William Lane Craig and substitutionary atonement

One of the biggest problems with Christian theology is that the core of the Gospel is based on “substitutionary atonement,” the idea that criminal guilt is like some kind of negotiable debt that can be legally transferred to others. If you think about it, that’s a truly horrible and corrupt idea that lends itself to all kinds of injustice and abuse. Well, someone at the Wintery Knight blog is trying to defend the doctrine, and he’s pulling out the big guns to help him.

I’ve noticed that on some atheist blogs, they don’t like the idea that someone else can take our punishment for us to exonerate us for crimes that we’ve committed. So I’ll quote from this post by the great William Lane Craig, to respond to that objection.

Since we’re currently reading through Dr. Craig’s book On Guard, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at this topic as well.

There’s a lot in Wintery Knight’s post that I could talk about, like his leading thesis that everyone is in rebellion against God and deserves to be punished for it. I’m going to resist that temptation, though, and zero in on his or her appeal to Dr. Craig’s defense of substitutionary atonement. Here’s the quote from Dr. Craig.

The central problem of the Penal Theory is, as you point out, understanding how punishing a person other than the perpetrator of the wrong can meet the demands of justice. Indeed, we might even say that it would be wrong to punish some innocent person for the crimes I commit!

This is indeed the problem, and it’s even more pronounced if you stop to think about why we even have punishment in the first place. After all, two wrongs do not make a right. If you punch somebody in the face, that’s wrong. If they punch you, that’s wrong. If you punch them because they punched you, that’s two wrongs. So why do we punish?

There are two reasons for punishment. One is anger: you’ve been hurt, therefore you want to hurt someone else. Understandable, probably, but this is two wrongs failing to make a right. It does not resolve anything, it merely increases the amount of violence in the world, because now the other person is hurt, and is angry, and wants to hurt someone else. Swell.

The other reason is deterrence. Ideally, the threat of punishment will make people think twice about doing something they shouldn’t. If they do, and are punished for it, ideally the experience will make them reluctant to repeat the offense. This, I’m going to argue, is marginally moral. It’s still two wrongs that don’t make a right, but from a practical perspective we can’t have a rule of law unless there are substantive penalties for breaking the law. People being what they are, you’ll always have some predators in any society, and society needs some means of defending itself against them.

Neither of these alternatives really justifies any kind of substitutionary atonement. As Wintery Knight explains, we all start out in the “guilty” state, so the threat of hell as a deterrent is moot. There can be no justice in a system that assumes you are guilty until someone dies in order to acquit you. Hell is reduced to being the first kind of punishment, where God just wants to hurt somebody because He is angry, or else it is purely a form of extortion, where you have to agree or face endless torment.

But that’s just the superficial criticism. Anybody can look at the practice of punishing an innocent man in order to let a wicked man get away with his crimes, and say that it’s problematic. But there’s a deeper issue here, and that’s the matter of treating criminal guilt as a kind of negotiable debt. By “negotiable” here I’m not talking about sitting down and haggling over how much you owe, I’m talking “negotiable” in the financial sense of “negotiable currency,” an independent quantity that can be freely transferred to others as a gift or in exchange for other valuable property. And here’s Dr. Craig, portraying guilt in exactly those negotiable terms.

I remember once sharing the Gospel with a businessman. When I explained that Christ had died to pay the penalty for our sins, he responded, “Oh, yes, that’s imputation.” I was stunned, as I never expected this theological concept to be familiar to this non-Christian businessman. When I asked him how he came to be familiar with this idea, he replied, “Oh, we use imputation all the time in the insurance business.” He explained to me that certain sorts of insurance policy are written so that, for example, if someone else drives my car and gets in an accident, the responsibility is imputed to me rather than to the driver. Even though the driver behaved recklessly, I am the one held liable; it is just as if I had done it.

Now this is parallel to substitutionary atonement. Normally I would be liable for the misdeeds I have done. But through my faith in Christ, I am, as it were, covered by his divine insurance policy, whereby he assumes the liability for my actions. My sin is imputed to him, and he pays its penalty. The demands of justice are fulfilled, just as they are in mundane affairs in which someone pays the penalty for something imputed to him. This is as literal a transaction as those that transpire regularly in the insurance industry.

