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In my studies of Islamic Theology I have come across a doctrine of the replacement of sins for good deeds.

Quran, Al-Furqân

“Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” 25:70

I do not know of and cannot find any similar doctrine in Christian Theology. Does it exists?

[Note: Some articles I read but couldn't find any similar doctrine in are: Forgiveness (Gods Forgiveness), Repentance (Christianity), Repentance in Judaism, Hamartiology, Christian Views on Sin, Reconciliation (theology), Atonement in Judaism, Salvation in Christianity, Ransom Theory of Atonement, Recapitulation theory of atonement, Satisfaction theory of atonement, Moral influence theory of atonement, Penal substitution, Among others. I of course looked at the Judeo-Christian tradition and not only Christian Doctrine.]

Addendum:

Commenting on ayah 70, Ibn Katheer writes in his acclaimed tafseer: "Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Dharr said, "The Messenger of Allah said: I know the last person who will be brought forth from Hell, and the last person who will enter Paradise. A man will be brought and it will be said, "Take away his major sins and ask him about his minor sins." So it will be said to him: "On such and such a day, you did such and such, and on such and such a day, you did such and such." He will say, "Yes," and he will not be able to deny anything. Then it will be said to him: "For every evil deed you now have one good merit." He will say: "Oh Lord, I did things that I do not see here." Abu Dharr said: "And the Messenger of Allah smiled so broadly that his molars could be seen." Imam Muslim recorded it.

Ibn Abi Hâtim recorded that Abu Jabir heard Makhul say, "A very old man with sunken eyes came and said, "O Messenger of Allâh, a man betrayed others and did immoral deeds, and there was no evil deed which he did not do. If his sins were to be distributed among the whole of mankind, they would all be doomed. Is there any repentance for him?'' The Messenger of Allâh said: "Have you become Muslim?" He said, "As for me, I bear witness that there is no God but Allâh Alone, with no partner or associate, and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.'' The Prophet said: "Allâh will forgive you for whatever you have done like that, and will replace your evil deeds with good merits." The man said: "O Messenger of Allâh, even my betrayals and immoral actions?'' The Prophet said: "Even your betrayals and immoral actions." The man went away saying 'Lâ illâha illallâh' and 'Allâhu Akbar.'

Update:

The closest equivalence I can find thus far would be Imputed Righteousness and Justification (Theology). To quote:

Imputed righteousness is a concept in Christian theology proposing that the "righteousness of Christ ... is imputed to [believers] — that is, treated as if it were theirs through faith." It is on the basis of this "alien" (from the outside) righteousness that God accepts humans. This acceptance is also referred to as justification. Thus, this doctrine is practically synonymous with justification by faith.

In Christian theology, justification is God's righteous act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while, at the same time, declaring the ungodly to be righteous through faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice.

Another concept approaching the one mentioned is Treasury of Merit (props to GratefulDisciple for this find), whereby the believer can obtain good not only from the "righteousness of Christ" and "Christ's atoning sacrifice", but also from the entire Mystical Body of Christ and/or Communion of Saints.

Although these concepts approach the Islamic concept I've come across closer then any of the various theories of atonement I've read, they are not identical. They differ, of course, by relying on an existing pool of righteousness, which is then transferred to the sinner. But both concepts not only account for forgiveness of sins, but seem to impute actually post fact merit that was unearned by the sinner themself in life (despite what other people have commented thus far).

But whereas the Islamic doctrine does not state that (i.e. an existing pool of merit earned by the Mystical Body of Christ/Communion of the Saints) to be the origin of the good credit then given to the sinner in exchange for his sin, neither does it deny that being the case (though, of course, their pool of righteousness would not include the sacrifice of Jesus, since the Crucifixion is not part of their doctrine).

It may be that more similar doctrines have arisen that none of us have identified yet.

