Probably one of the most common questions that you hear from people who don’t fully understand Christianity is this question: “why did Jesus have to die?”. The answer that most Christians seem to hold to is that 1) humans are rebelling against God, 2) Humans deserve punishment for their rebellion, 3) Humans cannot escape the punishment for their rebellion on their own, 4) Jesus was punished in the place of the rebellious humans, 5) Those who accept this sacrifice are forgiven for their rebelling.
Are humans rebellious?
Some people think that humans are not really rebellious at all, but it’s actually easy to see. You can see it just by looking at how people spend their time. Some of us have no time for God at all, and instead try to fill our lives with material possessions and experiences in order to have happy feelings. Some of us embrace just the parts of God that make us feel happy, like church and singing and feelings of comfort, while avoiding the hard parts of that vertical relationship; reading, thinking and disagreeing with people who don’t believe the truth about God. And so on.
This condition of being in rebellion is universal, and all of us are guilty of breaking the law at some point. All of us deserve to be separated from God’s goodness and love. Even if we wanted to stop rebelling, we would not be able to make up for the times where we do rebel by being good at other times, any more than we could get out of a speeding ticket by appealing to the times when we drove at the speed limit, (something that I never do, in any case).
This is not to say that all sinners are punished equally – the degree of punishment is proportional to the sins a person commits. However, the standard is perfection. And worse than that, the most important moral obligation is a vertical moral obligation. You can’t satisfy the demands of the moral law just by making your neighbor happy, while treating God like a pariah. The first commandment is to love God, the second is to love your neighbor. Even loving your neighbor requires you to tell your neighbor the truth – not just to make them feel good. The vertical relationship is more important than the horizontal one, and we’ve all screwed up the vertical relationship. We all don’t want God to be there, telling us what’s best for us, interfering with our fun. We don’t want to relate to a loving God if it means having to care what he thinks about anything that we are doing.
Who is going to pay for our rebellion?
The Christian answer to the problem of our rebellion is that Jesus takes the punishment we deserve in our place.
However, I’ve noticed that on some atheist blogs, they don’t like the idea that someone else can take our punishment for us to exonerate us for crimes that we’ve committed. So I’ll quote from this post by the great William Lane Craig, to respond to that objection.
The central problem of the Penal Theory is, as you point out, understanding how punishing a person other than the perpetrator of the wrong can meet the demands of justice. Indeed, we might even say that it would be wrong to punish some innocent person for the crimes I commit!
It seems to me, however, that in other aspects of human life we do recognize this practice. I remember once sharing the Gospel with a businessman. When I explained that Christ had died to pay the penalty for our sins, he responded, “Oh, yes, that’s imputation.” I was stunned, as I never expected this theological concept to be familiar to this non-Christian businessman. When I asked him how he came to be familiar with this idea, he replied, “Oh, we use imputation all the time in the insurance business.” He explained to me that certain sorts of insurance policy are written so that, for example, if someone else drives my car and gets in an accident, the responsibility is imputed to me rather than to the driver. Even though the driver behaved recklessly, I am the one held liable; it is just as if I had done it.
Now this is parallel to substitutionary atonement. Normally I would be liable for the misdeeds I have done. But through my faith in Christ, I am, as it were, covered by his divine insurance policy, whereby he assumes the liability for my actions. My sin is imputed to him, and he pays its penalty. The demands of justice are fulfilled, just as they are in mundane affairs in which someone pays the penalty for something imputed to him. This is as literal a transaction as those that transpire regularly in the insurance industry.
So, it turns out that the doctrine of substitionary atonement is not as mysterious or as objectionable as everyone seems to think it is.
My Christian friends who follow these things and try to read the times are telling me that they are seeing a lot of articles blaming Christians for the recent terrorist attack committed by an Islamic terrorist.
Well, that didn’t take long. It was just a matter of time before opposition to the Obama administration’s transgender bathroom policies was linked to the massacre at an Orlando gay bar, committed by a shooter who took time out from his horrific killing spree to pledge allegiance to ISIS.
