The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the centrepiece of the Christian faith. This doctrine teaches that Jesus had to die in order that God could forgive the sins of mankind. In this post, I will point out some of the most obvious inconsistencies and flaws with this theory of salvation.
Did Jesus have to die?
Forgiveness or Punishment?
One of the most dubious aspects of popular Christian salvation theory is the way it confuses forgiveness with punishment. If Jesus paid the price for our sins, then it cannot be said that God has forgiven those sins. If you incur a fine and then someone else pays it for you, have you been forgiven the fine? Of course not! Likewise, if Jesus has paid the debt that people owe to God, then God has not forgiven them this debt. He has simply found someone else to pay the debt. Christians can perhaps be grateful to Jesus for being punished on their behalf, but they can’t really claim to be forgiven in any sense.
Why didn’t Jesus go to hell for eternity?
But then we have to ask, did Jesus even pay the debt that human beings are said to owe to God? We are told that unbelievers will burn in hell forever and ever… and ever. But Jesus did not burn in hell for ever and ever, unless I’m missing something. He was killed and then is said to have come back to life some days later. So how can it be said that he paid the price for people’s sins?
Did Jesus’ sacrifice even pay mankind’s supposed debt?
I’ve never heard a coherent explanation of this problem. Usually Christian apologists will talk about how Jesus is God and so he is eternal, and so him dying is the same as him burning in hell forever and ever… or something on those lines. But the problems get deeper if you go down that road. If Jesus is God, then does that mean that God died? If it was only the ‘human nature’ of Jesus that died, then it was only a human being who died, and thus the problem remains, why didn’t he go to hell forever and ever?
To be fair, I should point out that some Christians (including Seventh Day Adventists) do not believe in the doctrine of eternal hell. They instead teach that the unrighteous will will cease to exist – forever. But if God’s punishment for sin is that people will cease to exist forever, and if Jesus paid the price for our sins, then surely he should have ceased to exist – forever. Whether you believe in eternal hell fire or eternal annihilation – Jesus did not receive either of those punishments. So the fine hasn’t even been paid!
The Old Testament shows God does not need sacrifice to forgive sins
Christianity claims to find justification for its sacrifice-centric salvation doctrine within the pages of the Hebrew scriptures, or Old Testament. It is true that there is a copious amount of instruction in the Torah concerning sacrifices and offerings for forgiveness of sin. But there is clear and unambiguous evidence that God of the Israelites could and often did forgive sins without sacrifice.
Prayer brings forgiveness, in the OT
Yahweh would forgive people their sins if they confessed them or prayed for forgiveness. For example, in one psalm the writer says “I acknowledged my sin to you [Yahweh], and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5). Similarly, in Numbers 14:11-23, we see that the prayer of an individual (Moses) persuaded Yahweh to forgive the sins of the Israelites and turn away from the wrath he was going to unleash on them (Yahweh would try again later!).
We are told clearly in the Old Testament (and especially in the prophets) that Yahweh would
forgive people’s sins if they repented or turned away from them. I will give one example out of several. In Ezekiel, we read a long and explicit teaching concerning individual people’s responsibility for their sins and repentance. We read that ‘…if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live.’ (Ezekiel 18:21-22, see also 33:12-20, Isaiah 55:7, Proverbs 28:13 and Psalm 32:1-5, 2 Chronicles 7:12-14 is a good example of how this same principle worked on a collective level)
This being so, then according to the Old Testament, there was no requirement for someone to come and die for people’s sins. Yahweh was already forgiving people based on their own deeds and repentance.
For me, these are fundamental and fatal problems with the idea of Jesus being a sacrifice for sin. The theory doesn’t actually offer forgiveness, only vicarious payment. The theory fails to show that Jesus even paid that supposed debt. And the theory actually flatly contradicts the more reasonable message in the Old Testament, which is that Yahweh could and did forgive sins without the need for sacrifice.
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