The Question: Why would God require his own son to die? Why would God create a system of salvation which required His own son to be tortured and die a horrible death? He is God after all, He can make whatever system He wants or just forgive sins for that matter with no sacrifice, right?
This is a great question I actually heard Richard Dawkins direct to John Lennox in a debate. Richard made a statement something along the lines of: “I cannot believe a God exists who would make a system where his own son had to be tortured and sacrificed in order for humans to be ‘saved’.” (A very ‘scientific’ statement/reason for a man of ‘science’ to explain why he doesn’t believe in God wouldn’t you say?)
Now, the un-scientificness (I know that’s not a word but I’m gonna throw it in here anyway) of that statement aside, it’s a great question and one I’ve been thinking about.
So, I’ve heard a variety of different answers to this question, most being along the lines that; God created a universe of order and rules, cause and effect, etc. and as such our sins cannot simply be reconciled with ‘nothing’, nor can God tolerate any sin in us as he is a entity of good so there needed to be a way to atone for that sin and eliminate it so we can dwell with God. HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE are some good articles on these lines of thought.
Now, those lines of thinking do all make sense, however the nagging question remains: God, being God, could surely have found another, better way to do this, or created some other ‘system’ by which we could attain reconciliation/salvation, or just ‘forgiven’ our sins and be done with it, right? He is God after all, all-powerful, all-knowing…
Okay well lets consider this from a different angle first of all. Lets say God did just say, okay, the sins of humans are forgiven, and to prevent them from continuing to sin/do evil I’ll just go ahead and (zap!) eliminate all evil from the universe and (bam!) everything is all good we can live happily ever after! Sounds great, but that also takes out our choice in the matter… I’ve mentioned this in previous articles (HERE for example), one thing that love requires is choice. God desires our love and wants a personal relationship with us, He doesn’t want just robots that have no choice but to obey.
So with that in mind, the above ‘system’ of forgiveness/salvation doesn’t work… We need to ‘choose’ to follow God and accept the gift of salvation He has offered and to pursue a relationship with Him. Now where does that leave us in terms of sin and salvation then?
Well, we know one thing for certain, and that is that we as humans continue to practice and choose evil even when we know better… Unfortunately due to the choices we make and our ancestors have made, evil is a part of our nature and the world we live in.
Now, some people will then argue: “Well, if it’s part of our nature and originated with choices our ancestors made, we really cannot be held accountable can we? How can God judge/condemn us if we cannot help it?”. I’d respond to that by saying it IS still a choice. Even if from a young child I am (and I was) taught the difference between right and wrong, I still, as a free-thinking adult will make (and have made) choices that I KNOW are wrong. So, am I ‘forced’ to make those choices because of my ancestor’s mistakes or simply because sin exists in the world? The answer is of course no.
Okay, so here we now have God, who desires our love and wants the best for us and wants a personal relationship with us, and we have us humans that choose evil/sin and continue to make those choices. God cannot have a relationship with us or accept us into His kingdom with evil in our lives as He is good, so how is that rectified?
I personally cannot come up with any method or any other ‘system’ by which we could be saved. Other religion’s say we are ‘righteous’ by works, but regardless of how many good things I do, I still do and have done bad things. If God is good and right, how could we expect Him to be able to tolerate even a minuscule amount of evil in us (even if 99.99% of our actions/thoughts were ‘good’ and ‘right’, which I can guarantee you no one has ever come close too)?
The only thing I think we can conclude is that as humans, we ourselves are incapable of achieving salvation or being reconciled to God or having a personal relationship with him, because at the very core of our beings we are stained with evil; selfishness, deceit, pride, hatred… The list goes on. We have proven this severe fault time and time again throughout history, and I can say in all confidence we will continue to do so until Jesus comes again.