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    This is sounds similar to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. – curiousdannii Aug 26 at 11:03
  • @curiousdannii Thanks. I'm really not seeing anything approaching this here. Only various theories of atonement, not the replacement of sins with good deeds. – Johan88 Aug 26 at 15:35
  • I'm a bit confused about what you expect to find. Christians don't believe sins can be swapped out post fact with good deeds. They do believe in substitutionary atonement. Why do you expect radically different religions to have equivalent concepts? – Caleb Aug 26 at 18:40
  • @Caleb They are more radically similar, even identical, then they are radical different. It's not like comparing with, for example, Hinduism, which I also study. For example, Muslims also believe in the God of Abraham. Can't get much more radically identical then that. As for doctrine, are you categorically stating that every single denomination that ever existed never came up with a similar doctrine? Because all kinds of different things have come up in Christianity, even Adamites. So this less radical doctrine would not be a surprise. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adamites – Johan88 Aug 27 at 2:20
  • @Caleb And talking about radical similarities, they believe in Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham Ishmael Isaac Jacob Josef Moses Aaron David Soliman Zachariah John Mary and Jesus, and while they may reject the Divinity of Jesus, so did certain early denominations of Christianity. So I don't think they're nearly as radically different as you seem to think. They share an enormous equivalency of concepts. Or maybe it depends what you're comparing them to? – Johan88 Aug 27 at 2:29
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You are correct. Such a doctrine does not exist. Because in Christian theology Good Deeds cannot account for or replace Bad Deeds.

There is of course differences in the Christian community regarding the idea of “salvation” and what must be done to obtain it.

This is commonly argued amongst Christians as the debate between salvation by grace and salvation by works. But in fact it is probably safe to say most Christians believe that salvation is by grace and the result is the works (good deeds).

So Christians do not believe one can do 10 good things and 9 bad things and still hope to goto heaven. Or one cannot Do one bad thing and 2 good things and expect to goto heaven. Christians believe that after one “repents” ... then the individuals heart is changed. And they are no longer able to sin. And sin falls away in their life. Then all their deeds become “good” by Grace of God. Naturally. Not because they intended them to be good. But because they acted out of a truly good heart... their actions are seen as Good. Though they did not necessarily think beforehand about it. They just acted and said and did what they felt was good in their hearts. These people don’t turn around and do bad things later On. They have repented already. They stopped having an evil heart. Because they know now it is wrong. And their bad deeds have become good deeds. Because God has replaced their evil deeds with good.

If you don’t know what an evil heart is, then you cannot repent of it. Then how will you ever know if your deeds are good or bad?

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    While what you write is correct about salvation it is only part of the story. God also causes Christians to actually do good - i.e. stop sinning and do good things. This is a separate thing from salvation, and is closer to what the questioner is asking about. – DJClayworth Aug 26 at 12:58
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    "Christians believe that after one 'repents' ... then the individuals heart is changed. And they are no longer able to sin." No, not all Christians believe this. – Matt Gutting Aug 26 at 13:35
  • @DJClayworth Closer yes, but the doctrine in Islam explicitly has sins being replaced for good deeds on judgement day, rather then the sinner - in life, after or irregardless of repentance - having sins forgiven/erased and being led to good deeds thereafter before death/judgement. Which is quite a ..particular.. matter of doctrine I don't recall ever coming across in all my years in Christian Doctrine, neither in Bible or scholarship. – Johan88 Aug 26 at 13:40
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    The question is asking whether there is such a doctrine within Christianity, not why that doctrine doesn't jibe with Christian theology. This is an answer to a question which we would not allow on the site because it can't speak for all Christian denominations. Nor does it directly reference any known Christian teachings. – Peter Turner Aug 26 at 18:02
  • Thanks a lot for the input Michael! StackExchange is a great place but it's designed with very specific rules in mind. I was new not long ago and didn't know how the system works, but once you get the know the rules for one site it can really help you understand all the Stack sites. Hope this link helps, friend: What Christianity.StackExchange is (and more importantly, what it isn't) – Johan88 Aug 28 at 19:04
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The closest equivalence would be that God does not remember the person's sins anymore for someone who truly repents. This has started even under the Mosaic (Old) Covenant and of course continuing under the New Jesus Covenant. Clean slate.

Below are some OT references showing how God offered this "forgive" and "forget" to 1) Israel as a whole, 2) an Israelite King, and 3) an Israelite.

  1. To Israel as a whole, verse 25 of Isa 43:22-25 : God is sad why Israel wouldn't come to Him for forgiveness and restoration after God punished them by exiling them to Babylon.
  2. To King Hezekiah, verse 17 of Isa 38:15-20 : Hezekiah praised God after God promised to heal him.
  3. To an Israelite, verse 12 of Ps 103:8-18 : The LORD is merciful and compassionate to the children who fear him.

