Sin and Atonement (continued)
Justice and Forgiveness
The Christian philosophy of Crime and Punishment is not only utterly confusing for simple unprejudiced human intellect but also raises many other relevant questions which are no less perplexing. The relationship between justice and forgiveness, as maintained by the Christian philosophy of Atonement, attempts to explain why God Himself could not forgive. It is dependant entirely on an erroneous and arbitrary concept of justice, which takes it for granted that justice and forgiveness can never go hand in hand. That being so, why does the New Testament place so much emphasis on forgiveness when the question of human relationships is discussed. I have never read in any divine scriptures of any world religion a teaching that leans more one sidedly upon, and overly emphasises the role of forgiveness. What a fantastic contrast with the traditional emphasis on justice found in Judaic teachings. An eye for eye; a tooth for tooth. That is justice, pure, simple and unattenuated. What a dramatic departure from this to the Christian teaching of turning the other cheek if slapped on one. Who gave the latter teaching that is against the earlier teachings of the Torah? Was the first teaching of Torah, one is left wondering, a teaching by God the Father as against the diametrically opposed teaching of the New Testament, a teaching by Christ the ‘Divine Son’? If so, why did the ‘Divine Son’ differ so drastically from his Father? Should such a conflict be taken as a genetical defect or an evolutionary change or was this Christian attitude of absolute forgiveness, as diametrically opposed to the Judaic emphasis on revenge, an example of volte-face change on the part of God the Father. He seems to have dearly repented of what He had taught Moses and the people of the Book and wanted very much to redress His own wrong.
As Muslims, we observe this fundamental shift in emphasis and see no contradiction because we believe in a God who combines in Him both the attributes of justice and forgiveness, without there being any inner conflict between the two attributes. We understand the transfer from Judaic teachings to that of Jesus Christ, not as a corrective measure of those teachings but of their misapplication by the Jews. With us, God is not only Just but is also Forgiving, Merciful and Beneficent. If He so desires, He does not stand in need of any outside help to forgive the sinful. But from the Christian point of view the problem acquires gigantic proportions. It appears that the God of the Torah was a God who knew only justice and had no sense of compassion or mercy. Apparently He was unable to forgive, however much he may have desired to do so. Lo, then came to His help ‘God the Son’ and extricated Him from His infernal dilemma. It seems that the ‘Son’ was ‘All-Compassion’ as against the ‘All-Vengefulness’ of his Father. It is not just the apparent absurdity of this vision of the ‘Son’ which disturbs the human conscience but it also raises the question once again of the contradiction in their characters. Jesus does not appear to be a true son of his Father. A genetic error again perhaps.
Another important area of inquiry is the attitude of other religions of the world towards sin and its consequences. Christianity is of course not the only religion to be a revealed religion. Numerically, non-Christians largely exceed Christians. Thousands of years of the known history of man, before Jesus Christ, saw many religions born and take root in different human soils in various parts of the world. Do these religions ever speak of a philosophy of forgiveness even remotely related to the Christian dogma of Atonement? What is their concept of God, or Gods if they have now begun to believe in many? What is their concept of God’s attitude towards sinful humanity?
Among the comity of religions, the nearest to Christianity is perhaps Hinduism in this regard, but only partially so. Hindus also believe in an Absolute Just God, whose sense of justice demands that He must punish somehow every perpetrator of sin. But the resemblance ends there. No mention of a ‘Divine Son’ taking the entire consequences of the whole world of sinners upon his shoulders is even remotely indicated. On the contrary, we are told of an endless chain of crime and punishment in an endless number of reincarnations of the soul into animal flesh. Atonement only becomes accessible after the many times reincarnated soul has incurred punishment exactly in accord with the sum total of the crimes it committed during all its fateful experiences of reincarnation. To some it may sound weird and bizarre indeed, but there is certainly some inherent justice in this philosophy. A balance and a symmetry which is in perfect harmony with the concept of absolute justice.
