If God Needed A Blood Sacrifice For Sin, God Is Not Holy

If God Needed A Blood Sacrifice For Sin, God Is Not Holy March 10, 2016

Crown of thorns with drops of blood over grunged background.

I grew up on the Three Stooges.

Saturday mornings on the farm my grandfather would take a rare break from work and often sit down to watch them with me, in what has become a fond memory of my grandfather. I’m sure by the time I hit puberty I had seen probably every stooges episode ever made.

And when I had kids, I passed on my love of the stooges. Except, English wasn’t our primary language in the home at the time, and I wasn’t sure how to translate “stooge” into Spanish. So, to this day we still call them the Tres Idiotas.

In one of my favorite episodes ever, Curly flies into a hilarious rage every time he sees a mouse. As he’s raging, he shouts, “Moe! Larry! The cheese!” in an effort to get the only thing that will calm him down: cheese. If you need a refresher on that episode, here you go:

Now, what does any of this have to do with the Penal Substitution theory of the atonement? A lot, actually. In fact, if this atonement theory is true, God is actually a lot like Curly.

The Penal Substitution model of the atonement begins with God’s holiness. This holiness, we’re told, causes him to be so angry at the sight of sin, that by default, he must consign anyone who has ever sinned to an eternity of damnation and torture. However, God doesn’t want to do this and thus needs something to make his anger go away so that he can forgive– but the only thing that can appease his anger is the blood sacrifice of an innocent human.

In Penal Substitution, God reacts to sin the way Curly reacts to the sight of a mouse. And, like Curly, he needs something to calm his violent anger– but instead of a mouth full of cheese to calm him, he needs human blood. Innocent blood.

The chief irony of penal substitution is that it begins with God’s holiness, but unintentionally strips him of his holiness.

Let me explain:

The word “holy” in and of itself doesn’t tell one much. The term holy technically means totally “set apart or different.” Thus, when we say that God is holy, it means that God is uniquely different than anything else in existence. “Holy” is simply a reference to other attributes, or an essence, that is different than anything else.

For example, if I told you my daughter was unique, that wouldn’t tell you much– you’d need to ask: “What makes her unique?” In the same way, when we say God is holy, we are making the claim that God is fundamentally different, and referencing other character attributes (or lack of attributes) that warrant use of the adjective “holy.”

In fact, we even sing about it in church. We sing, “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, our God is…”

When we sing those things, we are affirming that our God is not like any other god. Our God is holy and totally different.

However, while Penal Substitution likes to lay claim to God’s holiness as a foundation, it paints an image of God that completely lacks holiness.

Throughout history there are countless understandings of the gods being angry and needing a human sacrifice in order to calm them down. There were those who sacrificed babies to Moloch, the Aztecs believing that the sun god needed human blood for appeasement, ancient hawaiians who sacrificed humans to the god of war, the Incas, the Mayans… there are all kinds of gods throughout history who needed human blood sacrificed to appease them.

If holy had an antonym it would be “same” or “similar.” And, if God needed the blood sacrifice of an innocent human, he sure is similar to primitive versions of god.

Thus, let us be clear about what we are doing when we describe the cross of Calvary in this way: when we say that God’s anger at sin necessitated the blood sacrifice of an innocent human in order to calm his wrath, we are not describing a god who is fundamentally different and holy– we are simply describing another version of an angry god who needs a virgin thrown into the volcano. 

In fact, it would make him no different than Curly needing his cheese.

That’s not holy. That’s not different. It’s certainly not the God I see perfectly and completely revealed to us through Jesus.

That’s actually the opposite of holy, because it’s entirely the same as all the other gods who hunger for innocent blood.

God is not the sun god, an angry volcano god, or a god who needs innocent blood to calm him down.

Our God is holy.

Perhaps we should rethink how we explain the cross so as to not strip God of his holiness. If Jesus somehow died for us, and it pleased God to offer himself up, is there a better way of explaining it? That question and more, in the next installments.

unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.

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  • Beautifully explained! I think this misunderstanding of God’s character stems from a misunderstanding of sin and evil, which is the antithesis to God’s holiness. These are separate and against God, rather than tools in God’s toolbox.
    I like the theodicy of Jurgen Moltmann for the explanation of Christ’s death. Christ climbs into our unholy humanity–even death– and redeems it with his holy presence, conquering sin and death rather than submitting to their rule.

  • jekylldoc

    Good insight. I think “Holy” is supposed to be “set apart” in the sense of “sacred”, but anyone can tell that Aztec theology is not about the holy or the sacred in the sense we have come to understand. So, despite the semantic stretch, it works.

    This is one of the hinges of progressive theology, as one can tell by watching the blogs on Patheos. Sadly, most Christians don’t even realize that, unless you take Hebrews excessively seriously, the traditional penal substitution theory is not even Biblical. One can make a strong case that what Paul preached was much closer to what came to be called the “moral influence” theory. If one does not take “ransom” too literally, that is how it reads: Christ goes first much more often than Christ goes instead.

    Or we could consider “ransom” as an action securing our freedom from the piracy of violent imperialist systems, and the love of money in general. I don’t know if that fits any of the traditional interpretations of atonement theory, but it matches pretty well with Paul’s general worldview.

  • Even when you read Jewish theology looking back on the sacrifices, the idea is that they were to show God their submission and seriousness about reconciling the relationship. The sacrifice wasn’t to pay a penal debt incurred by the sin.

    Which, in that light, invests the death of Jesus with a lot more meaning.

  • Is there, like an Aztec fetish for blood sacrifice, an Unholy assumption bleeding into the idea that Jesus death and blood pouring out of him could make any difference in influencing God to bring rain in the spring time, to get a parking place in front of the store, deflect his anger, or change one’s own behavior and result in one’s character becoming like the one who’d been sacrificed? If one groks the reasons & wIsdom in the underlying psychological patterns that control individuals, families, tribes, Nations by way of structural violence perhaps one can understand how Jesus exposed the lies, in every interaction with people, places and things, of compromise & the implications of compliance with worldly systems. he says ‘greater love hath no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends’, in the context of living in a nation occupied by an alien Empire ruling by might makes right & he isn’t advocating violence against such, is willing to love that enemy, go the extra mile to take care of enemies needs, to be willingly executed by such and forgive them for not knowing what they’re doing. this surely is counterintuitive and can only be achieved by acceptance that (Christ goes first not instead) & reality is based on this way to organize one’s life with the help of holy spirit interventions & Divine appointments which become daily events IMHO! *\]:D

  • jekylldoc

    Well said, charles. For the record, I am more concerned about people thinking they can find meaning in worldly systems of violence than about people compromising with or complying with these systems. Minor matter.

    Until you quoted it in this context, I never got that “greater love hath no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends,” looks very much like a “moral example” statement about atonement rather than a penal substitution statement, starting with the universal “no man” formulation. My head has been twisted by centuries of willful misreading. I protest.

  • Nimblewill

    PSA is something that I’ve been struggling with for a long time.


  • I love this. I’ve been trying to address PSA lately, so I’m wondering if you (or anyone reading this comment thread) could respond to this commonly used verse: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin.” That’s my biggest obstacle in trying to refute PSA, and I’ve yet to come up with a convincing way of responding that doesn’t involve diversion tactics.

