What Did Jesus Sacrifice?

In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lots-of-fun Jesus Christ Superstar, the crowd (in the guise of journalists at Jesus’s arrest) sing

“Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you what have you sacrificed?”

It is part of a certain subset of Christianity to focus on the sacrifice of Jesus. I’ve heard sermons preached with statements such as “Jesus gave up everything, even his life, for your sins.” or “It cost God everything to restore relationship with you.”

Now, I’ve written (and excoriated) penal atonement theory before (the idea that God sent himself to kill himself to atone to himself for the sinful nature he’d created in human beings in the first place).

But that’s not the purpose of this post. I want to ask about the sacrifice of Jesus. Was it costly?

This paradox has been pointed out by lots of people before, but I’ve been thinking about it this evening. What did it actually cost?

Before launching into some thoughts, let me just say that I may slip into language describing what Jesus did and felt here. Of course, everything should be prefaced with “accordingly to the portrayal of the gospels” or “according to orthodox Christian doctrine”. I’ve said before that I don’t believe these accounts are historical. I’m really interested in how these things can be understood on their own terms, when they seem to hold so little water (at least for me). So read what follows with those disclaimers in mind.

1. Jesus was fully human. And was, therefore, able to feel pain as a human. It hurt a lot to be crucified. So let’s give the doctrine this: Jesus suffered a day of agony on the cross. (Skipping lightly over the fact that many Christians, from the earliest records we have onwards, believed that Christ didn’t have a real body and didn’t really suffer).

2. Jesus has foreknowledge of his coming death. So it would have been a really miserable run up to his execution. For reasons I might share another time, I know a little about this feeling. And it does suck.

3. Jesus also knows about his resurrection. So, like childbirth, he would have known that after a period of intense pain, fear and powerlessness, the outcome was really joyful, and ultimately wonderful.

4. Jesus doesn’t die. He doesn’t end. I’ve said before that “being raised from the dead” means you didn’t die, by definition. You may have experienced heart-death, but we’ve long since left that concept behind as a culture (interestingly except for some highly religious countries or states that still use it). Dying is the end of a person, brain and personality death. It isn’t death if you are raised 2 days later.

So the total of Jesus’s only claim to sacrifice is pain and anguish. Now, I’m not saying being crucified is a walk in the park. But really? For the God of the universe, a finite amount of human pain followed by being raised into glory in the sure knowledge that the battle for the universe is won? That hardly qualifies as epic sacrifice, surely?

Anyone got a reasonable rationale for understanding the doctrine of sacrifice?

Edit 2010-10-15: I obviously don’t know my musicals as well as I thought. I confused the arrest song with this. The line comes a little later…

Advertisements

72 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

72 responses to “What Did Jesus Sacrifice?

  1. Either way, it amounts to a bad weekend.

    But if the death thing was necessary, surely he could have magically secreted an analgesic to make it painless. When I was a theist, I thought of it as a trick, whereby Satan thought he had control of Jesus/god through death, but Jesus ripped a hole in hell from the inside, conquering death, and allowing him to rescue souls that would otherwise be toast. Which is of course guff, and counter to the atonement malarkey. You raise a good point – it just doesn’t work…

  2. Ian

    a trick, whereby Satan thought he had control of Jesus/god through death, but Jesus ripped a hole in hell from the inside, conquering death, and allowing him to rescue souls that would otherwise be toast.

    I haven’t heard that before, nice story. As you say, hardly orthodox, but neat nonetheless.

  3. Xander

    The way I see it, God had to turn his presence away from Jesus when he became the representation of sin. This would be God experiencing what hell would be like, thus taking the place of those who are “saved”.

  4. Ian

    Xander, okay, so I understand what you’re saying. But Jesus is God, right?

    Is this one of those moments where it is expedient to temporarily modalize the trinity? Turn it into separable components…

  5. Xander

    I think it can work with Jesus as God or just as a created being. Since salvation comes from being within Jesus, as long as Jesus experienced hell or the separation from God, then those who are within him are covered. He becomes the vessel in which people are taken to God.

    I am Trinitarian, so I have a harder time trying to figure out how he could resurrect himself unless he is god.

  6. Ian

    I understand the logic of the disunity of the trinity – that which had never been divided was divided. Still, one day apart for an infinite God, is hardly epic in my view.

    But “separation from God” makes no sense in a trinitarian view, does it?

  7. Xander

    One day might not seem epic, but it might be on how we are looking at time. With linear time, a day is not very long in comparison to a year. God is supposed to be outside of linear time though, so how do we compare it to anything we know?

    Paraphrasing here: Jesus, before he came down poured out all of his glory in order that he could be mortal. Still god, but he left the god glory part of him back home. His ministry did not start until united with the holy spirit. At this time he would have been reunited with the glory of god, which he had left back home. On the cross, the holy spirit would have left him and he would have been totally absent of the presence of god for the first time. This leaves the question why wouldn’t he have been separated from the presence of god for the time from birth until he received the holy spirit? Since god is a spiritual being, the separation would have had to be spiritual. There were physical representations for this action, but it didn’t occur in the physical realm / dimension.

    All rather fantastic isn’t it? =D

    It is the only way I can see it happening is to remove the physical dimension we are in from the equation. I am not sure how many other people hold this view, but I can pretty much guarantee the young earth people don’t.

  8. Ian

    Sorry, Xander, I do feel like I’m being a bit of an ass repeating this over and over, but again you said “he would have been totally absent of the presence of god for the first time”, but Jesus is God, right?

    To translate it out of its slightly flawed logic, are you saying something like: God has a certain set of qualities, and on the cross these qualities are separated into separate beings, where before they were part of the same being? I mean, that appears to be what you’re saying, but it is not orthodox theology, of course, at least since Chalcedon.

    “It is the only way I can see it happening is to remove the physical dimension we are in from the equation.”

    Yes, and here I think the history of Christianity works against it, because lots of the early ideas about Jesus would have given easier theologies, but were, of course, rejected by the established church.

  9. Mellie

    Hi , I have enjoyed reading your posts since I found your blog a while ago.

    I have always heard that it was the enormity of carrying the sin burden of the whole world that caused the greatest suffering for Jesus. The punishment that every person deserved was borne completely by one person. That would be enormous since every single sin receives the same sentence: eternity in hell. Theoretically, Jesus was bearing the pain of several billion eternities in hell, thus making the severity of pain the critical factor, not the duration of time the pain was suffered.

    I usually don’t comment because some of your ideas are admittedly over my head but I am interested to hear your take on this idea since it is probably the explanation I hear most often.

  10. Xander

    No offense was taken.

    If you take a branch off an apple tree, the branch can no longer support itself, but removing the branch from the tree does not change what it is. Its nature remains the same. The same could be said about Jesus. God as a whole exists with a defined set of characteristics / traits. Each part of the trinity all have these characteristics while operating in different roles. If the role of Jesus is to take on the punishment of sin and has to be punished by the Father role of God, Jesus does not have to stop being God for that to happen. His characteristics or traits have not changed.

  11. Ian

    @Mellie – Thanks so much for biting the bullet and posting – sorry it took so long to approve your comment!

    That’s also an interesting angle. It follows a pattern I see a lot in theology: when something that seems to make sense on the regular day to day level turns out not to, then it can always be rescued by turning it into a spiritual story. So, for example, in the great disappointment, when Christians thought Christ would come again, a large thread of believers chose to believe that Christ *had* come again to reign in glory – but had created a new spiritual reign. He had returned spiritually (and various denominations including 7th day adventists take their origin from this). Similarly we can see that the sacrifice of Jesus isn’t what it appears to be, so to keep it at full volume, we can say the pain and sacrifice is a wholly unseen spiritual process.

    The chief advantage of this always is, that it removes the theological from any connection with anything that could provide evidence or reason. It takes its ball and plays elsewhere, in a realm where it cannot be challenged.

    @Xander – A branch of an apple tree, when severed is no longer an apple tree, is it? Any more than my clipped toenails are human beings!

    “Jesus does not have to stop being God for that to happen” no, exactly. But one cannot say then that he suffered terribly because he was cut off from the presence of God.

    I get that there’s this inherent (and intentional) unreasonableness in the doctrine of the trinity. So I think what I’m getting at is that it cannot support any intuitions one wants to build on top of it. Certainly not the kinds of intuitions that make us think we understand the “sacrifice” of Christ. We can make those intuitions reasonable, in which case they are paper-thin. Or we can make them theological, in which case they founder on this inherent contradiction between three persons and one being.

  12. Peter

    Ian

    “That hardly qualifies as epic sacrifice, surely?”

    I’m not sure what you think ‘epic sacrifice’ might be, but if it could be defined as ‘epic’, would that make a difference for you?

    I’m also wondering, and the comments so far seem to have touched on this, if your premise (of not epic) depends to some degree on setting human pain (epic enough I’d have thought) against what it might mean for God to feel pain?

    Maybe we also need to think in terms of ‘death’/’sacrifice’ being something else as well as/other than physical death.

    Shane

    So you liked it, not a lot, but you liked it?

  13. John Clavin

    I think that the sacrifice of Jesus was something that was made up after his death. My theory is that he was a wise-ass and a sex addict who had an affair with the emperor’s wife and that is why he was killed. From his point of view, he wasn’t sacrificing anything.
    The concept of “died for our sins” came about because he was an example of how bad behavior will get you hung on a cross.
    After his death people probably said that he had issues, but he was really a good guy, “a child of god” and that, I think, is where the son of god story got started.

    Tiger Woods “died” for our sins also. His sacrifice was very costly.

  14. Ian

    @Peter – you’re right. And I think your point was useful because it made me realise we are drawing into debating pain and suffering. Rather than sacrifice. And that is the crucial thing. What did Jesus actually sacrifice. The spiritual pain of the cross (and note that no two people have so far agreed what that might be) might be huge. But that still isn’t a sacrifice, not in the sense people mean when they thing of Jesus sacrificing himself, or being sacrificed for sin. If you squint and use a slightly different version of ‘sacrifice’ then okay.

    “Maybe we also need to think in terms of … ’sacrifice’ being something else as well as/other than physical death.” Ah – now that is interesting! See my comment above. Yes, we can definitely push the theology back into some kind of spiritual death. Jesus didn’t really die on the cross (not in the sense of the brain-death end), but he did endure some kind of spiritual death, so that we might not spiritually die. I can see that. Its strength lies, once again, in its total lack of any connection with the real world 🙂

    @John – really? Wow, you radical! I do like the idea that it takes a sinner to die for our sins though. Yes, the idea of the sinless sacrifice is one that has gone down badly on here among Christians as well. But my guess is that you’re right on the first sentence. That Jesus’s death was a shock, that it was a problem, and that it was an embarrassment. The story of the early church is the story of complex (and diverse) attempts to square the circle of a failed messiah. And like the example I gave above, and that Peter just gave, the best solution was to theologize out of the real world into a parallel spiritual realm. So Jesus stops being the earthly messiah and starts begin the Christ of the spiritual realm. The kingdom he kept talking about becomes a spiritual kingdom. And by the time people start dying, waiting for the earthly kingdom to be established, eternal life becomes an eternal spiritual life.

  15. Mellie

    The word sacrifice is giving me trouble. Like you, I have also heard people use the word to mean that Jesus had to give something up or forfeit something but I don’t think that is how the word is used, at least generally, in the Bible. The sacrifice was his body which when “broken” was an acceptable propitiation to God . I think Catholics deepen the meaning of this sacrifice in that each Mass is a recapitulation of the original death on the cross. The sacrifice there, of course, would be the ongoing pain that has, so far, lasted almost two thousand years.

    Since Protestants believe in a “once for all” sacrifice, though, I imagine what they are referring to when saying he gave up everything is that he gave up the great life he could have had. Being all-powerful and all-knowing, he could have had so much” fun” here on earth. Instead of a fantastic, long life, he had a short stressful life culminating in an awful death. This is not convincing in any way to me but I think some are satisfied with it, especially considering the stress that is laid on the scene with the three temptations of Satan. It never seemed to me like Jesus would honestly be tempted by that childish stuff but a lot hinges on that part of the story. Being human, he wanted everything that we want out of life.