So what did God choose to do then? He provided the ultimate mediator; a bridge between his goodness and our evil that we could choose to cross and be reconciled though. God sent His son, Jesus Christ into a world of evil as a lowly human, who maintained a completely sinless/blameless life, at the end of which He was crucified and died, sacrificing himself for us and thus putting to death that sin and evil which separated us from God. He created a way for us to be saved (by grace) through Him.
The next question of course that is raised is: why does ‘sin’ require that sacrifice? The Bible says that ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23), so it makes sense in that regard that Jesus, upon taking our sins upon himself needed to die and pay that price for us, but why are the wages of sin death? Can’t God just ‘make’ the wages of sin… A slap on the wrist or something less harsh? He’s God after all!
Well I can only go back to what we know about God; we know that God is good and that through Him all life exists. Okay, so if God is good, then God (even though He is God) cannot ‘change’ that fact… If that makes sense. God is what He is, God cannot be anything else except God and thus God cannot be anything else except good and life.
With that in mind, if God is good, and life is good, and thus God is life and good, the opposite of life is… You guessed it, death (the antithesis of life). It stands of course to reason if God is good and through God is life that life is also good and even a result of it. Thus, if life is a result of good and exists through good, of course the opposite is true and that is that death is a result of evil and exists through evil…
SO, what we’ve arrived at is that evil (which is a part of us and the world we live in) brings death and that death exists through evil. We, as humans, needed to have that evil gone from us to be reconciled to God. We could die, which would be the result of the evil that was in our lives, but then what? Couldn’t God accept us into his kingdom after we died then?
No I don’t think so, because death is the result of the evil in our lives, it doesn’t remove it or rectify it. We are still evil being’s either dead or alive… Okay, so the question is then why did Jesus’s sacrifice and death remove or rectify it?
Alright let’s think about this; Jesus was not an evil being, God sent him as a sacrifice for all our sins. So we have someone who had no evil in them take all our sins/evil upon himself and die for us. So, if a being without evil in them paid the price for/endured the result of all our evil (death), where does that leave Him and us in relation to the evil/sin? Well, He was not an evil being, either in life or death, so Jesus is still blameless/without sin. Our sins/evil which Jesus took upon himself and suffered the punishment for are gone/atoned for if we are willing to accept His sacrifice on our behalf.
But why are they gone? How does Jesus dying get ‘rid’ of the sins when those same sins/evil would persist through death for ourselves? I think the answer to that lies in the fact that Jesus was ‘perfect’. That is to say, blameless, without sin/evil, etc.
So for us, who committed the sins and were/are ‘sinful’ it stands to reason that death (the result of evil/sin in our lives) wouldn’t ‘erase’ or get rid of the sin itself. We are still sinful beings regardless, either alive or dead. So the difference with Jesus is that He did not commit any sin/evil and as such although He endured the result of our sin and evil (death) He himself wasn’t sinful/evil. If He wasn’t sinful/evil but paid the price for our sins/evils, then how would that sin/evil endure beyond death through him?
I think the result is we have Jesus who is the ‘filter’ for lack of a better term which allows us to reach out to God (through Jesus) and God down to us (through Jesus) without the sin in our lives separating us. Jesus was able, through His sacrifice, to take the sin/evil out of the equation and allow us the opportunity to be reconciled with God and even have His Holy Spirit dwell in us and walk with us through this life and guide and direct us on an incredibly personal level. We no longer required innocent deaths (animal sacrifices) to temporarily bridge that gap (and even that on an impersonal level) because we have available to us the ultimate and absolute sacrifice in Jesus Christ.
So now, we are left with this choice… We can choose to accept Jesus’s offer of mediation/propitiation for the evil that exists, has existed and will exist in the rest of our life on this earth, thus creating a way for us to have a relationship with and be reconciled to God who cannot tolerate any evil/sin (through Jesus who is without evil/sin), OR, we can reject that option and suffer the consequences which will ultimately lead to death after a meaningless, brief period of life on this earth (many believe eternal torment aka hell, but HERE is an interesting article on that train of thought that makes much more theological and logical sense to me…).
The choice to me seems obvious.