  • I think this misunderstanding of God’s character stems from a misunderstanding of sin and evil, which is the antithesis to God’s holiness. These are separate and against God, rather than tools in God’s toolbox.

    Doesn’t this inadvertently explode, like, every theodicy ever?

  • John

    The Bible is full of the imagery and reality of sacrifice, blood, death, etc. Jesus is called the Lamb of God in John 1:29 and Rev 5:6, clearly intending to highlight the sacrificial reason for his death. I don’t think the problem is with the PSA per se, but against a common perception of God as angry and blood thirsty. This is quite unpalatable, but not insurmountable.
    The starting place is the story as God tells it – Genesis, creation, purpose, design, beauty, enemy, lies, rebellion, loss, hardship, separation, death. A human story with flesh and blood and huge issues and consequences in need of a solution. Death is set up at the ultimate end for humanity, so death must be defeated. Lev 17:11 = “life is in the blood.” Biblical link of life, blood and death. Death is the result and punishment for sin, so defeating death is defeating sin. The imagery is taking shape in this long story God is telling. Now, how will God help his people grasp what he is up to? How will he show them in their very midst what it will take to fix the mess they are in? Will they see and understand it?

  • To the older theologians it does. I was never satisfied with theodicy until I found Moltmann… It’s not that sin and death glorify God, it is God’s conquering them that does. It is their destruction that brings God glory.

  • But that reduces down to, God made people suffer so he could sweep in as the good guy and make everything better again. Any metaphysics that assigns evil secondary or parasitic status is going to run into the same problem, in that it gives even the logical problem of evil teeth (never mind the evidential problem of evil, which becomes downright persuasive if evil has no primary purpose), because if evil serves no purpose then its presence (especially being an object of concern for the deity) demands a morally satisfying explanation. If it is merely a necessary and irreducible feature of the universe, then there isn’t as much force behind this demand, and it may be met (or not) in an empirical fashion.

  • I’m not sure if I really follow your logic to be honest, but it doesn’t reduce down to that if there’s any free will involved. If we’re talking about free will, then death and suffering are things created by humankind, and not made to suffer by God but are chosen realities of humanity. The idea that every knee will bow means that even these things will one day submit to God, and even death’s knee will bow.
    The problem with traditional theodicy is that it asks a question (why does God allow suffering?) that God doesn’t seem to want to answer much in scripture. In Job and the prophets and in the incarnation, whenever we ask “why am I suffering?” God doesn’t answer with reasons but instead answers with God’s presence. It’s not that God sweeps in eventually and saves the day, it’s that God is always in the trenches with us, inhabiting suffering alongside us and redeeming suffering and death to make those things holy. Anyway that’s just my take on it!

  • Free will is an ineffective out in a universe where evil is not a necessary feature, because one can always imagine a universe where everything else is the same but the particular evil being observed does not occur. The only way that such a universe is not possible is if evil is an unavoidable feature of every universe, which in turn means that it is metaphysically necessary and cannot be dismissed as parasitic or apparent; God created it by creating the universe.

    (I mean, free will is an ineffective out in general, not least because of the Pharaoh problem [“…and so the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart…”], but more generally because those who often experience evil are those acted upon, and so their will is irrelevant to that specific evil’s existence much less evil in general, but evil being unnecessary makes this second problem much worse.)

  • Actually, the “Pharaoh problem” gives three different explanations in the same narrative: “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” “Pharaoh hardened his heart,” and also just “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.”
    So there isn’t much to be gained from that discussion.

    I think free will is a perfectly valid explanation in that it is the only option that maintains God’s righteousness. If free will is a reality that God chooses, then God’s sovereignty is not diminished. Perhaps in the creation of the universe, God is somehow inculpated by creating the possibility of evil… I don’t really know what to do with that. It just seems logical to me that in order to have a true relationship between God and humanity, there must be the mutual ability to choose one another, which necessitates an alternative to choose. If humanity doesn’t want to choose God, it’ll choose something else, even its own self, as we see in Babel, to its own destruction. Obviously the suffering of the innocent angers God. That’s what comprises most of the prophets, ya know? And that’s the purpose of God’s redemption, to put an end to that.

  • Anyway, check out Moltmann’s Crucified God. I’m new to theology and am probably butchering my summary of it!!

  • Bob Cleveland

    You do not get to define what the Holiness of God is. You know what Hebrews 9:22 says as well as we do, and you cannot explain it away.

  • But it Grieves my heart love
    to see you try to Be part of
    a world that just don’t exist
    it’s all just a dream babe a vacuum, a scheme, babe
    that sucks you into feeling like this.
    I can see that your head has been Twisted and fed
    with worthless foam from the mouth RAMONA~ Bob dylan

  • We all know what it says. Obviously Christ paid for our sins with his blood. Where we virulently disagree is that it came about because the Father was so irrationally enraged at sin that he’s gotta kill somebody, anybody, even his own innocent son. And this is the way Penal Substitutionary Atonement has been depicted by many an overzealous preacher.

    In reality they’re projecting their own personal outrage at sin, their own bloodthirstiness, upon our righteous Father. They conform him to their image, instead of vice-versa.

  • The shedding of blood? Howzzabout tHe sHedding of an addiction or giving up loyalty to Authority that Advocate harming others for monetary reward? the shedding of Blood part is maybe hyperbole for losing something precious that one has based one’s life and expectations of control upon. When one realizes these things aren’t Working, Aren’t delivering the ShAlom of God And one must turn to the Holy Spirit And Ask for guidAnce IMHO one has sacrificed, everything up to that point, one has ever known about living in the world. I think one must be pretty broken down with abuse, trauma, abandonment and betrayal to get to that place. perhaps one is at the point of death of a scheme, a vision of Hope in the world
    And one’s Agency to control outcomes that confer advantages to oneself, one’s family, One’s Tribe one’s Nation. (forgive The Accidental capitalization of random words in this post. My Dragon Naturally Speaking is f***** up!)

  • Kaymama

    Christ became incarnate in the human Jesus to be our example of the way God wants us to live, the way that will bring us peace with God, with ourselves & with our fellow human beings. (Thy will be done on earth. Mt. 6:10) He came to enlighten us. (I am the light of the world. Jn 8:12) We believe that Jesus was fully divine and fully human. Being fully human, he had to die. I believe that showing us how to die was part of showing us how to live. His faith that God is in control made him able to face death and to believe it was for the greater good so that all human beings see Gods love, would see him resurrected and know that this life is not all there is. Jesus constantly spoke of the love of God and neighbor as being the most important thing. He lived in a manner that met what God requires of us according to Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” God does not require blood sacrifice but was willing for his own blood to be poured out to show his love for all of humanity.

  • Mark

    “No greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends.” He was showing us that pain and suffering are something we must endure and that he would not expect us to do so without showing his willingness to share in it with us, so that we like he demonstrated shall rise again.

  • Comparing God and Curly is the best and funniest analogy I’ve heard in a while. :D

  • kent

    is death really the punishment for sin?

  • Robert Williams

    The whole entire scenario is highly bizarre. All of it. That a Deity would create a Universe where these are the rules appears very Un-God like. The whole sinful humans needing a savior, the most of which have no clue at birth what all this religion, Jesus, God, stuff is, and somehow find out, after they die of course whether or not they really exist, is just very very odd. I think there are other explanations that make a ton more sense than the judeo Christian stories.

