Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Honor, shame, and imputation

I’m going to evaluate this comment:

I’m ignoring it because it’s not relevant. It wasn’t a key argument of mine.

If Zawadi appeals to Rom 2:14-15 as part of his argument, then of course the correct interpretation is relevant. To say that’s irrelevant is a tacit admission that his original argument was irrelevant.

That only became irrelevant when Zawadi belatedly discovered that his interpretation of Rom 2:14-15 is disputed. He certainly didn’t cite Rom 2:14-15 at the outset with the understanding that his appeal was irrelevant. Rather, his initial appeal was shortsighted, and now he’s trying to save face.

There are many Christians who speak about universal moral values and all I simply did was attempt to point to the New Testament as a basis for it. If Steve is the kind of Christian who believes that it is only restricted to gentiles……. Well then fine. That doesn’t affect my argument one bit, since the transfer of moral guilt from the guilty to the innocent remains wrong universally amongst gentiles as well.

To say it remains universally wrong among gentiles once again assumes what he needs to prove.

Seems quite clear to me that this passage is talking about some kind of idea of recognized and shared moral truths.

The onus is not on me to establish the correct interpretation of Rom 2:14-15. Zawadi is the one who cited that passage to prooftext his argument. The onus lies on him to justify his interpretation.

He hasn’t interacted with scholars who challenge his interpretation. He’s not conversant with their arguments.

Obviously Paul taught it, otherwise I wouldn’t be raising the argument in the first place!

In which case, penal substitution is not intuitively wrong to Paul. And Paul is hardly an isolated case.

Yes it does. You yourself Mr. Steve Hays recognize that transferring the moral guilt from the guilty to the innocent is unjust. You only choose to make an exception in the case of Jesus.

I do nothing of the kind.

i) First of all, transitive guilt is just a special case of forensic transference generally.

ii) The atonement of Christ is by no means the only case of this generic principle. Within Scripture we have federal headship, corporate solidarity, and collective guilt. Later generations are blessed or cursed on account of what an earlier generation did, or the actions of a patriarch.

Or take the custom of primogeniture. That’s something the firstborn son enjoys by virtue of his birth-order.

iii) Let’s consider some Islamic examples. Take inheritance. A son inherits the estate as a birthright. It’s not something he earned. Not something he did. Rather, that’s based on his relation to a second party. What his father did.

Take tribal chieftains or caliphs. If you’re the son of the caliph, you are born into a high social position. That’s an ascribed status, not an achieved status. That’s not something you deserve. Rather, that’s based on your relationship to a second party. Because of who your father is, you automatically inherit a high social standing.

In (i-iii), you get the credit or blame for what a second party did. Something is credited to your account apart from your personal actions. What someone else did is functionally attributed to you, as if you yourself did it.

iv) Permit me a personal anecdote. I had an aunt and uncle. My aunt Bess had a cat. My uncle Art was not a cat person. He hated her cat.

She predeceased him. So she left him with the cat. He was stuck with her cat.

After she was gone, what did he do? Did he get rid of the cat? No.

Ever though he couldn’t stand the cat, he kept the cat. Why?  To honor his late wife. Because the cat was special to her, and she was special to him, he treated the cat as if it was his own. He cared for the cat, not because it was his, but because it was hers. Not because it meant anything to him, but because of what his wife meant to him, and what the cat meant to her. He provided for the cat in spite of how he felt about the cat, because of how he felt about his late beloved wife.

That’s an honor-code. He esteemed his wife’s cat because he esteemed his wife. To ditch the cat would dishonor his wife.

First of all, if we are going to be utilizing this kind of logic then that means there exists no universal moral truths in the world today. If we look hard enough we would find people who think racism, murder, rape, child molestation, drug dealing, etc. are okay. Steve providing examples of groups and people VIOLATING these universal moral principles doesn’t mean that he has shown that these principles are not universal.

i) The onus is not on me to disprove the alleged universality of these principles. Zawadi is making the claim. He shoulders the burden of proof.

ii) To assert that penal substitution violates universal moral intuition presumes the existence of a universal moral intuition to be violated in the first place. Zawadi hasn’t begun to establish the existence of a universal moral intuition against penal substitution. He hasn’t even bothered to explain how he’d go about attesting the existence of a universal moral intuition to that effect.