And sure enough, this morning’s New York Times reports that gay rights “movement leaders” wonder whether “high-profile policy fights like the one over the Obama administration’s recent directive requiring schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice” is increasing violence against gays. The Times’s article, by reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, offers potential frames for the mass murder, none of which include Islamic terrorism: “What did it mean that it happened in June, Gay Pride Month? Was it a hate crime against gay people or simply evidence that gun violence is out of control — or both? Gay rights have been advancing at a rapid clip. Has that lessened homophobia? Or maybe made it worse?”
The Atlantic’s religion reporter, Emma Green, posited a “loose connection” between what she called “anti-trans rhetoric” and the Orlando violence, during a segment on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show this morning entitled “Orlando and the State of the Gay Bar”: “There is a loose connection that is very difficult to pin down between some of the anti-gay and anti-trans rhetoric that we’ve seen in the U.S. not primarily from Muslim groups but from Christian groups that have laid a foundation for homophobia and transphobia. Although most of the groups that are supporting that type of rhetoric would not condone the type of violence we saw in Orlando, it does create an environment of bigotry and acceptance of homophobia against LGBT people.” (Green went on to say that some people who hold “sincerely held beliefs” about homosexuality can “still extend messages of love and fellowship.”)
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, told MSNBC today that what happened in Orlando was an example of the toxic mix that occurs when a “deranged, delusional person is taught to hate” by a “preacher on Sunday morning in church or by a politician.” Actually, no “Sunday preacher” taught mass murderer Omar Mateen to hate; we can be sure, however, that radical Islamic propaganda did.
You might remember that the Human Rights Campaign has been featured on this blog a number of times, because they are the leading group seeking to silence, coerce and otherwise suppress Judeo-Christian values in the public square.
Let’s review the history the Human Rights Campaign to discover their agenda from actual actions:
A friend of mine pointed out that if you Google “Human Rights Campaign”, Google displays a special rainbow colored banner to celebrate their group. That’s not surprising since many large corporations are on board with the Human Rights Campaign agenda of anti-Christian bigotry.
Here is Hillary Clinton, being endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign:
Having strong allies in the White House will enable them to destroy his “religious right” enemies all the more effectively. How far would the Human Rights Campaign go to achieve their ends? We’re going to find out, because lots of Democrats who falsely claim to be Christians keep voting for the Democrat Party.
Here’s my attempt, then we’ll see an expert do it.
I hope that everyone who reads my blog is passionate about the gospel and understands it enough to explain it to others. It is so practical, you can see the need for it immediately when you talk to people in any detail. People are in rebellion against God. We want to seek our own happiness from rational constraints, moral constraints, judgments and feelings of shame. We want to not have to care what other people think of us (unless they agree), and this goes double for the God of the universe. This is literally infuriating to God, since he is the one who gives us so many blessings. It is proper for us to to recognize and respect him in our decision making – even if we find his greatness offensive to our pride. Instead of respecting God, we attribute the blessings to blind luck. We refuse to acknowledge God in our decision-making, and not just in moral issues but in everything we do. This is just astonishing ingratitude, and for this we deserve to be punished. However, God has given us a way to be reconciled with him, by allowing his own Son to be punished in our place. This punishment of Jesus pays the debt that we owe to God for our rebellion against him. If we acknowledge this sacrifice by Jesus, and put him in place as our leader and mentor, then God will forgive us and we will be reconciled with Him. And so, a relationship with God can begin, and it lasts forever. That is the gospel.
Here is famous evangelist Ravi Zacharias explaining the gospel in two minutes:
For those who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a good thought about the gospel from J. Warner Wallace at Please Convince Me.
A “just” God does justice, which means to punish or reward appropriately. In the Western tradition, we punish people for the actions they commit, but the extent of punishment is dependent also on the person’s mental state, and a person’s mental state is reflective of his or her beliefs. Premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter, and is punished more severely, and a hate crime is a sentencing enhancement that adds more punishment to the underlying crime. In both examples, a person’s beliefs are at play: the premeditated murderer has reflected on his choices and wants the victim dead; a hate crime reflects a belief that the rights of a member of the protected group are especially unworthy of respect. So, considering a person’s beliefs may well be relevant, especially if those beliefs have motivated the criminal behavior.
