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Recently during a discussion I got smacked with the "Cosmic Child Abuse" argument. I had heard of it before, but never really had to wrestle with it in real life. I discovered that I don't actually have a satisfactory answer.

The situation: Assume Universal salvation for the sake of argument. So God loves everyone, is able to save everyone, is willing to save everyone, and will in actual fact save everyone. That's all well and good, but in order to save everyone, the father sent his son to be tortured on a cross and also (for the sake of argument) descend into the deepest depths of Hell and endure further ineffable tortures there too.

The problem: Doesn't this compromise both God's love and his justice? How was it loving for God to torture his own son? How was it just/fair for Jesus to take the punishment that we deserve?

Scope: I would be happy to hear apologetics from any tradition, seeing as this is a problem which plagues almost all if not all Christian traditions.

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    Many Christians would say that if God turned a blind eye to sin without a sacrifice , it would make him unjust. – aska123 Feb 24 '18 at 1:38
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    @Chuck Well to be fair, many universalists don't think that sin is much of a problem, and your question didn't mention sin at all either. The cosmic child abuse argument is usually leveled against penal substitutionary atonement believers, not universalists. – curiousdannii Feb 24 '18 at 8:32
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    How is it child abuse if Jesus is about 33 years old when he is crucified? This sounds to me like a dishonest premise is being thrown at you in the first place. – KorvinStarmast Feb 25 '18 at 22:35
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According to the doctrine of the Trinity, Jesus being the Son of God means that He is fully God made manifest in human form (John 1:14). Jesus is simultaneously both fully God and fully man. As such, Jesus being crucified wasn't God sending someone else to be pusnished, but instead God taking the punishment Himself.

This, therefore, does not compromise God's love and justice, but instead is examplary of it. It is loving because God has saved us from punishment, and it is just because "as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousnessg leads to justification and life for all men." (Romans 5:18-21)

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From a Christian perspective, your question contains two erroneous premises: first that every person will be saved (universal salvation) and second that “Jesus descended into the deepest depths of Hell to endure further ineffable tortures.” According to the Bible, only those persons who come to saving faith in Christ Jesus will be saved.

God is certainly full of love and mercy; it was these qualities that led Him to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die on the cross for us. Jesus Christ is the exclusive door that leads to an eternity in heaven. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” If we choose to reject God’s Son, we do not meet the requirements for salvation (John 3:16, 18, 36). Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/universalism.html

The place Jesus went to after his death was not a place of torment or torture. Jesus’ suffering ended the moment He died. The payment for sin was paid. He then awaited the resurrection of His body and His return to glory in His ascension. Did Jesus go to hell? No. Did Jesus go to sheol/hades? Yes.

Some have the viewpoint that Jesus went to “hell” or the suffering side of sheol/hades in order to further be punished for our sins. This idea is completely unbiblical. It was the death of Jesus on the cross that sufficiently provided for our redemption. It was His shed blood that effected our own cleansing from sin (1 John 1:7–9). As He hung there on the cross, He took the sin burden of the whole human race upon Himself. He became sin for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This imputation of sin helps us understand Christ’s struggle in the garden of Gethsemane with the cup of sin which would be poured out upon Him on the cross. Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-go-to-hell.html

As far as the argument of Cosmic or Celestial Child Abuse goes, below is a link to a U.K. 2004 article that soundly exposes the error of the claims made by Steve Chalke. Part of the article says this:

Steve Chalke is caught in a contradiction. He wants to affirm God’s anger in some sense, but is intent on redefining God’s holiness and downplaying the seriousness of sin (p. 173). Nevertheless it is right to say that anger is a legitimate expression of God’s love. Because the Lord is righteous He loves righteousness and hates the wicked (Psalm 5:4-5; 11:5, 7). The Bible speaks plainly about God’s anger against all sin being expressed in the present and at the day of judgment (Rom. 1:18ff, 2:5-11; Eph. 5:3-6).