    So we come back to the Trinity, which kind of spoils everything by making it impossible to come up with any plausible explanation to your question. If God and Jesus were separate beings maybe we could tweak the meaning of all this a little more satisfactorily. We could say that Jesus was human, had one life to live and he had to give that life in service to God’s plans instead of his own.

    While I was typing this, I thought of another problem with the” Jesus gave up the good life” theory (besides it not being Biblically defensible). Why would God have to limit himself to one 33 year stint on earth? If he wanted a good life without all the sacrifices big and small which were required of Jesus, why not just come to earth in all different incarnations? Experience different things in different places…sometimes be a king, other times be a commoner…Once he had accomplished salvation, then I would think he could have had some enjoyment.

    I hope even more people will comment on this post because I really want there to be some internal logic to this whole shebang, even if it is a big stretch.

  16. Peter

    Ian

    On the death thing first. Aside from the fact that in a number of conversations in church recently I’ve had trouble arguing for the value of both the spiritual and the physical (there’s a certain gnosticism in evangelicalism masquerading as ‘orthodoxy’) I wasn’t thinking in terms of a ‘spiritual’ or ‘spiritualising’ of death, rather I was thinking in terms of a loss of identity. Isn’t it possible to be alive (breathing eating etc) and yet feel dead in terms of one’s identity, sense of value etc? And isn’t this terribly destructive (and real) for those who experience it? Perhaps death is ultimately broader than we think.

    With regard to sacrifice then there may be a link, and here I’m defining that as something similar to “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as important or worthy.” Is this reasonable?

    Maybe then we could begin to think about what it meant to be God, what it meant for God to give up something valued and what that tells us about us (in light of God). I know all this assumes ‘God’ but I’m not sure we can have the conversation without doing this.

    I wonder too, if there is something about the idea of resurrection and glory which offsets, or dilutes the concept of sacrifice for you. Or perhaps it’s the idea of omniscience which causes us problems: how is it/anything real sacrifice if the better outcome is already known?

    I’d also be thinking of that bit at the start of Philippians 2.

    Aside from all of that, the standard evangelical ‘look at how much God loves you, he did sooooo much for you, yada yada’ tends to air on the sentimental side of religion, don’t you think. Perhaps the problem here is popular evangelicalism as much as anything else.

  17. Ian

    @Mellie – I think those are brilliant and insightful wranglings with the questions, I really have nothing to add. I thought you said you hadn’t commented because stuff went over your head 🙂 I think you’re underselling yourself!

    @Peter – So I think your ‘death’ is even less ‘epic’. You’re describing death as a metaphor now. When we say “when you left, I died”, death is a metaphor. Often metaphors become so universal that it can be tricky to extract their original meaning, but lexicographers do that, and have means to do that. So are you suggesting that Jesus’s death is a metaphorical death?

    “for God to give up something valued” – not really to give it up. Just to do without it for a couple of days. Jesus and God, in orthodox theology, are now fully unified, and will be for all eternity.

    “something about the idea of resurrection … which … dilutes the concept of …” death. Yes. absolutely. Resurrection doesn’t happen. Taking aside religious stories, it doesn’t. But plenty of people ‘come back from the dead’ by waking from comas or by being resuscitated after their heart stops. Its just that we understand they weren’t really dead. If you “die”, then are around, being you two days later, then I’m afraid by my definition you were never dead. Not in any sense that makes death important. Not in any sense that means we don’t all die for 8 hours every night.

    Aside from all of that, the standard evangelical ‘look at how much God loves you, he did sooooo much for you, yada yada’ tends to air on the sentimental side of religion, don’t you think. Perhaps the problem here is popular evangelicalism as much as anything else.

    The problem is always popular evangelicalism. What was the issue again? 🙂 Seriously, yes. Predicated on my question was the notion that the sacrifice of Jesus can be understood on its own terms as a costly and loving act. I don’t think it can. At the best you can say that, if you already have a complex and theologically sophisticated view of God, you can make the death of Jesus make some sense as sacrifice. But Jesus did so much for us by dying on the cross? No, I can’t see that holds any water by itself.

  18. John Clavin

    Yes, death and rising from the dead can be very metaphorical. A recent example is Russell Brand who crashed to his bottom with alcohol and sex addiction, his “death”, and then rose from the “dead” by asking for help, recovering, and then writing a book about it that is helpful to others. He is another one who “died for our sins.”
    I would say that his sacrifice was shame, but by being honest about what happened he is no longer shameful.
    I said earlier that Jesus didn’t sacrifice anything, but thinking about it, I feel that he probably felt alot of shame.

  19. Peter

    Ian, hi.

    Actually, I’m not describing death as a metaphor; I’m simply saying that while the most obvious use of the word means ‘the end of a person’ there are other ways (theological and non theological) in which we use the word and that those ways are perfectly valid and real.

    I suppose I’m also thinking that there’s an inherent difficulty in having the conversation about the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice if we’re going to say “Resurrection doesn’t happen”, or take the view that ‘spiritual’ isn’t real. I know that you don’t think them to be real, and that’s OK, but how do we have the conversation about a person/worldview/religion which considers them real and which I still think of as real, if real isn’t part of the mix?

    If it isn’t real, surely the theology of sacrifice doesn’t matter?

    To pick up on the ‘popular evangelical’ thing again, if you’re trying to find a coherent way of explaining the soundbite, ‘“It cost God everything to restore relationship with you,”‘ I’m not sure that’s possible. Popular evangelicalism (whether one is a Christian or not) is limited, full stop.

  20. Ian

    Okay, the ‘real’ is perjorative, and is clearly my opinion, but it isn’t necessary to what I’m saying, I don’t think.

    We can draw a distinction between the spiritual and the prosaic without making claims about their ontological status: they are simply different types of explanation.

    And it seems clear to me that religious explanations do tend to pose as being prosaic (i.e. such that one could have the same explanation or reasoning about another person or day-to-day event – e.g. one can talk about one person dying so another can live, or about making a sacrifice for someone else, etc). But when such explanations are found to be untenable as prosaic claims, or they have implications that call into question other doctrines, they change to be spiritual explanations. So the prosaic terms (death, sacrifice) have their meaning shifted, nuanced. So death becomes something other than the thing we think first when hearing the word, it becomes something that is metaphorically related to, or that intersects the prosaic meaning of death, but requires a specifically spiritual understanding of the meaning to understand the explanation. And it is *only* by understanding death in that way that the explanation makes sense. That seems to be an incontrovertible method of theology. Skim read a few pages from Tillich, for example, and this is constantly his pattern: take doctrine, find a way to extract its prima facia implications from the prosaic world, and recast in spiritual terms.

    Now, I can play the confessing theologian here and say “Well, what do you expect? Of course you have to understand this stuff spiritually, because we’re talking about spiritual things! No surprise.”

    But what I actually believe is “Well, what do you expect? Because spiritual ‘realities’ are unfalsifiable, it is obvious that a fiction should seek out such explanations when its falsifiable claims fail. No surprise there.”

    But I don’t think the two possible *reasons* preclude honest discussion about what is actually happening.

    “If it isn’t real, surely the theology of sacrifice doesn’t matter?”

    Well yes. But that’s a somewhat different question. I do, of course, think it is both unreal and doesn’t matter in theological sense. Though of course Christian theology deeply matters in both a cultural and political sense.

  21. Peter

    What I like about this blog is that you actually engage. When reading and commenting here I learn something; I learn something about the point of the discussion, about you, and I learn something about me. You make me think, that’s good. I’ve always taken the view that if my faith doesn’t ‘work’ under pressure it becomes questionable, for the moment it continues to work.

    I’ll try and put your view in my words, one to see if I’m understanding you correctly, and two, to see if I can see it outside of my assumed Christian worldview.

    I’ll run with point 3 above first: “he would have known that after a period of intense pain, fear and powerlessness, the outcome was really joyful, and ultimately wonderful.” OK, so in your terms he lost nothing, yes? In fact, we could say he gained?

    “Jesus doesn’t die,” point 4. “It isn’t death if you are raised 2 days later.” Initially I’m thinking this is similar to point 4, again no real loss, no end, a temporary blip perhaps, but a return to something better, another gain.

    How am I doing?

    You sum it up with, “So the total of Jesus’s only claim to sacrifice is pain and anguish.” and suggest this isn’t epic enough; perhaps you see it as a bit of a disappointment, God could have done ‘better’.

    I’ll hold off on any other response for now.

  22. Ian

    Peter, Thank you for the kind words. Actually your first paragraph means a lot to me. I do think these things are irreducibly complex, and though I also like to be glib, I’m always aware that easy answers are rarely correct.

    I think I do agree with your characterisation of my views (a small caveat being, whenever someone in a debate characterises your viewpoint, it isn’t always clear if they are choosing a word or omitting a thought because they want to pivot a future argument on it – I’m as guilty as anyone of that).

    My only disagreement is the very last bit: “suggest this isn’t epic enough; perhaps you see it as a bit of a disappointment, God could have done ‘better’.”

    I don’t feel I have a standard that I want God to live up to, no. I don’t find the Jesus narrative disappointing in that sense (“If I had to invent a messiah, he or she would be a damn sight more impressive, haw haw haw”), no. I do think, however, that the story that is told doesn’t, on its own, match up to the function that the story has within Christian doctrine. So for me the measuring up is about apparent consistency. Christian doctrine wants to make claims about the primacy of Jesus’s sacrifice and how that should affect an adherents loyalty towards God. I don’t think the doctrine, as normally put forward, is sufficiently epic to entail those things.

    Crucifixion is certainly horrible, but there are plenty of people who die more horrible, more protracted deaths every day. And who stay dead. And who’s plans and hopes and goals and personality die with them. Who don’t get to raise 2 days later, fulfil their goals, ultimately defeat evil and be seated at the right hand of God for all eternity.

    So while I can understand the theology of sacrifice (although atonement, as it has been pointed out on this blog before, is another fundamentally flawed doctrine to hang on an omnimax God), I think that claiming that Jesus sacrificed something particularly incredible, simply makes no sense. Not that it wasn’t incredible enough for me, but it wasn’t incredible enough for anyone.

  23. Peter

    Ian

    Do I want to pivot a future argument on my wording? Fair question. As we might say in the confessing tradition of which I am part, ‘inasmuch as I know my own heart (intentions)’ I don’t think so; at least I’m not aware of any intent to use the words to my advantage. Pull me up on it if I do. 🙂

    Can I pick up on this comment though, “Christian doctrine wants to make claims about the primacy of Jesus’s sacrifice and how that should affect an adherents loyalty towards God.”

    In that context then (that of ‘primacy’) you seem to be defining sacrifice only in terms of the crucifixion and I’d tend to want to broaden it. For example, assuming the ‘Jesus is God’ bit, I’d read his life as a sacrifice too and I’d also be saying that there’s something about God which has forever changed, Jesus is still human after all, at least according to the story.

    There’s other things I’d want to say too, about the deaths of others, and my (limited) ‘loyalty’ towards God and how the concept of resurrection need not diminish sacrifice but maybe one step at a time.

  24. Ian

    Okay, I can follow you. And I think there is an interesting theology to be built around the idea of Jesus being eternally human after the incarnation (I assume not before, in your view, since there would be no change-in-state to constitute a sacrifice). It isn’t orthodoxy, but it is interesting, IMO.

    And in that case, with the permanent change of state, it removes my objection to the resurrection invalidating the significance of the sacrifice.

    I think where I’d want to challenge you now, though, is to say: you have a particular theological solution to a specific problem – what happens when you extend that theological solution out into other doctrines. It is simple to create a single purpose answer, but is that a good theology? If Jesus was once not-human then became human and crucially eternally stayed human thereafter: what effect does that have on other doctrines, such as constancy, for example, salvation before Jesus, God’s existence outside time, or even the notion of a trinity at all?