Notice how he says “justice has been done” even though his insurance example is not about justice, but merely about business. The parallel he draws is between substitutionary atonement and a business transaction transferring negotiable debt from one party to another. The “sinner’s” guilt is equated with the negotiable obligation of a business deal. We’re not talking about a system that bases consequences on moral considerations, we’re talking about penalties based on business considerations. The insurance company isn’t in business to pursue true morality and justice, it’s in business to make a profit. Hard to see how you could be more crass than to define God’s “grace” in terms of the practices used to pursue mercenary profits!

But there’s a lot more wrong with “negotiable guilt” than just being based on ordinary greed. In the “imputation” analogy, there’s a commercial transaction going on: the insurance company is receiving material goods (money) in exchange for services rendered (paying damages on a claim). There is an exchange of goods involved. The financial obligation is imputed to the policy holder, because the policy holder is responsible for taking reasonable precautions against theft and/or misuse of his vehicle. It’s part of his contractual obligation, which he entered into voluntarily, and if he files a claim (i.e. receives services under the terms of his insurance contract) then he is liable for the consequences (higher rates, as specified in his contract).

Criminal guilt is categorically different from the kind of negotiable financial obligations you voluntarily enter into when you sign up for an insurance policy. If we’re going to say, as Wintery Knight does, that all humans are guilty of rebellion against God and deserve to be punished for it (i.e. by being damned to suffer in Hell forever), this is nothing at all like the imputation of liability the businessman is talking about.

Consider some of the differences. While it’s true that some lesser criminal infractions can be settled by payment of a fine, moral justice is not a financial transaction driven by a profit motive like the insurance transaction is. When you commit an offense, there are two parties involved: the offender, and the person or persons offended. There’s also the larger context of society itself: some offenses are personal and only involve the two parties, while others are an offense against society, and thus society itself becomes one of the offended parties, with an interest in prosecuting the offender, out of self protection. But again, this is not a business transaction, this is an issue of morality and justice. There’s not a third party seeking to profit from your sins, unless you want to get into some really weird theology about Satan having the power to blackmail God somehow. And even then, it’s more analogous to extortion than to insurance—hardly a better basis for morality and justice!

With the insurance example, the insurance company receives revenue from the policy holder rather than from the actual driver. But notice, this does not spare the driver from financial liability—he can still be sued (by the policy holder, for instance). The driver is still guilty of causing his accident. No transfer of actual guilt has taken place. All that has happened is that the policy holder has been required to fulfill his contractual obligations, which were put into the policy by the insurance company in order to assure them of a profitable business. Moral guilt has nothing to do with it, nor has moral guilt been transferred. Financial obligations and moral guilt are categorically different things.

What’s more, the penalty for the policy holder is limited and impersonal: he is now subject to paying a higher rate if he wants to continue his policy, but he is not obligated to keep the same policy. The penalty specified by the Gospel, however, is radically different, and is not any kind of transaction. Suffering forever in hell is not an experience that generates some kind of spiritual “revenue” that can be collected and paid to some kind of supernatural creditor. (What kind of monster would want to be paid in a currency of torment, anyway?)

This is where substitutionary atonement, and it’s underlying notion of negotiable guilt, become really creepy. Not only are the wicked escaping from paying the penalty for their offenses, but their “debt” is being “paid” in some kind of spiritual “revenue” generated through the suffering of the innocent. Ever see Big Trouble in Little China, about the sorcerer who steals the souls of beautiful young women in order to prolong his own evil life? Same plot as the Gospel, except there’s no hero to come along and save the innocent victim from this perverse power-sucking voodoo. And it’s all supposed to be God’s brilliant idea, fore-ordained before the foundation of the world? That’s not just evil, it’s cheesy.

