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Showing posts with label Eleonore Stump. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eleonore Stump. Show all posts

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Eleonore Stump on the Atonement--Paper Delivered at Plantinga Retirement

Eleonore Stump recently gave a paper at the Alvin Plantinga Retirement Celebration at Notre Dame University. She explores how a theory of the atonement needs to provide a solution to the problem of evil in the world. This grows out of a paper written by Alvin Plantinga entitled: Supralapsarianism, in which he argues that the good that comes from the atonement explains why God allowed evil to come about. E.J. Coffman, a Ph.D. graduate who studied under Plantinga makes the response.

The whole video series lasts 90 minutes and provides some good insights into the problems associated with the Anselmian and the Thomistic views of the atonement.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four--problems with Anselmian and Thomisitic views

Part Five--problems with Anselmian and Thomisitic views

Part Six--cry of dereliction

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Friday, July 23, 2010

Eleonore Stump's Problems with the Penal Substitutionary Theory of the Atonement

Eleonore Stump is the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University, a Roman Catholic Jesuit school. She is one of the leading authorities on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. She wrote a book detailing his theological system entitled simply Aquinas (Routledge, 2003).

In the book she details some of her problems with the PST as it is popularly preached. She describes the popular version:

Human beings by their evil actions have offended God. This sin or offense against God generates a kind of debt, a debt so enormous that human beings by themselves can never repay it. God has the power, of course, to cancel this debt, but God is perfectly just, and it would be a violation of perfect justice to cancel a debt without extracting the payment owed. Therefore, God cannot simply forgive a person’s sin; as a just judge he must sentence all people to everlasting torment as the just punishment for their sin. God is also infinitely merciful, however; and so he brings it about that he himself pays their debt in full, by assuming human nature as the incarnate Christ and in that nature enduring the penalty which would otherwise have been imposed on human beings. In consequence, the sins of ordinary human beings are forgiven; and, by God’s mercy exercised through Christ’s passion, human beings are saved from sin and hell and brought to heaven (pp. 427-28).

She gives the following problems with this concept of the atonement.

1. It does not present God as forgiving sin.

[C]ontrary to what it intends, this version of the doctrine does not, in fact, present God as forgiving human sin. To forgive a debtor is to fail to exact all that is in justice due. But, according to (P) [PST], God does exact every bit of the debt owed him by human beings; he allows none of it to go unpaid. As (P) [PST] tells the story, God himself fully pays the debt owed him. This part of the story is perplexing; but what it shows is only that God himself has arranged for the debt to be paid in full, not that he has agreed to overlook any part of the debt (p. 428).

2. It is a denial of justice.

[I]t seems not to emphasize God’s justice but to rest on a denial of it. For all the talk of debt is really a metaphor. What (P)[PST] is in fact telling us is that any human being’s sins are so great that it is a violation of justice not to punish that person with damnation. What God does in response, however, is to punish not the sinner but a perfectly innocent person instead (a person who, even on the doctrine of the Trinity, is not the same person as God the Father, who does the punishing). But how is this just? Suppose that a mother with two sons, one innocent and one disobedient, inflicted all her disobedient son’s justly deserved punishment on her innocent son, on the grounds that the disobedient one was too little to bear his punishment and her justice required her to punish someone. We would not praise her justice, but rather condemn her as barbaric, even if the innocent son had assented to this procedure. If the mother could after all forego punishing the disobedient son, why did she not just do so without inflicting suffering on the other child? And how is justice served by punishing a completely innocent person (p. 428)?

3. It does not represent a full payment for the penalty of sin.

[PST] claims that in his suffering and death on the cross Christ paid the full penalty for all human sin so that human beings would not have to pay it; and yet it also claims that the penalty for sin is everlasting damnation. But no matter what sort of agony Christ experienced in his crucifixion, it certainly was not (and was not equivalent to) everlasting punishment, if for no other reason than that Christ’s suffering came to an end (p. 429).

One might escape this by saying the the penalty for sin is merely physical death but as Stump shows:
On Christian doctrine, the punishment for sin is not just death but hell, so that this alteration of (P)[PST] has the infelicitous result that what Christ undergoes in his substitutionary suffering is not the traditionally assigned penalty for sin. But even if it were, Christ’s suffering would not remove the penalty from human beings since they all suffer death anyway (p. 429).

