Questions Skeptics Ask #2
As we continue through 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian, Harrison asks about the Cross what many non-Christians wonder: “Why would a god need to rely on such a disgusting and primitive act to forgive us and save us from judgment?” (15) Harrison wants to know why Christians think that the crucifixion of Jesus is a sensible solution to sin.
First off, Christians going all the way back to St. Paul don’t believe that the crucifixion is a sensible solution to sin. Paul wrote the Christians in Corinth and told them that the cross was a scandal and a stumbling block and foolishness to many (1 Cor. 1:23). So part of the answer to Harrison is actually to agree with him that the cross is most certainly a primitive and violent and horrific answer to human sin.
But part of the problem with Harrison’s objection is that he assumes what he hasn’t actually proven. He assumes that modern man has largely left human sacrifice and tossing virgins into volcanoes behind, and he assumes that this is because man has randomly “progressed.” But how does Harrison know that this is actually progress? How does he know that they are the primitive ones, and we are so progressive?
Another part of the Christian answer is that the death of Jesus was the last bloody sacrifice, the sacrifice to end all sacrifice. “For if the blood of goats and bulls… sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:13-14). And again: “Every priest stands daily at his service offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… For by a single offering, he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:11-14). So while we believe that the death of Jesus was a barbaric act and for that reason remains a scandal and foolishness to many, it nevertheless was done in order to end all of the violent and barbaric horrors that had filled civilizations to that point.
Finally, while nothing can remove the horror of the cross, Harrison rather naively maintains that modern man is not so violent. While it is true that hearts are not being torn out of a man’s body in a pagan temple any more, it is certainly not true that humanity has cleaned up its act. Arguably, the last century has been one of the bloodiest centuries ever with warfare and holocausts and genocides. Are we really more progressive?
Christians believe that there is a deep blood-lust in the souls of guilty men and women. Human beings have an inherent sense that sin deserves punishment. Either someone must pay for them or they well attempt to pay for themselves. Suicide is not unrelated to this, the self-harm of cutting, and other acts of self-abuse in eating disorders and extreme fitness regimens are all related. The Christian gospel proclaims the death of Jesus, the violent, bloody, and horrific death of Jesus as the answer to human shame and guilt. History and cultural anthropology confirm what the Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death. It is not whether there will be blood shed; the only question is: whose blood will be shed?
Christianity proclaims the death of Jesus in order to assure all men and women that they do not need to cut themselves, do not need to hurt themselves, nor do they need to take their guilt out on anyone else. Jesus, the Just One died for the unjust. By His stripes, we are healed. This is not a sensible solution but that is because sin is not a sensible problem. Sin is a primitive, brutal reality, and only a violent solution will do.