I'd like to obtain moral, not faith explanation - In the story about Jesus' crucifixion: how can it be considered moral that God allowed or destined the unjustified murder of His own son?

If the reason for Jesus' death was to satisfy his fathers' anger or rule, wouldn't the moral thing be for the father just calm down or change his mind? He did this before: Genesis 18,20-32. And Paul explains that love should prevail: Corinthians 13.

If the whole story was just a "game" or dramatic way to make people think about their sin and need for God, that is, the father knew that Jesus will just experience human dying, but won't be really sacrificed - I mean cease to exist - is that moral to use his own son in this way?

If Jesus opened the way to salvation for non-Jews somehow, is it moral to achieve such a desired end in such a sadistic way? It is hard to believe the thought behind: a kill will be better than love.

Or is there any other explanation how such a deed could be moral?

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    There are entire seminary courses on soteriology that seek to answer this very question. Understanding the mechanism- substitutionary atonement, propotiation, satisfaction- there are literally books about each. May 30 '12 at 9:34
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    For the same reason that it's a sign of our covenant with God to cut flesh from our genitals.
    – user1054
    May 30 '12 at 13:41
  • @DanAndrews In Christianity it's not. Maybe you are confusing this site with Mi Yodeya. May 30 '12 at 14:46
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    @DJClayworth, :) maybe you're forgetting that Christians were a sect of Judaism for many years after Christ? However thanks to Paul, it's not required: gotquestions.org/circumcision.html
    – user1054
    May 30 '12 at 15:06
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    If it makes you happy I will concede that for about thirty years of Christianity's 2000 year history your statement was true. Now, back to the actual question. May 30 '12 at 15:20
  1. God is Holy
  2. God is Just
  3. God is Merciful

The combination of these attributes is the answer to your question.

  1. His Holiness demands that He be obeyed, unequivocally.
  2. His justice demands that He deal with disobedience, mercilessly.
  3. His mercy demands that He forgive, lovingly.

How does one strike a balance in a meaningful manner? The answer is that He who knew no sin became sin, and God poured His wrath upon His Son. Unraveling the Biblical language a little bit, this means that our (the elect's) sins were imputed to Christ, Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, and Christ was no longer considered perfect but sinful. Because He took our sin upon Him, we are now blameless before God, but Christ was not. Christ took the merciless wrath due us, satisfied God's justice for those under this covenant of grace, and permits God to show mercy to us because God's justice has been satisfied in Christ. The key here is that Christ became sin by taking our sin (and the corollary, for another question topic, is that we obtained Christ's righteousness). Only God has the power to do this.

The work on the cross was more than physical: the penalty Christ paid was much more than just physical death and suffering. I recommend this one-hour video for a more encompassing explanation from a Baptist/Puritan viewpoint.

Once you understand these points (obedience, justice, mercy), the rest makes perfect sense. There are deeper questions to be asked at this point (and not on this same SE question!) but I think you are better off to think of them on your own at this point.

Edit, to Address more questions from the O.P:

The transfer of the sin was not the purpose of Christ's death on the cross. It was part of the penalty that He paid for taking our sin upon Himself. In the beginning, man disobeyed God (Genesis 3). This man is named Adam. Adam is the head representative of the human race. Because he sinned, his nature changed and he was lost in disobedience without the ability to obey God. Because Adam, who was flesh, sinned, his flesh also became corrupt and he eventually died.

As I said, the point of Christ's work on the cross was to consume the wrath of God for those whom the work will cover (I know this is a confusing way to word it. I'm trying to avoid opening another topic entirely. If you have a question regarding who the work was intended to cover, it is worth another question entirely). This moral and physical death is called the curse of Adam. Christ's death on the cross satisfied the physical side of the curse of Adam. Christ's being forsook by His Father satisfied the spiritual aspect of the curse. The physical death took place in order that He would identify with the flesh and conquer sin in the flesh.

To use the term "murder" is inappropriate, here. Murder implies malice and an innocent victim. When Christ took our sin, He was no longer innocent and His death was not in malice, it was in justice.

Once God imputed our sins to Christ, if God would not have punished Him, His Holiness would have been denigrated because His justice would not be satisfied, as if to say: "Yeah, it's okay if you disobey me. No biggie." The distinction is that it is never ok to disobey God and simple "forgive and forget" could not work, or else God would be giving up His Holiness. The most heinous act you can conceive of doing to a fellow man is not as heinous as the slightest insult you can think of against God (pretending that there is a way to wrong a man without wronging God in the process).

