Why did Christ have to sacrifice himself?

In response to my recent post, God is Love, Christ is Pain, an atheist reader asked why God had to sacrifice himself in order to forgive us.

“If a god who is omnipotent wanted to forgive us,” he wrote, “couldn’t he just forgive us, and make it so we never forget? Why sacrifice himself to himself?’

By dying in the manner he did, Christ knew he was creating an image so vivid, and so visceral, that it would forever last in people’s minds, hearts, and imaginations. God couldn’t ‘just’ forgive us without getting personally involved, without bringing it down to our level—without, ultimately, his very graphic mortal expiration on the cross. Because he knew that nothing but something that extraordinary would stick with us. He knew that people tend to forget, that we naturally get so focused on our own lives that the reality of God—which is, after all, a fairly nebulous conception—tends to slip first from our minds, and then from our hearts. Jesus didn’t want that to happen. He wanted us to remember what he had done for us. So he made the means by which we are eternally forgiven as real for us as he possibly good—and that meant availing himself of the sheer, raw, dramatic magnitude of the crucifixion.

Jesus didn’t sacrifice himself for his sake. He did it for ours. And so he made sure to do it in a manner that we’d never be able to forget. And, sure enough, we haven’t.

So to expand on that a bit:

Jesus knew that people would always know that he knew that he was God. Time and again Jesus says, either explicitly or implicitly, that he is God—as he does, for instance, at John 10:30, when he says, “I and the Father are one.” So there’s no question that Jesus knew he was God. How could he not?

Now, if Jesus knew that he was God, and he knew that we knew that he knew that, then he also knew that a lot of us wouldn’t be able to help but think that he, in a way that we very definitely don’t ever, had it made in the shade.

Jesus was God. It can’t get any better than that, can it? And he knew that he was God. He knew that his story was going to end well. He knew that when his adventure here on earth was over, he was going back to heaven to take his place at the right hand of the Father.

None of us are quite so assured of our fate, are we? We can say that we are—we can claim full confidence that we are going to heaven. But the bottom line is that we don’t have anywhere near the assurance of our ultimate fate as Jesus had of his. We can’t possibly.

So Jesus is stuck. He wants us to know that he truly and fully identifies with us—yet, at the same time, he knows that we know that he’s a good deal more than mortal.

So what does Jesus do? He chooses to demonstrate for us the complete depth of his identification with us, by allowing himself to die on the cross in the horrible manner that he did. Because he knew that we would always remember the nightmare of the crucifix. God or not, Jesus got tortured. His body was beaten and flayed to a pulp. He knew that if he allowed himself to suffer that prolonged and horrible violence, we would never be able to deny his dedication to identifying with us.

He made sure that we knew that he suffered as we suffer. And then some.

And when his final moment came—when his pain and suffering had reached its terrible crescendo—Jesus proved to us that his identification with us was absolute and complete. Jesus showed us that at the moment of his death he felt himself no more God than we do.

“My God, my God,” he howled. “Why have you forsaken me?”

That’s not a God crying.

That’s one of us.

We know Jesus was God because he defied death. And we know he was mortal because of the way he died.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Angela

    When God identified with us by becoming human, he made it possible for us to identify with him.

    When I "suffer" because I have a hang nail, because I'm on a diet, because I have a cold, it underscores the magnitude of that death on the cross – what He did for me. The sting of the open wounds from the lashing, the ache of the bruises from the beatings, the anguish of the thorns in His brow, the thirst, the pain of the nails, and finally the inability to even scratch an itch or shoo the flies that surely must have been enjoying His open wounds – that's true sacrifice.

    As a parent, I wonder if I could sacrifice like that for my own children, and yet He did it for me!

    I think that's why it was necessary – so that we would, in our imperfect way – somewhat understand the sacrifice, and also the magnitude of our sin. If the forgiveness was easy, it somehow lessens the sin.

  • http://www.cmfhq.org Dan Cartwright

    It's much more than all of the above, dear friends.

    Two words, propitiation and justification and

    Propitiation is an appeasing, propitiating – The wrath of Holy God had to be 'appeased'. Because of sin, someone had to die. Jesus death satisfied the justice of His own Father. Sin HAD to be punished.

    Justification is the act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him. Because Christ died and was resurrected, God could declare us righteous and acceptable to Him.

    Jesus bore the punishment we humans justly deserve – he died in our stead! How great a love is that?

  • http://cometothewell.wordpress.com dsrtrosy

    Unfortunately, words like "wrath," "propitiation" and even "sin" mean little to non-believers. Why do we make it so hard? Shouldn't someone be saying it in the most simple words possi…oh, wait–John Shore is doing that.

    I go through periods of deep doubt when I wonder if Jesus really was/is God. Thank God He allows for my doubt and increases my faith as I question. I am always encouraged, John, that you put so much into words–both of doubt and of faith–and that I get a gentle email reminder every time you do! :D

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    Again, it still does not make sense to me. Obviously it doesn't have to make sense to me, being an atheist and this being the inner-workings of your theology. I don't accept the initial premise of Christianity, that there is a god, so anything beyond that is secondary.

    That being said, I do want to understand. I live in a country where roughly 80% believe in Jesus in one form or another, so it would be silly of me to just ignore it.

    So I'll ask a slightly different question: How was what Christ was supposed to have done a sacrifice?

    You attempt to explain this in your post, John, but to me it doesn't quite click.

    "And that, I think, is why he let himself die on the cross in the horrible fashion that he did. Because he knew that we would always understand how terribly, terribly real that was. God or not, he got beaten. He knew that we would forever after that understand that he did become one of us. He did suffer the worst any of us could."

    But he didn't, in fact, suffer the worst any of us could. Not meaning to downplay the description of Jesus' death, studying Ancient Rome is one of my hobbies. I know a fair bit about Roman style crucifixion. And if the records are to be believed, there are men and women who were kept on their crosses for weeks at a time before finally dying.

    This is not to say that a death like the one described for Jesus wouldn't be horrible, but I don't think it should necessarily be considered "the worst".

    And assuming the story is true, he did come back. Not only did he return, but in returning he got to be god (a god who wasn't also bound to be human, anyway).

    In all seriousness, if that sort of offer was made to you would you not accept it? And would you really think it was a sacrifice?

    I would accept it. If told, or if I somehow understood, that I was god…and that I had to be beaten and killed so that no one else would suffer…and it would be a horrible three day ordeal…and afterward I would take my place as an omnipotent, omnipresent deity, I would take that deal in a heart beat. I would imagine that most people would.

    But it would not be a sacrifice.

    A police officer takes a bullet intended for his partner and dies. A mother pushes her child our of the way of a speeding car before being hit by it herself.

    Those are sacrifices. Because when those people die, unfortunately, they have to stay that way.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Morse: I know it doesn't make sense to you; and I know that, having been raised Catholic, you've already heard, and I'm sure more often than you'd care to, anything more I'd have to say about any of this. Please believe I'm not even ALMOST trying to talk you into believing; as you know, you can no sooner talk someone into believing in a religion than you can talk a building into dancing. Intellectualizing and religious faith go together like oil and water. So let's just let this rest. I'm sure that if you ever do become interested in Christianity beyond wanting to generate debates about it, you'll know what to do.

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    John: So what you're saying is that this whole thing, the crucifixion, the (alleged) resurrection, and all of the surrounding angst is just a PR stunt? That's a little disappointing… no make that annoying.

    To me the more fundamental problem is the one Dan brings up with all of his fancy words. I simply cannot buy that the creator of the universe, the all-knowing, all-seeing deity demands the death of one of his creations in order to satisfy him (her, it). It makes perfect sense to me that the priests in the desert of old would demand the sacrifice of the fatted calf or lamb or whatever because the priests needed to eat. Also, calves and lambs were tangible assets that proved that the believer was willing to give up something of obvious value in order to make the God happy… and as we all know a Happy God sends the rains at the right time for the crops etc.

    This God of yours kept demanding the sacrifices of goats and calves and such right up until our boy Jesus showed up about 2,000ish years ago. Then all of a sudden we have a new religion that we're trying to sell to the Goyum and they don't want to have to do all this sacrificing (or adult circumcision). So we tell them they don't need to sacrifice anymore, that this God that used to be satisfied with some livestock has now canceled that debt because we offed his son (who is also him).

    At heart it's still a God that demands the death of one of his own creations to keep him from sending us all to the fires of hell.

    John, as you know, I'm NOT an atheist. I'm a Model Agnostic who admits he doesn't have all of the answers… and neither does anyone else including the folks who wrote your book. I am attracted to the Beattitudes and the concept that God is Love, both themes that seem to me utterly inconsistent with a God who demands sacrifices of anything or anyone living.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    That's fine John. Just wanted to respond, since the post was about my comment and all. :)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Brian: If you're down with the idea that God is love, that's good enough for me. (Like that matters, I know.)

    You're a rational guy who believes it's rational to doubt (and, of course, it is); you're cool with the Beattitudes; you can back a God who claims above all to be about love. Perfect. Sounds good to me.

    I mean … honestly, I'm afraid I just don't have any particular interest in doing too much back-and-forth about who's right and who's wrong about something that in the end can't be empirically determined anyway. You're Pro Love. I'm Pro Love. That means that automatically we have way, WAY more in common than we could ever have in difference. Good enough for me, for sure.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Chris: Oh, yeah, TOTALLY! I was totally hoping you'd read it! I made you, like, The Model Atheist. It was easy, cuz you ask good questions.

  • http://www.opendiary.com/entrylist.asp?authorcode=A414735 A Thinking BUM

    "Please believe I’m not even ALMOST trying to talk you into believing…Intellectualizing and religious faith go together like oil and water. So let’s just let this rest."

    I didn't get the notion that you were trying to talk anyone into believing, rather clarifying what you mean when you use the term "sacrifice". And, I think the question still stands…

    What, exactly, was the sacrifice that Jesus made?

