Cleansing the Conscience — Conscience and Guilt — Part 8

Now, of course, one may grant what we have said, without therefore granting that we have answered our basic question. We are immediately dealing with glory (two posts ago, we made this step). What has glory to do with facing my blameworthiness? I would argue that it has everything to do with it. Glory, or honor, and its opposite, shame, were fundamental to all that ancient people did. They sought honor above money and all other things, and they feared shame more than all else.

When we think about shame, it is primarily because we have done something wrong, Shame is a “painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior” (New Oxford American Dictionary). We think of violations of a moral code. For a person in an honor-shame culture, shame came by failing to support the right cause (the honor of the family or other in-group to which one belonged). The shameful behavior might be right in our eyes, but to them it is shameful. I have taught in places where it is shameful not to cheat on tests. To allow one who is in my in-group to fail the test is a greater shame than cheating on the test. This is hard for us to understand, but it is the way of much of the world.

All of this bears on our question. How can I face my blameworthiness? It depends on whose honor I am committed to. If I am intent on seeking my own honor (as in John 5.44; 7.18!), then I am not seeking the honor of God. If I am seeking God’s honor, then no dishonor that I might bear, including the dishonor of my own sin, is too great. But how does this fit with the honor of God?

About jamesallman

Jim Allman is a Bible teacher living in the Dallas, TX area. He taught 18 years in Memphis, TN at Mid-South Bible / Crichton College, and has been at Dallas Seminary since 2000. He is married to Jan and has three married children, Jill, Jim, Jr., and Julie, and six grandchildren, Hannah, Sara, Gabriel, Miles, Asher, and his little brother, Asa.
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2 Responses to Cleansing the Conscience — Conscience and Guilt — Part 8

  1. Jared Verwiel says:

    Thanks Dr. Allman. I am wondering about the distinction between worthiness and blamelessness. How does personal worth relate to our progressive pursuit of blamelessness. Is the point to say that we will never be blameless only positionally blameless because of Christ? Are these two categories related?

  2. jamesallman says:

    In this context we’re really talking about two different ideas. The blameworthiness that I’m addressing is not a relative idea. The blamelessness (ἄμωμος, but also the term ἀνέγκλητος, blameless or “unchargeable,” if you will) that we find in the epistles and even in the Old Testament, is quite relative. It is not sinlessness, otherwise, none of us could have it. It is rather the idea that we have dealt with our sin in appropriate ways, like the blamelessness of Job, for instance. Because Jesus is our savior, no charge can be lodged successfully against us (this is, I think, the sense of Rom 8.31-34).

    The blameworthiness that I’m addressing is the objective reality that I have sinned. That will remain forever, or we could not be recipients of grace. I must forever and always be known as one who does not deserve, in myself, the status and privilege that God has granted to me. I am and will be blameless in the sense of having Jesus as my advocate, even as the one who justly bore the penalty of my sin, but not blameless in the sense of never having committed something “blameable.”

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