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Law Bob Esq.

Regarding Number 1: I wish I was patient enough to set up a blog. I'm sure prompt about posting on yours. :D

Regarding Number 2: AMEN, Preach on Brother!*

Regarding Number 3: I had that problem, then I discovered Grad School.

Regarding Number 4: Pop christianity... you know the drill. I recall the hymn from a local nondenominationalesque mennonite church roughly, "Lord your the most important thing in my life. Thank you for sacrificing your son for me." If I really was putting God first in my life I'd be perfect and not need a savior.

Regarding Number 5: I couldn't hear you, I was eating.

*Do you really have a problem with the notion of substitutionary atonement? Could you post on that, I'd love the discussion.

Monk-in-Training

Adam,
I will pray for you! ;)

McKormick

I'm with you on #2 - hate it, especially when it is used at the end of a sermon. You know? A guest speaker has just made a nice little homilee and the pastor gets up to close off and feels the need to add his 2 cents - or worse, correct a matter of theology in the prayer - hate it. In regards to prayer, I also hate, well not hate, now I think it's funny, when, whilst praying, the prayer doesn't know how to end the prayer and keeps saying the word 'and' but has no where to go. 'Lord, we thank you for your blessings, and for the good things you give us and . . . for the things that we don't deserve, Lord we. . . '. It happened at bible school all the time to me. I'd get half way into a sentence and have nowhere to go.

Kevin

I hate it when people repeat Lord, God, Jesus, or some variation thereof every other word when praying. "And Lord, we just thank you Lord, and Father God we just ask Lord that..." Somebody shoot me please.

Leighton

Bob,

Personally, I think substitutionary atonement is arguably the worst idea that has ever tainted Christian theology, and as I'm an atheist that's saying quite a lot. Greg has some good posts on the issue in several places. For instance:

http://theparish.typepad.com/parish/2005/01/worldview_weeke.html

http://theparish.typepad.com/parish/2004/09/the_big_questio.html

Several participants on this blog are also involved in those discussions.

Best,
Leighton

greg

Thanks, RA. I'm trying to get the taint out. Here are two more, since we're plugging my blog anyway:

the heifer of God
atonement

greg

Great. Adam, change your settings to allow html in the comments. Please.

theparish.typepad.com/parish/2004/09/atonement.html
theparish.typepad.com/parish/2004/09/the_heifer_of_g.html

Law Bob Esq.

I'm truly sorry I missed the discussion you cite. I'm also truly sorry the church-goin' christians can't put together as intelligent a discussion. In any case, since I've already paid for this bandwidth I'd like to offer the legal position on the notion of substitutiary atonement (what with being a lawyer and all I kinda dig that stuff.) I'm going to blame the apparant problem on thinking with one's emotions instead of with plain reason.

Simply put, from a historic legal standpoint, to borrow from the cited discussion, Killing person X for the crimes of person Y IS justice. What is required is not the presupposition of Hebrew sacrifice notions, but rather the presupposition that the laws of physics and divine justice have a common origin. In physics we accept that every action has a reaction, but that the reaction can generally be directed wherever we'd like it to go. Within the confines of abstract justice, for every crime there must be an atonement, but we can direct it wherever we'd like it to go. By this model, true justice, like physics, is a thing without emotion.

I could go on, but I'm anxious to learn Adam's position on the idea. I hope I can contribute somewhat to discussion on the issue as I'm really quite a proponent.

Leighton

Bob,

We can't arbitrarily redirect forces in physics without adding in other, greater forces; it's a zero-sum game. Less than zero sum if you throw out energy lost to friction and so forth. Trying to make this apply to the law somehow is a non sequitur. Can you give an example (hint: Jesus doesn't count) where killing someone for another person's crimes constitutes justice? And I don't mean some kind of appeasement of our collective insecurities; I mean something that we could look at and say, yes, that is just, that's something we should try to get our system to emulate. I'm drawing a blank here.

Physics gets a pass from emotion because it acts however it wants and there's not a damn thing that we can do about it. Justice, though, doesn't work like that because it's something we can effect, it's something we can either aid or impede. I really don't think emotionalism is the problem; I do think that any notion of justice that doesn't incorporate at least some element of compassion is not something that we could ever recognize as just. People are not means to the ends of satisfying some abstract principles.