  25. Peter

    Emmm, Ian, I wonder if the problem is solved! It’s that comment, “it isn’t orthodoxy”. I can only assume that what you mean is that if Jesus is human he isn’t God, or let’s use this description, if he’s human he isn’t YHWH! That wasn’t were I was going.

    I’m also thinking Chalcedon, and just for a bit of spice here’s a quote from NT Wright, ‘Simply Christian’,”Somehow, Jesus *both* prayed to the Father *and* took upon himself a role which, in the ancient prophecies, was reserved for YHWH…. He was obedient to the Father, and simultaneously doing what only God can do.”

    A trouble, of course, is that these guys (old and new) aren’t really explaining anything much, rather they’re making statements. Thing is I’m not sure we *can* explain what it means to be God, it’s why we have stories/metaphors/glimpses, and statements (without ‘reality’ being denied). Having said that, I have trouble explaining me at times so I’m not much bothered!! One way I might state it is to say that when we look at Jesus we see God, or, say that when God appeared, he looked like Jesus, so, no denial of the trinity! And constancy could refer more to the person, or personality, or character – rather like you or me still being us only older than last year. We’ll not stop being ‘us’ just because we’re 20 years older and look different. And salvation before Jesus, that’s easy (sorry!!) 🙂 it was always something we call grace! Salvation is always more about God than it is about me.

    Part of me enjoys the, as you say, irreducible complexity of it all; it’s why I don’t like evangelical soundbites.

  26. Ian

    It’s that comment, “it isn’t orthodoxy”. I can only assume that what you mean is that if Jesus is human he isn’t God, or let’s use this description, if he’s human he isn’t YHWH! That wasn’t were I was going.

    I really meant to draw attention to the ad-hoc-ness of the explanation, that’s all. So it isn’t orthodox, in that it is a specific solution to this specific problem, not a doctrine that is expounded independently. And in fact orthodoxy seems somewhat in conflict to it, since it (for example) affirms the unchanging fundamental nature of God.

    If you say that God basically didn’t change, where’s the sacrifice? If you say God fundamentally changed, where’s the constancy?

    And similarly for the other theological issues (I don’t buy your off-hand responses, and I hope you don’t either – they smack of naive apologetics, there is a body of quite specific doctrine there you’re skirting).

    So I think you do eventually have to fall back on “its all a mystery, that’s why it doesn’t make sense” type of stuff. Which can obviously be interpreted as indicating that God really is just beyond comprehension. Or it can be interpreted as evasion.

    But yes, as far as sacrifice alone is concerned, your theological solution works.

  27. Peter

    Opps, sorry for sounding flippant, I didn’t intend to.

    I’m not sure though that my reply was as off-hand as it seems (the ‘sorry’ and smilie was an attempt to flag this up); there was a weight of assumption behind the comments, but perhaps I should have been clearer. Neither am I sure that the ‘Jesus is human’ (still) is an ‘ad hoc’ explanation. Jesus being human explains quite a bit, and it’s something evangelicals tend to underemphasise, indeed we can verge on docetism and dualism. The continuity of Jesus’ humanity is clearly biblical.

    Our bigger problem is the ‘God-humanness’ claimed of Jesus, and I’m not going to start suggesting that I can *explain* that; I’m not sure anyone can, hence my recognition that even our creeds and our theologians opt for statements.

    I did try, though, to suggest that constancy/immutability is related to ‘person’, ‘character’, ‘attributes’, ‘purpose’ and so on (pretty orthodox and not ad hoc), and I’ve tried to suggest that the ‘sacrifice’ relates more to the humility of Jesus (Philippians 2) and the (hinted at) loss of identity on the cross than it does spears and nails. Even the (really off hand) ‘always grace’ reply implies constancy. And I’ve noted my view that this popular evangelical practise of attempting to build faith or commitment on the ‘Jesus has done so much for you’ ticket is rather sentimental.

    So I’m not sure where else I can go here except, perhaps, to say that I really have tried to take my faith apart only to find that I still ‘believe’, and that perhaps there really is something to the ‘otherness’ of God which is and has to be a starting point for understanding the cost of the life and death of Jesus.

    And yes, there is a hesitancy in my replies which I am more than aware of.

  28. Peter, that’s sweet, but in the end it’s just poetry, innit? I mean, you’re not really saying that it *actually* means anything – just that it provides a number of metaphors that in the right (or wrong) hands can be spun out into any oul’ guff that you come by. We might as well talk about the sinking of the Pequod as the sacrifice; Ishmael as us, the saved-yet-damned, and the White Whale as the agent of both our damnation and salvation. You’re not talking about anything we can meaningfully interact with if you maintain the pretence that it is “fact”. Just call it allegory and be done with it, man! 🙂

  29. Ian

    “Opps, sorry for sounding flippant, I didn’t intend to.” And I wasn’t trying to be condescending either.

    Your reply makes me think I didn’t understand your previous point. I thought you were saying that the ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus is the incarnation – Phil 2. Jesus was just God. Then became fully God and fully created being. And this is a sacrifice (as opposed to a temporary blip) because Jesus stays that way after the ascension.

    But you mention the cross again. I’m not sure I understand what role the cross has in this model. If the sacrifice is one of ontological change, then it is surely at the incarnation, not the crucifixion that it happens. The cross is a bad day, sure.

    There are a large range of crucifixion theologies that don’t make the point of death of Jesus into the significant event, both to bring the victory beforehand (submission in the garden, for example), or push it to the resurrection (e.g. the harrowing of hell). I have also read theologies that place the significant event at the incarnation and de-emphasise the cross. But I haven’t come across anything that has then asserted the permanent change in time I thought you were proposing.

    My comment about being ad-hoc is that this specific model (not a generalization of it, specifically this model of ontological change at the incarnation which is never revoked) was created to solve this specific problem of how to make the sacrifice of Jesus something other than a temporary blip. It is ad-hoc, because if you start from some doctrine, there is *always* a way to create a story to make it reasonable. The really interesting bit is whether that story then applies to other doctrines and remains as significant. I’m suggesting that it means you have to revise a number of other doctrines in its light, away from their traditional understandings. That’s fine, you’re at liberty to do that, you may have found the truth, after all!

  30. Xander

    @Ian

    If the branch is grafted into another tree, it continues to produce apples. Depending on the size of the branch, you can grow roots from it and then plant it. As long as there are nutrients, it will continue to grow and thus is still a tree. Toenails and hair don’t do that.

    “But one cannot say then that he suffered terribly because he was cut off from the presence of God.” Why not? Is not the degree of suffering subjective to the person who experiences it?

  31. Ian

    If the branch is grafted into another tree, it continues to produce apples.

    But the branch is not a tree. That was my point. Okay a branch in certain circumstances (highly highly dependent on the tree, the stock you’re grafting it onto, the size of the branch and many many other things) can be regrafted. But so what?

    My contention is that something can’t be completely separated from itself.

    “But one cannot say then that he suffered terribly because he was cut off from the presence of God.” Why not?

    What?

    Jesus suffers because he is cut off from God during the crucifixion.
    Jesus is still God throughout the crucifixion.
    Is a contradiction. If Jesus is God he can’t be cut off from God, any more than I can be cut off from being me while still being me. Unless you’re really going to play very weird word games.

  32. Peter

    Ian

    I’m reminded that communication is difficult, worth the effort, but difficult; the fact that we are communicating at all, is, I think, good.

    “I thought you were saying that the ’sacrifice’ of Jesus is the incarnation”

    Well, I am suggesting that we can think of the incarnation as a sacrifice but I wasn’t saying that the incarnation *is* the sacrifice, or the sacrifice *is* the incarnation in the sense of the sacrifice being limited to one aspect of the life of Jesus. Apologies for my poor communication. Neither was I setting out to offer the humanity of Jesus as a particular solution to a particular problem merely suggesting that in terms of the story God becoming human is a sacrifice.

    I’m afraid I’m a bit kaleidoscopic, which may of course only be a way of stating a variety of doctrines which are difficult to hold in tension. And I’m aware that the variety of theological interpretations among us Christians can be frustrating and often used as evidence of confusion and incoherence; but I also think that it’s reasonable to suggest that we are supposed to wrestle and debate and wonder and communicate with one another and with God. Communication and exploration and questioning is part of what makes us human and it’s one of the reasons I’m prepared to stick at it. In fact I’d go so far as to say that this is what God intends us to do. Communication also appears to be one of the things that makes God, God.

    Shane, let me do a ‘Pilate’, “What is ‘fact’?”

  33. Xander,
    “But one cannot say then that he suffered terribly because he was cut off from the presence of God.” Why not? Is not the degree of suffering subjective to the person who experiences it?

    In which case Ian is still right because you cannot say that he suffered terribly. Indeed, on the cross Jesus could have had a magic analgesic gland kicking in, while he just pretended to suffer, and none would have been the wiser because it’s all subjective.

    Peter,
    let me do a ‘Pilate’, “What is ‘fact’?”
    Well, if you feel you have to go there, like Al Plantinga or Bill Craig, you have already lost. You *can* grasp that, can’t you?

    Anyway, why are you not over on AnswersInGenes helping Graham defeat me on other contentious issues?? 🙂

  34. Xander

    @Ian
    “But so what?”

    So it retains its identity as to what it is when separated from the whole.

    As I said earlier, you have to see it outside of the physical act. The cross might have happened, but the cross is not the punishment. It represents the punishment in a tangible way, but to say that it was the extent of what happened is to trivialize the matter. Who couldn’t spend a day on the cross if that meant eternal life?

    @Shane
    “In which case Ian is still right because you cannot say that he suffered terribly. Indeed, on the cross Jesus could have had a magic analgesic gland kicking in, while he just pretended to suffer, and none would have been the wiser because it’s all subjective.”

    True. I guess you just have to take it at face value. If someone says they suffered terribly then they did.

    “Anyway, why are you not over on AnswersInGenes helping Graham defeat me on other contentious issues?? ”

    I didn’t think people actually went to that site

  35. Peter

    Shane, no, I don’t feel I have to go there, just banter; I know you love it!!

    And AiG ‘tamarra’!

    Xander

    “I didn’t think people actually went to that site”

    Yeh we do. It’s rather good. He’s ‘dead on’, our Shane.

  36. Ian

    Well, I am suggesting that we can think of the incarnation as a sacrifice but I wasn’t saying that the incarnation *is* the sacrifice, or the sacrifice *is* the incarnation in the sense of the sacrifice being limited to one aspect of the life of Jesus.

    Just when I thought we’d got something specific to talk about… I understand why it has to be so, but its just so disappointing.

    Strikes me that it doesn’t matter if there are additional points of sacrifice, the idea that the incarnation is a permanent change in the nature of God, and that is a sacrifice, is sufficient to have the discussion.

    I’m afraid I’m a bit kaleidoscopic, which may of course only be a way of stating a variety of doctrines which are difficult to hold in tension

    That really depends. When you say ‘in tension’ do you mean that, if you look at any doctrine too closely it doesn’t hold water, but if you don’t look at them in sufficient vaguery they kind of look the part?

    You *were* saying something interesting. It was unconventional, maybe even heretical, but interesting. Now it seems like you’re heading for muddier waters!

    merely suggesting that in terms of the story God becoming human is a sacrifice

    Well the context in which you made that claim was one of permanent sacrifice. So I dispute your ‘merely’ (which implies that what you said is no big deal, theologically).

  37. Ian

    Xander,

    As I said earlier, you have to see it outside of the physical act

    I wasn’t aware I was thinking of it as a physical act. And my responses to your questions don’t presuppose that, do they?

    You were saying that Jesus is separated from God but also that Jesus is God. I was asking how that can be so.

    And now you’re saying that you’re not referring to a a physical separation? Surely that makes the question even more difficult, not simpler? Do you mean that Jesus (who is God) is separated from the Father (who is God) i.e. that at this point there are two separate Gods? Or do you mean that Jesus’s human nature is separated from God, so Jesus is fully human only on the cross? Or do you mean (as per the branch idea), that God divides into the Godly core and a non-autonomous chunk of divinity, which is Jesus, which makes a whole God again when it is regrafted later in the resurrection? Or are you saying that it is a mystery, and God can be both separate and unified at the same time and we can’t say anything more about how?

