In this installment of my biblical theater series, God and Bob continue to discuss the salvation of man.
Act III: God Throws a “Hail Mary”
God continues his discussion with Bob.
God: You see, Bob, I really do love humanity. I have tried to rescue them a number of times, but despite my omnipotence I have been unsuccessful.
Bob: Surely that would mean that you’re not really omnipotent, sir?
God: Of course not, Bob. Take my word for it, I’m omnipotent. Now, where was I? It’s time I did something really big to save mankind. The thing is, I don’t wish death on those humans who truly love me. But to overcome this problem, I have to find a way for their sins to be paid without them dying in the process.
Bob: I have an idea, sir!
God: And what might that be, Bob?
Bob: Forgive them, sir!
God: Forgive them? You mean, just wipe the slate clean and forget about their sins?
Bob: Yes, sir! Why not, sir? Being omnipotent, you could easily bring them to understand the error of their ways. In fact, why not just bring them to heaven, sir, where there is no sin? Bring them all in today, for that matter! Why let them suffer on the earth any longer?
God: Well, for one thing, Bob, the earth is not so bad. It’s quite beautiful, in fact. Remember, I created it myself.
Bob: Indeed it is beautiful, sir, except for the hurricanes perhaps. You’ve lost quite a lot of humans to hurricanes. And earthquakes. Oh, and the asteroid strikes and volcanic eruptions – those mass extinctions were quite something, weren’t they? And ice ages, floods, and …
God: OK, that’s enough Bob. Let’s get back to the whole forgiveness thing. Your idea sounds reasonable Bob, but I’m afraid I must insist that every sin be paid for. No forgiveness without punishment.
Bob, sighing deeply: Very well, sir. Tell us your new idea then.
God: I’m going to have a human son!
Bob: Pardon me, sir?
God: Yes, I’m going to have a human son who, because I’m his father, will be perfect in every way. Then, when he gets to a certain age, it will come to pass that he will be killed for his subversive message. His death will pay for the sins of all humanity.
Bob, perplexed, blinks several times.
Bob: But … how is that fair, sir?
God: What do you mean, Bob?
Bob: Well, if a human commits a sin, how is it fair that he should not be given any punishment, even of the proportionate kind many human societies already mete out? Why would it make sense to punish an innocent man, and let the offender go free?
God: It’s because I love them so much, Bob, I simply can’t stand to see them die, no matter what sins they’ve committed. And, after all, someone has to pay for all that sin.
Bob: But sir, as I’ve already pointed out, it is within your power to mete out some sort of proportional punishment to the people who actually deserve it. Being finite, such punishment would eventually pass, and the sinner could join us in Heaven. Or you could simply forgive everyone without meting out any punishment at all. Either way, you could avoid this rather strange idea that requires a completely innocent man to be tortured and killed for what other people have done.
God: These sound like interesting options, Bob, but I think my mind is made up.
Bob: Of course it is, sir. But, just in case, I think I should mention another potential problem. If it’s true that you want to have your own son die because you cannot stand to see all humanity die, then what about those humans who reject you and are sent to hell?
God: What about them, Bob?
Bob: Well, if you cannot stand to see one of your creation die, then surely it would be even harder to see her being tortured for all eternity?
God: Hmmm, yes, I suppose it would.
Bob: So why, my Lord, don’t you save those people too?
God: Because they rejected me Bob, that’s why.
Bob: But it then seems, sir, that you are more concerned with humans’ attitudes toward you than you are about their own physical and mental well being. You hate the thought of people suffering endlessly, but not enough to forgive them a simple intellectual decision about following you – a decision that actually hurts no one. That sounds a little callous, if I may be so bold.
God: Bob, you’re getting dangerously close to crossing the line. I don’t have any more time for arguments now.
Bob: As you wish, sir. Incidentally, how much do you think you will love your son?
God: Oh, very, very much, I expect.
Bob: But not as much as you love other humans, correct?
God: Probably more than I love other humans, Bob. People tend to love their own kin the most.
Bob: But sir, you’ve said that you’ll sacrifice your son because you love the humans so much. Doesn’t that mean that you’ll love your son less than the other humans?
God: No, why do you say that?
Bob: Well, you have said that your decision to sacrifice your son will be motivated by your love for the humans. In other words, when it comes to choosing between your son and the other humans, your love for the humans will trump your love for your son.
God: Hmm… Perhaps you are right, Bob, but maybe it won’t turn out that way.
Bob: Maybe not. If I may, sir, what punishment have you chosen for your son?
God: I think I’ve decided to have him brutally crucified.
Bob: Gosh, that sounds quite bad, sir. But, if I may be so bold, sir, it doesn’t sound like it would cover the wage of all humanity’s sins.
God: Of course it would, Bob, what do you mean?
Bob: Well sir, the wages of sin is death. But if, for instance, a hundred million people have sinned, surely a hundred million deaths would be needed to pay for those sins?
God: Yes, I suppose that’s right.
Bob: But you’re going to have your son killed only once, not so my Lord?
God: Yes, I am but I … I have other plans for my son, I can’t just kill him over and over again.
Bob: What plans, sir?
God: I’m going raise him to life again three days later.
Once again Bob is perplexed.
Bob: You’re going to do what, sir?
God: You heard me, Bob. I think it would be a fitting symbol of hope. It would let believers know that they’re not doomed to death themselves. It would also convince the humans that the man was really my son.
Bob: Is your son going to know about this plan ahead of time, sir?
God: Yes, he will be part of me, so he will know what I am thinking at all times.
Bob: Part of you, sir?
God: Yes, my son will be part of me. But separate at the same time. And I’ll be sending down a Holy Spirit, too.
Bob: A what, sir?
God: Never mind, Bob, I can see that the mystery is too great for you to comprehend.
Bob: It certainly is mysterious, sir. I take it that your son will not be fully human then?
God: Oh no, he will be fully human.
Bob: But how can he be fully human if he is free from sin, and if part of him is in you?
God: That depends on what you define as “fully human”, I suppose.
Bob: I agree, sir, but I think sin must be part of that definition. Consider this: has there ever been a sinless human?
God: No, there hasn’t. Every single human has sinned at least once. And usually much more than that.
Bob: So isn’t sin part of being fully human, then, sir? Something that appears in every single human being must surely be profoundly human.
God: I’ll have to think about that Bob, but I don’t really like the idea of my son sinning. Come, we have work to do.
Bob: Very well, sir. I suppose one positive thing in all of this is that your son will know that his impending death is temporary. That should ease his mind a little, shouldn’t it?
God: That sounds plausible, Bob. But it will still be a great sacrifice for him.
Bob: Of course, my Lord.
An exciting young preacher by the name of Jesus becomes well known along the shores of Lake Galilee, and his message reaches even the busy city of Jerusalem. His message is subversive to Roman authority, and he is eventually arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion.
Three days later (approximately, anyway), God raises him from death, and Christianity is born.