Negotiable guilt is a truly terrible basis for constructing a system of moral values. Imagine a world where Osama bin Ladin was free to transfer his guilt to some young mujahidin eager for martyrdom. Osama could bomb some crowded venue, kill hundreds of innocent people, and then transfer his guilt to the young martyr, who would be executed in his place, thus rendering the terrorist mastermind innocent again and free to continue his plots. Does that sound anything at all like justice and morality? Wouldn’t a better term be “irresponsible insanity”?

And yet this is the core of the gospel. Like the young mujahidin, Jesus allegedly volunteered to be the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world, but that does not change the fact that this moral system is based on negotiable guilt, on the idea of being able to freely shift your guilt on to some sacrificial animal or person, and on the idea that suffering generates some kind of “spiritual revenue” that can be paid to some third party to satisfy some kind of perceived debt, who presumably covets human suffering enough to accept it as valid currency. Otherwise it’s no good volunteering to be tortured to death. Without negotiable guilt (and all the moral corruption that implies and enables), there’s simply no good reason to voluntarily seek your own death. You’re just committing a particularly macabre and self-destructive form of suicide, which is hardly a moral virtue.

Thus, even with all the fancy language and crass business exemplars, substitutionary atonement still boils down to the crudest of standards: God is mad, and He wants to hurt somebody. But this is even worse than “two wrongs don’t make a right,” because God is so mad, He wants to hurt somebody whether they deserve it or not. And He won’t be satisfied until somebody—even His own son—has paid the ultimate penalty. And then He no longer cares about all the evil things sinners have done. This is neither morality nor justice, this is God ruling by being the biggest and most psychopathic bully on the block, enforcing His will by threatening people with the most vicious atrocities imaginable if they in any way resist or dismiss His demands. That, as I’ve said before, is the worst possible basis for defining morality and justice. Those who desire true morality and justice should flatly and emphatically reject it.

36 Responses to “William Lane Craig and substitutionary atonement”

  1. mikespeir Says:

    If somebody borrows my car and mows down a pedestrian with it, true, I might suffer some financial penalty, but I won’t be the one charged with manslaughter. 101 people out of a 100–to include William Lane Craig–would be outraged if I were. Furthermore, the prosecutor would laugh in my face if I offered to take the rap for the errant driver.

  2. Jer Says:

    But this is even worse than “two wrongs don’t make a right,” because God is so mad, He wants to hurt somebody whether they deserve it or not. And He won’t be satisfied until somebody—even His own son—has paid the ultimate penalty.

    It’s even more nonsensical than that since Jesus is God – so rather than just forgiving the sins of humanity with a blank check (which he could do because he’s God and he’s all powerful and gets to decide who is saved and who isn’t) God decided he needed to wrap himself up in meat and go be tortured for a while and then be brutally murdered before he was willing to forgive people. This … does not exactly make God out to be the sanest of characters under the most charitable interpretations.

    Substitutionary atonement doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, but it’s predicated on beliefs that already don’t make a lot of sense, so it’s easy to see why it just gets accepted and rationalized.

  3. Brian M Says:

    As my curmudgeonly mother always grumpily siad…”How could He die for my sins? I was not even born yet!

  4. Caleb Cumberland Says:

    That’s why the Satisfactory Theory of the Atonement is much better in that it recognizes that Christ paid the honor that is due to God his Father in our place because we cannot do that ourselves in that we hava sinful nature in which Christ does not.

  5. J. K. Jones Says:

    “There can be no justice in a system that assumes you are guilty until someone dies in order to acquit you. Hell is reduced to being the first kind of punishment, where God just wants to hurt somebody because He is angry, or else it is purely a form of extortion, where you have to agree or face endless torment.”

    Punishment can be restorative as well. It can be the last resort to use in order to get someone to change. The point of hell is that evil people, no matter what is done to them from the outside, will always do evil. They do not want to change no matter what happens.

    Besides, your argument has a distinctive Western bend to it. Many other cultures from around the world would have trouble believing in a God who does not punish. What makes your view so special.

    “While it’s true that some lesser criminal infractions can be settled by payment of a fine, moral justice is not a financial transaction driven by a profit motive like the insurance transaction is.”