    Only the last is orthodox Christian theology, of course. But that’s entirely the point of discussions like this isn’t it? That Christian theology poses as making sense, but doesn’t hold water.

    That’s not to say it isn’t true, of course. Although my views on that are obvious.

  38. Xander, Peter and I go way back – don’t sweat it 😉

  39. Mellie

    Peter’s comments, especially those re Philippians 2, are similar to how I used to understand Jesus sacrifice. I’d say the theory predicated itself on the assumption of human messiness or degradation. Jesus had the opportunity to eternally remain a being who was not dependent upon anything to maintain his existence. He needed no air to breathe, no food to eat, no water to drink, no shelter, etc. His humility, then, came in part from his willingness to take on the limiting conditions under which all humans labor, including the most limiting condition of all: death.

    The question I have about this concerns the scriptural directive that *we* are also to sacrifice ourselves (present your body a living sacrifice) and “die” (if we die with him, we will also be raised with him). Therefore, we also have to lose our identity and sense of self in this death. I would maintain that his sacrifice was easier because of his being God (which is what I think Ian is saying). He asks us to sacrifice in the exact same way, yes with the help of the holy spirit, but certainly not with the fullness of God dwelling bodily within us. He had a greater identity and situation to sacrifice but we are called to sacrifice our bodies and everything that goes with them and we can not give more than we have. He may have had more of everything to give up, but how could we give more than the totality of what we have?

    I think that what follows from this is that if Jesus sacrificed all for us but if we are called to sacrifice all for him, then how is his surrender really “for us”? I mean, even though he died we still have to die. This gets into some territory outside the scope of what the post is talking about so I won’t continue. I would be interested, Ian, if you could direct me to the post you wrote about the atonement.

  40. Peter

    Ian (Yikes! This turned out to be long)

    “Just when I thought we’d got something specific to talk about”

    Well, I can (try to) discuss that ‘something specific’, as long as you know that when I’m thinking about the sacrifice of Jesus I’m thinking of more than one aspect of his life. So, while I’m not sure where it may go (!), I’m happy to talk through what it might mean that Jesus is still human and its implications for other doctrines.

    “When you say ‘in tension’ do you mean that, if you look at any doctrine too closely it doesn’t hold water…”

    No, I’m thinking more along lines which I’ve already mentioned, that it’s easier to state doctrine and that this is often what happens. I mean how do we explain, ‘God is Spirit, Jesus is human, Jesus is God’? We could for example say, ‘God intended all along to do this’; we could say, ‘this is how God communicates something about himself’; we could say, ‘this validates the sanctity and value of the mundane’; and perhaps we could say other things, but are these *explanations*?

    “muddier waters”

    I’ll have a go at tacking away from the muddier waters.

    “Merely”

    I’m not suggesting that understanding the incarnation as a sacrifice is theologically unimportant, rather I was thinking of the word in the context of not offering a ‘particular solution to a particular problem’; in other words I wasn’t setting out to say, ‘this is the answer to your question’; I was saying, ‘the incarnation is a sacrifice, maybe that might help our thinking’.

    And having said all that (written a bit earlier) I now read what Mellie (hi) has said and I want to go off in another direction.

    I’ll start with this. Mellie, your comments about our sacrifice sound very ‘popular evangelical’ to me. What I mean is that it’s the sort of thing I’ve heard a lot in church, and they’ve influenced me a lot, so a couple of thoughts. A desperate amount of evangelicalism seems to me to be based on, ‘how much are you willing to do for Jesus, look what he did for you.’ A lot gets interpreted in that context. So, perhaps the ‘living’ part of living sacrifice is important. There is an interesting ref in Leviticus 14, I’m not making a big deal of it, just noting that one bird died and one bird (dipped in the blood of the other) lived. The loss of identity and sense of self thing I could get back to; I’ll just add that whatever I’ve heard over the years about ‘dying to self’, I don’t think of it a ‘loss of identity’.

  41. muddleglum

    Gal 2:20 has your answer. Actually, if you look (especially apparent in the Greek) at all the verses where one is united with Christ, you’ll see a long way. The N.T. is full of ’em.

    If I do not abide in Christ (and he in me) I could not be crucified with him. If I cannot die with him, I cannot Live in him who is Life and came back from death to prove it. If I cannot Live in him, then where do works that please him come from? Further, where is our future hope? So Christ had to die so I can die, Christ came back from the pit so I can Live.

  42. Ian

    muddleglum,

    Thanks for posting, and welcome to the blog.

    So, care to explain what, exactly, in Galatians 2:22 describes the specific sacrifice of Christ? (στα ελληνικά είναι μια χαρά). And what the uniting with Christ speaks to Christ‘s sacrifice? Are you aware that there are many different theological opinions of what Gal 2:20ff mean, even among confessional theologians?

    Your final paragraph seemed not to be about Christ’s sacrifice at all, but about how you understand your relationship to his sacrifice, but even then I got confused

    “So Christ had to die so I can die”

    isn’t that deeply bizarre and unorthodox theology?

    Sorry if I seem rude on your first post and all, but you did seem to be implying that this was simple, and just a matter of reading the text, but I couldn’t find anything really concrete in your approach. Please respond and let’s take the discussion further.

    If it helps, it might be worth knowing that I am comfortable with greek and usually read the NT in greek, so feel free to take the discussion into linguistics, if that helps.

  43. Ian

    Mellie, Peter, Thanks a lot for the comments. I’m going to leave the discussion there from my point of view, since you’ve had the best last words, from both sides. Mellie, I agree once more with you. Peter, not so much 😉 Or rather, Peter, I understand (I think) your points, but because they are becoming more holistic, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to pin anything on it that I feel I can muster up something intelligent to say.

    Mellie, I’ve posted several times on atonement related issues:

    http://irrco.org/2010/02/the-atonement-in-animals/
    and
    http://irrco.org/2010/06/dr-who-jesus-and-the-blurflurgh/

    and in the comments to various other posts.

    But I confess I’ve so far taken the really cheap shots at the penal substitution model of atonement (the idea that Christ took on our suffering so that we could avoid deserved punishment for our sins). Luke, a Christian minister and some-time commenter here, has criticised me for that in the past, rightly pointing out that the penal atonement theory is about as nonsensical a doctrine as one could hope to find (though unaccountably popular among evangelicals, for some reason). I should post on other models, but I really don’t have a lot of time for the whole idea of atonement, and the fiddly theologies that have been used to support it, so I admit I’ve not been much motivated to.

    Over the last year or so I’ve been working on an atheistic systematic theology, as part of that I have been doing some interesting thinking about atonement (well, I think it was interesting!), but it doesn’t play in to conventional notions of atonement, so is probably a bit of a red herring in this discussion.

  44. muddleglum

    “Are you aware that there are many different theological opinions of what Gal 2:20ff mean, even among confessional theologians?”
    Strange question in the context of what you were asking. But, yes. Why do you ask? Should I preface “I’m aware …many…opinions…” to every clause I write? I’m curious to understand what you mean. Could we please just assume that there are many opinions without me writing that over and over?
    It might help to know that I am deaf and only recently have been “coming out” because of the web. Therefore, I’m too insular and do not communicate like most people. My apologies for lack of clarity. But being insular also means that I have looked at scripture with little input from any other man. I’m weirder than even I think.

    “Your final paragraph seemed not to be about Christ’s sacrifice at all, but about how you understand your relationship to his sacrifice, but even then I got confused”
    >> “So Christ had to die so I can die”

    “isn’t that deeply bizarre and unorthodox theology?”
    Interesting. Why?

    To repeat your initial question, mas o menos, “Was Christ’s sacrifice costly?”
    The answer is…it’s beside the point.
    “Anyone got a reasonable rationale for understanding the doctrine of sacrifice?”
    Now that is a different question and the one I answered so unclearly.

    It seems simple to me. 🙂 John 15:4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” John 15:5 “…The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.” NETBible (I’ll try to be consistent.)

    I take it as what it says–there is a “becoming one” with Christ. If any person is one in Christ, he also dies in Christ, and lives in Christ. Christ had to die and be resurrected so we can die and have Life. Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live,” Rom 6:8 and Col 2:20 have the same thought of dying with Christ. If we abide /in him,/ then we are crucified /in him/ who is being sacrificed from the foundation of the earth.

    Life is what we are predestined to, according to Ephesians 1: 3-4 “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. 4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” Note that “every spiritual blessing” is “in Christ.” Take a deep breath. “For he chose us ‘in Christ'” is often interpreted as “For he chose us /to be/ ‘in Christ,'” but I simply take it as “For he chose us /who are/ ‘in Christ'” so that the phrase, “that we may be holy and unblemished” echoes Christ’s “apart from me you can accomplish nothing.”

    There is a “merging” into Christ. See how often compounds prefix with “syn” are used in the N.T.? Some of these compounds are not seen in prior profane and religious Greek manuscripts. The argument from silence isn’t the strongest, true, but there seems to be quite an emphasis on being one in/with Christ (attained by faith, though it depends on your definition of faith.)
    We became one in Christ. We die in Christ. That is the point of the sacrifice. Then we come alive in Christ, which is the point of his resurrection. Because we remain in the Lover, we too can love.

    That is the point of the sacrifice. Yeah, you’re right that he had to fight his natural desires, especially in the garden. That cost. The pain cost. He lost his life. That cost. He lost his clothes. That cost. Huh? Silly? No. You want an accounting problem, then count all the beans. But, like I said, it’s beside the point.

  45. Ian

    muddleglum. Great, thanks for responding. I really hoped you would.

    Before I respond to anything else, let me first say that your statement: “The answer is…it’s beside the point.” was the epiphany. Sorry I didn’t get that from your first comment, but it frames what you’re saying nicely.

    If I understand it rightly, you’re saying that to understand the ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus, it is pointless trying to worry about how bad it was for Jesus, or the gory details of his suffering, or his ontological change. The only way, theologically, we can understand it is to consider its impact on humanity – i.e. look at it teleologically (what was it for).

    If that is the case, then I can understand your approach, and it does answer my question just fine, by rejecting its premise. It strikes me that calling it ‘sacrifice’ then is just a label of convention. We aren’t supposed to understand anything by it, because the point isn’t the act, but its effects.

    But I think this is rather convenient. Because, once again, it removes explanation from the realm of the prosaic and puts it into a spiritual realm where you not only get to provide the explanation, but you get to set the rules about how the realm works and what constitutes an explanation.

    So as far as I can see, it shuts down discussion about anything that can be understood independently and moves the discussion into a fictive space, based on the NT story, without any way of anyone telling whether that story has any truth, or is simply made up. Any way, that is, other than interpreting your own qualia in that story.

    “He lost his life. That cost. ”

    Only he didn’t, did he? As I’ve said before death for 2 days then resurrection is not death. Not in any way that makes death significant, anyway. Death is significant because it is permanent. I don’t grieve for friends I don’t see for 2 days. My wife doesn’t die when she falls asleep each night.

    The idea that Jesus died on the cross, in any meaningful definition of death, seems to me to be the whole problem with this doctrine. We’ve moved a long way from breathing-death (the NT standard) as our understanding of what it means to be dead, through to brain death, and even beyond that. It is not unheard of to bring people back to life after hours of heart death in certain circumstances (particularly drownings). We don’t say they died. And God’s raising of Jesus is only different by duration.

    Jesus didn’t die, according to Christian doctrine. He’s still alive now.

    “Are you aware that there are many different theological opinions of what Gal 2:20ff mean, even among confessional theologians?”
    Strange question in the context of what you were asking. But, yes. Why do you ask?

    Because I didn’t understand what you were using that passage for, I got the sense you felt it had some really obvious theological meaning for this discussion. I was just making the point that it had many different theological meanings, was used as a tool in various ways, and so couldn’t stand alone without further explanation of why a passage on unity with Christ was an answer to a question about what Jesus sacrificed.

    Now I understand, it makes sense, and doesn’t need any more qualification.

