Responding to Christianity's Critics

For Ruwayda, Whenever I Find Her

edit: Ms. Ruwayda has been kind enough to also provide her response to this article in the comments section below.

It’s exactly midnight and like all other good Christian boys I am deeply engaged in plotting the downfall of Islam one blog post at a time. That; was my attempt at humour (a lame attempt, but an attempt nonetheless). I don’t actively plot the downfall of anything; much less at midnight soon to be one in the morning. Anyway, this particular post is going to be a little different in that for one thing, I don’t at all know too well what I will be talking about and that—perhaps due to it being so late (and myself not thinking straight) or the fact that I’m listening to Coldplay’s “Fix You” (and hence myself not thinking straight)—I mean this post to be for Ruwayda (who left me a comment in the previous post) in particular. So Ruwayda, if I may be so familiar with you, this is for you.

These images deeply affected me, how sad it was for someone to go through all that, and why? Of course I knew why in Christianity, but I could never accept a God that allowed his own son to be nailed to a tree/cross. – (The Wonderful) Ruwayda Mustafah

Ruwayda, I must say that it saddens me that you’re so hung up on the cross (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist). You say very poignant things—particularly that the image of Jesus going through all that torture, punishment and his subsequent death on the cross evoked such sadness within you. I can honestly deeply empathize with that sentiment. On this point, you seem to have understood the message of the cross better than some Christians. It is the express intent of God that the cross should arouse sadness (and anger, and guilt—yet that joy should blossom from these). Now I’ll wager that you don’t actually know why the cross was necessary and how it could ever be the most supreme act of love and mercy. By this I don’t at all mean to insult your intelligence, nor your years of study at a Catholic school, but having gone through 4-5 years of Catholic school myself (not that long ago, mind you), and experiencing first-hand the ineptitude of my religion teachers, I feel qualified to make a statement to such an effect. So please bear with me as I expound the Christian logic as found in the inspired word of God, the Bible.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. — 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The bible describes sin as a debt whose method of payment and price is death (Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:22) and God, since he is infinitely holy and just, requires that sin be punished; that all debts be paid. Now the nature of a debt is as such that he who has no debt can pay the debt of another. This is because a debt (in a manner of speaking) is extraneous to the individual and hence the individual is not levied for something that is absolutely inherent to his self but rather he is levied for a property that is wholly contingent to his being. In just the same way, while everyone is born with sin, sin itself is not absolutely inherent to the human being and thus is not a non-contingent property that the human would possess in every possible world (ie. we can imagine a possible world where humans do not sin such as heaven or pre-fall Eden). Therefore, given that sin is an extrinsic quality, it is possible and perfectly logical for a third party to pay the debt of sin belonging to another. Hence the feasibility of animal sacrifices in the Old Testament (Leviticus 5:11, Leviticus 17:11).

To better illustrate this point, think of renting an apartment. Now imagine that through various circumstances you have spent your savings to the point that you are not able to pay any of your bills, much less the cost of renting your apartment. Given your great debt, it is impossible for you to pay your own debt and neither is it fair for the government (while it would be within their power) to just pretend that you did not owe them anything, for that would not be a display of justice. While you would not be able to pay the debt, it would be possible for someone else (such as a parent or brother) to step in and pay the debt for you so that justice would be served (and mercy bestowed on you) and you would not be left in the miserable situation that you had placed yourself in; in full view of your loving parent and/or relative.

While the above analogy does convey the overall message of the gospel, it is not perfect in its transmission. According to the word of God, the debt accrued due to sin is infinite. Simply a moments thought will suffice for one to understand why this is so. Every time an individual sins, they do so primarily against God (Psalm 51:4, Acts 5:1-16) and how could the punishment for sinning against a being of infinite worth be anything less than infinite in return? The Bible also says that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23) hence that bars anyone else from stepping in and paying another’s debt to God. Yet aside from being just, God is also infinitely loving, and while it would be perfectly fair for him to condemn the entire world to hell, that would not be the highest expression of love. This is why he, being the only individual who could possibly lead a perfectly sinless life and satisfy a debt of infinite value, chose to pay the price for mankind (John 3:16).

