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April 28, 2010

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Now this is a target rich environment! Where to begin?

Sure, we all think moral crimes ought to be punished. Sure, we all recognize we've committed moral crimes. Sure, we all like the idea of a pardon.

So?

Does this all mean all moral crimes are punished? No. Maybe the whole world is like the part of the world we see: just and unjust in randomly varying proportions.

Does it mean they ought to be punished eternally? No. Maybe the punishment should fit the crime. Might want to consider that as an option.

Does it mean the 'pardon' ought to be offered on arbitrary terms? No. Maybe not.

Does it mean justice is served by punishing a 3rd party? No. We don't do that intentionally and regard it as such a terrible thing that our courts must assume innocence until guilt is proven and demand proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt even though these conditions tend to let some who are guilty go unpunished.

RonH

RonH,

>>"Does it mean they ought to be punished eternally? No."

Did you use the word "ought" with intention here? I ask because you even went as far as to answer it: "No."

Ron, we don't get a vote.

"We don't do that intentionally and regard it as such a terrible thing that our courts must assume innocence until guilt is proven and demand proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt even though these conditions tend to let some who are guilty go unpunished."

Why should that matter?

David,

Maybe there's no voting at all.

But let me ask you this: Why would God punish the first infraction - whatever it might be and assuming the pardon is not accepted - eternally?

RonH

Chris,

It raises the question: Why do we make such efforts to punish only the guilty if God punishes the innocent in place of the guilty.

RonH

And the answer is: We don't believe it's right to punish the innocent in place of the guilty.

We accept third party restitution all the time.

RonH,
"Why would God punish the first infraction - whatever it might be and assuming the pardon is not accepted - eternally?"

There are plenty of difficult questions out there. How about we focus on questions that we can answer with a high degree of certainty.

Why would a person refuse to accept a free pardon and thus avoid the consequences of a reality they don't fully understand?

How would you answer that, RonH?

Daron,
Restitution is not punishment Daron.

SteveK,

You mean why would they refuse if they actually believe such an odd pardon is needed and on offer?

Maybe they wouldn't refuse. Or if they did maybe it would be because they believe in justice.

RonH

"But let me ask you this: Why would God punish the first infraction - whatever it might be and assuming the pardon is not accepted - eternally?"

The devil and everyone with him in hell will keep on sinning for all eternity. So they'll be like inmates that keep committing and being convicted of crimes while in prison. Their original sentence may be served, but that doesn't mean that they're going anywhere.

Yes it is, Ron.

I think that this manner of introducing people to the person of God as revealed in Jesus Christ has several features towards which we should be suspicious.

