Objection! "The Atonement is Unjust!"

Jun 15, 2020

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is central to the Christian faith. The gospel message is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. Yet some object that Jesus’ substitution for us on the cross is unjust. How is it just for an innocent person to be punished in the place of the guilty? Abdu addresses this objection by pointing to legal principles showing how it can often be fair for an innocent person to take on the liability of another.

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Transcript



Please Note: The Defense Rests is produced to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Abdu Murray: All rise, and welcome to another episode of The Defense Rests, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. My name is Abdu Murray. I'm your host for this podcast, where we take a look at the claims for and objections against the Christian faith from a legal perspective.

I love the way evidence works. I love the way argumentation works, and in this podcast, we take a look at the rules of evidence and the civil procedure and trial procedure and all of this, and put it together and use that as the filter through which we put the Christian worldview, other worldviews that are not Christian, and even atheistic worldviews, and find out if their claims and the Christian claims, or the objections against the Christian faith, hold water. Will they stand up to that kind of scrutiny?

It's been my pleasure to be with you at various episodes, discussing the credibility of witnesses and the collection of testimony and expert witnesses and this kind of thing. And today I want to focus on a central doctrine of the Christian faith and objection to it that it is unjust, that somehow this idea, which is so central to the Christian faith, is incoherent and essentially unjust, even though it is an attempt, this Christian doctrine, to make sense of God's justice and his mercy, and how those two seemingly opposed things can be reconciled one to the other.

That doctrine is none other than the atonement, the atoning death of Christ on the cross, which of course is central to the Christian faith. You can't have a cross-less Christianity nor can you have a Christianity without an empty tomb, but in order to get to the empty tomb, you have to have a cross in the first place.

Now, I'm not going to address the historical issues behind the cross, I think those are really well established, what I want to address is the theological and the philosophical issues related to the crucifixion, specifically, “how does Jesus's death actually atone for our sins?” You see a central part of the entire claim of the atonement is what's called “penal substitution.”

Now, the atonement has many different facets to it. There is the moral influence theory. There's a Christus Victor model. There's this various models and ideas about what happened at the cross and what is the import of it. And I think rather than being singular in its facets, it is multifaceted, the atonement, but a chief facet, a necessary facet, is what's called penal substitution, and it's necessary to be any part of a robust understanding of atonement.

And as I said before, there are many facets, but this is at least one of them, and if it's not the central facet, I don't know what is. That means that this idea of penal substitution has to be defensible.

Now, what does it mean for Christ to be our penal substitute on the cross? It means that Christ pays the penalty. Either he bears the punishment or he pays the penalty that we deserve to pay on the cross in our stead. So he is substituted as the penalty bearer on the cross for us. He stands as if he were legally guilty, even though he was innocent, in our stead, even though we're actually guilty, and he bears the punishment or pays the penalty for us, depending on how you look at it, and that we, therefore, if we accept this, we are allowed salvation, we are entered into Heaven as if we are innocent. So our guilt is imputed to Christ as the guilty party, and his righteousness is imputed to us as if we were not the guilty party, even though we are and even though he remains innocent.

Now, people have criticized this view, both Christians and non-Christians alike. I think it is the dominant view, or at least a popular view, to say that Jesus was the penal substitution, and some people are questioning it. But I think it's central. I really do think it's central. And one of the most prominent defenders of late has been the philosopher, William Lane Craig, amongst other people who have defended penal substitution theory, which developed over the course of many, many years of Christian thinking about what happened on the cross.

But this is a target, especially of non-Christians. Muslims love to pick on the atonement in general, and penal substitution in specific, as somehow unjust. I've heard atheists do it as well. And of course, as I've mentioned before, there are some Christians. And we're going to hear their voices today. We're going to hear from the objectors. We're going to call those witnesses to the stand and address their objections. Specifically, we're going to address this from a legal perspective.

Now, the reason why I'm being very specific here is because you could easily get sidetracked into the biblical issues, is penal substitution biblically warranted? Can you find it's justification in the Bible? And are there other theories as well? And of course there are other theories, but they don't have to compete necessarily with penal substitution. I'm not going to spend a lot of time there because, frankly, I'm not sure this podcast is the forum for that. Maybe in a future episode, we could do that, but here I want to specifically focus on the legal aspects, the ideas of fairness and justice, and whether there are any legal principles that can help us to unpack the idea that Jesus being our penal substitute on the cross does make some kind of sense and comport with our understanding of justice.

