Who Killed Jesus?: Meditations on the Murder of the Son of God

jacob-meyer-32136The crucifixion of Jesus is the focal point of Christianity because of the nature of the one nailed to the cross. Wayne Grudem has called the crucifixion of Jesus “the most evil deed of all history.”[1] This is because the most innocent man to ever walk the earth died the death reserved for the worst of criminals. An unjust trial led to brutal beatings and ultimate death by crucifixion, and the Son of God was nailed to a sinner’s cross. It is only fair that anyone with a moral conscious would have to wonder who is responsible for such a horrific act. When the innocent are murdered today, they warrant headline news. Jesus was brutally and unjustly killed. It is here we must ask, who did it? Who is responsible for such a horrific act?

The Method of the Murder

Crucifixion was not reserved only for Jesus. It was a form of execution perfected by the Romans. Crucifixion has been called “the most painful and degrading form of capital punishment in the ancient world.”[2] Originally developed by the Assyrians and Persians, crucifixion was later used by the Greeks and Romans as a form of capital punishment for those who opposed the state. By the time Jesus walked the face of the earth, crucifixion had become more and more common, as crosses bearing criminals became a normal sight on the sides of roads leading into towns.

The Roman method of crucifixion also included scourging and flogging.[3] Not only did scourging increase pain, but it also hastened death and was in one sense merciful as the torture of hanging on the cross was greatly reduced. Nevertheless, the torture was not lacking, as the one being crucified was forced to carry his crossbeam to the execution site where he was then stripped of his clothes and bore a sign detailing his crime.

Once at the execution site, the criminal would have his hands either tied or nailed to the crossbeam. A criminal was only nailed to a cross if the executioners desired a quicker death. If nailed, the nails would be driven through the wrists and feet. Though death often resulted from asphyxiation, it was also common for criminals to bleed out. More often than not, crucifixions were inhumanely brutal, torturously long, and indescribably shameful. This brutal form of capital punishment was on display for all to see. A man was stripped, beaten, scourged, flogged, mocked, degraded, dehumanized, and slowly killed as a public display of the nation’s might and resolve to punish any and all enemies of the state.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the sinless Savior, the suffering Servant, died the ancient world’s worst death in the absolute worst way.

A Grand Murder Mystery Party

In seeking to answer the question, “Who killed Jesus?” it is like participating in a cosmic and historic murder mystery party. The Son of Man hangs on a cross, bows his head, gives up his spirit, and dies. He lays down his life for his sheep. But who is to blame? Who is at fault? Who is responsible? As Jesus’ mangled and bloody body hangs from the cross, all look around on top of the hill outside Jerusalem and wonder who truly killed this sinless and innocent man.

Like all good murder mystery parties, we must look for evidence—clues that lead us to the culprit. There are many suspects and many answers we can give. Let’s look at them.

  1. Was it the Romans?

One could argue that it was the Romans who were responsible for the death of Jesus. Rome did have authority in Israel. Rome was the governing empire in Jerusalem, and all who lived in Israel were subject to Roman rule. Crucifixion also belonged to the Romans. It was their form of capital punishment that killed the Son of God, so it must be Rome! After all, was it not the Roman soldiers that actually carried out the act of crucifixion, nailing Jesus to a cross, waiting for him to die? Did not Jesus appear before multiple Roman leaders? What about Pilate? Did Jesus not appear before him (Matt. 27:2)? Wasn’t it Pilate who ordered the death of Jesus (Matt. 27:17, 22, 24; Luke 23:25)? What about Herod? He mocked the Son of God, found him innocent, yet sent him back to Pilate to make the final call (Luke 23:11). These Roman leaders called for the execution of a man they knew to be completely innocent (Luke 23:14-15). Does it get more evil than this?

The prayer of the early church affirms: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27, emphasis added). So did the Romans kill Jesus? Yes. Yet their motives were evil, and their role was small.