    If death was an illusion, and Jesus knew this beforehand, the sacrifice can't seriously be the transition from an earthly body to an eternal paradise — cause that ain't much of a "sacrifice".

    Or, was the sacrifice the pain that Jesus felt?

    I mean, if that last strike with the whip hadn't happened, would Jesus not felt enough pain to cover for the sins of humanity?

    I am asking seriously, what, exactly WAS the sacrifice?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    It's a fair question–and easily answered. I'll do it on my Wed morning blog posting, if you don't mind. It's an extremely simple answer–still, I don't want to essentially bury it down here in the comments section. I appreciate you taking the time to so rationally and respectfully join the others in posing this eminently sound question, though, for sure. It's a real question that deserves a real answer. If I didn't have a soup that needs tending NOW and a kitchen that looks like an exploded farm I'd like to clean before my wife gets home, I'd do it justice now. But. Burning soup calls. Wednesday!!

  • Mikey

    I'd call it liberation. Finally. Seems like many folks are beginning to wake up and realize that all religious sects are nothing more than a trap that keep us from evolving as humans. They're all about money, power and control. And did you notice that all of them are either controlled by men, or started by men? Notice the lack of a woman's touch in all of this? When you really think about it, all we really have is each other and, if you will, the "golden rule". So when are we going to start treating each other that way? All religions, from Islam to Judaism and Christianity are built on some mythical creature (also a man, go figure) with absolutely no proof other than some ancient, hokey book that was supposedly written eons ago and ironically now there's no one alive to question about it. Today, it's all about "just the facts" and science seems to provide not only that, but answers as well. And then there's that group of people who claim that the earth and universe is only 20,000 years old and they believe in some rapture. What a bunch of elitist snobs! They're book is better than my book. They is not wrapped tight. Religious fanatics on the air every night, saying the bible tells the story and makes the details sound real gory about what to do if the geeks over there don't believe in the book we got over here. And the humble TV servant, with white hair and a brown suit and maybe a blond wife who takes phone calls, tells us it's okay to do this stuff then we're supposed to do it because if we don't do it we ain't goin' right up to heaven. Is it that we're dumb? We can't really be dumb if we're just following god's orders, 'cause after all he wrote this book here. And in the book he says he made us all to be just like……him. So, if we're dumb, then god is dumb. And maybe even a little bit ugly on the side.

  • http://www.talkofchrist.org Harrison

    You are so on the money…

  • chencenter

    First of all, I consider myself a Christian (as in I understand, follow, respect and honor the life and sacrifice of Jesus). When I think about the sacrifice Jesus made, it always leaves me with the popular question; "Is Jesus really the Creator…or is he just the loudest voice of the Creator? …the one true God or a seed of his goodwill to Mankind? In John 10:34 Jesus says, "Is it not written in your law, "I said, you are gods?'" …and would Jesus' crucifixion cry of "why has thou forsaken me"…mean that he is separate from God? Why on earth would he be crying out to himself? I believe Jesus was son of God, however…just was we all are the children of God.

  • http://www.talkofchrist.org Harrison

    That response is of course to John's original post.

  • http://www.cmfhq.org Dan Cartwright

    There is no such human as an 'athiest'. To describe oneself with such a term is the ultimate self-delusion. Read Psalm 14 and Romans 1.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    Dan, for once, you are correct.

    I have no idea what an athiest is.

    It's spelled atheist. :)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    All right, boys. Let's play nice.

    I'll settle this. Dan: Using the Bible as a way of "proving" something to someone who doesn't BELIEVE in the Bible is surely the very definition of folly. I sure don't mean to tell you your business, but if a point you're trying to make to someone who doesn't share your believe system CAN be made on a purely rational basis, you should make it that way, so that the person you're trying to reach can hear you. And if it your point CAN'T be made rationally–if, in other words, all you have to call upon to MAKE your point is something like the Bible–then I think you might want to reconsider the validity of your point.

    And Morse: Don't be a smart ass. :-)

  • http://samwrites2.wordpress.com samwrites2

    Ya'll,

    I'm still back at the sacrifice section and reminded of the song I keep hearing "how many kings would come down from their throne?"

    I still can't fully comprehend what I've been saved from despite reading the Bible through many times. But as the old cliche goes "I know what I've been saved to." That is, a new and better eternal life and God's kingdom here and now.

    This time of year leads to contemplation of the horrible murder Jesus Christ went through for me. John's word pictures helped make it even more real to me though it was one blog entry I read quickly. I'm not comfortable with the stations of the cross, but then, Jesus didn't die a comfortable death.

    And it's because of Jesus Christ's love and sacrifice I look forward not only to His Easter, but my easter.

    When I read these comments sections I see a lot of sound theology, and some not so sound, but at least a lot of passion expressed in ways sometimes way above my head.

    Talk on. Rock on, with love.

    -Sam

  • xenorogue

    Mikey my question for you is how do you know that science is giving you "the facts" along with the "truth"?

  • Second Michele

    On the "What was the sacrifice" issue

    As the book of Hebrews says, Christ is able to sympathize with our weakness. He was a human being, with free will "tempted on all points as we are" yet without sin.

    You can't be tempted to do something that you can't do. God cannot be tempted, but Christ, in His human form, could have been tempted and could have failed.

    And the wages of sin is death, even for Jesus. If Jesus had sinned even once, even in thought, it would have been all over for us – and for Him.

    So Christ was taking a risk coming down here. He had to resist an onslaught of temptation, knowing that if He failed to live a perfect life, He would not return to His Father. He would die with us.

    Another important thing to note, is that the Roman method of Crucifixion was not even the beginning of the sacrifice. Morse is right – one human death, no matter how bad, certainly can't be compared to the suffering of the whole world.

    Christ suffering was metaphysical – in His heart and mind. Christ took upon the guilt of everything anyone has ever done wrong – and God inflicted the punishment on Him, in His soul.

    In that one sense, I agree with John that His death was an illustration. We humans can't ever understand how much the sins of the whole world would cost.

    Only by looking at the torture of the Cross, and realizing that it does not even scratch the surface of what Christ ACTUALLY suffered, do we realize how serious a thing sin is.

    Combine that torture and the possability of failure and never being reunited with His Father, and you get an idea of what Christ's Sacrifice was.

  • Harrison

    John, I just want to say how gateful I am for your expression. You are so accurate, authentic, eloquent, witty and humurous in your presentation. And so right. I am so relieved, not least of all you save me from saying it myself! Your work is a delight to read. God bless you…

  • http://www.todayscoolnews.com Brian Shields

    John… your opinion does matter to me otherwise I wouldn't post here… I am definitely not doing this to piss people off.

    A couple of caveats… I said I was attracted to the idea that God is Love not that I BELIEVE it.. the whole G word still makes me uncomfortable but if there is something greater, I have to hope that Love is a big part of it.

    Any God of Love that I find attractive would be equally loving and respectful of James Buchanan's method of love as He She It would be of the kind you share with your wife. Well, the kind you share if you got the kitchen cleaned up before she got home. Yikes…

    Your friend

    Brian

    (Oh and Dan, John's blog comments come complete with spell checker! (it just told me that was two words) so don't give Morse ammo)

  • xenorogue

    chencenter in regards to your comment about the nature of the Christ, the reason that he is God is that without the absolute perfection of him being God there would not be the perfect sacrifice. And when Christ said "If you have seen me you have seen the Father" was not meant in a metaphorical sense of seeing a part of God in Christ, but that in seeing Christ you were seeing God/YHWH. He also demonstrated that he was God when he forgave sins of people that he healed, for only God is capable of forgiving sins since He is the one who is wronged. To deny the godhood of Christ is to deny his death as an atonement for sin. If you have the time try to read some of Thomas Aquinas or Augustine, they have some fascinating discussion on that very topic.

  • http://www.considerjesus.wordpress.com Michelle

    The humility of it all – from birth to death – He chose to experience our life. He was perfectly good and all-powerful, then emptied Himself of His supernatural abilities to live a human life, still God but not willing to “use” His power. Totally reliant upon the Spirit working through Him, and waiting for the Father’s word to know when He was to act.

    It boggles my mind then to realize it was always the plan from before the foundation of the world – How does that work? And then to understand He did it so we who were far off could come near…Wow.

  • http://lifesoul.wordpress.com/ Jersey

    This is perhaps the best defense I have ever heard from a Christian as to defend how a deity has to sacrifice himself as an avatar to save his followers.

  • Sabina

    God being all knowing, fully aware of our trials as humanbeings also wanted a documented resource for His people. As bad as things get for us, as caught up in our struggles as we become-there is an ultimate place of peace that He has provided through His dieing and loving us so. God is so AWESOME to me and I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have this faith to refocus me when things get overwhelmingly tough.

  • chencenter

    right on… back in the day, the rabbi symbolically placed the sins of the village on the head of a goat and sent the goat out into the desert to die. That is, where I believe, we get the term “scapgoating.” As for the crucifixion, Jesus was our goat, taking upon the sins of the world. It’s a beautiful thing… however, I deviate from John’s view as Jesus IS God and “Jesus knew it.” (see my previous comment). “the father and son are one” is a reference (i believe) to the fact that he is “of the father” as I, Michael, am from my own biological Father, Tom. Might be a bit off subject, but can anybody show me another side of this coin? -Michael J.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    There’s SPELL CHECK in these comment boxes? Are you kidding? Where? How?

  • http://www.qzcreative.co.za/blog qzcreative

    Thanks. These posts are enlighting. Makes alot of sense. Have a great day all. Spell checker?! Mmmm..nope. Can’t find it.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    That WAS a good answer.

    Loser.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Um. The "loser" was a joke, of course. Thought I'd best be CLEAR about that. Can't be too careful out here in Commentlandia.

  • http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com Brent Rasmussen

    I posted for about 3 years as one of the only atheists on a Christian message board called "24-7 Talkback". We had this exact same conversation back in 2002.