4. It demands universal salvation.

[PST] maintains that Christ pays the penalty for all sin in full so that human beings do not have to do so. But it is a fundamental Christian doctrine that God justly condemns some people to everlasting punishment in hell. If Christ has paid the penalty for sin completely, how is God just in demanding that some people pay the penalty again (p. 429)?

Actually one could hold to a limited atonement (as Calvin and the Reformed) and thus escape this problem. However, it is impossible to reject limited atonement and still escape it (See PST Demands either a Limited Atonement or Universalism).

5. It does not offer a full solution to the sin problem.

Finally, it is not clear what the atonement accomplishes, on the account given in (P)[PST]. According to Christian doctrine, the main problem with human evil is that it leaves human beings alienated from God. Human beings tend to will what they ought not to will, and so their wills are not in conformity with God’s will. Consequently, they do not live in peace with God now, and in that state they cannot be united to God in heaven. Now, according to (P)[PST], the atonement consists in Christ’s paying the penalty for sin. But nothing in (P){PST] suggests in any way that the atonement alters human nature and proclivities which are responsible for sin. In (P)[PST]'s version of the doctrine, the atonement is efficacious to remove not sinful nature or proclivities for moral evil, but only the penalty for sin. In that case, however, the atonement is not really an at-one-ment; for, as (P)[PST] tells it, the atonement leaves human beings with just the same tendencies to will what is contrary to God’s will, so that their wills are no more conformable to God’s will, they are no more tending toward unity with God, than they were before the atonement (p. 429).

In fairness, most adherents of the PST would maintain that the atonement does much more than just pay the penalty for sin. They would acknowledge that it purchases everything needed for man's salvation including sanctification (which involves a change of heart and practical holiness).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More on Aquinas' View of the Atonement (Eleonore Stump)

Eleonore Stump is the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University, a Roman Catholic Jesuit school. She is one of the leading authorities on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. She wrote a book detailing his theological system entitled simply,  Aquinas (Routledge, 2003). In chapter 15 of the work, she writes a chapter on Aquinas' view of the Atonement.

Some scholars have maintained that Aquinas really taught Penal Substitution (for example, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach, pp. 184-85, and What About the Cross? by Waldron Byron Scott, pp. 92-98). Stump says its easy to see why some have come to this conclusion. Aquinas' language at first glance does seem to agree with the PST. The angelic doctor wrote:
Accordingly, Christ also willed to suffer death for our sins so that, without any fault of His own by himself bearing the penalty we owed [emphasis mine], he might free us from the sentence of death, in the way that anyone would be freed from a penalty he owed if another person undertook the penalty for him [emphasis mine] (Aquinas, Compendium of Theology, 227 cited by Stump, p. 431).
However, Aquinas made a distinction between two different kinds of "punishment": simple punishment (poena simpliciter ) and punishment as satisfaction (poena secundum quid). Someone has offered the following example to illustrate the distinction: A husband offends his wife. He can be punished (poena simpliciter ) by his wife (made to sleep on the couch) or he can offer a gift to his wife along with his remorse and love (poena secundum quid) and she can accept it as sufficient penalty for the husband's sin. Simple punishment comes upon a unrepentant person for his crime and it is received against his will. Punishment as satisfaction is offered by a repentant person for his crime and it is done voluntarily. The former is completely negative in connotation and the punishment is meted out in accordance with the severity of the crime (strict retributive justice). The latter is positive in connotation in that it results in a reconciliation between offender and offended and the punishment (as satisfaction) is accepted by the offended party as adequate to forgive the offense (less strict retributive justice). The latter is "punishment" in the sense that the offender suffers (loss or harm) in providing the offering but it is not "punishment" in the simple or most basic sense of the word (for more on this distinction, see here). In the PST, however, Jesus suffers simple punishment in place of sinners. Aquinas denies this and says that an innocent person cannot receive simple punishment (poena simpliciter; for more on this see here).

With that confusion out of the way, Stump turns to an explanation of Aquinas' view of the atonement.

1. The Atonement was not required to forgive sin.

Contrary to the PST adherents, Aquinas does not maintain that God would have sacrificed his holiness if he had chosen to forgive man's sin without the death of Jesus. Aquinas wrote:

[A] judge who has to punish a fault committed against another … cannot remit the fault or penalty without injustice. But God has no one superior to him; rather he himself is the highest and universal good of the whole world. And for this reason, if [God] remits sin, which is defined as a fault from its being committed against [God] himself, he does no one an injury, just as any human being who, without [requiring] satisfaction, remits an offense committed against himself does not act unjustly but is merciful (Summa Theologica , IIIa.46.2 and 3, cited by Stump, p. 431).

