In the book of Isaiah, God gives a comforting message to a desolate, barren woman. She has never been able to have children, but God says now she will have children. You can tell she still doesn’t have a husband, though. After this woman has children, God contrasts her with a woman who does have a husband, making it clear that the first woman does not.Continue reading Does the desolate woman have a husband?
Non sequiturs in the Bible
The Bible is a very badly written book. Among many other flaws, it’s full of unintentional non sequiturs. It says things that have no logical connection to what came before, or that don’t make sense given what was just said.
Old Testament stories
After God promises not to kill everyone and everything again, his next statement starts out sounding like he’s going to be expanding on that. Or maybe making another promise, or at least saying something important. He ends up just saying that seasonal cycles and stuff aren’t going to stop as long as the world exists. Who said they would? That wasn’t ever in question, was it? Why bring it up?
Job is trying to convince his friends of how severe his hardship is. Then he decides to start talking about food he doesn’t like, that he refuses to eat. That doesn’t seem relevant, and it doesn’t help his case. Later, after he’s been trying to convince his friends that God is unjust, Job randomly starts arguing against his own position.
After that, Elihu insists that God is perfectly good and just… and then for some reason he brings up the possibility that God could easily kill everyone. Then God sarcastically asks Job if he knows where light and darkness live. He implies that to know that, Job would have to have been “already born“. He doesn’t explain when he thinks Job would have to have been born. Or what Job’s age has to do with whether he can know about something that’s happening right now.
When Jacob is in the middle of giving blessings (and curses) to his sons, he randomly tells God he’s looking for his deliverance.
1 Chronicles begins with some genealogies. It seems like these are supposed to consist of lists of the sons of someone who it already mentioned in a previous list of sons. But a lot of times, it will list the sons of people who it never mentioned before. It never explains who these people are, or how they fit into the genealogy.
It does this with Seir, Jahdai, Etam, Kenaz, Caleb son of Jephunneh, Jehallelel, Ezrah, Hodiah’s wife, Shimon, Shelah son of Judah,1 Abihail son of Huri son of Jaroah son of Gilead son of Michael son of Jeshishai son of Jahdo son of Buz,2 Shemida, Helem,3 Jether, Ulla, Shimei, and Jeroham. It does the same thing again later in the book, too. It says Beno and others are the sons of Jaaziah, whoever that is.
God appears in a burning bush and tells Moses that he has “indeed” seen the misery of his people in Egypt… even though no one had brought that up before he said that.
God says he normally speaks to prophets in dreams. Then he says that’s not how it is with Moses, and as part of the same sentence, he mentions how faithful Moses is. As if that was part of the contrast with all God’s other prophets.
When Joshua is in the middle of announcing a miraculous sign that’s about to happen, just before he gets to the part about the actual miracle, he tells the people to choose twelve men. As far as I can tell, that doesn’t have anything to do with the miracle.
Later, the two tribes descended from Joseph point out that Joshua has only given them enough land for one tribe. Joshua tells them what they can do if the hill country isn’t enough for them. The descendants of Joseph then ignore what Joshua just said, and inform him that the hill country isn’t enough for them.
There’s a Bible verse that tells the backstory of Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul… inserted in the middle of a story about a different son of Saul, that has nothing to do with any of those people.
Solomon reports that God has said he would live in a dark cloud. Then as part of the same sentence, and without a “but”, Solomon says he has provided a new place for God to live. He says this as if he was affirming what God had just said he would do, rather than disregarding and contradicting it.
After Elisha tells his servant to go to the Shunammite’s home, the Shunammite says she refuses to go. But she’s not the one he told to leave. Then it says Elisha gets up and follows the Shunammite. How can he follow her if she’s not going anywhere?
The queen of Sheba story is interrupted for two verses to inform you that somebody had brought Solomon some stones and wood at some point.
Jeremiah 52 tells the story of the fall of Jerusalem, but interrupts it to tell us the details of what was in the temple (which we already heard about a long time ago).