    Christianity is the religion where God sacrifices himself, to himself, to allow himself to change the rules that he himself wrote.

    (I went by the handle "Choy Lee Mu" back then in my anonymous days.)

    I just thought you might enjoy reading another very similar conversation about this subject between atheists and Christians.

  • http://thestateofamerica.wordpress.com/ Daniel

    I’m almost afraid to say what i want to here. For fear of offending Christians and maybe even the non. I say that for two reasons. I’m a Christian, love God, have experienced the love of God, and believe in Jesus. But I question the reality of the institutional doctrine of the trinity that depends on the deity of Jesus. For Jesus to be God, the apostles missed way to many opportunities to say so.

    That is where I’ll stop, but to make this point: the biblical writers focused almost solely on the Jesus’ purpose and position and not on his nature. To say, “when you have seem me you have seen the Father” is not revelation of his divine nature. It is the same as saying I’m like Adam (Gen. 1) I am exactly like the One who created me. I look basically like Him and more importantly I exactly act like him.

    Here is another proof of his deity. He is called Lord, but his lordship does not mean necessarily that he is God. The OT eference in Act 2 is the Hebrew word “adonai,” which was a title of authority referring most often to human kings and less as an adjective for God.

    He didn’t have to be God to be born of a virgin any more than Isaac was born to an 90 year old women–not impossible, scientifically feasible by a geneticist and some hormone therapy. In England, a 60 yr old woman gave birth a baby, but only because of a donor egg.

    Jesus didn’t have to be God to raised from the dead. Elijah and Elisha proved that.

    I do not actually want to diminish the beauty of his total identification with human suffering and our (my own) identification with his previously expressed.

    What I do want to add to the discussion is that his death was a sacrifice because of the law of God. The one and only punishment for moral crime called sin is death. God told Adam if his disobeyed His commands he would die. The soul that sin it will die. We are all condemned to die. I know it is a delightful sentiment. Nevertheless, Every culture throughout history has sacrificed the life and blood of animals or humans to appease the gods because of their culpability for their moral crimes. Why? Because, however distorted or perverted, the law of sin is death and the death of the not-guilty for my own guilt seems written into human DNA.

    The death of a sinless animal was accepted by God as a sacrifice or substitution or propitiation. It satisfied the law at least temporarily. Temporarily, animals were not the morally accountable intelligent made in the image and likeness of God creatures who committed and commits moral crimes. Humans do. Therefore, Jesus sacrificial death fully satisfied the law and its punishment concerning moral crimes. His sinless and blemishless life sacrificed to all human sin is the final inclusively-exclusive means for a holy God to judicially pardon the crimes of moral criminals.

    The horrendous suffering of Jesus on the Cross was because he experienced sin and its punishment in a way no human every will. He was guiltless. He never experienced separation from God until he bore the full punishment of humanity’s moral crime. He went to hell.

    Separation from God seems normative in modern life. However, consider why agnostic and atheists say Jesus Christ or God damn a lot. I did. Why do atheists really oppose the non-exist God so zealously? One reason because God exists. His presence pervades everything and everyone. At very level of human consciousness we all know it without knowing who, what, and why. At any rate, that is how i relate my before and after experience of God and faith.

    There was never a moment of disconnect between Jesus and God before the Cross.

    If Jesus was not sinless and did not rise from the dead, no real Christian would exist. Their experience of the forgiveness of God and their experience of the presence and love of God would a sick joke. That would make the holy God that forgives, who sometimes makes addicts into sober and forever straight people in a moment, who has healed people from terminal diseases, who is given credit for restoring marriages, otherwise making screwed up individuals whole, a gospel of farce not love, grace, and power.

    One of the amazing things to me is that Jesus officiates over his own redemptive work on behalf all people as Lord.

  • http://nathanmyers.wordpress.com/ greatwhitehype27

    One huge, HUGE thing missing in this great post and following discussion is that in the cross, Jesus set an example for his disciples to follow. As some have rightly said, Jesus' death wasn't meaningful because it was terrible, because many folks died by crucifixion in the Roman Empire.

    And this quote really messes with me,

    "When I “suffer” because I have a hang nail, because I’m on a diet, because I have a cold, it underscores the magnitude of that death on the cross – what He did for me."

    No. No it doesn't. Jesus' suffering was distinct from hangnails and diets and colds as far as east is from west. Those happen to us all. His suffering was purposeful, chosen, and meant to illustrate to the world what our created purpose is. He commanded his disciples to love their enemies, to "pick up their cross daily," and he did so.

    And so, not only was Jesus' death and resurrection powerful because he did it and exhibited power over death, but it is powerful because we, if faithful, will do the same. We are now set free from the power of sin and death; they're not all we can hope for.

    So over and above all this "propitiation" talk (God can do whatever he pleases, so there was no "need" for someone to die), Jesus showed us the victory of living for what we've been created for, that nothing anybody does to us can separate us from our destiny as the children of God.

    That enables us to live free of fear, and to provide an example of suffering love to the world; even if they want to end our lives. We can laugh at their vain efforts and love them anyways

  • Ingrid

    John, thank you yet again for showing us by example how to handle the difficult questions of our faith without spouting doctrine. It shows the people who are not Christians that deal with us on a day to day basis that we have the ability to give an intelligent answer that makes sense outside of bible study.

    I know the how and why based on study and doctrine, but when faced with this question by someone (even a small child) I struggled a good answer that told them the truth but did not end in "because I said so."

    Thanks again!

  • Ingrid

    PS I just bought 2 of your books. Comma Sense and Penguins. Who'd have thought the introduction to punctuation could be so funny!

  • Dan Cartwright

    One of the issues I see in here is the desire to have 'intelligent answers' outside of the Bible and biblical doctrine, which seems paradoxcal since the Bible and the doctrine therein is the most important truth on this planet. If a non-believer is truly seeking God biblical doctrine will make much more sense than the silly musings of mer man, whose 'wisdom' is foolishness in God's eyes. For believers to NOT present clear biblical answers to non-believers' questions is to be ashamed of Christ.

    By the way, propitiation is a biblical doctrine meaning that God's law demanded that sin be punished by death. And yes, God has a plan for believers in His plan – to dpread the Gospel to His glory and honor. He saved us furst of all for His glory, not our special destinies. Whoops – more biblical doctrine – sorry.

  • natanis

    oh yes, one more point:

    every major religion in the world acknowledges Christ, they just don't chose to worship Him, but out of all the Gods of all the religions in the world, mine is the only one who chose to die for me, paying the price for my sin and then coming back to life. He is the only one who does not expect me to beat myself up to be right with Him, and He is the only one who offers me a relationship and friendship with Him. Why would I want anything else??

  • natanis

    By the way, I'm not trying to convert you, if that's what you're thinking. (I just read a post that was above mine that wasn't there when I started writing) I'm passionate about what I believe, but I also believe that unless God reveals Himself to you and becomes real in your life, all you will have is another useless religion.

  • http://joyokusumo.wordpress.com joyo

    what is God?

  • Dan Cartwright

    Friends, the best I can do is give you the Bible. In the end, my/our opinions, don't amount to a hill of beans unless they agree with the standard, which has been set. You can accept it or reject it, it is truth and it is THE standard against which ALL men will be judged, whether they accept it, deny it, debate it, call it a fable, whatever. And the end of all things will be the glory of Almighty God. Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father except throug me. There is no other way, no other 'religion'. His death as a propitiation for our sin was not one option among many. Even if God could have chosen another way to restore humans to Himself, the death of His own son was THE option He chose, and if we do not claim Christ as Savior and Lord we are condemned already.

  • molly

    "There is no other way, no other ‘religion’."

    Isn't it funny how all religions say that?

  • Billy

    I always get a chuckle when people say, they don't like Chrisitians shoving the Bible down their throats. A very tired phrase indeed. Exactly when does that happen? When is it forced on anyone? On tv or radio? Change the channel. On the web? Don't go to the site. On the street corner? Cross the street. Someone hands you a tract? Don't accept it. Someone comes to your door? Tell them to go away. The Gospel is as easy to avoid as it is to accept.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    "Exactly when does that happen?"

    It only bothers me when it happens in congress. :)

  • http://www.dryflypolitics.com Swint

    Dan #31,

    I agree a lot with you in that I do not subscribe to the traditional Trinity doctrine. I believe that Christ is divine I believe he is equal to God the Father, but I do not believe they are the exact same being/spirit/person or however one wants to define God.

    Now regarding why Christ had to die, I think it is more than just doing that so we will remember him and praise him. There is more to it. I hesitate to dive more into it because the idea and doctrine is so foreign to mainstream Christians and to the average member of my faith (LDS). I am sure that the fact that I just revealed I am LDS immediately resulted in a loss of credibility for many of you. But this whole question of why Christ had to die and why only he could save us is simple yet complicated and it is more than just doing it so that we will remember and praise him. So rather than spending an hour describing the idea, here is a reference for those who really are interested in understanding or at least learning another explanation. I would hope that those of you who decide to look this up do so with at least an honest curiosity and not just to find the holes in it or to tear down another religion, but do as you will. In the book “The First Two Thousand Years” by LDS Scholar Cleon Skousen there is an appendix (I think Appendix A) titled “The Atonement” or something like that. This is a great and eye opening explanation of Christ’s Atonement, however I doubt it would make much sense to people who aren’t familiar with all LDS scripture. There is also an audio recording (I have only found it on Cassette, not CD) of a talk Skousen gave on this topic, it is really entertaining and keeps your interest. I think the title is, “The Meaning of the Atonement” (or something like that). If you have any thoughts, comments, or questions comment at http://www.dryflypolitics.com, I have a Mormon Q&A page there if you have any questions. Thanks.