You can see how repentance (plus possibly the system of temple sacrifices) enables an Israelite to be restored back to covenant righteousness, and God would forget his/her sin. The forgiving / forgetting happened even in this life, no need to wait until death! But GOD KNEW how it was still not good enough, because as we read in the OT, Israel kept sinning and sinning again. Therefore after exile (the biggest punishment to Israel so far), God announced His plan to give them a new heart that doesn't sin so that God didn't have to punish them AGAIN to that extent (Eze 11:19; Eze 36:26; Jer 31:31–34).

That's where Jesus came in: as a fulfillment of that promised plan. For those who accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus cancels completely the curse caused by Adam's sin (the original sin), another forgetting (!) (recapitulation theory). He also frees us from the power of sin, so it should be easier for us NOT to sin (ransom theory). Most importantly, another work of Jesus is to give the believer this promised NEW HEART which Jesus starts "installing" through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As long as we don't "uninstall" / abuse it but instead cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work to purify us, the believer will no longer sin. But it's inevitable that even a sincere believer will trip up and falls into temptation now and then, but GOD KNOWS THAT! Since our own being is now a temple (because the Holy Spirit resides in us), all we need to do is to genuinely repent and ask Jesus, our priest, to intercede for us, asking forgiveness from God. Then God will again forget our sins! So that's a LOT to be thankful for. Therefore, if we truly appreciate this we should then be VERY CAREFUL, out of RESPECT, GRATITUDE, and FEAR OF HURTING GOD, to try our best not to fall into temptation again (moral influence theory).

In my opinion, if God is very gracious to forget our sins in THIS life, both under the Old Mosaic covenant and under the New Jesus covenant, wouldn't you think God will do the same AFTER death? There are solid Biblical support for this which I don't have to go into.

Christians would NOT normally phrase this forgetting / forgiving sin as REPLACING bad deeds with good deeds, but phrase it as God's restoring believers into the state of righteousness under the covenant God made with us. To me, the various theories of atonement you referenced in your question (substitutionary, ransom, recapitulation, and moral influence) are different aids to EXPLAIN how Jesus's sacrifice enables God to restore us to be righteous again in order for us to have flourishing life just as Israel was blessed in the promised land as long as they don't break the covenant. As C.S. Lewis said, we do not need to believe any ONE theory of atonement. In fact, in Adam Johnson's book titled Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed, he suggests we use all of the theories because atonement is simply too rich to be confined to a single model.

What's important is we do our part so God can do His part to save us. When we TAKE THE OFFER and stay steadfast through the rest of our lives ABIDING within the covenant, we will then eligible to finally enter his Kingdom at the end of time.

Bible reference source: Does God really forget our sins?

ADDENDUM

I find a very loose translation of the passage surrounding verse 70 here:

[Quran 25:63] The worshipers of the Most Gracious are those who tread the earth gently, and when the ignorant speak to them, they only utter peace.

[Quran 25:64] In the privacy of the night, they meditate on their Lord, and fall prostrate.

[Quran 25:65] And they say, "Our Lord, spare us the agony of Hell; its retribution is horrendous."

[Quran 25:66] "It is the worst abode; the worst destiny."

[Quran 25:67] When they give, they are neither extravagant nor stingy; they give in moderation.

[Quran 25:68] They never implore beside God any other god, nor do they kill anyone - for God has made life sacred - except in the course of justice. Nor do they commit adultery. Those who commit these offenses will have to pay.

[Quran 25:69] Retribution is doubled for them on the Day of Resurrection, and they abide therein humiliated.

[Quran 25:70] Exempted are those who repent, believe, and lead a righteous life. God transforms their sins into credits. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

[Quran 25:71] Those who repent and lead a righteous life, God redeems them; a complete redemption.

[Quran 25:72] They do not bear false witness. When they encounter vain talk, they ignore it.

[Quran 25:73] When reminded of their Lord's revelations, they never react to them as if they were deaf and blind.

[Quran 25:74] And they say, "Our Lord, let our spouses and children be a source of joy for us, and keep us in the forefront of the righteous."

[Quran 25:75] These are the ones who attain Paradise in return for their steadfastness; they are received therein with joyous greetings and peace.

[Quran 25:76] Eternally they abide therein; what a beautiful destiny; what a beautiful abode.