This introduction to God presents God first and foremost as a judge of the guilty in need of a back upon which to inflict retributive punishment. Aside from the fact that this presentation already saddles the gospel with a view of justice and punishment that is not obviously true or Christian (divine just punishment is primarily retributive, not redemptive), this presentation can also be very misleading. Judges, for instance, are usually impartial and are not acting on behalf of people as friend or father. But the God revealed in Christ is also friend and father of all humanity. Is it not Christ himself that told us to love our enemies and to work for their well-being so that we may be like God our Father (Matthew 5:43-48)? This suggests that God deeply loves all humans and therefore deeply values the well-being of each and every individual. Does love preclude punishment? Of course it doesn’t. But we must ask ourselves, “When a person punishes another person whom he deeply loves and whose well-being he is deeply committed to, what is the primary motivation behind the punishment?” The answer is not to obtain a pound of flesh in order to balance the cosmic scales of retributive justice. The primary motivation in this context is the well-being of the person being punished. Let us go to an example from Christ himself. When the prodigal son returns home, his father is not concerned to vindicate his honor by means of some punishment, either inflicted on his son or some vicarious party. Instead, his father is concerned solely with reconciliation, union, and restoration. When the father sees that reconciliation has been achieved, there is no additional issue of vindicating his own majesty. Once restoration is obtained, that is where the matter ends because that is the whole of the matter.
This introduction to the person of God presents God in a manner that is not obviously just or even morally coherent. We are told that God is our judge and is obligated to seek proportionate punishment, which turns out to be endless torment. Initially, it is baffling that crimes committed by finite creatures would merit punishment of either infinite intensity or infinite duration. “But,” we are told, “all sin offends the greatest possible being, and so all sin is infinitely heinous. In order to vindicate His majesty, therefore, God must distribute punishment of infinite severity.” We’ve all heard that before. The idea is that no finite punishment could ever fully vindicate God’s majesty against sin that is infinitely heinous. Now, the traditional view has it that the punishment of the sinner is of endless duration. Notice, then, that at any future time, only a finite amount of punishment has been distributed, and so at no point has infinite punishment been given. It follows that at no point is it the case that God’s majesty is finally vindicated, and so at no point is the purpose of the divine punishment realized. God, then, is practically irrational, since He engages in an activity the purpose of which he knows he will not achieve.
“Not so,” one might object. “The punishment at a time may be of infinite intensity, and on that account acquires the status of infinite punishment.” But then we are left puzzled as to the need for infinite duration. If an infinite punishment may be distributed to a finite creature at a moment in time, why go on to bestow upon such punishment eternal duration? It seems pointless. And even if God distributes a punishment of infinite severity to a creature at a moment followed by annihilation, is his majesty thereby vindicated? To whom is it vindicated? To the faithful in heaven with full knowledge of God’s majesty and for whom no vindication is necessary? To the reprobate creature just annihilated? To Himself? There just is no appealing thing to say here.
Moreover, even if we grant that God’s majesty must be vindicated, why not think that at the cross of Christ all of God’s majesty is vindicated? Christ, after all, is not merely a finite creature, and so Christ’s sacrifice is of actual infinite worth, even if not all creatures accept it. A sacrifice of unconditional actual infinite worth is presumably sufficient to vindicate God’s majesty in full. In light of the cross of Christ, therefore, there simply is no majesty left non-vindicated. We may perhaps believe that creatures will reject Christ and therefore be shut out eternally from heaven. What we may not believe, however, is that such creatures are being punished in order to vindicate God’s majesty.
Finally, the depiction of God is not obviously even coherent. The metaphor is of a judge punishing people for crimes. If that is our metaphor, then it seems unjust that the guilty be pardoned on the basis of punishing a consenting third party. The series of questions Koukl put forth are common but childishly simplistic. After all, we could just as easily ask the following questions:

Q: Have you committed moral crimes which should be punished?
A: Yes.
Q: Would a just judge do what he ought?
A: Yes.
Q: Would it be just of a judge to punish an innocent consenting third party for your crimes and on that basis let you go free?
A: Doesn’t seem very just.
Q: So you agree that if God is a perfectly just judge, justice requires him to punish you and only you for your own moral crimes even in the case that some innocent third part wants to be punished in your place?
A: That seems right.
Q: Do you know what I call that? I call that bad news.

My guess is that Koukl would be horrified at carrying the metaphor this direction. That is why Protestant evangelicals who take for granted their retributive theory of divine punishment and the atonement often switch between the metaphor of a just judge and the metaphor of a debtee. The metaphor of the just judge does not easily square with relieving the guilty on the basis of punishment inflicted on consenting innocent third parties, at least not without some sophisticated footwork. That is why many swiftly turn at some point to the metaphor of the debtee, since this is more conducive to vicarious substitution (another can justly pay my debt). If the just judge metaphor were carried all the way through, the evangelical could not easily justify his own theology of vicarious atonement. On the other hand, if the debtee metaphor were carried all the way through, the evangelical could not convince us on the grounds of justice alone that it would be unjust of the debtee to simply cancel the debt. The money, after all, is owed to the debtee and justice does not require him to refrain from cancelling the debt.

So, neither metaphor gets the evangelical what he wants. That is why evangelicals employ a divide and conquer strategy, changing metaphors along the way as is necessary for their purposes.

RonH,

You have the not-uncommon problem of misunderstanding the Trinity.

A "third party" was not punished. The offended party took the punishment on Himself.

Don't overemphasize the "three persons" part. God became a man. That man died. That said man was called "Jesus" does not change the fact that it was God who was paying the price.