    Actual imputation of guilt gets around this. God credits Christ with our criminal guilt as well as our economic guilt. Why could this not be?

    “…He wants to hurt somebody whether they deserve it or not. And He won’t be satisfied until somebody—even His own son—has paid the ultimate penalty. And then He no longer cares about all the evil things sinners have done.”

    Evil people are really guilty. God does not punish the innocent, which is what you are saying here. God does not punish sins beyond what they deserve.

    God Himself pays the penalty in the Person of Jesus Christ. The very one who requires the penalty pays it.

    God’s punishment of Jesus shows just how much He cares about the evil things sinners have done. Those things are punished one way or the other. That is how God defines justice.

    The main problem you have with all of this is that you are ignoring a God who has given abundant evidence that He exists and you are ignoring the Bible that has abundant evidence to prove that it is God’s word to us. God defines what is just and what is unjust, not our Western sensibilities.

    JK

  6. House Hut Says:

    “Punishment can be restorative as well. It can be the last resort to use in order to get someone to change. ”

    So you’re saying once you go to hell you can change and get redeemed. This is much different than the christianity that’s being considered here.

    “Many other cultures from around the world would have trouble believing in a God who does not punish. What makes your view so special.”

    Because your point is a straw man. We are not talking about punishment in general, but about innocent people suffering punishment on the supposed behalf of others.

    “God credits Christ with our criminal guilt as well as our economic guilt.”

    You’re about to contradict yourself in the next sentence here.

    “God does not punish the innocent, which is what you are saying here.”

    So Jesus wasn’t innocent? This too is contradictory of the religion we’re talking about.

    “God Himself pays the penalty in the Person of Jesus Christ.”

    But you just said that god doesn’t punish the innocent. Did jesus have it comming or not. Who could be more innocent than god? How is justice served by punishing himself?

    “The very one who requires the penalty pays it. ”

    Torturing yourself seems to be an odd way to forgive people especially since the other party is blameless.

    The main problem you have is coming up with ever increasing rationalizations to cover the inconsistencies of your story.

    https://realevang.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/cant-get-no-satisfaction-theory/

    • J. K. Jones Says:

      “So you’re saying once you go to hell you can change and get redeemed. This is much different than the christianity that’s being considered here.”

      Those in hell cannot be redeemed because they will not be redeemed. No contradiction there.

      “So Jesus wasn’t innocent? This too is contradictory of the religion we’re talking about.”

      Jesus was legally guilty. He was credited with unrighteousness.

      “Torturing yourself seems to be an odd way to forgive people especially since the other party is blameless.”

      That’s the way forgiveness works. Someone must absorb the pain caused by sin. I recommend Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God for further elaboration.

      I could just as easily accuse you of coming up with “ever increasing explanations for the inconsistencies in your story.” That is an explanation, not an argument. Let’s stick to the argument at hand.

  7. coconnor1017 Says:

    Great post and a good analysis of how the basis of Christianity operates as nothing more than an artifact of the historical age in which it was constructed. Palestinian justice circa 30 – 100 CE would consider propitiation a reasonable trade-off as ransom for guilt but because our morals evolve along with our species we reasonably see this psychology as outdated and barbaric.

  8. Janney Says:

    J. K. Jones,

    I could just as easily accuse you of coming up with “ever increasing explanations for the inconsistencies in your story.”

    House Hut is telling a story with inconsistencies? Or Deacon Duncan is telling a story with inconsistencies? If Deacon, what are the inconsistencies? If House Hut, what story?

    Let’s stick to the argument at hand.

    Yes, but the argument at hand is that the idea of substitutionary atonement is morally repugnant, and pretty obviously so. Do you really disagree? If so, can you explain?

    • J. K. Jones Says:

      Janney,

      You are now getting to the argument instead of the explanations just as I requested.
      What is the ultimate moral standard against which you convict the divine law court of being “morally repugnant?”

  9. Deacon Duncan Says:

    @J.K. Jones

    Jesus was legally guilty. He was credited with unrighteousness.

