Sin and atonement [Part – 3]
December 24, 2010 8 Comments
Punishment Continues to be Meted Out
Let us now consider a different, more serious, category of crime, the consequences of which human nature simply cannot accept to be transferable. For instance, someone mercilessly abuses a child and even rapes and murders it. Human sensibilities would no doubt be violated to an unbearable degree. Suppose such a person continues to cause similar and greater suffering all around him without ever being caught and brought to justice. Having lived his life of crime unpunished by human hands, death closes in upon him but he determines to elude even the greater punishment of the Judgement Day and suddenly decides, at last, to have faith in Jesus Christ as his saviour. Would all his sins suddenly melt into nothingness and would he be left to glide into the other world free of sin like a new born babe? Perhaps such a one who defers his belief in Jesus till the time of death proves to be much wiser than the one who does so earlier in life. There always remained for the latter a danger of committing sins after belief and falling prey to the devils designs and insinuations. Why not wait till death is close upon you giving the devil little chance and time to rob you of your faith in Jesus? A free life of crime and pleasure, here on earth, and a rebirth in an eternal state of redemption is no mean bargain indeed.
Is this the wisdom of justice that the Christians attribute to God? Such a sense of justice or such a God himself is totally unacceptable to human conscience, which He Himself created, without, alas, being able to discriminate right from wrong.
Looking at the same question in the light of human experience and human understanding, one has every right to denounce this philosophy to be meaningless and without foundation. It has no reality or substance. Human experience teaches us that it is always the prerogative of those who suffer at the hands of others, to forgive or not to forgive. Sometimes governments, to celebrate a day of national rejoicing or for other reasons, may declare an amnesty to criminals without discrimination. But that does not in itself justify the act of pardoning those who have done some irreparable harm and caused perpetual suffering to their fellow innocent citizens. It should be remembered that if the act of indiscriminate pardon at the hands of a government can by any measure be justified and if this is not considered by Christian theologians as a violation of the sense of justice then why do they not extend the same courtesy to God and concede to Him the right of forgiveness as and when He so pleases? After all, He is the Supreme Sovereign, the Creator and Master of everything. If He pardons anyone for any crime that may have been committed against fellow beings, the Supreme Master has the unlimited power to compensate the aggrieved so generously as to make him perfectly satisfied with His decision. That being so where is the need for the sacrifice of His innocent ‘Son’? This in itself constitutes a mockery of justice. We are born attuned to the attributes of God. He so declares in the Holy Bible:
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness.’
On the same subject in the Holy Quran He says:
And follow the nature made by Allah—the nature in which He has created mankind.
This tenet, common to both Christian and Muslims alike, requires that human conscience is the best reflective mirror of God’s conduct in a given situation. It is a matter of every day experience with us that many a times we forgive without having violated the sense of justice in the least. If we are wronged personally, then in respect of the crime committed against us we can go to any length in forgiveness. If a child hurts his parents by being disobedient or by causing damage to some precious household article, or by earning them a bad name; he has sinned against them. His parents may forgive him without their conscience pricking them or blaming them for having violated the sense of justice. But if their child destroys the property of their neighbour, or injures the child of another person, how could they decide to forgive the child for causing suffering to others? It would be deemed an act of injustice even according to their own consciences if they did so.
Crime and punishment have the same relationship as cause and effect, and they have to be proportionate to some degree. This aspect of the relationship between crime and punishment has already been discussed at some length with regards to financial misconduct of one man against another. The same argument applies with greater severity to other crimes like injuring, maiming or murdering innocent citizens or violating their honour in any manner. The greater the enormity of the crime, the more severe one would expect the nature and extent of punishment to be. If God can forgive all and sundry, as I do believe that He and only He can, then the question of Atonement in exchange for punishing an innocent person does not come into play at all. If, however, it is a question of the transference of one criminal’s punishment to another innocent person who has opted for such a measure, then justice would most certainly demand that the punishment must be transferred in its entirety to the other person, without decreasing or diluting it to any degree. Again of that we have already said enough.