    >>> “So Christ had to die so I can die”
    >>“isn’t that deeply bizarre and unorthodox theology?”
    > Interesting. Why?

    Because in orthodox theology Christ’s death had the purpose and effect of defeating death, so that you could not die. I am not aware of a theology that tries to claim that human death is predicated on Christ’s death.

  46. Ian

    Just as a complete aside, since I can’t let Greek geekery go by without comment:

    See how often compounds prefix with “syn” are used in the N.T.? Some of these compounds are not seen in prior profane and religious Greek manuscripts.

    As I understand it, the use of συν- is chronological. Ancient greek used μετά- for the same purpose and so various words conventionally συν- in Koine were normally μετά- in ancient greek. Then through the Byzantine greek period the συν- form again gradually died out, so that modern greek once more uses με-. Consequently, because the vast majority of our Koine texts are Christian (NT+early church), συν- is highly associated with Christian texts.

    An example of this is that words in LXX will often be rendered μετά-, but their equivalents in the NT will be συν-. And because Koine was developing before Christianity, later LXX works (the greek bits of Daniel, Maccabees, etc) use συν- forms.

    If my understanding isn’t totally off base, I’d be reluctant to derive much theologically from that.

  47. muddleglum

    Thanks for your comment on συν-. (Someday I’ll know everything and not forget anything…. Sure.) Now I can go back over and make sure that the compounds aren’t found with μετά-.

  48. muddleglum

    “it removes explanation from the realm of the prosaic and puts it into a spiritual realm”
    Yet, didn’t Christ say, “My kingdom is not of this world?”
    The prosaic proof, for me, is in how the Holy Spirit communicates directly to me plus others in such a way one either must accept ESP, which I cannot; (I investigated it as a skepical atheist, not as a Christian.) accept that I am completely deluded or a liar; or accept a personal God with a sense of humor. Unfortunately, I cannot attest to my vericity or sanity nor the vericity and sanity of those who were there.

    “where you not only get to provide the explanation, but you get to set the rules about how the realm works and what constitutes an explanation.”
    I’m still constrained by scriptures and what they mean.

    “So as far as I can see, it shuts down discussion about anything that can be understood independently and moves the discussion into a fictive space, based on the NT story, without any way of anyone telling whether that story has any truth, or is simply made up. Any way, that is, other than interpreting your own qualia in that story.”
    I’m not sure what you are saying here. You, yourself seem to accept that physically, Jesus existed and died on the cross. Yet, one could say the gospels are fiction–many do. But if one accepts the scriptures, or at least the ones that are more certain, then one is constrained by the data presented. The scriptures indicate that about the only externally evident prosaic proofs that will be provided is an increased ability to love (abiding in the Lover) and a heightened ability to withstand temptation (abiding in the sinless One). Again, you don’t know me.

    ——-
    “As I’ve said before death for 2 days then resurrection is not death. Not in any way that makes death significant, anyway. Death is significant because it is permanent.”
    The permanence of death is significant only to the living, then. Right now you are smack dab in a fictive space. How do you know what death is? Maybe on the second day of death one is really stressed out.

    “Jesus didn’t die, according to Christian doctrine. He’s still alive now.”
    ?!
    How about Lazarus? He died, was resurrected, then died again. Now note the “he stinketh” (I love the KJV for some usages.) There was a breakdown of the body. Unlike your wife and kids trapped under the ice, bacteria are making hay and cells are dropping off. You might want to talk to a necrologist for more information. Jesus either was dead or he wasn’t. If he was dead, after a couple of days, even in the coolness of the tomb, he…, well ask an expert. Anyway, all this is beside the point.

    ———
    “different theological opinions”
    Thanks for explanation. Good point. Wonder how well I can apply it. 🙂

    ———
    “I am not aware of a theology that tries to claim that human death is predicated on Christ’s death.”
    Not the physical death, true, but the spiritual death, which one can only see indirectly, is different. Scripturally, spiritual death results in self-love and, perhaps consequently, slavery to one’s own flesh. That “sin nature” (NOT flesh nature) must die. It dies in Christ.

  49. Ian

    “Yet, didn’t Christ say, “My kingdom is not of this world?””

    Yes, Jesus was as skilled at the bait and switch as any religious leader! But, yes, theologically there is reasonable justification for this.

    What I’m more concerned about is the bait and switch. It appears, or even claims, to be talking about stuff that regular people can understand. But then when you actually examine the claims, it runs for the spiritual hills and claims it is unfair to judge the claims in regular terms.

    ” You, yourself seem to accept that physically, Jesus existed and died on the cross.”

    Yes, sorry, I was unclear. I do tend to think Jesus was a real person, who was born in Galilee, was baptised by John, was an apocalyptic itinerant preacher, and was crucified under the authority of Pilate in Jerusalem. The fiction I meant was the story of the spiritual world: the world of God, the son of God, messiahship, the Holy Spirit, heaven, hell, eternal life, sacrificial atonement, justification, sin, unity of substance with Christ, and so on for all the mechanisms that actually pose as explanation under Christian theology. They are not grounded or evidentially derived. Many of these bits of the story we know exactly how they came to be, over the theological wranglings of the early church and the personal power struggles that gave rise to them. Of course, one can say that these wranglings and personality clashes were the means by which God revealed these doctrines. Or one can see it just as the power-grabs in a fledgling sect, fossilised into doctrine that modern adherents are expected to accept and rationalize.

    “The scriptures indicate that about the only externally evident prosaic proofs that will be provided is an increased ability to love (abiding in the Lover)”

    Well, that’s true only if you interpret them in that way. But that is a choice you make. There are plenty of passages that, prima facia, seem to suggest very obvious evidence. The problem is that, as we’ve seen here, when the evidence is lacking (the power of prayer, healing of sick people, speaking in other languages, prophecy, sinlessness), they are interpreted to be spiritual. So the prayer prayed in faith will make the sick person well, for some definition of well that does not correspond to removing the sickness that you’re praying about, for example.

    And if you happen to criticise the fact that the scripture certainly seems to claim that the prosaic sickness will be healed (both explicitly in that passage, and by example in the Gospels and Acts), then you rapidly get chided for having a simplistic literal interpretation of the text that only the fundamentalists hold.

    If you choose that the only claims in the scripture you’ll take prosaically are an increase in love and resistance to temptation, then it seems to me that you’re doing exactly what I’m suggesting.

    “and a heightened ability to withstand temptation (abiding in the sinless One)”

    That, at least, is testable. But can you point to any evidence of that being true? Any evidence of lower rates of sin among Christian populations as a whole? I assume not, there’s no good evidence of this I’m familiar with that aren’t accounted for by cultural prohibitions. Except for ‘sins’ that are peculiarly identified as such by religious populations, and then not even very much. And in case you think cultural prohibitions are a way that God can achieve this work, it would be worth noting that cultures associated with other religions will beat the ass off Christianity for those metrics.

    “Again, you don’t know me.”

    No. I don’t think I’ve said anything that assumed I did, and I didn’t mean to if I did. But I am looking forward very much to getting to know you better.

    “Not the physical death, true, but the spiritual death, which one can only see…”

    Exactly. My point once again.

  50. muddleglum

    >>“Again, you don’t know me.”
    >No. I don’t think I’ve said anything that assumed I did
    You do not know me enough to know if I’m a liar, a troll, an idiot, or insane. Or a mixture thereof. In other words, I do not consider my statements proof for you, but rather to illustrate and clarify (little chance, that) my rationale.

    —-
    Bait and Switch. I can see where you are coming from, but take James, for instance. His idea of true religion was
    1. love the unlovable. (an increased ability to love–abiding in the Lover)
    2. keep unspotted from the world (a heightened ability to withstand temptation–abiding in the sinless One)

    These were primary and repeated more than once through the letter.
    Yes, there is a verse about healing in the last chapter that I’m still trying to understand (vow is translated as pray for good reason, but is it correct? Are we missing something?) and it is not that I haven’t used that verse myself and been healed, (but you don’t know me, so you cannot rely on that.) but I just don’t quite get the context. Yet, in the context of the whole letter, it is secondary, at the best.

    The same goes with Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians–Chapter 13 is obviously primary and the other things about the gifts are secondary. Again, I’ve had the secondary (prophecy, for instance) happen in such a way that I cannot wiggle out of it, but only if you were there would you be able to accept it.

    BTW, I can understand why God seems secretive in some ways. I certainly would if I were in his shoes.

    ” [healing] (both explicitly in that passage, and by example in the Gospels and Acts)”
    Parables expressed in reality. Healing of physical disease illustrating salvation from spiritual disease. Yep, bait-and-switch again. Exactly what a lot of people think of analogies.

    “Any evidence of lower rates of sin among Christian populations as a whole?”
    Define Christian.
    Not until we get a good persecution going that will scare away those that do not remain in Christ will there be much proof. I’m NOT looking forward to that.
    Another thing you must reckon with is growth in faith that one is in Christ. Your sample will need to be those who are the mature.
    Again, perhaps the centuries of being influenced by the O.T. and the examples of N.T. living “raised the bar” of what sin is. I understand that people visiting, say, India, see a difference in lifestyles, but I cannot vouch for that.
    And, remember, Christ did say, “remain” so one does have to remain in him, and that takes faith.
    .

  51. Ian

    Generally I don’t have much to say in response, since I can’t follow you into that kind of confessional territory. It isn’t at all clear to me that you can make those kinds of primacy arguments from the text without faith. And it seems to me (quite evidentially) that the kind of faith you espouse determines what you find to be primary.

    Of course you want to argue that your particular set of emphases are the right ones, but then so does everyone else.

    “These were primary and repeated more than once through the letter.” If frequency were the metric, then we’d have a very different view of Jesus, who is recorded as healing more often than he forgave sins. Presumably you’d want to say that some things that come up a lot are less primary than some things that are less frequent, due to some additional criteria.

    “Corinthians–Chapter 13 is obviously primary and the other things about the gifts are secondary” Unless you’re version of Christianity teaches the primacy of the spiritual experience, of course.

    By what grounds can you make those judgements so that someone who doesn’t share your specific faith can also run the method and generate the same results?

    “Any evidence of lower rates of sin among Christian populations as a whole?”
    Define Christian.
    Not until we get a good persecution going that will scare away those that do not remain in Christ will there be much proof

    Ah, once again you appear to be backtracking from something that is evidential into something at a deeper level. So Christians aren’t less sinful, but true Christians are (true in some sense, I realise your scotsman fallacy wasn’t so blatant) , and we’ve no idea who they are so we can’t possibly check whether your claim is true. Until some mythic future event rolls in.

    BTW, I can understand why God seems secretive in some ways. I certainly would if I were in his shoes.

    Why? I would think it a deeply deeply immoral act to configure the world in which he was the only way to prevent utter destruction and damnation, and then go skulking around in shadows whispering his still small voice on the off chance that some folks believe a story about him and come to notice him.

    But whether the God in the Christian narratives deserves to be called good and moral is a whole other thing. I am pretty strongly of the opinion that the God described in the bible is morally reprehensible, if not downright evil. Certainly any person who behaved in that way I would have no qualms in considering evil. And among Christians I’ve discussed this with, the discussion goes pretty much the same was as above: they quickly stop talking about ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in the way we all understand and redefine a kind of spiritual sense of ‘good’ that can be counter-intuitive to our prosaic understanding of basic moral obligations (a teleological suspension of the ethical, if you get the reference).

  52. muddleglum

    “I would think it a deeply deeply immoral act to configure the world in which he was the only way to prevent utter destruction and damnation”
    Because you don’t know him, you miss the correct premises. From what I make of your initial premises, I, of course, agree with your conclusion.

    Read the story of the prodigal son. You are telling me that the prodigal son should have written a letter home to tell his father to send him more money because if he doesn’t, “I would think it a deeply deeply immoral act to configure the world in which [you are] the only way to prevent utter destruction and damnation.”

    More to the point of your question–remember freedom of choice. If God was in your face all the time you couldn’t really ignore him. The prodigal son had to do some initial thinking about why he was so far from home in the first place. He certainly couldn’t blame his Dad for not revealing himself.