Leaving Hinduism and other religions who also believe in the philosophy of reincarnation with all its complexities of cause and effect aside, what is the role of forgiveness on the part of God in the remaining major or minor religions of the world? All such religions and over a billion adherents of religions such as Hinduism seem to be totally ignorant and uninformed of the myth of Atonement. This is very perplexing indeed. Who was in communion with mankind elsewhere in the history of religions? If it were not God the Father as in Christian doctrine, was the entire religious leadership of the world except Jesus Christ, pupil of the Devil himself? And where was God the father? Why did He not come to the rescue when the rest of mankind was being led astray by the Devil in His name? Or were they, the rest of the humanity, a creation of a being other than the so-called God the Father. Again, why were they treated in such a step-fatherly way and abandoned to the cruel sway of the Devil?
Let us now turn our attention to this issue with reference to common human experience. It can be shown that forgiveness and justice are balanced and can coexist and do not always contradict each other. Sometimes justice demands that forgiveness must be extended and sometimes it demands that forgiveness be withheld. If a child is forgiven and is encouraged to commit more crime, then forgiveness is itself bordering on a crime and is against the sense of justice. If a criminal is forgiven, only to perpetrate more acts of crime and creates suffering all around him because he is forgiven and encouraged, that would also be against the dictates of justice and will be tantamount to an act of cruelty to other innocent citizens. There are countless criminals of this type who are covered by the atonement of Jesus. That in itself is contrary to justice. But if a child repents, for instance, and the mother is convinced that the same crime will not be repeated, then to punish the child would be counter to the sense of justice. When a repentant person suffers, that in itself is a punishment which may in some cases far exceed a punishment imposed from outside. People with a living conscience always suffer after committing a sin. As a consequence, the cumulative effect of the repeated pangs of conscience reaches a point where it may result in God taking pity on such a weak, oft-faltering, oft-repenting servant of His. This is the lesson in the relationship of justice to forgiveness, which people of high intellect or even people of ordinary understanding draw alike from a universal human experience. It is high time that Christians woke up from their dormant state of accepting Christian dogma without ever questioning its wisdom.
If they re-examine Christian doctrine in the light of common sense and reasoning, they may still remain good practising Christians but of a different and more realistic type. They would then believe even more and with greater love and dedication in the human reality of Christ as compared to the Christ who is a mere figment of their imagination and no more real than fiction. Jesus’ greatness lies not in his legend but in the supreme sacrifice of Jesus the man and messenger. A sacrifice which moves the heart far more powerfully and profoundly than the myth of his death upon a cross and his revival from the dead after spending a few ghastly hours in hell.
Jesus Cannot Possibly Atone
Last but not least, how could Jesus be born innocent when he had a human mother? If the sin of Adam and Eve had polluted the entire progeny of this unfortunate couple, then as a natural consequence, all male and female children must inherit the same genetic propensity to sin. Females were perhaps more likely to because it was Eve who as the instrument of Satan enticed Adam. Therefore, the responsibility of sin falls squarely on the shoulders of Eve rather than of Adam. In the case of the birth of Christ, obviously it was a daughter of Eve who contributed the major share. The question that very powerfully arises is whether Jesus inherited any gene bearing chromosomes from his human mother or not. If he did so, then it was impossible for him to escape the inevitable inherited sin. If he did not inherit any chromosomes from his mother either, then indeed that birth would be doubly miraculous. Only a miracle could produce a son who neither belongs to his father nor to his mother. What remains incomprehensible is why those chromosomes, provided by Eve, did not carry the innate tendency to sin to the child Jesus. Suppose it happened somehow, and Jesus had that innocence needed to carry the sins of mankind, on condition that they believed in him and not otherwise, another problem would arise: what happened, one may ask, to the progeny of Adam and Eve that died before the dawn of Christianity? How many billions of them might have got scattered throughout the world over five continents generation after generation. They must have lived and died without hope or even the possibility of ever hearing about the Christ their Saviour who was not yet born. In fact the entire humanity between Adam and Christ seemed certainly to be doomed for ever. Why were they never given even a remote chance to be forgiven? Would they be forgiven retrospectively, by Jesus Christ? If so, why?
