In one of the comments, Seth asked the following question:
Here is my law question. As an attorney:
How would you define pecuniary vs judicial debt payments?
Money or jail?
Good question. In very broad terms, the difference is between payment in money or in kind (e.g., barter) as opposed to payment in the person of the debtor himself (e.g., imprisonment, penal servitude, stripes, or death).
The best way to think of the difference Seth refers to is not the difference between pecuniary and judicial debt but between pecuniary and penal (think penalty) debt.
Most pecuniary debts arise from contracts and normal civil transactions. But we're thinking of sin and of our debt as the penalty for our crime. So we should think of analogies arising out of criminal law, not the law of contracts. Under criminal law, a pecuniary debt might arise from certain violations and low-level misdemeanors where the judge is required or permitted to impose a fine as a penalty.
Let's imagine that you get a traffic ticket for speeding, and the judge imposes a monetary fine. You now owe a pecuniary debt. Let's imagine that you don't have the money but your brother does. He is able and permitted to pay the fine. When he pays the fine, your debt to society is discharged.
Some people see Christ's work on our behalf as similar to the brother paying the fine. And this analogy works to a certain extent. He has paid our debt on our behalf.
But let's imagine that instead of a traffic violation, we have committed a more serious crime that requires incarceration. Your brother can no longer pay. The only person who can pay this debt is you. You must do the time, not your brother.
Christ's work compared to payment
Our debt to God is not of the sort that can be paid off like paying a fine, the debt we owe to God is owed in our persons. We must ourselves do the time.
And yet God has offered to substitute Christ's sacrifice as our punishment. This has no analogy in human law. Civilized society does not permit a mother to take the chair for her son or the brother to do the 30 years for the brother.
This unique combination — a debt owed in our persons paid vicariously by Christ — is the reason why analogies fail. Christ has not paid a certain amount for so many sins. His blood is not like a quantity of money. His suffering is not a pain-for-pain equivalent for the suffering due to us. The gracious arrangement of the gospel is unique and without an exact human parallel.
The trouble with certain views of the atonement is that they fail to recognize the unique nature of this transaction. The famous double-jeopardy argument, for example, works only if one sees Christ's suffering as a payment (like a monetary payment) for the debt (like a sum of money due) of the elect.
All analogies limp. Deductive arguments based on analogies should always be viewed with suspicion.Technorati Tags: double jeopardy, atonement, vicarious, Christ