He writes: To say that my sins are an infinite wrong because they are committed against an infinite God, and thus demand an infinite punishment, seems mistaken for several reasons.
In the first place, does justice really demand this must punishment? . . . What picture of God lays behind this view of justice—a caring father or an aloof vengeful medieval potentate? Jesus describes God as the former, a caring father” (Matth. 6:9-15; Luke 15:11-32) . Jesus himself said, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’” (Matt. 9:13). (p. 346)
I think this is a good point. The PST view seems to accentuate the differences between the Father and the Son. The OT God definitely comes across as an angry, vengeful, deity that constantly needs to be placated. He destroys the earth in Noah's day, he wipes out the innocent first-born children in Egypt, he orders the Caananites annihilated (including children), he orders the Amalekites annihilated (including children), he is jealous of any other god, even though supposedly he is the only true God, etc. He orders homosexuals, adulterers, and rebellious children to be executed. He seems to care about the Jews but not the other peoples of the world.
Now contrast that with the teachings of Jesus found in the Gospels. Jesus comes across as loving, peaceful, and concerned for all peoples--Samaritans, Jews, Gentiles. He shows compassion and love towards the sinners of his day--harlots, tax collectors, etc. He is against vengenance; he freely forgives without first demanding a sacrifice to placate himself; he is humble; he is gracious, all the things that the OT God is not. PST accentuates this view by making the Father an angry old deity that has to see blood before he is willing to forgive. Jesus being the gracious fellow that he is agrees to shed the blood that the Father demands.
Second, if God became incarnate to relate to us, then why can’t he also see what sin is from our perspective, as a finite offense from partly good and partly bad human beings? We intend no infinite wrong against God when we sin. God should know this, especially since it’s claimed that he related to us by being one of us. (Loftus, p. 346)
John is right. The NT teaches that Jesus became one of us. He shared in our humanity. He was, as the author to the Hebrews, says: This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. (Heb. 4:15)
According to evangelical theology, Jesus became fully man. He was a human being in the full sense of the word, only he never sinned. He was tempted though, and whether you believe in the peccability or the impeccablity of Christ, you must maintain that the temptations were real. He felt them in the same way we feel them. He therefore knows, as John said, that when we sin as human beings, we generally are not focused on deliberatley rebelling against God. We don't sin in order to strike out at God. We sin because we are weak at times. we give in to momentary pleasures that result in long term pain. We are proud and treat other people as inferior to us or we are greedy and manipulate ways and people to get more and more. All of these are sins but they are really the result of doing what we think at the time is best for ourselves. They are not deliberate rebellious acts focused against God. Jesus being fully human should have known this.
Third, did Jesus really suffer an infinite punishment for our sins? . . . if every person who ever lived deserved to be slapped in the face just one time, then the equivalent of sixty billion slaps would surely amount to more punishment than Jesus physically endured. . . . .if we were given a choice to suffer as Jesus did or else be cast in hell for eternity, we would all choose to suffer as Jesus did (Loftus, p. 346).
John is simply dealing with the physical portion of Jesus' suffering and not his spiritual suffering. From that standpoint, he is correct. PST teaches that Jesus suffered the exact amount of suffering or even more suffering than each individual sinner would in an eternal hell. As John points out, if you or I had the option to pay for our sins by being crucified and dying in a few hours (Jesus did not even suffer as much as most of the other folks who were crucified in his day) or suffering eternal hell, it would be a no-brainer. We would choose to be crucified.
John argues: In the fourth place, in order for someone to be forgiven, why must there be punishment at all? We know of victims who have forgiven their assailants even though they have never been punished . . . .If the cross was needed to pay the punishment for my sins, then how can God really be a forgiving God (pp. 346-347)?
I agree with this as shown by my earlier posts on PST Eliminating True Forgiveness. Forgiveness, which is a virtue, is letting go or dismissing a wrong done against you without exacting any payment or punishment. God apparently cannot do this. He can only "forgive" you if someone else makes the payment or takes the punishment in your place. Then he "forgives" you. In my opinion, that is not true forgiveness. It is getting even. It is getting reimbursed. It is getting recompensed.
Fifth, even if punishment is needed . . . . then how does punishing Jesus help God forgive us? This Christian theory says God himself bore our punishment on the cross in Jesus. This means the divine way to forgive us when we sin against him is to turn around and punish his Son? If you see me along the roadway and beat me to a pulp, the divine way to forgive you is to turn around and beat myself up all over again, or my son? . . . . It doesn’t make any rational sense at all (Loftus, p. 347).
I agree. The whole idea of God punishing his innocent Son in order to forgive guilty men makes no sense. If that is the model of "forgiveness" that man should imitate, then what a crazy, bizarre justice system we would have.
John concludes his chapter on PST by saying:
Even though I have not considered all of the atonement theories here, none of the ones we’ve considered actually makes sense of the supposed atonement offered to God on our behalf, in Jesus. And given nearly two millennia of theological discussions, I’d venture to say there never will be a cogent, well-argued theory that can ever pass muster in the future either. I think the whole idea of Jesus dying for my sins to restore me to God is built upon the beliefs of a superstitious ancient world, where gods and goddesses were pleased with sacrifices, whether they were human or animal ones. This ancient world is long gone now, and it’s time to give up believing in an incarnate God who offered a sacrifice for us on the cross to atone for our sins (Loftus, p. 349).
John is right. Theologians have had 2000 years to try to explain what happened when Jesus died on the cross. They have come up with a half-dozen or so theories, none of which is really adequate, as the continued intramural debate among Christians on this matter proves. If they haven't been able to figure it out in 2000 years, they probably never will.
I also agree (and I plan a series of posts on this in the future) that the whole concept of a sacrifice appeasing the wrath of gods was widespread in the ancient world, not only animal sacrifices but also human sacrifices. It was part of the superstitious mentality of that period in world history. It is rarely practiced in the civilized world today (with a few exceptions, see http://www.religionnewsblog.com/21531). The overwhelming majority of people in today's world recognize that sacrificing animals, much less people, to stave off the wrath of a god is pure superstition. Yet many of these same people, without thinking it through, accept the human sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the means by which the wrath of their God (Jehovah) is appeased (propitiatied is the biblical word--1 John 2:2). Does anyone besides me see how inconsistent that is?