Christ’s Sacrifice and God’s Justice

“It could well be that God has morally sufficient reasons to allow the finite suffering in the world […] God may have morally sufficient reasons to allow the evil and sufferings in the world, because of a greater good. […] And we are in no position to argue against that. How could we make that judgment? Just because we do not see the ultimate good in evil in the world, it doesn’t mean it does not exist.”

Adam Deen[1]

“It’s an impugning and compromising of our tawHeed to suggest that what’s happening in today’s world is not the direct will of Allah”.

Abdal Hakim Murad (A.K.A. Timothy Winter)[2]

I have some experience with Christian-Muslim dialogue, and thus I am well aware that a charge, that the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice is contrary to God’s justice, often comes up. I am also a former atheist, and spent some time considering the subject of theodicy in years past. As a result, my familiarity with the latter subject always leaves me unmoved by the charge just mentioned.

That is to say, it seems to me incongruent to argue, on the one hand, that God is sovereign, and the Definer of justice, and yet, at other times, pretend as though there is a moral law above God which God must be subject to. An injustice, a crime, would be something illicit, but it seems an axiom of all classical theistic views would be that any action of God is de facto licit (no action or plan of God could ever be illicit).[3]

Brief Note on Human Analogies

There are critics of Christianity (including, but not limited to, Muslims; rather also including atheists and others) who seek to show the absurdity (or at least injustice) of the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of others, by way of human analogies. For example, one might propose a scenario in which a criminal comes before a human judge. The judge informs the criminal that he will be set free if he sincerely apologizes, at which point the criminal promptly does so. At that moment, the judge notes that the apology is not by itself sufficient for such a release, so he will have another person –someone innocent– punished for the crime, instead. The suffering of that innocent person, in conjunction with the apology of the criminal, provides the sufficient ground for letting the criminal go free. After proposing analogies along these lines, the critic rhetorically asks, “would you consider such a judge just or unjust?”

The problem with such an analogy is that, at least for theists, God is not held to the same standards as human beings. For example, if advanced science provided a mere human the ability to create massive storms or tsunamis, and that human deliberately created a weather condition that killed thousands (including women and children), that man would be considered guilty of mass murder. However, most theists would presumably hold that God, on the other hand, can consciously create weather conditions which kill thousands (including women and children), without impugning God’s justice. This takes us back to a point made earlier, above: any act of God is licit rather than illicit (which is not the case with mere human beings).

To illustrate this, let us consider another human analogy. Suppose a woman consumed alcohol or drugs, in a society where such was prohibited. She is brought before a human judge. That judge has at his disposal the ability to choose between (a) the woman’s child being unaffected by its mother’s actions, or (b) her child being made to suffer as a direct consequence of its mother’s actions. The judge chooses the latter, decreeing that because the woman consumed the relevant prohibited intoxicants, her child shall be struck with physical deformities, brain damage, and an earlier death. The mother apologizes sincerely and profusely. The judge accepts her apology, forgives her crime, but holds that her child will still suffer (though he is careful to note that the child is not considered guilty). Who would consider such a judge just?

With that analogy in mind, now consider the very real phenomenon of some babies suffering brain damage, physical deformities, or even death, when their mothers consume drugs or alcohol while said babies are in the womb. From that, one can infer that it is possible for God to establish a system where one (presumably innocent?) person suffers as a result of another person’s actions. Under the standard assumptions of a classical theistic framework, God could have created a different system, e.g. where babies never suffered, irrespective of what their mothers consumed while they were in their wombs. Yet the omniscient God knew precisely what such a design would entail, and set such a design in place anyway. It cannot be considered accidental; rather it is part of God’s decree. And yet, unlike humans, God is sovereign in such matters, and thus the decision does not in any way diminish God’s justice.

Pondering the Food Chain

Similar to the section above, I would like to continue on the subject of pondering what can be inferred from creation.[4] So we transition from the subject of deformed babies to the subject of the food chain. Watch a nature video which captures a predator catching, ripping apart and devouring its prey, or just watch a video about what happens in slaughter houses, and you might come away with the feeling that the current world can, at times, be a profoundly (and perhaps unnecessarily?) brutal place.[5]

A theist who ponders such is left with the question of why God would create the world in this way in the first place. Presumably God could have created a world where living organisms did not preserve their own existence at the expense of the lives of other living organisms, so it begs the question of why God would create a world with so much suffering and death, if such was (apparently) not necessary.[6]

It is here that one might see somewhat of a parallel between the food chain and the Christian conception of Christ’s sacrifice. While some non-Christian theists might balk at the idea that a just God would create a system in which the suffering and death of an innocent person could play a role in the atonement of sins committed by unrighteous humans, a theist can infer from creation that God does work roughly along those lines. From a theistic perspective, God clearly has created a world where one organism can preserve its own life at the expense of the life of another, often innocent, organism. If that is the system God has created for the biological realm, it begs the question of what would be implausible about God creating a roughly parallel system for a sort of spiritual realm, where humans preserve themselves from the destructive aspects of sin at the expense of the life of one innocent Person?[7]

Couldn’t God Simply Forgive Sinners?

Critics of the belief in Christ’s sacrifice sometimes seek to show such is unnecessary, as God could simply forgive sinners (especially repentant sinners). Interestingly, here too, the food chain analogy can be helpful. Consider that Christianity asserts that…

(a) God has created a system where the death of one person can play a role in the atonement of another person’s sins.

…and critics of this belief object that…

(b) God can create a system in which a person’s sins can be atoned for without the death of another playing a role.

Bringing in the food chain analogy, note that most theists would agree that, in reality…

(c) God has created a system where one organism can preserve its own life at the expense of the life of another organism.

…and we can also agree that…

(d) It is possible for God to create a system where organisms preserve their own lives without the loss of another organism’s life being required.

Just as the truth of (d) does not render (c) false or impossible, it would seem that, likewise, the truth of (b) does not render (a) false or impossible. Pointing out that God can offer an alternative system does not justify the conclusion that the system currently under discussion is therefore not actual, or worse, impossible. Ergo, noting the possibility of God forgiving sins without the death of another playing a role does not lead to the conclusion that God therefore has not willed (or never will ordain) that the death of one person can play a role in the forgiveness of another person’s sins.

In short, God is not required to actualize a system simply because we can imagine it and find it more palatable.

Very Brief Note on the Faith of Abraham

The book of Genesis might be thought of as the earliest extant text to mention Abraham. In that text, it is noted that Abraham was led to believe that God wanted him to sacrifice his son (he was willing to do so, but God intervened before he carried out the act). It’s interesting that a human serving as a sacrifice was not outside the realm of possibility for Abraham. We might sum up this point thusly: according to the earliest known text to mention Abraham, the faith of Abraham included belief in the possibility that the sovereign God could decree that a descendant of Abraham might serve as a sacrifice (such a decree, if God so chose to make it, would not be contrary to God’s justice).[8]

NOTES

(1) This quote is from the 14:20 mark of Adam Deen’s 2012 lecture Is God Evil? Why does God allow pain and suffering? I would boil down his statement to this helpful rule of thumb: just because you are unable to discern a sufficient reason for God to bring about an event does not mean God therefore lacked sufficient reason for such.

(2) This line is from the 1:05 mark of the video Islamic Theology vs. the Problem of Evil – Abdal Hakim Murad. Contrast that with Stephen Frye expressing his inability to reconcile the idea of an all-knowing, all-benificent God who would create a world which includes bone cancer in children, or insects which blind children by burrowing into their eyes and then eating their way back out. Or contemplate the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed roughly a quarter million people, including tens of thousands of children, and note Sadat bin Anwar’s statement, in his piece Killing babies for who? Allah or Yah___/Jesus?, that “God is the Sovereign Creator, the Giver of Life. He can take that life away, either directly or through the use of His agents (the wind, water, angels, etc).”

(3) At this point one may wonder: so, then, what is considered to be the murder of Jesus was actually licit rather than illicit? Were the human perpetrators engaging in licit activity? The more nuanced answer is that God’s plan can be licit while incorporating actions by humans which God decrees to be illicit. It is perhaps worth noting that even in Islam, one can imagine scenarios where the omniscient God brought about good from out of an evil act. In such a scenario, God knew the evil act would be committed, and did not stop it (which could be seen as meaning the act itself happened, in a sense, according to God’s will, and played a role in God’s plan). Even so, God can still decree that the human role in the act itself was evil (i.e. God bringing good out of an evil act need not necessarily strip said act of evil, nor need the evil of the act be transmitted to God’s plan for incorporating it).

(4) And thus I’d like to think of this as being the second entry in a series on the subject of the plausibility of Christian doctrine in light of “natural revelation,” the first entry being Can God Sleep? A Brief Dyophysite Exploration of Christology, Neurobiology and Somnology.

(5) A human troubled by that might find a bit of consolation in meditating on the fact that the human species has been blessed with the ability to consciously make an (admittedly always imperfect) effort to rise above, or separate itself from, the more overtly brutal aspects of the food chain (e.g. just as many humans can clothe themselves with alternatives to animal skins and furs, so too many humans can sustain themselves with foods other than animal flesh). Beyond that, a believer in the Bible might turn to Isaiah 65:25. While a great many exegetes treat that verse as highly metaphorical, one might nonetheless find a semblance of solace in reading it quite literally, and thus believing that God intends to bring about a future in which living creatures do not have to preserve their own lives by destroying and consuming other living creatures (note that reading Genesis 1:29 and Genesis 9:3 can give the impression that humans generally did not consume animal flesh before the flood). Despite all that, however, the ability of such thoughts to assuage one’s discomfort is tempered a bit, by the knowledge that a great many humans see no point to trying to abstain from such destruction at this time, not to mention the fact those who do try to do so always fall short (i.e. even if one successfully removes oneself from relying on animal products, they are still sustained by what amounts of a certain level of destruction of other living things). From a Christian perspective, the very consumption of animal flesh, even if troubling for some, is nonetheless permissible (i.e. it is not a sin, though one might wonder if this is an example of something being permitted for a time, due to the hardness of human hearts [analogous to the idea conveyed in Mark 10:5]).