Paul Washer's point in the video at 6:20 was that because Christ is God's Son, all of creation and events in time are for His glory, because the Father loves the Son. If we are obeying God because we want to avoid punishment or to "be moral," then we are doing it in the wrong spirit. All things are to glorify Christ.

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    I will watch the video later, but I can see contradiction now: mercy means to give up justice (you will get what you deserve) in favor of compassion sometimes. Wrathful entity (God in this case, as you write) can't be just (because justice is emotionless) and can't be merciful (love would prevail). Just or merciful judgement requires to calm down wrath first.
    – user508
    May 30 '12 at 7:53
  • @Jan That's the entire point: in Christ, there is no contradiction because He bore our sin and was mercilessly punished for it. If you wish there to be a contradiction, then for you there is and you are outside of the benefits provided by His work because you are, in effect, telling God that His justice isn't just enough for you and His mercy isn't merciful enough for you. Remember: this show isn't about us, it's about God. We must use God's definitions for justice and mercy and see how they apply here. May 30 '12 at 10:45
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    Moderator note 2: Also, if you have further discussing to do, the thing to do is head over to The Upper Room and chat it out.
    – Caleb
    May 30 '12 at 14:15
  • @Caleb I understand that is the policy, but that is not always convenient for me. Thanks for your time; I guess we'll just have to let this one drop on the floor. May 30 '12 at 14:21
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    So the reason that Father killed Son was the transfer: righteousness of Christ for all the sins of humans. Is it something like the parent paying for his child who broke the window? Why this could not be solved by I forgive you, my dear Christ? Could you please clarify this in your response? To solve it with murder seems still immoral to me. The man on the video says around 6:20 something like ignore morality, the Christ is the only thing you must be filled with. Please update your answer with this, too - for it is much more immoral than I expected.
    – user508
    May 30 '12 at 16:57

The basic assumption in these kind of questions is that we can understand God's mind and God's ideas and try to make sense out of them. But who can comprehend an intelligence that designed such a massive thing as the universe and knows each and every minute detail about the millions of galaxies in it? It would therefore be foolish of me to try to psychoanalyze God as though I could understand him. But from my limited human understanding, here is what I think -

The simplest answer is to show us how much he loves us. Even among human beings, the greatest love one can show to another human being is to actually lay his life down for him/her. It's no surprise that we revere and honor martyrs so much.

Jesus himself acknowledged this-

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

But to actually give up one's own beloved son's life is even greater. For what loving father would not want to die in place of his son? Yet, because it was the Father's will that humanity become the bride of his son, it was fitting that the bridegroom die for the bride.

Through my personal experience, nothing has convinced me more of God's love for me than when I am before the cross where I see Jesus hanging for my sins. The cross has convinced me more than anything else of God's love for me (see my profile page for more description about this).

Moreover, as an earlier poster said, it also has to do with God's holiness and justice. If you murder someone and God simply forgives you, where is the justice for the one who was murdered? Justice demands that you compensate the one you have wronged. Justice demands that you be punished in proportion to the crime you have committed. If this holds for offenses against a fellow human being, how much more does it hold for offenses against God.

But no human being could in fact compensate for offenses against an infinitely holy God, which would need a compensation of infinite value - Jesus Christ. That does not however mean that we don't do our own bit to "pay the price for our sins" even though it may be insufficient. God, in his divine plan has made such a provision, that our sufferings, when united with the sufferings of Christ, can actually have redemptive value.

Therefore, the apostle Paul says-

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col 1:24) (what is lacking in Christ's afflictions is our participation)

and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom 8:17)

To end, I have the classic verse -

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart." (1 Cor 1:18-19)

Human reason alone cannot illumine one to understand the mystery of the cross. It will always seem like madness and foolishness to us. But if we could understand God, then God would not be God, for the finite cannot comprehend the infinite! It will always be a mystery and no rational explanation will ever satisfy.

