Our review of Loftus’s book continues with a look at the atonement. Why did it happen? The theory he chooses to address and I will defend as it’s the one I hold is the penal substitution view. It is the view that Christ took our place on the cross and he received our punishment and we in turn receive his righteousness. There is a brief history of various atonement theories before this (With some left out), but that is not relevant to the point at hand.
He starts out with asking about why this is? If the claim of Christianity is true, then Loftus does admit that he goes to Hell because of his sins. However, what has anyone ever done to deserve that? He states “All through my entire life I have never met, nor even heard of one person, who deserved such a punishment. Never.
I guess that settles it. Judge Loftus has spoken.
I beg to differ of course. First off, let me state my view of Hell. My view is not a fiery torture chamber. It is a place of darkness and isolation. In effect, it is eternal quarantine. God lets people go there and he leaves them alone. The worst suffering will be internal. People in Hell will know for all eternity that they have blown it.
Now who deserves eternal separation from God?
I see someone every morning when I get up and look in the mirror who does.
And I think this is shocking to some because we’ve lost what sin is.
To begin with, it’s not breaking an abstract rule. It’s violating the person of God. Consider God as the most awesome, holy, good, loving, powerful, intelligent being that there is. As Anselm would say, you can’t conceive of anyone greater than he is.
Sin is telling that one that he is not what he says he is. In fact, every sin is ultimately the sin of Satan. Every sin is choosing your own good over the good of God. In effect, it is you telling yourself that you will be God instead of him. It is divine treason and it cuts one off from the source of goodness and life. God simply cannot allow that sin in his presence.
Now Loftus says that in our modern society we are humane in our punishments. Perhaps we are, and perhaps that is the problem. C.S. Lewis wrote on how we seek to cure criminals rather than punish them long ago.
The question is, is it just?
Loftus mentions the death penalty. I support it. I know I probably lost some readers for that, but I do. I believe man is in the image of God and to murder a man is an attack on that image of God. I believe the murderer is to pay the price by having his own life be forfeit. Of course, this is when it’s shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that the accused did commit the crime. I have this strange belief that crime should be punished.
Loftus goes on to ask if it’s fair that he suffer eternally for one little white lie.
I’d like to meet the person whose only sin is one little white lie.
Loftus’s sins are at the beginning of his book. I have no need to go into them. My stance has been that they really don’t matter as long as one doesn’t live in them. I think they need to be confessed and repented of and the blame squarely accepted, but after that, I do believe in divine forgiveness. I know my sins and they’re not just little white lies either. We have all lived in constant rebellion against the Almighty and what we get is what we deserve.
Loftus says that we see in Scripture that God is willing to forgive if people will confess.
Yes. Absolutely. Getting out of Hell is quite simple. Just trust Christ. God does desire mercy and not sacrifice, but God is also just. He gives mercy to those who want it.
Loftus also wants to know since he became like us, why he can’t see sin from our perspective.
Let’s not consider that we shouldn’t want God to see it from our perspective. I don’t want him to. I want him to see it from his perspective. Why? It’s the true one. How do I want to view something like myself even? Do I want to see me as I see me or do I want to see me as God sees me? It would obviously be the latter because that would be the true view.
Now we may intend God no wrong in sinning, but it does not matter. We have sinned and it cannot be ignored. Even Levitical Law had a sacrifice for unintentional sins. Death was still the price. (And frankly, I know I’ve committed sins in the past knowing they were sins and I seriously doubt anyone reading my blog is in a different position.)
For the third one, did Jesus pay an infinite price? First off, Jesus did pay the price. Hebrews tells us that. The Son went and offered up his blood in the holiest sanctuary of all and God was pleased. What was the one who offered the sacrifice allowed to do with what was offered to him? Whatever he wanted. God restored the sacrifice he was given of the Son and glorified him.
How does this work? I can only imagine that on some level, there is an eternal reality in God of what happened on the cross. The Son is spoken of as the lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world. Do I understand this entirely? Of course not. I doubt anyone does. It doesn’t mean though that I throw out the whole thing as nonsensical. (Makes you wonder if since there’s no understood theory of naturalistic evolution out there why that isn’t thrown out as well.)
The next point is that supposedly, forgiveness doesn’t require punishment.
On a human court, that’s true, however, there are still consequences. If someone hits my car for instance, I can forgive them and tell them not to worry, but that car will still be damaged and someone will still have to fix it. On a divine level, we are violating justice itself and the price for being cut off from life is death. Someone has to die. God can’t put his holiness on a secondary level. He must treat himself as the greatest good of all.
So what happens at the cross? His justice is satisfied and his mercy is offered to all.
The fifth objection is really along the same lines.
He then asks if we die outside of the faith, what reason does God have to punish us?
Ooooooh. Let me guess.
Sounds like a good reason to me.
And yes, God does understand us perfectly and he does know about the moral law on our hearts. If there were any circumstances that put the sin in a lesser degree, God would know them better than we would. In the end, there is no one biblically who will be able to say “It was not fair.” Creation shows us that God exists plainly and the moral law on our hearts tells us that some things are right and some are wrong.
Loftus also asks where sin abides in us. This is one of those things that just makes me wonder what kind of theology was being taught. Sin is an action. Actions do not abide in us. They affect our character though and our souls. The same happens with good actions. It is those of us that do not choose to live to be what we were meant to be who get eternity apart from God.
Another theory is commented on later, but it is not the atonement theory I hold, thus I will stick to what has been said thus far. I do not find anything here that really gives me pause. I look and see “Did Jesus die on the cross? Did he rise from the dead?” Then even if I don’t understand it all, I understand that it does work, for God has told us so himself.