    Remember God’s name, as revealed in Genesis. Proceed from there.

    “By what grounds can you make those judgements so that someone who doesn’t share your specific faith can also run the method and generate the same results?”
    This, of course, is the crux.

    Part of the problem is highlighted when my cousin asked me what use higher mathematics was. She assumed that there wasn’t any use, and I didn’t know how to explain to her at that time in a way that would communicate what I knew. I’m not sure if I could now.

    I’m not good at communication, never having the privilege of conversing with an adult. So that is another problem. That is indicated in the previous, but, also, if I asked you to assume that there is a God, would you immediately reject that? If so, then I do not know how to communicate anything to you. For instance, the exchange below happened recently:

    (Me) “assume that the stories of [Jesus’] miracles are true…”
    (Other) “No, I will leave that to others to assume if that is what they wish…”

    This has happened more than once to me, so I’m communicating incorrectly.

    OTOH, I have dialogued with God. I cannot prove that to you, but, for instance, one time God dialogued with another man asking him to say something to our group. The other man requested a pass and God asked me to do it instead. I didn’t want to, but did anyway. The other man told me later what he did. Now this (vague but short) story shouldn’t be proof to anyone who doesn’t know either of us, but I’m sure you can understand how it bolsters my own convictions as well as shows me that I can communicate with at least one person–God.

    But if you do know me, you might place some credence on my story, (my boss was in on the later exchange and believed, though amazed) and this is what we see throughout the N.T. writings–Thomas was less blessed because he did not accept the eye-witness testimony of the others who he knew and should have trusted.
    .

  53. Ian

    Read the story of the prodigal son. You are telling me that the prodigal son should have written a letter home to tell his father to send him more money because if he doesn’t, “I would think it a deeply deeply immoral act to configure the world in which [you are] the only way to prevent utter destruction and damnation.”

    We’re not talking about the son and what he should have done, are we? We’re talking about the father (i.e. God in the analogy). If my son went on a self-destructive rampage, then wrote home to say, “Dad, I’ve lost everything, I’m about to starve to death, please send me money so I can buy food.” You better believe I would. And any father who says “No, son, the only way I am going to help you is if you come back home and be reconciled to me.” is plain immoral.

    Now add to that if the father was in control of the son’s starvation directly. In fact he knew full well that the son was starving to death. In fact allowed starvation into the world in the first place, and you have some measure of how vile God’s morality would be in human terms. I would not consider such a person remotely moral if they said “hey, I had a plan to save you – you could have been reconciled with me at any time.”

    “More to the point of your question–remember freedom of choice.”

    Even assuming the free-will defence to the problem of evil is valid (which I think it isn’t). Why does this reflect well on God’s morality? Quite the opposite, the free will defence makes God even more of a monster.

    If my three year old is about to hurt himself, or potentially in danger of death, I don’t give a damn about freedom of choice, and I don’t give a damn what he thinks of me. I am going to intervene, even if he thinks I am a complete monster. In fact, to sit there and say: “hey, don’t put that gun to your head, I warned you, but I’m not going to stop you if you want to pull the trigger” is immoral. It is called negligence and we lock up people who do that to their children.

    If we really are in danger of complete destruction, and God has the power to save, then any theology that isn’t universalist is clearly a theology of an evil God. I can’t see how it can be anything other.

    But then the free-will defence adds this horrible layer of egotism. To suggest that God so prefers people to love him of their own free will that he’s willing to let even one suffer in the way the bible portrays is narcissistic and worthy of condemnation. Any person who demanded freely offered love in return for protection would obviously be a tyrant.

    If I asked you to assume that there is a God, would you immediately reject that? If so, then I do not know how to communicate anything to you.

    No, I wouldn’t reject that. I think I’ve been doing that throughout. In fact in this comment I’m assuming that the God of Christian doctine exists for the purpose of encouraging you to look at him with your normal prosaic sense of morality.

    OTOH, I have dialogued with God

    Well, here’s where I might be a little surprising, because I have no doubt that that could be true. I do believe in a god who can interact psychologically with people.

    In fact, my understanding of how this happens also encompasses the fact that people of all religion also talk to god. Fairy-believers talk to fairies (I’m not exaggerating, I know two people who really practice faery magic), and UFO believers receive miraculous messages from aliens that they cannot explain.

    Of the whole set of possible discussions about God, the one thing I won’t argue is the experiences you have had. When I (try to) do theology that is always my starting point: take seriously the reported experience of the faithful.

    The route from there is to determine which explanation for those experiences is most likely, and encompasses the fact of not only that experience, but the other experiences of religious, spiritual and mystical people from all traditions who see themselves worshipping or communing with all kinds of different being. And here, I think the Christian God hypothesis is also problematic. It may describe features of your experience well, but has trouble explaining how people can talk to aliens or jinn, or how they can see and talk to boggarts or faeries.

    I’ve posted a few times on how I understand god, so I’ll not go back over that now. Suffice it to say, I am happy to take your experience of god as being genuine.

  54. muddleglum

    ” If my son went on a self-destructive rampage, then…”
    Therefore you are saying that if your son is an alcoholic you would continue to send him money to drink himself to death. Psychologists call that co-dependency? And none would say you are doing him any good, but rather harm.

    “If my three year old is about to hurt himself, or potentially in danger of death, I don’t give a damn about freedom of choice”
    Aren’t we talking about an adult’s freedom of choice? Shifting back to adults; therefore, if your wife is an alcoholic and about to take a drink you will take the bottle out of her hand and take away her freedom of action so that she never again will drink.

    Most people would consider the middle way as moral–neither supporting dependency nor taking away the freedom of choice.
    “…encouraging you to look at him with your normal prosaic sense of morality.”
    Yep.

    ” I am happy to take your experience of god as being genuine.”
    The point is that I cannot ignore this proof, even while I cannot expect you to accept it as such.

    Proceed from God’s revealed name. The whole is basically in Genesis.
    .

  55. Ian

    ” If my son went on a self-destructive rampage, then…”
    Therefore you are saying that if your son is an alcoholic

    I so knew you were going to try that, that I wrote a whole paragraph pre-empting it, then deleted it because the comment was so long. If my son was an alcoholic and was asking for money to damage himself, then of course, it would be immoral to allow him to damage himself further. Clearly. If that were the case I’d get off my backside immediately and do whatever I could to make sure he was safe. But that is the whole point. I would make sure he is safe, to the utmost of my power. The alternative is to sit around in my estate saying “I’m always here, fatted calf ready, arms open wide, come back when you want”. Or even worse “I’ve decided to torture myself for a while, so I can experience how bad your life is, and remove any roadblocks for you coming back to me.”

    ” I am happy to take your experience of god as being genuine.”
    The point is that I cannot ignore this proof, even while I cannot expect you to accept it as such.

    Well it is certainly evidence. And evidence for the existence of your God. I’m not sure how you can reasonably say that any such evidence could be proof of a particular set of doctrines about God.

  56. muddleglum

    Proceed from God’s revealed name. The whole is basically in Genesis.
    .

  57. Ian

    I have to say it is a little insulting to keep saying things like that. Because it assumes that I haven’t done 20 years of biblical study, including original language study. It also assumes I don’t understand the derivations of words that you obviously think are so significant, (but in fact are linguistically dubious). I understand that finding out what God’s name means probably was significant to you in your Christian life, but unless you’re willing to actually raise specific issues into light to discuss them, there’s no point even going there. Other than to try to imply that there is new information or understanding to be found that would answer all my questions but I’ve simply not looked hard enough to find.

    I could just as well say “go back and read the bible at a deeper level, and you’ll see there’s no God”. And if you object. “You’re not reading it deeply enough, there’s an even deeper level to read it at – try again, you’ll see.” But you say “no, I’ve read it really deeply and it speaks to me of God”. Well, I say, you haven’t read it deeply enough, because below the level where you find God you’ll find a deeper truth that its all a myth. It just isn’t helpful.

    If you have specific bits of information, insight, and understanding that pertain to this issue, then please share them.

  58. Theresa

    It cost Jesus more than you have tritely suggested. It cost Him leaving Heaven. He came to Earth from a paradise beyond your understanding. He had one of His closest friends betray Him. That HAD to happen, it wasn’t just something that happened. He poured into the man for three years, shared meals, laughged, worked, and lived together with him. The torture Jesus endured was hideous and excruciating. his ultimate death on the cross was horrific as well. There was a time when the Father broke fellowship with Jesus as He hung on the cross. That was the most costly part of Jesus’ life. This sacrifice of separating from the Father was what saved us. Sin separates us from God. Jesus allowed Himself to be separated from the Father to atone for our sins so we don’t have to be separated from God. It cost Jesus dearly. It was more painful than anything He endured on the cross.

  59. Ian

    Theresa, Thanks for commenting and welcome to the blog.

    I’m very well aware of the standard teachings of the church you’re repeating. I’d encourage you to *think* a little more about it. Read the actual post again, and some of the other comments here. At the very least the simple cliches don’t work, at worst no justifications do.

    Its all very well to repeat stuff you’ve been told over and over, quite another to understand it well enough to rationally deal with objections. Repeating it while ignoring what others have to say isn’t healthy. Its a mark of brainwashing.

    What is your actual point. Where are you suggesting the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus lies? In being betrayed (many people suffer that fate each day), in being tortured to death over several hours? (many people suffer far worse every day), in the spiritual separation from the Father? Let’s assume you mean the latter. Fair enough, but as you say quite explicitly in your last sentence, then, the cross and the ‘death’ of Jesus is not significant.

    If you’d like to really engage on the subject, then feel free to respond to the points. If not, please be aware those most of us in these comments could recite the standard Christian teachings all day without breaking sweat. If we disagree, its because we’ve thought about it, not because we’re ignorant of what you say.

  60. Was Jesus’ death on the Cross a Sacrifice, if he knew he would rise up and be exalted ??
    I did read some of the wonderful discussion in this blog, but what made the sacrifice real and different is what I would like to submit as under :

    To explain about the concept of Jesus’ sacrifice, i ll use a illustration.
    Imagine there is another earth, but only dogs live there. Wicked dogs, infected by a disease, a result of which they kill each other and there is this immense fight going all over the doggy earth. To save this planet, you have the truth, but to communicate that, it requires you to become a small dog and die as a sacrifice. You will be torn apart in the process, they won’t hear you. Some would, And you go and share the truth, you are then killed, you rise up again. But then it requires you to remain a dog for the rest of eternity, interceding and pleading your sacrifice for them.

    Would you want to do that ? what do you think it would take, for you to become a saviour that way ? To loose everything and identify to become like the one whom you love and want to be saved.

    The bible tells us :
    Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who died for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Jesus’ mission became clear to mankind only after He had been crucified on the cross. Yet the scriptures reveals in Revelations 13:8 that “the Lamb was slain from the creation of the world”

    Slain from the creation of the world. Notice that.

    Long before Jesus ever died on a cross, He made a tremendous sacrifice for us.  Most have heard how Jesus died on a cross and how His death pays the penalty for our sins, but did you know that long before He breathed the last breath before His death, He gave up who He was for you and me?

    John 1 tells us that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (verses 1, 14).  The Word who was with God and who was God is the One we know as Jesus the Christ.  He is the One who made all things and nothing was made without Him (John 1:3).  He is the One who created all things “that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible” (Colossians 1:16).  He is the One who is before all things and who makes all things consist (Colossians 1:17).
    The life of Jesus started well before He was known as the man Jesus on the earth.  He was the One who spoke to Moses in the burning bush and said, “I AM that I AM”.  He declared Himself as this same I AM when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).  I Corinthians 10 tells us that the Spiritual Rock that followed the Israelites in the desert when they wandered was the same Christ (I Corinthians 10:1-4).

