Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dennis On: ""For God So Loved the World...." A very sincere question to consider

"For God So Loved the World...."

A very sincere question to consider

Dennis Diehl - EzineArticles Expert AuthorI would like to seriously and sincerely reopen a question I have had for years about the teaching that God gave his only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for us.  I believe this audience would be able to draw on scores of scriptures to this effect so I will not reproduce them here.  

What I would like to ask, and sincerely so, is "In what way is Jesus death a real death and in what way did God give his son?"

I know our initial reaction is "on the cross" or "he turned his back on Jesus and abandoned him at death," or "Jesus gave his life for us..."  etc.  But in what way? From my perspective, it was not in anyway I can identify with as a human and the "loss" God suffered is not like any loss I have seen in the faces of parents who lost real children in death.

My personal problem with the concept is that from all accounts, well most, Jesus knew he would die but also that he would return better than ever in a mere three days and not in the flesh, but back at the right hand of God.  In what way is that a sacrifice?  Every sacrifice that died in the entire Bible stayed dead.  Jesus merely appears as a sacrifice but in a way that is not really like all the so called '"types."  Jesus death was not like human death.  It was almost like a play that has a really good ending once we get to the end.  It seems more like going through the motions but not really the emotions.

Now granted, it is no fun to die at a young age, but hundreds of thousands and millions have done it before and since Jesus.  But they are all dead and gone.  I can't imagine any grief lasting long if the families and friends of those who have died would have had to wait a mere three days to get them back better than ever. I can't even imagine any of those who died being all that upset if the knew, as Jesus and God evidently did that they would be back shortly better than ever.  That's not dying.  That's stepping out for a bit and coming right back.  That is not what humans call death nor parents who have lost a child, a tragedy that eats their soul up for the rest of their lives. 

God the Father knew, evidently, what his plan was and could bring his "only begotten son that he gave  back quickly.  I can't do that.  No parent of any children I have buried can do that .  How can this be said to be the most amazing parental sacrifice in the history of the world?  I can see if  the figure of Jesus STAYED DEAD and was not himself ever to be part of the coming Kingdom.  Now that would be a sacrifice on the part of both Jesus and God the Father.  But this mere "weekend inconvenience," seems to fall far short of that?  I ask sincerely for an answer.

In what way would God have agonized over Jesus death if it was merely a short weekend event from which God would easily recover the life of his son?

In what way is this the most amazing sacrifice of all time?  (Thousands of humans have been crucified, skinned alive , boiled alive and burned to death which would seem far more hideous than any six hour death on a cross.)  I have my doubts about Jesus being "marred above any other," as well but will leave that for another time. Death on the cross is generally a days long event where no burial is afforded the criminal and the body is left to fall off the cross to be eaten by dogs.  Jesus had the burial of a King with little of the humiliation that would normally accompany such events.  I'm sure many would have said in his day that "Jesus got off easy. He died really quickly."  

I have recalled how this question came to me when a client told me she lost her only child in an accident.  After telling me how little help her church had been trying to encourage her with, "God won't give you more than you can bare," "at least you have other children," (She didn't) or "At least you will see her again in heaven," the Pastor himself made the mistake of his theological career.  He told her that "well, God lost his only child too."  

"Uh oh.." I remember thinking.  He sure stepped into that.  I asked what she said and she assured me that she screamed "NO!" at the minister and then said,  "Jesus seems to have known he would die and come back in three days. God knew He was going to resurrect him in a mere three days better than ever.  My daughter is still dead!  A real sacrifice should stay dead.  Jesus death was merely a weekend inconvenience for both Jesus and His Father."

Ugh....I just listened and thought that she , in her grief and clarity, had hit on something so deeply disturbing to me that I later wrote about it.  I asked what the minister said and she said he just looked at her and said NOTHING.  Probably the best think he could have done under the circumstances.

It is a sincere observation and it has raised a deeply troubling but sincere question in myself since then.  

So in sincerity I ask,  In what way did God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son....?  How was it the most amazing sacrifice of all time?  Should not a real sacrifice stay dead?  And why would Jesus actual death which quickly was remedied by a better than ever resurrection be considered some kind of substitution for ours?

I simply have no answer for this observation and if I were still a minister and this was thrown in my face while someone was grieving the real loss of a child, would have nothing to say but,  "that's a good question.  I don't know."

Dennis C. Diehl


Lake of Fire Church of God said...

Another thought provoking article, Dennis!

Dennis said: I simply have no answer for this observation and if I were still a minister and this was thrown in my face while someone was grieving the real loss of a child, would have nothing to say but, "that's a good question. I don't know."

MY COMMENT - "I don't know" would have been a more honest answer - if honesty really counts in Christianity and religion.


PS - your article, no matter how sincere, will definitely have you condemned to eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire among certain Church of God groups. Remember the lyrics to "The Logical Song" (Super Tramp), "Watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, a liberal..."

John said...