You make good points, Malebranche, but you present your metaphors as though the evangelist's view does not entail double imputation. It is not merely about taking on "punishment" but also acquiring righteousness.

"Would it be just of a judge to punish an innocent consenting third party for your crimes and on that basis let you go free?"

Malebranche, your question does not form an equivalence to the situation consisting of God, Jesus and mankind.

1. God created man and gave him the law. A judge in common understanding didn't create the judged nor is he the creator of laws. He is simply an instrument of the law. God is not the instrument of the law, he IS the law. There is no law absent God in theology. If you want to argue that there is no God, that is a different debate.

2. Jesus is not an innocent third-party. There are at least two differences:
a) Being innocent while a higher virtue than being guilty, is a lesser virtue than being righteous.
b) Jesus is not a third-party. That would be a deficient understanding of the trinity.

3. The question of whether or not something is just is determined by the system of law you employ. By introducing God into the question, the law is that of God's, not human-conceived common law. And in God's law, the propitiation of sin by substitutionary atonement has been the norm since the first sin, the first murder and all the way to the eternal atonement through Jesus.

So the evangelical metaphor is not a divide and conquer strategy. Indeed, the evangelical is attempting to divide nothing and conquer nothing. What is at stake is your soul and eternal destiny. So please think through the analysis very carefully.

Excellent comment, kpolo.
It preemptively answers the objections to come.

Daron,
Outside of Christian theology restitution is not punishment.

Malebranche,
TL;DR

RonH

Hi Ron,
It certainly is.
Even the very scholarly wiki agrees.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punishment

Since you seem quite certain about what justice is maybe you can end this cycle of assertions and define it?

ChrisB,

I do know about the Trinity. I understand it. I understand homeopathy too.

Having the victim punish himself is hardly less absurd than punishing an innocent third party.

RonH

Daron,

Outside of Christian theology restitution is not (equal to) punishment. (I'm not saying they're equal in Christian theology either; that's what I understand *you* to say.)

Restitution per se is not punishment; restitution is making the victim whole. Being made to pay restitution can be a component of punishment (might be embarrassing).

Suppose I put a cd in my pocket and run out of the shop. The clerk chases me down. If I hand him the cd that's (partial) restitution. If he then breaks my nose that's punishment.

RonH

I didn't claim that restitution and punishment are synonyms. I demonstrated that restitution is punishment.
It answers your question about third parties. A third party paying restitution is a third party being punished. Your punch in the nose example does not answer the point that we accept third party restitution as satisfying justice.


Daron,

You demonstrated that restitution is punishment? Sorry I missed that.

So the clerk runs me down. I hand him the cd: restitution. He punches the banker walking by: punishment.

Crimes have earthly victims. Restitution goes to them from the guilty or from a third party. Punishment is for the guilty alone. This is how the world is.


RonH

Sorry you missed that, Ron. Check the link.

You are wrong about restitution being only for the victim. Actually, you are wrong about everything. Restitution, ie, making one whole, does not entail only the return of the goods. There is also a pain and suffering component to their loss and restitution will entail, even in American justice, a fourfold compensation in specific statutes and much more in the case of civil awards. And restitution is made, via punishment, to the offender as well.He too, is made whole, by relief of his guilt through punishment.
As for your zeroing in, and failing to make your case, on restitution of missing property, you have completely ignored the fact that justice can and is perfectly served in the case of an innocent third party paying a punitive fine on behalf of the offender.
Your case fails. We often accept that third party can be punished for another's crimes to the satisfaction of justice.

Now I must be off, I'll return to check on your definition of justice later.

Daron,

You asked me to define justice. So here goes: Justice is an attempt to do two things: 1) restore accounts to what they were before a wrong was done and 2) discourage wrongdoers in advance by taking some extra (beyond restoration) from their accounts.

The second part is called punishment. We recognize that restoration alone doesn't deter. So we make the wrongdoer pay extra. How much? Roughly: Enough to deter. Proportionate to the wrong. We stop at the point of diminishing deterrence.

And you?
RonH

RonH,
When you said this:

"Maybe they wouldn't refuse. Or if they did maybe it would be because they believe in justice."

I was hoping, instead, that you would answer for youself. Why do you not accept the pardon freely given?