McKormick

I've always been interested in this discussion, particularly as it relates to the biblical constant that says, 'without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins'. I realize that this doesn't directly relate to justice per se, but what is justice? Who/what does it serve? Is justice an absolute or is it relative to the person in need of it. Justice makes our cities safe, but what is it's purpose as it relates to the one subject to it? But back to the forgiveness thing, what does the substitutionary atonement cover? The sins of all? The sins of all who ask forgiveness? Is 'justice' to the sinned against what 'deserve' is to the sinner?

PS, Leighton, are you truly an atheist or an agnostic leaning towards atheism? I'm not trying to offend, I just have found that most people who claim atheism are really more or less confident agnostics. I think I'm an agnostic Christian.

Leighton

People have tried for millennia to define justice and although there has been some progress made, there's still no single satisfactory definition. I tend to think we define it inductively via our experiences with injustice; we see something like oppression, cruelty, exploitation or gross inequality and say, that's not just, we should try to correct that. We have to set up systems to do things consistently, but compassion and empathy for others is the rule of thumb that helps to decide borderline cases and also tells us when the system is flawed. "No forgiveness without the shedding of blood" fails the smell test in this area.

I'm what's sometimes called a "weak atheist" or an "atheist of the second kind", which means I don't believe in gods but I don't assert that there aren't any. Agnostics say "I don't know and you don't either". These definitions are standard in the various communities of nonbelievers, so I feel comfortable going with them; not that labels are very important. I don't call myself an agnostic because it's generally useless to argue about what other people do and don't know, and also because most ideas of God that come up in practice are incoherent and thus irrelevant. (Not to mention that being a self-professed atheist instead of agnostic makes people less likely to witness to me. Fringe benefits are key.)

Cheers,
Leighton

Adam

Greg,
Pissy Pissy. Fine I'll rifle through and see if I can figure out how to allow HTML comments. Not even sure what that means, but they seem to be close to your heart so I'll see what I can do.

LB,
I don't know much about Physics, so I'll let Leighton handle that issue. But I will post about my problems with substitutionary atonement.

Everyone else,
Good questions, great discussion. I thought I was just fuckin around, didn't realize it would spark a discussion about something meaningful, or at least interesting.

monk-in-training

Jesus, we just wanna....

No wonder lil' kids think Jesus' last name is Wejus!

Strikes a real blow for reading prayers rather than blathering on or "making corrections" against that which we percieve is wrong.

Law Bob Esq.

In response to Leighton:

Regarding physics as a parallel, I like to use the pool table metaphor. The forces applied over the course of the table will be the same, but the way the balls break, and hence where the "reaction" goes, is subject to change merely by adjusting the position of those balls. Different outcomes can be achieved with the same initial force.

Regarding examples of directed Justice, consider the fine. When I get a traffic ticket, I have the primary obligation to pay the fine, but the State does not care in the least of someone else pays it for me.

To be sure, a universal definition of "Justice" would probably require one of those Councils Adam does not like, but perhaps we can construct a working definition for purposes of discussion here at The Pub.

I propose that Justice needs to be predictable if it is to have any value. This is why our court systems follow precedent. However, if justice is to be a predictable thing, there is little room for emotion. Emotion tends to skew values where there is no rational, predictable, basis to do so.

Consider for example the divorce case. Parties will pay thousands of dollars in attorney's fees to fight over a few old 8-track tapes. It is the duty of the court to sift fact from emotion and render a decision. Here at least, Justice is all about facts and predictability, not feelings.

Leighton

Bob,

We can play the Socratic game all day and never address our fundamental concerns, so if it's all right with you, I'd just as soon cut to the chase. You mentioned in your previous post that historically, killing someone for the crimes of another person is justice. I'd still like one such example. Paying a fine is qualitatively different than killing someone, since human life is not currency. In any case, the fine-paying metaphor is the Ransom model of atonement, not subsitutionary atonement.

Our system of justice needs to be as deterministic as possible if we're going to implement it, but I have no idea what this has to do with Jesus.

Leighton

rose

I didn't respond to your last comment. Please don't be mad at me!

Adam

Hmmmm, good observation Rose. You weren't on my mind when I was writing that. (Sorry, I'm sure you were hoping for such wonderful chances) But watch yourself! Things can change at any moment.

Law Bob Esq.