  1. Was it the Jews?

Though we have meddled through some evidence and seen that, yes, the Romans killed Jesus, there is much more evidence at hand. Could there be multiple culprits, multiple killers? Scripture seems to answer so. Surely, the Jews killed Jesus. Was it not the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus from day one of his ministry? Was it not the Jews who called for his death (Matt. 27:20, 22-23)? Jesus did appear before the Jewish Council where he was questioned and condemned for blasphemy.

Since it was the Jews who pressured Pilate to crucify Jesus, surely the Jews are responsible for the death of the Christ. Peter himself accused the Jews of murdering Jesus in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:23). Again, the prayer of the early church affirms: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27). So, did the Jews kill Jesus? Yes. Yet their motives were evil, and their role was small.

  1. Was it Judas?

How about Judas? We have seen that, yes, it could be said that both the Romans and Jews killed Jesus. However, we have more evidence to consider—a suicide victim. What guilt led Judas to the point of suicide (Matt. 27:3-5)? He “betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4). Judas was one of the original twelve disciples and was chosen by Jesus to follow him. He was a lover of money (John 12:4-6), and he chose silver over the Treasure. It was Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Matt. 26:47-50; Luke 22:47-48). Judas delivered Jesus into the hands of those who would crucify him. Surely he is responsible for the death of the Son of God. Based on the evidence at hand, can we say that Judas killed Jesus? Yes. Yet his motives were evil, and his role was small.

God Killed Jesus

We have three suspects before us so far—Romans, Jews, and Judas. Each played a role in the death of Jesus. The Romans judged and crucified him. The Jews delivered and accused him. Judas betrayed him. Each of these components led to the death of the Son of God, and each suspect carried out their respective roles with malice in their hearts. However, there is a better “suspect,” if you will. There is a much greater answer we can give to this question. Who killed Jesus? God did. His motives were pure and his role was grand. God is ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus. The Father did not only send his Son to die, but he sent his Son to be killed at his hand. Realizing this radically changes our understanding of God and his love for sinners. In the active work of the Father in the death of his Son, we get a glimpse of his glory and incomparable love.

It is odd to speak of the death of Christ in this way. It seems quite blasphemous to even say, “God killed Jesus.” Killing connotes sin, and we know that God cannot sin (Titus 1:2; Heb. 4:15; 6:17-18). Nevertheless, this is the way the Bible puts it. In the great Servant Song in Isaiah 53, the prophet writes, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief (Isa. 53:4, 6, 10, emphasis added). Do you see the active language? God “crushed” his Son. He “put him to grief.” Jesus was “smitten by God.”

Still further in Acts 2:23, Peter proclaims this very idea of divine smiting: “Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” This tells us that behind the evil intentions and actions of the Romans, the Jews, and even Judas was God not merely passively observing, but actively working with the greatest intentions of all. God’s sovereignty over all sin, evil, and suffering is exemplified in the cross of Christ as God is the one who delivers Jesus to be crucified. God smote his Son. God crushed the Christ. God laid on him the iniquity of us all. Who killed Jesus? His Father did. Why? Because God is eternally holy and eternally love (Isa. 6:3; 1 John 4:8, 16). God’s love for his own righteousness and his love for sinners find reconciliation in the death of Jesus. God cannot justly magnify his glory and love sinners without a sinless sacrifice to atone for sin. John Piper words it this way:

The Son was bruised because God-dishonoring sin could not be ignored. And why couldn’t it all be ignored? Why couldn’t God just let bygones be bygones? Because God loves the honor of his name. He will not act as though sin, which belittles his glory, didn’t matter. It cannot simply be swept under the rug of the universe, as though nothing awesome were at stake. The judge of all the earth will do right. He will judge the world in righteousness.[4]

For Love and Glory He Died

God did not sit by idly as lawless men killed his Son. No, God actively killed his Son out of his indescribable love for those who have belittled his glory, defamed his name, and delighted in sin. Who killed Jesus? His Father did. And through this death, God put his glory, his love, his grace and his sovereignty on full display. The Father poured out his wrath on his Son so that guilty sinners would be counted righteous. Jesus bore the wrath of God in our place. Jesus hung in shame on a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem. He was slaughtered by sinful Romans, Jews, and even one of his disciples. Oh, but he hung in glory and love as he bore the sin of those whom God would save. The cross of Christ is a display of sinful man and a sovereign God. In his crucifixion, Jesus’ sinless death displays the glory and love of God for all to see.

