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Why did God need Jesus to be killed?

(227 Posts)
Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 11:14:38

Not much to add to the title I suppose.

It's just never made sense to me that an omnipotent God would need to do anything he didn't want to, therefore he must have wanted to have Jesus killed.

He could have forgiven us without him being killed - or he isn't omnipotent.

He could have made a world that remained without sin, rather than letting Satan mess this one up in the first week - or he isn't omnipoitent

He could have invented another way of making a symbolic gesture that didn't involve murdering his son - maybe he could have made the earth spin backwards or something to signify a new start.

I just don't understand God thinking "well, I don't need to murder my son, but I think I will anyway because that will show people how loving I am"

So why did he claim to need to have Jesus killed?

HotSlate Mon 01-Oct-12 11:30:49

Well, from an atheist viewpoint, it looks like a case of devising an explanation to fit the story. The explanation is just a somewhat bizarre and far-fetched one, that's all - but I guess nobody said it had to make sense.

Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 11:51:45

I'd agree with you HotSlate but I doubt that's the explanation the Church goes with smile

CoteDAzur Mon 01-Oct-12 11:54:31

"I just don't understand God thinking "well, I don't need to murder my son, but I think I will anyway because that will show people how loving I am""

It's actually worse than that. Remember: Jesus is actually God himself. So he decided to come down and tragically torture and murder himself so he could forgive humanity.

It doesn't make sense at all.

ZZZenAgain Mon 01-Oct-12 11:59:05

I don't know maybe it was a lesson about love that would hit us between the eyes, you know the quote: "greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his life for his friends" (or similar wording to that). The idea that even if you give up all egoism and make the ultimate sacrifice, dying to serve others , it is not the end (as shown by the resurrection), that this is actually something normal people can aspire to do. Some give up a bit to serve others by sharing or putting up with discomfort etc, others give up everything they have, including their own life. Something like that I think. Maybe he could have boomed it out and written in it words of gold fire to illuminate the sky for all time, it is true but instead we got someone who was as human as you and me and demonstrated it.

Tbh I have never felt I really understood this either

LFCisTarkaDahl Mon 01-Oct-12 12:04:15

God as Jesus sacrificed himself for lots of reasons, to feel what it was like to live and die as a man, to struggle with the human condition, to exercise free will to die.

It's genuinely no different than a parent sacrificing themselves to save another by throwing themselves across a body.

Thats If you believe in a universal consciousness (of spirit/soul/whatever) then you believe you are part of the greater god.

Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 12:07:45


the 'greater love' thing doesn't work either. I don't think I'd think 'wow, my friend must have really loved me' if they had their parents kill them, saying it was for my benefit when there was absolutely no need for it. If they had arranged for their parents to keep telling me what a tremendous sacrifice their kid had made for me, and that they'd done it because I was evil, I think I'd call the police.

Also, it's not really 'giving up your life' if you know full well that you will be resurrected, is it? Lots of people have believed they will be resurrected, but if the Bible is to be believed, Jesus knew he'd be resurrected, so it's not rerally a sacrifice anyway. Three days 'dead' when you're immortal is a fairly trivial thing, surely?

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Oct-12 12:10:45

I think you have to remember that the people who were writing it down, and trying to make sense of it, came from a world-view where killing an animal as a sacrifice was a way of "making things right" with God. And the sacrifice had to be perfect and unblemished. So Jesus as a totally innocent sacrifice made sense to their way of thinking, and could be seen as a perfect final once-and-for-all sacrifice. And if you look at it that way, then seeing it as "necessary" would make sense, because they saw sacrifices as "necessary".

Whereas now, that's not a view of the world, or of God, that we can relate to.

Personally I don't think it was "necessary" as much as it was "inevitable" - if God became human and told everyone to totally change their views on religion and social justice, then it ending with everyone sitting round happily chatting about how wrong they'd been up till now was not a likely outcome.

Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 12:12:27


God knew what it is like to be human without being one - he is omniscient.

It's very different from, say, me taking a bullet for my kid. I would do so willingly if I could if the situation ever arrives, but God is omnipotent, remember. He doesn't have to do anything. He can make bullets turn into butterflies.

Also, if I did sacrifice myself for the kid, I wouldn't want my DP banging on about it all the time - I think that'd upset the kid. Taking a bullet for the kid is my duty as a parent, but it's also selfish I guess - she has my genes and is young, so she has a better chance of passing them on again than I do.

God created a situation in which he claimed he had to kill his son. He could have done anything he liked to change that situation as he is omnipotent. He killed his son for no reason.

HotSlate Mon 01-Oct-12 12:26:08

Yes the sacrifice mentality of those who write the scriptures makes sense.

Did anyone see those last two Andrew Marr History of the World programmes? There were a couple of bits on human sacrifice being a superstitious attempt to affect things like earthquakes, floods, weather etc which were interesting.

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Oct-12 12:50:33

What does "omnipotent" actually mean though? Being able to do anything, in theory, still leaves you with consequences of what you do. Unless it means you can totally unravel absolutely everything that has ever happened, and join it all up again not worrying that it makes no sense. So an "omnipotent" God may still have to choose to do or not do things because they'll make more of a mess than they'll fix. And once an "omnipotent" God involves self-aware creatures and lets them have freewill, then the options for exercising that omnipotence get more limited again.