Leighton,

I don't think we can "cut to the chase" about whether Jesus's substitutionary atonement is just, until we iron out what justice is. As justice relates to human life, neither history nor our current laws support the assertion that lives and currency are qualitatively different. For example:

Today, we refer to the penalty for any crime, whether it be fines, imprisonment, or death, as a "Debt to society."

Today, when a person dies at the fault of another, we calculate what their life would have been worth and assess that against the tortfeasor.

In the past, we have in the past bought and sold lives as a commodity.

In the past, decimation was a tool of discipline among Roman military units. Every 10th man was slain whether he participated in the misconduct or not.

In the past, the idea that it is noble for a person to volunteer to die in place of another strikes was held in high regard. My favorite example remains, "I am Spartacus."

Avoiding the Judeo-christian tradition, the idea that one person CAN die in place of another is goes back to Greek Myth, as in the case of Admentos.

All of these examples stand for the proposition that, from the perspective of justice, lives are fungible goods.

As for how this relates to Jesus and? Lets get to that once we've come to terms with Justice.

Leighton

Bob,

I'm not interested in having you play Socrates. If you want to propose an idea of justice that makes substitutionary atonement coherent, then put all your cards on the table and just do it, in its entirety.

If you think decimation is a legitimate example of justice, regardless of what the ancient Romans thought, we're never going to agree on even the basics. At best, even the self-sacrifice on behalf of Spartacus is a necessary evil, not something we would hope to systematically replicate as an ideal.

I'd rather see your position in toto than play punch-the-tar-baby.

Leighton

Question: I have an actuary (or whomever would be called for such a service) assess the worth of the life of my friend, and then I knowingly, purposefully, and without outside counsel kill him without his consent; immediately afterward I deposit twice the amount his life is worth into the accounts of his parents, his family and perhaps some of our mutual friends. None of them knew before, during, or afterward that he had been murdered. If his life has a finite worth that I've (more than) paid immediately and without coercion after his murder, how could it possibly be just that I would be prosecuted when my actions come to light?

I think where we differ is that (as best I can tell) you view our current system, where anything--property, security, human life--can be rightfully destroyed in behalf of a more valuable object, as fundamentally good and ideal, whereas I view this approach as an evil made necessary by the constraints of insecurity and finite resources.

Law Bob Esq.

Leighton,

I've had long discussions about religion many times over the years, and one thing I've learned is never to try and argue more than a single point at a time. To do so causes what could otherwise be a productive discussion to degenerate into an exercise where I present a belief system and someone else attacks bits and pieces of it at random without having to concede that they believe anything in particular. A case in point is how you elected only to attack the example of decimation but omited the rest of my post, while at the same time gave no evidence to support an alternative position.

Perhaps my 5th grade math teacher explained the need to break down a complex system into simple parts when he said, "I'll buy anyone in here a large pizza, as long as you can eat it all in one bite."

With respect to the hypothetical about taking the life of your friend, you omit an important factor. The value of the wrongful death claim compensates a discrete group, the family. The material resources of the individual are already possessed by "society" so just payment must be made by other means.

You do raise a good point about the distinction between what might be viewed as good and idea or as a necessary evil. These probably result from different perspectives on value. For example, I believe in life after death. As such, the loss of a mortal life is easily considered a finite thing. I have no problem measuring it and assigning value. I suspect you do not believe in life after death. As such, the mortal life is EVERYTHING and therefore cannot have a defined value.

Leighton

Bob,

Fair enough; in that case you may want to take the discussion of substitutionary atonement over to Greg's place, where people actually think the atonement is relevant. I don't have enough of a stake in the matter to propose an alternative interpretive scheme, so I can't really reciprocate. I do think belief in immortality is dangerous for precisely the reason you describe, but that's a discussion for another day.

Cheers,
Leighton

Law Bob Esq.

Wow... intellectual honesty. If you lived in North Dakota, I'd buy you a beer. Not one of those cheap ones either, something good.


greg

Gee, and I thought as Christians we held human life in higher regard than to assign monetary value. Maybe those of us who are Christian ought to have a discussion about the Christian ethics and not that of the parent culture. I've said many times that a belief in substitutionary atonement leads to icky ethics. I still believe it after reading the above discussion.

greg

Sorry for my previous comment. It probably sounds like an ad hominem attack. It's not meant to be. I find myself separating ethical discussions into kingdom/non-kingdom priorities. Everyone doesn't share that perspective.

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