Skeptics have often made the claim that goes something like this, “Why would an all-powerful God need to send his son to die in order to forgive us- why not just forgive us without all that talk of death and blood?”
On the surface, this seems like a pretty legitimate argument- right? After all, you and I forgive people often enough and no one has to die, no one has to shed blood, no one has to suffer. It seems therefore that since we’re able to forgive without a loss of life that God should be able to. Since God cannot do this (or chose not to do this) God is therefore:
- Not worthy of our worship
- Not real, but a figment of the imagination of an ancient, barbaric peoples.
Let’s take this a little further because even I, as a believer, have struggled with this “why Christ had to die” argument. The victory over this skepticism comes in doing what few skeptics and/or atheists want to do and that’s to dig deeper. See, when we keep our skepticism on the surface area where emotions lie, we’re able to justify just about any belief that we have or want to hold on to. Upon digging deeper, it becomes hard to hold on to those beliefs and we become challenged. This makes us feel weak. Humans don’t like feeling weak so instead we hold to our topical belief systems; the ones rooted in emotion- the very heart of atheism.
So let’s take this down a notch.
I call this the Garage Door fallacy. Let’s say that your brother coming home from a days work pulls up the driveway a bit too fast. In his haste, he plows through the garage door and destroys it. I mean, it’s busted. Totally wasted. You hear the noise and see the hood of the car letting off a little white smoke, the door is in large pieces, and you’re brother has a look on his face of regret and fear.
You have a 2 real choices here:
- You can punish him. You can yell and kick and scream and bring upon him your wrath. After all, this was YOUR garage door in YOUR house and he broke it- not you. It wasn’t your fault in any way. So you decide to push him out of your life after a voracious beating and verbal lashing.
- You can forgive him. You may still be angry, you may still be hurt but all things said and done, you’ve made the choice to not let this accident come between your relationship and you’re not willing to throw away that relationship over a garage door.
Here’s the dilemma: Whichever decision you make, the garage door still has to be replaced or fixed. To not fix the door would be to expose the safety of your family, your goods, your property, your assets. You wouldn’t feel safe and you would be a poor steward of the stuff you’ve acquired in your life. In short, to not replace the garage door would be a dereliction of your responsibilities.
So who has to replace it?
Well, either your brother has to pay for it or you do. Whichever way it goes, someone has to pay the price for the damaged property. There is no way around it. So now, you’re once again looking at those two choices:
You can punish your brother and extend to him that responsibility whereby he must pay to fix the garage. Only problem is, your brother does not have the ability to pay for it. He is unable to pay the price for the atrocity he has committed against you.
Or you can pay for it. You’re the only one in the scenario that has the ability to fully forgive the crime and pay for the offense. You also have the will to take on that cost for the sake of your brother you who love.
Which do you do?
Let’s bring it all together. God made for us a beautiful world in which to live and grow and be happy. We broke that world with our sins. And by “sin” we mean the traditional and the etymological meaning of the word:
Sin- to miss the mark. To be imperfect.
It wasn’t just about eating fruit. It’s about disobedience and carelessness. It’s about taking what belongs to God and abusing it. Taking the rules (like “thou shall not destroy garage doors” but instead, “thou shall not lie”) and breaking them. Only, we break them over and over and over again.
A white lie- still a lie.
Stealing something stupid- still stealing.
So we destroyed God’s world and He can either punish or forgive us. In punishment, we are asked to pay for our own sins- a price that we cannot pay. In forgiveness, we are not asked to pay. We are relieved of the debt and able to enjoy the garage door- once fixed- all over again.
God chose to forgive us knowing that the price to fix the world and our relationship with Him would be too great for us to bear. That price would have destroyed us in the process. Almost like paying for a garage door that would have bankrupted your brother or put him in a debt from which he would never return. Instead, God came to earth in the form of man- he was called Jesus. He took on our sins and suffered the penalty because only God has the will and the ability to bear such a price.
Now, those of us who have heard this truth- what we call the Gospel- and have accepted this truth have been forgiven and we are able to enjoy the world- once fixed- all over again.
Of course, the world is not fixed yet.
Jesus will return to hold accountable those who have decided to fix the garage door on their own. He will come to fix the world. To repair it. We call this fixed world “Heaven.”
Those who reject the saving work of the cross will unfortunately be part of the fixing. They will need to pay a price so great that they will not return. The have made the decision not to accept the forgiveness- they’ve decided to pay that price on their own through “good works” or “meditation” or “yoga” or some other form of spirituality.
However, when it comes down to it, no amount of good works or meditation can repair the damaged world and the damaged relationship with God (Isaiah 64:6). It would be like your brother saying, “well I can’t pay for the garage door so I’ll sit in a forest for 40 years and medidate.”
How does that help the situation?
He may feel better about what he did, but it doesn’t fix the garage door.
So Christ had to die because sin had to die. Christ had to rise again because he is stronger than sin. We are doomed to pay a price we can’t pay because we are imperfect. Therefore, we must accept the forgiveness of Christ if we want to escape that price and enjoy the world that he will return to make perfect.
That is the gospel.
That is why Christ had to die.
It’s not a perfect analogy and the atheist who refuses it will find tidbits and pieces to say “ya but…” and other nonsense that we’ve all heard before.
The true skeptic- one who listens and considers- may have the ears to hear and if that’s you, I urge you to contact me with your questions and/or concerns. It’s my hearts desire to see you escape that price and enjoy that new world- once fixed.