In the cross of Christ, we see the righteousness of God in saving sinners. “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Christian, you can delight in God’s prerogative to kill his Son on your behalf. By your faith in the Son who was slain, you will enter into life. In the death of Christ, death found its death.

Because the Father is eternally committed to his glory and passionately loves sinners, he actively designed in eternity past and carried out at the perfect time the death of his Son (Acts 4:27-28). This is the greatest news for you and me. God vindicated his love for his glory and his love for sinners in the substitutionary death of Jesus. Jesus was forsaken, smitten, crushed, and ultimately killed by God all for love, all for glory, and all for the global worship of the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). Rejoice in the God-designed plan of salvation that only comes through the Christ who was “pierced for our transgressions [and] crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5).

*This post originally appeared as a chapter in my book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God.


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 326.

[2] Grant Osborne, “Cross, Crucifixion” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Owen Brand, Charles W. Draper, and Archie W. England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 368.

[3] Scourging is the process in which a criminal was “beaten with a whip consisting of thongs with pieces of metal or bone attached to the end” (Ibid., 368).

[4] John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Sisters: Multnomah, 1991, 2000), 161.

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Jesus Is Far More Than An Example

There is a rising population comprised primarily of millennials who would say that Jesus is a great example to follow, but not a god worth following. They have no problem using some of Jesus’ teachings and actions as an example for how they should live their lives, but they simply do not believe he was who he said he was. Now, while the burden of proof is on them to explain the person of Jesus and explosion of the Church in the first century, it is worth considering whether evangelicals are beginning to see Jesus as simply a great example to follow.
The WWJD mindset leads many pastors and Christians to horribly misinterpret the gospels. If “Jesus is our example” is the guiding hermeneutic principle, then we will fail to discern the person and work of Jesus. Take Jesus’ parables for instance. Many pastors teach the parables as Jesus’ way of contextualizing his message to his hearers. So, we should follow his example and teach the gospel in ways our hearers will understand. The problem is that this is a correct conclusion drawn from an erroneous principle. We indeed should teach the gospel in such a way that our hearers can best understand us. This truth has great cultural significance. But is that really why Jesus taught in parables? So more people could understand him?

Jesus made bizarre and outrageous claims in his life. He claimed to have authority over everyone on earth. He claimed to be God himself. He claimed to be a ransom paid to save sinners who owe God a debt of death. These claims take Jesus far beyond the classroom and into the realm of insanity, or else falsehood, or else glory. In his classic work, Mere Christianity, the great C.S. Lewis put it like this:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

If Jesus is nothing more than an example for us, then his example is in vain. Think about it. If Jesus wasn’t really who he said he was and if he didn’t do what he said he came to do, then he can be written off as a madman. When you are wiling to submit to Jesus as your example, but not as your God, then you are coming to him on your terms. You are not willing for him to change your life. And if you only have Jesus as your example, then you don’t really have Jesus. Plus, Jesus is only admirable and majestic if he is more than an example. The only way we can marvel at and learn from Jesus is if he does more than set an example for us. Jesus is not just our example. Jesus is our representative.

Adam Disobeyed in a Garden of Paradise

A representative is someone who stands in the place of another. This is why elections are always so important, because the votes of our senators and representatives represent us. The Bible talks of two primary representatives for mankind. Both represented us in a garden. Many, many years before Jesus entered Gethsemane, Adam was placed in Eden. He was created without sin. He had a perfect heart, a perfect relationship with God, and he lived in a perfect environment. Yet, Adam failed to keep covenant with God. He was faced with a choice to submit to God’s will, and he bowed to his own. When Adam sinned against God in Eden, he was cursed, banished, and defiled because of his sin. Paradise was lost and the entrance to Eden was guarded by a flaming sword. From that point forward, Adam and all of his offspring would be under the righteous wrath of God.