    You can see why I say that Christianity has moral problems. Here is a “divine” legal system that -even believers admit—has willfully convicted a man of crimes he did not commit, and sentenced him to death knowing that he did not commit the crimes he is being punished for, and has done so in order to ensure that those who did commit the crimes escape unpunished. It is not possible for a criminal justice system to be more corrupt than that, yet Christianity prevents otherwise moral and conscientious people from acknowledging or even recognizing the corruption. Christianity leads people to call evil “good,” and to praise God and thank Him for for a moral system that is as corrupt as a moral system can possibly be. That’s a problem.

    • J. K. Jones Says:

      Does it matter that the one “convicted of crimes he did not commit” volunteered to be so convicted?

      Why do we expect the ultimate law court to function as western law courts do? Is that cultural bias? Do we have a standard against which to convict the divine law court in question besides our western sensibilities?

      • Len Says:

        Does it matter that the one “convicted of crimes he did not commit” volunteered to be so convicted?

        The divine legal system knew he was innocent. They still convicted him. Whether or not he volunteered does not matter. The conviction was tainted.

        Do we have a standard against which to convict the divine law court in question besides our western sensibilities?

        We know good and evil as well as God (at least, that’s what it says in Genesis 3:22). This was evil.

  10. Deacon Duncan Says:

    @J. K. Jones

    Does it matter that the one “convicted of crimes he did not commit” volunteered to be so convicted?

    Of course not. Volunteering to participate in a miscarriage of justice does not transform the miscarriage into justice. Suppose Osama bin Ladin had found a zealous Taliban to volunteer to be executed in his place, so that Osama could magically become “innocent” (and free to do as he pleased). Would the execution of the Taliban actually make Osama innocent of the thousands of deaths he caused on 9/11? Would it matter that the Taliban volunteered?

    Why do we expect the ultimate law court to function as western law courts do? Is that cultural bias? Do we have a standard against which to convict the divine law court in question besides our western sensibilities?

    We ought to be able to expect that a perfect court of law would, at the very least, work in a way that was closer to actual justice than to the opposite extreme of punishing the innocent for crimes they did not commit, in order to benefit the guilty. Even the Bible itself says that “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18)—it’s not merely “western sensibilities,” as though punishing the guilty were some kind of new-fangled, arbitrary fad.

    Justice has always been based on the principle that the one who commits the offense should be the one who suffers for it. The only reason Christians turn this on its head is because they want to deny that Jesus’ death was a catastrophic defeat. If they didn’t have to find a “good” reason for the Cross, even Christians would be able to see that it’s wrong to punish one person for the sins of another. Unfortunately, though, their faith leaves them so morally blind that they cannot admit to even such a fundamental and essential moral principle as punishing the guilty for their own sins (despite what Ezekiel said!). That’s a major moral problem, and it’s inextricably inherent in the Gospel itself.

  11. coconnor1017 Says:

    “The only reason Christians turn this on its head is because they want to deny that Jesus’ death was a catastrophic defeat. If they didn’t have to find a “good” reason for the Cross, even Christians would be able to see that it’s wrong to punish one person for the sins of another.”

    Amen!

  12. Janney Says:

    J. K. Jones,

    What is the ultimate moral standard against which you convict the divine law court of being “morally repugnant?”

    Do you really mean to tell me that you don’t understand why you, and only you, should be held responsible for the things you do? Do you really mean to claim that, unless an “ultimate moral standard” can be referenced, no one can know whether it’s right or wrong to punish scapegoats?

    In particular: do you really believe that punishing scapegoats is okay, if God says it’s okay?

  13. Deacon Duncan Says:

    @J. K. Jones

    You did not anser the question.

    I will. My ultimate standard of justice is that justice punishes the guilty in order to protect the innocent. If God punishes the innocent in order to protect the guilty, then obviously God is not the source of the ultimate standard of justice. And conversely, if God also upholds the standard that justice must punish the guilty in order to protect the innocent, then substitutionary atonement is a perversion of justice even by God’s own standards. Either way, the “justice” found in the Gospel is horribly corrupt.