    Long before Jesus died He made a great sacrifice for us; He gave up who He was as God with all His power and might.  Philippians 2:5-8 tell us,
    Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery [or something to be held onto] to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
    Jesus loves you so much that He was willing to give up all His power and reputation as God to come in the form of a servant and to be clothed with flesh as a man, just like you and me.  He made himself like a part of His own creation.  He humbled himself to become like us for the purpose of giving us eternal life.  He gave up His eternal life so that we could have it.  He gave up being with God so that we could live with God forever.
    Imagine that the Word, now God in the flesh, Emanuel, Jesus, was for the first time in his life separated from the Father by flesh.

    Then the bible also teaches us this : Now, Jesus – in His Glorious Body, in which He still chose to keep the wounds and the marks ( he showed these to his disciples), for all eternity, continues to be like us and a representation of Man before God – for all eternity. Why ? to intercede, to plead as we read below, to save us.

    Rom 8:34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
    Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them

    1 John 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

    It is this very fact, that makes Jesus’s death the greatest sacrifice of all. Hundreds have died, may be even brutally than Jesus, in physical terms, but none died – by Leaving aside all the glory, becoming a mere human, taking up the sins of the world upon himself, becoming sin, dying and then raised up with a likeness just like man for all eternity. This act, defines and sets itself separate from every other sacrifice.

  61. Ian

    But Jesus didn’t give up who he was, did he? Christian orthodoxy teaches that Jesus was fully God, even while incarnated.

    Neither did he give up his glory and power for anything other than the briefest moment compared to eternity. Christian orthodoxy teaches that Jesus is seated in glory and shall be given all honour for eternity.

    Compared to my life span of, say 70 years, if I had to become a dog for 1 second, and then I’d become me again, and the whole planet of Dogs would be safe, and as a result all of them would ultimately bow the knee to me… well, that’s hardly a sacrifice is it? Or if it is, it is a very very minor one. Compared to eternity, 30 years is, of course, much less than a second in my life.

    And then there is the basic premise of your comment: that the Cross isn’t the sacrifice of Jesus. The cross is, as you say, nothing very exceptional in terms of suffering. What you seem to be saying is that the incarnation is the sacrifice. But then you are obviously aware that is not the right answer, so although you don’t argue for the cross being a sacrifice at all, you finish off with:

    “this very fact, that makes Jesus’s death the greatest sacrifice of all”

    So, you seem not to be able to get straight what you’re actually claiming. What, specifically, is the sacrifice of Jesus?

    Or put another way, what did Jesus once have, that he doesn’t have now?

  62. blesson

    Hi,
    I ll try to reply point by point, so that I dont miss, some crucial questions raised by you..

    # 1 :
    But Jesus didn’t give up who he was, did he? Christian orthodoxy teaches that Jesus was fully God, even while incarnated.

    Reply # 1:
    I rely more on the Bible than on traditions and orthodoxy, so in my reply to this question, here is a brief that you can use to dig depeer if required.

    Phil 2:5-11
    ….have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
    6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
    7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
    even death on a cross!

    2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

    Read John 1: He was God, He gave up being God, the very nature of a creator and became a creation. The eternal emptied himself to become temporal, limited. The uncreated became a creation.

    To illustrate : If a man become a mobile phone (creation), is it then too hard to see the gap ?.. The level to which Jesus stepped down was too great, cos for that we need to fully comprehend what it means to be an eternal being.

    # 2 : Neither did he give up his glory and power for anything other than the briefest moment compared to eternity. Christian orthodoxy teaches that Jesus is seated in glory and shall be given all honour for eternity.
    Compared to my life span of, say 70 years, if I had to become a dog for 1 second, and then I’d become me again, and the whole planet of Dogs would be safe, and as a result all of them would ultimately bow the knee to me… well, that’s hardly a sacrifice is it? Or if it is, it is a very very minor one. Compared to eternity, 30 years is, of course, much less than a second in my life.

    Reply # 2:
    You didnt read the answer well, I guess. Jesus chose to become a man for all of eternity. You missed that point. Now, Dont jump now to conclude that He is not man any more.. the reply to it is in the answer to the next point.

    # 3 : And then there is the basic premise of your comment: that the Cross isn’t the sacrifice of Jesus. The cross is, as you say, nothing very exceptional in terms of suffering. What you seem to be saying is that the incarnation is the sacrifice. But then you are obviously aware that is not the right answer, so although you don’t argue for the cross being a sacrifice at all, you finish off with:
    “this very fact, that makes Jesus’s death the greatest sacrifice of all”

    Reply # 3 :
    When Jesus went to the Cross, he was suffering just like a mere human being was. He suffered like how every sinner would be punished, the pain of separation from God. The pain of been forsaken like a sinner. The pain of the wrath of God, poured out on Him. His cries on the cross explain them all and much more.
    There was no need for him to suffer it all. Yet he went thru it all, thru the deepest of all humiliation, to be hanged naked on a cross – one who clothed glory.

    To illustrate : Dont we call a mothers effort to bring up her child called as a sacrifice ?.. all the labour, all the hours, all the pain and frustration of bringing up a child? We call it a sacrifice. Why ? Because there is no need for her to do so, but she does it all out of love.
    Doesnt she continue to be a mother even when the child has grown up and become an adult. Does it make her investment in the child, her sacrifice any less ?

    Hundreds of people have been crucified before and after Jesus, that doesnt make their death a scarifice. So the Cruelty or the Pain or the Emotional tearing apart of the Cross is not what makes Jesus’ death a sacrifice.
    His death becomes a sacrifice because,

    i) God Choose this method of a sinless life being killed in place of a sinner to swap the life and death as the means of forgiveness, for justice to be excuted and love to be displayed.
    Only in this method of forgiveness can justice and love both be satisfied.

    now, thats not all. If Jesus would have nailed himself on the cross, he would not have been a sacrifice. If Jesus was drowned in the lake, it would not have been a sacrifice. .. Now read on..

    ii) Jesus was sacrificed as a sacrificial lamb, just in the same way the High priest did on the day of Atonement. Read John 11:49-52. He was actually sacrificed.

    iii) It was no Pilate or the Romans who crucified Jesus, it was the high priest.

    # 4 :
    So, you seem not to be able to get straight what you’re actually claiming. What, specifically, is the sacrifice of Jesus?
    Or put another way, what did Jesus once have, that he doesn’t have now?

    Reply # 4 : Jesus was ready to give up everything to save man. He gave up all, his position, his power and his authority. He suffered not like God, but as a human being would. He became obidient to his own laws, and died.
    I think you do not deny anything till this point.

    Now, your contention is that Jesus got back everything he gave up and that seems to be your question / problem. I dont know why you must have such a question at the first place.

    You see, Jesus decided to be a man for all of eternity. That is the sacrifice. I ve explained it well in my reply. But since, He obeyed and lived a sinless life, and please God by fulfilling His very purpose of coming down and laying his life for man .. GOD Exalted Him..NOTE : He didnt exalt himself. Phil 2:9 – it says God exalted Him.. He didnt, He still chose to be man, to intercede, to plead his blood and sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind, which he continues to do.

    Now, if God exalted him, what is your problem?? You jealous? Or you think you are smarter than God or more just and righteous than God to question God’s sovreignity !

    What exactly is your problem ?

    Jesus humbled himself, died for sinners, a Holy and righteous eternal being, endured all the pain, that a sinner would go thru. And God rewarded him and raised him up and made him above every other name. You see, if Jesus on resurrection had just become all that he once lost, there was no need for God to exalt him above everyone. Only one who is not exalted in position needs to be exalted up, else it is redundant. So, all that Jesus did was a sacrifice. Everything. His decision, his birth, his suffering, his death and his resurrection. Everything.

    You, see Ian, if God would have made a million ways, people would still want one more.

    He has made only one, and that’s enough, if one is serious to get saved. You come to him on his terms and not yours. He is the judge and not us, I need to remind you.

    You may spend all your life, to find another route and you will not find. If you do, then dont forget, God must accept it. But do let me know if its more just, more loving, more satisfying that the route that God designed from the foundations of the world.

    I think your question therefore is not really what you are asking..

    Therefore My question to you is :
    Who are you, A Christian, An atheist, A Muslim, A skeptic ?
    Cos, what you are at the core, I think needs to be addressed first, before you ask these questions.

  63. Ian

    #1 – So you’re saying Jesus on earth was not God, just a regular human being. Okay, makes sense.

    #2 – Ah makes more sense now. You’re right, that bit didn’t sink in. So given your answer to #1, is Jesus God now?

    #4 – Flows into the above – thanks. That makes much more sense.

    #3 – Gotya. But presumably this goes for anyone who suffers terribly to protect someone else. You’re still essentially saying that the incarnation is the significant part of the sacrifice, aren’t you? Even if he hadn’t have died, after the incarnation, he’d have been eternally human, in your model, right?

    … So your responses are helpful, thanks. By missing the key point in your post, I was barking up the wrong dog. This theology of the incarnation, I agree, does make the sacrifice of Jesus a very significant sacrifice.

    “Or you think you are smarter than God or more just and righteous than God to question God’s sovreignity !” – no, I’m very sure there is no god, or at least none of the kind you’re talking about.

    “But do let me know if its more just, more loving, more satisfying that the route that God designed from the foundations of the world” – there is another way that is more just, more loving and more satisfying than believing fiction, yes. I’d encourage you to try it. And I’d suggest that, until you do, you’ll have no clue whatsoever what you’re missing. No clue just how pale a reflection of the truth God is. You’ve been sold a lie about God, and about the supposedly wonderful world that God unlocks; which sadly just keeps you from the wonderful truth. Like the inhabitants of Plato’s cave, looking only at shadows, and not turning to see what is making them. So you can see only God and not turn and see what God is made of.

    “Cos, what you are at the core, I think needs to be addressed first, before you ask these questions.” – why? The point of the post is that these things are used as plain and obvious reasons to believe in God, but on reflection they make no sense, and require other theological justification. As you can see in the comments of this post, different Christians will do that in different ways. Your way, for example, is outside of 2000 years of Christian thought and teaching. It may be right, of course, but it certainly hasn’t been obvious to the majority of Christians through history. To the extent that no previous person here came up with it.

    If it really is the case that one needs to determine what one is at the core before one can ask questions, then it makes rather a mockery of the idea that the answers are ways to encourage people to faith.

    That said, at core I am a human being. One who, despite my strong desire and tendency to the contrary, awoke to the mechanisms by which faith works. Perhaps one day you’ll wake from your slumber too.

  64. blesson

    Hi Ian

    Thanks for the replies.
    I beleive that you have read well and replied. Frankly, I never faced these questions until just a week back, when someone else asked me the same. And so, just like millions, I really never required myself to think and seek for the answer in the Bible. Why ?? – I explain … Well, God is truth. Truth need not be defended. And when I know Jesus was resurrected from the dead, me taking his words as it is, settles everything. Because He rose, I believe in Him and all that he said. So questioning, in to minor details dont arise natural or too often for me. But then God is the creator of Logic and truth is not contradictory, therefore when we seek for truth, as the bible encourages, we are on the right track. If what we believe is truth, then what we believe in our heart, if it is true, definitely makes sense in our mind.

    So I take it both ways, for many things, I simply rely on His words. But I never turn down someone who is a seeker, searching for the truth, by simply telling him to blindly believe.

    I understand that you know the bible, so I am not extrapolating what I have already replied, but sure I would like to tell you, there is wealth of truth in there and for a serious student of the bible, with the direction in place, the destination is not difficult.

    some more food for thought.
    # 1 : About Jesus : John 14:9 – He who has seen me has seen the father.
    John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…
    John 12:45 When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me…
    Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
    Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

    He became a human, cos he was paying the ransom for humanity, he couldnt do it otherwise.
    He accepted worship, confirming He was God.
    He said He was before Abraham was..
    They killed him not cos he was healing and doing miracles, they killed him cos he claimed to be God.

    It may be difficult for us limited in space and time to understand, things beyond our dimensions. Knowing this science has made several dimensions to make sense of things. So, its ok to agree, that we might not fully comprehend ..that how He can be both God and man at the same time ? Remember we are limited creatures and He is eternal. how can a finite being, explain everything about an infinite, we are just limited to the revelations.