2. The atonement was the best way for God to forgive sin.
Something is said to be necessary for an end in two ways. In one way, [as] that without which something cannot be…; in another way, [as] that by means of which one arrives at the end in a better and more suitable manner, as, for example, a horse is necessary for a journey. In the first way, it was not necessary for God to become incarnate in order to restore human nature, for by his omnipotent power God was able to restore human nature in many other ways. But in the second way it was necessary for God to become incarnate in order to restore human nature (Aquinas, Summa Theologica IIIa.1.2 cited by Stump, p. 431).

3. The purpose of the atonement is to restore the sinner to harmony with God.

Stump writes:
Aquinas’s emphasis in his discussion ... is on the sinner, not on the person sinned against. So, for example, Aquinas sees penance in general as a kind of medicine for sin. It consists in detesting one’s sin and purposing to change one’s life for the better, and it aims primarily at the restoration of friendship between the wrongdoer and the one wronged. In discussing the remission of sins, which is on his view the goal of penance, Aquinas maintains that sins are remitted when the soul of the offender is at peace with the one offended.... So the function of satisfaction for Aquinas is not to placate a wrathful God or in some other way remove the constraints which compel God to damn sinners. Instead, the function of satisfaction is to restore a sinner to a state of harmony with God by repairing or restoring in the sinner what sin has damaged (p. 432).
Stump illustrates Aquinas' view of how the atonement works with the following example:

We can understand the gist of Aquinas’s idea about the way in which the making of satisfaction for a wrong done achieves this end by considering a homely example of minor evil. Suppose Anna is the mother of a feisty boy, Nathan, who loves soccer. Anna, on the other hand, loves flowers and has asked her son repeatedly not to play soccer on the side of the house where her flower beds are. But Nathan does play with his soccer ball near the flower beds, and the inevitable occurs: some of the flowers are trampled. Nathan, however, is so interested in his ball playing that he stops just long enough to run into the house and say,“Sorry, Mom, I trampled your flowers” before he returns to his game. What he has done then presents his mother with two problems, one regarding the flowers and one regarding her son. She has lost some of her flowers, and it will take her some time and energy and money to replace them. But her real problem is with her son, as she must see. In the first place, he does not love what she loves; if he had had any care for the flowers, he would have played with his soccer ball in a different place. And second, he does not love her as she would like him to do, because although he knows she loves her flowers, he does not have a care for the flowers for her sake. So what Nathan has done has created some distance between himself and his mother. His will and hers are not in harmony, and he does not love her as he might.

In the example, in recognition of his misdeed, Nathan has offered only a hasty and casual apology and nothing more. If, however, he had any real care for his mother or her flowers, if he were really sorry for what he has done, he would also have done what he could to fix the damage. And his mother would have been very glad of his efforts, even if they were clumsy and ultimately unsuccessful, because they would have manifested a change of heart: after the fact, at any rate, Nathan would have had a care for his mother and for her flowers. And so by his efforts at undoing the damage caused by his action, he would have restored a harmony of will and love between himself and his mother which his wrong action had disrupted. In Aquinas’s terms, Nathan would then have made satisfaction for his sin. The chief value of this satisfaction is not so much that it restores Anna’s flowers. If Nathan’s efforts are clumsy enough, the flowers may even be worse off than if he had not tried to improve their condition. Rather, the value of the satisfaction is that it restores the harmonious and loving relationship between Anna and her son
(pp. 432-33)

4. The atonement is a case of vicarious satisfaction.

Aquinas argues that in the case of satisfaction, another person can pay the penalty owed by the offender. He writes:

Although when it comes to punishment of sins, the person who sinned is the one who must be punished…, nonetheless when it comes to satisfaction one person can bear the penalty of another. [This is] because when a penalty for a sin is inflicted, the iniquity of the person who is punished is weighed; but, in the case of satisfaction, when someone voluntarily assumes a penalty in order to please someone who was wronged, the charity and benevolence of the person making satisfaction is considered (Summa Contra Gentiles,, cited by Stump, p. 434). IV, 55