But the challenger’s mistake is even more fundamental. He is wrong to assert that people are condemned for not accepting the gospel. Christians believe that people are condemned for their sinful behavior – the “wages of sin is death” – not for what they fail to do. The quoted challenge is like saying that the sick man died of “not going to the doctor.” No, the person died of a specific condition – perhaps cancer or a heart attack – which a doctor might have been able to cure. So too with eternal punishment. No one is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus. While Jesus can – and does – provide salvation for those who seek it, there is nothing unjust about not providing salvation to those who refuse to seek it. After all, we don’t normally feel obliged to help someone who has not asked for, and does not want, our assistance. So too the Creator has the right to withhold a gift – i.e. eternity spent in His presence – from those who would trample on the gift, and on the gift-giver.
The quoted assertion also demonstrates an unspoken belief that we can impress God with our “kind” or “generous” behavior. This fails to grasp what God is – a perfect being. We cannot impress Him. What we do right we should do. We don’t drag people into court and reward them for not committing crimes. This is expected of them. They can’t commit a murder and then claim that punishment is unfair, because they had been kind and generous in the past. When a person gets his mind around the idea of what perfection entails, trying to impress a perfect Creator with our “basic goodness” no longer seems like such a good option.
I think it’s very important to get all of this clear, and nothing makes it clearer than when you get to know a non-Christian and really hear their reasons for not looking into whether God exists. Ask them what they think life is really about, and what motivates them, and see where God is in it. I think we get confused by non-Christians because they can sometimes be very nice to other people. But the real standard is whether people recognize and acknowledge God as he really is, and respond to him in a relationship.
Kevin Lewis, a professor of Theology and Law at the conservative Biola University, was asked this question:
Recently, I was reading Dr. Kenneth Bailey’s “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” (IVP press 2008). When commenting on Matthew 6:12-13, he writes,
“It is a common human assumption that the violator of the rights of others must ask for forgiveness before the wronged party can be expected to accept the apology and grant forgiveness…But Jesus here asks the person wronged to forgive the one responsible for the wrongdoing when when there is no confession of guilt… There is a voice from the cross that echoes across history to all saying ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Neither Pilate nor the high priest nor the centurion offered any apology to Jesus, yet he prayed for divine forgiveness…(p.125)”
First, regarding God and His forgiveness, it is undisputed in orthodox Christian theology that God does not forgive everyone. The doctrine of Hell is a sufficient proof of the lack of universal forgiveness by God.
Next, it is clear that God does not forgive without repentance. This doctrine is taught in a number of texts. For example, in Luke 13:3 Jesus says, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” In Mark 1:15 John the Baptist commands that we must “repent and believe the Gospel.” The connection between repentance and forgiveness of sins (i.e. “salvation”) is seen throughout the Scriptures. For example, in Acts 2:38 repentance is directly connected as a condition for the remission of sins. For additional examples of this connection see Matthew 11:20-24; Luke 24:45-49; Acts 3:19; 8:22; 17:30-31; Romans 2:4-5; II Corinthians 7:10; II Tim. 2:25-26.
So since we are to be imitators of God and forgive in the same way God forgives, we would expect the Scriptures to be consistent, stating that the condition of repentance is required to be fulfilled before believers are required to forgive each other’s sins. It does.
Jesus stated in Luke 17:3, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Here, the meaning is clear. The word “if” (Grk. ean) introduces the condition for a rebuke and for granting forgiveness. If (subjunctive) a person sins, we must (imperative) rebuke him, and if (subjunctive) he repents, we must (imperative) forgive him. This is as clear a statement as you will find on the subject. Forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance—and this is one of the same criteria that God requires before He forgives sin.
