More Issues with Vicarious Atonement


More Issues with Vicarious Atonement

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Introduction

 

As a norm, Christianity has accepted that the only mode of salvation is through the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him). Obviously this is not in accord with the established biblical view of God’s plan of salvation; it has got theological, logical and practical issues with it and we are going to look at some of them herein.

 

The Appeal to “Justice”

 

To validate the concept of vicarious atonement (salvation through the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus (p)), Christians appeal to the God’s attribute of justice. They would argue that although God is merciful to forgive sins yet He is also just at the same time. Consequently God cannot – just-like-that – forgive sins. The debts, in other words, the consequence of the sins have to be borne. Just at this point of discussion where a non-Christian would almost inadvertently think that the consequence of the sins have to be borne by the sinner, Christians would, ironically, give an unjustified twist! They would assert that the consequence of the sins was borne by Jesus (peace be upon him) at the cross! And this in itself is an issue. The scrupulous Christian God who has to be “just”, should accept debts only from the debtor but this is certainly not the case? Not surprisingly the Jewish God was consistent with this notion:

 

“Parents are not to be put to death for crimes committed by their children, and children are not to be put to death for crimes committed by their parents; A PERSON IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH ONLY FOR A CRIME HE HIMSELF HAS COMMITTED.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)

 

And the Jewish patriarchs were committed to the same:

“When a person is accused of wronging another and is brought to your altar in this Temple to take an oath that he is innocent, O LORD, listen in heaven and judge your servants. PUNISH THE GUILTY ONE AS HE DESERVES, AND ACQUIT THE ONE WHO IS INNOCENT.” (1 Kings 8: 31-32)

 

Therefore, we find that the Jewish concept of sin, forgiveness and salvation would come close to human cognizance and acceptance as compared to its Christian counterpart.

Nevertheless, Christians explain that Jesus (peace be upon him) borne the consequence of the sins out of God’s attribute of mercy. God was so merciful that He gave His own “son” to be sacrificed. In other words, out of “mercy”, God paid the debts by Himself to Himself! It sounds absurd but unfortunately, this is how it works. The Christian God would have to be offered the spilling blood of a perfect innocent for the debts of filthy criminals. Ironically, the Jews were not informed of this blood-needy attitude of their God:

 

“I do not reprimand you because of your sacrifices and the burnt – offerings you always bring me. And yet I do not need bulls from your farms…Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goatsLet the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God,” (Psalms 50:8-14)

 

Observe that God of Israel needed “thanks” – sincere thanks – and not sacrifices. Nevertheless, for some reasons the act of repentance – sincere repentance – was not enough for the Christian God to justify the fulfillment of His debts. Why couldn’t the currency of sincere repentance be accepted against the debts of sin? Especially when, earlier, presumably the same God was accepting repentance and mourning to wipe away the consequences of sins:

 

Be merciful to me, O God, BECAUSE of your constant loveBECAUSE of your GREAT MERCY wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sins. I have sinned against you – only against you – and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful. Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin and I will be clean; wash me; and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. YOU DO NOT WANT SACRIFICES, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt-offerings. MY SACRIFICE IS A HUMBLE SPIRITO God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart.” (Psalms 51:1-17)

 

To the plea of a sinner, God of Israel had the following model of reply:

 

“I am the high and holy God, who lives for ever. I live in a high and holy place, but I also live with people who are humble and REPENTANT, so that I can restore their confidence and hope. I gave my people life, and I will not continue to accuse them or be angry with them for ever. I was angry with them because of their sin and greed, and so I punished them and abandoned them. But they were stubborn and kept on going their own way. “I have seen how they acted, but I will heal them. I will lead them and help them, and I WILL COMFORT THOSE WHO MOURN. I offer peace to all, both near and far! I will heal my people. But evil men are like the restless sea, whose waves never stop rolling in, bringing filth and much. There is no safety for sinners,” says the LORD.” (Isaiah 57:15-21)

 

Unlike the Christian concept where it is of paramount importance to God that the consequences of sin be discharged, the Jewish God taught that merely turning to Him in repentance would be enough for wiping off of sins:

 

“The LORD will punish the Egyptians, but then he will heal them. They will turn to him, AND HE WILL HEAR THEIR PRAYERS AND HEAL THEM. (Isaiah 19:22)

“God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behavior. SO HE CHANGED HIS MIND AND DID NOT PUNISH THEM AS HE HAD SAID HE WOULD.” (Jonah 3: 1-10)

 

Through prophet Isaiah, God of Israel expressed His modus operandi of sin, forgiveness and salvation. He declared that if a sinner would turn to Him in sincerity then He is too merciful to forgive “quickly”. In other words, He would not go to the ledger books searching for reconciliation of credits and debits:

 

Turn to the LORD and pray to him, now that he is near. Let the wicked leave their way of life and change their way of thinkingLet them turn to the LORD, our God; HE IS MERCIFUL AND QUICK TO FORGIVE. “My thoughts.” says the LORD, “are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.