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. — 1 John 4:9-10

That indeed is love. The bible declares that while we were the enemies of God—make no mistake about it, all sinners are the enemies of God in that they are averse to his goodness, take offense at his decrees, and willfully disregard his sovereign law—God gave himself for us (Romans 5:10). Like a parent with unruly children who know not yet how to behave and refuse to cease playing in mud, God personally came down to earth to make us clean in his sight. In the same way that it is not averse for a king to step down from his throne and personally pick up his little child who has fallen and scraped his knee, God—in coming to earth—held us in his loving arms and showed us the depths and riches of true love.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. — John 15:13

Contrary from it being wholly depraved and unjust, the cross is the greatest act of love that has ever taken place. One is only repulsed by it if they have never understood what it is to love—and to do so ferociously. Think about it, if man with all his faults knows instinctively to perform acts of love, how much more will the Lord of all creation, in whom love itself finds its source (1 John 4:8), display his love for us (Matthew 7:11). And love is sacrifice.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. — 1 Corinthians 1:27-30

In the light of the above Ruwayda, I must be honest and say that you do not have any moral basis to judge the God of the Bible. Vicarious atonement both satisfies his infinite love and infinite justice while the concept of forgiveness in Islam is unjust and bankrupt (a subject I mean to touch upon in a later post). You had said that you could not acknowledge a God who would give himself for us, so that sin would be punished and true love displayed for all the world to see, and to that I must ask, what is it about a relentless, most unconditional love that you find unequivocally distasteful? To speak in the same line of thought as in that of my previous post I will ask you, “which is greater, the love of a parent for their child or the love of a master for his slave? And should God (being infinite in all his attributes) not possess the greatest form of love?” Having read the previous article, you know the ramifications that come with whichever manner in which you choose to answer that question so I will leave it to you to work them out for yourself.

In closing I will say that the reason why the world does not understand the power of the cross (and goes so far as to call it foolishness) is because the world refuses to acknowledge the gravity of sin and the incredible depth of love—Islam included.

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5 responses

  1. Pingback: Forgiveness, and Why I am not a Muslim « God Omnipotent

  2. When reading any scripture, there arises a tendency to interpret it based on personal experiences, and understanding(s) of concepts such as ‘god’ and ‘salvation’. In addition, more than often you will find that as individuals we have a preconceived image of ‘salvation’ and thereby ‘god’. Many of us claim to have the correct and positive understanding of what god truly intends from the scripture. These are claims I have ceased to make, but based on readings of the Christian scripture, I have, by way of implication interpreted, and understood what the text means, at least to me. Therefore, I will happily accept a Christian interpreting and understanding the bible as liberating, but that is not my interpretation nor understanding based on the readings of the same text.

    An anonymous Blogger recently wrote:

    … You say very poignant things—particularly that the image of Jesus going through all that torture, punishment and his subsequent death on the cross evoked such sadness within you. I can honestly deeply empathize with that sentiment. On this point, you seem to have understood the message of the cross better than some Christians. It is the express intent of God that the cross should arouse sadness (and anger, and guilt—yet that joy should blossom from these). Now I’ll wager that you don’t actually know why the cross was necessary and how it could ever be the most supreme act of love and mercy…

    I don’t find it sentimental for god to kill himself, or even loving, but unnecessary and strange. A god that claims to be all-knowing, all-hearing, all-seeing, should not have to scoop to such a low state by becoming a human being. Some Christians claim that by god becoming man, he has put himself in our shoes, and finally understood what it means to be human, but why did he put himself in the shoes of a man and not a woman? Better yet, was he an incompetent god because how else can we explain his need to be human in order to understand human beings. Although, I rarely respond to Bloggers because I find it tediously boring to untangle what they are saying about Christianity, but in this instance I will make an exception because I believe the author of this particular blog was not intending on insulting but educating me, and perhaps even helping me. I am ever-thankful for the Christians who have continuously sought to invite me to Christianity, provided me with helpful literature, and invited me to their Churches, I am thankful because I believe some of them are genuine and sincere, but their sincerity and genuineness does not move me to disregard my intellect.

