Friday, October 06, 2006

the good judge

Over at Andrew's blog the talk is of the penal substitution debate. Over at the the ship there is a discussion about the Alpha course.

I've been on the Alpha course twice and have helped with the catering on a few more. I don't really want to get into the good-and-bad aspects, partly because that is already being done elsewhere and partly because I think I've moved on. My faith is tempered by my experiences over the last few years - and pseudo-charismatic evangelicalism has limited appeal to me now.

Anyway, to cut to the chase. One thing that really annoyed me about Alpha was the use of one particular illustration regarding the atonement. It goes something like this:

One day a thief was brought before a court of law. There was strong evidence against him, so he was convicted of the sentence. Yet, when the time came for the punishment to be read out, the prisoner was astonished to find that he was free to go without paying a fine. It turned out that the judge knew him and had cancelled the punishment.

Well, I'm sure that is a pretty poor recollection, but you get the gist.

My problem in a nutshell is that this is not justice, but serious corruption. A judge is not allowed to rule on someone he knows, much less decide that the punishment should not be given.

Philip Yancey in his book "What's so amazing about Grace?" gives a much better illustration (again this is from memory as I have mislaid my copy).

In a US city, a mayor one day decided that he would take up his right to preside in the city court. He sat through various cases, and then an old lady was brought before him. She was accused of stealing bread and there was strong evidence against her.

The mayor sighed. According to the law, the punishment was a fine of $10 so he made the necessary statements and pronounced the verdict. He then took off the hat he was wearing, threw it on the floor and took out his own wallet. Throwing $10 into the hat he then said "...and I also sentence everyone else in this room 50 cents for living in a city where an old woman has to steal bread to feed her grandchildren" The money was collected from the astonished policemen, lawyers and members of the public until the hat was filled. Then the money was given to the amazed old woman who went from the court room with more money that she had when she entered.

Do we want a picture of a vengeful God who doesn't care who he punishes as long as someone somewhere is punished? Do we want a picture of a corrupt God who bends the rules to look after his friends? Or do we actually want a God of Love who sees and understands and has compassion upon those he has made?


Blogger Karin said...

Amen. Your telling of the story matches my own recollection. If I have time I may try and check it up later.

6:14 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home