I hate to be simplistic and non-intelectual but instead of trying to define justice and punishment and what you as a human feel about it why not research what God says about it. "Lean not unto your own understanding but lean on to the word of God". You people do know that the Gospel is nonsense to the gentile and a stumbling block to the Jew.

I think I'm getting a headache reading this debate.

SteveK,

I don't accept because I don't think anybody offers such a pardon. Nor does anybody threaten such a punishment.

RonH

2oldstroke,

Isn't it by leaning 'unto your own understanding' that you come to 'lean on to the word of God' rather than 'south park'?

RonH

Malebranche,
The reason everlasting punishment is necessary is because of guilt. I think this is where your misunderstanding lies. Consider this scenario: A man is charged with committing manslaughter, is found guilty, and receives a 10 yr sentence. After he gets out, he has a few years of parole and then has no further obligation to the justice system. Question: Does the fact that the man 'served his time' for the infraction suddenly mean that he is no longer guilty of having committed the crime? I would think not. He did do it, after all, and no punishment he could undergo could change the fact that he did it. In the same manner, this is why everlasting punishment is necessary for the guilty sinner, since they have sinned against an infinitely holy and just God. God punishes on account of someone's guilt, which no matter how much punishment a person endures, it never erases his guilt before God. The only way that guilt can be wiped away is for the sin(and consequently, the guilt as well) of the individual to be transposed on to Jesus, the perfect and guiltless God-man, who willingly gave His life for us so that we could have His righteousness: 2Co. 5:21 "For our sake God made him(Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." And this righteousness is what we need to escape the coming just wrath of God: Pro. 11:4 "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death." Anyway, I hope this helps; this also shows why Greg's approach is coherent,quick and effective. --Aaron

Kpolo,

"What is at stake is your soul and eternal destiny. So please think through the analysis very carefully."

Are you serious? Surely you are aware that the view of the atonement you are defending is new (relative to the span of Christianity). I'm not saying it's wrong or right, but to pull the "eternal destiny" card lacks both humility and a rudimentary knowledge of theological history.

In addition, how could propitiation for sin be the “norm” when “propitiation” doesn't appear anywhere in scripture? Propitiation is a theological construct that is read back into scripture. Again, this may be right or it may be wrong, but let's not pretend that propitiation is “scriptural.”

Hi Ron,
Thanks for your answer.

Daron,

You asked me to define justice. So here goes: Justice is an attempt to do two things: 1) restore accounts to what they were before a wrong was done and

If it is merely an attempt how can you personally determine what does and does not qualify as justice? How do you know that Third party payment is not justice then? Surely someone thinks it is a good attempt?


2) discourage wrongdoers in advance by taking some extra (beyond restoration) from their accounts.
This is still part of trying to restore accounts. You can't restore the victim of a home burglary, for instance, merely by returning their property. There is lost time, lost security lost happiness, etc. This is why a simple return of property is not restorative.
This is beside the point, of course.

The second part is called punishment.
You are making up your own definitions here. This is not all that punishment is. The first part is also punishment. Again, this is beside the point because your claim was already falsified - third parties can pay the debt of another and make it good, as per the requirements of justice.
We recognize that restoration alone doesn't deter. So we make the wrongdoer pay extra. How much? Roughly: Enough to deter.
We actually know that punishment does not deter either.


And me? How do I define justice?
Justice is the term that refers to the right, fair and deserved dealings between moral agents.

Your sense of the word only seeks to restore things to how they were before an action. But who determines when a wrong was done? How do we know that good was not done and if ti were then why would we want to restore accounts to where they were before such a good was done? Who determines this?
And if you can't determine these things how can you make statements like you did in your first comment in which you said justice cannot be served by punishing a third party?

Daron-

Nice post.

You are defining distributive justice. Ron was trying to define retributive justice. It is important to distinguish these.

Distributive justice is the prior notion. Retributive justice is meant, as much as possible, to restore things to a distributively just state after they've fallen out of that state. I think your remarks after your definition reflect that you agree.

The consequence of this is that we can have no clue of which punishments are deserved and which are undeserved unless we first know how accounts should stand in the first place. Ron seems to be proceeding from the assumption that the status quo ante is a distributively just state. Your point, I think, undermines Ron's assumption.