  • Agnostic view is attitude, but can't explain anything by definition. The gospels are full of examples where Jesus forgives sincere man very easily. Why it is so difficult to the father, why does he need to do things that seems to be insane? The agnostic attitude (not understand, just believe) lead Christians to many evil affairs (crusade, inquisition). Isn't it important to know and feel what is moral then? If I missed something important in your answer, please point out.
    – user508
    May 30 '12 at 7:33
  • @JanTuroň I have an answer here about the crusades that you might want to check - christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/7646/… The crusades or inquisition didn't occur for the reason you stated. Maybe I should have stated that we cannot FULLY understand God, but only in a limited sense. It is important to know and feel what is moral about our own actions. Since God looks at things from an eternal perspective, we may not always understand God's actions. It's the question of the problem of evil, which you can search online. May 31 '12 at 11:40
  • @JanTuroň Forgiveness is not the issue. The issue is justice. You can forgive a person for intentionally damaging your car and yet require that he reimburse you for the damages. You forgive him for the hurt he caused you in your relationship with him and you require reimbursement to satisfy justice. I think that Jesus is able to forgive because he knows that he is going to be the one who is going to do the reimbursement himself. May 31 '12 at 11:44
  • Maybe justice an mercy can go together: if someone damage my car and he feels really sorry for this, my joy for his compassion is more than the money for repair. If he doesn't feel sorry = no love = no mercy, he can't be forgiven regardless of how small the damage is. However, the "transfer" of righteosness for sin between Jesus and people (pointed by San Jacinto) is (for now to me) the only moral explanation compliant to bible. The deduction is: the love between god and people (at least before Christ) wasn't big enough to forgive.
    – user508
    May 31 '12 at 15:25
  • @JanTuroň The effects of Jesus' sacrifice extend beyond time. Even those who died before Christ received salvation through Christ only. Please read more about "Christ's descent into hell". Jun 1 '12 at 6:14

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him." John 3:13

The snake represents sin. The desert is a hard, bitter place. Moses lifted the bronze snake on a pole, so that the people could be saved from their sin and not suffer the consequences of it, i.e. death.

The point is that Jesus, who is God, becomes sin and is lifted up, figuratively by his ascension, and literally, on a pole. Sin is lifted up to heaven, death is conquered and the divide is healed for all who see and believe.

  • If you read the original question (not the title, but what was actually asked), can you explain briefly how your answer demonstrates an attempt at answering what has been asked? Jun 1 '12 at 16:53
  • It is moral because Jesus is God. Jun 2 '12 at 5:29
  • There is no "kill". "greater love has no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends". Jesus, God in human form, lays down his life that we might live. It's not an immoral act, it's a superbly moral one. Jun 2 '12 at 8:51
  • The questioner assumes that God killed Jesus. He didn't. We killed God. Jun 2 '12 at 8:58
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    @superluminary: No. God killed Jesus. Isaiah 53:10 "...it was the will of the Lord to crush him...". Romans 8:32 "...He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up...". The Roman guards might have done the physical dead of crucifying him, but Scripture is abundantly clear that this was the will and plan of his Father and that during that time God poured out his wrath on him.
    – Caleb
    Jun 2 '12 at 9:39

A lot of good points have been made by others; I'll avoid repeating them.

You keep referring to the death of Christ as God "murdering" him. But the whole point of Christianity is that Jesus took our sins on himself, he made himself guilty. Therefore, his death was not murder, but an execution. When a convicted killer is executed, we don't call that murder. It's justice.

It's certainly true that our intuitive sense of justice doesn't provide for one person being executed for the crime of another. C. S. Lewis had an interesting discussion of this in one of his books, I forget just where so I can't give the exact quote, bu the gist of it was this: Think of a different sort of punishment. Suppose that you committed a crime for which the punishment was a large fine. Assume that the law is completely just and you are really guilty, so you deserve to be required to pay the fine. But you don't have the money. You'll have to sell everything you own, become a homeless beggar, and any dollar you earn will have to go to pay the debt. Then some very wealthy person comes along and offers to pay the fine for you. That's what Christianity is all about: You owe a huge debt, a debt you cannot possibly pay, but now Christ comes along and offers to pay the debt for you. Indeed, in this case the judge who found you guilty is the same person who is offerring to pay the fine.

You mention that Jesus forgave others, why couldn't God just forgive sins without anyone paying a penalty. But this is only possible because Christ paid the debt. Suppose you owed a lot of money, and a rich friend came along, went to the bank with you, paid off the debt, and then tore up the loan documents and threw them away. That would all be good and legal. But suppose instead he went with you to the bank, asked to see the loan documents, and tore them up and threw them away without paying off the debt. Surely the bankers would just say, "Umm, sorry sir, it doesn't work that way. You still have to pay the debt." Jesus could tell people that their sins were forgiven BECAUSE HE WAS ABOUT TO PAY THE PENALTY. Without that it would have been an empty promise.