Monday, February 28, 2011

Too Repetitive

FLG feels he's been too repetitive lately. Returning too often to topics and theories he already beat to death. So, he's decided to spend the rest of the week blogging about things he's never blogged about before. First up -- FLG's problem with Christianity. He doesn't remember ever bringing this up, but he might have. If he has, well, whatever. He's just trying not to be repetitive, it's not a blood oath or anything.

Anyway, here's the problem: Jesus was sent down from Heaven to suffer and die for our sins so that we could be saved. Uh, call FLG crazy, but wouldn't it be within God's power to, I dunno, just forgive humans for their sins? Would've been much simpler. Appear as a burning bush or whatever, declare our sins forgiven and us saved, and it's Miller time.

Don't get FLG wrong. It's not some sort of fatal theological flaw. It's simply something that he's always had trouble with. He can get beyond all the other philosophical and theological issues relatively easily, but the idea that God had to send his Son, who is also Him, to suffer and die for our sins never made any sense.

But it's not for you to understand, perhaps some of you are saying. Well, that doesn't make any sense either in this case. The only reason that FLG can think of, again, that makes any sense, for Jesus to come down is to demonstrate His Love through suffering to humans.

Well, then, FLG isn't that a good explanation why? Dude. Burning bush says my sins are forgiven, then FLG assumes his sins are forgiven. Don't need some huge production.


Tim Kowal said...

Here are a few reasons I can think of. First, I think your concluding statement is wrong: Humans DO need a production. Symbols and rituals are significant, even though we like to call them irrational or illogical. Second, and relatedly, sin is supposed to be a big deal--representing death, in fact. Thus, blood sacrifice symbolizes the nature and gravity of the act of sin itself.

Finally, blood atonement for sins is what has always been required. The Jews were always slaughtering rams and sheep etc. to realign themselves with God. (I wonder how Jews account for this, since they reject Christ's sacrifice? I don't think any ritual sacrifices are happening at my local synagogue.) Christ's death was the perfection of blood atonement.

Andrew Stevens said...

The theological explanation I find most convincing is that man had to redeem himself for bringing sin into the world. First, let me begin by saying that I think correct theology rejects Divine Command theory. A thing isn't good because God orders it, but rather God orders it because it is good. Therefore, God is bound by moral laws just as surely as everyone else.

In order for there to be redemption and forgiveness, recompense must be made. Because God is bound by moral law, even God can't set this aside. Man owed God a debt and man had to pay it off. But there wasn't any man (or men) who could pay the debt sufficiently, so God had to do it himself by becoming man. Jesus was, in this way, the perfect sacrifice - the only man who could reconcile the world to God. In the process, the Gospel gets spread, a perfect example of how to live and die is made, and probably various other worthy goals (God demonstrating his love) are met.

Also, in this way, man can't simply shrug off his sin and say, "it's Miller time." Mel Gibson was greatly criticized for his graphic depiction of Jesus's suffering in Passion of the Christ, but if Christianity were true, I would certainly see the point of reminding people just how much Jesus suffered. Anybody who asks, "What's the big deal about Jesus's dying when he knew he'd be resurrected?" is welcome to take a scourging and crucifixion and see how they like it even if it's agreed that they'll be taken down before they die.

Andrew Stevens said...

Mr. Kowal, the ritual sacrifices could only be made in the Temple. With the destruction of the Temple, there is no place for sacrifice in Judaism. When away from the Temple, repentance was always gained through prayer even when the Temple did exist. Repentance, prayer, and charity were always deemed superior to sacrifice in Judaism in any event.

FLG said...


I'm not so sure humans need a production where God is involved. Believers believe a lot of things merely because God said so.


I think your point about Divine Command theory makes the most sense to me. If moral law is external and beyond even God, then it follows that he'd have to follow it. Thus, Man's debts are so big that only God can give the pound of flesh.

George Pal said...

”Uh, call FLG crazy, but wouldn't it be within God's power to, I dunno, just forgive humans for their sins?”

It was also in His power to slap down every human who’d got a naughty notion in his head but that’s not how God rolls. Furthermore, sinners would have to be apprised of the means of their redemption; tell them they’ll all be forgiven by divine ukase at some point and all hell breaks loose. Reinforcing the notion that sin is a terrible thing with commensurate consequences required a production and a prophecy of just how terrible it is.

Flavia said...

Though I'm a practicing Catholic, I've always had a lot of problems with the incarnation. Jesus as do-gooder, political radical, prophet--that's all cool. But the "why" of the incarnation is difficult for me, and the "why" of the atonement more difficult still. I resist both the plausibility and the necessity of it.

What works for me (though perhaps only because I'm both a literary scholar and a theist) is to apply the logic of metaphor or fable. The incarnation is an expression of God's love for humanity, and his desire to participate in our suffering. The Fall itself is clearly a metaphor that expresses and explains the divide between the divine and the earthly. Christ's incarnation and sacrifice operate similarly, to heal that breach.

Frankly, I don't care if the theology isn't literally true. I don't care if the historical Jesus was God, or just the prophet of his generation who happened to get the most press. I believe that the theology does what myth and metaphor, if they're any good, always do: they express a larger truth about human existence and experience--and in this case, about the nature of the divine.

Tim Kowal said...

What Andrew Stevens said. And thanks for the clarification on Judaism. I did not know that.

arethusa said...

I'm not a theologian, but I'd say, to supplement Tim Kowal's and Andrew Stevens' comments: Humans are stupid and self-centered. They need big, grand gestures to make them believe in big things. Hence the Crucifixion.

I also have to say, psychologically, can we really appreciate something as enormous as salvation if suffering and sacrifice aren't part of it? Fixing everything with a wave of the hand is not, as George Pal says, God's style (although it's what the left wants government to do), and it's not true redemption.

FLG said...


Re this:
Humans are stupid and self-centered. They need big, grand gestures to make them believe in big things. Hence the Crucifixion.

If God comes down and says something, especially as a burning bush or whatever, then that's a pretty big gesture. Not sure the whole crucifixion thing is necessary.

arethusa said...

But the first is just shock and awe, with no lasting value once the event has passed from living memory. You'd have to do it again and again (like us in Iraq). Put a human face on divinity, give it a compelling story, and you're in business.

(I am actually a believer, so I'm not disparaging religion here, I'm just trying to explain what makes it so effective.)

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