The Great Sacrifice.

A few weeks ago it was Easter, normally a time of celebration for Christians, and a time to enjoy some extra days off work for almost everyone else. Where did you go this Easter? Nowhere? Ha! Me too. Well, unless you’re in a country which doesn’t have Covid-19 right now, then good for you.

When I was a kid, Easter involved eating lots of chocolate with my family, and going to church services where there would normally be a play depicting the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. This message is, of course, the central theme of Easter, and Christianity as a whole. God sent his son Jesus to die on a cross for everybody’s sins, so that anyone who believed in him could have eternal life. Three days later, Jesus came back to life again, and ascended to heaven after giving his disciples some messages to tell everyone about him.

When I was Christian, this message meant a lot to me, and it was a cause for celebration. We should be eternally thankful for what God has done for us through his son Jesus. But as someone who isn’t religious anymore, this message seems just strange at best, and potentially harmful at worst. Why? Here are some good reasons:

It’s not much of a sacrifice.

Jesus’s death is presented as the ultimate sacrifice. He gave himself up so that we could be reconciled with him again. Except… it’s not really. Sure he suffers on the cross, but then three days later he comes back to life again, and he gets to enjoy eternity in Heaven afterwards, away from all the problems down here. What did he lose? Also, Jesus being God, knows that all this will happen in advance. I am sure you could think of many instances of humans enduring more than that. God’s sacrifice seems petty in comparison.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

If God wanted to redeem us from the problems he created, why did he need to sacrifice someone? I see no link between Jesus dying and us being redeemed from ‘sin’. He could have came up with a better way that didn’t involve human sacrifice. It would be the equivalent of me killing a goat, so that I can get more rainfall for my crops. It’s archaic and barbaric thinking. Of course, those who have read the Old Testament will recall that animal sacrifice was a common theme, and done for various reasons including the atonement of sins, and as offerings to God. By extension, Jesus offered himself as the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ to God as atonement for ‘our sins’, because God is pleased by sacrifice apparently… except when he isn’t. But again, as mentioned earlier, it’s not much of a sacrifice when he comes back to life again, and when he’s… well, God.

Jesus’s sacrifice is ridiculously unjust.

Imagine a justice system like this: A thief breaks into your home and steals a few of your prized possessions. The police catch him and invite you to the police station with the thief. The thief apologises and says he won’t do it again. In response, the police grab an innocent person, beat him up and then impale him with a spear. Because of this, the thief can be atoned for his actions and isn’t sentenced anymore. Would you be OK with a justice system like this? Because the Christian God apparently is. I think you will know where I’m going with this now. According to the Bible, we were all going to be sent to Hell for our ‘sins’, now matter how big or small. But because God sent his son to be flogged and hung up on a cross, it is now fine apparently, as long as we repent of our ‘sins’ and believe in Jesus.

There’s a lot more I could say about this, but let’s just leave it at that. What are your thoughts on this? If you have some more points to add, share them here.

Liberated.

11 thoughts on “The Great Sacrifice.

  1. Isn’t this one of those problems that theologians have been struggling with for millennia? In theological college there was the expected answer of the sacrifice, a ransom to be paid. But when we looked at the history we noticed that initially the Church didn’t have much of an answer at all for this. Yes there was the Hebrew Scripture atonement, where blood was poured out etc, but was this Christ now? Then in the 11th Century Anselm described it contextually for the time with reference to feudal payments. This seemed to have answered the question, and as you’ve described, the sacrifice seems a little odd. The Devil gets involved in other possible solutions as well.
    I have come to see it as there are at least 4 different alternative atonement theories, and we are not required to buy in to any ‘one’ of them. Atonement leads to significant focus upon sin, penance and how we live our lives. There’s more to life than focussing upon what we have done wrong. If I’m in a relationship with someone, we don’t stop each day and go through what I have done wrong, but seek to live, to enjoy our lives together with abundance.

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    1. So what in your opinion is the reason for Christ having to be sacrificed? You mentioned something about feudal payments and how that seems to solve the ‘riddle’, but I’m not sure what you mean by that, can you explain further?
      When I was Christian I bought into the idea that we could have a relationship with God too, but it seems like an awfully one sided relationship to me.