“My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for sowing and food to eat. So also will be the word that I speak – it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do. “You will leave Babylon with joy; you will be led out of the city in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into singing, and the trees will grow where now there are briars; myrtle-trees will come up in place of thorns. This will be a sign that will last for ever, A REMINDER OF WHAT I, THE LORD, HAVE DONE.” (Isaiah 55:6-13)

 

On the foregoing, recognized Christian Bible expositor John Gill provides a rather non-Christian insight:

 

In some things there may be a likeness between the thoughts of God and the thoughts of men, as to the nature of them: thoughts are natural and essential to them both; they are within them, are internal acts, and unknown to others, till made known; but then the thoughts of men are finite and limited, whereas the thoughts of the Lord are infinite and boundless; men’s thoughts have a beginning, but the Lord’s have none; though not so much the nature as the quality of them is here intended: the thoughts of men are evil, even the imagination of their thoughts, yea, every imagination is, and that always and only so; but the thoughts of God are holy, as appears from his purposes and covenant, and all his acts of grace, in redemption, calling, and preparing his people for glory: the thoughts of men, as to the object of them, are vain, and nothing worth; their thoughts and sentiments of things are very different from the Lord’s, as about sin, concerning Christ, the truths of the Gospel, the people of God, religion, holiness, and a future state, and in reference to the business of salvation; they think they can save themselves; that their own works of righteousness are sufficient to justify them; their privileges and profession such, that they shall be saved; their wisdom, riches, and honour, a security to them from damnation: however, that their sincere obedience, with repentance for what is amiss, will entitle them to happiness: but the thoughts of God are the reverse of all this; particularly with respect to pardoning mercy their thoughts are different; carnal men think of mercy, but not of justice, and of having pardoning mercy in an absolute way, and not through Christ, and without conversion and repentance; and so this is a reason why men’s thoughts are to be forsaken, because so very unlike to the Lord’s. OR ELSE THESE WORDS ARE TO BE CONSIDERED AS AN ARGUMENT, PROVING THAT GOD DOES ABUNDANTLY PARDON ALL RETURNING SINNERS; SINCE HE IS NOT LIKE MEN, BACKWARD TO FORGIVE, ESPECIALLY GREAT AND AGGRAVATED CRIMES, BUT IS READY, FREE, AND WILLING TO FORGIVE, EVEN THOSE OF THE MOST AGGRAVATED CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; the ways which God prescribes and directs men to walk in are different from theirs; his are holy, theirs unholy; his are plain, theirs crooked; his are ways of light, theirs ways of darkness; his are pleasant, theirs not so, at least in the issue; his lead to life, theirs to death; and therefore there is good reason why they should leave their evil ways, and walk in his. Moreover, the ways which he takes in the salvation of men are different from those which they, naturally pursue, AND ESPECIALLY IN THE PARDON OF SIN; HE PARDONS FREELY, FULLY, WITHOUT ANY RESERVE, OR PRIVATE GRUDGE, FORGETTING AS WELL AS FORGIVING.(John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Isaiah 55:8)

 

Finally, the Jewish God unequivocally declared that He does not blot out sins for the sake of anybody else’s “sacrifice” but out of His own free will driven by His abounding mercy

 

“Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions FOR MINE OWN SAKE, and will not remember thy sins.” (Isa 43: 24-25, King James Version)

 

Bible commentator Adam Clarke concurs:

 

For mine own sake – In the pardon of sin God can draw NO REASON BUT from his own infinite goodness. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Isaiah 43:25)

 

These were only some instances from the Hebrew Bible, a fuller account can be read here. Nevertheless, the preceding does establish that (i) the attribute of “justice” do not preempt God from accepting sincere repentances for blotting out transgressions. (ii) We saw that the free-flowing, unconditional mercy of God does not need that a cultic sacrifice of an innocent be made to forgive sins.

