By that, I mean specifically that I believe Jesus really lived roughly two thousand years ago, and was crucified and died on a cross.
Furthermore, I believe that God raised him from the grave, and Jesus ascended into heaven, just like the Bible says.
And today is Easter Sunday, the holiest day on the Christian calendar. In my opinion, it’s not a bad idea to contemplate the resurrection on an Easter Sunday.
On the basic points concerning Christian beliefs, I believe it is safe to say that the vast majority of other people who considers themselves a Christian would agree with me about the divinity of Jesus, and that his resurrection really happened.
Where we may or may not agree is on the question of why Jesus suffered, died, and rose again. Those who, on faith, accept the Bible is literally true, and without error will assert the answer is original sin — in other words, it’s Adam and Eve’s fault for listening to Satan, and partaking from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
I will admit that I have my doubts about that particular belief, but I will explain why in a moment.
My approach to reading the Bible is rather straightforward — I assume that what I am reading is true. The problem with that approach, of course, is the content of the Bible itself. How do you reconcile when two accounts contradict each other?
There are clearly instances where the same story is told more than once, but the details changed from one version to another. In fact, one has to look no farther than the first two chapters of Genesis to find two separate accounts of the creation story.
In Genesis 2 God creates Adam and Eve, and then animals. The creation order is reversed in Genesis 1. How can both chapters literally be true and disagree with each other?
There are also “problematic” stories, like the one I have called the enigma of Abraham and Isaac. A literal interpretation of the story without proper context can lead one to ask some very uncomfortable questions about God — such as, why would God do such a thing?
Why would the Creator of life demand that Abraham sacrifice his only son? A superficial reading of the story makes God appear to be capricious and unnecessarily cruel, which may cause the reader to develop a misunderstanding of God.
Back to the concept of original sin — what exactly are the issues I have with it?
My first problem: the perception it creates of God as being unjust, cruel, and vindictive. Would a loving and compassionate God really inflict eternal punishment on an innocent person for the crime of another? The Bible also says that there are none righteous, not a single person, and that all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. Those I can believe, but the idea of original sin simply makes no sense to me.
Probably nothing offends our modern sense of injustice that the idea of an innocent man being executed for the crime of another person. Frankly, it would be grotesquely unfair for God to condemn me to Hell for something Adam did.
On the other hand, it isn’t difficult for me to realize that by the standards set by God and Jesus the Christ, I richly deserve hell for some of the things I’ve done. The nature of Adam does indeed live inside me — sinful things like pride, vanity, and greed. Furthermore, the capacity to lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, and even murder exists within every human.
Our second greatest gift from God after life, is free will. Humans can choose between right and wrong, moral over immoral, and good over evil. We can resist the temptation to do the wrong thing, if we want.
In reality, Adam has become our scapegoat, humanity’s excuse for failing to live up to God’s expectations. We deserve hell for what we do to each other, and not because of Adam.
My second problem with original sin: the story of Noah and the flood — why didn’t the flood wash it away, along with the majority of humankind?
Why wouldn’t Noah and his family have been given a clean slate on original sin at that point? Does God really hold that much of a grudge against humanity? What exactly was in that piece of fruit that condemned us all?
Third, there is the problem of all the people who lived between Adam and Jesus — how are they supposed to get into heaven? Jesus specifically said that he came to earth for the Jews. What about all the Gentiles, before the crucifixion? Did God really care less about them than he cared for the Jews?
It is true that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophesies of the Hebrews, but Jesus really came for the whole world, because that is what God created.
Finally, there is what I call the “parent” problem: I have a son, and I love him very much. The whole idea that the Father of Jesus would want and even demand that his only son suffer an unbearably painful death — just watching The Passion of the Christ was an ordeal in itself — but especially for a crime someone else committed, is simply unfathomable to me as a father.
In my mind, there has to be more the explanation than blaming the need for the crucifixion other than original sin. The whole idea that in order to preserve grace for mankind, Jesus had to suffer an unjust death simply doesn’t compute.
To me, requiring that Jesus suffer and die for Adam’s sin is about as rational as it would be for me to spank my grandson, because my dog peed on the carpet. I cannot believe the suffering of the Christ served an irrational purpose. I’m certain that God is infinitely more intelligent than me, and not less rational.
All of this speculation leads me back to the “Bigger Picture” question of why Jesus had to suffer and die like he did on the cross for me to be absolved of my sins, and get into heaven. To me, it’s not really a question of “if” he did, but why he did.
Maybe it’s because I write detective novels. I’m obsessed with motive.
Jesus remains the ultimate role model that ever lived. He wasn’t a hypocrite. Jesus showed us how to be kind to each other, and how to stand up to human authority. He led by example, both with how he lived and died. If the crucifixion of Jesus truly served some purpose, what else could it possibly have been, if it was not to absolve the entire world of original sin? What about individual sin?
Now if you have read me before, you probably have figured out that I am fascinated by the evidence of corroborated veridical NDE (Near Death Experience) events.
These are incidents where people who were temporarily declared dead or known to have been in a near death state experienced either a euphoric bliss and described what they believed was heaven, or a state of abject misery they called hell.
Jesus died for my sins — I’m okay with the concept, I suppose, and live with the guilt. But I wonder, could the purpose of the resurrection have been to give us virtually irrefutable evidence that death is not like a light switch, and our soul continues to exist, even after death?
After all, Jesus wasn’t nearly dead. He was dead, for a couple of days. But then Sunday morning came, and Jesus wasn’t dead anymore.
It’s interesting to think about it, and wonder why these things happened.