God’s love is not a moral weakness. If sin ought to be punished then there is nothing in God that impels Him to leave it unpunished. If God loves sinners then some way must be found for His justice to be satisfied as well.

Where Wrath and Mercy Meet: Is it true that penal substitution contradicts the statement that God is love? If it is then the New Testament writers were not aware of it. Paul tells us that the God who justifies those who believe, by his grace, does so by setting forth His Son as a propitiation (Rom. 3:25). The writer to the Hebrews says that it was as a merciful High Priest that Jesus made propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb. 2:17).

The apostle John tells us that God is both light (1 John 1:5) and love (3:16). ‘In this is love’, writes John, ‘not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (4:10). On the basis of this wrath-averting death Jesus acts as our advocate with the Father when we sin (2:1-2). Rather than being incompatible with love, God’s love saves sinners from His own wrath through the death of Christ (Rom. 5:8-9).

By pitting Jesus’ teaching about not ‘repaying evil for evil’ against the idea of penal substitution Steve Chalke makes a basic but telling mistake. Consider Romans 12:17, 19: ‘Repay no one evil for evil… Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”‘. Retribution belongs to the righteous Judge not to private individuals. But the state is given the limited remit to punish wrongdoers, ‘For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer’ (Rom. 13:4). Source: https://banneroftruth.org/uk/resources/articles/2004/a-scandalous-attack-on-the-cross/

That is one Christian refutation to the accusation that God is guilty of “child abuse” with regard to his Son. Bear in mind that nobody forced Jesus to lay down his life for us. He did so willingly:

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:17-18).

As Cerulean Chelonii pointed out, because Jesus is part of the One Being of God, fully man and fully God, it was God who took the punishment we deserve upon Himself. Such love!

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How was it loving for God to torture his own son?

God didn't torture His own Son. We did.

How was it just/fair for Jesus to take the punishment that we deserve?

It wasn't fair, but it was God's demonstration of love.

Humanity was cursed for our sin which resulted in the consequence of death. Jesus took that curse upon Himself, on our behalf, which means if we embrace His offer on our behalf we can be given life and not have to die separated from God.

God's Justice - all sin gets punished, and love intersect perfectly on the cross.

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Cerulean Chelonii already covered my response (as a Trinitarian) by saying that Jesus Christ is God incarnate and thus that his death is an expression of pure love and mercy while also fulfilling the requirement of justice in that punishment for sin has been exacted.

However, from a Unitarian universalist perspective, the premise seems to be flawed anyway. Sure, God will save everyone, but by what means? By the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John‬ ‭14:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

The justice of the sacrifice can be justified simply in that Jesus underwent the punishment voluntarily. This is also consistent with God's love in that God did not force His son into anything.

Additionally, since sin entered the world through one man, it is just that one man ought to be able to save the world:

“For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

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As a crude analogy, God sending his Son to die on the cross is as much child abuse as a father sending his son to war. He didn't kill his son; others did. Though he knew his son would be killed, it was for a righteous cause.


How was it loving for God to torture his own son?

God didn't torture Jesus. Mankind did, with the acceptance of Christ.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5, KJV


How was it just/fair for Jesus to take the punishment that we deserve?

It's not fair. It's merciful. Our relationship is not reciprocal; we benefit from him more than he does from us.

We love him, because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19, KJV


the father sent his son to be tortured on a cross

There was desire but no coercion; Jesus did out of pure love. Like all men, Jesus had free choice and he chose to yield his will to the Father's. And the Father's desire was that he redeem mankind.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Matthew 26:39, KJV


Doesn't this compromise both God's love and his justice?

Justice is what demanded an atonement for the sin. Love provided the atonement by a divine being.

The specifics get into various theories of justification in Christianity. For example, the Book of Mormon offers a version of satisfaction theory:

What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.

And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.

And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

Alma 42:25, 42:14-15, Book of Mormon

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