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.