Friends, outside of faith in Jesus, this is where we all stand—under the righteous wrath of God. God’s wrath can be defined as God’s righteous response to sin. Wayne Grudem calls it his “intense hatred of sin.” Because God is holy, he is wrathful against all that is unholy. In John 3:36, Jesus says that the wrath of God remains on all who do not believe in him. The author of Hebrews understood the wrath of God when he wrote, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

But I especially love the way Lewis communicates God’s wrath in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

“Mr. Beaver said, “Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Here is the toughest reality that is naturally offensive to the human mind and heart: We deserve God’s wrath because of our sin. We deserve to face what caused Jesus to sweat blood and be so close to death that an angel had to come to his aid. We deserve the horrible, terrible, and terrifying wrath of God not because our sins are particularly egregious, but because God is infinitely holy. It is the greatness of God, not the degree of our sin that puts us under the wrath of God. This means that no matter how small or big you think your sins are, you stand under the flaming sword of God’s wrath.

Jesus Obeyed in a Garden of Agony

But there is good news today for you and me. There is news in this passage that gives purpose, hope, and joy in the midst of all suffering. While Adam disobeyed in a garden of paradise, the Last and True Adam obeyed in a garden of agony. It is no coincidence that Jesus agonized over his impending death and submitted to God’s will in a garden. It was in a garden that we began, in a garden where we fell, and it will be in a garden where we begin to find restoration and redemption. Charles Spurgeon observed this. In one of his great sermons, he said,

May we not conceive that as in a garden Adam’s self-indulgence ruined us, so in another garden the agonies of the second Adam should restore us? Gethsemane supplies the medicine for the ills, which followed upon the forbidden fruit of Eden. No flowers which bloomed upon the banks of the four-fold river were ever so precious to our race as the bitter herbs which grew hard by the black and sullen stream of Kidron.

As our perfect representative, Jesus is prepared to take on the full wrath of God that we deserve. We do not have to sweat blood in agonizing torment before the wrath of God, because Jesus faced his Father’s wrath for us.

We see this in Jesus’ request for the cup to be removed from him. The word “cup” is a metaphor that specifically refers to God’s wrath. Psalm 75:8 says, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.”

What Jesus communicates in this agonizing moment in the Garden of Gethsemane is that his journey has reached its climax. Jesus takes the cup of God’s wrath out of your hands and drinks it down to the dregs. Not because he is wicked and deserving. But because he is willing and able to bear your guilt, your wickedness, your failures, your unbelief, your hypocrisy. Jesus takes the cup reserved for you so that you never have to drink from God’s wrath. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath, so that you may drink the cup of God’s salvation. In the words of theologian Michael Horton, “The same cup that was filled with judgment for the Messiah is now drunk by those who, united to his death and resurrection, receive from it only forgiveness and life.”

But I think Keller says it best:

In the garden of Gethsemane, [Jesus] turns to the Father and all he can see before him is wrath, the abyss, the chasm, the nothingness of the cup. God is the source of all love, all life, all light, all coherence. Therefore exclusion from God is exclusion from the source of all light, all love, all coherence. Jesus began to experience the spiritual, cosmic, infinite disintegration that would happen when he became separated from his Father on the cross. Jesus began to experience merely a foretaste of that, and he staggered.

In the garden of Eden, Adam cried, “Not your will, but mine be done.” But in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus cried, “Not my will, but yours be done.” With this cry from the second Adam, Jesus paves the way for us to return to Eden. Jesus entered a garden of agony and suffering, so that we might re-enter a garden of pure bliss, harmony, joy, and eternal paradise. As our perfect representative, Jesus becomes the ultimate example worth following. But his example is one of humility, self-denial, and it is paved on a road to Golgotha. So, if you want Jesus as your example, be sure you know where he is leading before you decide to follow. But when you choose to trust in Christ as your representative, Christ as your example will satisfy your soul more than anything else you could follow.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Morning Mashup 08/18

coffee-newspaper
Here are 12 articles for your information, edification, entertainment, and enjoyment to start your week. Have a great Monday!