(6) If one claims God had to create the food chain, as otherwise there’d be too many living things, two objections come to mind. First, God could create a system where each living thing disappears painlessly (i.e. living things can be removed from an ecosystem without requiring them to tear each other apart). Second, no matter how many organisms exist, that number will always be finite, and thus at any given time only a finite amount of space and resources would be required to sustain them (and surely God could create a finite amount of space and resources).

(7) On an interesting side note, the belief in Christ’s sacrifice is partially rooted in the Old Testament system of animal sacrifices as well as the first Passover. In both cases, some humans were consuming the flesh of some of the animals which were slaughtered (perhaps providing a slightly strengthened parallel with the food chain?). This becomes more interesting when one holds to those interpretations of Christianity (e.g. Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and certain Protestant sects) which posit that it is possible for the believer to literally consume the flesh and blood of Christ. Perhaps the lesson to be gleaned is that although the Creator has cast humans into this brutal world, where they too can be part of the food chain, in a show of love for the human species, their Creator entered Himself into a transcendent, supracosmic parallel to the food chain, for their benefit?

(8) While I, personally, feel it is of questionable relevance, I suspect someone will want to discuss Ezekiel 18 (at least insofar that it might be interpreted as setting a Biblical limit on God’s justice?), so I will comment briefly, here. The text in Ezekiel can be read as employing a prediction for the future (hence the future [or imperfect] tense constructions). If this is not clear enough, readers are invited to read it together with the 31st chapter of Jeremiah. Here are two relevant excerpts:

Ezekiel 18:2-4
What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Jeremiah 31:29-31
In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

Notice that both texts are addressing the same saying, yet the text in Jeremiah seems more clear about this being in the future (as the text can be read as linking it with the [at that time still forthcoming] New Covenant). So the text need not be understood as saying that it is at all times impossible for one person to suffer for another person’s sins. Rather, the text can be read as meaning that, in the future, there will be instances where one will not suffer for the sin of a parent or child. Such does not preclude Christ’s sacrifice.

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Categories: Christianity, Islam

71 replies

  1. Abraham’s story with his son is a test. If God commanded something, we should obey even if we don’t know the good reasons behind that order because God is Hakeem( wise). And God wanted to test Abraham with advanced knowledge that son is not gonna die. The wisdome behind that test is manifested clearly in this very blessed Day in which muslims follow the path of their Father Abraham. Surah Hajj : 34-37

    Also, I find it so absurd and illogical that christians rely on God’s infinite attributes to justfiy their nonsense beliefs. This is called Sofsataiah.
    I can say God can be Satan since God has no limits for his ability and so on..! When the language loses its job, any thing can be true and not true in the same time( i.e SofsaTa’iah).

    Finally, It’s very satanic to believe that God of Abraham became a created being to take the job of animals. It’s the work of devil itself.

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    • Greetings `Abdullah

      `Abdullah wrote:
      «If God commanded something, we should obey even if we don’t know the good reasons behind that order because God is Hakeem( wise).»

      Agreed. This relates to a rule of thumb I proposed in the first end note of the blog entry: just because a human person cannot discern a morally sufficient reason for a decree of God, that does not mean God therefore lacked a sufficient reason for such. Can we agree to this rule?

      `Abdullah wrote:
      «God wanted to test Abraham with advanced knowledge that son is not gonna die.»

      Again, we are agreed. My point was only that the faith of Abraham did not preclude the possibility of God decreeing a human (even a descendant of Abraham) serve as a sacrifice. God is sovereign, and thus if God so chose to have a person be sacrificed, that would not impugn God’s justice.

      `Abdullah wrote:
      «Surah Hajj : 34-37»

      Just a quick question, to keep in mind for future discussion: is the slitting of an animal’s throat required in order for one’s taqwa to reach God? Or can one’s taqwa reach God even without an animal being killed? [I assume the latter is the case, but I want to confirm that we are on the same page, here.]

      `Abdullah wrote:
      «I find it so absurd and illogical that christians rely on God’s infinite attributes to justfiy their nonsense beliefs.»

      I would ask that you elaborate on what you are referring to here (especially since you earlier wrote that we should trust God’s commands even if we cannot make sense of them). What, specifically, in my blog entry is this attempting to respond to?

      `Abdullah wrote:
      «It’s very satanic to believe that God of Abraham became a created being to take the job of animals.»

      I certainly do not believe that God became a created being (and I imagine this is the point where people want to discuss the Incarnation instead of the topic of the blog entry?). That aside, I was merely drawing a parallel between the food chain, on the one hand, and the Christian doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice, on the other (though I did make a passing reference, in the seventh end note, to the interesting added detail of the view of Catholics, Orthodox, and some classical Protestants, that we can literally consume the flesh and blood of Christ [rooted in perhaps a rather literal interpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, Mark 14:22-24, John 6:35-57], but that was not to say Christ simply replaces animals; rather it was to note that Christ placed us in this curiously brutal system and then entered Himself into what might be seen as a sort of supracosmic parallel system). However, I would prefer we explore the actual points of the blog entry rather than sink to what amounts to little more than name-calling (e.g. “this is Satanic!”).

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    • “is the slitting of an animal’s throat required in order for one’s taqwa to reach God? ”
      The point is to (thank) God for what He has provided for us.
      The matter of (how) to slaughter those animals is something God wants us to do to remove blood.

      “I certainly do not believe that God became a created being”
      You believe that Jesus is a man( i.e a created being). Anything beyond this, it would be the language matter.

      “but that was not to say Christ simply replaces animals”
      Jesus took the place of animals for you whether you say it or not.

      You have to invent a new language to make your nonsense belief be sound

      Finally, God doesn’t die.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings `Abdullah

      Permit me to note, again, that I wish to ask if you agree to this general rule of thumb:

        Just because a human person cannot discern a morally sufficient reason for a decree of God, that does not mean God therefore lacked a sufficient reason for such.

      I suspect you agree with this (as you seemed to allude to it when you said we should trust God’s command even if we do not understand it), but I want to make sure we are clear, and on the same page.

      ***

      On the subject of animal sacrifice…

      I (Denis) asked:
      «is the slitting of an animal’s throat required in order for one’s taqwa to reach God? Or can one’s taqwa reach God even without an animal being killed?»

      `Abdullah replied:
      «The point is to (thank) God for what He has provided for us. The matter of (how) to slaughter those animals is something God wants us to do to remove blood.»

      That doesn’t seem to clearly answer the question. Mind you, I suspect that’s pretty close to a “no” answer to the first question and a “yes” answer to the second question (i.e. no, slitting an animal’s throat is not required for one’s taqwa to reach God; yes, one’s taqwa could reach God without an animal being killed), but rather than attempt to discern your answer indirectly from what you wrote, I want to be clear.

      So, again, is the slitting of an animal’s throat required in order for one’s taqwa to reach God? Or can one’s taqwa reach God even without an animal being killed? Or to put it another way, is God incapable of receiving one’s taqwa, without the death of an animal playing a role? Was God forced to institute animal slaughter as a means of helping human taqwa reach God? Or was it more of a free decision to involve elements which might not be considered necessary from God’s perspective?

      Now, from experience on this blog, I know that comments often introduce topic changes which moves the discussion farther and farther away from the subject of the blog entry those comments are supposed to be on. So, I’m going to say we can discuss the Incarnation or the concept that “God died” in another thread.

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    • “So, again, is the slitting of an animal’s throat required in order for one’s taqwa to reach God? Or can one’s taqwa reach God even without an animal being killed?”
      So if I answered by (NO), you think that makes the doors open for christians to say whatever you want about God’s wisdom.
      Then God can be adulterer justifying the world by sex!
      Don’t ask how that belief makes sense or how contradictory/idiot it is. Just believe since we don;’t understand God’s wisdom & nature!
      It’s the same thing when you tell me that 3 is 1or God became a created being to take the place of animals!

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    • Greetings `Abdullah

      I (Denis) asked:
      «is the slitting of an animal’s throat required in order for one’s taqwa to reach God? Or can one’s taqwa reach God even without an animal being killed?»

      `Abdullah responded:
      «So if I answered by (NO), you think that makes the doors open for christians to say whatever you want about God’s wisdom. Then God can be adulterer justifying the world by sex!»

      No, actually, that was not my line of thought, nor am I sure how you reached such a conclusion. But I remain interested in your actual, and honest answer to the question.

      `Abdullah responded:
      «It’s the same thing when you tell me that 3 is 1 or God became a created being to take the place of animals!»

      Three is one, God became a created being… as I mentioned before, I often sense an desire to try to direct discussions away from their original topics. If you would like to discuss such subjects, perhaps another thread is the best place for such (by the way, do you have a presence on FaceBook?).

      As for God replacing animals, that seems to me an over-simplification, stripping what was actually proposed of its nuance. Before I attempt to again clarify, permit me to attempt to set the tone by quoting a former Gershom Scholem Professor of Kabbalah at Hebrew University, Joseph Dan:

        «Jewish mysticism did not forsake the element of closeness between man and God that is inherent in the imago Dei symbolism. The parallel structure of both the human and divine realms enables man, in his religious and ethical deeds, to influence and even shape the divine processes.»
        [Source: Joseph Dan, “Imago Dei,” in Arthur A. Cohen & Paul Mendes-Flohr (eds.), 20th Century Jewish Religious Thought, (Philadelphia: JPS, 2009), pp. 477-478.]

