through any sentiment of sympathy) increases and decreases in x’s welfare. (Nozick takes this to be the definition of love, but he’s wrong. For then by definition everyone would love herself, but that is false. However, he is right that this is a part of the concept of love.) There is a union between lover and beloved: the beloved is another self. Aquinas talks of the mutual interpenetration of lover and beloved in intellect and affection: we see things from our beloved’s point of view, we will things from our beloved’s point of view, and we embrace the beloved with our intellect and affection. These four aspects of the mutual interpenetration of will and intellect are present even when the love is not reciprocated, and so even unreciprocated love involves a union of will and intellect with the beloved. Reciprocation heightens the union by providing the four converse aspects: the beloved wills things from the lover’s point of view, and so on.
Take all these ideas of the closeness of lover and beloved seriously.
Now, take these ideas of the unitiveness of love really seriously. Then I think it is at least not entirely implausible that in mutual love, one might be able to take on the other’s punishments. When one’s welfare is decreased, so is the other’s. Each sees from the other’s point of view; each acts in some way from the other’s point of view. When by grace we accept Christ’s love, we return love for love, since without love salvation is impossible. We are united with Christ in love, and in this love’s union it may well be that his innocent sufferings are appropriately credited to us.
3. Sanctification: The previous two considerations pointed towards ecclesiology and the believer’s grace-moved response as important to an account of substitutionary punishment. Both of these moves manifest something about the believer’s “closeness” to Christ, a closeness that seems to me important to the substitutionary sacrifice. And just as we should not divorce an account of justification from its ecclesial dimension and the believer’s response, we should also not divorce it from sanctification. We should, instead, see justification and sanctification either as the same thing or as two aspects of the same thing. If we do this, we see another closeness between Christ and the believer. Sanctification consists in its coming to be the case that in a mysterious way “it is not I who live, but Christ that lives in me” (Gal. 3:20). But if the Christian’s life is no longer her but Christ’s, if it is Christ living here in her, manifest in her actions, then it is no surprise that his punishment is credited to her. For it is not credited to someone alien to Christ: it is credited to someone who, in the very act of being credited, is sanctified, is made such that it is Christ who lives in her. We might even look at the substitutionary sacrifice here as closely tied to the fittingness of such union: if the Christian’s life is lived by Christ in an intimate and deep sense, then there would almost be a kind of responsibility for the Christian’s sins in Christ, her life having been taken on by him.

The Epistemic Grounding for the Biblical Canon
May 11, 2007 — 9:43

Author: Tim Pawl  Category: Christian Theology Religious Belief  Tags:   Comments: 30

There's been lots of discussion in the previous post about canonicity.  Which books are the inspired books that God has given to his church?  We want a canon that contains all and only the inspired texts.  Only inspired texts, so that we aren't led astray by phonies; all inspired texts, so that we aren't missing something vital.  

But, how is the Christian supposed to know which canon is the right one?  The Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all have different canons, and that's just mentioning the three most common canons.  There are many other professed canons out there.  How does the Christian know which to affirm?  

What sorts of things could justify the Christian in judging /this/ canon to be all and only God's word?  I'm not asking (yet) for the whole story; I'm asking a more general question.  What sorts of justification /could/ do the work here?

More below the fold.