In other parts of the world, much larger by comparison to the tiny land of Judea, where people had never heard of Christianity even during the life time of Jesus Christ, what happens to them? They never did, nor ever could, believe in the ‘Sonship’ of Jesus Christ. Will their sins go unpunished or will they be punished? If they go unpunished, for what reason? If they are punished, again by what logic? What chance did they have anyway? They were totally helpless. What a distorted sense of absolute justice!
Now let us turn to the act of the Crucifixion itself. Here we are confronted with another insoluble dilemma. Jesus, as we are so insistently told, offered himself voluntarily to God the Father and was made the scapegoat for the sins of all humanity, provided, of course, they believed in him. But when the time of acceptance of his wish approaches nigh and at last the glimmer of hope for sinful humanity is beginning to appear like the dawn of a new day, as we turn to Jesus expecting to observe his joy, his happiness and his ecstasy at this most eventful moment of human history, how profoundly disappointed and manifestly disillusioned we are. Instead of finding a Jesus impatiently awaiting the hour of jubilation what we see instead is a Jesus weeping and crying and praying and beseeching God the Father to take away the bitter cup of death from him. He severely reproached one of his disciples when he caught him in the act of dozing off after spending such a fateful long day and suffering through a dark gloomy night which bade ill for him and his holy master. The Biblical account of this incident goes as follows:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gesthemane, and said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will.’
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak’.
He went a second time and prayed,
‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink
it, may your will be done.’ When he came back, he again found them sleeping
because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and
prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matt 26:36–43)
Alas as the Christian story unveils itself, the prayers and beseeching of neither Jesus nor his disciples were accepted by God the Father and willy-nilly, despite his strong protestations, he was at last crucified. Was he the same person, the same prince of innocence and paragon of sacrifice who so bravely volunteered himself to take the burden of all of mankind’s sins on his shoulders, or was it a different person? His conduct, both at the hour of the Crucifixion and during the Crucifixion itself, strongly casts shadows of doubt, either on the identity of Jesus Christ or on the truth of the myth spun around his person. But of that later. Let us now return to our critical examination where we left it.
Some other questions which arise from the last cry of agony by Jesus Christ are as follows: Who uttered those deeply pathetic and touching words? Was it Jesus the man or was it Jesus the ‘Son’?
If it was Jesus the man who was abandoned, by whom? And why? If we accept this option, it would also have to be taken for granted that till the last, Jesus the man retained a single independent identity which could think and feel freely and individually. Did he die at the moment of parting of the soul of Jesus the ‘Son of God’ from the body of the man he had occupied? If so, why and how? If it was so and it was the body of the man which died after the soul of God deserted it, then the question would arise as to who got revived from the dead when the soul of God revisited the same body later on.
Again, this option would lead us to believe that it was not Jesus the ‘Son’ who was suffering but the person of Jesus the man who cried out in such agony and he was the one who suffered while Jesus the ‘Son’ looked on in a state of total indifference and apathy. Then how can he justify the claim that it was he, the ‘Son’, who suffered for the sake of humanity and not the man in him?
The other option is that we presume it was Jesus the ‘Son’ who cried out, while the man in him, perhaps hopeful to begin a new life for himself, watched on in uncertain expectancy of the realisation that along with the sacrifice of Jesus the ‘Son’, he, Jesus the man, whether he liked it or not, would also be slaughtered on the altar of his innocent cohabiter. What sense of justice ever motivated God to kill two birds with the same stone is perhaps another mystery.
If Jesus the ‘Son’ it was, and it was him indeed according to the general consensus of Christian churches, then the second question arising out of the answer of the first would be about the identity of the second party involved in that monologue of Jesus (Matt 26:39,42). We have two options open to us.