  • I enjoyed this Ben, like I always do! Good analogy on God like Curly! That is an image I will never forget! One thing that I wanted to bring up (not that it conflicts with what you are saying here) is that I believe that the word you are really looking for is sacred, instead of holy.

    The reason I bring this up is because sacred means what you said holy does. Separate, unique, different from the rest, set apart, etc, etc. Holy, on the other hand, means to make “whole.” It comes from an old Teutonic word, hālig, which becomes whole, also in German and Dutch. That is why holy and whole sound alike.

    Not that this takes anything away from what you are saying here. But, maybe it could add on to it. For example, in order for God to be holy, he would have to be whole. If God behaves irrationally like Curly does, then one cannot say that God is whole, but is missing something.

    What do you think?

  • Bones

    Imagine if Adam and Eve didn’t sin.

    Every person born since would still be alive…..

    Think about it…..

  • Bones

    God forgave sins in the Old Testament without shedding blood……

  • Matthew

    It´s my understanding that according to N.T. Wright (a well known theologian who I believe embraces multiple views of the atonement) even the church fathers wrote about penal substitution being part of what Jesus accomplished at the cross.

    I know I´m in the minority on this topic around here, but I still contend PSA is one aspect of the atonement that we simply cannot get around. It´s probably why your are struggling with the verse.

    Even when I thought that PSA was the only atonement theory, I never questioned God´s love or God´s holiness.

  • Bones

    Does Jesus forgive without shedding blood?

    I mean did Jesus only forgive those around Him by killing something?

    PSA actually makes a mockery of the Trinity in that God killed God to placate God’s wrath……

    It’s quite possibly idolatrous…..

  • James Wood

    Just forget the New Testament. It’s antithetical to the Tanakh (OT)… Read my book Leaving Jesus. book.leavingjesus.net

  • Matthew

    Then how do you think Jesus atoned for humankind´s sin?

  • Matthew

    It´s not antithetical, it simply fulfills Tanakh and redirects us. One of the most interesting things I confronted while in Israel was the near refusal of many to even try reading Brit Ha Hadasha (New Testament) at face value. Others simply discounted the text as irrelevant. I may be wrong in this assumption, but it was as though some Jews kind of feared the text. Could that be true?

    Nevertheless, I thought these approaches to Brit Ha Hadasha were basically closed minded.

  • Tom Christian

    You’re citing the main segment of Heb. 9:22,

    “Indeed according to the law almost everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

    The operative phrase is “according to the law”.

    1. The Law was the ruling motif and basic presupposition of the Hebrew writer’s audience. Christ is “targumed” from those presuppositions. At the same time Christ is held up as superior and the terminus of the Law’s purpose.

    2. The Law was administered by angels, NOT GOD, through an intermediary, Moses. IOWs, God distanced Himself from the Law (Gal. 3:19)

    3. According to the Law EVERYTHING had to be cleansed–including the book of the law itself (!) Heb. 9:19

    4. The Heb. writer more than once says that animal sacrifices don’t actually cleanse anything.

    5. In chapt. 10 the Heb writer makes a 180 shift. He asserts that blood cannot take away sins–whether bull, goat, or human–then cites Habakkuk that “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. ​​Whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you took no delight in. ​​​​Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come – it is written of me in the scroll of the book – to do your will, O God.’”

    He/she then links that to Jesus saying, “By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

    We are not made holy by the blood of Jesus, rather we are made holy by his BODY. God’s gift to us for our redemption is Jesus the Christ–BODILY. We–humans–took that gift and tried to destroy it. WE made a piece of nasty work of it–not God (Acts 2.22…”Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know – this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, YOU executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles.”)


    God does not, nor never has, needed blood or the death of a sacrificial victim (scapegoat) in order to forgive. Rather, humanity needed it. That’s why we make god into our blood thirsty image.

    Hebrews is NOT teaching that God needs blood in order to forgive, rather, the author is trying to show to those stuck in that paradigm QUITE THE OPPOSITE.

  • Tom Christian

    If that’s the best answer you have, then I’ll choose to forget the Tanakh–which by itself alone is a DEAD END.

  • John

    Agreed, it is virtually impossible to get around the atonement because it is a quite clearly referred to over and over again. It need not be the only aspect of the cross, but it certainly is a dominant one. I still believe this issue has more to do with the typical OT view of God as angry and blood thirsty while Jesus seems the opposite.
    Nate – why are you trying to refute PSA? What aspect of it do you disagree with?

  • Ian Moore

    if Jesus, as part of the trinity, is fully God, isn’t is really a case of God killing himself?

  • Matthew

    Honestly … I´m still attempting to reconcile this God of OT — violent, God of NT — loving argument. It seems to me, though, that for whatever reason God establishes a new covenant for us in Jesus Christ — a covenant of love rather than one of violence and wrath. God didn´t change, but his revelation in fact did.

    I still have to read more about this. I cannot remember the title right now, but Brad Jersak wrote a book that apparently addresses this issue rather well. When I have more time I think I´ll read it.

  • John

    NT Wright is a good source for this also, as you mentioned above. Still, I’m not sure that we can ever be totally at ease with the change we see from the OT to the NT. There is quite a lot of God’s love and grace clearly stated in the OT also, right alongside wrath and violence. Quite the tension to live with, but I think that is ok even if not fully resolved. I do sense that where Benjamin is going with this is trying to make it more palatable for us because we don’t like it, and that approach is suspect and maybe even dangerous depending on how it plays out. I think we need to figure out what God is mad/angry/upset/vengeful about. If we can get some clarity on that, then we may have a chance at better understanding his actions and what it was that was accomplished in Jesus and his death and resurrection.

  • kent

    my question isn’t “is death a reality?” my question is “is death a punishment?” How does punishing sin bring restoration…if that’s god’s goal?

  • Bones

    What makes you think He did?

    PSA only existed thanks to the Medieval Catholic Church an it’s progeny, the Reformation. It is the fruit of a theology which springs from the medieval law courts.

    The Orthodox believe in the ancient Recapitulation Theory where God dealt with our sin as a hospital not a law court. Instead of viewing the atonement as Christ paying the price for sin in order to satisfy a wrathful God, Recapitulation teaches that Christ became human to heal mankind by perfectly uniting the human nature to the Divine Nature in His person. It is from Death that Christ ransomed us:

    Hosea 13:14

    “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?
    Shall I redeem them from death?
    O Death, where are your thorns?
    O Sheol, where is your sting?
    Compassion will be hidden from My sight.”

    That makes far more sense and the notion that sin does something to God is bizarre and negated by the story of Jesus.

    Sin alienates us from God by the destruction it causes US, from each other and from ourselves in many ways, not just physically.

    It’s a symptom of a sickness which God wants to heal, not destroy…….

  • Bones

    The original story says if Adam and Eve eat the fruit they will die….not that God will kill them….

    No death isn’t a punishment as Jesus came to ransom us and rescue us from it…….

  • Bones

    Because it is written predominately by Jews using Jewish idioms and metaphors which also was relevant to a pagan sacrificial culture.

    Death isn’t a punishment. Jews didn’t believe that and I don’t either.

  • Bones

    “I´m still attempting to reconcile this God of OT — violent, God of NT — loving argument.”