      Now, my position would not be as “extreme” as professor Dan’s, but I share that to show that even in certain wings of Rabbinic Judaism, there is a recognition of there being the possibility of there being parallel structures between the created realm and a supra-cosmic realm, where what’s happening in the former somewhat reflects something occurring in the latter.

      So, with that in mind, I did not argue that Christ merely replace animals (on the contrary, the sacrifice of Christ has occurred, yet we are still killing and consuming other living organisms, and non-human living organisms are engaging in quite a bit of killing and eating as well [and even some from our own species are sometimes killed and eaten by non-human animals, with still many other non-human organisms feeding on us without killing us]). The point was that God established, within the biological realm of our world, a system where one living thing can preserve itself somatically at the expense of the life of another living thing, and that the Christian faith (perhaps somewhat tacitly) proposes that Christ entered Himself into something akin to a parallel system in a supracosmic realm, where humans can preserve themselves “spiritually” at the expense of His life.

      I continue to find the parallel (and what it might tell us about theodicy) fascinating, and it does not cease to be intriguing for me simply by reducing (or oversimplifying) the above to “God replaced animals; Satanic.”

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    • “No, actually, that was not my line of thought,”
      Why not ? You believe already – even if you don’t say that explicitly- that almighty God became a created being to take the place of jews’ animals in the OT.
      You’re even justifying that based on assumption that that there’s a parallel of that belief with life’s circle in nature !
      I can give you examples of how sexual life is like in nature!

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  2. Wow! I always had a sneaking suspicion that “Modernity” with its notions of “survival of the fittest”, is morally bankrupt—but considering the direction of ethico-morality of this post—it seems—perhaps Christianity is also deficient!!??

    1) All that is created, works according to God’s laws determined by God’s will. (Qadr=measure/destiny)
    2) Human beings function/behave according to the “nature” (fitra) determined by God’s will and our interactions with Nature/others (God’s creations) provides both the stimulus and constraints to our “nature”.
    3) God’s creations have been endowed with various degrees of will/no-will—a rock has no-will and therefore completely submits to God’s will—a bird or a goat may have some degree of will—but human beings have a much larger degree of will/autonomy…though the degree may differ according to maturity and circumstances…
    4) God, most compassionate, most merciful, has sent Guidance to human beings so that they may use their (God-given) will for the benefit of all of God’s creations.
    5) This Guidance is in accordance with human nature (fitra) therefore, is not a criteria for non-humans such as birds or rocks (obviously)….(nor is it a criteria for God—as God is not a “Human being”—at least in Islam–“God’s right” is a different subject)
    6) Human nature has desires, which unchecked, can lead to harm—the story of the 2 sons of Adam in the Quran illustrate this point—therefore, responsibilities balanced by rights provide a framework of contemplating human justice systems. Survival of the fittest (or “the baddest”?) cannot offer a comprehensive, consistent foundation for Justice….it only leads to might makes right utilitarianism….
    7) Human conceptions of Justice is only possible under the framework of the inherent equal/equivalent worth of all humanity(human dignity)—without this principle—systems of “justice” will be faulty/unbalanced….(unjust)…therefore, those systems of justice based on a conception of superiority/privilege/entitlement of one group, class, race…etc…are going to err.

    thus—when it comes to the food chain….The Quranic principle is that the God-given responsibility of being God’s Trustees (to work for the benefit of all of God’s creations) is balanced by the God-given right to make (responsible) use of the earths resources (such as food) for human well-being (as “we” are also part of God’s creations). None of God’s creations are superior/inferior to the other—that is why right (of use) must be balanced by the responsibility of care/maintenance.(Trusteeship)

    For a Human kill an innocent child (story of Abraham) serves no purpose—(a child is not food)—thus, it is unnecessary for human well-being…(rather, it is detrimental) Therefore, simply because a human parent is responsible for the human child does not give the parent the right to dispose of the child. (or for one adult to dispose/kill another). Humanity, as Trustees of God, have more responsibilities. Though all of creation is of inherent equivalent worth, the balance of rights and responsibilities differs. This is the reason God gave Guidance. (ethico-moral principles and laws.)….and some might argue that this is the point of that story—that human sacrifice is unnecessary and so an animal was substituted for the child….

    …and this ties into the ethics/morality of self-defense…preservation of life is important therefore, a person who is under attack has the right to self-defense, even though this might cause injury/harm to the other…one need not stand still and sacrifice ones life when attacked….(self-defense does not excuse unnecessary or excessive harm to the other…)

    It also ties into the concept of halal (and zabiha/dhabiha=ritual slaughter) so that “life” is given due respect.

    …from the ethics of food production and consumption to the ethics of criminal justice to the rules of war between nations—-Islamic principles are consistent, comprehensive and balanced.

    The notion of human responsibility acts as a constraint and balance to concepts of human rights….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings Anon

      While I appreciate your response, with all due respect, it struck me as far too general for me to be sure what, precisely, you were attempting to respond to. In fact, it seems to me I could agree with much of what you wrote, without diverging from what I wrote in the blog entry above. So, while I await your further elaboration, I want to ask some clarifying questions, which I feel have the potential to take us back to the point of the blog entry.

      Mainly I wish to ask you, do you agree with all, some, or none, of the the following propositions (and if it is some, could you clarify which ones you agree with and which you disagree with)?

      1. God is the sovereign Definer of justice, as well as of right and wrong; there is no law giver above God whom God is subject to.
      2. No decree of God can ever be illicit. Any decree of God is de facto licit.
      3. Humans are not in a place to adequately question or judge the decrees of God (i.e. even if a human cannot discern a sufficient reason for a decree of God, that does not mean God therefore lacks sufficient reason for such).
      4. So-called “natural disasters,” like tsunamis, are the direct will of God. If God wishes, God can created a tsunami that kills tens of thousands of children (like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami).
      5. God could have decreed that no baby is ever harmed as a consequence of its mother consuming intoxicants while said baby is in her womb, yet God nonetheless intentionally designed humans such that some babies suffer physical deformities, brain damage and even death, as a direct consequence of their mother consuming intoxicants while they are in the womb. This is not an accident; rather God deliberately set this design in place with full knowledge of the results.
      6. The food chain is a system, established by God, in which one organism can preserve itself at the expense of the life of another organism.
      7. God could have created an alternative system, where organisms were preserved without any other organisms dying in the process of said preservation.

      Before closing, I wish to comment on the following, which I found interesting:

      Anon wrote:
      «For a Human kill an innocent child (story of Abraham) serves no purpose—(a child is not food)—thus, it is unnecessary for human well-being»

      I agree a child is not food, but the line above begs the question, if God willed for a particular child to serve as food, are you saying killing it would be permissible then? And who determines whether or not a child can serve as food? And is God incapable of decreeing that a child should die if the child is not going to serve as food?

      On a side note, if the death of a child hinges on whether that death benefits human well being, one might wonder: does this only apply to children killed by humans, or can it also apply to children killed by non-humans (e.g. children killed by animals, children killed by tidal waves)? Either way, wouldn’t the story of al-Khidr (cf. surat al-Kahf 18:74,80-81) entail that God can decree the killing of a child for reasons which are not apparent to mere humans?

      Finally, is it your position that what God decides regarding who suffers and who does not, or who dies and who lives, hinges on necessity?

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  3. Yes, Khidr is an interesting yet challenging story…

    My comment was in relation to the equating of the sacrifice of Christ to the “food chain system” and from there to morality/justice….

    …specifically to what u wrote:-
    “It is here that one might see somewhat of a parallel between the food chain and the Christian conception of Christ’s sacrifice. While some non-Christian theists might balk at the idea that a just God would create a system in which the suffering and death of an innocent person could play a role in the atonement of sins committed by unrighteous humans, a theist can infer from creation that God does work roughly along those lines. From a theistic perspective, God clearly has created a world where one organism can preserve its own life at the expense of the life of another, often innocent, organism. If that is the system God has created for the biological realm, it begs the question of what would be implausible about God creating a roughly parallel system for a sort of spiritual realm, where humans preserve themselves from the destructive aspects of sin at the expense of the life of one innocent Person?”

    Summary of my comment:-
    “A food chain system” or “survival of the fittest” or other such conceptions based on a hierarchy of superior/inferior, of entitlements (rights), or privileges for the special few…etc, cannot yield any principles of balanced Justice or morality….

    Rather than looking at animal behavior to create ethico-moral systems or conceptions of justice, it is better to start with Tawheed?

    Yr 7 points—I could agree with some…however, since the premise behind the statements seems to indicate a Divine arbitrariness, (?)—with which I disagree—I would prefer to disagree with all yr points for now.
    …and perhaps ask you…do any of your proposed alternative scenarios have a purpose?

    God’s rights vs (God-given) Human right to justice.— These are separate and so it is best not to mix them up or equate with each other. God gives life and takes life and this is God’s privilege—why? Because God is uncreated and therefore superior to all creation. This reasoning cannot apply to human beings which are God’s creations and therefore inherently of equivalent worth. The human right to justice is the right to redress from an injury or harm caused by another. Therefore a genocide and a natural disaster cannot be equated–they are entirely different categories.

    Necessity—this concept is relational. When talking of necessity, one has to keep in mind the question—necessary for whom. Therefore, behind the concept of “necessity” is the idea/premise of purpose (of why). God is not arbitrary but purposeful. God’s guidance leads us towards balance which creates harmony which leads to peace.

    U wrote:-
    “…spiritual realm, where humans preserve themselves from the destructive aspects of sin at the expense of the life of one innocent Person”
    —if that is the logic—why kill another “innocent life”? just take/sacrifice your own life and go to heaven..?!…
    I fail to see how the “sacrifice of Christ” can work as a principle of ethics/morality or as a foundation for Justice?.

