Monday, December 31, 2012

John Locke and the "Governmental Theory" of Atonement

There are many views of the Christian Atonement including the Governmental Theory, perhaps tied to Hugo Grotius, but adhered to by John Locke. The Governmental Theory extends God's forgiveness for sin among other things. There are several different views of the Atonement, the belief of which may not have anything to do with whether someone is saved, but it has to do with Locke's overall faith. This portion of his commentary on Romans proves my point:
But the righteousness of God, that righteousness which he intended, and will accept, and is a righteousness not within the rule and rigour of law, is now made manifest, and confirmed by the testimony of the law and the prophets, which bear witness of this truth, that Jesus is the Messias, and that it is according to his purpose and promise, That the righteousness of God, by faith in Jesus the Messias, is extended to, and bestowed on all who believe in him* , (for there is no difference between them. They have all, both jews and gentiles, sinned, and fail of attaining that glory which God hath appointed for the righteous,) Being made righteous gratis,[without payment] by the favour of God, through the redemption which is by Jesus Christ; Whom God hath set forth to be the propitiatory, or mercy-seat* in his own blood , for the manifestation of his [God’s] righteousness , by passing over§ their transgressions, formerly committed, which he hath borne with hitherto, so as to withhold his hand from casting off the nation of the jews, as their past sins deserved. [bold face mine]
--Romans 3:1-31 Paraphrase

24Redemption signifies deliverance, but not deliverance from every thing, but deliverance from that, to which a man is in subjection, or bondage. Nor does redemption by Jesus Christ import, there was any compensation made to God, by paying what was of equal value, in consideration whereof they were delivered: for that is inconsistent with what St. Paul expressly says here, viz. that sinners are justified by God gratis,[without payment] and of his free bounty. What this redemption is, St. Paul tells us, Eph. i. 7, Col. i. 14, even the forgiveness of sins. But if St. Paul had not been so express in defining what he means by redemption, they yet would be thought to lay too much stress upon the criticism of a word, in the translation, who would thereby force from the word, in the original, a necessary sense, which it is plain it hath not. That redeeming, in the sacred scripture language, signifies not precisly paying an equivalent, is so clear, that nothing can be more. I shall refer my reader to three or four places amongst a great number, Exod. vi. 6, Deut. vii. 8, and xv. 12, and xxiv. 18. But if any one will, from the literal signification of the word in English, persist in it, against St. Paul’s declarations, that it necessarily implies an equivalent price paid, I desire him to consider to whom: and that, if we will strictly adhere to the metaphor, it must be to those, whom the redeemed are in bondage to, and from whom we are redeemed, viz. sin and Satan. If he will not believe his own system for this, let him believe St. Paul’s words, Tit. ii. 14, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity.” Nor could the price be paid to God, in strictness of justice (for that is made the argument here;) unless the same person ought, by that strict justice, to have both the thing redeemed, and the price paid for its redemption. For it is to God we are redeemed, by the death of Christ, Rev. v. 9, “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” [bold face mine]

He says "unless the same person ought, by that strict justice, to have both the thing redeemed, and the price paid for its redemption." That's precisely what happened. Only God could satisfy the perfect justice His Holiness requires.

Before I make the conclusion, unitarians believe in mercy by forgiveness through a moral example, which is exactly what this theory requires. It's more evidence that Locke believed in God's forgiveness in a unitarian context, rather than the satisfaction by blood as a sacrifice. Does Locke say the same person couldn't both accept the redemption and pay the price for it. Why not? Ironically, he used Biddle's argument in the Adversaria Theologica.

1. How can God satisfy God? If one person satisfies another, then he that satisfies is still unsatisfied, or forgives. Ib. 12.
John xx. 17.
Eph. i. 7.
Heb. i. 8, 9.
 
First, Locke is buying Biddle's ideas. If any man could answer some of Biddle's questions he would be God. But not this one. God satisfies God because of the Trinity.
 
God cannot forgive because His very nature is Holiness and Perfect Justice. The Bible says God is just. Therefore, Justice and Holiness is His nature. God cannot act contrary to His nature. God doesn't even have the capacity to forgive or the capacity to be Holy. It violates His nature. He's already inherently Holy and Just. This is what Calvin's Substitutionary Theory is all about. Calvin was a lawyer, which is why he used legal terms to explain this.
 
Also, God's fellowship with Sin is completely void and impossible. God cannot have fellowship with anything less than His perfect righteousness. He must also deal with every human being with perfect justice, meaning He can't deal unfairly with us or send us to hell without providing a solution for our salvation. Man is entirely without spiritual life or capacity, so no one can work or earn fellowship with God; that is, Propitiation is the Reconciliation in Christ and what satisfies God's Holiness.
 
Forgiveness in the Scriptures refers not to what God would literally do, but a result from satisfying and Propitiation. John Locke's view on the Governmental Theory of Atonement mirrors his unitarian belief of Salvation.  

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Our Founding Truth said...

Locke's problem with God paying the penalty for sin could have been the same problem John Adams had. His son tried to convince him God didn't die. The flesh God the Son took on died.

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