Now, good resources to look to, to find out the biblical justifications, and even the history of the theology and the philosophy behind penal substitution, are aplenty. Let me just suggest to you a couple of them to get you started. And they are really quite good and quite in depth. William Lane Craig has a wonderful new book called The Atonement as part of the Elements in Philosophy of Religion series by Cambridge University Press. So that's William Lane Craig, The Atonement. It's a short book. It will not take you a long time to read. But it is a thoughtful book. So you should read it more than once and really grasp the issues that Bill Craig is actually wrestling with there.

The other book is a classic. It's a seminal work on this. It's by Leon Morris and it's called The Atonement. And I highly recommend that as well. So if you want to get a biblical understanding of the basis behind the ideas of atonement and penal substitution and all of this, look at Leon Morris' The Atonement and William Lane Craig's book The Atonement, of the same name.

But they're both great books. I highly recommend that you look at them and read the footnotes. Delve into it deeper yourself. It's a central doctrine, this idea of the atonement, and I think penal substitution, despite its challenges by others, is actually the doctrine or the facet of the atonement that gives it the most depth and robustness. It is the central facet, or as Bill Craig says, it's the table. The table is the top facet of a diamond. The biggest and top facet is the table. I think it is the table upon which all other facets are attached.

So I'm going to respond to a specific objection that penal substitution doesn't make any sense, legal sense or philosophical sense. That it actually flies in the face of justice and forgiveness. So I'm going to come at this with a particular emphasis on legal principles and analogies.

So I've already described what penal substitution is. The idea here is that each human being, all of us, are sinful and we stand in judgment before a Holy God. And if He were to look at our sins and just sweep them under the rug, then He would no longer be Holy, He would compromise his sense of absolute justice, it would compromise his sense of absolute holiness. But if He were to judge us based on our merit and we don't measure up and He would be uncompromising in his judgment, then that leaves no room for mercy. And God is also merciful and He is maximally merciful.

So you see the conundrum, don't you? That if God is maximally just, and He must be maximally just in order to be the maximally great being, then He must address our sin, take it seriously, and not just simply sweep it under the rug, which means He has to address it through his standards and his perfection.

But He's also maximally merciful, which means that He wants to forgive sin, but He can't do it at the expense of his justice. See what happens? If God is maximally just, uncompromisingly so, but then He judges us for our sins, than He can't be maximally merciful because mercy is getting what you don't deserve, whereas justice is getting what you do deserve, and we all deserve condemnation.

But if He's maximally merciful, in a way, that makes Him just sweep our sins under the rug, as it were, just because we're sorry, or whatever, by divine fiat, then He's no longer maximally just, is He? But God is both maximally, just and maximally merciful. And any time He sacrifices one at the expense of the other, then he ceases to become the perfect being, the maximally great being.

The cross as the answer, as it were, historically speaking, it has been answered that God satisfies his justice by punishing sin on the cross in Jesus, so He doesn't just sweep sin under the rug. But He's also maximally merciful in that he allows Jesus to be our substitute so that we don't have to suffer that judgment. So our guilt is imputed to Jesus.

Now it's important to understand what this means. Our guilt is not transferred to Jesus. It is imputed to him. It extends to him. But it isn't necessarily taken away from us and put on him, but it extends to him. Similarly, his righteousness extends to us, but it isn't taken away from him and put on us. So the cross is an effort for God to be maximally just, where he judges sin, but also maximally merciful, in that we, as the sinners, aren't judged for that sin.

That has been, I think, a nice summary of the historical relationship of what atonement actually is. But the objections come and they are that this can't be just because, how is it possible that an innocent person pays the price for the actions and the immorality of a guilty person?

And that's an understandable objection. I see why that happens. So I'm going to call to the stand some Ahmadiyya Muslims. You might recall if you're familiar with Nabeel Qureshi's ministry. Nabeel was an Ahmedi Muslim, and they tend to be very logically prepared and look at the Bible and all of the things to be able to respond philosophically to the Christian faith. So they are typical, this particular panel of Muslims that I'm going to call the stand, are typical of the kinds of responses you'll hear from other Muslims, Ahmadiyya or not, or even some atheists, about the alleged injustices of the cross or the nonsense of the cross. So I called them to the stand. Let's take a listen to their testimony.

