A few days ago in a post entitled Every Time I Fail DougB, from the lovely Groping the Elephant blog, asked this question:
“How ridiculous is the notion that someone else could “pay” for our sins for us? Exactly why should we owe God for being sinners?”
The short answer to the first question is: very. The short answer to the second one is: we shouldn’t. The long answer, however, is a little more nuanced. It’s ridiculous on a number of different levels. First of all let’s look at the reasons why we’re told we need a savior.
- We are born sinners.
- We cannot be good enough on our own.
- God cannot look at sin, he cannot be in it’s presence.
- Forgiveness from God requires a perfect blood sacrifice.
Every since Adam and Eve, who incidentally were fictional characters, ate the forbidden fruit, we are told, that each and every person after that were born sinners. Is the fall of man supposed to be a metaphor to explain that no man has ever been perfect? That starting with the very first of our ancestors we were corrupt? Maybe that was the writer’s intent – to put simplistically a very complicated matter. So evolution wasn’t kind and we’re not perfect? Bummer. I listened, nearly daily for years, to James Dobson expound on the fact that we are born sinners. No one has to teach a child to lie. No one has to teach a child to do the thing they lied about. They begin to do so at a very young age. I bought all of that psychobabble. Children do things that they eventually lie about because it looks fun. Children lie because they’re afraid. It’s an evolutionary trait called “fight of flight”. Lying is a way to flee.
Having made some mistakes in life, or maybe not mistakes but downright transgressions, we have it pounded into us that we are sinners. Not only are we sinners, but even our best isn’t good enough according to Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Then there’s Roman’s 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” I could keep going but I won’t, you get the idea. Now that we know just how wretched and wormy we are, what can be done about it? Remember that we’re born this way and there’s nothing we can do about it?
We’re sinners, born that way through no fault of our own, and there’s nothing we can do about it, and God can’t look at us until we’ve received forgiveness. Habakkuk 1:13 says, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness…”. In Matthew 27:46 we see God turning away from Jesus presumably because he became sin for us all, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”. Supposedly God can’t look on us in the sense that he can’t see evil and have it go unpunished. And well, we’ve established that we’re all evil.
That leaves us with the perfect sacrifice. Jesus. The only man who had never sinned: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21. Throughout the Old Testament the Israelites made their guilt offering and their sin offering to YAHWEH as per the instructions in Leviticus 5. God has required death as a sentence for sin and shed blood for atonement since Adam and Eve dropped the ball in the garden. After he banished them from the garden, he himself killed an animal and gave them clothes from it to wear. He had to provide a sacrifice before Adam and Eve could stand before him restored.
Writing all of this now makes me cringe. I realize putting it in writing just how bizarre and twisted it all sounds. That we would be created, whether by God himself or evolutionary processes, as imperfect beings, and have that held against us to the degree that we would need to kill and burn animals up to a final and permanent human sacrifice to a bloodthirsty God is beyond evil. Why do we owe God for being exactly the way he made us? It makes no sense.
Yet in my knowledge that I wasn’t and am not perfect I felt I needed forgiveness from a higher being than just the person I wronged. In my desire to feel free and forgiven I gave myself over to the knight in shining armor, the prince on a white horse, the savior, the perfect sacrifice. It all sounded so heroic, so romantic; the notion that had I been the only one who had ever transgressed, Jesus would still have gone to the cross for my sin, for my guilt, for my shame. I loved him for that. So without thinking through whether it made any sense, whether it was rational, whether it was plausible even, I took the plunge beneath the warm baptismal waters pledging my life to Jesus the Christ.
I studied some apologetics. If I was going to share the gospel I needed to be able to defend my faith. I read The Case for Christ, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More than a Carpenter. I studied the How Now Shall We Live? discipleship training material. I took every discipleship training class offered at my church, eventually becoming Discipleship Training Director. But in retrospect I didn’t look at the evidence objectively. The only reason I studied any apologetics was to shoot down the objections of unbelievers, never once considering whether those objections had any merit. Only when I did look at the evidence objectively did I see gaping holes in apologetics and Christianity; wounds left there by the weapon of reason.
*Edited because I intended this to be strange world, not market world. 🙂