    However, Jesus resurrecting from the Dead, proves that all he said was not a myth but truth. Else he would be just a liar and a sinner just like everyone else. And just like every other religious leader, he would have been a rotting in the grave. But He is alive and lives for ever !
    ———————————————————————————————-
    Now coming down to my only question to you…
    Quote :
    Cos, what you are at the core, I think needs to be addressed first, before you ask these questions.”
    Unquote:

    Why I asked it.. well cos, there is a reason. You see ones worldview defines how he or she sees things.
    – If you are an atheist, then your question is intended to make fun rather than seek truth, and I dont want to answer you, unless you see, that as an atheist you must believe truth exists and can be found. Now, that would move you from being an atheist to an agnostic.

    – If you are a Hindu : Well truth would never matter to you, cos everything is an illusion. So why ask, or should i ask, who is asking 🙂
    – If you are a Muslim : Well, my approach to answer your questions would take a different route.
    – If you are a genuine seeker, I would do my best to help you find the truth.
    I could continue… but hope you get the message.
    Now, you see, why i asked you, what i asked you.
    For someone who wants to just rake up dust.. or make fun, or throw dust at others, I would like to show them that the dust under their feet isnt infinite, and cant sustain them well. So better secure oneself before attempting to throw the dust from under the feet. Especially when it comes to the truth – Jesus himself.

    Quote : The point of the post is that these things are used as plain and obvious reasons to believe in God, but on reflection they make no sense, and require other theological justification.
    Unquote :

    Ian, not everything in life is simple. Well we all love simplicity, but that doesnt mean that everything which is not simple is not right. And that;s exactly the point, why I encourage people to pray before they read their bibles cos we need help to even understand the revelation of the infinite.
    Water is simple, but when someone gets in to the depth of it, the molecules, chemical bondings and the unique properties that it has, well things get very complex, does that mean its bad ? No, not at all.

    We all love simple answers, it makes life easier. But God promises to be with us and help us in the process. And thats the promise – His presence and His guidance.

    —————————————————————————————-
    Quote :

    If it really is the case that one needs to determine what one is at the core before one can ask questions, then it makes rather a mockery of the idea that the answers are ways to encourage people to faith.
    Unquote :

    Jesus, I love the way he addressed questions : He always answered questions with another question. Why, cos it opened up the intentions of a person asking the question. More to the questioner, to understand the hidden motives, behind the questions. Since Jesus already could understand what was going on in the questioners mind.
    I asked you about the core, because, I think if someone is not genuine in asking the question, he doesnt deserve a genuine answer either.

    Encouragement is always good, sometimes a question on the intents rather than the content can encourage too. Encourage to take a look at oneself deep within.
    —————————————————————————————
    Quote : That said, at core I am a human being. One who, despite my strong desire and tendency to the contrary, awoke to the mechanisms by which faith works. Perhaps one day you’ll wake from your slumber too.
    Unquote

    I know you are good human being. Am glad to have conversed with you. I made my replies in complete humility, I hope my words ( which I have to keep it short) reflect it. Else i do suggest you to read it again, without really attaching any contrary emotions to mine, with which at the moment I am writing to you.

    ‘Perhaps one day you’ll wake from your slumber too.’

    You replied to my questions, so I am convinced, that you found them enough awake 🙂 . Else both could be sleeping, which i doubt, since you replied or the only option is you are sleeping :-).. thats just fun ! nothing personal.

    Surely we will all awake, 1 Cor 13:2
    Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. ( NLT)

    I pray that we both awake to Glory and not shame.

  65. Ian

    Thanks for the reply, blesson.

    The only bit that puzzled me.

    Why I asked it.. well cos, there is a reason. You see ones worldview defines how he or she sees things.
    – If you are an atheist, then your question is intended to make fun rather than seek truth, and I dont want to answer you, unless you see, that as an atheist you must believe truth exists and can be found. Now, that would move you from being an atheist to an agnostic.

    I don’t understand what you think an atheist is. I’m an atheist. I don’t ask questions to make fun. I am serious in the question. Of course, I choose the questions to ask that I find the answers to so far unhelpful or contradictory. So in a way my aim is to draw attention to the contradiction. But I am genuinely interested.

    So, I don’t understand why that would make me an agnostic. Since I am as sure as I can be there is no God.

    – If you are a genuine seeker, I would do my best to help you find the truth.

    I have used the analogy of the Wizard of Oz before. When you’ve seen behind the curtain at how God works, seen the gears and pulleys and the smoke travelling along the tubes, you cannot simply pretend the Wizard is real and fearsome. No matter how many believers come and tell you that the Wizard really is real and really is fearsome. No matter how often they put their hands over their eyes and refuse to look at the mechanism. Or how many stories of the Wizards greatness they recount. All one can do is feel sorry for those who can’t, or won’t, see it for what it is.

    Are you a genuine seeker of the truth? Or someone so rapt by the spectacle of God that you cannot take your eyes off 1 Cor’s dim mirror and look at him directly?

  66. My Goodness, how did my name, email address and website link get into this blob, bog, blog whatever?

    In any case, Jesus son of God via Mary is still as dead as any of Israel’s atonement and their original Passover sacrifice gone before.

    They saved the life of others/another and cannot therefore be taken back or annulled via a whatever resurrection for the one/s saved to retain theirs.

    Jesus Israel’s final Atonement and second Passover sacrifice gave his life to save others. That’s what he gave! That is why he cried and wept so profusely even bleeding through his pores in the Garden of Gethsemane as one who had no hope and one who was to NEVER experience a complete fulfilled life of a Jewish man in his prime.

    FEEL FOR HIM! UNDERSTAND HIM!

    Many Christian hold onto a measure of hope. HE HAD NONE!

    Just as Abraham’s only-begotten son Isaac was saved by a sheep in the OT type, so was God’s only-begotten son offered as per John 3:16 in the antitype who is not and never was Jesus son of God via Mary.

    Mary did not give birth to God!

    Simple eh? Enough of morphing God into a human. I am made into God’s image and there never have been three of me, enabling me to lose one of me with the other two coming to my rescue.

    Wherever the NT is at odds with the OT, it has been edited into nonsense.

    You just need to read them both through a number of times without obfuscating blinkers. I did after taking my 50 year old JW blinkers off.

    All you lovely people out there beware worshiping a dead Jesus; a practice thoroughly condemned by God in the Bible.

    Take care out there

  67. Brenda

    As a believer, I have asked the question “what did it really cost?”, for the same human logic that you have shared.
    In fact I google the question, and this entry came up.
    I believe, by faith alone that He’s the total authority, the complete trinity.
    If I believe that then I can rationalize that He knew He would live again. I also know that He was privy to the plan. So what was the real sacrifice?
    My thoughts go here-
    Considering the temptation in the desert, face to face with evil, Jesus could have submitted to evil and ruled the earth. He could have turned the rocks into bread and eaten them.
    He could have shown off the power and been a super hero. He could have bowed to evil and let it rule in Him.
    Choosing to believe the account in the desert I read that He was shown all the corruption, chaos and ugliness of the world, pictured then and in the future from the high place as evil presented it to Him.
    He could have bowed to evil and evil promised to lay off the attacks on mankind.
    Loving us, that was the highest temptation. Again, I choose to believe —
    But that was not the plan.
    Not the mission.
    He came to be one of us, to show us how we should love God and each other.
    Because there is a bigger picture.
    The total cost…?
    Men and women suffer and die daily.
    But no one is ever, in this life, totally turned away from by God.
    The trinity is a tough concept, only He can increase faith enough to accept.
    If you don’t want to accept, it’s your choice.
    He asks simply to trust; His plan and love wins
    If your logic outweighs the desire to know Him…logic wins. No one forces another to believe. It’s simply a choice.
    Wanting to believe and submitting brings me hope. I put my hope in the promise that there’s more to exsistance than this world.
    I believe that His sacrifice was/is not stopping the turmoil of our life here for the greater good….
    in the end love wins and evil will be destroyed.
    I guess, in part, you helped me see that, it cost Him a love sacrifice that will take an eternity to understand. For me, believing is enough for now….that whole faith thing. Cause nothing on this crazy earth makes sense to me without hope of a bigger plan.
    Thanks for the thoughts and I wish you the best in your quest-

  68. Derek Ramsey

    Was the sacrifice of Jesus costly? This is a false dilemma.

    When an Israelite gave animal sacrifice, the cost was for the person, not the sacrifice, as payment for sin. The person making the sacrifice had to pay the “blood price” of death for sin (by proxy). He was forced to experience the very real horror of death.

    The sacrifice was required of such a person to restore the spiritual link to God. Yet only the High Priest could enter the “Holy of Holies” and be in the presence of God directly. The priest was the “mediator” between person and God.

    When Jesus died, it was humanity making the sacrifice. When we accept Jesus as our sacrifice, we must accept the reality of sin and that we are responsible for that horrible sacrifice. And it was horrible, there is no denying that. When we do this, his blood washes our sin away.

    Jesus then sends the Holy Spirit, God’s power, to dwell within us. This is the restoration of our connection with God. Jesus is our High Priest, he mediates between God and Man allowing us to directly communicate with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    The cost of sin is not pain and suffering, but death. The pain and suffering does shout at us that there are real consequences of sin.

    Jesus had to die because *we* needed a sacrifice. He didn’t do it for himself, he did it because he loved us.

  69. 2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)

    3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    I read all 67 replies to the article and have to say what interests me is that there are many ideas brought, points that I have never thought about, and to be honest a lot of them are not what my ears have been tuned to hearing. I guess I sometimes enjoy hearing something that I wouldn’t like to hear. I enjoy reading the discussions.

    I feel like, threw out the years, we have put emphasis on doctrines and the teachings of the Bible to a level of holiness and authority that it was probably never intended it be at. Meaning a simple letter from Paul to Timothy, was actually a simple letter from Paul to Timothy. And we people are the ones who made the doctrine for example like ” the trinity of God” in order to understand God more, but at the same time the doctrine creates boundaries to our understanding.

    Jesus paid the price for our sin. Almost everything else He did was low key and wasn’t worth the attention. He was born in a manger. I’m sure if God wanted to show off His son He would find a much more comfortable and luxurious place, but He didn’t. This element applies to a lot aspects of His life, then why shouldn’t it apply to death?

    I always thought that Christ the flesh was the sacrifice, the offering. And in series of chronological events God had a way to take the law that was given to His people, to change it from an outside force into inside force. What was physical would become spiritual, what was visible would be invisible. This is why Christ lived a sinless life by the law, fulfilled the scriptures and in the end instead of being rewarded with eternal life, He was killed on the basis of His own law by His own people. The law had a system failure. You can kind of say only time in history that the law sinned against itself. That’s why Christ is the end of the law. The price was paid to the law which subjects everyone to death.

    It doesn’t seem like it was costly, but it was enough to get the job done. But the question comes up because years of Christian doctrine building up a simple event into something so important that we ourselves can’t even comprehend it, somewhere lost in the doctrines. To be honest, It is hard for me to discuss without stepping aside from the traditional understanding, but it’s a necessary step to understand what is truth.

  70. Pingback: The Sacrifice of Jesus – Grassroots Apologetics

  71. Mark Gruber

    Great question. Not sure if this site is still monitored, but I am working this out myself and will share thr best recognition that I have. I have reached out to some scholars to confirm this.

    The sacrifice that Jesus made was to be permanently bound to live as one of us. Heaven is mysterious, but all indications are that it is very much like the physical world that we know. Mankind betrayed God in the garden of eden, which created a divorce. Jesus re-openned the door to heaven, and married mankind forever. Whatever our form is in heaven, Jesus will be there as one of us in eternity . God did not have to do this. Mankind had fallen, and was destined for death. God came as Jesus to cancel the divorce. The sacrifice is that Jesus will forever live as one of us.

  72. Ian

    Thanks Mark, a similar point has been made before, i.e. that the sacrifice is the incarnation, rather than the crucifixion. It’s an interesting idea, albeit a little ‘nonstandard’ for the way Jesus and sacrifice is normally discussed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s