[Quran 25:77] Say, "You attain value at my Lord only through your worship. But if you disbelieve, you incur the inevitable consequences."

When verse 70 is read in context (verses 63 to 77), the similarity to God forgetting sins is quite striking. The passage reads like a Psalm / Proverb, emphasizing how those who repent, believe, and lead righteous life will receive mercy from God while those who don't will receive double punishment (verse 69). So maybe verse 70 is a poetic way to reverse verse 69 saying that instead of DOUBLE punishment, the righteous will INSTEAD receive credits to be applied to their minus account resulting in ZERO BALANCE. The spirit of the passage of the whole emphasizes complete redemption (esp verse 71), so just like in Christianity where the theory of atonement you prefer doesn't matter, maybe the manner in which God applies mercy to us also doesn't matter much.

  • Thanks for the input, but the scholarly 'tafseer' tract I added makes it clear that it was not a poetic way of saying 'zero balance' but is a literal belief in the replacement of sins with good credits – Johan88 Aug 28 at 4:32
  • I don't fully understand the tafseer, but the sense I have from reading the verse in context is that the person has to be repentant and lead righteous life in order to qualify, so it's similar to Christianity. For example, several NT passages make it clear that even after becoming a believer if the person persists in breaking major commandments, the person will not enter heaven, such as 1 Cor 6:9-11. – GratefulDisciple Aug 28 at 5:45
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    I'm pretty sure that in mainstream church history, even including slight fringes such as Arianism, Docetism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, the key is repentance of heart. To all those movements including current denominations, the accounting of sins is secondary and never phrased as replacing sins with good credits. Another avenue I can think of is in terms of penance. You may want to look into Treasury of merit – GratefulDisciple Aug 28 at 5:54
  • I recommend you add your own answer since I feel even imputed righteousness and treasury of merit are in principle still quite different than what you're looking for. It would not be right to twist the original intent of those doctrines to accommodate Islam theology. Even I feel I have crossed a line in offering my own interpretation on an Islamic text, although I just wanted to be helpful. Since this is a Christian site, not a Religious Studies site, the purpose is to represent Christian teaching as taught by established Christian institutions, which is how I tried to construct my own answer. – GratefulDisciple Aug 28 at 17:46
  • OK sure. But I'm definitely not trying to 'twist' Christian doctrine to 'accommodate' Islamic doctrine, nor would I have any motivation to do so. I'm merely saying that's the closest I've come to an equivalent doctrine to this item, so far, and it's much closer then substitutionary atonement. – Johan88 Aug 28 at 17:51
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The Muslim belief that God will replace evil deeds with good merits/deeds is not based on Christianity. Yes, the Bible says that God is merciful and forgiving, but nowhere does it suggest that after death God will replace sinful deeds with good deeds on judgement day.

The basic difference between Islam and Christianity (as I understand it from a Protestant perspective) is that Muslims do not believe they need a saviour because Islam teaches that man is born sinless and does not have a sin nature from which he needs to be saved. Sura 11:114 suggests that Muslims can cancel out bad deeds by good deeds. Yes, Muslims believe they must repent of sin and that they can seek forgiveness from Allah, but the Christian belief that payment for sin is required by God and that only Christ Jesus can atone for our sins is anathema to Islam. They do not recognise the need for a saviour to free them from the penalty of sin. Here are a few Bible verses on the subject of sin, repentance and God’s righteous judgement:

“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” (John 3:16).

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

Jesus says, "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24).

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in [God’s] sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:20–22a).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death... Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:1, 2 and 8).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Protestant view is that we are judged on whether we accepted or rejected Christ Jesus as our saviour while we lived. After we die, it’s too late. The doctrine is summed up this way:

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27–28).

Islam rejects the Christian view of our inherited sin nature and the need for Christ Jesus to atone for our sins by himself paying the penalty in order to satisfy God’s holiness and justice. That is why you will never find any biblical basis for the Islamic view that God will replace our sinful deeds with good deeds on the day of Judgement.

  • Thanks, great info. Yes, Muslims don't believe in Original Sin and do I think believe that men are born sinless ("Fitra"), but do believe in a sin nature as given by the devil after birth in the form of a black dot in the heart, which only Christ Jesus and Mary didn't receive. And while they do believe in intercession on the day of judgement, yes, the belief in Jesus as the Savior is completely anathema in Islam – Johan88 Aug 29 at 14:17

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