    Inshallah, I hope to comment later, on some of the other interesting questions/points u raised…

    Like

    • Greetings again, Anon

      Anon wrote:
      «Yes, Khidr is an interesting yet challenging story…»

      I mainly brough it up just to help reach a point of common ground: that God can have reasons which are not always discernible to mere humans. Hence a rule of thumb I have proposed in the blog entry (first end note) and in my reply to `Abdullah, above:

        Just because a human cannot discern a sufficient reason for a decree of God, that does not mean God therefore lacked sufficient reason for such.

      Do you agree with that rule of thumb? If not, why not?

      Anon wrote:
      «“A food chain system” or “survival of the fittest” or other such conceptions based on a hierarchy of superior/inferior, of entitlements (rights), or privileges for the special few…etc, cannot yield any principles of balanced Justice or morality….»

      I was not appealing to “survival of the fittest,” but rather to the decree of God. It seems clear to me that God could have created a system where organisms were preserved without the death of other organisms ever playing any role, yet God nonetheless decided to put in place a system where one organism preserves its life at the expense of the life of another organism.

      Anon wrote:
      «Rather than looking at animal behavior to create ethico-moral systems or conceptions of justice, it is better to start with Tawheed?»

      Again, I’m not so much looking at animal behavior as I am at the decree of God. I am starting from the position that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and sovereign, and that the systems we see in place in creation (like the food chain) are the result of God’s will and decree. And I try to explore what we might infer about God from that.

      Anon wrote:
      «Yr 7 points—I could agree with some…however, since the premise behind the statements seems to indicate a Divine arbitrariness, (?)—with which I disagree—I would prefer to disagree with all yr points for now.»

      Well, I find this rather unfortunate. I am not arguing for “Divine arbitrariness” (though I do believe, as I noted above, that it is possible for God’s “reasons” to not always be known by mere humans). I would ask that you examine those seven propositions or points on their own merits, not on some assumption about what conclusion you think they might reach. Do you think you can tell me which ones you agree with and which ones you disagree with?

      Anon wrote:
      «do any of your proposed alternative scenarios have a purpose?»

      This takes us back to the question of whether humans are required to know the purpose of every decision of God.

      Anon wrote:
      «God’s rights vs (God-given) Human right to justice.— These are separate and so it is best not to mix them up or equate with each other.»

      Agreed. That was actually my point: some try to employ human analogies to reach conclusions about God’s justice (e.g. to leap from the premise that a given course of action would be unjust if carried out by a human, to the conclusion that it would likewise be unjust for God to carry out something analogous), but the rules that apply to humans do not apply to God.

      Anon wrote:
      «a genocide and a natural disaster cannot be equated»

      I think that depends on whether said genocide was sanctioned by God. If one group of humans wipe out another group of humans without God’s permission, that is mass murder. Even killing one human without God’s permission is murder. But God can kill as many humans as God wishes to kill, and God can use any tools God wishes to use (e.g. water, wind, fire, shifting tectonic plates, other animals [whether human or not], et cetera).

      Anon wrote:
      «God is not arbitrary but purposeful. God’s guidance leads us towards balance which creates harmony which leads to peace.»

      I agree, but I would add, again, that God’s purpose need not be discernible to humans, and, moreover, that such purpose need not preclude other purposeful possibilities. For example, consider the theodicean objections of the atheist Stephen Frye (mentioned in the second end note of the blog entry). Are you certain you know what God’s purpose is for bone cancer in children? Or would the more intellectually honest answer be that we can speculate, but we are not certain? And would you say that God is incapable of guiding humans toward balance, harmony, and peace, without bone cancer in children?

      Anon wrote:
      «why kill another “innocent life”?»

      Again, this goes back to God’s decree, does it not? Why do so many organisms (including, but not limited to, humans) preserve their life by consuming other organisms (whether animals or plants)? Such relates directly to God’s decree, and the system which God has established. Why this, and not that? God’s decree.

      Anon wrote:
      «I fail to see how the “sacrifice of Christ” can work as a principle of ethics/morality or as a foundation for Justice?.»

      But let’s be honest, God’s justice is not limited to the understanding of a single mere human called “Anon” on the internet, right? God’s decree can, at times, be beyond your understanding, can it not?

      Like

  4. This article is built on the premise that God requires blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.

    Without going into details we see over and over how forgiveness of sins is attained without a single drop of blood being shed ( cf. Jonah in Niniveh, the baptism of forgiveness by John the Baptist and Zacchias the tax collector )

    In the face of such facts, putting Jesus into such an ordeal is unnecessary.

    To recap; this article would have had a point in the only way to forgiveness is the shedding of blood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings Musegele

      Musegele wrote:
      «This article is built on the premise that God requires blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.»

      Actually, the article argues no such thing. With all due respect, this seems to be attacking a straw man. The only point of the article was to explore whether God establishing the sacrifice of Jesus as playing a role in atonement necessarily impugn’s God’s justice (and what we might infer about God’s justice from discussions on theodicy with atheists and from creation).

      As for what you appealed to, I would note, however, that just because a text does not explicitly mention sacrifice that does not mean sacrifice did therefore had no role (even Rabbinic Judaism seems to acknowledge this, as is hinted at in, for example, Talmud Bavli, tractate Makot 11B, which discusses the implications of Numbers 35:22-25, and concludes that the death of the priest provides atonement for the person who committed manslaughter, even though the text of the Torah does not make such explicit). [On a mild side note, there is an interesting question about the parameters of Romans 3:25, and the extent to which Christ’s sacrifice can reach into the past, and the extent to which God took such into account.]

      But there is another point to be made here. You argue that people have been forgiven without sacrifice playing any role (or at least that a believer in the Old Testament should take such a position). Yet the Bible nonetheless clearly has God establishing a system of animal sacrifice which played a role in some semblance of atonement (and even Rabbinic Judaism acknowledges that God can still will for the death of a human person to play a role in sin atonement [cf. Talmud Bavli, Mo`ed Qatan 28A, a text I may explore in a future blog entry]). Ergo, even if we embrace your position (for the sake of argument), from a Biblical (and Rabbinic) perspective, that would still not preclude God from instituting something (even something you consider unnecessary). And this relates back to the section of the blog entry headlined “Couldn’t God Simply Forgive Sinners?”

      Like

    • If human/deity sacrifice was a question of expediency you could at least argue that this HAD to happen for salvation.
      But this isn’t the case. We see over and over people being forgiven without any blood being shed.
      The crucifixion is unnecessary when other means of forgiveness and salvation are available.

      Liked by 3 people

    • this is an excellent point.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The crucifixion is simply gratuitous violence.

      Like

    • Greetings again,

      Musegele wrote:
      «If human/deity sacrifice was a question of expediency you could at least argue that this HAD to happen for salvation. But this isn’t the case. We see over and over people being forgiven without any blood being shed.»

      As I wrote to you in my previous response, while there may be verses which mention forgiveness without any explicit mention of sacrifice, that in itself does not mean sacrifice therefore played no role. [If you have in mind something more than verses that are silent on sacrifice, such as verses which some interpret contrary to sacrifice, my response to Ibn Awad, below, may also be of interest.]

      But there is a second point here, which also appeared in my previous reply to you: even if we are to take the position that atonement can occur without sacrifice (a question briefly explored in the blog entry itself), that in itself still does not preclude God from establishing that a person’s death play a role in atonement (as I noted in my previous reply to you, this is an idea –that God can have a person’s death play a role in atonement even if it is possible to have atonement separate from that death– which can also be inferred from the Rabbinic Jewish corpora as well).

      As for the objection that such would therefore be unnecessary, precisely that issue was explored in the blog. All sorts of suffering and death in this world might strike human minds as unnecessary, but that does not preclude God from decreeing such (cf. the section on the food chain in the blog entry, and the section which immediately follows it).

      Like

    • Hi.

      Are you willing to entertain the idea that salvation cab be attained without the sacrifice of Jesus?

      Like

  5. Eid Mubarak.

    We prayed Eid today and sacrificed animals with our monies to show obedience to Allah and to honour Abraham’s willingness to follow God’s command.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Repentance is not enough I see. You have to add sacrifice. And ablution. And throwing stones at rocks. And and …………..

      You keep telling us that God doesn’t need sacrifice.

      Why is Allah so thirsty for blood?

      Can’t you honour Abraham without blood?

      Like

    • “Why is Allah so thirsty for blood?”
      He’s not.

      Quran 22:37 “It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right.”

      Sacrifice is another rite of worship just like prayer and charity. Repentance can take many forms, including doing good deedsز
      Quran 11:114 “And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember.”

      While your God basically could not forgive mankind without human sacrifice, something he absolutely prohibited in the old testament

      Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings Ibn Awad

      I suspect (or hope?) that Erasmus’ questions might have been intended somewhat rhetorically. In other words, there is a question of whether one could demonstrate that their piety without an animal’s throat being slit. If the blood does not reach God, was the spilling of such blood therefore unnecessary? If it is about feeding persons, could not persons be fed without the slaughtering of animals? If we can agree that such acts of charity and piety could be achieved without any animals dying, can we then agree that God can nonetheless institute a killing of living things which strikes some humans as unnecessary? If so, we return to interesting questions about the ability of humans to judge the decree of God.

      Like

  6. @ Denis
    when the premise behind the statements is one that cannot be agreed to—it is difficult to assent to the statements—-even if they would be agreeable in a different context…so I would have to rephrase the statements….

    —The starting premise is that God has no needs—it is Human beings that need God.
    —The need to understand God’s will is a human need—because we desire to please/worship God.
    —To this end—God has endowed us with Intellect/reason and with Intuition/”heart”. This can be used or abused because humans have (limited) free-will. We can use our intellect and intuition to understand God’s will (for the purpose of worship) or we can abuse our creativity and imagination to come up with wild speculations.
    Therefore, human beings have a responsibility to use their intellect to “know” God’s will (Trusteeship) but also the humility to keep away from dogmatism/arrogance so that we do not “speak for God” as if we are God.