Before we are done with the Christian appeal to “justice”, we would like to side track a bit to ponder that the Christian God looks to be a God of principles. He is ready to forgive but then His principle of justice comes in and He has to wait until the consequence of sin is paid in full. However, all of a sudden, the same God of principles would hardly have any scruples when He would purportedly breach all principles of monotheism to incarnate. For Paul, it is merely an issue of God condescending to human levels:

 

“And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:

He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to b0ecome equal with God. Instead off this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like man and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on the cross. (Philippians 2:4-8)

 

There are more issues with the Christian version of atonement: Christ (peace be upon him) allegedly paid for the sins of the world. However, this was a onetime payment. Consider the following New Testament [1.] passage:

 

For how can those who abandon their faith be brought back to repent again? They were once in God’s light; they tasted heaven’s gift and received their share of the Holy Spirit; they knew from experience that God’s word is good, and they had felt the powers of the coming age. And then they abandoned their faith! It is impossible to bring them back to repent again, because they are again crucifying the Son of God and exposing him to public shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

 

The same message is reiterated in even simpler words:

 

Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us. (Hebrews 10:25-26)

 

The preceding passage information is compatible with the Hebrew sacrifices: Once an animal was slaughtered, its sacrificial benefits were useful only for that particular year. For any subsequent year, a new sacrifice was to be made. Similarly, once the ultimate, costly sacrifice (c.f. 1 Peter 1: 18-19) was paid for the sins of humanity, there cannot remain any possibility of backsliding. People who have been manumitted cannot expect any room as far as any further sins are concerned. This explains why Christians baptized are often called as “born-again”. Thus, the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) can be used only once and if it is exhausted without proper use then there is no way out except for eternal damnation.

This, however, portrays an infinitely merciful God as a mere parochial accountant who would give a unit of mercy in return of commensurate unit of sacrifice; and that’s it – end of transaction. Any new transaction would need a new sacrifice, but since there is no other sacrifice left after Jesus (peace be upon him) therefore, there is no chance for salvation.

Furthermore, this also expects that man be perfect (c.f. Matthew 5:48); it assumes that man would not sin “after truth has been made known to” him; to say the least, it is impractical even to remotely assume that man would not sin. For example, Christian(s)assume that pre-Jesus (peace be upon him) mercies were rendered due to future – would-happen – crucifixion. However, we know that multiple Jewish communities including prophets committed sins as ghastly as worshipping idols; Solomon (peace be upon him) himself, for example; and yet they are all saved!!?? (c.f. 1 Kings 11)!

However, contrary to the problems emanating from the Christian philosophies, the God of Old Testament did not use to forgive sins based on the sacrifices which were made, ironically, for Him:

 

“I do not reprimand you because of your sacrifices and the burnt – offerings you always bring me. And yet I do not need bulls from your farms…Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goatsLet the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God,” (Psalms 50:8-14)

 

In fact, Yahweh would forgive purely on the basis of His attribute of abundant mercy:

 

Be merciful to me, O God, BECAUSE of your constant loveBECAUSE of your GREAT MERCY wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sins. I have sinned against you – only against you – and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful. Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin and I will be clean; wash me; and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. YOU DO NOT WANT SACRIFICES, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt-offerings. MY SACRIFICE IS A HUMBLE SPIRITO God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart.” (Psalms 51:1-17)

 

Further, the Jewish God was not a onetime-forgiver; rather he would forgive the Jewish community over and over again under the leadership of different Hebrew prophets and patriarchs (Joel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Samuel, David, Isaiah). We documented it here.

The attribute of oft-forgiveness is in fact the part and parcel of the One True God:

 

Your Lord knoweth best what is in your hearts: If ye do deeds of righteousness, verily He is Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again (in true penitence).(Qur’an 17:25, Yusuf Ali’s Quran Translation)

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

On one hand where the Christian concept of vicarious atonement is not supported by the Hebrew Bible; on the other hand, vicarious atonement also entails logical issues with it: Firstly, it is not just and logical enough to punish somebody else in place of the actual sinner and then reward the sinner for the miscarried judgment on the innocent!?

Secondly, it is not logical and practical enough to assume that man would not sin after accepting the alleged ultimate sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him). Even if it is allowed, and man owing to his nature backslides, then obviously there would remain no other way out for salvation as the ultimate sacrifice is exhausted.

Even though these are obvious issues with Christian philosophies of sin and salvation yet, ironically, the Hebrew Bible provides acceptable solutions: The God of Hebrews is just enough to punish only the transgressors and at the same time merciful enough to accept sincere repentances over and over again.

 

Footnotes:

[1.] Although the Book of Hebrews is anonymous, however, the “Eastern church” always accepted it to be penned by Paul himself:

 

“In the Eastern church, there was no problem of canonical acceptance because it was regarded as one of the “fourteen” epistles of Paul.” (The Open Bible, The Author of Hebrews, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p.1244)

 

 

7 comments

  • I guess some Christians can live with the discontinuity between the two Testaments

  • There is nothing illogical about vicarious atonement. It is unusual. What’s illogical is a religion that encourages women, children and weak minded sycophants to blow themselves up in a sick attempt to attack its enemies.