  14. J. K. Jones Says:

    Janney and Deacon Duncan,

    You don’t get off the hook on your standard of morality just because you think it is obvious. You don’t get to accuse the God of the Bible of wrong-doing without fully justifying a standard of morality that you hold Him too.

    How do you justify what you are saying?

    JK

  15. Deacon Duncan Says:

    @J. K. Jones

    You don’t get to accuse the God of the Bible of wrong-doing without fully justifying a standard of morality that you hold Him too.

    I do not need to accuse the God of the Bible, because the Bible accuses Him for me: the Gospel requires a kind of “justice” that punishes the innocent in order to protect the guilty. Even Christians know that’s not really justice, which is why Christians don’t pursue the same standard in the real world. Why don’t believers insist on throwing Christians in jail (since they have been rendered “innocent” by the blood of Christ), in order that murderers and rapists and terrorists might be protected against any consequences of their actions? Because it would be unjust, immoral, and wrong, by Biblical standards as well as by mine. Just read the minor prophets.

    I can indeed justify my standards (and have done so numerous times in this blog and the old blog), because my standards are reality based. But that is more than is necessary, because your own standards of justice, and those of the Bible, also reflect the fact that true justice punishes the guilty in order to protect the innocent. Can you justify the Biblical standard of justice? If so, then you’ve justified mine as well. And if you then point out that the Bible also endorses a “justice” that is the exact contradiction of that standard, then I will thank you for confirming my original observation that the Gospel contradicts its own standard of justice. That’s how we can tell that it is not the truth, because the truth is consistent with itself.

    • J. K. Jones Says:

      Just out of interest, what do we do when we make a mistake? What do we do when we sin? How do we make up for it, or is making up for it even required?

      The justice practiced by governments and endorsed for that practice by the Bible punishes the guilty. How is this a protection of the innocent?

      Why can God not have a different standard when it comes to individuals? Why can He not provide a way for forgiveness in His own economy?

      The gospel is not justice, but it is not injustice either. Someone gets punished. God takes the pain caused by our sin onto and into Himself. He suffers for us in the Person of Christ.

  16. Deacon Duncan Says:

    @ J. K. Jones

    By the way, I’ve answered your question, perhaps you would answer one of mine. What is your standard of justice: to punish the innocent in order to protect the guilty, or to punish the guilty in order to protect the innocent? I predict that your Christian faith will prevent you from giving a consistent answer to that question, which will demonstrate again that Christianity is not the source of true justice. It could hardly be the source of something it cannot even give a consistent definition for, now could it?

    • J. K. Jones Says:

      For governments, punish the guilty to protect or to vindicate the innocent.

      For God there is a different way.

      What is the problem here?

      • coconnor1017 Says:

        I think the problem is called “special pleading”

      • J. K. Jones Says:

        coconnor1017,

        God is not special by comparisson to other individuals. Anytime someone forgives, the pain of the sin against them is obsorbed by them.

      • Deacon Duncan Says:

        I see. So secular authority punishes the guilty to protect the innocent, but God punishes the innocent to protect the guilty? Why would God’s justice be different from man’s, and why would any conscientious person want to endorse God going to the opposite extreme?

        To govern means to rule over or reign over. Do you deny God’s sovereignty over man? If so, then He has no right to demand obedience, and therefore we cannot sin against Him by disobeying His authority as King. But if He were king, then according to the Bible He has a duty to dispense the kind of justice that is demanded of kings and other forms of government.

        Your answer implies that Jesus is not Lord, and yet even with this repudiation of core Christian teachings, you still have not provided a consistent definition of what justice is, because your faith requires you to insist that God’s “justice” must be different. Would you like to try again?

    • J. K. Jones Says:

      Again, what si the source of “true justice?” How do you justify the part of the Bible that you like without justifying all of it?

  17. coconnor1017 Says:

    JK

    Special pleading is a term where you invent a set of considerations to explain away the inconsistencies you assert. You can’t have one set of rules for God and another set of rules for humanity as a defense for the Biblical God’s (and Christianity’s) inconsistencies.