    It’s obvious to me that Jesus of Nazareth was a corrective revelation of God compared to what had gone on before.

    We only need to look at how modern Israel refuses to live by the Torah which is immoral by Western democratic standards.

    The idea that God changed His mind about killing people for being gay, picking up sticks on the Sabbath and that women on their periods were unclean is frankly baloney because that wasn’t God at all but Jewish purity codes.

    Quite frankly the OT tells us nothing about God.

  • Bones

    ” I think we need to figure out what God is mad/angry/upset/vengeful about. ”

    Maybe read the Prodigal Son where Jesus challenges this image of God.

    Christians seem to have a schizophrenic God where Jesus loves people and the Father wants to kill them.

    If as Christians we believe Jesus is God……then that is what God is like…..

    I really don’t get why people don’t see the Gospels as challenging the OT view of God because the others certainly did apart from Matthew who wanted to emphasise that Jesus had replaced Israel.

  • Bones

    Why is the TNK better than the New Testament?

    Even most Jews accept that the events in the TNK didn’t happen.

  • James Wood

    Jesus didn’t seem to think that the events and the Tanakh didn’t occur in reality. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Hannah

    The PSA version of God I absorbed growing up was different than a violent, out-of-control God looking for someone to vent his anger on. It was presented as a God who cannot violate his own character, which includes having to punish sin. The image was more of a loving judge in a courtroom whose child was before him having committed a crime. The judge isn’t eager to punish him, but he “has” to for the laws of justice to be kept. So this God finds a loophole, steps down from the bench and takes the punishment for his child.

    Of course, this still has many of the same problems, including a God who is powerless to forgive sin of His own volition and a slave to His own laws. And it brought up too many questions for me to ignore. If a sacrifice was necessary to forgive sin, how did Jesus walk among the people freely forgiving them? Doesn’t the story of Abraham and Isaac on the mountain show us that God is different from Molech and the others because He doesn’t require sacrifice? And doesn’t forgiveness require that the debt be erased completely, instead of foisted upon someone else to pay?

  • James Wood

    It is irrelevant. This is why I wrote my book. The Torah is truth. Not so much the New Testament.

  • James Wood

    When a unchanging God says according to his words choose this day life or death you can’t just dismiss the Tanakh. If you do you go against the words of the Almighty.

  • Jesse Oldham

    Certainly an irreverent article on an opinion which I see as faulty. First, not one scripture passage is offered in defense of this thesis. Not one. Anywhere. Yet we see scripture replete with passages speaking of an atoning sacrifice. Hebrews 9:22 lays the framework of the sacrifice in the Old Testament with; ” And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Matthew 5:17; “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. “Further into chapter 9, verse 26a says; ” He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” 1 John 2:2; ” And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” Merriam-Webster; ” something that propitiates; specifically : an atoning sacrifice”. Romans 5:8; But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 3:10; “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;””. Romans 3:23; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”. Romans 6:23; “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 1 Peter 2:24; “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” 1 Corinthians 13:3a; “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”. 1 Peter 3:18″ For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”. Romans 4:25; “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” There are more.

  • Matthew

    Thanks for taking the time to offer such a comprehensive response Bones. I have studied this viewpoint and find it very interesting and also compelling.

  • Ruth Douthitt

    Had you provided on verse from the Bible to support your claims, I might be interested in what you have to say. However, you have only provided your opinion. Your opinion means nothing to the Christian. God’s word, however, means everything to the Christian. His word states very clearly that He requires the shedding of blood, not just blood, but the act of SHEDDING the blood in order to cover sins. Christ didn’t do away with the Law, but fulfilled the Law by becoming that perfect sacrificial Lamb of God. God’s holiness sets Him apart, but only Christ’s sacrifice ripped the veil that separated us and now we have access to this holy God. Why? Because He, Himself, had to be that perfect, innocent, expensive sacrifice for our sins. There is no other way. Now that’s LOVE.

  • John

    Nowhere is the NT interpreted as a corrective on the OT, nor is Jesus presented and the counter to the God of the OT. One is never pitted against the other, so your argument fails.

  • Matthew

    Have you read it?

  • James Wood

    Read, studied and lived it for 25 years. It was not until I started learning Hebrew and read the Tanakh till I figured it all out. That’s why I wrote my book. Free to read. Book.LeavingJesus.Net

  • Kevin Thomas

    This does a nice job explaining the Christus Victor view. It was the predominant view for the first 800 years.


  • Kevin Thomas

    Not true–google Christus Victor and you will find a plethora of scriptural backing.

  • Matthew

    Try reading “The End of Religion” by Bruxy Cavey. Were you in Messianic Jewish circles before you left?

  • Matthew

    As I stated in another post, my problem is that the groups I was in made it seem like PSA was and is the only theory of atonement. That´s what annoys me the most.

    That said, even when I was under such teaching, I don´t think I ever had the problems with it that so many seem to have. I still saw God as loving and holy.

  • James Wood


  • Jesse Oldham

    Perhaps I should have added John 10:18; No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” Christ Jesus had complete control over what he was doing.

  • James Quinn

    You realize that not a single verse you quoted says that God himself demanded a blood sacrifice, and that all of those scriptures completely fit within other atonement theories, correct?

  • James Quinn

    So, you don’t like that someone gave their theological opinion without listing verses, but then you did almost the same thing, except you misquoted a verse.

  • James Quinn

    The Greek word for holy actually has a meaning, chief. And Dr. Corey correctly told us what it means in Greek: set apart and different.

  • Shane Stockton Brooks

    I’m a fan of Ben Corey’s stuff, but this is WAY off mark. He didn’t sacrifice an innocent human, he offered up himself. He can swear by no name greater than himself. Jesus was God in the flesh, not just “another virgin thrown in a volcano.” You cant throw away Isaiah 53 “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.” God only exhibited the law of Sowing in Reaping. In order to reap children, he had to plant a child. Jesus didn’t shed his blood for me, because I don’t require a sacrifice for sin, but God does. Jesus died for me, but his blood was shed as “an offering for sin”

  • Jesse Oldham

    I avoided it on purpose, but you wouldn’t let me. John 3:16; For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Romans 3:25; GOD PRESENTED Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood–to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–“.

  • James Quinn

    No where in what you’ve referenced does it say that God demanded a blood payment, sorry. What Corey said is not a negation of substitution but a negation that God demanded blood as a perquisite of forgiveness.

  • Franklin Bacon

    If that god created everything and is omnipotent, that god chose to make the rules as they are. He is not subject under someone else’s rule. He is as angry or as compassionate as he chooses.

    Of course this stuff is not understandable, because it is completely irrational.

  • James Quinn

    Again, do you not see that nothing you’ve quoted shows that God demanded blood to appease him? It just says that God offered Jesus up. But who demanded the blood sacrifice? Wasn’t God.

  • I think the issue is that there aren’t any verses that really substantiate the penal substitution theory. So, yeah, there aren’t any verses that were written specifically to refute it. That would be weird.

  • I’m not seeing anything in there that established that God has to kill something to forgive sin.

  • Jesse Oldham

    Provide me a Book, Chapter, & Verse that supports your position or explains it so that I can understand it. Meanwhile;

    Genesis 3:21-22, The First Sin and the sacrifice of the animal to cover up the sin. Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.”

