Archive for March, 2006
For all of its philosophical machinations, Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory (PSA) can be reduced to a very simple syllogism.
A. The "penalty" of sin is death.B. Humanity has sinned.C. Therefore, humanity deserves to and must die.D. Christ has paid the "penalty" (deserved debt) of sin by dying in humanity's place.
Admittedly, this is logical, straightforward, and it preaches really well. However, despite the prima facie appeal, PSA theory is based upon several false premises and is subject to many philosophically incoherent conclusions. In the following, I shall attempt to explicate exactly what these are. Moreover, I shall attempt to briefly note how these issues relate to recent reevaluations of the structure of the universe and the nature of death.
To begin, let us examine the first statement: "The penalty of sin is death." Based upon the oft quoted words of Paul ("the wages of sin is death"), PSA theory necessitates that physical death is the causal product of sin (however this may be conceived). If one is to speculate back to the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden, such a view naturally and necessarily concludes that Adam, before the genesis of sin, lived in a state of non-death. In other words, were More >
A few weeks ago, I noted some preliminary issues relating to the subject of God's "omnipotence." In this, I discussed whether or not the concept of "omnipotence" is a helpful concept for understanding the parameters and possibilities of divine action. After a bried examination of some of the seminal philosophical issues involved, I concluded that the concept of "omnipotence" is ultimately unhelpful in critically describing the nature and possibility of divine action, as the definition of "omnipotence" must eventually be reduced to a tautology–i.e., "God can do that which God can do."
Continuing on, I would like to briefly note some issues relating to the relationship of human logic and divine ability. This discussion is actually bourne out of conversation in which I have been engaged in a discussion forum at christianforums.com. The questions posed were, "Can God do that which is logically impossible, such as make a square circle?" and "What is the relationship between logical and God's action?" The following is my response to the questions:
Logic is defined by God's actions and nature, not the other way around. God is not unable to do the impossible. After all, as the action of God determines that which is More >
Aristotle argues that God cannot suffer, for a suffering God would be a God subject to change. To Aristotle, the perfection of God is located in God's changelessness. The logic proceeds that if God were to decrease in perfection, obviously God would cease to be perfect, and therefore, cease to be God. Moreover, if God were to increase in perfection, such increase would indicate that God had not previously been complete in perfection, thus negating God's supposed divinity. So then, to Aristotle, any "passion" (change) on God's behalf is effectively self-negating. Although I appreciate the power of Aristotle's argument concerning the necessary immutability of God, at the end of the day I am unconvinced. It seems fairly arbitrary to define perfection as 'changelessness.' While I do understand Aristotle's rationale, his argument seems blind to the counter that in preserving God's unqualified "changelessness," one has also effectively stripped God of any ability to act, thus reducing God to a benign deity lost in perpetual and eternal self-contemplation.
Historically, the Church has adopted the categories provided by Aristotle, affirming that God is "impassable." For centuries, Christian theology has located the suffering of Christ within the human nature of Christ while concomitantly affirming the More >