Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

Did Christ Have To Die On The Cross?

In Atonement on November 7, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I’m not sure the atonement idea makes a lot of sense to the Non-jew, westernized Christian today. It certainly doesn’t make sense to me. Let’s say that I committed a crime and somebody else had to be killed for it. I would not only still feel guilty for my own wrong, but I might experience even more guilt for the death that I caused.

I think that is how many Believers feel, or are made to feel, in our day. Guilt remains.

And apparently the sacrificial system never took away sins, evidenced by Israel’s chronic sin problem.  One might even conclude that the death of Christ did not take away the sins of the world either since wrong-doings seem to be alive and well even among Believers.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  ~ 1 John 1:8

So exactly how does the death and resurrection of Christ atone for sin, if at all?

And if it has to do with appeasing God’s wrath, is God’s wrath appeased if sin remains in the sinner’s life?

  1. Maybe atonement would make a lot more sense in light of the old covenant sacrificial system. It seems to me that these Levitical priesthood sacrifices were not intended to appease God’s wrath as much as they were meant to appease our guilt, and lead us into a life of grace.

    The system of priestly sacrifices seemed to be symbolic of a payment for a crime. Once punishment is served, the guilty party no longer feels guilty because the victim (in this case, God) has been reimbursed. Interestingly, Israel’s crimes were always paid for by someone else – either an animal or their savior.

    So, maybe the sacrificial system is purely symbolic, yet we now attempt to understand it in literal terms like many religious rituals for the Christian today. The Apostle Paul explained that circumcision or uncircumcision means nothing (and yet circumcision is often done for health reasons.) Basically, rituals and traditions are essentially outward signs of some kind of spiritual truth, at least as far as Bible truths are concerned.

    The spiritual truth behind the symbolic crucifixion, I think, is that sin , through the law, destroys us. The religious law is what crucified Jesus. Try to find life through the law and you will only find death. Try to live by the law and you will only find more sin in your life.

    But grace has the upper hand over sin – thus, the symbol of the victorious resurrection.

    It first appears that sin and death possess ultimate power, since, like Christ, we all sin and die. But it is really grace that is more powerful, because death results in life, not death. It is through suffering and death that we enter into eternal glory.

    This is the hidden gospel message. It is ultimately through suffering, death that we obtain our resurrection. Death leads to life. It is another way of portraying the truth that through the law which kills our independent ego, we discover grace.

    In that case, Jesus didn’t take our place (we still suffer and die) as much as he was our trailblazer. He led the way, showing us that there is a purpose for this life and for suffering too. We are made complete through difficulties just as suffering also perfected Christ, according to Hebrews 2:10.

    So in summary, I would say that yes, Jesus did have to die on the cross, but only because he was a human being and all humans must experience the pain associated with this life, as well as persecution for living life to its fullest… as well as death in order to obtain his glorious “throne”.

    Christ’s death also happened to be a potent way to show, at least through the Jewish story, how sin, suffering and death are overcome. It is not by avoiding them but by allowing them to accomplish their purpose. Through death, we enter life, just as through the law, we discover grace.

  2. I’m not comfortable with some of the traditional views of atonement because I think it does not address the nature of God’s character – we set up these immutable constructs one of which that God requires sacrifice / blood for the amelioration of sins – something we are told in the Old Testament was never God’s intention. So why do we see it as primary to the meaning of the cross? We say that our sins are forgiven through the substitutionary work of Jesus but really judicial payment via transference rather than forgiveness. Someone still gets clobbered. This is a horrible way of thinking about the creator.

    Also, I think we make “sin” into something it isn’t – a form of imperfection which God abhors and cannot approach because he is holy. I don’t see any of this – the payload from sin is often simply cause and effect. If I abuse someone or my own body then there are simple but profound and painful consequences.

    My take on the cross is probably heretical but I see it as an endeavour by the creator to show us that he is no threat. An ignoble, painful & humiliating death to finally get the message across that the creator shares in our humanity and is not far from us.

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