Do the Christians believe that this dictate of justice was applied in the case of Jesus the ‘Son’ by God the Father? If so, it means that all the punishment due to all the criminals of the Christian world born at the time of Christ or ever afterwards till Judgement Day was amassed, concentrated and brought to an infernal intensity of such a degree that the suffering of Jesus Christ for merely three days and nights equalled the torture of all the punishment which the above mentioned sinners had earned or were to earn till that last day. If so, no Christian should ever be punished on earth by any Christian government. Otherwise, that would be tantamount to an act of gross injustice. All that the courts of law should do after reaching the verdict of guilty would be to ask the Christian criminal to pray to Jesus the ‘Son’ to save him. And the matter should be rested and brought to a close there and then. It would simply be a case of book transfer of criminal’s account to that of Jesus Christ.
For the sake of illustration let us bring the United States of America into sharper focus and zoom in on the state of crime there. The crimes of mugging and murder are so widespread that it is difficult to keep a count of them. Once I remember in New York, I tuned in to a radio station which was devoted entirely to the reporting of capital crime. It was a most horrifying experience. It was so painful that half an hour was the maximum I could take it, no more. Almost every five minutes a new murder was committed in America and was reported, sometimes with grisly coverage by reporters who were actually witnessing the very murder in progress. It is not our intention to present a detailed picture of crime in America, but it is a matter of common knowledge that today America stands among the foremost in the list of countries where of all sorts of crime are rampant; particularly in larger cities such as Chicago, New York and Washington. In New York, mugging is common place along with the maiming of innocent citizens who dare to resist it. This daily occurrence creates a most obnoxious picture of mutilation and murder for paltry gains.
Leaving aside for the moment, the rising trend of crime throughout the world, in the case of America alone, one cannot fail to wonder about the relationship between the Christian concept of Sin and Atonement with the crimes committed daily. However much removed they may be from Christian value in their practice, at least this much goes to their credit that they do believe in the Christian doctrine of Sin and Redemption and also in Christ as their saviour—alas—to what avail. The majority of the criminals in America, of course, are so-called Christians. Though Muslims and others are no exception. Just because all such criminals who belong to Christianity and believe in the reported voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sake of the believing sinners, would they all be pardoned by God? If so in what way? Ultimately, a sizeable percentage from among them may get caught and get punished by the law of the land, but still a large number would either remain unapprehended or may only be punished for a part of the crimes which they may have committed over many years.
What would Christianity offer to those who are punished by law and what would it promise those who remain unapprehended here on earth? Will both be punished to varying degrees or will they be punished indiscriminately?
Another dilemma relating to a criminal’s redemption because of his belief in Jesus Christ arises out of a less clear and undefined situation. If, for instance, a Christian commits a crime against an innocent non-Christian victim, he would be forgiven of course because of the blessings of his faith in Jesus. The punishment of his crime will then be transferred to the account of Jesus instead. But what would be the profit and loss statement of the poor innocent non-Christian victim. Poor Jesus and the poor victim, both being punished for a crime they did not commit.
One’s faculties are confounded if we try to imagine the enormity of all the crimes ever committed by humanity since the dawn of Christianity till the time when the sun of existence sets on human life. Have all these crimes been transferred to the account of Jesus Christ, peace and blessing be upon him? Have all these sins been accounted for in the small space of three days and three nights that Jesus is supposed to have suffered? Still one keeps on wondering, how could the vast sea of criminals so intensely embittered by the deadly poison of crime be sweetened and cleansed entirely of the effects of their crimes by the mere act of their believing in Jesus. Again, one’s thoughts are carried back to the remote past, when poor Adam and Eve so naively committed their first crime only because they were very cunningly duped and ensnared by Satan. Why was their sin not also washed clean? Did they not have faith in God? Was it a minor act of goodness to have faith in God the Father and was it their fault anyway that they had never been told of a ‘Son’ living eternally with God the Father? Why did not the ‘Divine Son’ take pity on them and beseech God the Father to punish him for their crimes instead? How one wishes that had happened, it might have been so much easier to be punished only for that one single faltering moment on the part of Adam and Eve. The entire story of humanity would certainly have been rewritten in the book of fate. A heavenly earth would have been created instead and Adam and Eve would not have been banished eternally from heaven, along with the untold number of their unhappy progeny. Jesus alone would have been banished from heaven merely for three days and three nights and that would have been that. Sadly, neither God the Father nor Jesus, thought of this. Look how Jesus’ holy lovable reality is unfortunately transformed into a bizarre and unbelievable myth.