What does it take to pay for sin?

Here’s a quick thought that follows up on our previous discussion about morality: what does it take to pay for sin anyway? If you read the Bible you might say that it takes death. After all, in the Old Testament sins were paid for by the deaths of bulls and goats, and the New Testament says that these sacrifices were merely a foretaste of the real payment, which was effected in the death of Jesus. So the answer is, as the Bible specifically says, that the wages of sin is death.

Notice that suffering in Hell is not part of paying for your sins. Jesus did not suffer eternally or even for a mere few thousand years in the torments of Hell, according to the Bible, yet he allegedly paid for our sins in full on the cross. Not in Hell, mind you, but on earth, which is where he was when he died. And it was not his allegedly immortal soul that died, but only his physical, mortal body. This physical, mortal death, of his physical, mortal body, was sufficient to pay the penalty for ALL sins for all time.

Now, Jerry Falwell, like so many Christians before him, has died. That means he has met the same requirements for payment of sins that Jesus did. His physical body has perished and ceased to function—the same fate as awaits every other so-called sinner. Even though Jesus supposedly took Falwell’s sin and paid the penalty so that Falwell would not have to, Falwell still had to.

This leaves us with yet another inconsistency in the Christian Gospel. If mere physical death (and temporary “death” at that!) is sufficient to pay for sins, then there’s no need for a cross, since our sins are eventually going to be paid for when we die. And if mere physical death is not enough to pay for our sins, then Jesus’ physical death was not sufficient, and could not have purchased forgiveness for us. Plus of course it puts the Bible in the position of lying to us when it says that death is the penalty for sin.

Either way, it’s a problem, and it’s just the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a fictional Gospel invented by superstitious men.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “What does it take to pay for sin?”

  1. Jer Says:

    Actually, I’m not sure that this one holds up. Since Jesus isn’t a mere mortal but rather God, it seems like the Bible is saying that the temporary death of God is enough to pay the sin-debt owed by humanity – or at least by those who believe. Murdering a normal person in a blood sacrifice wouldn’t be enough – it’s the special murder of God that wipes away sin.

    Note that I’m not saying that this is what early Christians would believe – not all of them seemed to believe that Jesus was actually God for one thing, so they would need to have some other explanation for why his sacrifice on the cross would lead to absolution of sin (if they actually believed that to be the significance of this death – early Christianity seemed to be full of various explanations for what the crucifixion meant and atonement wasn’t the only one).

  2. Deacon Duncan Says:

    By all means, feel free to challenge this or anything else I’ve said! I’ve only opened this particular can in a brief post, but I think there’s lots more meat there. For example, consider what it means when we say “the death of God.” Can God die? Which part of Jesus was weak enough (and material enough) to experience death? The undeniable humanity and frailty of Jesus is what leads Christian theologians to posit the “dual nature” theory, in which Jesus has both a human nature and a divine nature. If that’s the case, though, then clearly it was the human side of Jesus that died, leaving the omnipotent and invulnerable divine side unscathed. And if that’s not the case, then the Biblical description of Jesus’ many weaknesses and frailties is inconsistent with the notion that he was somehow God.

    That’s a pattern that inevitably arises when men try to tell stories that are not true: whenever someone thinks of some way to reconcile the immediate inconsistencies, the “fix” introduces new inconsistencies. That’s the nature of untruth, because if it actually were consistent with reality, then it would not be untruth.

  3. pboyfloyd Says:

    Isn’t this where the good apologist hides behind their ill defined meaning for ‘death’?

    According to Jayman, Jesus himself explains to the Sadducees that when God speaks of death, he may mean physically dead but there is a large component of spiritual death, or unsavedness(is it?), in there too!

    Apparently this is such a nuanced point of view, it gets even more confusing and confused when we try to discuss the death and reanimation of God, the Son, himself as it slams headlong into the confusing and confused idea OF God the man(Jesus), the three ‘persons’ of God and such.

    What is a good Christian left to do but hold up their hands, admit failure of reason, then look wistfully off into ‘mind-space’ and say, “One truly cannot know the MIND of God.”

    Much better than admitting that the whole shebang makes absolutely no sense at all, eh?

