Christianity, regligious education, Uncategorized

Christ’s Death for Our Sins – His Humanity Displayed His Divinity

Why would the son of God be born as a mere flesh-and-blood human?  Why would he be permitted to be subjected to doubt and indignities, to torture and death? Why would a divine being ask God to take away the cup of poison, or cry out to God “why hast thou forsaken me”? Why would Christ, who must above all others have had no reason to fear death, have nonetheless been afraid (though undeterred) as the hour approached?

The answer lies again in the concepts of alignment with God and free will. If God spoke to each of us from a burning bush and told us to do X, Y, and Z or else suffer the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, most would comply, but we would do so out of fear, not out of true alignment with God. If Christ had been in the form of a shining, glorious divinity free from fears or temptations many people would have listened to him, but would not have understood his message.[1] It is all very well for a God to say how to behave, but how can mere mortal humans follow such a standard? God does not need faith, but we must depend upon it.

But Christ did not come as a shining divinity, or even as a perfect man.  He came as a man with perfect faith, not perfect certainty. He feared pain.  He suffered from humiliation. He feared death, and apparently even had doubts about what would actually happen when he died. He did not smile upon the cross and delight in the thought that he would shortly be back in heaven. Despite all this, he did not have doubts about what his own actions must be. He had faith that he must do what was demanded of him, whatever the consequences. It is only because he was so human, because he had human doubts and fears, that he could serve as an example to all of perfect love and faith. His example taught a lesson that mere humans could follow.  The apostles and other Christians did follow it. Many suffered humiliation, torture, and gruesome deaths. Yet, guided by the example of a human of perfect faith, they found near-perfect faith themselves. They chose to accept their unpleasant deaths over the alternative of abandoning their convictions.  They died knowing that they were doing the right thing, and that conviction was more than compensation for their sufferings. They did not need to be able to see exactly what lay beyond death’s curtain, for their faith was not dependent upon certainty of eternal reward – it was enough that they were certain that they could not be content doing less than standing up for their convictions, whatever the cost.

It is a part of Church doctrine, at least in some sects, that the Original Sin of Adam and Eve prevented humans from having access to salvation until the coming of Christ, and that Christ died for our sins in the sense that his death was somehow magically necessary to cleanse the stain of Original Sin from our souls. This seems like an unnecessary and unlikely construction.[2]  Why would God let the human race flounder along hopelessly until the death of Christ? If Christ’s death was needed to perform some sort of salvation spell, why wasn’t it arranged sooner? It makes far more sense to accept that Original Sin, in the sense of the ability to choose not to follow the path of alignment with God, as required by the concept of free will, placed all of us under a dangerous threat of failure, but not a condemnation of certain failure. Christ’s example of perfect faith served as a beacon to guide us out of danger. It came at a time and in a place where mankind was ready to hear, accept, and communicate the message, a message that was given to other people in other times by various prophets with varying degrees of success. Christ died so that our sins may be forgiven through our repenting of our sins in the light of his example, not because God was otherwise incapable of forgiving our sins if we were willing to repent. Mystifying the death of Christ serves only to obscure its true significance to us. Jesus proved to us all that each of us, mere humans all, with all of our fears and weaknesses, are capable of achieving perfect faith, as he was. We are all the children of God, and God has always loved his children.

 

[1] The Bible teaches that in the old days God was prone to demonstrate his presence and power with impressive miracles, yet people consistently went astray and started worshiping golden calves about eight minutes after the last such demonstration. Being impressed by power is not as effective as true understanding.

[2] Here I am flying directly against what most Christian sects teach, so I do not expect general agreement on this point. That does not matter, since the rest of what I write here does not depend on this point. However, my book is intended to help people who are struggling with the hard questions where the official doctrine does not seem to make sense, and on this point I can only say that I think the official doctrine has it wrong. Christ’s life and death are no less important for being less magical. News of this perfect example has spread across the planet and endured the centuries, leading millions and billions to salvation and freedom from deadly sin. The fact that Christ died so that our sins could be repented and forgiven by his divine example, an example given to us in a form that we can understand, is, in my view, more wonderful than the notion that Adam turned on a magical sin-switch and Christ turned it off again.

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