  • http://www.dryflypolitics.com Swint

    32:

    God is a man of flesh and bone with a perfected and immortal physical body who is all powerful, omnipotent, merciful yet just, with an uncomprimising love for all of us, his children.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    “Separation from God seems normative in modern life. However, consider why agnostic and atheists say Jesus Christ or God damn a lot. I did. Why do atheists really oppose the non-exist God so zealously?”

    We say those things because it’s in our culture. Had American been mostly nordic, we’d be saying “Odin damn” and “Thor’s hammer!”.

    And we don’t oppose god. That would be silly, as we don’t think he exists. We oppose those who believe in him and wish to force their beliefs on others.

    If the country consisted of 80% Santa Claus believers, and a portion of them wanted to legislate their beliefs on everyone, I’d be against them too.

  • Dan Cartwright

    "Isn’t it funny how all religions say that?"

    Of course they do. Difference is that true Chrisatianity is not a religion but a person – Jesus Christ. There will come a day when even those who reject Him on earth will acknowledge Him before His throne, do an 'about face' and spend the rest of eternity in Hell, realizing their error. Sorry about that – it's something from the Bible again.

  • http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com Brent Rasmussen

    [natanis] I think the biggest reason that people do not acknowledge God is because then they are forced to face the reality of who they are and how they live. If there is a God, then there is accountability for the choices we make and the people we hurt. People think that it is easier and better to live a life of sin than to try to live up to the standards that God has for our lives, which is exactly the point of it all.

    What an obnoxiously loaded statement, completely packed with un-evidenced assumptions. First you assume that a god exists. Then, you assume that this god is your own personal god named "God". You go on to make the staggeringly ignorant and offensive inference that all of us nasty, selfish, foolish atheists really know – in the deepest depths of our black little hearts – that your god, "God", really, truly exists – however, we refuse to "acknowledge" Him because we like to run around and sin, sin, sin, baby! Woo!

    Look, we aren't idiots. Most of us lost our god-belief due to study, research, and yes, prayer that just never seemed to be answered in any real way. We did not just wake up one day and shake our fist at God and say, "screw you old man!" Instead, most of us came to the painful and inescapable conclusion that no matter how much we wanted it to be true, there was no credible evidence whatsoever to support the statement "god exists".

    Do you really think that if I believed that an all-knowing, all-powerful supreme deity was peeking in on my thoughts, and was willing to punish me for all eternity for "wrong" thoughts, that I wouldn't do my best to please this lunatic? Do you think I want to be punished for all eternity? Are you crazy?

    So, the only rational explanation for my lack of god-belief is what I just explained above. I just don't see the evidence. If at some point in the future, if the evidence showed otherwise, I would again possess god-belief.

    I apologize for my vehemence, but when a theist arrogantly tells me that I'm a liar because they claim that I really know that their own personal flavor of magical man in the sky exists, but that I just "choose not to acknowledge Him", it fires me up a bit.

    Let me be crystal clear – I do not believe that your god exists. I am not "rejecting" him, I am not "choosing not to acknowledge him", I don't think he's hiding behind a bush somewhere – I do however think that he is a made-up fantasy story. You know, like Spiderman.

  • http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com Brent Rasmussen

    There will come a day when even those who reject Him on earth will acknowledge Him before His throne, do an ‘about face’ and spend the rest of eternity in Hell, realizing their error. Sorry about that – it’s something from the Bible again.

    *sigh*

    It always comes down to the threats with you Christians, doesn't it?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    OK, for the record, lots and lots and lots of Christians don't believe in hell. Again, JUST FOR THE RECORD, it's entirely possible to be a Christian and understand hell as a metaphor rather than a literal place. Believing in hell is not any kind of prerequisite for having a full and complete faith in the reality of the Christian story.

    Dan: I know this challenges you, and flies in the face of the Christianity you believe in with such clarity and conviction. But, if you wouldn't mind, could you maybe at this point help me to keep the comments section here from devolving into nothing more interesting than a bickering back and forth between Xtians and atheists? Thanks.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    And Brent: Could you not use phrases like "you Christians"? Christians, just like everyone else, don't like being stereotyped. We're a vast body of people; within Christianity there are all KINDS of beliefs and convictions. Show some understanding of that. I guarantee you there are a lot more Christians than you think who agree with you on a lot more than you think. When shooting at your enemies, take careful aim not to also shoot your friends.

  • Dan Cartwright

    John, my apologies if my comments have taken your blog where it was not intended to go. My intent was to express truth as contained in the scripture and maybe provoke readers swimming in unbelief into reading it for themselves. In that I fear I have failed and will bow out.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Dan: No, your comments have been great. I just wanted your help in case it DID go the way I thought it might. That's all.

  • http://nathanmyers.wordpress.com/ greatwhitehype27

    Propitiation is a doctrinal option that draws on the Bible that teaches that God’s law demanded that sin be punished by death. It’s not the only option, though, Dan.

    Good words on Biblical truth there Dan, though I think Mr. Shore has a point. Quoting Bible verses at length or at random doesn’t matter much to someone who doesn’t view it as important. You gotta meet people where they’re at, Jesus did. However, I would certainly think in the context of relationship and in seeking the guidance of the Spirit, we will find places to weave in Scripture. Having a chance to talk about life and truth is not equal to “silly musings of mere man.” The kind of musings of man that are silly are those that run contrary to God’s wisdom in general and in specific. That includes the Bible, but is not limited to it.

  • truthfit

    Forgiveness is alwys costly, and the cost is always borne by the one forgiving

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    Just a quick tip to anyone looking to convert the atheists. (Not you, John, I know…but I figure I should help out any evangelicals reading this.)

    First you must convince us that there is a god.

    Then you must convince us that the god is YOUR god.

    Then you must convince us that the god is worthy of our worship.

    That is why quoting bible verses won’t work.

  • natanis

    Wow! What a hot topic we have here!! I mostly scanned through the comments and read much of it but not all, so forgive me if some of my comments are just repetition of what has already been stated:)

    I think it’s interesting that I have not seen a single comment about what happened in the period of time after Christ’s death and before His resurrection…..now I understand that many of you don’t believe in God’s word, and that’s fine, each to his own, but if we are going to discuss the Christ of the Bible we need to go to the source to see what it has to say about this matter. Trying to understand how your car runs by reading about cows would be counter productive, and so it is with matters of Christ. We need to go to the source.

    The sacrifice of death alone wasn’t enough, I agree. If He has just simply died and then came back again in three days – big hairy deal. But that is not what God’s word says about this matter. It wasn’t enough that He just die, He took upon Himself all of our sin, and in doing that He took upon Himself the punishment for those sins. No human being that is purely human could survive this, which is why God needed to take it upon Himself to accomplish this work on our behalf. He took all of the punishment for all of the sin beginning to end. That’s huge!!

    Now that point aside, I think that any individual who is truly a thinking person would not just hypothesize in their own mind the reality of God, they would not just try to rationalize and think it through. Anyone who is serious about wanting to know the truth will search actively for answers. In my searching I discovered that Jesus is the most famous person in human history, there is more written about Him than any other person who has walked the face of this earth. He is more widely known than anyone who has ever lived throughout the entire world. Most of these writings were by people who did not proclaim to serve Him or worship Him as a God, they were people who heard Him speak and marveled at His wisdom, or who saw Him die and then saw Him live again. They were not promoting a religion but documenting the most amazing man of their time. There are literally thousands of accounts outside of the Bible, evidence that He is who He says He is. By the way much of the bible has been proven true, new discoveries are being made all the time, but NOTHING in the Bible has ever been PROVEN false. Theories and hypothesis have attempted to malign the Word of God, but so far no one has any evidence against it’s authority or authenticity.

    Saying that Jesus did not exist is as foolish as saying that Abraham Lincoln never existed or Shakespeare was a woman. History tells us who these people were and what they did. Just because we did not see them with our own eyes does not automatically disqualify them from being who they were.

    I think the biggest reason that people do not acknowledge God is because then they are forced to face the reality of who they are and how they live. If there is a God, then there is accountability for the choices we make and the people we hurt. People think that it is easier and better to live a life of sin than to try to live up to the standards that God has for our lives, which is exactly the point of it all. God proved to us in the Old testament that we could never keep up with atoning for our sin because it is ever present. He didn’t demand the sacrifice of goats and bulls because He necessarily wanted them. It was more to prove a point: we needed Him to give us a bridge to find our way back to Him, one that did not require works (or we could brag that we did it ourselves). In giving us Jesus He provided a way for people with an honest heart to know Him to experience His love.

    Then there is religion, which I think has been the major cause of problems for many atheists and agnostics alike, and honestly, I don’t blame them. God did not send His Son to us so that we could have another religion or even so that we could have another denomination. Throughout His Word we are warned to avoid the religious, and for good reason! Religion really irritates me so deeply. Religion is about what you can do for God. Jesus is about what God did for us so that we could have a relationship with Him. I honestly detest religion. It has caused nothing but pain and suffering in this world.

    I have news for you people, God isn’t angry with us anymore. When He sent Jesus all of His wrath was poured out on that perfect sinless man so that we could be friends with God again, like Adam and Eve when they walked in the garden with Him (by the way, there are ancient writings documenting Adam and Eve as well). God is no longer angry with us, He is heart broken that so many of the people He created to have an intimate deep friendship with Him, are choosing to live a life apart from Him.

    God doesn’t send people to hell, they chose hell by rejecting Him. All He wants for us is good, but in our arrogance and pride we chose to go another direction thinking that we know a better way. If any of you who don’t believe, truly understood who He is and what He’s done for you, your life would never be the same. He has good plans for your life and believe it or not, He created you because He takes joy in having a relationship with those He has created. And it’s a two way street. I have experienced more joy and peace in my life knowing Him than I ever did before, and my life has been wrought with pain and suffering.

