Atonement Jesus (as)

80 Years Ago – Christian Doctrine of Atonement

80 YEARS AGO (Reproduced from the January issue of the Review of Religions, 1910) CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF ATONEMENT (Mufti Muhammad Sadiq) Definition oftheDoctrine.-The. Christians assert that God has a Son, who is His only Son. This Son of God incarnated himself in the womb of Mary. She and her husband Joseph the carpenter, were informed of this by an angel. In fulness of time, the Son of God was born in the form of a human child. He was brought up like human children and when he grew old, he worked miracles, The Jews among whom he was born, persecuted him and at last killed him by suspending him on the cross. Thus the Son of God incarnate, died and after death, descended into hell where he remained for three days. Then he rose from the dead and now sits in the heavens on the right hand of God. Though he was innocent, yet he bore this pain and death for the sake of human beings, so that his sufferings may atone for the sins of man. Now man will not be punished for his sins, provided he believes in him, for Jesus has taken upon himself the sins of all men. This is what the Christian doctrine of atonement means. According to Christian belief, all children of Adam are sinful. Adam and Eve were expelled from heaven for their sin and all their children have inherited the sin and hence all are born sinful. It was for this reason that the Son of God did not enter the womb of Mary through the seed of man, but Mary conceived him without knowing a man, so that he may not inherit the sin of Adam, like the rest of Adam’s children. Necessity of Atonement- Having explained what the Christian doctrine of atonement means, I now turn to its necessity from the Christian point of view. The Christians assert that man is sinful and the result of sin is the punishment of hell. God being merciful, His mercy demands that man should be saved from this punishment. But He is also just and justice demands punishment. How then could justice and mercy go together? The difficulty was solved by the Son. The Son, who was innocent, offered to undergo punishment in place of man. God accepted the offer. Thus there were both justice and mercy, for both the sins were punished and man was released. The punishment for the sins of millions of men was a heavy one, but the person who underwent it was the Son of God, so a small amount of punishment on the Son of God, taken as equivalentto the 42 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS whole punishment that was to be undergone by all men together. Refutation of the Doctrine.-1 now proceed to a refutation of the doctrine. I will first offer intellectual arguments against the doctrine. I.-The first intellectual argument against the Christian dogma of atonement is the absence of any practical proof of its truth. This will become clear from the two following illustrations: (a) Moses, a solitary and to all appearance a helpless man, stood before Pharaoh, the powerful king of Egypt and said to him, lama Prophet of God. Send with me the people of Israel. If you refuse to do so, bear in mind that I shall triumph over you and you shall perish. Thus Moses claimed to be a Prophet and uttered a mighty prophecy. That prophecy was fulfilled, thus showing that Moses was truly a prophet of God. This was practical proof of his being a prophet. (b) The Holy Prophet, Muhammad, may peace and blessings of God be upon him, appeared in the land of Arabia. The Arabs of his day were the most illiterate, the most demoralised and the most ignorant of the nations of the earth. He said to them, Follow me; the teachings of the Holy Quran will make you learned, wise and victorious. And so it came to pass. This was a practical proof of the Holy Prophet’s truth. These two instances belong to • the religious world. I will now add an illustration from the secular world. Every government makes various rules for various matters.There are laws for punishing crimes and there are also certain rules for rewarding good service. And we daily see these laws and rules being carried into practice. Let us now f iance at the past 1900 years that have elapsed since Jesus wasung on the cross and see whether the Christian doctrine of atonement has led to any practical results. (1) It has been said that sin was brought into this world by Adam and Eve and that it- cannot be removed unless we make ourselves deserving of salvation by a faith in the atonement of Jesus. Let us now see what was the punishment which Adam and Eve suffered for their sin and then see whether those who believe in the atonement have been exempted from it. From the Bible it appears that the punishment given to Adam for his sin was: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread. (Gen. ii,19), while to woman, the Lord said, In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children (Gen.m”,16). Now I ask, Is there a faithful Christian man, or has there ever been one, who can claim for himself exemption from this punishment and who can assert that REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 43 through faith in the atonement of Jesus, he no longer stands in need of work to earn his livelihood? Similarly, is there any believing Christian lady, European or native, who can say that faith in the blood of Jesus has relieved her of the pains of childbirth? Can any Christian in any part of the world answer to these questions in the affirmative? It is clear from this that our daily experience falsifies the Christian doctrine of atonement. If Jesus has really borne all our sins and has suffered punishment for them, and all that we have to do is to believe in him, why is it that all Christians, whether young or old, have to undergo the punishments referred to above? Thus, the atonement of Jesus turns out to be of no value; it is merely an imaginary thing, to the unreality of which our daily experience is bearing an unmistakable evidence. (2) When a man first believes in the atonement of Jesus, he has certain sins which he committed in the past and there are other sins which he may commit in the future. If belief in atonement brings about a forgiveness of the sins, then it follows that he should be exempted from the punishment of his past sins. But our daily experience belies this. Suppose the convert had been guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse and had the seed of the punishment of the sin sown in his frame, but he had not yet actually been attacked by a disease, his faith in Jesus must transfer the punishment to Jesus and he must not be attacked by the impending disease such as syphilis, etc. But our daily experience shows that this is not the case and that his faith in Jesus does not render him immune from the punishment that was in store for him in the shape of a venereal disease. This shows that a belief in the atonement of Jesus does not wash away the past sins. As to the future sins, we see that whenever the Christians commit an evil deed they are subject to the punishment of the sin as other men are. Of what use is the atonement then, which can save us neither from the punishment of past sins nor from that of the future sins? (3) Another instance will also make it clear that the atonement of Jesus is of no practical use whatever. Suppose a man steals Rs 1,000 and after some time becomes a Christian. Can he without