Guilt and Shame – objective and subjective

I wanted to highlight again an important factor in our understanding of guilt and shame.  Instinctively in modern, western Britain we think in terms of shame as something that is a subjective feeling.  Increasingly, as we saw right back when we first looked at guilt and grace, we treat guilt as subjective too.

The things I want to highlight for reflection here are:

  1. The Bible treats both of these things as objective states of affair. Adam and Eve are guilty of sin, under a penalty and exposed/shamed. Jesus bears our guilt on the Cross and is publically exposed/shamed.
  2. Honour/Shame has a much more objective dimension to it -but affecting a whole community.
  3. If we think in subjective terms then it is no surprise that we look primarily for therapeutic solutions.
  4. Therapeutic solutions will find their way into the church. We will be suspicious of the legal/forensic theology of penal substitution and justification by faith.
  5. Therapeutic solutions will change (have changed?) our expectations of the role of the church service, sermon, praise and pastoral ministry. We expect them to primarily provide for our feelings. We want to be uplifted by the sermon and worship. We want the pastor to come and help us feel better. We struggle when actually these things cause discomfort and yet sometimes the discomfort is what we need because God’s Word is disagreeing with us.
  6. This expectation will feed into a consumer approach to church. If my church does not make me feel better I will look elsewhere.