Comments about ‘Exclusion of hymn ignites debate over God's wrath’

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Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14 2013 8:00 a.m. MDT

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Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

A God of wrath or a God of mercy? A God who cares about us or a God who is indifferent to human suffering? Do such questions that will never be answered to universal satisfaction warrant impassioned fights to assert as absolute truth attitudes that are nothing more than subjective opinion? It's small wonder that some people get disgusted with religion and its multitude of doctrines.

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"....The Economist, a British publication, viewed the episode in a political context, calling it "another reminder of one of the bizarre (to outsiders) features of the American religious landscape...."
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Yeah, smug Europe. I wonder where we got it from.

The Skeptical Chymist
SALT LAKE CITY, UT

One of the many things I've never understood about Christianity is the doctrine of "penal substitution." This is a concept that we, as a society, have rejected. Our courts don't allow a parent to accept the punishment imposed by a judge on a lawbreaking adult child, even if the parent is willing and eager to do so. In fact, we don't allow anyone to serve the jail time that has been imposed on a convicted felon, no matter what their relationship to him may be. We recognize that to be unjust. How could a just God not recognize that this doctrine (penal substitution) is unjust?

Furthermore, why is a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing willing to accept such a strangely concocted scheme to satisfy His wrath? He knew that He would forgive the transgressors in the end anyway, so why did He feel the need to force His Son to be punished?

I struggled trying to make sense of these things for many years before ultimately rejecting Christianity. It is founded on an unjust concept of God.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

The Skeptical Chymist,

The idea is that Christ’s voluntary suffering punishment in place of all human beings buys each of them a reprieve from the punishment they deserve. The catch is that the reprieve only kicks in for those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. What happens to those who do not? If they take their own lashes, do they then qualify for the same benefits? Of even greater mystery is the notion that God would require that punishment for offenses be meted out to someone, be it the offending party or a proxy.

If that’s divine justice, I’m stumped as to what makes it either just or divine. It sounds more like antiquated baggage from the ancient past preceding both Christianity and Judaism and going back in time to when ritual sacrifices were first practiced.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

The Skeptical Chymist

Perhaps some of the justice to be satisfied is what we demand of God. We have been hurt. We demand he punish those who hurt us. Christ steps in and lets us see his suffering. He asks us to forgo asking for their punishment and to accept what he has done instead. Those of us who love him do so (and with a bit of shame given our own sins). Those who do not accept this "wheel of forgiveness" can be sure that God has meted out the full measure of punishment. Perhaps also, it was incumbent upon Christ to understand the full suffering our sins cause for him to be able to fully untangle the terrible net they weave.

These thoughts are just my own and are not yet fully developed. Sorry for that.

Ultimately, I find God to be more than just. More than merciful.

RG
Buena Vista, VA

To The Skeptical Chymist: A Book of Mormon prophet recognized your concern. From Alma 34:

10. For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
12 But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.

Read the whole chapter while you are at it.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Twin Lights – “These thoughts are just my own and are not yet fully developed.”

And yet they make a lot more sense than anything I ever heard from the pulpit or in Sunday school – the horrible stuff we tell children in order to scare the daylights out of them and keep them in line could fill volumes.

But all these ideas of divine justice and retribution all rest on human beings having conscious (and we assume, rational) free will. And yet much of our behavior is driven by the unconscious poisons & pains accumulated over our lifetime, with childhood experiences (good and bad) being especially forceful.

Given that fact, these theological notions make even less sense, especially any that posit and eternal torture chamber. For example, it is usually the case that a serial child rapist/murderer was the product of a childhood so horrible it would make most of us nauseas. If so, do his actions deserve hell? Certainly he should be locked up and not allowed to harm anyone else, but eternal torture because he was unlucky enough to be born into a horrific environment?

sharrona
layton, UT

RE: Twin Lights ,… he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the Wrath of God abideth on him.(John 3:36)

Racism, greed, hatred, violence, inequity, selfishness, and pride all within the human heart.
Eph 2:3 … gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of Wrath:
We(Christians) have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s Wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ... (Romans 5:9-11,.

Re: Craig Clark, What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.(Romans 9:14-15)

RanchHand
Huntsville, UT

Tempest. Teapot. You get the picture.