The book of Daniel says the four smart Jews who were taken to serve the king of Babylon were given new names, “but” Daniel didn’t want the royal food. It had mentioned the food before, but that was way back four sentences before the “but”.
New Testament stories
Part of Mary’s response to the announcement that God is going to impregnate her is to declare something irrelevant about secretly proud people getting scattered.
Just a few verses after John baptizes Jesus, it mentions that John is in prison, with no explanation.
The gospel of Matthew says Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone who he really was. And it says the reason for that was to fulfill a prophecy from Isaiah… which says nothing about keeping secrets.
Jesus is constantly making non sequiturs. He expresses his amazement at how much faith someone has. Then suddenly he’s talking about many people getting into (and other people getting thrown out of) the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus describes the things he’s doing for various people. He says he’s taking away the problem each particular disadvantaged category of person has… until he gets to the poor. Instead of actually doing anything about their situation, all he does is “proclaim good news” to them. And then right after listing the good things he’s doing for people, he says something different that suggests that something bad could happen to people because of him.
Jesus starts to answer a question about when everything will end. But he ends up just stating whether certain things will end. When people ask Jesus where his father is, instead of answering, he just tells them that they don’t know his father.
When Peter asks him who he’s talking to, it says “Jesus answered” …but he doesn’t actually answer the question. Jesus instead asks something about the story he was telling. That’s not an answer. And when Peter asks him where he’s going, he doesn’t answer that either. He just says his disciples can’t follow him there. This guy is not good at answering questions.
When asked for a sign, Jesus gets annoyed and declares that he’s not going to give anyone a sign… right after doing a miracle in front of thousands of people.
Do you see this woman? Jesus came into Simon’s house.
Jesus warns his disciples in a confusing way about the Pharisees. Then instead of explaining himself, the next thing he says is a repeat of what he said four chapters ago, that in the future there will be no secrets. And it was a non sequitur that time, too.
Jesus acts like he’s just done a miracle and healed a man, and he claims that people are angry at him because of that. Even though he hasn’t done any healing miracles since two chapters ago. And that wasn’t in the presence of the people he’s talking to now. And these people aren’t angry with him about anything yet.
Jesus gets a “dead” girl to stand up and walk around and she’s twelve years old. Yes, it says that last part as part of the same sentence in the Bible. If they needed to mention her age, they should have done that at the beginning of the story, not at the end.
Jesus’s response to a man begging him to restore his son’s sanity is to get angry at his whole generation. He wishes he didn’t have to live among them anymore, that he didn’t have to put up with them wanting help with their health problems. Oh, and he thinks this has something to do with all those people being “unbelieving”? Then that man declares that he believes… so he asks Jesus to help him overcome the unbelief that he doesn’t have.
When Jesus tells his disciples that the least of them is the greatest, they have no response to that (which is understandable I suppose). Instead, the next thing they say is that they tried to stop someone from driving out demons.
Jesus explains that by driving a demon out of a man, he has actually made that man much worse off… and someone thinks that’s a good reason to bless his mother for giving birth to him.
Jesus knows that he was sent by God, and that everything is under his power. So he gets up from the table and takes his clothes off.
Caiaphas acts like he’s disagreeing with the other chief priests, when he’s actually agreeing with what they just said (that Jesus must be stopped in order to save the Jewish nation). When Pilate asks the Jewish leaders what their charge against Jesus is, they just say they wouldn’t have handed him over if he wasn’t a criminal. Nobody had said he wasn’t a criminal.
The high priest asks Stephen if the charges against him are true. They’re not, but instead of answering, Stephen decides to recite the history of Israel. As if the priests didn’t already know about that. After Stephen gets himself killed with all his stupid answers, the remaining disciples are persecuted and expelled from the region… and then they’re filled with joy, for some reason?Continue reading Non sequiturs in the Bible
Was Solomon a wise man when he became king?