One, that the ‘Son’ was addressing the Father, complaining that he was abandoned in the hour of need. This inescapably leads us to believe that they were two different persons who did not coexist in a single mutually merged personality, equally sharing all attributes and putting them into play simultaneously with equal share. One appears to be the supreme arbiter, the all powerful possessor of the ultimate faculty of taking decisions. The other, the poor ‘Son’, seems to be entirely deprived or maybe temporarily dispossessed of all the domineering characters which his Father enjoyed. The central point which must be kept in focus is the fact that their opposite wills and wishes nowhere seem more at odds and at variance with each other than they were during the last act of the Crucifixion drama.
The second question is, would these two distinct persons, with individual thoughts, individual values and individual capacities, feel pain and agony if they were ‘two in one’ and ‘one in two’? So another question would require many a long dialogue between theologians regarding the possibility of God being able to suffer pain and punishment. Even if so, only half of God would suffer while the other half was incapable of doing so by design or by the compulsion of His nature. As we proceed further in the shadowy world of this twisted philosophy, light begins to get dimmer and dimmer and we find confusion heaped upon confusion.
Another problem is that whom was Christ addressing if he was God himself? When he addressed his father, he himself was an inseparable part of the Father, so we are told. So what was he saying and to whom? This question must be answered with a free conscience, without resorting to dogma. It becomes a dogma only when it cannot be explained in human terms. According to the Biblical statement, when Jesus was about to give up the ghost, he cried addressing God the Father: ‘Why have you abandoned me?’ Who had abandoned whom? Had God abandoned God?
Who Was Sacrificed?
The other problem we have to take note of is that the man in Jesus was not punished, nor by any logic should he have been punished because he had never opted to carry the load of humanity’s sin. This new element, entering into the debate, leads us to a very peculiar situation which we have not considered before. One is compelled to wonder about the relationship of the man in Jesus with the inherited propensity to commit sin, common to all the progeny of Adam and Eve. At best one can bring oneself to believe that in the duality of the ‘Divine Son’ and the man occupying the same body, it was only the ‘Divine Son’ who was innocent. But what about the man living alongside him. Was he also born out of genes and character provided by God? If so, then he should behave like the divine in Jesus and no excuse would be acceptable if he goes remiss in this or that, with the plea that he only did so because he was a man. If there was nothing of God in him, that is, in the man in Jesus, then we must concede that he was simply an ordinary human being, perhaps half a human being. Yet that human person, amalgamated with Jesus, has to be human enough to inherit the disposition to sin. If not, why not?
Obviously there is no gain in saying that being a man distinctly separate from his divine partner, he must have sinned independently with the entire responsibility of sin upon his human shoulders. This scenario will not be complete without presenting Jesus the ‘Son of God’, dying, not so unselfishly after all, for the sake of humanity but his prime concern might have been for his half brother, the man in him.
All this is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to digest intellectually. But from our point of view there is no problem. It was the innocent person Jesus the man, without there being any duality in him, who uttered this cry of astonishment and agony.
The Dilemma of Jesus
Let me once again make it clear that I do not disbelieve in Jesus but have profound respect for him as a messenger of God with exceptional sacrifices to his credit. I understand Jesus to be a holy man, going through a period of great trial. But as the narration of the act of Crucifixion begins to unfold and come to a close we are left with no choice but to believe that Jesus did not volunteer himself for death upon the cross. The night before the day his enemies attempted to murder him by crucifixion we hear him praying all night, along with his disciples, because the truth of his claim was at stake. It is said in the Old Testament that an imposter who attributes things to God which He had never said, would be hanged on a tree and die upon it an accursed death.
But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. (Deuteronomy 18:20)
And if a man has committed a crime
punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his
body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same
day, for a hanged man is accursed of God. (Deutronomy 21:22–23)
Jesus knew that if this happened,
the Jews would celebrate with ecstasy and proclaim him to be an imposter whose
falsehood had finally been proved beyond a shadow of doubt on the authority
of the divine Scriptures. This was the reason why he was so anxious to escape
the bitter cup of death; not out of cowardice but out of fear that his people
would be misled and would fail to recognise his truth if he died upon the cross.