returning the money to the owner, be saved, because he has believed in the atonement of Jesus? No. On the other hand he will be punished for the sin of theft. Belief in atonement has been of no avail to him, for it has not exempted him from 44 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS punishment. (4) Another practical proof of the falsehood of the doctrine may be found in the fact that even the Christian missionaries themselves, who preach the doctrine with such zeal, and even dismiss their Christian subordinates for their faults, though they do not strike their names off their convert registers. On the other hand, they admit that the recipients of the punishments are men that have faith in the atonement of Jesus. So if faith in atonement cannot exempt a person from punishment in this world, how can it exempt him from punishment in the next world? This is a practical proof of the falsehood of the doctrine to which the Christians themselves are witnesses. (5) Another practical proof of the falsehood of the doctrine is to be found in the fact that the atonement of Jesus has not been able to cleanse the hearts of men during the nineteen hundred and ten years that have elapsed since the Son of God incarnated himself in the womb of Mary. Every year are published long lists of the crimes of the Christian world. If it be said that they who commit these crimes do not act on the Law, we ask of what use is the atonement then? If it be said that the virtue of the atonement lies in the fact that it removes the power of doing evil, we say, this is wrong. Leaving aside the ordinary Christians, long lists have been published of horrible crimes of the Christian preachers themselves. Only recently a book called, The Crimes of Preachers has been published in New York. It gives a list of the crimes committed during the last twenty years by the clergy of two Christian countries only, viz., the United States of America and Canada, and from it appears that about 900 Christian priests of the United States and Canada were punished by the courts of the country for horrible crimes. How can we believe in the face of such a startling record, that the atonement of Jesus is instrumental in removing sin? Startling facts have been disclosed both about the Roman Catholic and the Protestant clergy which throw a flood of light on the moral condition of the Christian world. The reader is referred to the following works, which will enable him to form an idea of the gross immorality that prevails among the Christian priests:- (a) The crimes of Christianity by J. M. Wheeler and G. W. Foote, published at London in 1887. (b) Life by the Nun ofKenmare. Inside the Church ot Rome, (c) Life Inside the Church of England. The Christian world itself has admitted the failure of REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 45 the present Christian faith in reforming the gross immorality of both Europe and America. The work, entitled Why is Christianity a ‘Failure, is a readable book on the subject. It is written by a Churchman and is published by Ideal Publishing Union, Ld., London. If the effect of the atonement is to produce good blacksmiths, skilled masons and excellent workmen, we are ready to admit that the atonement of Jesus has produced excellent results, but if the object of religion is that men should attain righteousness and purity, then Christianity is a sad failure. It has been admitted even by European writers that in morality and purity of heart, the Islamic world is far ahead of Christian world. II. It has been said that the justice of God cannot be fulfiled except through the atonement of Jesus. But the truth is that this doctrine itself implies infringement of justice; for Jesus was innocent and it is injustice to lay the burden of a sinner on a sinless person. It may be said in reply that Jesus was the master of his own life and that he gave it willingly. In the first place, it is wrong to say that he gave his life willingly. We read of him in Matt, xxvi 9 3, that he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 0 my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me Again, there is the heart-rending cry which he uttered in a loud voice on the cross, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Both these prayers show that it was not willingly that Jesus gave his life. But even if we admit that he gave his life willingly, we have to face another question, viz., If Jesus was the master of his life, is not God he master of His own acts? Is He not the master of the vast treasure of His bounties? If Jesus could give his life without receiving anything in return for it, can not God make free gift of His mercy? In short, God’s punishing Jesus for the sins of others is incompatible with His justice. III. The doctrine of atonement represents Jesus also as unjust. Man commits two kinds of sins. He sins either against God, or against man. If a man fails to perform his duty to God, belief in the atonement of Jesus will save him from punishments. Man sinned against God, God’s Son bore the punishment and man passes scot-free. But take the case of a man who sins against his fellow human beings. Suppose there is a man named John who steals the watch of another man named Henry. Then John becomes a believer in Jesus and Jesus bears his sins on himself. Let Henry now cry as much as he pleases, he can neither get back his watch nor can have John punished for his sin. Has not then Jesus acted unjustly towards Henry by taking on himself the sin of John? Thus it is not only God whom the doctrine of atonement represents as unjust, it also represents Jesus as guilty of injustice. 46 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS IV. It has been said that if God had pardoned the sinners out of mere mercy, without exacting punishment in some way or other, people would have been emboldened to commit sins, trusting that God will forgive them their trespasses. But the doctrine of atonement is one which makes a man much bolder in the commisssion of sins. In the former case, a man is in doubt as to whether he will have mercy or not and therefore he will try to shun evil. But in the latter case, the door to evil is thrown wide open because Jesus has made an atonement for all sins both great and small. All that we have to do is to believe in his atonement. Only recently a Christian preacher has written a book in defence of atonement, which he has named Only believe. Luther, the Founder of Protestantism, said that a believer in atonement might sin to his fill, for he was sure to be saved. In short, the doctrine of atonement gives free license to commit sins and it is this doctrine which is chiefly responsible for the gross immorality which has deluged the two great Christian continents, Europe and America. (from page 15) we also who are not religious leaders but represent the rank and file of all good people in the modern age must be willing to support them by entering into our personal holy war against the causes and roots of racial pride, social prejudice and moral bigotry within our own hearts. Cleaning up this mess within ourselves is a prerequisite for our collective spiritual and ethical engagement in the cause to which Amnesty International is manifestly committed on behalf of persecuted, oppressed and imprisoned individuals anywhere and everywhere in our world. 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