Not that I think he "had to" kill Jesus anyway. I think that bit is religious people explaining what happened.

Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 13:02:00

'Omnipotent' means, well, omnipotent - you can do anything, even though that is impossible (to our minds).

If you start constraining God's power by saying it has to be logical, you strip him of the power to create things.

If you are omnipotent you can't start giving the power away, either. Not if you want to remain God that is.

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Oct-12 13:20:56

So how could God be omnipotent by your definition? I don't think it's possible.

I think if you want to know "How do people who believe in God make sense of Jesus death?" then you'll also have to accept that people who believe in God maybe define words like "omnipotent" in a way which is slightly different from "Can do absolutely anything without considering logic or consequences", because I don't know of anyone who believes that God is actually omnipotent by your defintion, or at least if they do they also put in something like "but chooses to limit the exercise of that omnipotence to allow for a reasonable amount of logic and consequences and freewill"

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Oct-12 13:27:15

Unless of course you believe in an omnipotent God by that definition, in which case I'd be interested to know your take on things like suffering, evil, etc.

Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 13:27:55

Omnipotence is always impossible, but I've never met a believe who says they think God's power is limited, ergo they must be able to reconcile the impossibility of omnipotence for themselves.

It's tested by the old problem "Can God make a rock that is too heavy for him to lift?" - if he can, he can't lift the rock, so he isn't omnipotent. If he can't, he can't make the rock, so he isn't omnipotent.

However, if you start saying God's power is limited you run into other problems. Is God's power too limited to stop famine, for example? If it is, one wonders why, because he provided food for the Israelites in the desert. Why is his power less now? And if he can provide food for the starving, you then of course have to ask why the hell he doesn't.

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Oct-12 13:33:20

So, you've proved that omnipotence is logically impossible. Philosophers have always been able to do that. So believers must mean something slightly different from your definition, mustn't they?

HotSlate Mon 01-Oct-12 13:35:52

Various theories here:

BBC page on Why Did Jesus Die

So looks like it's all theory - eg:
The cross as sacrifice
The cross as a victory
The cross and forgiveness
The cross as a moral example

But basically it seems to be something to do with 'people were naughty' and so a price had to be paid so they could 'become good' again. Maybe the cross was like a kind of naughty step that Jesus metaphorically sat on for us all?

CoteDAzur Mon 01-Oct-12 13:36:50

"The idea that even if you give up all egoism and make the ultimate sacrifice, dying to serve others..."

He didn't die, though, did he? (Because he is God and can't die) So what was the point?

Besides, re Jesus' crucifixion & death: (1) he didn't have much choice in it, and (2) can't say it served anybody.

seeker Mon 01-Oct-12 13:38:41

Because the whole story is a retelling of ancient birth/death/rebirth stories that have been around as long as stories have. The king killed to ensure the harvest, the sacrifice to make sure the spring comes.....All religions have them. It's all to do with how people explained the world to themselves and other people before we understood how it actually works.

Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 13:43:37

It is possible to work with a definition of something that is logically impossible. For examples in maths, the concept of the imaginary number i is useful. i is defined as the sqaure root of -1, which is logically impossible.

I'd always assumed that religious people did something similar with regard to accommodating omnipotence and omniscience, but what you are saying is that believers think the power and knowledge of God is limited?

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Oct-12 13:47:33

Mostly they (we) believe that God chooses not to exercise His omnipotence, because He values other things above that ability - the logic/consequences/freewill that we see working in normal life. So while God could, in theory, stop all sorts of bad things from happening, by doing that he would make a mockery of those other things, so doesn't.

AMumInScotland Mon 01-Oct-12 13:50:05

Oh and I don't generally think about God as being "omnipotent" anyway, it's not one of the "top 10" things I'd list as attributes of God, if pushed to it, so it's not something I spend time worrying about.

Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 13:52:55

Right, so you do think he is omnipotent (even though it's impossible) but that he is self-limiting with regard to his power?

If he is truly omnipotent, everything he did could be logical, as he can also change what we mere mortals understand as logical.

I don't understand why he'd want us to have free will if that free will is what is repsonsible for all the suffering we see - I really don't get it.

Imagine yoour DC is in a class of 30 pupils. Most of them are well behaved, but one is not, and he makes the lives of the others a misery. Do you think it would be appropriate for the teacher to let that child exercise free will even though it impacted on all the others?

Machadaynu Mon 01-Oct-12 13:53:42

Wow - if being literally able to do anything at all isn't even in the top 10 of your God's attributes, I shudder to think what is!

DandyDan Mon 01-Oct-12 14:00:29

Jesus died because human beings crucified him because they didn't like what he was saying/living/being.

His journey which came to an earthly death on the cross was showing us in every part that the way to live rightly is by loving self-giving, which might mean suffering, it might mean death - in this case it did.

The people writing about it will have made lots of connections between Old Testament ideas about sacrifice and scapegoats; also about the covenantal relationship in prehistory. This does not mean God decided to kill Jesus.

I feel ike AMiS - omnipotence is not part of this discussion. Jesus had free-will, like you or me - he could have shut up and kept his head down. His path of doing the right thing - living in a way that revealed the nature of God to people in a new way - led ultimately a terrible death.

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