Going back to the illustration of Nathan and the destroyed flowers, Stump introduces the concept of vicarious satisfaction.
Suppose that Nathan is too little to make any satisfaction himself. Perhaps to rectify the damage he would need to buy and plant new flowers, but he has no money and is too small either to go to the store or to use a shovel. If he is truly sorry for trampling the flowers, what can he do? Suppose that he has an older brother Aaron, who can do what Nathan cannot. And suppose that Nathan explains his predicament to his brother and asks his brother to buy flowers and plant them for him. If Aaron loves his brother enough, he may then use his own time and money to undo his brother’s mischief. If Nathan’s will really is set on some restitution for his misdeed, he will have returned to harmony with his mother even if all the actual work of restitution was done solely by Aaron. In this context, just in virtue of allying himself with Aaron’s restitution, Nathan shows he cares for his mother and for the things she values; and so he restores the close relationship with his mother although Aaron is the one who restores the garden (pp. 434-35).
Stump says the above example shows how it is possible for one to make satisfaction for another's sin. She writes:

In this way, then, it is possible for one person to make satisfaction for another’s sins. Because, on Aquinas’s view, the point of making satisfaction is to return the wrongdoer’s will to conformity with the will of the person wronged, rather than to inflict retributive punishment on the wrongdoer or to placate the person wronged, it is possible for the satisfaction to be made by a substitute, provided that the wrongdoer allies himself with the substitute in willing to undo as far as possible the damage he has done (p. 435).
Finally, Stump alters the story to make it align better with the doctrine of the atonement.

Or, finally, suppose that Nathan shows no signs of any interest in restitution or reconciliation with his mother. If Anna were, like the mother of Aeneas, endowed with the power of transforming herself, and if she really loved her son, she might appear to him in disguise and in that disguise try to talk him into letting her make his restitution for him. If we think of the problem between Nathan and Anna as consisting in her loss of flowers or her distress over the damage to the flowers, then, of course, this story is just farcical, for in this story Anna is in effect giving flowers to herself. But if we understand, as Aquinas does, that the real problem lies in Nathan’s will, which is turned away from his mother’s, and if we suppose not that Anna is wrathful and vengeful towards her son but rather deeply loving, then the story makes good sense. For by this complicated and somewhat demeaning method Anna may succeed in turning her son’s will and love back to her, so that the harmony of their relationship is restored. As long as Nathan wills heartily to undo the wrong he did, it does not matter whether he himself or someone else, including even Anna, actually does the work of making restitution. And this version of the story of Anna and Nathan is analogous in relevant respects to the vicarious satisfaction of the atonement, on Aquinas’s understanding of the notion of making satisfaction (pp. 435-36).
5. The atonement rectifies the root problem which leads to sin.
In general, a person sins by preferring his own immediate power or pleasure over greater goods. Human sin has pride and selfishness at its root, then, and it constitutes disobedience to God, whose will it contravenes. So what is most directly ruined by the sins human beings have committed is human intellect and will; a proud, selfish, disobedient mind and heart are the theological analogue of the trampled garden.. . .

The restoration involved in making satisfaction for human sinning, then, is a matter of presenting God with an instance of human nature which is marked by perfect obedience, humility, and charity and which is at least as precious in God’s eyes as the marring of humanity by sin is offensive. But this is just what the second person of the Trinity does by taking on human nature and voluntarily suffering a painful and shameful death. By being willing to move from the exaltation of deity to the humiliation of crucifixion, Christ shows boundless humility; and by consenting to suffer the agony of his passion and death because God willed it when something in his own nature shrank powerfully from it, Christ manifests absolute obedience. Finally, because he undertakes all his suffering and humiliation out of love for sinful human beings, Christ exhibits the most intense charity. So in his passion and death Christ restores what sin has marred in human nature, because he gives God a particularly precious instance of human nature with the greatest possible humility, obedience, and charity. So one answer to the question why Christ had to suffer is that humility, obedience, and charity are present in suffering that is voluntarily and obediently endured for someone else’s sake in a way in which they could not be, for example, in Christ’s preaching or healing the sick. In this way, then, because of his divine nature and because of the extent of his humility, obedience, and charity, Christ made satisfaction for all the sins of the human race
(pp. 438-39).

Here are some problems with this view as I see them.

1. The Atonement was not required to forgive sin.

If the atonement was not required in order to forgive sin then it seems that the death of Jesus was in a sense gratuitous. Granted that Aquinas says that God chose this method because of the goods that would result, but it still seems God chose a particularly violent and one might argue sadistic way to do it. What Jonathan Edwards wrote against the Socinians would apply equally here to the theory of Aquinas:
In short, since God could have forgiven men their trespasses without any satisfaction, which would have been an act of true bounty and liberality, and as such it is everywhere proclaimed in the Scriptures; why would he desire Christ first to pay him the debt, and then that he might liberally remit it? What is this but to take a needless circuit, to go a great way about to compass that, which might have been effected more compendiously; and indeed can be nothing less that downright collusion and imposture?