It seems, furthermore, that only God can be in a position to know what the distributively just state of the world is.

WL,

Would you say our courts, for example, focus on retributive or distributive justice?

It seems, furthermore, that only God can be in a position to know what the distributively just state of the world is.

Until God starts appearing in court, it seems like we'll have to decide when a wrong has been done.

RonH

Thanks WL,
I always enjoy when people know the proper terms for what I am trying to think. :)

The consequence of this is that we can have no clue of which punishments are deserved and which are undeserved unless we first know how accounts should stand in the first place.
Exactly. Thanks again.

Hi Ron,
I think we can still accomplish a little more here.

Who is this "we" you refer to in your latest to WL and from your opening comments?
You say "we" have to decide what is right and wrong. Whoever this 'we' is will also be deciding what 'justice' is then. Are you sure 'they' are right? What happens when they disagree amongst themselves, or between groups?

Surely you are aware that there are groups who believe that it is perfectly just to punish, torture, rape and kill third parties for the crimes of others?
How do we decide that they are wrong and against whose standard?

Daron,

Who do you think I mean by "we"? I think it is pretty obvious who I mean.

I guess where we're going (sigh) is you've been told there's no 'foundation' for morality with out God.

OK, maybe there's no 'foundation' for morality. So? What does that mean?

Shat is under the foundation of the building you are in? And what is under that? And under that? Surely if this 'foundation' idea is going to get off the ground we should find some 'solid ground' somewhere on this side of the analogy? What is it?

RonH

I think you mean you and people who think like you.
That is no basis for making blanket claims about what is and is not just.
When you say such and such is not just all you are doing is stating your opinion. When you say you believe in justice (as though God's plan is not just) all you are saying is you think what you think.

Every experienced hunter knows that when you enter a target rich environment you still have to take aim before you shoot. If you just fire randomly at a flock you are still likely to miss.
You missed.

OK, maybe there's no 'foundation' for morality. So? What does that mean?
Without an objective morality there is no objective justice. Without an objective justice your claims such as
Does it mean justice is served by punishing a 3rd party? No.
are meaningless.

Nope. I include you and all the other humans too. We'll continue to do just what we've always done. Some might claim their positions come from God. They get a say. Just like anyone else.

RonH

Greg's point is a good one. How an argument is framed can determine the nature of possible answers. In a way it is like the question "when did you stop beating your wife?".

I think it is also important to be as precise as possible with definitions of words,terms and concepts as illustrated by the back and forth in ths case with RonH. It is hard to do in quick short back and forth blogging.

For example Greg says: "One way to say it is, “If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’ll go to Hell. If you do believe, you’ll go to Heaven.”
That’s certainly true, as far as it goes."

We are told several times in the Bible that the demons believed in Jesus, but I am reasonably certain that they will not end up in heaven. The additional detail about what constitutes belief in Jesus is necessary to understand how that belief functions in the argument.

But all other humans don't agree with you that we don't justly punish third parties for the crimes of others.
So you are either excluding them or you misfired.

Ron-

Our courts have to establish first what the just distribution of things is. Only then can they decide whether and what retribution is called for.

For example, if I am accused of stealing a car from you, the court has to first establish who the owner of the car is. That is, the court has to decide first what distributive justice commands. If the car belongs to me, for example, chances are that the case against me will be dismissed before we even get to trial, or even more likely, the prosecutor, acting as an agent of the court, will choose to not even pursue the matter.

Of course, a question may arise about whether at a deeper level, I deserve the car. Maybe I paid for it with 'wages' from a no-show job that I've contrived to get. Or maybe I'm obscenely overpaid for what I do. Or whatever. Human courts of law do not attempt to discover anything about these issues. But then, human courts of law do not pretend they are providing deep retributive justice either. The retributive justice they provide as a result of the legal process is precisely in sync with the distributive justice that they discover during that same legal process.

Now, a perfectly just court would not ignore any issues of distributive justice. Only then would the retributive justice that it provides really be the just result. But no one, except God, is in a position to establish what the distributively just state is without ignoring any issues.