What’s his source of evidence? Clearly he can’t appeal to universal human testimony, for many cultures throughout history practice vicarious sacrifice.

If he’s appealing to intuition, then the only available source of evidence is testimonial evidence. But he doesn’t have anything approaching testimonial evidence commensurate with the scope of his claim. He doesn’t have universal testimonial evidence for a universal moral intuition against penal substitution. Not even close.

And it’s not merely that his claim overshoots the evidence. There’s abundant prima facie evidence to the contrary.

Secondly, your analogy of animal sacrifices is weak. In the case of Jesus, the MORAL GUILT was (allegedly) transferred to Jesus, while animals are not moral agents. The crux of the objection to PTS is that moral GUILT is being transferred away from the GUILTY to the INNOCENT. This is NOT the case with animals that are being sacrificed.
Thirdly, I will concede for the sake of argument that there exists no universal moral principles, the strength of my argument is derived from the fact that CHRISTIANS THEMSELVES understand and relate to the injustice of transferring MORAL GUILT from the guilty to the innocent. They only attempt to make sense of it when it comes to Jesus.

This illustrates the fallacy of question-framing. Zawadi tries to win the debate by framing the issue on his own terms. But why should we submit to his terminology?

For instance, the Bible itself frequently cast the issue in terms of transmissible honor and dishonor. If you honor the Father, you will honor the Son. If you dishonor his Son, you thereby dishonor the Father.

If you honor the Son, you will honor those whom he has sent. If you dishonor those whom he sent, you thereby dishonor the one who sent them.

If you disrespect God’s people, you disrespect their God. Those whom the Son honors, the Father will honor (cf. John 17).

Adam brought dishonor on his posterity. Christ restores the lost honor of the redeemed.

In Scripture, honor and justice are intertwined. If you dishonor God’s name, that’s culpable. You incur guilt.

If honor and dishonor are transferable, so are guilt and shame. Honor can either be an achieved status or an ascribed status. Far from being “exceptional,” this is typical of many ancient cultures as well as Third World cultures.

This is exactly my point. Christians make this exception, yet Steve made no attempt whatsoever in demonstrating how this is a valid argument. Steve hasn’t shown us how it is just and fair that the guilty get to have the opportunity to have their guilt transferred to an innocent person.

i) I didn’t concede that this was exceptional. Rather, I discussed that for the sake of argument.

ii) Once again, it’s not incumbent on me to show that penal substitution is fair and just. There’s no presumption for me to overcome, for Zawadi hasn’t begun to make a case for his claim. He’s been asserting his position rather than arguing for his position.

I as a Muslim surely do recognize that exceptions could be made in times when it comes to particular laws (some of which are exclusive to certain figures as taught in Islam) or how Allah could do things, while not immoral for Him, but for others could be immoral.
But in the case of the PTS, it is different. It is inherently (and not conditionally) unjust to transfer moral GUILT to others.

Notice that Zawadi doesn’t give us any reason to believe that. Rather, he’s trying to win the debate by defining his position as right and true. Truth by stipulation.

No Steve…. I recognize that Asharis are Muslims general…I just simply don’t subscribe to that particular theological school of thought...

Zawadi said the Asharite position is “contrary to Islam.” That’s much stronger than merely claiming that he doesn’t subscribe to that particular school of thought.

And unlike Zawadi, Al-Ghazali and Ibn Khaldun are renowned and revered representatives of Islam.

I’m talking about definition (what the word forgiveness means) and not about any particulars regarding method and conditions of application.

Once again, he’s committing the word-concept fallacy.

Steve… it’s very simple brother.

You’re not my brother.

It makes no sense that WE ARE FORGIVEN our sins, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME our sins were ACCOUNTED FOR IN THE FORM OF “PUNISHMENT” (which Jesus allegedly bore).
Very simple.

Saying it makes no sense is not an argument. Where’s the argument?