A Living Nightmare for Iraqi Christians – Helpful history of Iraqi Christians and ISIS with a plea to the international community.

Reading the Bible Like Jonathan Edwards – Kyle Strobel: “Means of grace are meant to orient us to Jesus so our hearts pour out in love and affection to him.”

The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail – A truly challenging and helpful read. You will be greatly moved.

Pray for Ferguson – Philip Holmes with sobering words on how to pray for Ferguson, MO.

The Roots of Violence in Ferguson – “Clashes between protesters and law-enforcement officials over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown began again on Saturday morning. Residents say the tension between the city’s police and citizens is longstanding.”

Michael Brown is Your Neighbor – D.A. Horton: “I want to unveil to those saints on the sideline how they can engage in front line participation before, during and after national moments of social injustice arise. The reason why we, as the Body of Christ, must engage is because acts of social injustice are direct attacks on the gospel.”

Ferguson Cleanup Organized by Church Planters – NAMB Send North America church planters in St. Louis organize a cleanup of Ferguson following looting and rioting in light of the shooting of Michael Brown.

5 Facts About Suicide in the United States – Joe Carter with a very informative post about suicide in America.

On Suicide, Gratitude, and Compassion – Jen Wilkin openly and honestly writes about suicide, Robin Williams, and appropriate response to both.

Five Principles of the New Sexual Morality – Alastair Roberts insightfully lays out the core principles of the new sexual and relational morality that is shaping much of the Western world. What do most Westerners think about sex? Roberts nails it.

The Preacher You May or May Not Know – He survived brain cancer and leads a church of 11,000, but have you heard of him?

Google Used to be Called WHAT? – The original names of 23 iconic brands. Seriously, I cannot imagine what life would be like had Google kept its original name.

A man may have enough of the world to sink him, but he can never have enough to satisfy him. –Thomas Brooks

The “Repulsive” Cross of Christ?–6 Reasons Atheists Reject the Atonement

Cross1As I walk in the small Sunday School room on a Wednesday night, ten young children sit at a table ready to be thrilled by God in his Word. I ask the question that I ask every time we meet:
“What is Christianity all about?”

In unison, they reply, “Jesus took my place.”

“Yes!” I reply. “High fives all around!”

 

The atonement of Christ is the central doctrine of Christianity. Volumes upon volumes of theological works are dedicated to this doctrine. Heart-wrenching and worship-inducing sermons and hymns have been written, preached, and sung by believers throughout the centuries. And while there are multiple legitimate theories of the atonement, essentially there are only two responses to the atonement that truly matter: either delight or disgust.

The fact that God the Son bears the wrath of God the Father for the justification of humans who have incurred the wrath of this holy God is mind-blowing and awesome. In fact, it is the highest act of love, grace, and mercy. “[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Sinners are saved because a sinless Savior was judged in our place.

Good news, right? No, GREAT news!

Right?

Well, not for everyone. It is understandable that non-Christians, religious or otherwise, take issue with the atonement.

They may reject its truth. “Jesus did not actually die on a cross or rise from the dead.”

They may reject its message. “It just can’t be that sinners are saved by the work of another and no work of their own is the basis of salvation.”

However, I have discovered that some deny, reject, and repel the most precious doctrine of Christianity on the basis of its morality. In other words, some people reject the atonement of Jesus as being immoral of evil. This is surprising, shocking, and even dumbfounding for the Christian. How could anyone call what we view as the greatest act of love as immoral? Immorality and evil most certainly do not coincide with love. At the very least, this is a very serious accusation.

Farewell, God

In Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy’s recently released book, The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw: Exposing Conflicting Beliefs, the authors engage with multiple atheistic God-in-the-Dock arguments against the existence of God. In chapter six, the authors show how atheists argue against the existence of the Christian God by showing his pardon of sinners to be immoral. After explaining how the atheist takes issue with God’s justice and wrath against sin and sinners, he shows the atheist’s inconsistency. Not only do atheists despise God’s punishment of sinners, but they also despise God’s pardon of sinners. While it seems immeasurably good news for God to “take all that wrath, every bit of it, and ingest it back into himself,” the atheist responds to such news by saying “Thanks, but no thanks” (89). God bears the wrath that sinners deserve to bear, and at this prospect, the atheist replies, “Ugh! Farewell, God!”