    Leviticus 17:11; For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’

    Again, in Hebrews “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (of sin).

    At the fall of man God instituted a way of reconciliation, a covering for man’s sin. Jesus was the completion of that reconciliation by the shedding of his blood for our sins. As he is sinless, the unspotted lamb, he is the only one worthy. It’s his shed blood that covers our sin. 1 Peter 1:17-21; And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Revelations 5:11; Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:
    “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

    Now someone may argue the chicken or the egg, which comes first (chicken) but the fact is God requires a covering for sin. So you could say that it’s our sin that demands the sacrifice and not God. To me that is a theological hair that really doesn’t need splitting as whether God demands or sin demands it, the fact is we can’t reconcile to God without it.

  • Jax Pacific

    I think I understand the point, and where this is going, and it is a valid discussion. A few things… God’s holiness is chiefly due to the fact that He is without sin, then you can talk about His other attributes. Jesus offered himself up, and could have chosen not to be crucified, so it was actually God offering himself as a sacrfifice. Jesus was 100% man, but he was not just a man, He is 100% God as well. If you have kids, and a spouse, you understand the simultaneous anger and love God can have. When my kids go and do something to hurt themselves when I have said 100 times not to do it.. I am going to be sad and upset. A more appropriate analogy is when a spouse leaves and starts sleeping with someone else while you’re still married. You have a right to be jealous of the affections that were meant for only you. Sin damages relationship, and that is the point God is making. Adam and Eve were created without sin, but also created with choice, and I trust we can all do the math on that. God, offering Himself as a sacrifice is what makes our faith so unique. We are not trying to reach nirvana or some perfect state to be worthy of reaching God. He reached down, sacrificed Himself, because He loves us and wants to be with us.. to show us what real love did.. and still does.

  • The making clothes for Adam and Eve did not pay for their sin. They were still exiled and still died.

    None of the verses you quoted require penal substitution, and that’s what’s under discussion here. It’s not whether or not Jesus was a sacrifice. It’s not whether or not his death reconciled us to God. It’s whether or not God has to kill something to forgive sin. None of those passages you quoted show that.

  • Jesse Oldham

    I must now claim Titus 3:10-11 and leave this conversation. I will leave you with this verse just in case you missed it. John 10:18; No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

    Notice the last sentence “This COMMAND I have RECEIVED from my FATHER.” That would be God commanding His Son Jesus to sacrifice himself for our sin.


  • Questioning

    So he spends the first part talking about his control of his own life and then finishes up by saying the Father has commanded him to sacrifice it? It could also be read that, “this command I have received from My Father” simply means the Father has given him command of his own life and he has chosen to lay it down. That actually makes more sense when coupled with what comes before. Nowhere does it actually say that God “commanded” him to sacrifice himself. Just an observation.

  • So, because we disagree I’m a divisive person and warped and sinful and self-condemned? Wow. You must have an interesting family life.

    “Dad, I think I should be able to stay out until 10.”

    “Well, I’ve already disagreed with you twice about this. Obviously you are warped and sinful and only condemn yourself!”

    I thought we were just having a discussion.

    But once again, the verse you quoted does not say God needs a blood sacrifice to pay for sin. Once again, we’re not saying Jesus’ death wasn’t necessary or is just unfortunate collateral damage. It’s important. The question is whether or not it was important because God is so angry that He has to kill someone to pay for sin. You haven’t established that. I’m sorry you think I’m irredeemably evil for pointing that out.

  • Bones

    You don’t know that.

    We do know there were 2 schools of thought at the time. The liberal Rabbi Hillel and the hard line Shammaites. Jesus belonged to the school of Hillel.

  • Bones

    Does God still think menstruating women are unclean and gays should be put to death?

    Grow up!

  • Bones

    Most certainly can.

    We have documents from the Jewish community at Elephantine dated from 500BCE which make it clear they had no knowledge of TNK or even Torah. In fact they built their own temple.

    Much of the TNK was compiled Post-Exile.

    And I’m pretty sure god changed his mind on unclean women, owning slaves, killing people for working on the Sabbath and for being gay.

  • Bones

    The Torah is nonsense.

  • Bones


    The gospel writers challenged the hard line interpretations on women, gentiles, sickness, the unclean all of which are based in the OT.

    It’s clear that Jesus belonged to the more liberal Hillel school.

  • Tom Christian

    The Tanakh is Curse. The Promises given to Abraham came through his “seed”–singular seed, who is Jesus the Messiah/Christ. God did not give the Law, rather it was instituted by angels.

    God’s love and mercy is everlasting.

  • Tom Christian

    It would seem that YHWH “got saved” somewhere between Malachi and Matthew… ;o)

  • Tom Christian

    Jesus never pronounced the curses of the Law, except upon those who used the Law as a burden upon others. You have fallen under the same curse.

  • Tom Christian

    Believe it or not, disagreeing with Moses isn’t the same as disagreeing with God. Moses would have you stoned for doing so, God would send his son to demonstrate his love for you even if you disagree and don’t care about him.

  • Bones

    Jewish beliefs certainly changed……

    They adapted their beliefs to their surroundings…..hence how we now have rabbinic Judaism

    The whole cultic Law was a late addition…

  • Aaron68

    Did Abraham have complete control over what he was doing when he offered up Isaac? What was the purpose of sacrifice in the old testament? I’ve always viewed it as a show of faithfulness between parties. We sacrifice for God, and he sacrifices for us.

  • Tom Christian

    Not to mention that by the late 1st Temple era the Prophets emerged as a countering voice to the Priestly voice.

  • Bones


  • Nathan Hopping
  • Matthew

    Apparently the church fathers taught PSA, Phil Ledgerwood, and I’m pretty sure they were making their arguments from scripture too.

  • Matthew

    Then I highly suggest Bruxy’s book.

  • God is not the sun god, an angry volcano god, or a god who needs innocent blood to calm him down.
    Our God is holy.

    Our God is Wholly.

  • Actually, many of the church fathers taught a Christus Victor approach. There has always been a variety of views on the subject, and of course every side will claim they are arguing “from scripture.”

    Keep in mind, too, that the church fathers are not writing from a Jewish understanding of sacrifice, but a Greco-Roman one. Killing an animal to appease a bloodthirsty god probably made a lot of sense to them.

  • Matthew

    Good points.

    I don’t think any atonement theory can fully capture the message of the cross — but I said that already :-):-).

  • I wouldn’t say that the church fathers taught PSA. The early version of this was Anselem’s satisfaction theory that came about 1000 years after the death of Christ, and this was refined into PSA by protestant reformers in the 1500s. Hints of it may appear earlier, but it certainly was not the predominant view of the cross until much more recently in history.

  • Verily, verily I tell you: Hosea 4:6 is fulfilled in your midst.

  • I agree.

  • Matthew

    Thanks Benjamin. I simply heard N.T. Wright say that we cannot outright reject PSA because the fathers taught it. Maybe I misunderstood him, but if not you’ll need to take this topic up with Tom Wright himself :-):-).

  • Matthew

    Torah is like the typewriter.

    It had and served its purpose, but word processing software appeared and changed everything.

    (PS Bones … I didn’t mean to down vote your comment. I simply fat fingered and can’t seem to change it now)

  • Job 6:1

  • Bones

    Get off it. It was no different to the ancient laws of Babylon or Sumeria…..You don’t see people going around sayin “but the Ancient Babylonians believed…….”