Joab and Shimei were both violent men who had wronged King David at some point. David let them live, but before he died, he told his son Solomon to kill those men. David said he trusted Solomon to know how to deal with those people, because Solomon was a man of wisdom. But David also described Solomon as young and inexperienced.Continue reading Was Solomon a wise man when he became king?
The Story of the Lost Ark—
God Gives You Cancer
Back when Israel was led by Samuel, there had been a war between the Israelites and the Philistines, and Israel was losing. The Israelites thought it might help if God was with them, so they brought out the ark of the covenant. When the Philistines heard that a mighty enemy god had arrived, they were afraid, and they knew they would have to fight hard to defeat Israel. So the Philistines fought hard, and defeated Israel.
They killed tens of thousands of Israelites, captured the ark of God, and took it to the temple of their god Dagon. But then Dagon started bowing down to the ark, and the Philistines started getting tumors. They tried moving the ark to different cities, but Philistines died wherever the ark went.
After seven months of this, the Philistines decided they should send the ark away. They put the ark on a cart and let two cows take it back to Israelite territory. When the Israelites saw that the cows had brought their ark back, they were so grateful that they… killed the cows.
But then when 70 Israelites looked inside the ark at the things that God had told Moses to put there so people could look at them, God killed them all. Now the people who had found the ark of God didn’t want to keep it, since it seemed to bring death everywhere it went. So they sent the ark to the house of some guy named Abinadab.Continue reading The Story of the Lost Ark—
God Gives You Cancer
Should people be circumcised?
God made an everlasting agreement with Abraham that required all his male descendants to be circumcised, as well as any other males who lived with them.
God doesn’t just want babies to be circumcised. Even if you’re 99 years old, you should still get circumcised. That’s what Abraham did, and he always did what God wanted him to do. God also once had Joshua circumcise all the Israelite men, all at once.
Jesus thinks circumcision laws are so important that they override Sabbath laws. In addition to mandating the circumcision of Israelite boys, God’s law says even a Gentile man can only celebrate God’s holy days if he and every male he lives with are circumcised. The Bible also says if you’re not circumcised, you can’t marry a daughter of Israel. That would be a disgrace.
Even if God’s chosen nation and other nations do practice circumcision, God isn’t satisfied. He thinks they’re not circumcised enough.
The apostles were troubled when they heard rumors that Paul was teaching Jews to give up circumcision, so they suggested a way Paul could try to disprove those rumors. Paul agreed to do so, because he actually thought circumcision was a valuable thing.
Paul says he used to think it was good to be circumcised, but now he considers it a loss. He calls people who practice circumcision evildoers and mutilators of the flesh.
He even says circumcised people can’t be saved! If you’re circumcised, you’re trying to be justified by the law. To actually be justified that way, you would have to follow all of God’s laws perfectly, but no one can actually do that. So if you get circumcised, all you’re really doing is rejecting God’s gift of forgiveness. You’re alienating yourself from Jesus, who will therefore be of no value to you at all.Continue reading Should people be circumcised?
The Bible’s questions, answered—part 1: Answers to questions in Genesis
The Bible contains a lot of questions, and it doesn’t always provide satisfactory answers. So now I’m going to be answering some of the Bible’s questions myself. You’re welcome.
Pharaoh asks Abraham: Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Answer: Because otherwise, you would have killed him and then taken her anyway.
Abimelek asks God: Will you destroy an innocent nation? Answer: Not sure why you would think he’d do that, since he never said anything about destroying your nation. Sounds like something he would do, though.
Sarah asks: Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Answer: God.
Esau asks: What good is my birthright to me? Answer: You’ll probably need that if you want to get blessed.
Isaac asks Jacob: How did you find this meal of goats for me so quickly? Answer: It’s called agriculture.
Esau asks: Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? Answer: Yes. God doesn’t seem to think so, though.
Isaac asks Esau: What can I possibly do for you, now that I’ve given your blessing to your brother and made you his servant? Answer: I’m sure you could think of something, if you wanted to. You could make his servitude temporary. You could also make sure his brother is a kind and generous master. At the very least, you could refrain from cursing him.