Geisler and McCoy then move to show six reasons why the atheist believes the cross is “unacceptable, even revolting.” While these reasons given by the atheist may be alarming to the Christian, it is important to see that not everyone approaches our most precious doctrine with the same gratitude and delight. Each reason given is unconvincing, but they are very enlightening and helpful when it comes to understanding how atheists view the atonement. If you ever plan to share the gospel with an atheist, you would do well to know what many of them believe about the cross of Christ. As a Christian, if your heart doesn’t break when reading these reasons, you need to check your pulse.

6 Reasons the Atonement is “Repulsive” (pp. 89-91 of The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw)

The following are the six primary reasons why atheists (obviously not all atheists. This mainly refers to those atheists who put God on trial for contradicting his own nature) reject the atonement of Jesus.

1. Christ’s Redemption is Barbaric

Sam Harris: “The notion that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that his death constitutes a successful propitiation of a ‘loving’ God is a direct and undisguised inheritance of the superstitious bloodletting that has plagued bewildered people throughout history.”

2. Christ’s Redemption is Incoherent

Baptist-turned-atheist, Ken Pulliam asks why only the Father “needed to be propitiated when the three persons of the Godhead are allegedly equal. Moreover, did Jesus’s atonement temporarily sever the unity of the Godhead, which is impossible?”

3. Christ’s Redemption is Impossible

Christopher Hitchens: “We cannot, like fear-ridden peasants of antiquity, hope to load all our crimes onto a goat and then drive the hapless animal into the desert.”

Ken Pulliam: “[I]t is logically impossible to punish an innocent person.”

4. Christ’s Redemption is Unnecessary

Dan Barker: “It does no good to say that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. I don’t have any sins, but if I did, I wouldn’t want Jesus to die for my sins. I would say, ‘No, thanks. I will take responsibility for my own actions.'”

5. Christ’s Redemption is Obnoxious

Richard Dawkins: “[Redemption] is a repellant doctrine.” Dawkins has also said the atonement of Christ is “almost as morally obnoxious as the story of Abraham setting out to barbecue Isaac, which it resembles.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Sacrifice for sin, and in its most obnoxious and barbarous form: sacrifice of the innocent for the sins of the guilty!”

6. Christ’s Redemption is Immoral

Christopher Hitchens: “I can pay your debt…But I cannot absolve you of your responsibilities. It would be immoral of me to offer, and immoral of you to accept.”

Elizabeth Anderson: “The practice of scapegoating contradicts the whole moral principle of personal responsibility. It also contradicts any moral idea of God.”

Dan Barker: “I do understand what love is, and that is one of the reasons I can never again be a Christian. Love is not self-denial. Love is not blood and suffering. Love is not murdering your son to appease your own vanity.”

There is No Middle Ground

The God of Christianity causes many problems for humans. Atheists reject God and his intervention to save humans because of what it says about them–namely that they are reduced to sinful beings, while God reigns as a supreme holy being. Atheists have a major problem with the first question/answer of the Baptist Catechism: “God is the first and best of beings.”

These statements from the atheists themselves leaves me with a two-fold feeling. Firstly, I cringe at the obvious and unapologetic blasphemy. Secondly, however, I am deeply saddened by these various positions on the atonement. Spiritual blindness abounds in such distaste for the bloodshed love of Christ.

I am sympathetic to these reasons for disregarding the atonement, even though I disagree with each of them. I always appreciate the brutal honesty of most atheists. Only from honest positions can any measure of discussion be held. If you find agreement or sympathies with any of these reasons or if you hold any of these atheistic beliefs concerning the atonement, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section. Decisions made on the atonement of Christ may be the most important decision you will ever make. One thing is clear from this post: Either total delight or total disgust comes from Christ’s cross. There is no middle ground.


Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.