All night he prayed so piteously and helplessly that to read the account of
his agony and misery is heart rending. But as this real life drama proceeds
to a close, the climax of his emotional distress, dejection and hopelessness
is fully displayed in his last cry: ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama
sabachtani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken
One must notice that it was not agony alone expressed in that cry but obviously there was mingled with it an element of surprise, bordering on horror. After he was brought back to consciousness, with the help of some of his dedicated disciples who applied to his wounds an ointment they had prepared before Crucifixion and which contained all the ingredients needed for mitigating pain and healing wounds, he must have been so wonderfully and happily surprised and his faith in a loving true God would have been reinstated and revitalised in a manner seldom experienced by man in its intensity and boundlessness.
The fact that the ointment had been prepared in advance constitutes a strong proof that Jesus’ disciples were indeed expecting him to be delivered from the cross alive, very much in need of medicinal treatment.
From the above, it becomes comfortingly clear that the concept of Inherited Sin and of Crucifixion are based only on the conjecture and wishful thinking of Christian theologians at a later date. It is quite likely that it was born out of some pre-Christian myths of a similar nature, which, when applied to the circumstances of Jesus Christ, tempted them to read close similarities between the two and create a similar myth. However, whatever the mystery or paradox, as we see it, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Christian philosophy of Sin and Atonement was based on anything which Jesus might have said or done or taught. He could never have preached anything so contrary to, and so diametrically opposed to human intellect.
Did God the Father Suffer As Well?
Coming to the nature of the ‘Son’, we cannot believe that he was thrown into Hell Fire, as that would mean an internal contradiction with himself. Returning to the basic concept of Christianity. It is said that God and the ‘Son’ are two persons but of the same nature and substance. It is impossible for one to go through an experience while the other does not share in it. How can we believe that one aspect of God, the ‘Son’, was being tormented, while God the Father remained unscathed. If he did not suffer, it would be tantamount to breaking the Unity of God. Three persons in one becomes even more inconceivable because the experiences of each constituent of Trinity have turned out to be so different and remote from each other that it appears impossible for one God to be in the raging fire of hell, and at the same time the other to remain perfectly aloof and untouched. There is no other choice for the Christians of today but either to sacrifice the Unity of God and believe in three different Gods, like the pagans of pre-Christianity such as the Romans and the Greeks, or they remain true to themselves and believe that God is one and as such, two aspects of God cannot undergo contradictory states. When a child suffers, it is impossible for the mother to remain calm and peaceful. She must suffer as well, sometimes more than the child. What was happening to God the Father when He made His ‘Son’ suffer the agony of three days in hell? What was happening to God the ‘Son’? Was he divided into two persons, with two forms and substances? One form suffering in hell and the other completely outside, not suffering at all? If God the Father was suffering then what was the need of creating the ‘Son’, when He himself could have suffered. So this is a very direct question. Why did He not just suffer for Himself? Why draw out such a difficult plan to resolve the problem of forgiveness?
The Punishment of Fire
Here, the question of hell to which, according to the Christian doctrine, Jesus was confined to, should be examined more closely. What sort of hell was it, was it the same hell we read about in the New Testament, which says:
The Son of Man will send out his
angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and
all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will
be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 13:41–42)
Before we proceed further, it has to be very clearly understood what the New Testament means by the punishment of fire or the punishment of hell. Is it a fire which burns the soul or is it a carnal fire which consumes the body and thereby tortures the soul? Do the Christians believe that after death we will return to the same body which the soul left behind to disintegrate to earth and ashes, or will there be a new body created for each soul and the resurrected person would experience a sort of reincarnation?
