On this past Monday, I was on 97.1 FM Talk Radio in St. Louis. On the Dave Glover show, he has a regular segment called The Priest and The Rabbi. On Monday I was invited to give the skeptic's viewpoint on the existence of God. As is the case with talk radio, you really don't have much time to make an argument. It is more limited to soundbites. You can listen to the podcast here. The date is Oct. 26th and the discussion begins on the middle segment of the three hour show and continues over to the last segment.
The priest really had little to say during the show. His major point was that he believed the death of Christ was not a payment for sins but rather a demonstration of the love of God. This is the theory proposed by Peter Abelard in the 12th century in reaction to Anselm's satisfaction theory. It is usually called the Moral Influence Theory.
While I could not go into detail on the program, I think this view is even more problematic than PST. First, because it still has to explain away all of the many passages in the NT which clearly teach that Christ died in our place as a substitute for the penalty we deserved as sinners. Those who hold this theory have to excise much of the NT on this subject. Second, how does Jesus being executed as a criminal show us that God loves us? I don't get it. God loves us so much that he allowed the wicked Romans to nail his Son to a cross and die in a most excruciating manner. If that shows love, then its not the kind of love I am interested in emulating. In addition, it certainly doesn't show much love for his only begotten Son. The priest said that God did not bring this about, the Romans did. But once again, you will have to explain away many passages of Scripture which say clearly that this death was planned "before the foundation of the world" by God himself.
If you say, well, it shows us how much Jesus loves us, I still don't get it. By placing himself in a position (he knew that going into Jerusalem at the time of the Passover was going to be very dangerous for him) whereby he would be executed shows love? I think it shows stupidity. How does Jesus placing himself in a situation where he gets tortured and killed show us God's love? That is a strange kind of love.
The rabbi, who was more conservative than I expected, takes the Torah as the divine revelation of God. I asked him, if it is a revelation from God, why does God order the killing of whole groups of people including women, children and even infants. You can listen to his response and my answers on the podcast but I think his position is extremely weak. Basically he said that if God did it, it must be right. But then he contradicts himself by saying that man only know morality because the Torah teaches it to him. Yet some of the things that the OT God does are clearly unjust and even immoral by the standards of western morality which is supposed to be based on Judeo-Christian principles. So, I guess its a case of do what I say not what I do?
In addition, the rabbi argued that he believes in the God of the Jews because of unbroken, person to person tradition dating from the time of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. I responed to him that if that is his reasoning, then he ought to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, because there were reports of eyewitnesses who saw a resurrected Jesus and who passed along those stories all the way down to us today.
He argued that the difference between what happened at Mt. Sinai and what happened on Easter morning is simply the number of people who were eye-witnesses. He maintained that 600,000 Jews (the whole nation)saw what happened at Mt. Sinai, whereas only a few supposedly saw a resurrected Jesus. My response was that if the Jews really did see what happened at Mt. Sinai as recorded in the Torah, its passing strange, that they immediately began to worship a golden calf as they waited for Moses to come back down from the mountain. I think if I had just seen indisuputable proof that God exists, the last thing I would do is make an idol and start worshipping it. I think this made him a little angry (he later sent me an email apologizing for calling me ignorant).
So all in all, it was an enjoyable discussion for me and if you are interested in hearing it, you can go to the website mentioned above.