This principle of permitting believers to withhold forgiveness unless the condition of repentance is satisfied is also explicitly seen in Matthew 18:15-17. Compared with the Luke 17:3 text above, the situation is the same. If a brother sins, reprove him; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Here, the word “reprove” is used rather than “rebuke” and the word “listen” is employed rather than “repent,” but the meaning is virtually identical to Luke 17:3. What we see in Matthew 18 is an escalation of the issue and the result if the person fails to repent (i.e. “listen”). If the person fails to repent, we are to shun him in all appropriate ways (v. 17).
[…]Finally, I would make the case that it is harmful to a person to forgive him without requiring repentance. As seen above, the Bible is clear that sin requires a rebuke. Ignoring sin teaches sinners that sin does not bring consequences. This is harmful to their souls. Continuing to have the benefit of a righteous relationship with another and yet remain in sin against that person results in fostering a habituation of sinful inclinations in their soul, which God says brings about suffering and death.
Moreover, since the ultimate purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation, it is meaningless and harmful to forgive when no reconciliation may be had with the sinner. We cannot “walk together” in a biblical manner in righteous peace when the unrepentant sinner walks in unrighteousness. Necessarily, there is a conflict and a want of shalom. Their soul is headed in a different direction than the believer’s soul; they are walking away from God and we cannot have fellowship with darkness. God has no intimate fellowship with unrepentant people, and that is the model for Christians as well (See Matt. 18).
Regarding personal anger issues commonly raised by Christian psychologists, these types of psychologists unbiblically make unconditional forgiveness a part of therapy. By contrast, however, if a counselee will not forgive after the offending party has truly repented, the counselee sins, and this kind of unforgiveness may be one of the causes of his or her problems. But this is a separate issue from universal and unconditional forgiveness raised above.
Human beings in the image of God may be angry in appropriate ways (Eph.4:26, 31). There is a time to love and a time to hate (Ecclesiastes 3:8). The notion that Christians cannot ever hate, be angry, or lack forgiveness is an unbiblical concept. God Himself is eternally angry with sin, but He is certainly not a psychological basket case. He loves, hates, and is angry in appropriate ways. Our task as believers is to imitate this. Be angry with and hate sin appropriately (Rom. 12:9) and love what good appropriately. For example, righteous anger can evolve beyond the biblical limits to become malice, slander, and bitterness while, to give another example, an appropriate love of food can evolve beyond the biblical limits into gluttony.
I agree with Kevin, and I think it is a helpful tool for people to insist on seeing some sort of repentance and restitution from someone who wrongs you before you trust them again. If they are not even sorry for what they’ve done, and they refuse to explain why what they did is wrong, then they can’t be forgiven, and you can’t trust them again.
9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
13 But the tax collector,standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’
14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
So again, no forgiveness without repentance.
Forgiveness is what happens when someone who is sinned against treats the sinner as if he had never sinned. It is not on the balance sheet. It is not brought to mind. It is not held against them in the future. The forgiver trusts the sinner again as if the previous sin had never happened.
In divine (vertical) forgiveness, there is no forgiveness without repentance. There are Bible verses above to show that.
My argument is twofold. First, there is a clear teaching of Jesus explaining the sequence of sin and forgiveness. Repentance precedes forgiveness, between humans (Luke 17:3). The verses cited by the forgive without repentance crowd don’t show the mechanics of how to forgive, they are making the point that if you want God to forgive you, you should forgive others. The parable in Luke 18:9-14 affirms this again – repentance always precedes forgiveness.
Second, we have an obligation to imitate God, and that means imitating the way he forgives those who sin against him. When I raise that with the unconditional forgiveness crowd, they want to insist that there is a difference, that the word “forgive” means different things. I’m not convinced.
Finally, I do think that forgiving someone is obligatory if they sincerely repent, and even if they screw up again and again. So long as the repentance is sincere, (like if there is restitution and a genuine effort to show an understanding how the sin affected the wronged party in writing), then forgiveness should be automatic.
Alan E. Kurschner argues that there is serious textual doubt about the originality of Luke 23:34a, a text used by the pro-unconditional-forgiveness crowd. He has a journal article coming out on it, but a synopsis of his argument is here.
