The theology of the cross: no blood, no forgiveness
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Christian theology teaches that sin is like a debt that must be repaid; it cannot simply be forgiven by God:
“For the wages of sin is death”[Romans 6:23].
God is portrayed as a Being whose mercy is contingent on the shedding of blood:
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” [Hebrews 9:22].
The Church teaches that this is why Jesus was sent to die on the cross. The theology that underpins the crucifixion is that humanity is inherently sinful, a consequence of Adam eating from the forbidden tree. So, when Adam violated God’s command not to eat from the tree, sin entered into humanity and has remained ever since:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” [Romans 5:12].
The solution, according to the New Testament, is thus: Jesus died on the cross in order to undo Adam’s “original sin”:
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! [Romans 5:17]
So, we can see that the Christian concepts of atonement and divine mercy are diametrically opposed to Islam. In Islam, we are responsible for our own sins and God grants forgiveness to all those who call upon Him and sincerely repent. In Christianity, we have the paradoxical situation of the whole of mankind being held accountable for something we didn’t do –
Adam’s original sin – and forgiven for something someone else did – Jesus’ sacrifice at the crucifixion. When you factor the Trinity into the atonement equation, things get stranger still. If Jesus is God, then the crucifixion effectively amounts to God incarnating Himself into the creation and committing suicide in order to forgive sinners from Himself.
According to Christianity, God can only forgive sin if He punishes Himself first, even though He is the one whom the crime was committed against.How much sense does that make? If Jesus died on the cross for our sins, then we already have our golden ticket to heaven. There’s no need for us to strive, or to repent, because Jesus has already done the hard work for us.