At the same time, but not the same person. Zawadi skates over that fundamental distinction.

If you want to define the word forgiveness in a way not understood according to the norm, then fine.

Zawadi is not the gatekeeper of normality, or arbiter of how to define concepts.

Please do so CLEARLY. Otherwise, Christians are speaking gibberish according to Muslims, since it makes no sense to us how PTS and forgiveness are harmonious with each other.

I already explained how they’re harmonious. Zawadi doesn’t engage the argument. He merely folds his arms, stamps his feet, acts petulant, and repeats his refuted claim.

Okay fine, I take it you don’t agree with all those scholars then. Fine. That’s your right.

Zawadi hasn’t cited any “scholars” in his post, or his subsequent replies to me. Instead, we’re treated to vague references to anonymous “scholars.”

What I don’t understand is that the wage of sin is spiritual death. Spiritual death is separation from the presence of God, correct? So, shouldn’t then Jesus must have been separated from God the Father if he bore our sins?
Help me out here. I’m trying to understand.

Once more, Zawadi is getting carried away with metaphors. “Separation” from the “presence” of God is a spatial metaphor. “Spiritual death” is a biological metaphor.

I never said otherwise. I didn’t demand that the exact word “propitiated” be presented. So that’s a strawman.

Actually, that’s how Zawadi framed the issue. Now he’s backpedaling.

An inference based or not based on scripture??? It only talks about the Father’s wrath being appeased.

Notice Zawadi’s inability to follow the argument. If the Trinity is based on Scripture, then an inference from Trinitarian theology is implicitly Scriptural. You don’t need a specific prooftext to draw a logical inference.

Yes, God didn’t punish his divine nature, but his human nature. Yes, that’s clear. It doesn’t change the fact that God punished himself. The method and mode of how it was done isn’t what is being questioned at this point.

Observe how Zawadi is equivocating in this very paragraph: “God didn’t punish his divine nature…God punished himself.”

So God “satisfied” his wrath? Pick any word you like. It doesn’t matter to me. The point is that God had to punish himself in order to fulfill some kind of satisfaction or demand of his according to your theology. That simply doesn’t sound right.

The Son of God Incarnate underwent punishment in place of and behalf of sinners.

To say “that simply doesn’t sound right” is not an argument. Where’s the argument?

And it’s not “my theology.” It’s divine revelation.

I don’t simply “pick” on Christian preachers. Rather, I am merely offering a counter rebuttal to their claims.

Whose claims in particular?

So I would recommend that people such as yourself offer advice to “Christian preachers” instead of me, so that they don’t end up shooting themselves in the foot.

There’s nothing wrong with preachers using metaphors. It’s only a problem for folks like Zawadi who treat colorful metaphors in wooden fashion. 


  1. Not only are you obliterating Zawadi's arguments, you are utterly humiliating him, confirming what I said that this gentleman is dealing with issues that are simply beyond his intellectual abilities to adequately comprehend or address. What makes Zawadi's "replies" so great is that he keeps giving me more and more ammunition to use in my article. He is helping me show how his own views end up condemning his god and prophet. I sure hope he keeps it up!

  2. Steve wrote, “In (i-iii), you get the credit or blame for what a second party did.”

    Pardon my lack of sophistication, but are you arguing that it is *not* unfair to get credit or blame for what somebody else did?

    Steve wrote, “ii) Once again, it’s not incumbent on me to show that penal substitution is fair and just.”

    I know it’s not incumbent on you, but would you mind explaining why you think penal substitution is fair and just (if you do), so that one might better understand the arguments here?

  3. tegner

    "Pardon my lack of sophistication, but are you arguing that it is *not* unfair to get credit or blame for what somebody else did?"

    There are cases where that's not unfair.

    "I know it’s not incumbent on you, but would you mind explaining why you think penal substitution is fair and just (if you do), so that one might better understand the arguments here?"

    i) I explained that in this very post, when I discuss transferable honor and ascribed status. How did you miss all that?

    ii) I also gave a detailed explanation in my response to Ken Pulliam, which I referenced in the first installment of this ongoing thread.