Vicarious atonement is not divinely sanctioned

The concept of vicarious atonement in western Christian theology: A Human Invention

By Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

In religious lectures, dialogues and debates with interlocutors such as Dr. William Lane Craig and James White, a specific image of the cross is presented and the manner by which they present their case impresses the impression that all Christians agree on it. The view that they extol is the view that Saint Anselm of Canterbury, being the earliest theologian to delineate the concept, details in his ‘Cur Deus Homo’ or ‘Why God Became Man.’ The dogma is one that is punitive in nature where it is argued that there is an unbridgeable chasm between God’s two attributes: Justice and Mercy. The idea is that, in order for God to maintain those two divine attributes, He has to placate or satiate the wrath (His own wrath) that is due towards sinful act and the sinful doer by some kind of punitive measure. That punitive or juridical measure is what bridges God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy. Simply forgiving for the sake of forgiveness, in the mind of Anslem and emulated by Craig, White and those that follow therein, is unjust because payment (or a pound of flesh) must be paid so that justice be met. Therefore, the vicarious atonement is seen as the only possible way to ameliorate the perceived tension between God’s Justice and Mercy where punishment for sin, i.e., the pound of flesh, is provided in Jesus’ sacrifice.

Promoting and arguing vehemently for that doctrine, Christian apologists, in exchanges with Muslims, typically begin by accusing Islam of having a soteriology (salvific theology) that is insufficient as it inadequately makes sense of those two attributes that God must have simultaneously. They contend that by simply forgiving God fails to meet justice or by simply punishing God fails to show mercy. Without going into the inadequacies of said dogma, which we have done in a previous article entitled ‘The Christian Cross: The Most Celebrated and Recognised Symbol of Child Abuse’ and ‘Dr. William Lane Craig: The biblical concept of god is morally deficient,’ we will simply point out a historical fact that will prove an insurmountable obstacle to the dogma in question. According to an eminent Orthodox theologian Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, as he echoes the unified scholarly consensus amongst Eastern Orthodox priests and theologians, the western concept of atonement as briefly adumbrated above has little to no basis prior to Anslem in the 11th century of the European Dark Ages. In fact, Archbishop Lazar, exhibiting the agreed upon belief in the Eastern Christian tradition, impresses the point that such a view of God’s attributes is simply wrong and unjustified. In an interview on a Greek Orthodox network, Archbishop Lazar says:

The Cross: The Symbol of Abuse

The Christian Cross: The Most Celebrated and Recognised Symbol of Child Abuse

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

One of the most adhesive theological conundrums that Christian soteriology constantly faces today is the idea that the Father’s action in giving up His son, Jesus to His enemies to be flogged, stripped and nailed naked on the cross to finally die a most shameful death as the only possible way to grant everlasting bliss to the vilest offenders imaginable, conditioned upon the creature’s acceptance of that ghastly atoning sacrifice, is child abuse of the highest order of a magnitude that would shame even the the most nefarious of abusers, for the ridicule and the torture and the eventual demise that the Son, i.e., Jesus, had to endure on that ignominious cross was THE divine plan that was eternally hatched since before time existed (Revelation 13:8). The technical term for this salvific theory and its accompanying theological difficulty adumberated above is penal substitution, which is perhaps no more beautifully, yet disturbingly, depicted than in Domenico Beccafumi’s painting attached above– a lifelike illustration of our point from almost 500 years ago.

The philosophical problem that comes prepacked with the penal substitution theory has latched itself onto the Christian cross and remains stubbornly in place as Christian theologians continue to this very moment to piece together reconiliatory excuses but failing rather miserably to come up with a substantive and definitive formula that all Christians could rationally concur with and cling to. No excuse, as a matter of fact, can possibly ameliorate the difficulty in imputing God as the exemplar father figure for all time with the ultimate responsibility of planning and executing the abuse, torture and death of His son, since before He even created time, so that the least of sinners to the greatest of sinners could all be forgiven, saved and bestowed unimaginable everlasting pleasure by simply believing in that divine child abuse. And in Catholicism, it has taken the image of the crucifix and made into the official stamp of the religion.

The concept of God in Christianity is deficient

Dr. William Lane Craig: The biblical concept of god is morally deficient

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

In the Craig’s List (William Lane Craig) of absurdities, one that really stands out is his argument against the Islamic concept of God. He argues that “Islam has a morally deficient concept of God” [1] because whereas the Bible portrays God as absolutely all-Loving, the Qur’an depicts Him as One that shows partial love, i.e., He only loves the good and hates the sinner. To Craig, this is an unacceptable concept of God and such a god cannot possibly exist.

A common argument that Christian evangelists put forward is that God does not hate the sinner but the sin to which Dr. Shabir Ally retorts, “But God throws the sinner into hell and not just the sin.” If He only hates the sin and not the sinner, then why would He put the sinner in hell for all of eternity and not just the sin? In this simple rhetorical question, one sees that true deficiency lies within the Christian concept of deity and not with the Islamic. The biblical and Christian God is not impartial in His love for His creation. His love is very much conditional. In layman’s terms, God does not love the sinful person insofar that he languishes and continues in his sins. For that very reason, John 3:16 shows us that God’s love is conditional upon “believing” in His son that He has sent. One of the verses that Craig uses in his article to show that God is truly all loving is 1 John 4:8-10:

God is love, . . . In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the sacrifice for our sins (I John 4.8, 10).

Jesus refused to be called ‘good’

“Why do you call me good?”

