Tuesday, October 31, 2017


A common rap against vicarious atonement, penal substitution, sole fide, and imputation is the charge of legal fiction. Merit and demerit are not transferrable. 

Keep in mind that that's just an intuitive objection. It's not a claim that's demonstrably true or false in the sense that a weather forecast is demonstrably true or false. Moreover, intuition often depends on the particular illustration.

Consider an analogy. Take the caste-system in the stereotypical high school. An honor/shame culture in miniature. You have high-status students and low-status students. 

Imagine the cafeteria. A low-status student is walking past the tables, looking for a spot to sit, as he carries his lunch tray. As a low-status student, he's picked on. In addition, he can't sit just anywhere. Some students don't want to sit by him. 

Another student sticks his foot out and trips the low-status student. He falls down, spilling the food and drink on his clothes. The other students cheer. He feels humiliated. 

Then another student gets up and walks over to him. A high-status student. He's the star quarterback. Most popular kid in school. Hip and cool. The boys wish they could be him while the girls wish they could be with him.

The quarterback has achieved status. He attained his topspot on the pecking order through athletic prowess, by winning state championships.

The cafeteria falls dead silent, waiting to see how the high-status student will respond to the plight of the low-status student, sprawled on the floor. Will he make fun of him? Will he shame him further by taunting him. The suspense is intense.

The quarterback reaches out his hand, raises the fallen student, and pats him on the chest. His action instantly transforms the social dynamic. By siding with the humiliated student, by expressing symbolic solidarity through his physical gesture, he transfers his high-status to the low-status student. He instantly elevates the student's social standing. The unpopular student now has ascribed status by virtue of his patron's achieved status. 

By the same token, the quarterback's action implicitly condemns the schadenfreude of the other students. Now they feel humiliated. His noble action exposes their ignoble reaction. His gesture lowers their status. They've gone down a notch while the unpopular student went up a notch. As students exit the cafeteria, the pecking order has undergone a sudden adjustment. 

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