Leah asks Rachel: Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Answer: She did not. You’re still married to him. Not that you were ever supposed to be in the first place.
Leah asks Rachel: Will you take my son’s mandrakes too? Answer: No, she’s just asking for them, not taking them.
Laban asks Jacob: What have you done? (Laban’s self-answer: You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war.) Real answer: No, that’s not what he’s done at all. All he’s done is leave with the daughters who you let him have, and who agreed to go with him.
Laban asks Jacob: Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? Answer: Because that’s not what you would have done.
Esau asks Jacob: What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met? Answer: They’re a gift for you. You’ve already been told that.
The Egyptians ask: Why should we die? Our money is all gone. Answer: Because your money is all gone.
The Egyptians ask Joseph: Since our money is gone and all our livestock belongs to you now, why should we perish? Answer: Because your money and livestock are all gone.
God asks Cain: Why are you angry? Answer: Because you refused his perfectly good offering, in favor of someone needlessly killing animals.
God asks Cain: If you do what’s right, won’t you be accepted? (Implied answer: Yes.) Real answer: Apparently not. Cain has behaved more ethically than his brother up to this point, and he hasn’t even disobeyed any commands, yet you have not accepted him.
God asks Cain later: What have you done? Answer: He has become a killer, like his brother. That seems to be the only way to make you happy.
God asks: Hagar, slave of Sarai, where did you come from? Answer: She came from Sarai. But you obviously already knew that, so why ask?
God asks: Why did Sarah laugh at the thought of having a child at her age? Answer: How about because some stranger just came along and claimed that she was going to give birth when she was already more than a decade older than the world record?
God asks: Is anything too hard for God? (Implied answer: No.) Alternative biblical answer: Yes, many things. In a future blog post, I will write all about God’s many failures that are documented in the Bible, which show that plenty of things are too hard for God.
God asks: Shall I hide from Abraham what I’m about to do? Answer: Apparently you won’t. Why, did you forget that hiding it from him wasn’t part of your eternal plan?
God hears crying, and sends an angel to ask Hagar: What’s the matter? Answer: Probably something to do with the fact that you just had her and her child sent out into the desert to die.Continue reading The Bible’s questions, answered—part 1: Answers to questions in Genesis
Should people make images?
Right near the top of the Ten Commandments, God says you shall not make an image of anything on earth or anything in heaven. (And you shouldn’t worship those images, either.) That would mean you had become corrupt. God’s law says not to make any idols or any metal gods. That would definitely mean you had become corrupt (at least if you made them in the form of something God had forbidden). If you do that, God will get angry, and soon everyone in your land will die.
According to the prophets, idols and the people who make them are worthless. Those people are sinning, and they will all be disgraced. There is shame and scorn and terror and destruction in store for them. God will punish people because of the lifeless forms of their images. And images doesn’t just mean idols. God also thinks wall paintings of certain kinds of animals are wicked and detestable. God gets so angry over images people have made, he feels the need to destroy entire cities.
Joshua mentions that the Israelites were already worshipping idols back when they were slaves in Egypt. And rather than deciding that this made them evil people who didn’t deserve to live, God performed miracle after miracle in an elaborate effort to rescue those pagans and give them a land of their own. He didn’t even mention their idolatry until later, so it must not have bothered him all that much.
God commanded Moses to make some things in the image of things on earth, like plants and a snake.
God also told Moses to make two cherubs out of gold. These cherubs were not only a graven image of something in heaven, but part of the ark of the covenant, which, just like other idols, was treated as a representation of a god and an object of worship. When Joshua bowed down to the ark, God rebuked him not for idolatry, but only because God didn’t happen to like what Joshua was asking for. Apparently God doesn’t have a problem with this particular idol.
The whole temple that God had Solomon build was a copy of something in heaven.
God himself has made images of something in heaven. He made man in his own image. And he made some people in the image of Jesus, who he had also made in his own image, as an exact representation. Everything God does is perfectly good, so we should follow his example and make our own images of God.Continue reading Should people make images?