I think on a subconscious level I, perhaps we all, have pondered these questions at one time or another in our lives Dennis, but never really articulated them, specially out loud to others unless like this grieving mom we had reason to. I can only offer my own reasoning, however, in that I think 1) the way God showed His love for the world by giving His only begotten Son was by the mere fact that His Son lived, not as royalty or a celebrity, but as an ordinary human who could feel what we feel everyday in a fallen world without any superpowers to better Himself over another and then to die so inhumanely for only speaking truth, exposing corruption and doing good to people who hurt; 2) it was the one and only sacrifice that counted in God's eyes, so no more should innocent creatures needlessly suffer for something they cannot even grasp the concept of or we feel condemned any longer by our inability to measure up to God's Standard because through our faith in Him all our sins and shortfalls that have alienated us from Him upto now have all at once been eliminated and atoned for; 3) that is the beauty of God's Sacrifice that shows His infinite love for us and His infinite power over death and the devil, even though we don't yet see or feel the universal ripples of such in the here and now; 4) because He is God and as God our Creator He has the moral prerogative to choose what will serve as the means and end towards eternal restitution. Gotta love Him for that! :)

Allen C. Dexter said...

Very logical question. You know, I'm sure, that Elvis is still alive, according to some exstatic believers. I'm surprised someone hasn't claimed he was so special he was resurrected.

Human delusion and mental pathologies have been around since and before our species started flaking stone to make tools. One would hope advancement would lead to a decrease in such nonsense. Not so. We have to keep up the efforts to promote and expand reason.

Lake of Fire Church of God said...

Dennis said, "I have my doubts about Jesus being "marred above any other," as well but will leave that for another time".

MY COMMENT - This doubt becomes painfully obvious when you witness the slow death of a loved one by means of cancer.

At the risk of being thrown into the Lake of Fire toast along with Dennis, my parents both died of horrible cancers that were just as marred as Jesus death, IMHO.

Now throw me in the Lake of Fire for saying it!


Anonymous said...

A better question would be to ask why did "God" need to sacrifice his "son" in the first place? But better not to question the insane motives and methods of a genocidal psychopath.

Paul Ray

Black Ops Mikey said...

Jesus Christ, according to what the Apostle Paul seems (his writings are difficult to understand, according to Peter, so we can't always know, can we?) says, Jesus Christ, "that Rock", of the Old Testament was the god of the ancient Israelites. As such, he seemed to be a bit harsh, particularly if you consider the Israelites in Egypt beaten to death living in misery for several generations between Joseph and Moses. There were no good days for them, neither did they have any kind of "salvation". They simply suffered excruciatingly, often times for 18 hour days at hard labor, being whipped and beaten, bloodied, for days, weeks, months, years, decades at a time, from childhood.

So Jesus arrives on the scene and grows up, apparently better educated than some, moderately or better prosperous, has a vast following and then has a few bad days of his own and is executed.

The book of Hebrews comments that "he learned by the things he suffered".

That is good news.

The seemingly excruciatingly just and fair but harsh god of the Old Testament as a divine being finally gets a very small sample, briefly, of what it is to be human and is transformed into a loving, kind and merciful god who can not just relate to human beings but can give them redemption through his supreme sacrifice -- the sacrifice of his Father watching from heaven.

Let us rejoice that we now have such a savior who is not (mostly) unmoved by our weaknesses.


It's not quite the same as being held captive by a cult religion for 40 years, with terribly oppressive "pastors" taking your money, treating you with contempt and having to deal with a terribly mentally ill schizo-affective son barely existing with no help at all from the abusive cult you were trapped in.

It's not as bad as being an Israelite Captive in Egypt working slave hours for less than slave wages and being beaten for no particularly good reason except for the amusement of your task masters, but -- and if you include working for snarky sociopathic government management violating the laws against conflict of interest -- it falls short of being what Christ was in his human life time.

Or so it might seem.

We have no right to complain.

All our good and perfect gifts come from above.


In between the bad stuff.

We just have to endure to the end and we will be rewarded for our patient tolerance and willingness to pursue righteousness, I guess.

No guarantees, though.

It's complex and failure is easy, particularly if you don't know where you are going or how to get there.

We've had such sterling help from the Armstrongist leaders.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
A better question would be to ask why did "God" need to sacrifice his "son" in the first place?

It has crossed my mind, even as a kid, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins,' To which I asked, "why not," Why does a God have to kill a son. Why can't we say, "God, I'm sorry," and God says, "Thank you, I forgive you."

Cut out the middleman?

Why do Gods have to kill things to be taken seriously?

It's just a story


Allen C. Dexter said...

Yes, it's just a story. A made-up story at that. The Israelites were not slaves in Egypt. Some of them were in the ruling elite. That whole exodus story is very suspect and wasn't written in its novel like details before the close of the Babylonian captivity. And, the conflict that caused them to leave was probably that they were chief among the ones pushing monotheism.