    My last point is this: does anyone else see it?? The further we stray from the foundations of morality, the more we accept “sin” as acceptable practices for our lives, the worse society around us becomes. We have taken the very gifts of God and abused them, dirtied them, neglected them, all in a selfish attempt at gratifying ourselves and all we lack is a relationship with our Creator. No amount of self gratifying behavior will ever fill that void you have in your heart, it’s a God shaped hole and not just any god can fill it. Worshiping power, money, sex, possessions, idols they will all leave you empty and lonely.

    In the end it doesn’t really matter if you believe or not. Not believing in something that is real doesn’t make it go away……do you really want to take that chance when He has made it so easy for us to be reconciled to Him?? Search for Him and you will find Him, and your life will become more than you ever dreamed it could be. And for heavens sake DON’T go and find religion, it’s just a trap. God wants to make Himself real to you. I challenge you in this. Call on His name for thirty days straight in a row and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. I’m interested to know what happens to y’all and on what day He shows up:)

  • molly

    This is what baffles me most about Christians. The Great Sacrifice.

    Let’s look at this while staying consistant to mainstream Christian beliefs.

    In the Trinity, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one, agreed?

    God, and therefore, Jesus too, has always existed, since the beginning of eternity, agreed?

    Jesus, in human form, knew that he was going to be killed, and he knew that he would rise from the dead in three days:

    “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (2 John 2:19)

    Agreed?

    Jesus also knew that he would then ascend into heaven to live for all eternity at the right hand of God. That was the deal: Exist for eternity in paradise, go to Earth for 33 short years, teach a bit, return to paradise. Agreed?

    The time since then has been spent waiting for the other shoe to drop; that is, for Christ to return to Earth. Agreed?

    So I ask you then: Where is the sacrifice?

    I mean, “to sacrifice” means to give up something you need without expecting to get it back. Certainly, if God told Jesus that the only way to save mankind was to leave heaven permanantly, ie. sacrifice his spot, then I would recognize the great gift. But he didn’t. He sent him to visit and come home.

    It’s no different than me putting a slug nickel in a gumball machine, yanking it back out, and proclaiming that you should really thank me for that gumball you’re enjoying because I sacrificed my own nickel for it ESPECIALLY FOR YOU. It’s silly to claim I sacrificed a nickel when I clearly got it right back. Why is it different to say God sacrificed his son when he clearly did not?

    He sent him to visit and come back home. Eventually, he’ll visit and go back again. Like a slug nickel you can use over and over without sacrificing five cents each time.

    And don’t say the crucifixion was the sacrifice; Jesus the man giving up his life and all. The sacrifice of a life is a purely human construction. It is the ultimate gift a human can do precisely because we only get the one life. Death is scary, because neither you, nor I, know what comes afterward. It’s most likely to be that nothing comes afterward, thus the correct use of the words “human sacrifice.”

    If you had any real faith in an afterlife, you would engage in some high-risk activities while drunk and smoking, or do some word-juggling in the Bible to justify your hasty suicide. (Samson did it, and went straight to heaven. Jesus, too. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” (John 10:17-18))

    Gods have no fear of death, even in human form, because they not only know what is on the other side, but that death simply means they get to go home and shuffle off their restrictive human body.

    So what?

    So we are faced with a choice: Either God is playing us for fools, talking about a sacrifice that clearly is not, or, drum roll….someone made the whole thing up and forgot to wrap up the logical contradictions.

    Hmmm.

    This is not a knee-jerk reaction. This is carefully weighed evidence directly from Christian holy scriptures, and I’ve yet to find a theist who can satisfactorily dispute it. The closest I’ve heard to an explanation is that God sent Jesus to suffer so we couldn’t say something like “You don’t know how it feels to be human.”

    However, an omnipotent god wouldn’t need to do that.

    Agreed?

    No, the big problem is that to call Jesus divine is to admit that there was no sacrifice. Conversely, if you want to say that Jesus sacrificed his life, you can no longer call him divine.

    As for why Jesus had to become human at all, the popular answer, “He became one of us in order to be our substitute,” doesn’t work. Slug nickel, I say.

    “He became one of us to pay the penalty the holy God demands for sin.” And what penalty is that? To duck out of Earth life and go home to paradise?

    “He became one of us to be our savior, because God is merciful.” Colorful, poetic, dripping with the words that perpetuate priestcraft, but meaningless and circular. And it answers nothing without a pre-conceived belief that the sacrifice does not contradict itself on its face. “A” and “Not A” at once. Sacrifice and Not Sacrifice. Killed but still alive. Schrödinger’s cat, and all that.

    No, to call Jesus divine is inseparably linked with the fact that divine beings cannot “sacrifice” their lives. Therefore, the best you can do is to say God pulled a fast one on us because human sacrifices were all the rage in the Bronze Age, and faking one was the best way to get our attention.

    On the other side, insisting that Jesus really sacrificed his life for us means nothing less than he was fully human—with no link to the divine. A true sacrifice. Dead and gone forever. What a nice guy, too bad we treated him so badly.

    Most Christians reconcile this contradiction with some variation of “I do not claim to understand this mystery.” So it goes with all of religion: When things go our way, then God is responsible. When things go badly for us, or we’re faced with an irreconcilable contradiction in dogma, well then, God works in mysterious ways.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    I wrote my answer to what the atonement is. That, my latest post, is here:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2008/02/26/inquiring-ath

  • natanis

    Brent, sorry I offended you with my statement. I didn't realize that I wasn't allowed to vocalize my personal experiences in my faith:) and that is exactly what that was. My experience.

    It's interesting how you are so easily angered that I believe in God. I don't expect you to share my beliefs, but I would appreciate it if you had the decency to respect them, just as I respect your right to believe there is no God.

    I understand your need for evidence. Over the years I have compiled enough evidence in my own quest for truth to come to the conclusion that there is a God. What is true for me may never be right for you and I have no issue with your unbelief.

    My God is not a "flavor of magical man in the sky" He is not a genie to give me all my wants, He is not someone I pray to and expect to get everything I ask for, He is not hiding behind a bush waiting to punish me for all my wrong thoughts, but I won't waste your time telling you who He is to me because you will surely ridicule me for having a different opinion than you.

    By the way, if your only view of a possible God is a lunatic who is waiting to strike you down for every wrong thought etc. etc. I don't blame you for rejecting the possibility….i would too.

    BTW – I NEVER called you a liar. You put words in my mouth and that's rude :)

  • Billy B

    Morse

    Congress has never ever forced one person in the entire history of our country to believe something they didn’t want to believe. Like trying to force a rock to fly, can be done.

  • Dan Cartwright

    One last thing. Should anyone in here desire to continue reasonable and intelligent discourse , feel free to email me at dancartwright@msn.com.

  • http://thestateofamerica.wordpress.com/ Danie.l

    Brent makes a good point no believer can deny. No can actually believe without convincing evidence. No philosophical, theological, or scientific argument can prove or disprove God exists. If the biblical God is real, he is a person who convinces people with or without any help from His believers. However, the same bible and history suggest that he very often work with and through his believers in various ways. However, a Tibetan Buddhist monk a few years back died and was about to be cremated when he came back to life. Before hundreds of witnesses, he said the Christians are right. Buddha and some other venerate saint are in hell. Jesus is the only way to heaven. A missionary in another area heard about this and checked it out to see if it was true. He claims several hundred Indonesians who heard including relatives claimed it was true. This info was on the web–maybe it still is. The point is, if so, God is not dependent upon in one way to convince people of his reality.

    As Christians, maybe we should pray that God makes his existence known to those who do not believe.

    – by Loser

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    “Congress has never ever forced one person in the entire history of our country to believe something they didn’t want to believe”

    Well, this is not for lack of trying. This may not be the correct forum for such discussions…but the battles concerning Decalogue monuments on government property, the word ‘god’ on money and in the pledge, denying homosexuals equal rights and the attempt to put creationism in public schools are still going on to this day.

  • Pingback: Inquiring Atheists Want to Know: What, Exactly, Was the Sacrifice Jesus Made? « Suddenly Christian

  • http://www.considerjesus.wordpress.com Michelle

    To get back on topic…

    John said,

    “Jeus was God. It doesn’t get any better than that. And he knew he was God. He knew his story was going to end well. He knew that when his adventure here on earth was over, he was going back to heaven to take his place at the right hand of the Father. There’s no way that’s not a wonderful place to be.”

    Yes, He knew it would end well, and He also knew the torture He would have to endure before the end. Somehow people seem to think because He was God He didn’t really endure the horror. He was equally man. He felt every excruciating moment of His ordeal – He suffered terribly. Most victims of crucifixion did not endure the toruture, the lashing with the cat-o-nines-tail up to the point of death. It was usually one or the other, not both. That is one of the reasons scholars believe He died so quickly, He was brutally beaten before the crucifixion. He was sacrificed.

    John also said,

    “None of us are quite that lucky, are we? We can say that we do, but the bottom line is that we don’t have anywhere near the assurance about our ultimate fate as Jesus had about his. It’s not possible that we could.”

    This is where I’m not following the line of thought – we will all, who put our faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, enjoy the presence of God once we’ve endured our individual deaths. That’s the point of the resurrection, isn’t it? Eternal life. Whatever form it takes (i.e. the New Eden, Paradise, the New Jerusalem, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb) we will be known as He is known. We will take on immortality and be glorified. Not at the right hand of God – that place is taken – but we will be joint heirs with Christ – be assured.

    Again, John,

    “What Jesus wants, though, if for us to fully understand the complete depth of his identification with us. And that, I think, is why he let himself die on the cross in the horrible fashion that he did. Because he knew that we would always understand how terribly, terribly real that was. God or not, he got beaten. He knew that we would forever after that understand that he did become one of us. He did suffer the worst any of us could. That, too, is not in question.”