    In the above context—that of the human right and human responsibility to pursue knowledge—with humility…
    I could agree to the statement:-
    u wrote”-
    “Just because human intellect cannot discern a sufficient reason for God’s will, that does not mean God therefore lacked sufficient reason for such.”
    ….provided that human beings do not give up the pursuit of knowledge as that is the way to avoid falling into the error of superstition/blind belief.

    Therefore, I cannot fully agree to your inference of God’s will of the “food chain system”….because it misses an important element of God’s will—-that of the responsibility of Trusteeship of all his creation entrusted to humanity.

    This ties in with the other point—Everything occurs with God’s will (permission)—obviously if God did not will it—how could it occur?—this does not absolve human responsibility or accountability for our intentions and actions. Why?—because the whole purpose of the existence of humanity (in this specific “system”) is a Test (remember Adam and the test?)
    God has given humanity (limited) will to make choices within the constraints of our disposition, circumstances and environment. Therefore, homicide, genocide…etc, can occur but cannot be excused. Humanity is not responsible for God’s will—but we ARE responsible for the abuse of our human will/agency. Therefore, genocide and natural disaster cannot be equated—where human agency is abused—humans must be held accountable.

    Such an understanding of God’s will and the purpose of humanity is not beyond human comprehension….?…

    Like

    • Greetings Anon

      Anon wrote:
      «when the premise behind the statements is one that cannot be agreed to»

      I would ask that you explore the propositions I put forth on their own merits. Rejecting them on the possibility that they might support a conclusion we dislike seems to risk putting the cart before the horse. Let’s explore the propositions, and then see where they lead us.

      Anon wrote:
      «God has no needs—it is Human beings that need God.»

      Agreed.

      Anon wrote:
      «human beings have a responsibility to use their intellect to “know” God’s will (Trusteeship) but also the humility to keep away from dogmatism/arrogance so that we do not “speak for God” as if we are God.»

      Okay.

      Anon wrote:
      «I could agree to the statement:-
      “Just because human intellect cannot discern a sufficient reason for God’s will, that does not mean God therefore lacked sufficient reason for such.”
      ….provided that human beings do not give up the pursuit of knowledge»

      That’s fine with me. I’m glad we can agree on that proposition (which I think is a fairly standard proposition for theists when discussing theodicy with atheists).

      Anon wrote:
      «I cannot fully agree to your inference of God’s will of the “food chain system”….because it misses an important element of God’s will—-that of the responsibility of Trusteeship of all his creation entrusted to humanity.»

      I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to, here, as my appeal to the food chain was not to absolve humans of responsibility (e.g. claim we can treat other living things however we please); rather, the appeal to the food chain was part of an exploration of God’s justice.

      Anon wrote:
      «Everything occurs with God’s will (permission)—obviously if God did not will it—how could it occur?—this does not absolve human responsibility or accountability for our intentions and actions.»

      Agreed. I myself touched on something along these lines in the third end note of the blog entry.

      Anon wrote:
      «homicide, genocide…etc, can occur but cannot be excused.»

      I would clarify: illicit forms of homicide, et cetera, cannot be excused. God, however, is permitted to bring about the death of humans (whether it be one human or a great many), as not act of God can ever be illicit.

      Anon wrote:
      «genocide and natural disaster cannot be equated—where human agency is abused—humans must be held accountable.»

      Well, I would agree that human beings cannot unilaterally engage in genocide. But any comparison of genocide and natural disasters, in this thread, should more be about God’s justice (as I think we already agree human action has limitations placed upon them). Can God kill a quarter million people (including tens of thousands of children)? If so, is God’s justice impugned based on what tools are employed (e.g. wind, water, tectonic plates, other humans)?

      Having said that, I must confess, I get the sense that our correspondence thus far is still only scratching the surface of the blog entry.

      Like

  7. “Abraham’s story with his son is a test.”

    But God would not test by commanding someone to do something that is always morally wrong.

    So the test shows that sacrificing a human being is not wrong if God commands it.

    Like

    • Erasmus

      If you live in a glass house don’t throw stones. The Biblical God commands lies.

      1 Kings 22:20-22
      20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
            “One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’
          22 ” ‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.
            ” ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
            ” ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’

      Thanks.

      Like

  8. Denis, your argumentation truly is beyond what any Muslim apologist can compete with..

    I think you have them baffled.

    Like

  9. “If you live in a glass house don’t throw stones. The Biblical God commands lies. ”

    He didn’t command the prophets to lie.

    We don’t possess the freedom of the spirits. We are under the law.

    Like

  10. Mr. Giron,

    What I understood your argument to be is: Muslims and Christians agree that Morality and Justice are totally dependant on Divine Command. The Divine Will is beyond our capacity to fully encompass. Thus, Non-Christians’ attempt using analogies to demonstrate Christ’s supposed sacrifice as cruel and unjust is fruitless and nonsensical. (Basically, Theodicy can be used to sufficiently justify Christs’ sacrifice).

    But you failed to undertake that it is exactly the Divine Will as portrayed in the OT & NT is what forms the bedrock of the argument. The Christian’s position is purely dogmatic, our position is based on evidence, that:
    1) God demonstrated his willingness to forgive without a blood sacrifice.
    2) Sins are not inherited. A man must atone for his own sins.
    3) Human sacrifice is completely prohibited. (Jesus dies as a man according to Romans 5:17). The Binding of Abraham’s son was a trial. God had foreknowledge the son would be saved.

    Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.”

    Psalms 40:6 “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering, you have not required.”

    Luke 3:3 “(John the Baptist) went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”

    Matthew 4:12,17 “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee…. From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

    The very words of Yahweh, Ezekiel 18:19-21:
    [19]”Yet you say, “Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?” When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live.
    [20]The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.
    [21]But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live”.

    Your answer to this question “Couldn’t God Simply Forgive Sinners?” portrays the Non-Christian position as conjectural or hypothetical “He could simply forgive”. The reality is that this position is evident from scripture, while yours is the conjectural. God always forgives with honest repentance.

    Analogies serve to enrich the rhetoric, not to form the core of the argument. If an analogy is proven to be deficient, it does not follow that the rest of the argument is automatically falsified.

    I would like to understand how you harmonise Christ’s sacrifice as a necessary evil, or as Paul puts it “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” Galatians 3:13 with the points I mentioned above

    Liked by 3 people

    • “I would like to understand how you harmonise Christ’s sacrifice as a necessary evil, or as Paul puts it “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” Galatians 3:13 with the points I mentioned above”
      👍🏼

      Like

    • “Analogies serve to enrich the rhetoric, not to form the core of the argument. If an analogy is proven to be deficient, it does not follow that the rest of the argument is automatically falsified.”

      Alhamdullah, Ibn Awad’s comment and elaboration both clearly exposed and destroyed Giron’s conjectural argument.

      Like

    • Greetings Ibn Awad

      Ibn Awad summarized my position thusly:
      «Basically, Theodicy can be used to sufficiently justify Christs’ sacrifice»

      Or, only that what theists (Muslims and Christians alike) rightly tell atheists in discussions about theodicy can undermine other arguments about Christ’s sacrifice being (a priori?) contrary to God’s justice.

      Ibn Awad argued:
      «1) God demonstrated his willingness to forgive without a blood sacrifice.»

      I would say there are Biblical passages that can be read in a vacuum in such a way, though, as was noted in my response to Musegele, above, I would be careful to note that just because sacrifice is not mentioned in a particular text, that in itself does not mean sacrifice therefore played no role. Nonetheless, I will get into the verse you cited which seem to be a rejection of sacrifice, below.

      Ibn Awad argued:
      «2) Sins are not inherited. A man must atone for his own sins.»

      The consequences of sin can be inherited. And yes, people must repent of their own sins, but that in itself does not preclude another playing a role in atonement. I realize there is more to your position, which I will get into, below.

      Ibn Awad argued:
      «3) Human sacrifice is completely prohibited.»

      I would say that God has willed that we are not allowed to carry out our own human sacrifices. But a prohibition on us sacrificing other humans need not preclude the possibility of God decreeing that the death of a human can play a role in the atonement of other humans (this is a nuanced distinction recognized even in Rabbinic Jewish texts, like the Talmud, a couple of which were referenced in my response to Musegele, above).

      Ibn Awad wrote:
      «The Binding of Abraham’s son was a trial. God had foreknowledge the son would be saved.»

      I agree. But my point was that the faith of Abraham did not preclude the possibility of God decreeing a human (even a descendant of Abraham himself) serving as a sacrifice. There is a tacit implication of Abraham’s understanding of God’s sovereignty (and justice) within his show of faith: God could decree such if God so willed, and humans are not in a place to judge.

      Ibn Awad quoted:
      «Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.”
      Psalms 40:6 “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering, you have not required.”»

      So too, 1 Samuel 15:22, Jeremiah 6:20, and Jeremiah 7:22.

      However, I think the statement in 1 Samuel sheds light on the statement in Hosea, in so far that the negation is relative to the comparison. That is to say, what might be read into the verse in Hosea is more explicit in the corresponding text in 1 Samuel: mercy and obedience would have been preferable to such sacrifices. In other words, God would prefer that humans simply not sin, rather than go through a cycle of sinning and then sacrificing, as the latter, especially if it is done unrepentantly, is deplorable.

      So too the statements in Jeremiah shed light on the Psalm you referenced. Other passages in Jeremaih affirm sacrifices, and much of the Torah affirms sacrifices (a relevant point if you are asking me to consider these texts based on my belief in the Bible), so I would propose that the collective message of the Bible is analogous to that which I mentioned above: God really did establish sacrifices, but God prefers obedience (and mercy) rather than a continuous cycle of sinning and sacrifice (especially if the latter is insincere).

