I’ve been thinking, reading, and having a lot of discussion with friends lately about Christian theology. It’s been very interesting and eye-opening.
One thing I’ve found is that there’s considerable uncertainty and disagreement among Christians about the nature and purpose of Christ’s sacrifice. In particular, I’ve gotten two major responses to the question below, and both responses have come from multiple believers.
So I’m curious. If you’re a Christian, how would you answer the following question:
Was Christ’s sacrifice absolutely, fundamentally necessary for the salvation of mankind?
The two main responses:
- Yes, there’s simply no other way that humanity could have been saved.
- No — Christ’s sacrifice was important and central to salvation, but hypothetically, God could have saved humanity without it.
And of course there are many other possible answers, including: both/neither are somehow true, the question is flawed, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, etc. But even if you think it doesn’t matter, I’d still be curious what you believe the answer is.
Let me know in the comments!
a response in support of “Yes”: To imply that there is any other way is to imply that God and his decisions are imperfect.
a simple rebuttal of the above: If God was the only one who could send a being pure enough to atone for all of mankind’s sins, why wait so long after Adam and Eve for that atonement to be fulfilled?
a response in support of “No”: Jesus did not have to die, he chose to. Just as Adam chose to disobey, Jesus chose to sacrifice himself for all mankind.
a rebuttal: God’s plan is perfect. Jesus died not because he chose to, but because it was God’s plan the whole time.
I’m not endorsing either argument, just some thoughts that came after a bit of reading up on this topic.
“To imply that there is any other way is to imply that God and his decisions are imperfect.”
Another rebuttal would be that there could be multiple different ways to achieve salvation that are all equally perfect — or that there *was* another way, but that God didn’t choose it specifically because it wasn’t perfect.
“Jesus did not have to die, he chose to.”
Another rebuttal: The fact that Jesus made the choice doesn’t imply that there are/were other possible roads to salvation. He could (theoretically) have chosen instead not to die, and leave mankind unsaved.
I don’t believe there was any other option. But for the sake of conversation, I believe your question is evoking a reply that misses the mark. I don’t believe “We” are the primary purpose of His actions. I believe His divine glory is the purpose and our salvation, through Christ’s sacrifice, achieved that in a way which is absolute. I believe in an omnipotent, omniscient God whose actions are without error. It follows that I believe there was no other way. Although I do not believe that I am or anyone is able to unravel His mysteries. Anyone who calls himself “I AM” can pretty much do as he pleases. We are simply able to glimpse His depth. It makes us feel as if we have a say in things, to come up with alternative reasons and ways. But there isn’t any reality in that. To separate belief from His Word is not belief. At least, not in Him.
The answer should not be about what people believe but what the Bible says. In prayer, prior to his capture, Christ prayed that if it were possible, if there was another way, that this cup be taken from him. It wasn’t, so presumably, there was no other way.
Well, I’m interested in what people believe, as a separate question in addition to the theologically “correct” answer. But if we’re talking about the latter, I could see some counterarguments to what you’re saying:
1. Even though (in a Christian worldview) Jesus is God, there’s no guarantee that his prayer was answered. In particular, he said something like “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
2. It’s possible that there were other avenues to salvation, but that they were (in whatever sense) inferior to the avenue of Jesus’ sacrifice. So God the Father could have chosen to reject Jesus’ plea on those grounds.