    Amen. He is our High Priest who completely “gets us”. I can go to Him with my weaknesses and He understands what I’m feeling. He knows what it is to be confined to the flesh. He experienced the flesh, with all its weaknesses, yet overcame the world. It really is beautiful. I mean, think about it, if I were the creator of a new breed of insect and I loved that breed above all others, and wanted that breed to be able to enjoy me too…Would I be willing to become that being in order to have fellowship? Wouldn’t it be a huge sacrifice on my part to leave my comfortable suburban lifestyle to live among the bugs? (I know it’s a pathetic analogy, but work with me here) To leave the splendor of heaven, the cosmos moving at your whim, speak and new worlds come into existence, angels continually singing your praises because of your awesome beauty, so magnificent is your glory that the beings of heaven hide their faces in worship…the words are too inadequate to express what it must have been. And yet He sacrificed it all to experience life among us – to feel the limitations of being human. And then to endure the worst torture man could know…

    I call that sacrifice.

  • http://russellaroberts.blogspot.com Russell Roberts

    John, I didn't read all the comments so you may already have addressed this point. I liked your article in that you present what I believe to be an accurate representation of atonement theology insofar as you present a loving God, rather than a cosmic child abuser.

    I would disagree with the statement that Jesus was beaten on the cross. You may be saying that tongue-in-cheek but I think it is hugely important that people understand that the cross is the very place Jesus reigned. While the powers that be, Rome and the Jewish leadership, believed they were subjecting Jesus to public humiliation, he was doing so to them.

    I hope you don't think I'm splitting hairs but I think it is an important point.

    Col 2:14 He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

    Col 2:15 Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

  • http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com Brent Rasmussen

    And Brent: Could you not use phrases like “you Christians”?

    Absolutely. Mea culpa. I posted it, read it, then went to edit it to remove that particular phrase…

    …and there's no way to edit comments here.

    So, sorry. I'll be more careful in the future before clicking the 'Say It!" button. :)

  • http://www.unscrewingtheinscrutable.com Brent Rasmussen

    BTW – I NEVER called you a liar.

    Natanis, it was implied in your premise. There is no way to deny your own words:

    I think the biggest reason that people do not acknowledge God…

    The implication you very clearly make here is:

    1. My God exists.

    2. Atheists really know that He exists, but they refuse to "acknowledge" Him.

    I am an atheist. I do not know that your God exists. With your statement above you are calling me a liar. Not explicitly, but implicitly.

    The result is the same, however.

    It’s interesting how you are so easily angered that I believe in God. I don’t expect you to share my beliefs, but I would appreciate it if you had the decency to respect them, just as I respect your right to believe there is no God.

    I am certainly not angered by your god belief. I am angered by the fact that you do not seem to be able to comprehend that a person can lack god belief. That god belief can be absent within them. Instead you imply that at best they are lying to themselves, and at worst lying to others about their lack of god belief. The fact that most theists think exactly the way you do, and treat me a certain way based on this false information also angers and frustrates me.

    Not all the time, of course, or I'd go insane. :) But when I am commenting in a thread devoted specifically to this very topic, I sometimes allow that anger and frustration an outlet and write about it. I guarantee that if we met socially you would not experience any anger or frustration from me at all – even if you were preaching at me. I have long experience in situations like that, and I do not let it get to me any longer.

    …but I won’t waste your time telling you who He is to me because you will surely ridicule me for having a different opinion than you.

    *sigh* I would not ridicule you for having a different opinion than me, Natanis. You are missing the point.

    You spoke also about "respect" above. I agree that people deserve a basic modicum of respect from their fellow human beings. I always accord that basic level of respect to anyone that I meet. We are all humans together on this planet, and that is the social lubricant that (generally speaking) keeps us from slaughtering each other all the time.

    However, I do not automatically grant respect to whatever wacky notion about reality someone may hold. Opinions can earn respect from me, but I will not give your opinions respect as a matter of course. If I think they are silly, I'll say so – sometimes in very forceful language, if I think that it warrants that.

    Don't ever confuse my disrespect of your ideas and your opinions with disrespect for you as a human being. I fully understand that all we can do in this life is muddle through the best we can, and subjectively try and get a handle on how things work.

    That doesn't mean that I have to respect your ideas though, and I don't. I think they are silly, irrelevant, irrational, and contrary to observed reality.

    <blockquote.My God is not a “flavor of magical man in the sky”.

    Yes, yes he is. When you look at a listing of deities that have been worshiped by various tribes and societies of humans throughout our long history you begin to see that your god, "God", is merely one of the latest in a long list of magical men in the sky. Our species seems to be hardwired to create and worship magical sky men.

    You don't see it because you are too close to it.

    When you step out of it, like many atheists have done, and look at it from an objective point of view, it is glaringly, blindingly obvious.

    Not that I expect you to agree. ;)

  • http://heaintthroughwithmeyet.wordpress.com heaintthroughwithmey

    Well, I am a realtively "new" believer and I must say…I love this blog…it is packed with info!

    lots and lots of comments.

    I am still learning a lot and I think I found a wonderful blog to help me study!!

    in Christ

    Andrea

  • http://crumblestone.wordpress.com snowhite197

    Molly:

    I don't think that the 'slug nickel' analogy is a good one because, first of all, a slug nickel is not worth anything; whereas according to the Bible Jesus is God's beloved and only son. Maybe instead of a slug nickel we can use a 1969-S Lincoln Cent with a double die obverse, one of the most valuable coins in circulation, and for the sake of the analogy we'll say the gumballs are worth a penny.

    So you want a gumball. Someone comes up to you and sees you looking longingly at the gumball machine. They have one coin and it's this 1969-S Lincoln penny. Worth about $30 grand or more.

    Also, I personally believe that Jesus could have failed because when He was on earth He was fully man. Therefore, not only was God putting something very valuable 'in the gumball machine', he could have lost it. (Living a life without sinning was something that hadn't been done before. I certainly haven't lived a perfect life and don't know anyone who would say they have.) So we have to change the analogy again.

    No one has ever gotten a gumball out of the gumball machine before, no matter how shiny the penny. It always eats the coins. Everybody thinks it's broken.

    So this stranger comes up to you, knows the gumball machine hasn't ever given anybody a gumball, puts this valuable coin in knowing he could lose it… Is that a sacrifice?

    I am just trying to understand what you believe, and thinking you probably are somewhat interested in what i believe as well. Or else you wouldn't be here (on this blog, reading and responding) right now.

  • http://crumblestone.wordpress.com snowhite197

    WOW i got so immersed in the analogy I forgot to mention that if the mystery coin collector ^ got the gumball out again, he would get the penny back.

    But do you see the difference? Something that's worth nothing, and you know you will get it back, versus something that is worth everything, which you could lose?

  • http://crumblestone.wordpress.com snowhite197

    "If you had any real faith in an afterlife, you would engage in some high-risk activities while drunk and smoking, or do some word-juggling in the Bible to justify your hasty suicide. (Samson did it, and went straight to heaven. Jesus, too. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” (John 10:17-18)"

    You would be right… if it were just about salvation, we'd disappear from the earth immediately after salvation and fly up to heaven. But God calls us to use our time on earth to know Him better and to show Him to the world. In other words, it's not all about me. I personally believe God also wants us to do good works, not as a means to salvation but as a way of showing our love for Him ("If you love me, obey my commands") and others.

    And Jesus didn't go 'straight to heaven'. He went to Hell for three days. That is also part of the sacrifice He made.

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    I've got to take a crack at the question: Why did Christ have to sacrifice Himself to Himself? I want to throw in my 2 cents. I finally got to the end of all the comments; I deserve it! :)

    A price had to be paid for sin. Either we would pay it or God would. If we paid it we would pay with our lives, since nothing we can do will cover the cost.

    God, because of His love, paid it for us. He didn't have to pay it, He could have just let us perish. That would not have been inconsistent with His righteousness and justice, but it would have been inconsistent with His love and mercy. I guess the price itself is discussed in the next post.

    A response is required from us. God (again because of His love) has already given humanity the freedom to choose. Having done that, if God forgave me without any willful choice or desire on my part to be right in His eyes, be forgiven, or have anything to do with Him, He would in effect be sweeping my sin under the rug. This would be a violation of His righteousness and justice, which would be impossible for Him to do. So God has a part and we have a part. God's part is to pay the price for us. Our part is to want to be forgiven, want to be His child.

    A mediator is required. A mediator, of course, brings two parties which are in conflict together. In order for a mediator to be effective he or she must be able to identify with both sides. A priest is a mediator between God and humans. A really effective priest must be able to identify with both God and humans.

    Jesus is the effective priest. He is many other things. The Word, the King, the Prophet. The part of God which went out from God, came to this world, and took the form of a man. He came to be our great High Priest. He is able, unlike a human, to identify with God because He is God; He has the divine nature. And He can identify with us because He was a man just like me. Jesus the great High Priest bridged the gap, He brought God and us together. God, who stands outside of space and time, is able to look at His Son on the cross, shedding His blood, and say, "I accept your sacrifice for the sins of those who repent and believe." And I am able to look at Jesus' sacrifice and say, "He paid the price for my sin so that I am forgiven of the things for which I am ashamed."

  • born4battle

    Well put, Andy.

  • http://www.atheistjournal.com/ccmclaugh Christopher McLaughl

    "Christians, just like everyone else, don’t like being stereotyped."

    Well said. There are over 3000 Christian Sects worldwide, many with incompatible creeds. One-third of the Earth's population claim to be Christian. Of the other two-thirds, a significant portion of them believe in multiple gods.

    I see thoughtful people posting their religious interpretation of, "Why Did Christ Have to Sacrifice Himself to Himself?" Much of these interpretations are incompatible with the others. It's as if these thoughtful people were making up their own unique "religion of one".

    Atheists are often confused by the way that god-believers can make certain assumptions about their beliefs, and that these same god-believers would not make the same kind of assumptions about other similar things in their life. For instance, many (if not all) of the posts above refer the the Christian Bible as the ultimate source of information about their messiah. This is an assumption that goes to the root of most Christian belief. It is nearly impossible to consider, for instance, Jesus, the Apostles, the Resurrection, and so forth, without reference to the Bible. It is, in fact, the origin of these stories.