  • Matthew

    Sorry Bones, but I don´t follow. Can you please clarify?

  • Michael Newman

    Ben, thank for posting this discussion. I have reread your book as well as Frank Schafer’s book and have been doing a fair amount of introspection into the construct of my belief. These discussions really do help me to to frame and question some of my own building blocks of my faith.

    I grew up as a child of missionaries in Latin America. We had out fair share of recycled US television shows, The Three Stooges being on of them. The name had were Los Tres Chiflados.

  • NicJM

    Thank you for perfectly articulating my thoughts. The “anger” part of it was not emphasised in my experience, but you’re right, there are still very valid questions.

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    I interpreted it to mean God was telling them the fruit was poisonous. Notice that God later doesn’t press on that point but reitterates what the serpent told the woman. In fact, all the characters at that point seem to have forgotten God had said anything about the fruit leading to death. Weird.

  • TouDolouAutou

    This is an interesting piece. Mr. Corey has surely given us all something to think about. I think I see a possible flaw in the reasoning though and it goes something like this and it has something to do with the way you define the meaning of holy. I realize that if you ask 100 different believers the meaning of the word holy, you may well get 100 different answers. The possible flaw I see here is and how Mr. Corey defines it. If he defines holy as sinless, then his analysis continues as written. But it has never been proven to me that this is the fundamental meaning or intention of the biblical writers when they used it when describing God. Indeed, holy has more to do with separation of purpose and being different as he noted. And so while I totally agree with him on the following two statements:

    • … we are simply describing another version of an angry god who needs a virgin thrown into the volcano, and

    • Perhaps we should rethink how we explain the cross …,

    I am not sure we need to assume that when God is described as holy that it is fundamental that we are to understand from that assertion that God is sinless. I think we should continue to treat holy as meaning that we are to continue to keep God separate from all the other so-called gods of this age and all of life’s many distractions.

    So far as describing the cross differently, may I suggest that the fundamental reason for the cross was less about atonement than to show all that he has skin in the game. As horribly as people have suffered throughout the ages, I’m fully convinced that no one is going to be able to accuse God on judgment day of sitting idly by and having experienced none of what we experience down here on a daily basis. He’ll simply be able to show us his wounds if nothing else. And of course, he very well may produce the recorded video of the events of that horrible day on Golgotha for all to see. Going to the cross were approved all that he really didn’t care and that he took responsibility for all the actions that resulted as result of his choosing to create us in his image.

    I think all the blood in the Old Testament was to show the cause and effect of the law versus our sins. But the overarching conclusion was for us to learn the lesson of Romans 4:15, namely that the Law works wrath. And if you read Romans 3:25 and 26 – at least it’s clear to me – that God’s way of displaying his righteousness – his Holiness according to most believers – was for him – not us – to take the hit that our sins deserve. The cross also explained the purchasing power of God to buy back the fields which is the world and all of us in it.

    For now I’m uncomfortable with the accusation that the “blood sacrifice” of the cross is a mutually – exclusive reality apart from his holiness – that the one obliterates the other. Rather, I think it is because of his holiness that he took the hit for us – because that was the right thing to do – and especially to show that the price he paid was real. In its own way, the price he paid for us through his sufferings was to show that we have real value to him. As I was told endlessly growing up, that God did not wink at sin. Okay, have it your way – he did not wink at it; he who knew no sin, became sin, absorbed the blows the sins caused and deserved because it was the right thing to do, and doing so, he put it, our sins, the law which condemns us and forever stood against us, to death on the cross. And I think that this is all an expression of his holiness. Remember, all this wrath of cause and effect, sin and punishment are part and parcel of the Old Covenant and its way of relating the God. But the Old Covenant had the glorious purpose to bring us all to the New Covenant. Thus we should leave behind the language of the Old Covenant and the thinking that it generates. We should all move joyously into the language and reality of the New Covenant with its focus on Grace, peace, and the new creatures he has already made of us. Maranatha

  • Is 53 says nothing about blood being spilled. It’s not God whoneeds blood.He needs nothing. We need to see this in order to understand that God actually loves us. It’s a sacrifice not for God, but for us or better: The devil in us.

  • Chris Thomas

    My Mexican college roommate called them Los Tres Chiflados.

  • Bones

    Well its nothing like how Christians interpret it.

    Let’s not forget that women were cursed with the pain of childbirth because of it.

  • Lynn

    Maybe Adam and Eve would still be alive and there would have been no need for them to have children.

  • Lynn

    Or are we gentiles just adoptive add ons, a bigger family.

  • Bones

    Yeah because having sex and having children is a result of the Fall!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bones

    Must be why we don’t live under the Torah……

  • Rachel Griffin

    “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” Hebrews 9:22a
    Hebrews 9:19-28 is really good and helps it make sense. We need His blood for remission of sins, not for the fury of God.

  • Shane Stockton Brooks

    To say that God does not require blood for sin, or that he does not require blood for the cutting of covenant is throwing away the entire OT which showed us the types and shadows of Christ. It also negates the beauty of Christ being the lamb of God. And not to mention Hebrews 11: “11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest gof the good things that have come,5 then through hthe greater and more perfect tent (inot made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he jentered konce for all into the holy places, not by means of lthe blood of goats and calves but mby means of his own blood, nthus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if othe blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with pthe ashes of a heifer, sanctify6 for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will qthe blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit roffered himself without blemish to God, spurify our7conscience tfrom dead works uto serve the living God.”
    Notice that Christ gave HIS blood…It was offered TO God, to purify us.

  • James Quinn

    Demonstrably untrue– Dr Corey already pointed out that the sacrificial system didn’t work, and that God didn’t even like the system. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/blood-sacrifices-but-god-didnt-even-like-blood-sacrifices/

  • Kate Johnson

    I shouldn’t be, but yet continue to be amazed at the way mankind elevates our own puny and incomplete wisdom, actually expecting that a being that spoke the universe into existence (though I suppose you don’t believe that either) could possibly be understood and deciphered by something as brief and stupid as us. What you seem to be saying is you don’t much like that part of the Bible and want to toss it out and replace it with something that seems more reasonable to you.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    I have to admit I really don’t understand where this line of thinking helps make sense of Christ or his Father or his sacrifice of his own will for that of his Father. I don’t get the sense that this draws us closer to Christ or the gospel. Even though there are no doubt distorted theological perspectives on the sacrifice of Christ, his intentional dying as the ransom for many, this rant doesn’t draw me closer to Jesus. It just feels like a frustrated diatribe against those for whom an empathetic response would have been more helpful. To my mind it seems more like what I might say in an angry drunken rage. I fear it has more stirred up the trolls than inspired our believing souls. Benjamin, you can do better.

  • Shane Stockton Brooks

    I read the article. Thrice. Hebrews 11 isn’t demonstrably untrue, it’s just been explained incorrectly. Dr. Corey says, that Hebrews 11 says that sacrifices were done for the law, and that’s NOT what Hebrews 11 says. Once again it says, “Christ offered himself without blemish (lamb of God) To GOD. He didn’t offer it “For us” or “To the Law” which is what Corey claims. Hebrews 11 says it was Clearly offered TO GOD. God wasn’t pleased with blood sacrifices, that’s why Christ entered, not by the blood of bulls and goats, but his own blood.