...Add to all this, that since God could pardon the sins of men out of mere grace and bounty, now to make him require strict payment and satisfaction to his Justice before he do so; is, say they, an argument of barbarous and savage cruelty, rather than kindness and liberality
(A Preservative against Socinianism [1698], pp. 126 and 129).

2. The atonement was the best way for God to forgive sin.

This seems to be a mere assertion or assumption on Aquinas' part. How does one know that atonement was the best way? It seems that since the Bible teaches atonement and since Aquinas believes that the Bible is the Word of God, and since in his concept of God, God must always act in a perfect manner, therefore atonement must be the best way to bring about the forgiveness of sin. It seems to me that this is merely "begging the question."

3. The purpose of the atonement is to restore the sinner to harmony with God.

Stump uses the illustration of Nathan destroying his mother's flower garden in direct disobedience to his mother's command not to play soccer near the garden. She argues that Nathan can be restored to harmony with his mother through showing remorse and then acting to restore the garden. His mother may forgive him on the basis of his attempt to restore what he has done wrong but more importantly on the basis of his remorse and repentance. If that is true, then the atonement can be accomplished by the sinner himself. This, of course, flies in the face of the NT passages which state that man cannot please God on his own. He must have a mediator between himself and God.

4. The atonement is a case of vicarious satisfaction.

While Stump and Aquinas acknowledge that God could forgive sins without satisfaction being made, simply on the basis of the sinner's repentance and remorse; they nevertheless argue that it is better or more fitting if God requires satisfaction. Since in the story about the flower bed, Nathan is unable himself to repair the damage he has done, his brother Aaron (who is innocent) offers to repair it on his behalf. While the innocent brother could not be punished by the mother for something he did not do, he can voluntarily repair the damage done by his guilty brother out of love for his brother.

This seems problematic to me for at least two reasons: a) the mother is still going to forgive the guilty son on the basis of his remorse and repentance. The fact that the brother repaired the damage becomes an auxiliary fact, unless somehow the brother's repair of the damage leads to the remorse and repentance in the guilty brother. While this is certainly possible, at this point the view of Aquinas becomes essentially the same as Abelard's Moral Exemplar Theory. In other words, the atonement is designed to impact man not God. This contradicts many NT passages which make it clear that the atonement propitiates God. The atonement is the basis on which God is able to justly forgive sin (e.g., Rom. 3:21-26). If I am reading the NT correctly, then the grounds for God's forgiveness of sin is the death of Jesus, which in the story is analogous to the brother's repair of the garden. Yet, as I have pointed out, in the story, the repair of the garden is not the basis for the mother's forgiveness, it is the remorse and repentance of the guilty son.

b) In the flower garden story, the innocent brother, Aaron, repairs the garden on his brother's behalf. Although this involves some time and effort on Aaron's part, it's hard to envision this constituting punishment (even punishment as satisfaction); working in the garden might actually be pleasurable for Aaron. It is very difficult to see how this compares with Jesus suffering and dying. The NT presents Jesus as submitting to the will of his Father in going to the cross and at least his human nature at times did not want to submit--it certainly was not something pleasurable but was clearly an act of punishment that he obediently endured.

5. The atonement rectifies the root problem which leads to sin.

Stump argues that the life and death of Jesus is an acceptable sacrifice to God for man's sin because Jesus gives God a particularly precious instance of human nature with the greatest possible humility, obedience, and charity . This gift of obedience involves even submitting to a violent execution which was wrongfully imposed upon him. Somehow, in Aquinas' and Stump's view, this sacrifice is deemed as acceptable satisfaction for the harm done by man's sin and thus becomes a vicarious satisfaction in lieu of man being punished for his own sin. It seems that the only way that God can accept the sacrifice of Jesus in lieu of the punishment of man's sin is that somehow the sacrifice of Jesus accomplishes the same thing that the punishment of man's sin would accomplish. If that is the case, then it seems impossible to escape the conclusion that Jesus suffered a similar fate that sinful man would suffer if he died in his sins. In one way or another, an innocent person is being asked to suffer in the place of the one who deserves the suffering. I continue to maintain that the suffering of an innocent person cannot accomplish justice.