    One specific thing that is confusing is that god-believers make reference to their holy book without much knowledge of it's origins. Again, I presume that the thoughtful people who base their beliefs on certain books would in all other cases be open to the facts pertaining to those texts. For instance, a libertarian who holds up Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead as an important statement about their social beliefs should be aware that the philosophy of Act Utilitarianism is fundamentally flawed. (I hope I'm not writing too esoterically here.)

    ANY case made about Christian belief must ultimately rely upon the Christian Bible. Only the Bible tells the story of the religion. There are no other corroborating texts. Sure, there are some historical documents that corroborate specific events, places, or people. But only the Bible tells of the religious, spiritual, magical, miraculous stuff. (Not counting the "unofficial" biblical stories from the Apocrypha).

    So, if biblical stories are themselves of a dubious nature and origin, a thoughtful person might choose to relegate them to the same category of book as, say, the Illiad or the Oddysey.

    Legitimate discussion of biblical stories MUST include evaluation of the authority of the fundamental text from which those stories originate. I encourage Christians to look into the historical origins of their holy book. You might want to read about the First Council of Nicea for a good head start…

  • Cliverty

    Dan said -

    [quote]

    It’s much more than all of the above, dear friends.

    Two words, propitiation and justification and

    Propitiation is an appeasing, propitiating – The wrath of Holy God had to be ‘appeased’

    [/quote]

    This is not quite correct. The term sometimes rendered "propitiate" for "appeasement" used in 1John 2:2 and Romans 3 is in fact same greek word used in the LXX (Septuagint) for "Atonement" in Lev 16 (the chapter where defines the Gospel Atonement process).

    In "Atonement" God so LOVED that HE gave…

    The NIV in 1John 2:2 and Romans 3 has it correct "Atoning Sacrifice".

    But in the greek model of "appeasement" the model is "the angry God is so propitiated and appeased by the blood sacrifice of Christ that He finally is convinced to turn away His anger from mankind".

    Those are two opposite models.

    Bob — of Cliverty

  • http://www.atheistjournal.com/ccmclaugh Christopher McLaughl

    Did you know:

    The oldest books of the Christian Bible were written in Greek?

    None of the characters or places in the Bible spoke Greek?

    —More evidence of the truth of the literal word!

    Bob are you seriously parsing the Bible? Get real.

  • http://www.atheistjournal.com/ccmclaugh Christopher McLaughl

    There is no evidence that Jesus or Paul could write. We have writings that may have been written as early as 70 CE that describe Jesus or Paul. We can't even be sure that these person's even existed. Any real person's on whom these characters were based may have gone by other names, and they most certainly did not do any of the magical things that are attributed to them.

    There is now a profundity of archeological evidence that Nazareth and Jerusalem were, from about 1 to 35 CE, not as the books of the bible describe. For instance, Nazareth was uninhabited for decades before and after this time.

    Bible scholars tend to the idea that the authors of the Christian bible wrote it assuming that things were the same in the past as were in their present.

    Any way you cut it, any book with so many factual errors (and you know there are many more) cannot be relied upon as the basis for any truth about the universe. It is a book in the same category as the Illiad or the Odyssey.

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  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    When you say "evidence" are you excluding the Bible? Why should the Bible not be considered evidence? How could Jesus read scripture in the synagogue if He couldn't write? If you don't think Paul wrote all those books in the NT, who do you think did?

    I've got to go to work now.

  • Crudely Wrott

    You said,

    “By dying as he did, Christ knew that he would be creating an image of that act that was so vivid, and so visceral, that it would forever last in people’s minds, hearts and imaginations.”

    I say,

    The image is not vivid or visceral to me. Also not to many others. My mind, heart and imagination are only momentarily moved by this thrice told tale. What really gets me motivated is when something new is learned. Or happens.

    Thanks anyhow, I guess.

    E Pluribus Unum

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    Christopher, my understanding is that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, which was replaced as the colloquial language in Palestine by Aramaic in the centuries following the fall of the Northern Kingdom in the 8th century BC but continued to be the literary language of the Jews. The common dialect of Greek became an alternative language in areas conquered by Alexander the Great (4th cent. BC). The OT was translated into Greek in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC (the Septuagint or LXX). This Greek was the literary language for the New Testament writers. Christ spoke Aramaic but understood Greek. Paul knew all three of these languages (and Latin).

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    "When you say “evidence” are you excluding the Bible? Why should the Bible not be considered evidence?"

    The Bible is certainly evidence, just not terrible good evidence.

    Independent verification from sources that were written during the time that Jesus was supposed to have lived would do a wonderful job of supporting the Bible.

    It would also help if we had good evidence for miracles taking place. That would give the claims made in the bible some standing.

  • Marcy Muser

    Christopher, it seems to me you are grasping at straws here. First, the earliest manuscripts of the Greek New Testament date back to 125 A.D. That means the manuscripts were produced less than 100 years after the events they describe, and less than 50 years after the original writings. In contrast, the earliest copies we have of works like the Odyssey and the Iliad are from over 3000 years after they were originally told, and scholars still consider them fairly reliable in terms of what the original stories said. When it comes to ancient texts, copies as close as 100 years after they were originally told can be presumed to be extremely close to the original texts.

    As early as 170 A.D., there are copies of the New Testament that include basically all the books in our modern New Testament. In 300 A.D. (still before the First Council of Nicaea), Eusebius lists "the holy quaternion of the Gospels; following them the Acts of the Apostles… the epistles of Paul… the epistle of John… the epistle of Peter… After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John," and calls them "the accepted writings." The remainder of the modern New Testament he lists as "the disputed writings," but he clearly differentiates those from "the rejected writings" and even more so from "the fictions of heretics." By calling them "the accepted writings," and "the disputed writings," he makes it very clear that Christians in his day had a solid consensus on the vast majority of the New Testament books, including as primary among "the accepted writings" the four gospels, which contained all the stories of Jesus' miracles.

    Now, as for the First Council of Nicaea – I'm not quite sure what you mean by referring to this as "an introduction to the credibility of bible stories." Held in 325 A.D., all 1800 bishops of the Christian church were invited to attend (though only about 300 did). The primary purpose was to address the Arian question as to whether Jesus was in fact equal to God or whether he was created by God (and thus inferior to Him). Of the 300 or so bishops present, there were 22 who supported Arius – until they heard the substance of his writings, at which point they realized he was in conflict with the established position of the church through the centuries from the very time of Jesus Himself.

    I just don't see how the presence of one person who misunderstood the biblical teaching, or the agreement of the church that he was the one who had misunderstood, has any impact on the credibility of Bible stories across the board.

    As for the stories of Mithra and Horace, did it occur to you that if in fact there is a God, and there is an enemy of God such as the Bible describes, it is only natural that the enemy would attempt to counterfeit God's real work?

  • born4battle

    Googling 'the authenticity of the New Testament' returns some interesting results.

  • http://www.atheistjournal.com/ccmclaugh Christopher McLaughlin

    I would refer to the First Council of Nicea for an introduction to the credibility of bible stories. From there you may want to learn about the various later translations from scribe to scribe.

    The earliest Christian bible stories were oral stories that were not committed to writing until long after the events that the bible purports to tell. Unless of course you count some of the various original sources, such as the stories of Mithra or Horace, which tell the same stories (only the names are changed) and pre-date the alleged birth of Jesus. At it’s heart, Christianity is a well known plagiarism of many other religions.

    The truth is out there, look it up…

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    There are sources outside the Bible and close to the time of Jesus which refer to Jesus’ earthly life and crucifixion, and circumstances surrounding it, including Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus’ (AD 55-120) Annals and Jewish historian Josephus’ (AD 37/38-100+) Jewish Antiquities.

    The resurrection is a miracle that is hard to dismiss. Only the Bible offers a satisfactory explanation for why Jesus’ tomb was empty after three days, as incredible as it may seem. This is just one example, I have many other reasons for my belief that the Word is Truth.

    Most of the writers of the books of the OT claim to have witnessed the events they describe or they present the book as an authentic history taken from contemporary accounts. They appear to have been serious people, possessing historical information corroborated by other ancient sources which someone just making it up would not have known, who believed that what they were writing was true, and who expected it to be taken seriously. A dispassionate historian who approaches such a historical work as he would any other such work is, admittedly, going to take the supernatural events with a grain of salt. But he will also take everything else seriously unless he has other evidence which contradicts it. It’s true that the earliest surviving manuscript copies for the OT only go back to the 3rd cent. BC. But this does not prove that the books were not written until then. When it comes to a serious historical work, such as the Bible, the burden of evidence is born by those claiming that the work is not accurate or authentic or is otherwise not what it purports to be.

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    Andy,

    Last I checked, those historians you mention only confirm the existence of Christians, not the historicity of Jesus. Nor do they confirm the miracles.

  • Andy Christensen

    They both mention Jesus as an actual person. More importantly, Matthew, Peter and John knew Jesus personally during His earthly ministry and wrote about Him, albeit after His crucifixion. True, they were not historians and were close to their subject, but that by itself is not reason to dismiss their testimony.

    As for secular sources remember it was only three years from the beginning of Jesus' ministry to His crucifixion, and His was one of many religious movements in the area at that time. So it's not too surprising that it was generally overlooked by writers or that its significance was not appreciated.

    People can obviously believe whatever they want about Jesus but this idea that we don't really know anything about Him is, to me, mind boggling.

  • Jim

    "It’s interesting how you are so easily angered that I believe in God. I don’t expect you to share my beliefs, but I would appreciate it if you had the decency to respect them, just as I respect your right to believe there is no God."