If it is carnal fire and a corporeal punishment, then one has to extend one’s imagination to the limit of its tethers as to what may have happened in the case of Jesus Christ. Before being subjected to the Fire, was his soul re-imprisoned in the body of the man he had been haunting all his life on earth, or was he somehow relegated to an astral body? If the later is the case then that astral body would have been beyond the reach of the carnal fire of hell to scorch, punish or destroy. On the other hand if we accept the scenario that the body of the man he had occupied would be reconstructed for Jesus as a sort of medium through which he could suffer hell, then one cannot fail to notice another blow done to the principle of divine justice. Poor man, first of all he was practically hijacked for all his life by an alien soul but then as a reward for the hospitality forced upon him he would burn in hell for no crime of his own. The credit of his sacrifice being totally monopolised by the alien occupant within him. Again, what about the soul of that man or perhaps he did not have a soul of his own. If not, then the man in Jesus and the God in Jesus had to be one and the same person and the plea that Jesus acted sometimes by his human impulses and sometimes by divine Will, is reduced to sheer hocus-pocus. The only formula acceptable to any intellect is that one soul and one body equals one person. Two souls and one body is a bizarre idea which can only be entertained by those who believe in people being haunted by ghosts or similar things.
Sacrifice and Spiritual Bliss
If the second option is more acceptable to the Christian Theologists in that it assumes only the soul of Jesus to have entered hell and that hell to be a spiritual hell. If so, there seems to be no reason why we should reject this suggestion as nonsensical. However, the spiritual hell is only created by pangs of conscience or a sense of guilt. In the case of Jesus Christ, neither was applicable. When you accept the penalty of another’s crime, being innocent yourself, it is not pangs of conscience which are generated but quite the opposite. The soul of such a person should vibrate with a sense of nobility and self-sacrifice. Which would be tantamount to spiritual heaven rather than hell.
Now we turn to the question of the body that was occupied by Jesus and the meaning of death in relation to that body and also to the meaning of revival in the same context. To the best of our knowledge the body of Jesus Christ had to be an integral part of the ‘Sonship’ of Jesus. Otherwise, he would have no common meeting ground left to him for his divinity and humanity to merge upon and play distinctly different roles under certain conditions. At times we should see the man taking charge of affairs, provided he had a separate soul himself and at times we should observe the Divine asserting Himself and controlling the man’s faculties of head and heart. Again we emphasise that this can happen only if there are two distinct personalities locked up in a single being.
Meaning of Death in Relation to Christ
Having clearly understood the different options regarding the relative roles that the Divine and the Man in Jesus could have played, we try to comprehend the application of the word ‘death’ and its full meaning in relation to him.
If he died for three days and nights, then death has to be understood in terms of the soul having been severed from the body, and the soul departing. Which means that the soul must depart the body and break off its relationship so completely that only a very dead corpse is left behind. So far so good. Jesus was at last relieved of his imprisonment in the carnal body of a man. However, liberation from this imprisonment should not be considered a punishment at all. The return of the divine soul of the ‘Son’ to the same sublime state of existence cannot be treated in any way like ordinary human death. Human death is fearsome not because the soul leaves the body and severs the ties by gaining a new consciousness, but the horrors of death are mainly on the account of one’s permanently severing ties with many a dear ones left here on earth, and leaving behind one’s possessions and different objects of love. Many a times it so happens that a man who has nothing to live for pefers to die rather than live an empty life.
In the case of Jesus, the feeling of remorse could not have been present. For him the window of death was open only in one single direction, that of gain and not of loss. Why should his departure from the body be considered an extremely pitiable and agonizing experience? Again, if he died once and literally, not metaphorically, gave up the ghost, as the Christians would have us believe, then returning to the same body is the most unwise step attributed to him. Was he reborn when he returned to the body that he had abandoned during the hour of death? If this process is only to be described as revival or resurrection of Jesus, then the body should also have been eternalized. But what we read in the Bible is a completely different story. According to that story Jesus was resurrected from the dead by entering the same body in which he had been crucified and that was called his regaining of life. That being so, what would be the meaning of the act of his abandoning the body once again? Would that not be tantamount to a second death?