When one gets the real facts about the history of Egypt, it becomes apparent that there was a tremendous struggle between poly and mono-theism. It got heated and bloody.

Suzie said...

Yeah, I remember when I was young, asking about how, well if it is given to all men once to die, then why doesn't that death count as my own payment for my own sins?

I was told, "Only eternal death can count as payment."
"But Jesus' death wasn't eternal." "Yes," I was told, "but he's God, so he can't die permanently."
"Soooo then he can't really pay for our sins, right?"
"No, it's because he's God, and so he's worth more than all of humanity combined."
"Yeah, but that part only covers the fact that one death can take the place of the death of all of humanity. But no matter whose death it is, it still has to be eternal."
"No, it covers both."
"So, only eternal death can pay for sin, but at the end of the day, everyone is alive, and all the past sins are still paid for."

All these years later, something still seems wrong with that to me.

The moral of the story? We're worthless and God is magical.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Dennis's article, and all the comments in this thread, articulate so well all of my problems with Christianity.

Well done. Thank you to all who have contributed. I wish this article and the comments above could be broadcast to the entire world.

Christianity is a religion founded on human sacrifice. Period. When people try to reason around that, conversations like the one Suzie described are going to happen.

I used to wonder as a child why such a sacrifice had to happen. Just like "M.T. Cross's" and Paul Ray's posts above, I never could find a good explanation for why God couldn't just accept my apology at face value, and take me at my word. And if God is oh-so-powerful, almighty and magnificent, omnipotent and omnipresent, then why couldn't he have constructed a better system where no one ever sinned or hurt others? Because God wanted us to "see how bad life would be without His divine guidance"??? Bullsh!t.

Anonymous said...

A little worried about the death logic here, but isn't the general idea: Christ, Son of god, becoming man, in soldiarity with mankind, experiences suffering death, etc, as to take upon himself; i.e. incorporate humanity into his divine person (in some manner), where we can be safe from screw-ups?

The mediative aspect is a plus, protects us from ourselves and each other; we are the beneficiaries.

And,it was Christ who suffered and stills suffers; we're his problem now.

Anonymous said...

Anon, I think it isn't really about human sacrifice, it's about guilt as a method to put the hooks in you. Just because you're not perfect, you automatically owe this huge debt and presto! you're suddenly the slave of some guy who claims to represent God. And isn't it so awesome how He paid that debt for you? And now because of that, some guy effectively owns your a$$? For why? A buncha made up bu11$h1t, that's why. Oh, and to top it off you should be so thankful and all of that crap, which is just where he wants you, given that you've just fallen for literally one of the oldest cons ever.

Byker Bob said...

If death and sacrifice were the totality of the matter, then, yes, you do have a very valid point. But it's not. By confining your argument to Jesus' death alone, you're missing out on the entire significance of the resurrection. That, and all of its implications and benefits to God's children, is the most significant part of Jesus' life story.


Anonymous said...

Annon said this: "The mediative aspect is a plus, protects us from ourselves and each other; we are the beneficiaries."

...and a bunch of other stuff.

Sounds a bit like the meandering on the Surprising God Blog. I really have no idea what you are getting at or how this answers the questions raised.


Allen C. Dexter said...

"Well done. Thank you to all who have contributed. I wish this article and the comments above could be broadcast to the entire world."

I wish the same thing! We all do our part, but our voices are still so small and unnoticeable for the most part. We just have to keep on keeping on through every outlet and medium open to us.

Steve said...

MY COMMENT: Wow! These are some of the most thought-provoking comments I have ever read. I love Suzie's post!

Douglas Becker said...
The book of Hebrews comments that "he learned by the things he suffered".

MY COMMENT: You know, I often wondered about why Jesus, or God, would never have to experience getting old, or very old, and have to have the aches and pains, stiffness, sorrow, sleeplessness, poverty, crippled, deteriorating bones, blindness, breathless, cramping, wrinkled, crooked, arthritic body that comes with old age. But, hey, who am I to complain?

Alice N. Wonderland said...

Your voices are not small and they are heard. I don't ever comment but I read this blog and all of your voices everyday. I too wish this whole thread would be on the "trending now" list. You make a differnece and by you I mean YOU! This Armstrongism is just a vehicle to share with the world a piece of who you really are .. advocates, humanitarians, civil rights leaders and teachers. I did not grow up in this church or in an organized religion background and you have shed some light on questions I have always wanted to ask and did not know who to ask. KEEP FREEING THEM. THEY HAVEN'T FIGURED OUT YET THEY ARE SLAVES!

I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.
Harriet Tubman

Anonymous said...

Certainly, mythology of the death and resurrection of a god is much older than the biblical mythos.


CJ said...

But because of Christ's resurrection, the woman's child will not stay dead.
The chance for eternal life was opened as was the introduction to the Father. Christ said he came to show the Father and give access to him for us.
We are not saved by his death but by his life which he lives in us through his holy spirit.