    I'm late to this conversation, but Natanis perhaps your last sentence above is a mistake, yet it is confused and confusing. You complain that an atheist doesn't respect your beliefs and seem to feel justified because you respect the atheist's right to believe there is no god. Clearly, these are two different concepts. As a freethinker first, atheist by reasoning, I respect your right to believe there is a god, acknowledge it, and will defend it, but I can not respect the belief itself because I think it is mistaken and has led to great suffering throughout history.

    Brent offered a comment that I came to independently, wording it this way. I do not find it at all reasonable that a multi-omni god would send himself to sacrifice himself to himself to correct the mistake he himself had made. And as others have aptly pointed out, it isn't much of a sacrifice if you know that after 3 days you spend the rest of eternity in bliss. This latter also raises the interesting question of heaven, which has been described as a place of eternal joy and bliss. But the problem of evil and suffering on earth have been defended as necesary so we can understand joy. Seems contradictory, no?

    Finally, I interpret the bible to say Jesus and the Father are one and the same. As an example, at the burning bush god says his name is "I Am." At his trial Jesus says "Before Abraham, I Am." To me this indicates that Jesus is just as responsible for the pervasive violence of the Old Testament as Yahweh (to say nothing of the violence of the new Testament). For all of jesus compassionate teachings, I don't find either book presents a god worthy of worship.

    None of the above is meant to be offensive to any one, just a straightforward expression.

    Jim

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    "They both mention Jesus as an actual person"

    Incorrect. They both mention Jesus as someone who Christians believe to have been an actual person.

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    This is from Annals 15.44 (http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Tacitus/TacitusAnnals15.html); the context is the aftermath of the fire in Rome during Nero’s reign:

    “But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”

    From Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3(http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/ant-18.htm):

    “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

    The parts of the above which I have italicized are those which Josh McDowell, in his Evidence for Christianity, says are “Christian additions” which “have been made to the text that are probably foreign to it…”

    Nevertheless, even looking only at these two sources, the historicity of Jesus appears to be firmly established.

    Here is at least one supernatural event to consider, on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion: “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.” (Luke 23:44-45, also mentioned in Matthew 27 and Mark 15) McDowell provides a couple of additional references to this event in Evidence for Christianity, pp. 173-174: (1) A history written by Thallus around AD 52 is cited by Julius Africanus around AD 221; it mentions darkness at the time of Jesus’ death. Phlegon, in a history called Chronicles, also says darkness came upon the earth at Jesus’ crucifixion. Both Thallus and Phlegon tried to provide a natural explanation for this event; both explained it as the result of a solar eclipse. Africanus disagreed with this explanation on the grounds that a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, which was when Christ died (Chronography, 18.1).

  • http://www.youtube.com/morsec0de Morse

    Andy,

    Again. All those really do is show that people knew of Christians and knew the Christian stories. And again, I don’t see a single historian who wrote about Jesus while he was supposed to have been alive.

    Now, I’m not trying to say that Jesus didn’t exist. Some would argue that he didn’t. I happen to think he probably did. But he almost certainly didn’t perform any real miracles, and he almost certainly wasn’t god.

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    John wrote:

    Intellectualizing and religious faith go together like oil and water.

    I appreciate your honesty.

    Andy wrote:

    A price had to be paid for sin. Either we would pay it or God would.

    This doesn't make sense. Why would God have to pay a price? He's God, isn't he? I thought he could do no wrong?

  • natanis

    Hey Brent:)

    I didn't read your whole last entry (no time) but did get so far as to read the part about some people are born without the belief in God and you're absolutely right! I am well aware of this fact and had forgotten that some people just don't see it the same way as I do. My apologies.

    Nat

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    God didn't have to pay the price for sin because He was obligated to, but He did have to pay it if He wanted to save us, which He did.

    God doesn't make mistakes, we do. He didn't have to correct a mistake He made, He wanted to correct the mistake we made. Still, we must want to be reconciled to Him. The reconciliation is on His terms, not ours. And they are very generous terms.

    If we say that God was wrong to give us the choice to rebel or not, and wrong to require us to accept His peace terms, then what we are saying is that an all-powerful God can only do one of two things: 1) just create a bunch of creatures who are incapable of making moral choices and therefore incapable of being in a relationship with Him or having discussions like this one (or just not creating the universe to begin with) or 2) simply wipe us out as soon as we mess up, with no hope for redemption. We are saying that these are the only two choices He has; no other possibilities exist. That is a pretty big assumption, isn't it? The Bible says God created beings He could have a real relationship with, and He provided the means for that relationship to be possible even after we messed up.

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    God didn’t have to pay the price for sin because He was obligated to, but He did have to pay it if He wanted to save us, which He did.

    So then God is not all-powerful if he was forced to something he didn't want to do. Thanks for the explanation. I'd be interested to know what other things God doesn't have control of as well.

    And I think you are misrepresenting our views. We are not saying that God could only have done two things. It's my understanding that God is all-powerful and thus can do whatever he wants. If this is the case, then obviously he can do anything, which means he didn't need to do the whole Jesus thing because he could have handled it a variety of other ways as well. It is you who seem to be restricting God's choices by saying that his only option was to kill Jesus.

  • http://groundedinreality.blogspot.com Bruce

    God was not forced to do anything.

    Really??? Because after reading what you just wrote it sounds like God has a limited number of options:

    "God cannot do anything contrary to His nature."

    "He cannot let us sin without holding us accountable."

    "because God is good He cannot let our sin slide."

    "You may not realize that God is unable to do this"

    "He has done things, made decisions which have constrained His options in the future."

    You're placing an awful lot of qualifiers and limitations on God's sovereignty. Whoever made God must have had the same sorts of problems that God has with us.

  • http://andychristensen.wordpress.com Andy Christensen

    God cannot do anything contrary to His nature. He cannot let us sin without holding us accountable. That would be a violation of His righteous nature. It seems that some are saying that if God was good He would let our sin slide. But because God is good He cannot let our sin slide.

    I realize that this is what Christians are saying, not what you are saying.

    You may not realize that God is unable to do this, unable to simply sweep sin under the rug, to let sin go unpunished. So what I meant was that perhaps without realizing it, you require God to either not create us with moral choice or to create us then wipe us out. You may believe that God could just let it ride, but Christians deny that that is an option for God.

    That does not mean that God is not all-powerful. He could have just not created us in the first place. He has done things, made decisions which have constrained His options in the future. For example, after giving the first humans a choice to obey or disobey, and after they disobeyed, He could not let them remain in the same relationship with Him; He banished Adam and Eve from Eden. He has voluntarily made commitments to us and given us a degree of freedom to interact with Him. But He has never at any time stopped being sovereign over everything. God’s sovereignty means He doesn’t ask anyone’s permission to do anything and no one can do anything without Him allowing it. It’s sort of like how a parent can give a child some freedom without relinquishing their authority or waiving their right to ever in the future require that child to do something. We do not all have to be puppets on a string for God to be sovereign and all-powerful.

    The relationship between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility is one of those issues which God through His Word has given us some insight into but has withheld much that would allow us to fully understand it.

    God was not forced to do anything. He wanted to save us, and He gave His Son so we could Be. Jesus is the Way, the mechanism, the mediator that God provided for our salvation.

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  • mand3rd

    Sir, it's not what I think, but what the Bible says. If you are saying that you are a Christian, you should base your arguments on the Word of God. You may not be directly quoting verses from the Bible but your reasoning should not divert from it and not base it on your personal whims and rationality.

  • mehoman

    John, I see your motivation for writing this article in response to the atheist but I feel that you did not hit the nail on the head. I believe it is a weak argument in response to the atheist that Christ came so that we could remember. While that may have truth to it, there is a primary answer that Scripture tells us. Romans 3:25-26 speak of the justice of God in his righteousness as the reason why Christ had to come. If God were to simply just wave sin off and say to people, "You are forgiven", then he would not be God. It is out of his nature to do so. The attribute of justice requires that he punish sin. The cross dealt with sin. Christians often get caught up in the thinking that God in his love looks over our sin when he forgives us positionally at justification. This is heresy. God did not wave over sin at all. Christ became sin for us on the cross and then God punished sin. It was not the mere mutilation of his physical sufferings that caused God to turn away but Scripture tells us that God had forsaken Christ in Mark 15:34. In Isaiah 53:10, we are told that it was God's will to crush Christ. In Isaiah 53:11, we are told that God was pleased to see Christ's soul in anguish. Notice that it says "soul" not body. The most grueling thing about the sufferings of Christ were his spiritual sufferings, not his physical sufferings. I fear that your article gave too much emphasis to his physical sufferings and it takes away from what God did to him spiritually. Christ became sin and God forsook him. The wrath that was meant for you and me for our sin was placed upon Christ. This act at the cross fulfills God's attribute of love because he sent his son to die for the sin's of mankind but it also fulfills God's justice because he punished sin by his wrath. So the answer to the atheist is that God did it to appease his wrath. He is a consistent God and to not punish sin would mean that he is not God.

    Another deep thought to consider is that the cross was God's choice in an alternative substitutionary atonement. An absolute substitutionary atonement would be Christ at the judgement seat about to condemn sinners into the lake of fire and then he takes off his robes and throws himself into the lake of fire for an eternity! If he took our exact punishment for sin that is what he would have done. But the point is that God in his soverignty, chose the cross as an alternative substiutionary atonement in order that the wrath of God would be appeased. With this alternative atonement God places the condition of faith upon it. If we believe, we receive atonement. This understanding prevents us from understanding the atonement as either limited or universal. It simply means he did it so that regeneration would even be possible. If Christ threw himself into the lake of fire for an eternity for the sins of mankind, even Hitler would be in heaven. This is universalism and requires no response in faith. God ordained a moment in history for a substitutionary atonement which is known as the cross, where he maintained his attributes, maintained the trinity, and maintained the responsibility of man to respond to the gospel.

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  • Brandon Roberts

    because we sinned we screwed up and god loved us too much too allow us to suffer in hell (yes i believe in hell) and god is his own son but it’s true

  • Bones

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