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Jesus is recorded to have denied the epithet ‘good’ that is attributed to him by an unknown person in Mark 10:17-18 (which is retained by Luke in Luke 18:18-19):

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (ESV)

Instead of accepting the title ‘good teacher’, Jesus corrects the person by relegating the modifier ‘good’ to God. He affirms that “no one is good except God alone.” Commenting on this, the Jewish theologian Dr. Joseph Klausner writes:

“That Jesus never regarded himself as God is most obvious from his reply when hailed as ‘Good master’: ‘Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, God.’… Nor did he regard himself as Son of God in the later Trinitarian sense.” [1]

Evidence persuades us that the cross did not kill Jesus

Did Jesus really die on the cross?: A revisitation

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Christian missionaries confidently declare to Muslims that Jesus, according to them, as a fact of history, was crucified and died on the cross at the behest of Pontius Pilate. They cite scholars such as Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman and Gerd Ludemann who, in their quoted writings, appear so certain about Jesus’ termination on the cross. But is the death of Jesus on the stipes and patibulum truly a certain historical incident? If it was, it would have been rather foolish of the BBC to produce a documentary, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, featuring such eminent theologians as John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright with the following eye-opening narration:

“But a man nailed to a cross does not die from his wounds. He dies surprisingly from suffocation. Hanging by your arms the chest is compressed. It’s hard to breathe without supporting your weight with your legs. Overtime, the strain and the pain make that impossible and you’re unable to breathe. In the Philippines, the volunteers are brought down from their crosses within an hour. Death from crucifixion takes much longer; often, several days. The only way to hasten death on the cross was to break the legs, making it immediately impossible to support your weight, and therefore, to breathe. But the gospels are all agreed that Jesus died after only three to six hours. The crucifixion began at the third hour (Mark 15:25). Some claim that the Gospel of Luke has the shortest crucifixion (Luke 23:44-46). Matthew and Mark have Jesus surviving a little longer. The disciples wanted to take Jesus’ body down from the cross immediately, but the Roman governor Pontius Pilate wasn’t convinced that he was dead (Mark 15:44). Pilate was reassured by the Centurion, but this was the same Centurion who had earlier said, “Truly this man was the son of God.” (Mark 15:39). Jesus’ body was then laid in a tomb donated by a rich man Joseph of Arimathea. This Joseph and a man named Nicodemus came to minister to the body. “(They)…came to Jesus by night and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes about an hundred pounds weight.” (John 19:39). These accounts when viewed as an historical rather than sacred record may raise some questions: Why did Jesus die so quickly? Why did Joseph and Nicodemus take so many herbs into the tomb? So it’s perhaps not surprising that some people have even dared to ask whether Pilate was right to have his doubts– whether Jesus did die on the cross.” [1]

Saint Thomas Aquinas: Reason does not lead to the Trinity

Saint Thomas Aquinas confirmed Islamic theology

By Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

The Doctor Angelicus of the Roman Catholic church postulated rational argumentation for the existence of God in his so called quinque viæ (five ways). Saint Aquinas contends that with reason, one can be rest assured that God is absolutely one– the common denominator between Judaism and Islam. Although orthodox Christianity affirms the statement “God is One,” the church expanded the concept to include three persons (i.e., the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) creating what is known as the Trinity. The Trinitarians adamantly insist that to believe in anything less than the Trinity is heretical and blasphemous. In orthodox Christianity, then, the fundamental concept of God is not simply that “He is One” but that “He is THREE in ONE.” Without getting into the complexities that such a doctrine entails in this short article, it is important to note that in Saint Aquinas’s rational postulation, he comes to the conclusion that through reason, one can only reach the conclusion that God is One but never that He is a Trinity.

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University Dr. Brian Davies writes:

“As I have noted, Aquinas claims that the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be arrived by reason. His consistently upheld position is that reason can lead us to know that there is but one God, though it cannot prove that there is distinction in God as proclaimed by the doctrine of the Trinity.” [1]

According to Saint Aquinas, who is without a doubt one of the greatest of Catholic thinkers hence the title given to him by Saint Antoninus, i.e., Doctor Angelicus (Angelic Doctor), the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be proven or appreciated through reason. Since reasoning cannot bring us to the Trinity, it must be correctly regarded as an unreasonable doctrine.

Notes:

[1] Davies, B. (2016). Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles: A Guide and Commentary. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 445 fn. 14

Charity for non-Muslims according to Islam

Can Muslims be charitable towards non-believers?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Some unscrupulous missionaries accuse Islam of practising exclusivity in its treatment of the downtrodden. They claim that Islam only respects those that adhere to the faith while the alleged message to all those that do not believe is “abandon all hope.” This is a complete misrepresentation of what Islam stands for and history proves such calumny to be completely false. Unfortunately, there are also some elements within the Muslim community that share the same view as those missionaries. They think that Muslims should only be helping other Muslims and non-Muslims should fare for themselves. Such Muslims along with their Christian missionary counterparts should be given intensive lessons in the history of the religion.

First, we recall the great Potato Famine of Ireland and the intervention undertaken by the great khaleefah (caliph) of the Muslims of the time the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Majid I.

In the time of Queen Victoria of England and Empress of India, Ireland experienced the Great Hunger of the 1840s and it was dubbed the Potato Famine which caused the deaths of at least one million Irishmen. News of that great tragedy reached the court of the khaleefah of the Muslims Sultan Abdul-Majid I who did not waste much time to intervene by pledging to dispatch a humanitarian aid in the amount of 10,000 sterling pounds (equivalent to 1.7 million USD today). Hearing of the sultan’s proposal, the Queen of England chose to disrupt the aid by requesting that the Sultan reduce the amount to a meager 1000 pounds under the excuse that 2000 pounds had already been sent by her. The sultan acquiesced to Victoria’s intervention, but in secret, he sent five ships loaded with food. The English military tried to intercept the ships, but they safely reached Drogheda harbour and the aid was successfully distributed among the famine-stricken Irish. [1]