      In short, these texts do not strike me as conveying that God would not establish a system of sacrifice. Now, I suspect you might clarify that it was not your intention to deny God’s establishment of a sacrificial system (at least within the Biblical paradigm), but only to show that, even with God’s establishment of such, God can forgive without sacrifice. If so, I would note, as I alluded to above, that sacrifice can still play a role even if it such is not explicit in the relevant texts (and others). But that aside, even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that God can forgive without any sacrifice, that takes us to the section on whether God can simply forgive (which we will discuss below). But if we are saying God can forgive separate from sacrifice and yet also establish a system of sacrifice, such a position, I think, would support my position that God establishing the sacrifice of Christ is neither impossible nor even objectionable.

      Ibn Awad quoted:
      «Luke 3:3 “(John the Baptist) went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”
      Matthew 4:12,17 “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee…. From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’»

      I’m not sure how these texts are relevant. Of course, as a Christian, I believe repentance is necessary (in fact, I would propose that the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are unavailable to those who are unrepentant). [Regarding the appeal to John the Baptist, note that a believer in the Bible would also believe John called Jesus “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).] I look forward to your elaboration on how you understand these texts.

      Ibn Awad quoted:
      «The very words of Yah[___], Ezekiel 18:19-21»

      I touched on Ezekiel 18 in the 8th (and final) end note of the blog entry (which compared the opening of Ezekiel 18 to Jeremiah 31:29-31). The text need not be read as a rejection of the possibility of one suffering as a consequence (or even as atonement for) another person’s sins. Rather it can be read as referring to a future system, in conjunction with a new coventant, in which a prior system of sons and fathers suffering as a consequences of each other’s sins is done away with to some extent. But recourse to the rest of Scripture and even creation will show that it is not total denial of the possibility of one suffering as a consequence of another’s sins. [On a side note, the Ezekiel text contains within it a response to the charge that God’s system up to that point has been unjust (cf. vv. 25 & 29); keeping that in mind, and noticing the perhaps curious use of nefesh/soul, the text may be describing something other than mere somatic death.]

      Ibn Awad wrote:
      «Your answer to this question “Couldn’t God Simply Forgive Sinners?” portrays the Non-Christian position as conjectural or hypothetical “He could simply forgive”. The reality is that this position is evident from scripture, while yours is the conjectural. God always forgives with honest repentance.»

      While I agree repentance is always required, I do not agree that the texts we have examined necessitates that such always (or even necessarily ever) happens separate from sacrifice. Whatever the case, the point of the section you referenced (“Couldn’t God Simply Forgive Sinners?”) was that even if I take the position you put forth, that does not preclude God from establishing Christ’s death as a sacrifice for sin. And, interestingly enough, we seem to see hints of that in the Biblical texts you referenced do not preclude God from establishing a system of sacrifice for sin.

      Ibn Awad wrote:
      «I would like to understand how you harmonise Christ’s sacrifice as a necessary evil, or as Paul puts it “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” Galatians 3:13 with the points I mentioned above»

      I would be reluctant to call Christ’s sacrifice a “necessary evil”. Nonetheless, I think I have provided pieces of a reconciliation above, which I will attempt to summarize here: yes, repentance is required, but that does not preclude sacrifice from playing a role in atonement. Likewise, a text not mentioning the role of a particular sacrifice (e.g. Christ’s) does not mean no sacrifice therefore played any role. God would have preferred people be obedient rather than sin and then sacrifice (and conducting sacrifices without any sincerity or repentence arouses God’s wrath), but that does not preclude God from establishing a sacrifice.

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    • Hello Denis
      I do not wish to overwhelm you as there are a lot of comments you’re addressing. The Atonement is a massive topic and objections abound. But I find your position to be dogmatic and not evidential.

      Your response to the verses on forgiveness without sacrifice was that they do not sideline its importance. You’re right in that I never denied the importance of sacrifice in old testament religion, the verses meant to prove that God does indeed forgive without sacrifice.

      You argued that the validity of atonement without sacrifice does not rule out the possibility of atonement by sacrifice. Also you appealed to analogies on theodicy and scriptural interpretation to say that Sacrificial atonement is hypothetically valid, possible and moral as is forgiveness without sacrifice. Our argument is not that if God did so it is invalid, immoral and impossible, but that God- Almighty as He is- would not do such, based on His own words.

      For example, if a typical atheist would ask us: if God orders you to commit incest or infanticide or another repugnant act, would you obey/would it be moral? The natural answer would be affirmative, and resort to theodical arguments to prove such. The more nuanced and realistic answer would be that God would never order such a thing, not because He is subservient to an independent moral standard, but that according to His own commandments they’re abominations. Likewise, if Human sacrifice is continually considered abominable in the OT, we would not likely see God acknowledge such an act at any time or place, particularly of an innocent and sinless soul.

      A digression:
      “The consequences of sin can be inherited.”
      Paul says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And that through Christ’s death we are no longer slaves to sin but under the control of grace and righteousness. That is a point of contention. But we are all still under the reality of death and the possibility of eternal punishment. In effect, Christ’s sacrifice made it worse. There is no concept of hell in the old testament. God would punish you in this life, and when you die you’ll be sent to Sheol away from God. Now the wager of sin is not only death without resurrection according to Paul, but eternal suffering in Hell according to Rev 2:8.

      As I said in another comment, Sacrifice is a rite of worship. The offering is made to God, not God that makes offering to the world. That is understandable in most religions.

      Also, if Christ’s crucifixion was not a necessary evil, then why the appeal to theodicy?

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    • correction: its Rev 21:8

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    • Greetings again, Ibn Awad, and apologies for the delay in reply (I stepped away from the thread for a while and it slipped my mind, which I only realized while rereading through the comments, now).

      I would say there are two tracks, here. First, there is somewhat of a more strictly philosophical approach, which might allow us to explore the subject separate from any particular Scripture (which was the main approach of my blog entry). Secondly, there is a Biblical track, which attempts to take into account what the Bible says.

      [By the way, I’d be curious: if you agree that these different approaches exist, would it be your position that the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice cannot be objected to on purely philosophical grounds (i.e. separate from recourse to any religious scripture)?]

      Permit me to make a quick methodological point, regarding the Biblical track. It becomes difficult for me to isolate the texts one from another (i.e. to consider one yet not another). If I am asked to accept a text because it is in the Bible (i.e. an appeal to my faith), then I’m going to read such texts in light of the Bible as a whole, which mentions Christ’s sacrifice many times, and thus I will interpret such texts accordingly. However, if I am (even tacitly) asked to cast my faith in the Bible aside, then we may be at risk of reverting back to a purely philosophical approach, in which any particular Biblical text will seem to be of questionable relevance.

      Having said that, I have explored the texts you appealed to, and am willing to discuss them further, if you wish. As I have attempted to explain, none of them strike me as necessitating the conclusion that atonement has occurred without a sacrifice playing a role. I understand that if such texts are read in a vacuum, such a conclusion as yours can be reached, but my point is that other conclusions are possible as well, especially when such texts are read as part of the Bible as a whole.

      Moreover, even working within your position, which interprets the OT as both affirming sacrifices and teaching that it is permissible to forgive without sacrifices, it would nonetheless touch on a point made in the blog entry: even if God can freely forgive without sacrifice, that does not preclude God from establishing a system in which sacrifice nonetheless plays a role.

      Now, regarding your fourth paragraph, I agree with you that, if we presuppose the Bible (or other religious texts), or a particular interpretation of Christianity (or other religious traditions), we can conclude that God will not do precisely what, from a purely philosophical approach, we might otherwise say God could do (e.g. order one group of humans to hunt down, kill and eat another group of humans, et cetera). However, I do not see the Bible as teaching that God would not have a human death play a role in atonement. I would say that even the Rabbinic corpora recognizes an important distinction, here: God prohibiting us from unilaterally carrying out human sacrifices does not preclude God from willing that the death of a specific human provide atonement (as there are Talmudic texts which refer to the deaths of certain humans providing atonement for others).

      Regarding the digression, on the subject of Hell in the OT, I am of the opinion such is alluded to in Daniel 12:2 and Isaiah 66:24.

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  11. “it begs the question of why God would create a world with so much suffering and death, if such was (apparently) not necessary.[6]”

    If God intended for us to learn great wisdom through suffering and death. Why are they not necessary?

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    • Why is suffering and death necessary to learn wisdom?

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    • I did not say they are necessary.

      My point is Denis emphasises that there may be an ultimate reason (I called that great wisdom) behind suffering and death. Why does he then assume suffering and death are not necessary?

      They are not necessary in a world that is all about living and well-being. I see no reason to say they are not necessary in a world where they can have an ultimate reason.

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    • Greetings Verdant Servant

      I found the following exchange interesting:

      I (Denis) wrote:
      «it begs the question of why God would create a world with so much suffering and death, if such was (apparently) not necessary.»

      Verdant Servant wrote:
      «If God intended for us to learn great wisdom through suffering and death. Why are they not necessary?»

      DarthTimon wrote:
      «Why is suffering and death necessary to learn wisdom?»

      Verdant Servant wrote:
      «I did not say they are necessary.»

      I do believe we come close to seeing an answer in this exchange, above. For example, if we are agreeing that God could have had us learn great wisdom without such suffering –that such learning could have been achieved without such suffering– then that would be why one might at least wonder why God would therefore establish such a system with all its suffering (and that would be the grounds on which one might say such suffering is “apparently not necessary”).