  • The cutting of the covenant was a cultural trait, nothing God commanded. And the OT is not all about blood sacrifice, but rather about the love of God to mankind.

    Christ as the lamb of God does not mean that God demanded blood, but that God in Christ was willing to spill His own blood for us.
    God also made clear that He didn’t like the blood sacrifices but rather wanted honest prayers and pure hearts.
    You mean Hebrews 9, not 11 ;)
    And Hebrews does in no way say that God couldn’t look at sinners without the purification by blood. God Himself said, as I mentioned, that He didn’t like the blood sacrifices.

  • Shane Stockton Brooks


  • Chris R. T.

    There’s a comment above that “God Himself said … that He didn’t like the blood sacrifices,” which I find relates to your comment that “no where…does it say that God demanded a blood payment.” There’s a passage in the psalms that what God wants is not sacrifice, but a contrite heart (to paraphrase). I think this is where the mindset of the comments comes from–it’s one of a few places (outnumbered, of course, by places with a conflicting view) in which God does not seem particularly keen on the OT sacrificial system. However, people tend to ignore how that psalm wraps up: after the contrite heart, then God will delight again in sacrifices. God is not appeased by gratuitous blood, offered without a repentant, contrite heart. This does not mean there is not an important place for the shedding of blood for the remission of sin. While it might be said that God doesn’t “like” blood sacrifices, that can only mean that He didn’t like the necessity of blood sacrifices…and even there I think we’re in danger of trying to psychoanalyze God. What we can say more confidently, however–what we can’t actually deny–is that blood sacrifice can be a pleasing aroma to God.

    It is true God does not need innocent blood like some volcano god in a B-movie. However, a function of His holiness is His justice; a function of His justice is that He demands a reckoning for evil (and this is, in a surprising twist, something we should welcome and acclaim). He does not demand blood because He is holy; He demands justice because He is holy, and death (ultimate and total separation) is the just deserts of sin (a separation itself–an abandonment of the God-focused orbit we should trace).

    I like what Benjamnin is trying to do here–think about how we understand atonement In light of what we know of God. However, I think he does overlook some pretty clear lines of biblical thought to try to avoid the suggestion (if this is what he’s attempting) of avoiding a picture of a bloodthirsty, vengeful, “OT God.” I think some of Ben’s confusion–and this is a common enough tendency–may be the tendency to see blood as symbolizing death. But in the OT sacrificial system (and, one supposes, the NT) blood actually symbolizes Life. It’s there in a pivotal verse in Leviticus. And so when Christ, the living sacrifice, presented His blood before God in Heaven (a la Hebrews), it is perhaps less a picture of God being appeased by some death-covered display, as if God were a macabre and murderous avenger, and more like God being presented with the holy and spotless LIFE-blood of His Son/Himself, sufficient to cover a multitude of ne’er-do-wells.

    This is not to say that death is not implicit in blood sacrifice. But biblical blood sacrifice is subtly yet significantly of a different tone than pagan blood sacrifice. Most poignantly, as some have pointed out, in that it culminates with God’s own blood being shed. And we should expect SOME similarities with other religious thought; it’s there in Lewis. Ben is making a somewhat silly (though well-meaning) logical stumble: other gods wanted blood sacrifice, so in order for God to be holy/set apart, He must NOT want blood. If that move were true, then a Holy God could not be powerful; could not be knowing; could not be immortal. For other “gods” Have such attributes too, and a holy God can’t be the same as them, right?

    Of course Ben is right: God didn’t need blood sacrifice (though that has nothing to do with God’s holiness, but rather His utter self-sufficiency). The alternative, though, was condemnation for all.

    My apologies for any typos or downright wrongheaded thinking–this is a quick response, not as polished as the blog it’s commenting on!

  • JackQuirk

    The scourging, the mockery, and the crucifixion was necessary because of what we are, not because of what God is. It was we who demanded the blood sacrifice, and God, because of his eternal and unconditional love, submitted himself to our will, and thus opened the door to our reconciliation.

  • superpope

    You’ve put a strawman of God on display here.

    Blood sacrifice was never to quiet God’s anger. It was to fulfill the requirements of the Law. And the Law existed to show us how sinful we are. God can’t fudge the Law, because He is perfect and just. Because of His perfection, justice must be fulfilled, and because of His love for us, He planned a way from the dawn of time for that to be done through Christ.

    Imagine a teacher sets a deadline for her students to turn in a paper. On the day the papers are due, only a few students actually have one to turn in. Now, the teacher can (and many do) say, “Oh, all right. I’ll give you another week.” That teacher is being unjust. She set the rules and then changed them midstream out of sentimentality. A just God cannot do this.

    If the teacher does not change the rules and gives zeroes to all of the students who didn’t turn in the paper, is she angry? Is she cruel? Is she unjust? Of course not. The students merely failed to do what they knew was required of them.

    You are of course free to disagree with PSA, but you should at least characterize it correctly before doing so.

  • Dean

    Well what do you think about propitiation?

  • tlund5

    Thank you. There are no propitiatory sacrifices in Hebrew/Judeo/Christian communities. Sacrifices that God has required have always been for the spiritual edification of someone. Abraham’s vision of his reality was transformed by his experience, he built an altar that he named, “God will provide.” Hebrew sacrifices and the law were detail oriented activities that were meant to prepare the Hebrew tribes morally and intellectually so that they could take an active part in the transformation of the world that would be initiated by the Messiah. Just as the scapegoat was a multifaceted event on the Day of Atonement, so was Jesus’ death on the Cross. Jesus words written in the Gospel of John speak of some of the transformative events that would occur on Calvary-Jesus and the Apostles would be consecrated, and the Paraclete would be given a greater role in the Kingdom of God that Jesus had developed on Earth. Jesus’ statement. “When I am lifted up, all will be drawn to me,” speaks about mankind’s state of being in this world. How many hardened or deadened people are touched at some time in their life by the violence that Jesus suffered at the hands of the Romans or are shocked by the callous behavior of so many of the Jews and ultimately recognize their own behavior and attitude haven’t been that much different?

    If one looks at Job, we see a precursor to Jesus. The Father allowed terrible things to happen to Job but it is apparent that Job’s sufferings effected Satan’s position in the heavens. Jesus said he had seen Satan fall from heaven. God didn’t need Jesus to die the way he did, but if that death would help release a multitude of people from Satan’s power, He was willing to make that sacrifice.

  • tlund5

    The Bible is about mankind’s relationships with God. In Old Testament times, rituals and law were not for propitiating God. Those actions gradually reformed a primitive people and their relationship with God deepened.Those that kept the law were transformed and pleasing to God(Isaiah 56:6-7). With the New Covenant, there is either kerma/ judgement/karma or spiritual gifts (grace) rather than ritual and Mosaic law, for leading one toward a new, more profound relationship with God. If one is outside the body of Christ, they are subject to God’s judgement/kerma/karma (1Corinthians 5:12). If one recognize the Lord and seeks the skill set needed to live in the Kingdom of God, they can begin to build an eternal reality. Their trust (faith) frames this new reality each day. Faith and gifts transform their lives and their relationship with God becomes an intrinsic part of their lives. The relationship is no longer defined by karma. Karma, that inevitably leads to fear, a fear that leads many to imagine an idol they can propitiate, some to see a reason to seek the Lord.