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      1. Our perspective may lie dependent on whether we think the Bible is inerrant or is a series of letters from different people at different times in current places. I favour the latter.
        Jesus was considered by many of his followers as the Messiah, the one to liberate Israel. He would restore Israel to its former glory again, free the place from the Roman tyranny. But some within the upper echelons of the Temple structure were reasonably content with the privileges given to them by the rulers.
        In Mark’s Gospel, the first to be written, the disciples are noted to be mainly confused, even at the end. As they look back at events, we are being presented with a compilation of accounts and their then current thoughts of why it all happened. Luke and Matthew, written for very different audiences, try to establish their credentials. It is in John’s Gospel that we have mentions of this division, this tension between the Pharisees, versus the Judeans, and Christ’s followers as recorded possibly 60 years after the event. They are all back-filling, looking to record their his-story of the times.

        I think Jesus was killed, using the usual method at the time, by the Romans. The Jews would never have wanted such a killing as the the Deuteronomic curse of dying in a tree would be abhorrent to them. But they handed Jesus over to the Romans. Odd that the chap released was named as barabbas, or son of the Father.
        The metaphor of such a sacrifice ideally fits with the Old Testament history, and if you look hard enough, prophecies. Again scholars might debate whether Jesus was in a tomb or buried in a grave.
        To me what is remarkable is that from such scenes, of what was perceived as a Messianic revival, initially it was in ruins, but from this ‘The Way’, and the Christian church would flourush – here in referring to the first century church in the book of Acts, not the institutional churches of today.

        The Church, institutional, began to seek a rational response to his death. We have nothing much for the first few centuries, really up to the first millennia. Then Anselm with his feudal metaphor. There are a number of such atonement theories. I make my argument here https://dbobstoner.com/is-god-vengeful-or-loving/.
        In all this I hope I have kept to our agreement of not preaching.
        Bob

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      2. As for whether or not I think the Bible is inerrant, I think you know the answer to that πŸ˜‰ . Are you saying you don’t think the Bible is inerrant? That’s unusual coming from a ‘minister’.

        I see what you’re saying, but whether you use the word ‘sacrifice’ or ‘debt’ to describe Jesus’s death, it is just different words to describe the same meaning. You can argue that the sacrifice fits with OT history, but at some point you have to ask why an all knowing, all loving God actually requires this. It doesn’t quite adequately deal with the fact that (in my opinion) it doesn’t make sense nor is it just (an innocent person being punished for others). You might be content with God doing things that way ‘because they’re God’, but I’m not, especially not a God like Yahweh.

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      3. I do believe that Bible is as I described a series of letters from different folk from different times about different perspectives. Many of my colleagues would agree.
        Thanks for the quote marks πŸ˜‰
        No I agree it doesn’t make sense.
        Maybe the whole focus upon the cross is misplaced.
        What if the death was to do with the Jews in that area finding a solution with the local Romans to remove what they felt was a trouble maker. What if the death wasn’t the key but the returning back to life which was the significant point. The group of followers grew considerably following that ‘event’.

        What I might be seeing is a difference in our backgrounds, what we have been taught. When we went to Theological College we were able to be presented with a myriad of arguments rather than one prescribed solution.

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      4. So if consider the Bible to be a bunch of letters written by people coming from different perspectives, does that mean you don’t think it is infallible? I’m just asking that because where I grew up the Bible was considered ‘God breathed’ and therefore without error (excluding possible translation errors).

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      5. God inspired but not God written, nor breathed. My faith is in God and I read the Bible, in prayer.
        I discerned that our backgrounds were different; but other than a few trips to the States, I’m not really aware of the perspective. It sounds quite dogmatic?

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      6. Yes our backgrounds are certainly different. OK got it πŸ™‚ . Well yeah Christians that I knew considered the Bible to be all true, although they may interpret certain parts differently.

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  2. The first question I ask in a study group (other than ‘is there cake?’) is
    Who wrote this?
    To whom?
    When?
    Why did they write it?
    Recently we looked at Paul’s trip to Athens in Acts 17. If Paul was other on his own how did Luke write Acts? If so, we wondered whether the words of Paul in the text include the words that Luke might have wanted to say.

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      1. Apologies, I was trying to describe a way of exploring the Bible without initially perceiving it to be inerrant. I was using the passage as an example. Sorry for any confusion

        Liked by 1 person

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