WL,

Let's suppose that everyone suddenly began to act amorally. What do you think would happen?

RonH

>>In addition, how could propitiation for sin be the “norm” when “propitiation” doesn't appear anywhere in scripture?

While I don't think it's necessary for a particular word to be in Scripture in order for the concept to be there, in this case, both the word and concept are in there. Jesus is explicitly said to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 3:23-26
Hebrews 2:17
1 John 2:1-2
1 John 4:10

As an outsider 'proof texts' always crack me up . The idea. But, you've got them for MijkV alright.

Though this propitiation thing is bizarre, it does seem to have been a reform relative to existing tradition in the area like this or this or this.

The improvement being: If the innocent have to pay what the guilty owe... or is it that the victim pays Himself? ... anyway at least Christianity would take care of it in one fell swoop. The mistake is thinking this is the end of moral progress.

RonH

RonH,

The mistake is thinking this is the end of moral progress.

The mistake is thinking moral progress can be made in a pluralistic system where contradicting notions of moral progress are equally valid.

Ron-

I'm to dumb to get this:

"Let's suppose that everyone suddenly began to act amorally. What do you think would happen?"

I suppose that would depend on how they began to act amorally. Kant makes a compelling case that a certain kind of universal amorality might be the actual state of affairs. Here's the pith:

I am willing to admit out of love of humanity that even most of our actions are correct, but if we look closer at them we everywhere come upon the dear self which is always prominent, and it is this they have in view and not the strict command of duty which would often require self-denial. Without being an enemy of virtue, a cool observer, one that does not mistake the wish for good, however lively, for its reality, may sometimes doubt whether true virtue is actually found anywhere in the world
Kant's point is that it is one thing to comply with the moral law, but it's another thing to act out of respect for it.

You could have a world where all humans suddenly start acting in this way: they comply with the moral law, but no one respects it. In fact, they hold the moral law (and their fellow human beings) in cynical, though fearful, contempt. If so, everyone would have suddenly started acting amorally.

Is that world bad? Well, it's certainly a morally bad world, every person is about as sinful as you can get. But it would probably be a world conspicuously absent of stolen speedboats, beaten children, cuckolded husbands and the like.

On the other hand, you might have a world where everyone starts acting amorally by not even complying with the moral law. In that world we quickly slide into the jungle followed by extinction.

Since both of these extremes are compatible with a world of general human amorality, I can't answer the "then what?" question. Unless, of course, you think that Kant's cool observer is right, and there is no actual virtue to be found anywhere. In that case, the answer to the "then what?" question is "then what happens is exactly what already is happening".

SteveK,

...contradicting notions of moral progress are equally valid.
You don't think I've said anything like that do you?

WL,
What I meant by 'act amorally' was 'act amorally'. Stolen speedboats for sure. Keyed cars. What you bring up is interesting but I had acts in mind.
RonH

Ron-

"I had acts in mind"

If I don't give a fig about the moral law, and my only reason for refraining from stealing your speedboat is that I fear what the police and you might do in retaliation, then my refraining from stealing your speedboat, that act, is quite amoral.

If I don't give a fig about the moral law, and I'm also not afraid of you or the police, then I will steal your speed boat, and that act, the theft of the boat, is also amoral.

I was also referring to acts.

What makes an act amoral is the fact that, I'm not paying the slightest attention to moral reasons when I perform the act. That distinguishes the amoral from the immoral. Immoral acts involve acknowledgement of and defiance to the moral law.

Are you asking this: What if everybody suddenly stopped complying with the moral law?

Well, a lot of things would happen all at once. For one thing, all contracts would immediately become void. Oddly enough, this would make a whole category of evils impossible (if I can't make a contract, I can't break a contract).

But perhaps it's not necessary to go into all the details of what would happen. Since we would no longer be complying with the moral law against suicide, we'd have a short run as a species. The human race would quickly degrade to the state portrayed in that dreadful M. Night Shyamalan offering The Happening. And then it would be over for us in this world.

As I said before, though, I'm too dumb to get where you are going with this.

Yes yes yes. We'd have a short run as a species. That is all. Thank you.

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