If the first departure from body
was death, then most certainly the second time he is considered to have abandoned
the human body, he should be declared eternally dead. When the soul abandons
the body first time, you call it death; when it returns to the same body, you
call it life after death. But what would you call it when the soul leaves the
same body once again never to return—will it be called eternal death or eternal
life according to the Christian jargon? It has to be eternal death and nothing
more. Contradiction upon contradiction. A very nerve wrecking experience indeed!
If it is suggested that the body was not abandoned the second time, then we have the strange scenario in which God the Father exists as an infinite incorporeal spiritual being while the ‘Son’ remains trapped in the restricted confines of mortal existence.
Limited Suffering for Unlimited Sin
It may be suggested that it is not always the pangs of conscience which create a miserable state of mind and heart in those who are sensitive to their faults. On the other hand, intense sympathy for the sufferings of others may also create a life of agony for someone who is totally or partially innocent of crime, but has that sublime spiritual quality of suffering for the sake of others. That would also create a similitude of hell. Mothers suffer for their ailing babies. The human experience stands witness to the fact that sometimes for a permanently disabled child the entire life of the mother is turned into a living hell. So why cannot we concede to Jesus that noble quality of being able to suffer for the sake of others? Why not indeed. But why only three days and nights? Why not for his entire sojourn on earth and even before and after that. Noble people do not suffer only temporarily for a very limited period of hours or days. Their hearts do not rest in peace unless they see misery mitigated or alleviated entirely. The hell which we are considering, is not the prerogative of an innocent divine person only, it is a noble quality shared to some degree even by the beasts of the jungle for their near ones.
After a few more remarks I will rest this case, but I have one other important issue to briefly touch upon. The punishment prescribed by God for Jesus Christ, only lasted for three days and three nights. While the sinners for whom he was punished, had committed sins so horrible and for so long that according to the Bible, their punishment was to be eternal suffering in hell. So what sort of a just God was it that when it came to the punishment of those created by Him, people who were not His sons or daughters, they were to be punished eternally? But when it came to the punishment of His own ‘Son’, for sins he had voluntarily taken upon himself, suddenly the punishment was reduced. Only three days and three nights. No comparison whatsoever. If this is justice then let justice not be. How would God look at the conduct of human beings, He has Himself created with His right hand, if they dispense justice as they learnt it from Him? Applying different measures to their own children and very different to those of others. Will God the Father watch this loyal imitation with ecstasy or horror? Very difficult indeed to answer.
What Did Atonement Change?
As far as the effect of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in relation to the punishment of sin is concerned, we have already established that faith in Jesus Christ has in no way reduced the punishment of sin, prescribed by God, for Adam and Eve and their progeny. All human mothers still bear their children with the pains of labour and it is still with labour that man earns his bread. If we consider it from another angle, a broad comparison between the Christian and non-Christian world since the time of Jesus Christ. No believers in Christ can show a remarkable change, in any period of history, of their women delivering their children without pain and their men earning their bread without labour. They do not show any difference in this regard in comparison to the non-Christian world.
As far as the disposition to commit sins is concerned, the world of believers in Christ compared with the world of non-believers do not record any evidence that the dispensation to commit sin is totally obliterated among the category of believers in Christ. In addition to this, one may indeed wonder why having faith in God is considered so inferior to having faith in His ‘Son’. This is especially relevant to the time before this tightly kept, age old secret, (that God had a ‘Son’), was disclosed to mankind. Of course there were people who had faith in God and His Unity. Also innumerable people were born since Christ in every religion and land of the earth, who believed in God and His oneness. Why didn’t faith in God bear any influence on human crime and punishment? Again why could not God the Father display that nobility of suffering for the sake of sinners which His nobler ‘Son’ displayed? Most certainly the Son seems to possess higher moral values (God forbid!) than his less civilised Father. Is Divinity evolving and still in the process of attaining perfection, one may ask.
- Matthew 27:46