      The portion you were responding to was discussing the food chain, so, for the moment I will focus on that. I do believe it is possible for God to lead us to wisdom without, for example, wolves killing rabbits (or us slitting the throats of cows, et cetera). I do not see on what grounds we would ever conclude God would be otherwise incapable of leading us to wisdom without such death, terror and suffering. Going beyond the food chain, I would likewise feel incredulous about the idea that God was incapable of leading us to wisdom without the existence of bone cancer in children (to use one of Stephen Frye’s examples, as per the second end note of the blog entry).

      Note that the very sentence you (i.e. Verdant Servant) quoted began with “Presumably God could have created a world where [the sort of suffering under discussion did not exist]…” But mind you, I was not actually trying to impugn God’s justice. It was simply meant to establish that much of what we observe in creation can be somewhat beyond human comprehension (i.e. in many cases, assuming God had sufficient reason for establishing such, we can only speculate what precisely that reason may have been).

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  12. As members of the food chain, we cannot help but burn energy as we live and breathe. God made this consumption of energy for which we must seek fuel.

    In the realm of spirituality, however, we have the choice to sin or not. God did not make the sin we must seek forgiveness for.

    These are two different systems that do not logically follow one another.

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    • But, again, God presumably could have established a system where we (and other living things) are preserved without the death of other living things playing a role.

      But yes, I agree there are going to be many differences between the food chain and Christ’s sacrifice as atonement. The similarity was in the preservation of oneself at the expense of another’s life (when presumably God could have simply had everyone preserve themself without any death playing any part).

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  13. Also, your line of thinking should likewise have you affirm the following:

    Just as the truth of (d) does not render (c) false or impossible, likewise, the truth of (b) does not render (a) false or impossible.

    (a) God has created a system where a man eating another man can play a role in the atonement of his sins.
    (b) God can create a system in which a man’s sins can be atoned for without his eating another man playing a role in it.

    (c) God has created a system where a man can preserve his own life by eating another man.
    (d) It is possible for God to create a system where a man preserves his own life without eating another man.
    [(d) happens to be true thanks to non-human sources of food]

    Are you fine with the idea that cannibalism amongst humans (not the metaphorical eating of Christ’s flesh) can atone for one’s sins?

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    • I would note again the opening of the blog entry, which alludes to the fact that I am a former atheist, somewhat familiar with discussions on theodicy, and that may have resulted in me approaching these questions differently from the way a theist who does not have such a background might.

      I would say cannibalism (and by that I mean mere humans killing and eating other mere humans) has a certain shock value –it is certainly something I would have an emotional aversion to– but honestly, I do not think that if God established such a system (e.g. where one group of humans [e.g. believers, or simply people with brown eyes] are ordered to hunt, kill and eat another group of humans [e.g. disbelievers, or simply people with blue eyes], humans would have any grounds from which to pass judgment on God or impugn God’s justice.

      I certainly can appreciate the emotional aversion of cannibalism, but putting appeals to emotion aside, I don’t see a logical problem with your reworking of my argument. It really is the case that God being able to establish a system of human preservation (whether somatic or spiritual) without cannibalism does not, in itself, preclude the possibility of God establishing a system where humans are preserved (whether somatically or spiritually) via cannibalism.

      You ask me if I’m “fine with the idea of cannibalism”. I’m not. the idea horrifies and saddens me. I would prefer cannibalism not be permitted (and I am thankful that it is actually prohibited in all but perhaps the most extreme cases). On a related note, I would honestly prefer wolves didn’t rip apart rabbits, cats didn’t kill mice, lions didn’t disembowel gazelles, and humans didn’t slit the throats of cows. Likewise, I wish there was no such thing as bone cancer in children, or babies who suffer because their mothers consumed intoxicants while pregnant, et cetera. I wish the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami didn’t happen, and thus didn’t kill tens of thousands of children. I’m also, on a certain level, saddened by the suffering and death of Christ (contemplating, or even seeing depictions of it in art or cinema, is a deeply emotional experience for me). But let’s be honest: God is not limited by my emotional preferences (nor the emotional preferences of any other human), and that’s a significant point, here.

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    • Denis,

      Let me see if I understand correctly (and forgive me if I don’t). Were God to declare tomorrow that cannibalism was acceptable, you would say we should not judge God’s stance on this?

      On a wider note, what of God’s actions (or inactions) in the case of many of the aforementioned maladies and problems we face in the world? There is a quote – I forget the exact details – ‘if you have the power to do good things then you have the moral obligation to do those things’. If God is truly all-powerful (omnipotent is how God is often described), then God can create a world where all the suffering, bloodshed, poverty and disease vanishes. Where natural disasters don’t kill thousands of people, where children are not born with deformities, where children do not die of hunger, every single day. Why does God not simply do away with all the suffering?

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    • Greetings DarthTimon

      DarthTimon wrote:
      «Were God to declare tomorrow that cannibalism was acceptable, you would say we should not judge God’s stance on this?»

      At least if we are working within the assumption (popular among many theists, Christians and Muslims alike) that God is the One who defines right and wrong, just and unjust, and that humans, with their limited knowledge, are in no place to judge God’s decree. In short, the same sort of theodicean reasoning that is employed to make sense of bone cancer in children, tsunamis that kill hundreds of thousands, the brutality of the food chain, and various other instances of suffering in this world, seems to make room even for human cannibalism (in fact, if God can permit cannibalism among non-human animals, and can permit astonishing amounts of death and suffering among humans, it seems that permitting cannibalism among humans would not be too egregious a leap within such a paradigm).

      As for your second paragraph, indeed, I noted Epicurus in my reply to Chocoboy, below, and I also noted Adam Deen’s (rather Craigian) attempt to grapple with the subject at the start of the blog entry above (a link to Mr. Deen’s fuller presentation on the subject is provided in the first end note of the blog entry). I understand if you, personally, do not find the approach satisfactory (if this were an easy subject, in which everyone could be easily persuaded, I doubt it would be argued over for at least 23+ centuries [i.e. at least as far back as Epicurus]).

      What I am attempting to convey is that the answers Muslims might give atheists on that subject seem to undermine attempts to portray the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice as “unjust”. In other words, it seems to me it is awkward for a theist to tell atheists…

      • that God is the sole definer of justice,
      • that there are no objective moral laws separate from (or without) God,
      • that God is sovereign, and thus can do however God pleases with creation,
      • that God can allow (or orchestrate) an event which seems “wrong” to humans if it leads to a greater good or the triumph of God’s plan,
      • that humans, with their limited knowledge, are in no place to judge God’s decree (i.e. just because a human is unable to discern a sufficient reason for God to bring about an event, that does not mean God therefore lacked sufficient reason for such),
      • that finite suffering in this world is practically meaningless when set against the backdrop of infinite bliss in the world to come, et cetera,

      …only to then turn around and tell a Christian “your religion makes God look unjust”.

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    • Hi again Denis, and thank you for your reply,

      If we cannot judge God based on God’s own actions (or inaction), then it seems we are giving God carte blanche to devise any arbitrary rules God wants, regardless of what we might ourselves regard as unjust. It is in my view quite simple – if I had the power to stop disease, to end poverty, to stop destructive wars and disasters, and I did not do so, what would that make me? It seems that God is given a free pass to permit these events (indeed, if we accept God as fundamental to all creation, God created these events too), under the reasoning that we are not capable of understanding God’s will or wisdom in them. Forgive me if this seems rude, but that’s a copout that wouldn’t stand if it were an argument applied to anyone else.

      Further to this, if God can do whatever God wants with creation, then we are entirely at the mercy of a whimsical being. The only answer to God declaring homosexuality a sin (be it in the eyes of Christians or Muslims, or any other faith that makes such a declaration) is that God said so, therefore it is so. It’s circular reasoning.

      If God were to tell me to murder a complete stranger, for no other reason than because God decreed it, I know what my own sense of morality would say.

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    • Greetings DarthTimon, and apologies for the delay in response.

      Just to clarify the point of this blog entry, it was not an attempt to put forth an argument which would necessarily convince atheists, or settle the theodicy question. Rather it was to note somewhat of an incongruence between the way certain theists (e.g. Muslims) approach the question of theodicy when arguing with atheists, on the one hand, and how some of those same theists approach the question of theodicy when attempting to tell a Christian that their conception of God makes the Creator look unjust, on the other hand. And notice that, in another thread, Muslims who were corresponding with you were waving off all the suffering in the world simply by saying that they accept God on His terms (in other words, tacitly, their argument is essentially: if God wishes to have this much profound suffering, so be it; who am I to judge?).

      So, again, to be clear, the point of this blog entry was not to bowl over atheists, but rather to note that the arguments presented to atheists seem to undermine theistic objections to the Christian belief that Christ’s death served as an atoning sacrifice.

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  14. “Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.”

    Psalms 40:6 “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering, you have not required.”

    Luke 3:3 “(John the Baptist) went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”

    Matthew 4:12,17 “Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee…. From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’”

    These verses offer no support for a blanket ban on sacrifice. They have to be interpreted in their context.

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  15. Quite some insightful article this is Mr Giron. It surely ranks amongst the best I have read in a long time.

    While I do not personally use the (My friend calls it) *Justice* argument against Christianity, explanations such as the one you gave have never sounded convincing. Want to know my reasons? Below I state them.

    As I told a friend recently, the question of Justice and Mercy as pertains the divine is a double edged sword. Give it too many ‘we can’t know why’ replies (as you have done) and the concepts sound arbitrary (no more than titles) as well as meaningless. Try to explain it all and you become a heretic.
    Of course, explanations have to be made. However, consistency with reality and logic is quite important in formulating them. Yours seem devoid of it.
    Perhaps you are wondering what I mean. Well then sir, here is a short story (to help illustrate better) :
    On a cold dawn in 2015, dozens of operatives of the Nigerian Army invaded my street. Sure enough as you would expect, they manhandled several of we residents and in the end made off with 3 men (one of them my ex-tutor). We were to later (to our dismay) learn that all the arrested folks belong to the terror group ‘Boko Haram’. Curses, Jeers, prayers etc followed folks arrests. Imams mounted pulpits and were soon preaching with the Quran. A particular fiery one said “God would never reveal a terror manual as long as he remains Just and Merciful”.