The Story of King Ish-Bosheth—
The One Where Nearly Everybody Gets Killed, But It's Not God's Doing for a Change
After Saul and his whole family died, his dead son Ish-Bosheth succeeded him as king of Israel. But David was made king of the tribe of Judah. The commander of the army of Israel was Saul’s cousin Abner, and the commander of the army of Judah was David’s nephew Joab.
These commanders thought it would be fun to see some men stab each other to death. So they made two dozen of their soldiers stab each other to death. But Joab’s brother Asahel didn’t like that, so he chased Abner. Abner didn’t like that, so he stabbed Asahel to death. Joab didn’t like that, so he chased Abner, too. But then Abner suggested not chasing him. So Joab stopped chasing him.
King Ish-Bosheth offended his commander Abner by accusing him of sleeping with Saul’s girlfriend. So Abner decided to desert Ish-Bosheth and help David take over Israel. When Abner offered to help David become king of all Israel, David agreed to let him do that… but only if he did David a favor first.
By this time David had married at least four women. But Saul had taken back his daughter Michal, David’s first wife, and given her to somebody else. David had Abner steal Michal back for him and make her other husband go away. After doing that, Abner went off to convince the Israelites to make David their king.
But David’s commander Joab didn’t like Abner, who had killed Joab’s brother. Joab thought Abner must have only come there to spy on David for Ish-Bosheth. So Joab found Abner and stabbed him to death. David didn’t like that (even though he had previously declared that Abner must die). So David put a curse on Joab’s family, and later had his son kill Joab.Continue reading The Story of King Ish-Bosheth—
The One Where Nearly Everybody Gets Killed, But It's Not God's Doing for a Change
Did the disciples know Jesus would be resurrected?
The gospel of John says that Jesus’s disciples still didn’t understand that Jesus was going to rise from the dead… even after Jesus had already risen from the dead.Continue reading Did the disciples know Jesus would be resurrected?
Why it makes no sense for God to forgive your sins because Jesus died
What belief is the most essential to Christianity? Probably the atonement: The idea that by sending Jesus to die, God has made it possible for your sins to be forgiven. Unfortunately for Christianity, nothing about that idea makes any sense.
How exactly does the death of Jesus make salvation possible?
Did Jesus bring forgiveness for sins, or did he pay for our sins? Those are not the same thing at all. If fact, they’re mutually exclusive. So why do people usually seem to talk about Jesus as if he had done both of those things? Which one did he actually do? It can’t be both. If the sins were forgiven, then there was nothing to pay for. And if they were paid for, then there was nothing to forgive.
If God decided to forgive people, why couldn’t he just forgive people? Why would someone still have to pay the penalty for everyone’s sins? The book of Hebrews says there can be no forgiveness without shedding blood, but it offers no explanation for that absurd claim. When you forgive someone, do you insist that there has to be some kind of bloodshed involved, or else you won’t really have forgiven them? Do you think the only way you can possibly forgive someone is by either having them tortured and killed, or having your son tortured and killed?
Why would God have to do anything before he could forgive people? Especially if he makes the rules, if he’s the ultimate authority on morality, as Christians like to say. If that’s true, he could have just declared that it was right for him to forgive sins without anyone having to be tortured and killed first, and it would be so. Or he could have just decided that none of the finite things people do make them deserve to be tortured forever in the first place.
An all-powerful God who can prescriptively define morality always has the option to NOT torture people forever, and a loving God who had a choice would never choose to torture people forever. That is not how you treat people you love.
According to one concept of atonement, what Jesus is taking away is “original sin”. That term refers to the idea that just by disobeying God once, Adam and Eve brought “sin” on all their descendants, making everyone guilty of “sin” regardless of what they actually do. (And so God decided to repay that insignificant finite offense with the infinitely disproportionate punishment of eternal torture for everyone.) If that’s the case, even the reason atonement is needed in the first place doesn’t make any sense. People aren’t guilty because of what other people do. People can only be guilty because of their own actions.