    In Isaiah we are told Jesus would bear the consequence of sin for many. Because of Jesus death on the Cross, we can escape the judgement of death that sin brings and, because of this, some might call Jesus’ death on the Cross a propitiating act. But, I find the nature of judgment/karma mechanical. You don’t manipulate an essential mechanism without seriously impacting a system. Judgment/kerma/karma is so penetrating and intrinsic to the operation of our realities that, to me, calling what Jesus did a propitiating sacrifice is an inadequate explanation for the impact of Jesus’ death on the power of sin. The blood on the lintel saved the first born of the Jews. Nothing propitiating about that action, it was God’s plan. According to Isaiah, the crucifixion was God’s plan as well. The Lord’s blood is saving the first born of the New Covenant. Judgment/karma remains unaffected, unerring and so penetrating that it once effected the children of a sinner for three or four generations.

  • peg

    Rachel Griffin & Dennis E., Your god needed to spill blood because your god “likes the smell of blood” which is stated in your bible, along with other absurdities, atrocities, condoning slavery, rape, murder, incest, etc. It is all unbelievable. If there was a god, he could certainly do what he wants and NOT shed blood, but THINK of another way to forgive us. And, also, Adam and Eve did not exist, so that means no fall, no sin and no need for a savior.

  • peg

    Yes, it is irrational and unbelievable. Do christians “enjoy” believing and worshiping a being that does these things? Humans are more moral than this god.

  • peg

    Have you ever thought about if Adam and Eve had not eaten of the tree of knowledge what we as humans would be and look like now. Would we be “aware” of ourselves and our surroundings or would we be just like animals? The bible does state that Adam and Eve became aware of themselves and knew that they were naked after eating the apple. If the apple was not eaten, then we today would not be aware that we were naked, so what would we be like today?

  • Graham Payton

    So then why would God design a Law with requirements that humans would be unable to fulfill? And why would that Law have to require blood of all things? Why is death the punishment? And “justice” has two definitions. One that you and most PSA proponents use, that justice equals punishment for crime and mercy is inaction, so God had to act and punish to remain just. But the other definition is one of restoration. Justice in this case means “to make/set things right.” In this case, mercy is not inaction and turning a blind eye like in the teacher analogy you gave, but it is the action of restoration, forgiving sinners and teaching them the right path.

  • JaneyGirl

    Superpope–can you define “the Law” as you use it here? It seems to me that in the example you use above, “the Law” is bigger than God, being that He can’t “fudge” it.

  • JaneyGirl

    How did we demand the blood sacrifice? What do you mean when you say that?

  • Joe

    Interesting discussion…I think a lot of the folks in the blog comments are overthinking the point talking about the blood sacrifice. Paul stated in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God aka we’re all in the same sinking boat, and in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord aka he has ingeniously come up with a plan to Himself save humanity from the very beginning. Why? It is the perfect solution to what we messed up while meeting all of His attributes or “who He is”. Why did He let us mess it all up? He wants a wonderful eternal relationship with us proving out “who really loves Him”. If He didn’t give us a choice, would we really be loving Him?…and we even mess that up daily so He Himself helps us love Him through the third part of the Trinity if we let Him. Hopefully these thoughts will help others.

  • Michael Johnson

    Lets try again- an interesting process of logic, but unfortunately your last point based on the word holiness doesn’t quite pan out. For example: Allah is love according to the Quran, therefore for our God to be holy (according to your logic) God must not be love otherwise he wouldn’t be holy from Allah. Holiness means ‘set apart’ but not in the way you argue, otherwise God couldn’t have any character trait we see in other Gods.
    Additionally, in such a crucial discussion, I and others would appreciate more interaction with Scripture, considering it is the words of God about God for us. Perhaps some exegesis on the plethora of verses that implicate a form of substitutionary atonement would be a helpful place to begin for all of us, rather than beginning as you do with the use of reason – for all human reason falls short of the wisdom of God, and can easily lead to fallacy or even in some cases heresy as with Arianism.

  • joyce

    I joined the discussion- you removed it because it was to the point and honest and proved you wrong. Why I don’t trust “phony Christians”.

  • Read “Stricken by God?” Edited by Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    What other sort of sacrifice can you think up that is better than a perfect human that is executed for his perfect loyalty and obedience to his God and Father? Do you not know that Scripture says ‘the life is in the blood’?

    Unlike us sinful humans with ‘death’ in our bodies, do you think that Jesus would have ever died naturally if he hadn’t been legally murdered by the scheming Jews that used the Roman laws to have Jesus executed?

    Do you think you can offer anything comperable to God that Jesus can offer to his God and Father? Yet you want ot complain about God’s means of salvation why?

    Do you understand that our debts against our own selves is so massive that we can’t pay them off? Do you understand that Jesus is one man that paid for all of that sin debt for his one perfect life?

    It is you that doesn’t understand the need for a ‘blood’=(life) sacrifice’. And taking the life of what would ultimately die anyway is not the same as taking the life of a human that never would have died naturally from death since it didn’t dwell in him.

  • Tommy G

    I watched every episode too and I don’t see what you’re seeing at all. You are basically ruining a beautiful love story. Greater love has no man than this to lay down his life for his friends. I don’t see God’s anger as some out of control rage but as One who is righteous, Who wants to set everything right, when so much is wrong, who wants justice, like we all do, yet is full of mercy and grace taking the penalty we deserve. He paid that penalty so now there is only one sin that sends anyone to hell and that is rejecting Jesus.

  • Rihari_Wilson

    You just said, “Just forget the New Testament”, which records the words and works of Jesus. “You can’t have it both ways.”

  • The final straw in my deconversuon from Christianity was when I was at Chichen Itza in Mexico and realixed thzt human sacrifice to the angry Mayan gods was no different from the human sacrifice of Jesus to the Christian god. A god is angry, someone has to die to appease him.

  • This was an interesting post, by the way

  • Gustavo Border

    To much text to say so little logical truth.
    Here, a good point of view.
    God told to Adam and Eve that if they sinned rebeling against God, they should die.
    After eating the “fruit” they were dead from inside, they hearts was not pure anymore. God went away from their presence.

    BUT God LOVES us so he wants to be with us.

    The Sacrifice is a symbol. The sinner look to the dying lamb, something that cost them, and that remembers them of the price for their sin.

    But in the end, GOD saw that the human sucks and HE offered the big sacrifice, JESUS, comming and dying as a lamb for our SINS, teaching us to LOVE God and the others as a way to follow God’s commandments.

    In the end, it was all for love.

  • Damian Matthew Hall

    I’m sorry but you are wrong Gustavo…God certainly loves us and that love transcends everything in all of creation…he has always been with us, it’s just at times we have thought we were seperate from God, through our own sense of guilt…but a truly loving perfect Heavenly Father NEVER leaves his children, and that is what God has always been.

  • sheckyshabaz

    God does not need blood. The law of moses required blood. There are two laws, the 10 and the other 603. God wrote the 10 to go in the arc (heart), the other 603 went on the outside. The 603 were done away with by Jesus.

    Read all of Hebrews 9, it tells you according to the law, not according to Yahweh. Man requires blood, not god