Posts by existdissolve
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 >
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
In the book of Colossians, Paul instructs the believers that they should "forgive" each other "as the Lord" has forgiven them. This is a high calling–forgive even as God has forgiven! However, the immediate question comes to mind: what does it mean to forgive "even as" God has forgiven? Penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) theory holds that all sin creates a "penalty" which must be "paid" in order for the sin to be forgiven. As all of humanity has sinned, PSA theory asserts that all owe a "penalty" for said sin, a penalty which must be paid if forgiveness is to be actualized. But to whom must the penalty be "paid?" Surely it is not Satan, for it is inconsistent to say that forgiveness of sins is secured upon paying off the devil. Therefore, the only one to whom the payment can be due is God.
So then, PSA theory holds that humanity owes a "penalty" for its sin to God. As the penalty requires satisfaction, only payment of the penalty will secure forgiveness. Moreover, PSA theory asserts that More >
1. PSA theory asserts that sin incurs a "penalty."2. This penalty is based upon God's decision concerning sin.3. God's decision in this matter is free and in accordance with God's will, as there is no force which compels God to choose or act in one way or the other.4. God has determined that the penalty incurred from sin terminates in the death of the sinner.5. God has determined that this penalty cannot be mitigated unless satisfactory payment is rendered.6. God has determined the terms of the penalty;7. It is also God to whom satisfaction must be rendered.8. All humanity has sinned and incurred the penalty of death.9. Satisfaction for this sin can only be accomplished by full satisfaction of the penalty–the death of every sinner.10. God has determined that satisfaction of penalty must be rendered by those to whom it applies.11. Christ has experienced death, and mysteriously unites the universal sin of humanity within a singular death.12. And God has accepted Christ's death in the place of multitudes of sinners, counting his singular death efficacious for remitting the universal penalty due for innumerable sinners.13. As already stated, no necessity determines the free and willful decisions of God.14. If God decrees More >
I have recently been doing a fair bit of thinking about the 2 cardinal "omni" statements about God: omnipotence & omniscience. As a student of theology and philosophy, I have attempted to critically analyze these ideas, approaching them from myriad angles, trying to see them in many different lights. However, the more I look at them, the more I am becoming convinced that they are actually quite unuseful–at least theologically and philosophically.
For example, consider "omnipotence." Prima facie, this concept suggests that God can do or accomplish anything (without qualification). While this is a potentially helpful way (for humans) to think about God in the midst of the contingencies of finitude, from a philosophical standpoint such a declaration is actually quite absurd.
For example, there is the trite question: "Can God make a rock so big that even God can't lift it?" Well, it would seem that this is impossible. After all, if God can make something that is beyond the powers of God, then God–in creating such a thing–would be actually proving that God is, in fact, not God. And yet even this conclusion is absurd, for such would be postulating that that which is more powerful (the rock) More >
Recently, I have participated in many discussions regarding the current controversies surrounding "evolution vs. Intelligent design." As I have read, replied and stood back from the discussion to simply observe, I have noticed some interesting things.
Confusion of Terms
On both sides of the issue, there are severe misunderstandings about the terms and definitions which the other side employs. For example, many antagonists of intelligent design (ID) wrongly conflate the same with a rigid, literalistic 6-day, 24-hour interpretation of the Genesis creation accounts. While ID is championed by many who also affirm the literalistic interpretation of Genesis, ID itself cannot be reduced to this. Rather, ID merely states that the complexity of the physical universe which we inhabit is such that it must have been designed by an "intelligent" power, force, etc. However, the identity of this "intelligence" is not necessarily identified, and could range anywhere from an advanced alien intelligence from another universe to a supernatural sweet potato.
Equally, proponents of ID and creationism often make a similar mistake by equating big bang cosmology and biological evolutionary theory with atheism. This, of course, is not surprising, as many of those sympathetic to ID locate the identity of the intelligence More >