    Anonymous Blogger claims: The bible describes sin as a debt whose method of payment and price is death (Romans 6:23,Hebrews 9:22) and God, since he is infinitely holy and just, requires that sin be punished; that all debts be paid. Now the nature of a debt is as such that he who has no debt can pay the debt of another.

    The nature of a debt in reality is conflicting with this pretentious definition. It is dishonest to re-define the definition of ‘debt’ in order to defend the biblical concept of salvation. Debt, as defined by Oxford dictionary is “a sum of money that is owed or due”. In other words, ‘debt’ does not specify a type of nature. It is context-contingent. In the context of sin, only the sinner shall pay the due of his sin. An innocent person paying for the sin of the sinner is injustice. In fact, biblical passages confirm this view, which further reinforces the inconsistencies found within the bible:

    Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16 (New International Version)

    This brings us to the obvious question of, why was it acceptable for each person to bare the consequences of their own sin in the past, yet not acceptable according to the new testament? It makes little sense for an innocent person to be put to death for sins they did not commit.

    Anonymous Blogger claims: Therefore, given that sin is an extrinsic quality, it is possible and perfectly logical for a third party to pay the debt of sin belonging to another. Hence the feasibility of animal sacrifices in the Old Testament (Leviticus 5:11,Leviticus 17:11).

    The animal sacrifices in the bible were perpetuated by the sinner, in other words, sinners made animal sacrifices with the intention of repentance, and not an innocent person dying for the sins of humanity. There is a difference which needs to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately the Anonymous Blogger fails in explaining and illustrating his illogical point through the scripture because it’s neither logical nor reasonable for a third part to pay the debt of sin. In addition, he opts for an example to drive his point home:

    Anonymous Blogger claims: … think of renting an apartment. Now imagine that through various circumstances you have spent your savings to the point that you are not able to pay any of your bills, much less the cost of renting your apartment. Given your great debt, it is impossible for you to pay your own debt and neither is it fair for the government (while it would be within their power) to just pretend that you did not owe them anything, for that would not be a display of justice. While you would not be able to pay the debt, It would be possible for someone else (such as a parent or brother) to step in and pay the debt for you so that justice would be served (and mercy bestowed on you) and you would not be left in the miserable situation that you had placed yourself in; in full view of your loving parent and/or relative.

    This is a perfectly fine example, but is completely irrelevant to the god of Christianity dying for the sins of humanity. While the example given seems to be reasonable, however the sacrifices made are limited, and not comparable. Imagine your father giving you £350 to pay off your rent, and god voluntarily choosing to die for your sins. The difference is, you can repay your father for the amount given, and your father is not put through a drama-ordeal of suffering, and degradation. The example given relates to a finite incident, whereas the context of god dying for the sins of humanity is infinite.

    Anonymous Blogger claims: I must be honest and say that you do not have any moral basis to judge the God of the Bible…which is greater, the love of a parent for their child or the love of a master for his slave? And should God (being infinite in all his attributes) not possess the greatest form of love?

    I have not claimed that the love of God is not great[er], but equally in his infinite wisdom, god would not present human beings such an incompetent path to salvation, and brutal torture of his son (and himself according to Trinitarians).

    October 30, 2010 at 5:16 PM

  3. Pingback: Re: Sin and atonement [Part - 5] « God Omnipotent

  4. sania

    As i read the post,some of the points arose in my mind,but i couldnt have explained the “anonymous blogger” as well as Ruwayda has done.pretty rational.

    April 27, 2012 at 7:46 PM

    • Thanks for the comment sania but I must confess that I am having somewhat of a hard time understanding what you’re getting at. If you aren’t too busy, could you perhaps try to reiterate your point?

      April 27, 2012 at 7:54 PM

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