Jeremy Parker
Petersburg, Alaska

The problem with the logic presented here below in comments is that it doesn't jive with the facts. Yes, man can atone for his own sins for the most part but it is long and hard and more importantly trans formative (damning). Think of those who go off to war and come back changed. Christ took our sins and infirmities and hardships upon himself without diminishing who and what He is, we could/can not.

God isn't a penal headmaster, He simply sees (models) the end from the beginning and then tells us how to safely get through to the best of the best (like any good father). He represents justice and Christ mercy. No malice or animosity, no punishment but the realities of our own choices (notwithstanding the imperfect and unfortunate wording of men, even prophets to the contrary). He cannot rob the good for the bad, nor the bad for the good, some see that as penal and harsh, others see it rightly as just and proper. We all choose our own heaven by choosing who and what we become and thereafter where we fit in, belong, are comfortable.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Tyler D,

I think you know the LDS stance on hell.

I believe in free will. But I agree that “much of our behavior is driven by the unconscious poisons & pains accumulated over our lifetime”. I believe the Atonement unwinds these as well.

The complexities of judgment are why we are not to assume the judgment seat. Though we must judge in some circumstances to just navigate life, judgment, especially final judgment, is so difficult that only Christ can do it effectively.

2 Nephi 9:21 - for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam.

Hebrews 2:17-18 - Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Christ took on himself all our suffering not just our sins. And his suffering allows him to judge with full mercy and love.

Daniel Leifker
San Francisco, CA

A few days ago I read a story in the Telegraph about a similar situation with "Onward Christian Soldiers." Too military. The suggestion was to replace the words with:

Onward Christian pilgrims,
Working hard for peace,
Day by day we’re praying
That all wars may cease.

Nice words, regardless of what faith practices them.

jzer
Haworth, OK

@ Daniel Leifker: It seems that many Christians today have become extremely soft in their views of Christ and his teachings. They don't want to hear any hard doctrines even if they were taught by Christ. Nor do they want to hear about anything tough associated with the gospel, including war. We should remember what some of those hard but true doctrines were and quit being so afraid of truth as Christians. For example, he made it clear that anyone who does not receive baptism, at some point (by proper divine authority), will in no case enter the kingdom of heaven. If you were a nice guy, but rejected the opportunity to be baptized, you are not ever going to heaven. don't like it? Tough. You had the chance to choose and chose to reject. He also taught that his doctrine would bring division in families and nations, in many cases. We are in a WAR between good and evil, between Satan and Christ, a battle for the souls of men. The suggested lines for the hymn you quoted above clearly change the tone and meaning of the hymn as originally intended by the writer.

RanchHand
Huntsville, UT

@jzer;

Your hard-liner stance clearly ignores the softer side of Christ. He said "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" & "love one another".

You can't abide by the one while in the midst of the other.

sharrona
layton, UT

RE: Twin Lights ,Heb 2:17. He had to be*Made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. .. he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being *Made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!(Phil 2:6-9)Kenosis

Faith is the instrument by which propitiation is applied to us. (By faith in Christ and His substitutionary death, we find full and free forgiveness in the cross.)
Saving faith, the believing sinner transfers all reliance away from self- righteousness. They put all confidence with God the Person of Christ and His merits.

Faith is not the ground of our salvation, the work of Christ on the cross is the foundation of our salvation

brokenclay
Chandler, AZ

Anselm's satisfaction theory and penal substitution are similar but different theories on the atonement.

As a Christian who accepts the penal substition theory, I would also agree with The Skeptical Chymist that the example he gives would be a miscarriage of justice. However, this is not what proponents of penal substition believe is happening. What makes the action just is the teaching of union with Christ. By means of the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christ can be united with the believer in such a way that it overcomes the given courtroom objection. For those who are interested, I recommend the book Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. As John Owen said, it is no injustice if the hand offends for the head to be struck.

It is clear that the LDS Church does not accept this view-- indeed they cannot, because it's not possible for a finite, material being to be united to millions of humans by means of a separate material being (the Holy Ghost). Can any LDS out there recommend a good book or article on the LDS view of the atonement for research purposes?

raybies
Layton, UT

skeptical chemyst:I'm not sure the criminal justice system is the best model for the final judgement. What if it were more of like a loan collector?

Parents assume their children's debts all the time. When the divine tax collector comes around, who will pay for your debt? Will your good works be sufficient to indulge the damages you've accrued?

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