Friday, May 20, 2016

Why Did Jesus Die On The Cross?

This blog seems to increasingly become the place where I answer complex Twitter questions. I got way more than 140 character here. :)

So, I don't believe that the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden is literally true.
And the statement which was put to me was "If there was no sin in the garden by a real Adam, then there is no need for a Saviour". And I guess the question is, why do I believe in Jesus anyway? And what do I believe about his death?

The question why (or if?) Jesus had to die on the cross is a great one, and one I ponder at least once a year - usually just before Easter when Christians relive and retell Jesus' last days on earth.

I guess the person asking the question made the assumption that we all have inherited Adam and Eve's 'original sin' and that Jesus had to be sacrificed in order to put things right with God. Personally speaking, that has never made sense to me. Firstly (as mentioned above) I don't read the story of The Fall as a literal event, and secondly I don't see why a loving all-powerful God can't simply forgive sin without demanding a human sacrifice for it.
However, I can see that the idea of atonement and sacrificing a scapegoat for the sins of others fits into the Old Testament thinking, so perhaps it made more sense in its time and place. Here is an example from Leviticus. Sacrificing animals was quite a thing 4000 years ago.

Today in 21st century Britain is makes a whole less sense.
There are many different theories and theologies about Jesus' death and atonement. Penal substitution is just one of them.
Don't get me wrong, the idea is certainly out there. Even in gentle CofE services have I come across the lyrics "It was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished"...

But this blog isn't about the many different views about Jesus' death. It's about exploring what I believe about Jesus' death. It's a personal view rather than an exploration of the rights and wrongs of others.
So let me introduce Rev Mark Sandlin who I came across recently and whose views I often agree with. He  is an ordained PC(USA) minister serving at Vandalia Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC. Mark is a co-founder of The Christian Left and blogs at The God Article and writes for Huffington Post, Sojourners and Patheos.

I love this article of his in particular - God Did Not Kill Jesus On The Cross For Our Sins, and it describes my own views pretty well.
Yes, I believe that Jesus came to restore our relationship with God and to challenge our "sinful ways". He did that by teaching and preaching, but mostly by modelling how we should treat each other, especially those who are powerless and marginalised.
He also did that by challenging those who believed themselves to be godly and in line with God's commandments - the Pharisees and religious leaders - by showing up and criticising their selfish and hypocritical ways.
He did that by taking on the establishment and by making a lot of enemies along the way.
In the end, that is what got him killed. His conviction of how to follow God's ways, how to build 'God's Kingdom' on earth, his determination to preach his message and his tenacity to pursue his purpose even when faced with brutality and death.

And that's why I believe Jesus died. And why I believe it is good and right to follow him, even in 21st century Britain. I believe that it is my duty to stand up for the marginalised  and vulnerable in society. I believe it is my duty to stand up against injustice - even or perhaps especially from the establishment and those in power. I believe that by doing so we have a chance to build a better and fairer world, or - as Jesus put it - build God's Kingdom on earth.

I also, sadly, believe that many of today's churches have gone the same way of the religious leaders which Jesus so criticised - by accumulating wealth and power, by trying to force their views onto other people, and by looking down on the poor and disadvantaged. If Jesus walked our streets today, he'd surely be turning tables over!

So there's my answer. I don't believe Jesus died to pay for my short comings and mistakes. Or Adam's or Eve's or anybody's. I believe that he died as a result of trying to show us a better way. The least I can do is try to follow his way as best as I can. And perhaps be less afraid of the consequences.


  1. Amen. I'll have to check out Mark Sandlin as I've not heard of him before. It sounds like he's part of the growing movement of people who rejects the idea that Jesus died *for* our sins rather than *because* of them.

    1. You introduced us, Karin. He's the Progressive Redneck Preacher. 😊

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