    I suppose you will agree with him sir. Shockingly enough however, your argument as espoused in the article kicks against this. An argument could be made (following such lines) that God could command terrorism and suicide bombings. We only don’t know why he would (do that). Indeed, as Thom Stark aptly noted ‘God would be no different from the devil. The concepts of mercy and Justice attributed to him would be mere titles’. Get what I mean now sir?
    By the way, the God of the bible did set a moral standard. He says in his characteristic fashion “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent, the Lord hates both” Proverbs 17v15.
    Perhaps folks who use this argument are only attempting to hold YHWH to a standard he gave but failed to live up to. That does not sound stupid at all.

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    • Greetings Chocoboy

      I can appreciate what you wrote in many places, but I think they might be expressing a general sentiment which can become less clear when getting into more detailed subjects. I’d like note seven propositions that I posted elsewhere in this comment section, and get your thoughts as to whether consider them all true, all false, or some true and others false (in the third case, please tell me which ones you consider true and which you consider false) [for the record, I personally believe all seven propositions are true]:

      1. God is the sovereign Definer of justice, as well as of right and wrong; there is no law giver above God whom God is subject to.
      2. No decree of God can ever be illicit. Any decree of God is de facto licit.
      3. Humans are not in a place to adequately question or judge the decrees of God (i.e. even if a human cannot discern a sufficient reason for a decree of God, that does not mean God therefore lacks sufficient reason for such).
      4. So-called “natural disasters,” like tsunamis, are the direct will of God. If God wishes, God can created a tsunami that kills tens of thousands of children (like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami).
      5. God could have decreed that no baby is ever harmed as a consequence of its mother consuming intoxicants while said baby is in her womb, yet God nonetheless intentionally designed humans such that some babies suffer physical deformities, brain damage and even death, as a direct consequence of their mother consuming intoxicants while they are in the womb. This is not an accident; rather God deliberately set this design in place with full knowledge of the results.
      6. The food chain is a system, established by God, in which one organism can preserve itself at the expense of the life of another organism.
      7. God could have created an alternative system, where organisms were preserved without any other organisms dying in the process of said preservation.

      I look forward to your thoughts on the truth of those propositions. In the mean time, I will attempt to respond directly to some of what you wrote.

      Chocoboy wrote:
      «A particular fiery one said “God would never reveal a terror manual as long as he remains Just and Merciful”. I suppose you will agree with him sir.»

      Eh, it would depend. I do believe that, in actuality, God requires us to be merciful. And I do not think God agrees with Boko Haram. However, I do not think it would be outside the realm of possibility for God to set something like that into place. We can infer from creation and the Bible that God can employ creation to strike terror into the hearts of humans (and from the Bible, at least, those creations at God’s disposal can include other humans). A presupposition of the Bible, or a particular interpretation of Christianity, can lead to a rejection of such (i.e. humans commanded by God to strike terror into the hearts of others) being actual at this time, but I do not think there is a general theistic framework which precludes such.

      Chocoboy wrote:
      «as Thom Stark aptly noted ‘God would be no different from the devil. The concepts of mercy and Justice attributed to him would be mere titles’. Get what I mean now sir?»

      I certainly understand, at it is at the very heart of many atheistic arguments on the subject of theodicy. We could take this all the way back to Epicurus, but consider some variations of questions I encountered some modern atheists asking:

        (A) “God, being omnipotent and omniscient, was able to create a world without [insert examples, e.g. bone cancer in children, babies who suffer because their mother drank while pregnant], right? If so, then why did God create such?”

        (B) “If you were to create a human species, and were free to decide whether members of that species ever suffered from [insert examples, e.g. bone cancer in children, brain damage and deformities because their mother drank while pregnant], you would create them without such, right? If so, does that mean you’re more benevolent than God?”

        (C) “If I were God, I would not peel people’s skin with fire simply because they were unrepentant idol worshipers or atheists. Am I more merciful than the God you believe in?”

      And on and on the examples can go. If you really try to engage these sorts of arguments, you’re likely to start positing a level of mystery to God’s decrees (insofar that they can often be well beyond human comprehension) as well as the position that no human is ever in a place to impugn God’s justice [positions which then undermine justice based arguments against the sacrifice of Christ].

      Chocoboy wrote:
      «By the way, the God of the bible did set a moral standard. He says in his characteristic fashion “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent, the Lord hates both” Proverbs 17v15.»

      I would say this is referring to behavior patterns among humans. That is to say, we are not allowed to do such things (justify those who are wicked and condemn those who are righteous), but the limitations placed on us does not preclude God from decreeing that the death of one person provides atonement to others (I would say this nuanced position is one which can be derived from Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism alike). This also can take us back to the point that rules which apply to man need not apply to God, but that may be unnecessary, here.

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  16. There is a difference between God “commanding” good/evil and God allowing good/evil—if God were to command—human will cannot defy—but if God allows—human beings can choose good or evil.

    In the Test of Adam—the choice had no moral dilemma, it was about desire—-to eat or not eat. In the Test of Abraham, there was a moral dilemma—to kill or not kill. In the first Test, Adam chose desire over God—yet God forgives, in the 2nd Test Abraham chooses God over morality—yet God saves him from error.

    The lesson—If you make a wrong choice and repent, God forgives. If you make an error in a sincere effort to please God, God knows….and perhaps may correct. Therefore, when human beings are confused about choices and uncertain about God’s will—take an action with the intention of pleasing God….and leave the rest upto God.

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  17. “That wasn’t really may argument, was it? The point was God is willing to forgive without sacrifice, as the verses show clearly.”

    But the Israelites had to keep the laws given at Sinai commanding certain sacrifices, feasts etc. through the priesthood and the temple. This was the covenant they made with God through Moses.

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  18. The covenant relation can’t be detached from sacrifice.

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  19. Exodus 24 v 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. 8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

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  20. Suffering and death is the result of man’s sin (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12 ff)

    God allowed it, but it is man’s fault. wars, poverty, sickness, pain, suffering are the results of sin.

    God is holy and pure and good.

    “For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. [Jesus the eternal Son becoming a human.] Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation and defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worth while.” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? New York: Harcourt, Brace and Col, 149, p. 4; cited in Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions. Here’s Life Publishers, 1980, p. 153-154.

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    • God defined what sin was and has an omnipotent being surely has the power to simply say ‘right, no more of this, no one else has to die because of X’. I repeat – if you have the power to do good things, you have the moral obligation to do them.

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    • That is where the argument of free will is a good argument. But as Augustine said, “Man, by the evil choice of his free will, destroyed his free will.” Enchiridion 30

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    • Yet in the meantime an omnipotent being with the power to effect meaningful and lasting change for the better doesn’t lift a finger to help anyone, yet is beyond reproach because…

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    • Apparently, giving free will to some of the angels (those that became Satan and demons) and to Adam and Eve was decided by God so that we are not robots, etc.

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    • instead of what you demand as a fallen creature, the Creator sent His own eternal Son to die for sinners; rose from the dead; calls you to repent and turn to Him; and sent prophets and apostles and inspired to write books, instructing us in the truth; and sends His Holy Spirit for those who repent and trust in Him.
      John 7:37-39
      37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

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    • death is the consequences of our rebellion and sin.
      Genesis 2:17
      Genesis chapter 3
      Romans 5:12

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    • Has any man ever felt the overwhelming need to “suffer” like the dog or the fish? —I have never understood the reasoning of “God becoming man” idea and Ken’s explanation for it is not persuasive at all…..

      As for Denis speculation that God could have created an alternative system—sure he could have—but he did not—the reality is the system we live in—all around us, people are born, they go through whatever trials and tests they are destined for—and then they die. Each of us is accountable for our own intentions and actions. Rather than speculating on “what ifs”—it is better to face the reality we have and contemplate the best ways we can please God. And that is to fulfill our purpose—which is to worship God—and the highest form of worship of God is right belief that promotes right intentions that lead to right actions. (…which is how we fulfill our duty of being Trustees)

      The Man-God sacrifice theme is disconnected with right belief—because it does not lend itself to any moral principles and therefore cannot promote right intentions that lead to right actions. It is useless superstition….

      The principle of Tawheed, on the other hand, is of benefit to all humanity, …

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    • Has any man ever felt the overwhelming need to “suffer” like the dog or the fish?

      It is not a matter of man feeling a need to suffer; rather sin caused suffering; and death; and man as sinner spread death to all other men – Genesis 3, Romans 5:12.

      That God (the eternal Son who is God by nature) decided to voluntary come, become a human, and suffer and die in the place of what mankind deserved, the innocent for the guilty – that is pure love.

      “the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23

      “the soul that sins shall die” Ezekiel 18

      Man is guilty and dies; but the Son of God is not guilty, being sinless, and came and took the penalty because of His great love for humans – sinners from every nation, people, tribe, and language – Revelation 5:9; 7:9

      By repentance and faith (mark 1:15), you can become a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17) and then have the ability and power to live a good life.

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    • It is not that a man felt the need to suffer; rather God wanted to pay the price because of His great love. Love motivates people to go through pain and suffering, if the goal is worthy (Loving the beloved and winning their hearts)

      “but God, because of His great love which He loved us . . . by grace you are saved . . . Ephesians 2:4-5

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    • “God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

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  21. How the Incarnation, Atonement, the Trinity relate to answers to suffering and pain in this world.

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/05/incarnation-atonement-and-trinity.html

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