If God thought Adam and Eve’s descendants were all going to be “guilty” by default, why did he allow them to reproduce at all? Why not just start over with a new pair of humans? He said later that he was going to wipe out humanity with a flood and start over, but he didn’t actually do it. He kept a few of the sin-infected people alive, and then he let them fill the earth right back up with sinful people. He should have actually started over, with brand new sinless people. And he should have done it back before anyone had children. He could have separated Adam and Eve for the rest of their lives, and removed that pointless troublesome tree that he never should have put in the Garden of Eden, and then he could have made some new people in the garden.
Some branches of Christianity believe that Jesus and his mother were both conceived free from “original sin”. If God can make exceptions like this, if he can produce sinless people from sinful parents, why not just do that with everybody, and save Jesus the trouble of dying?
Early Christians thought they could explain why Jesus had to die. The generally accepted story in the early centuries of Christianity was something quite different from now: Satan had somehow gotten possession of everyone’s souls, and the only way God could possibly get them back was to give him Jesus as a ransom, because Satan demanded it. (Which makes God look pretty weak. And which ignores the fact that that sort of thing is against God’s principles.)
Then they decided that Satan didn’t even know who Jesus was, but for some reason he still agreed to trade many souls for what he thought was just one ordinary soul. Then God tricked him into giving up all the souls, by giving him one that he didn’t realize he wouldn’t be able to keep. That was the generally accepted view for several more centuries, till they decided that didn’t make God look very good either.
So after Christianity had existed for over a thousand years, theologians then started coming up with accounts that didn’t involve God making a deal with the devil, and they ended up with the modern atonement doctrine, where our sin is a debt that we’re unable to repay. But this version doesn’t explain why God couldn’t just forgive everyone if he wanted to forgive them. St. Anselm thought that God just forgiving everyone without being “repaid” would go against God’s justice, but making someone who doesn’t owe God anything pay the debt for everyone else isn’t just either.
Penal substitution theory
Christians say Jesus was punished in place of everybody else, so the requirement for justice was fulfilled, and now nobody else has to be punished. Except that’s not justice. Punishing an innocent person for what a different person did is absurdly unjust.
It doesn’t matter if Jesus was willing. That doesn’t make it just for God to punish the innocent, or to let the guilty go unpunished. Sure, someone could volunteer to, in effect, pay a fine for someone else, by giving them a gift of money which they could then use to pay the fine themselves. But that doesn’t work with other kinds of punishments. Guilt is not transferable.
No court would accept someone who had nothing to do with a crime offering to be executed in place of the criminal. And any judge who intentionally had an innocent person physically punished for someone else’s crime would lose his job.
Some people have made analogies attempting to show that we do normally accept guilt being transferred from one person to another. But those alleged examples are all flawed: Either the person who ends up being held responsible was already in fact at least partly responsible for what happened, or no actual punishment was ever going to be required in the first place,1 or the responsibility can at best only be transferred in the wrong direction.
God even says that at least some sins can only be atoned for by the blood of the one who committed the sin, so that rules out the possibility of anyone else’s blood atoning for them. So do the passages in the Bible that say that no payment can ever be enough to ransom or redeem someone’s soul so they can have eternal life.
Some Christians say Jesus took on everyone else’s sin, so that God considered him guilty and everyone else innocent. That would mean either that Jesus (who they believe is God) was actually incredibly sinful, or that God was wrong, neither of which seems compatible with Christian beliefs.
Was Jesus even punished in our place at all? Not really. If he was, he would be in hell. Yet the Bible says he’s in heaven. Jesus would have to spend eternity in hell if he was really taking the punishment for humanity, but the Bible says all he had to do was die. And only temporarily, since he’s an immortal God that can’t truly die. Because Jesus wasn’t damned, the best his “death” could be expected to accomplish would be to save us from having to die… and he didn’t even do that.