He also wrote this in a comment on this blog:
Second, on Matt 6:15, this is what I have to say. Notice the then-clause: “neither will your Father forgive your sins.” This would require universalism on the Father’s part according to the unconditional interpretation given the first half: “But if you do not forgive others their sins.” Since everyone has wronged the Father is the Father required to forgive everyone even if they are not seeking forgiveness?
So I think the case for the forgiveness being conditional on repentance is pretty strong, especially when serious harm has been caused.
A Houston man has been arrested in connection with a suspected arson at a mosque on Christmas Day, but the motive for the crime remains a mystery, with the suspect maintaining he was a regular at the mosque.
A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that the suspect, 37-year-old Gary Nathaniel Moore of Houston, was arrested early Wednesday. Moore appeared in court at 7 a.m., spokeswoman Nicole Strong said, and bond was set at $100,000.
According to a charging instrument released by the Harris County District Clerk, Moore told investigators at the scene that he has attended the storefront mosque for five years, coming five times per day to pray seven days per week.
Moore said he had been at the mosque earlier on Dec. 25 to pray, and had left at about 2 p.m. to go home, according to authorities and court papers. Moore said he was the last person to leave the mosque and saw no smoke or other signs of fire when he departed, authorities said. He maintained he had returned to the scene after hearing about the fire from a friend.
Now, I wouldn’t post this if there was not something to learn from it at a higher level, and there is. There is something to learn about the left-wing, shame the good, praise the evil, mindset.
Breitbart News documents the initial reactions from the mainstream media to the story before it was known who the guilty person was.
Excerpt: (links to other sites removed)
Advocacy groups believe there has been a spike in anti-Muslim incidents across the United States in recent weeks that can be linked to the mass shooting in California and the inflammatory rhetoric of Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates. And they say that Muslims are fearful the backlash could lead to further harassment and violence.
The Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on authorities to investigate the fire for an anti-Muslim motive.
“Because of the recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide, we urge law enforcement authorities to investigate a possible bias motive for this fire,” Mustafaa Carroll, the chapter’s executive director, said in a statement.
The Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on authorities to investigate a possible bias motive in the case, citing what it called a “recent spike in hate incidents targeting mosques nationwide.
Now that a devout Muslim has been charged, the DC Media will forget all about the incident.
The media’s playbook is always to immediately use any disaster or crime as a means to make the GOP answer for it. Then, once the facts come out and point to a member of the Protected Class, the story is memory-holed and the accusation against the Republican lingers.
That was very bad, and it should teach you a lesson about how anxious the media is to make traditional groups (conservatives, Christians, orthodox Jews, etc.) feel ashamed, while protecting and praising radical Islamists. They want to force everyone to be “equal” on the moral scale, so that no one can judge anyone else. The problem is, as we see in this story, that not shaming evil causes evil people to more evil, not less evil.
Anyway, all that is well and good, but we haven’t seen the worst media bias. That prize goes to the radically, radically leftist Salon, which not only put up a story blaming conservatives for the arson, but then took it down once the news came out about who was arrested for it: (H/T Weasel Zippers)
(click for larger image)
Why did they do it? Because the story only had value to them when it could give America, Christians, Republicans, etc. a black eye. When it gave radicalized Muslim terrorists a black eye, then Salon had to take it down. They didn’t want to make their allies in the culture war look bad. And do you know what else Salon doesn’t report on? Crucifixions, torture, rape and murder by radical Muslims (often against other Muslims!) in other parts of the world. That doesn’t fit their narrative, either.
Do you ever wonder where so many people have an emotional reaction of sympathy for people who do evil? It’s because they’ve been conditioned by the media to think that somehow, some way, evil people are actually justified in doing their evil. And somehow, some way, good people are all hypocrites who shouldn’t judge anyone, because it is mean and makes people feel bad. If you went to public schools in America and listened to the mainstream media, you’ve been indoctrinated in that from birth to present day. It all comes from the shame that people on the left feel for their own immoral actions, and their desperate desire to stop all moral judging as a way of escaping from the misdeeds they committed in the past. This is their way of dealing with their own guilt – stopping everyone else from making moral judgments about anything.
To learn more about media bias from peer-reviewed studies that document it, click here.