  4. mikespeir Says:

    Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.

    Rev 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

    It’s that “second death” that they’re often talking about. It’s not without problems of its own.

  5. Deacon Duncan Says:

    And that’s where Christian theology gets into problems, because if it’s the second death that is required as payment for sins, then Jesus didn’t pay the price because he was not thrown into the lake of fire to endure everlasting torment. On the other hand, if that’s not a fair price for a relatively brief lifetime of sin, then it’s unjust to require sinners to pay it. Jesus didn’t have to pay that price, so why should sinners?

  6. mikespeir Says:

    Exactly. That even bothered me as a Christian. Of course, the claim is that in offending an infinite God we merit infinite punishment. (Although, per W.L. Craig there is no actual infinite, not even God.) But a being who cannot be harmed cannot be offended, because an offense is nothing but a threat put in other terms. I could no more threaten an invulnerable God than I could the Moon–it’s not possible for me to hurt either one. Where there’s no possibility of harm, there’s no crime. No recompense is needed.

  7. Jer Says:

    Can God die? Which part of Jesus was weak enough (and material enough) to experience death? The undeniable humanity and frailty of Jesus is what leads Christian theologians to posit the “dual nature” theory, in which Jesus has both a human nature and a divine nature. If that’s the case, though, then clearly it was the human side of Jesus that died, leaving the omnipotent and invulnerable divine side unscathed. And if that’s not the case, then the Biblical description of Jesus’ many weaknesses and frailties is inconsistent with the notion that he was somehow God.

    I think bringing up this kind of dual nature opens a whole different can of worms when it comes to the Trinity – trinitarian doctrine depends on Jesus being both fully human and fully divine simultaneously, not having different “halves” that operate independently of one another. If Jesus had a God “half” and a human “half” and it was the human half that died while the God “half” survived then it doesn’t make sense to say that God “gave his only begotten son” for the world – he didn’t give anything, just the human “half” he grafted his immortal progeny onto.

    My understanding of Roman Catholic doctrine is that everything that was Jesus died and then he returned from the dead. By “death”, though, what is meant is that his immortal soul descended into the land of the dead, just as a mortal soul would. In fact, part of the apostle’s creed was that he “descended into Hell” for three days before returning from the dead on Easter. It’s an old descent into the Underworld theme – like Orpheus – and so he was dead and in Hell and then he returned to the world of the living. As a young Catholic I was taught that Jesus descended into Hell to save the souls of those who had already died – he basically dropped into Hell, kicked Satan’s ass, and threw open the gates to let the condemned souls out and into Heaven (have I mentioned that my catechism teachers were volunteers with shaky grasps on Catholic doctrine? I don’t think the Church actually teaches the “ass-kicking” part, but one of my catechism teachers taught it that way…)

    The temporary nature of the sacrifice never made much sense to me – God makes no sacrifice here. He doesn’t “give his only begotten son” at all since he comes right back again three days later. The story makes more sense as part of a cosmic struggle between two equally matched powers of good and evil, where the evil power is tricked into killing the good power to release a can of whoop-ass on the evil power (a motif of Christianity that CS Lewis used in his Narnia books). But than that would be dualism, and that’s a heresy, so that explanation, even though it makes more sense, is disallowed from the start.

  8. Parker Says:

    I thought the whole thing with sacrifice was that it be pure. Animals couldn’t have scars and couldn’t be from certain families because for whatever reason they were deemed unclean by g0d. I thought it wasn’t necessarily death, but the death of a perfect human, a sinless, unblemished man (who was also g0d but not really?…). That was my understanding anyway. Any takes on it?

  9. mikespeir Says:

    Yeah, Parker, you’re right by the way I was taught. There’s a kind of infinitude to purity. By not being at all blameworthy Jesus uniquely didn’t deserve to die. He died anyway, somehow making up for our sins. But according to Christian teaching Jesus didn’t suffer the “second death,” only physical death. How, then, can this more-or-less trivial form of dying–even by a pure “lamb”–in any way redeem us from the worse, eternal death? It’s not enough payment; the scales don’t balance. It seems only a kind of symbolic gesture. (Which, by the way, is how some Christians see it. Well, sort-of.)