    • J. K. Jones Says:

      Again, God is not special as an individual. All of us forgive in the same way, we take the pain without retaliation.

      Governments and individuals are different, not God and other individuals.

  18. Deacon Duncan Says:

    @ J. K. Jones

    Again, what si the source of “true justice?” How do you justify the part of the Bible that you like without justifying all of it?

    The answer to both of your questions is “reality,” which is the ultimate and infallible standard of truth. Our nature as material beings means that we are subject to the constraints of material cause and effect. Because we have inherited our ancestor’s instinctive drive to prolong our own existence, we care about the consequences of our actions, and seek to pursue the consequences which promote our well-being, and to avoid the consequences that lead to harm. As a social animal, we need to find a balance between our individual interests, and the interests of society, and material reality constrains where that balance is going to lie, because it enforces the cause-and-effect relationships that make some consequences beneficial and others harmful. As a result, we arrive at objective moral principles such as justice. Punishing the guilty to protect the innocent is a pattern with a beneficial influence over society, because it increases the health of society as a whole without imposing an unhealthy burden on the individual members.

    The Bible isn’t all lies, but it does “borrow” much of its teachings (especially moral teachings) from the secular realm of material morality, despite superstitiously attributing moral principles to God. When the Bible happens to reflect valid secular moral principles, those principles are justified because they can be verified by reference to objective reality. When the Bible violates reality-based moral principles—for example, by punishing the innocent to protect the guilty, or by commanding/blessing the murder of innocent babies—then we can reliably point out the fact that such conduct is immoral, despite being condoned by God. That is why reality-based morality is superior to the kind of morality that is based on superstition. The latter has no solid basis for declaring anything wrong, since “God works in mysterious ways,” and no man (allegedly) has any way to judge God.

  19. Janney Says:

    The Führerprinzip clearly does not permit evaluations of the Führer’s principles.

  20. Deacon Duncan Says:

    @ J. K. Jones

    God is not special by comparisson to other individuals. Anytime someone forgives, the pain of the sin against them is obsorbed by them.

    There are two problems with this. First of all, forgiveness and punishment are mutually exclusive alternatives. If you punish, then you have not truly forgiven; if you truly forgive, then you will not punish. That’s what “forgive” means. The topic under discussion is substitutionary atonement—one person suffering punishment for sins he did not commit, in order to protect the guilty from the consequences of their sin. Therefore it is not forgiveness, because true forgiveness would mean there was no longer any punishment to inflict on the innocent.

    The second problem is that Jesus did not, in fact, divert any of the consequences of sin away from us. Jesus suffered physical pain and physical death, but so does everyone else. According to the Bible, Jesus did not suffer spiritual death for us, so he never took upon himself the penalty of damnation that was allegedly due to us for our sins. Even if you adopt a moral system that calls it “good” to punish the innocent in order to protect the guilty, the circumstances of his “punishment” only point out the inequities of God’s “justice.” Jesus suffered pain, but so to we all, and some of us endure more suffering than even Jesus did—ask any hospice nurse. He suffered one physical death, just like the rest of us. He is not burning in Hell forever, so he has not taken that penalty upon himself in order to spare us from it. His death constituted nothing more than what is common human experience. What he did for is not only what we can do for ourselves, but what we inevitably will experience, just by being human. And that leaves the Cross without a valid point to make. If these things are sufficient to “atone” for sin, then all of us will have already atoned, without needing Jesus.

    The Gospel story is not the product of advanced moral studies, but rather is the product of psychological denial and rationalization. Christians could not admit that Jesus was defeated by the Sanhedrin, so they rationalized their loss by imagining his death as an extension of animal sacrifice (which is itself a morally corrupt foundation), and tried to twist the facts to fit their fable. The moral contradictions, inconsistencies, and inequities that result are a reflection of the Gospel’s lack of real-world truth.

  21. Skeptic Griggsy Says:

    This alone kills Christ-insanity! People murder for this superstition.


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