Other theories of atonement
The death of Jesus is often described as a sacrifice. If Jesus is God, that would be God sacrificing God to God. I can comprehend someone sacrificing himself. But how can you make a sacrifice to yourself? You would end up still having whatever you were supposed to give up, and then you wouldn’t have actually sacrificed anything. Or how about sacrificing someone to himself? Can you make any sense of that? “I’m going to sacrifice you to you. By killing you. Hope you appreciate the sacrifice I’m making for you!”
If we ignore all the parts of the Bible that portray God as sacrificing someone else, and just say that God paid the price for sin himself, does any of this make more sense that way? Well, if you forgive a debt that was owed to you, you are giving up that value. So by forgiving humans, you could say God is paying the price… to the people who were supposed to pay him? That’s backwards; that doesn’t actually fulfill anyone’s obligations.
And God isn’t who people are really indebted to, anyway. Do you know how Jews think about sin and forgiveness? It makes so much more sense than what Christians believe. People are sinful because they actually commit sins, not just because they were born. Sins that harm other people are sins against those people, not sins against God. God is conditionally willing to forgive sins that were actually committed against him. But God can’t forgive you for sins that you committed against other people. Only the actual victims can do that. What kind of jerk would declare that you were forgiven for harming other people, without even bothering to ask those people what they thought about it?
Maybe rather than punishing Jesus in our place, God punished us by harming Jesus? Like a whipping boy. It could be reasonably considered a punishment to know that someone you care about is suffering or dying. But harming an innocent person because of what someone else did would still be outrageously unjust.
If the innocent person willingly agreed to be harmed, then maybe this could be an acceptable thing to do. In that case, it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t deserve punishment, since he’s not actually being punished. He’s just being treated the way he willingly chose to be treated. But it doesn’t exactly sound like Jesus was willing to be tortured and killed.
There are more problems with vicarious punishment: It vicariously harms people who don’t deserve to be punished, since the wrongdoer will probably not be the only person who cares about the proxy person. It’s unnecessary, since doing wrong will already have natural consequences that the wrongdoer can feel bad about. Hearing what happened to somebody else is not that much of a punishment for people who never actually met the guy or saw what happened to him. If the person really doesn’t mind being treated that way, that’s even more reason not to feel bad for him. And feeling bad for someone else is way too small a punishment to substitute for eternal torture.
Christians have to keep trying and trying to explain how killing an innocent person is good and removes the need to punish guilty people, because none of those attempts have succeeded, because their core tenet just doesn’t make any sense.
Embracement theory: Humans committed the worst possible sin, and God decided to just let them, and that somehow makes it okay, and means sin doesn’t matter anymore?
Shared atonement theory: Jesus is God, and the universe can’t exist without God. So when Jesus died, God died, and the universe died, and everyone died. And then they all came back with Jesus, so now everyone has already been punished, I guess? Except everyone didn’t die. Other people were clearly still alive in the Bible when Jesus was dead. And if nobody even noticed anything happening to them, that wasn’t a punishment. Also, this wouldn’t affect people who weren’t living at the time.
I bet I could come up with a much more coherent account of what the death of Jesus accomplished. How about this? God tried to save mankind from hell by killing the guy who was going to judge them and send them there. (And then God defeated his own plan by resurrecting him, so now most people won’t be saved after all. Whatever. Still makes more sense than any of the standard explanations. No matter what good the death of Jesus was supposed to do, it’s negated if he gets to just come right back to life like that.)
Or how about this? God is the author of human nature. God is the one who programmed our nature into our brains. Therefore, God is the one who is actually responsible for everyone’s sins. God knew exactly what humans would do if he made them the way he did. If he didn’t like it, he could have designed them differently. Since God somehow ended up designing humans so badly, and since he was so bothered by humans behaving exactly the way he designed them to, God had to punish himself. He never actually needed to punish us, because our nature is his fault, not ours.Continue reading Why it makes no sense for God to forgive your sins because Jesus died