  • What is illogical is why would god make UNTRANSFERABLE sins transferrable and willingly DIefor willingly transferring sins ? Why would god transfer the sin of murder to the year 0000 and use that as a reason to murder himself? Such a god is insane. He moves sin about like it is some kind of liquid then wrecks himself FOR PILING IT UPON himself.god BEAT himself For piling it upon himself, such a diety needs serious help.

  • There is everything illogical about atonement, actually, if you be honest with yourself and use that thing called “logic”. My religion does not encourage woman, children and the weak minded to “blow themselves up” so I don’t understand the point of that statement. Maybe, just maybe, you will realize that an enraged Diety taking control of a flesh puppet and then killing it to cool down, isn’t as “just” and romantic as you think it is.

  • This post ignores the vast amount of information that the Torah and Psalms teach about sacrifice and instead misquotes a few verses:

    To begin with, you cannot simply compare the sacrifices to God with the penalty from a human court. There are two aspects to our sin: one to God, the other to the person we have sinned against and there are different penalties to be paid to each.

    Num 5:6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty
    Num 5:7 and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged.
    Num 5:8 But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the LORD and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him.

    There is a criminal punishment to be had and a sacrifice of atonement to God. Therefore quoting Deut. 24:16 and 1 Kings 8:31-32 is confusing the categories.

    Regarding substitutionary sacrifices for sin, these are a major component in the Torah, Prophets, Psalms and Gospel. If any reader is genuine in wanting to know this then read Leviticus chapters 1-7 & 16. The entire temple of Israel and the priesthood were setup for this.

    Lev 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

    Regarding the quotes from the Psalms used in this article to show that God does not desire a sacrifice, I have two points.

    1. The quote from Psalm 51 cut off the last two verses:

    Psa 51:18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.
    Psa 51:19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

    The Psalms actually says the opposite when quoted in context.

    2. It is true that God does not desire sacrifice that is because he would rather that we do not sin in the first place and need to offer a sacrifice for sin. God would rather obedience to sacrifice but is you do not obey then you need to sacrifice. Just quoting a verse that say God does not desire sacrifice takes these verses out of their context.

  • i didn’t see this christian reply

    quote:
    There are two aspects to our sin: ONE TO GOD, the other to the person we have sinned against and there are different penalties to be paid to each.

    quote:
    Isaiah 6:5-7(5) And I [Isaiah] said, “Woe is me for I am lost, for I am a man of UNCLEAN lips, and amidst a people of unclean lips I dwell, for the King, the Lord of Hosts have my eyes seen. (6) And one of the angels flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal; with tongs he had taken it from upon the altar. (7) And he [the angel] caused it to touch my mouth, and he said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity shall be removed, and your sin shall be atoned for.”

    notice that atonement is achieved through coal touching the lip? so do burns, WHICH DO not bleed , cause atonement? where is animal sacrifice in this verse?
    who BURNT jesus on the cross?

    WHY DON’T we have a burnt jesus?

    quote:
    It is true that God does not desire sacrifice
    that is because he would rather that we do not sin in the first place and need to offer a sacrifice for sin.

    where is the logic in god creating flesh and PILING all sins upon his flesh and then getting himself murdered to please/appease himself? what do you call this god? what you mean “he would rather that we do not sin in the first place…” when he knows that our nature HELPS us to sin?

    ” God would rather obedience to sacrifice but is you do not obey then you need to sacrifice.”

    where is the “sacrifice” in isiaah 6:5-7?
    who said any of those animal/flesh sacrifices predicted a god PILING sins upon his CREATED flesh and then killing himself FOR piling it upon himself?

    .
    “Lev 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. ”

    if torah wanted to predict blood sacrifice for jesus why didn’t it make ALL ANIMAL slaughter for ONE REASON AND THAT REASON is to ATONE for all bloody sin by getting covered in ANIMAL MEAT AND BLOOD?

    SO
    poor
    blood and meat of pigeon atone for ALL sins

    rich
    blood and meat of lamb atone for all sins

    blood and meat of goat atone for all sins

    was WAS live goat required to take AWAY ALL sins? why wasn’t jesus’ “sacrifice” mimiking the live goat sacrifice considering jesus was driven out by the devil and had to fast for 40 days ?

  • it is the jewish claim that their slaughter of flesh was giving up valuable flesh to the OWNER of the flesh . how does this work in your religion? god created valuable flesh and then gave it back to himself?

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