Speaker 3: We believe that Allah, the creator, God, is a just God. If somebody commits a crime, even in our day to day life, then he should receive the punishment for it. It is not just to punish a third party for the crime that somebody else has committed.

Abdu Murray: What imputation means, essentially, is that another person, other than the actual wrongdoer, has guilt imputed to them, or liability imputed to them, by virtue of some association with the wrongdoer. A good example would be law firms. A law firm is made up of a bunch of different lawyers and if a lawyer happens to violate an ethical rule, under certain circumstances, the violation by that particular lawyer can be extended, imputed, to his entire law firm and/or to specific partners within that law firm, by virtue of his relationship to the members of that law firm.

We also have this in a thing called “vicarious liability.” Vicarious liability happens where someone's liability is vicariously imputed to another person or to a corporation by virtue, again, of their relationship to each other. The fancy term for this is a legal term, which involves a lot of Latin it's “respondeat superior,” which means, “the master is answerable.” And it's often used in tort law, negligence cases and this kind of thing, where the law can impute the liability of an employee, the servant, to his employer, the master, as it were. And what happens here is that if someone does something in the course of their employment, let's say a truck driver does something negligent in the course of their employment, in particular instances, what the truck driver does on their own, without the knowledge or even approval of their employer, can be imputed, that liability can be imputed, to their employer. We have it happen all the time.

In fact, we'd have this not only in a civil sense, where negligence or these kinds of things, but we also have it in a criminal sense, where an employer and an employee may be found guilty for crimes committed only by the employee.

Two legal scholars talk about this, Philip Lacovara and David Nikolay, say this essentially, under the current federal doctrine of vicarious criminal liability, an organization is held criminally liable or criminally responsible for crimes committed by its agents within the scope of their employment. And with the intent to benefit the organization. The scope of the doctrine is exceedingly broad. It imposes liability regardless of the agent's position in the organization, and even if the criminal conduct was in defiance of express company policy.

Now there's some criticism there as well, because it's not always applied specifically or narrowly enough. But the reality is that under the RICO statutes, the Racketeering and Influence Corrupt Organizations Act, that enterprises can be held liable for the criminal acts of their employees or their agents. So we see vicarious liability, whether it's in a criminal case or in a civil case, where the actions of an employee can be imputed, the guilt of that action can be imputed, to the employer as well.

We also have contractual obligations that will often impute someone's guilt or an obligation onto somebody else. For example, in an indemnification. Lots of contracts, including insurance contracts, and even just regular commercial contracts, have indemnification clauses where a particular party for example, will agree to indemnify and hold harmless another party. So what that means is that let's say party A and party B are entered into a contract, and party B says, if someone else sues you for something or someone drags you in the court and wants to hold you liable for something, someone even outside of the two of us, I agree that I will pay your legal fees. I will pay any judgment you are deemed to be liable for. So you can contractually agree, of your own free will, to take on someone else's liabilities.

And we do this all the time. In fact, I would venture to say, contracts which are signed hundreds of times a day throughout the United States, throughout the Western world, throughout the entire world, include such clauses where we willingly take on the liabilities and the risk of liability of another person, even if we didn't do anything wrong.

Now, someone might say, “look, this seems well and good in civil cases because yeah, money's at stake and all that kind of thing, but we have a certain standard of fairness when it comes to criminal matters.” Well, we address this in the criminal sphere as well. It's called “the felony murder rule.” And I'm indebted to Randy Pistor, a good friend of mine, a lawyer himself, and a crack researcher who helps me with research all the time. Randy pointed this out that the felony murder rule actually requires, or actually allows, I should say, for imputation of someone's actions to another person, and also the guilt for those actions to another person.

This is a law where, when someone commits a crime, usually obviously a felony, it's called the felony murder rule, when someone commits a felony, that person voluntarily assumes the risk of a death happening in the commission of that felony. So just to be clear, so let's say someone walks into a jewelry store and they want to rob that jewelry store and they have a crowbar in their hand and they swing it wildly trying to smash one of the showcases of jewelry in it so they can do a smash and grab. And as they smash the showcase with the crowbar, the crowbar strikes someone in the head and that person dies. Well in the commission of the felony, the robber, even though they did not intend in any way, shape or form to kill or even strike the other person, can be held liable for the murder of that person, because that person died during the commission of a felony.

So you can see it right there. Not only is the action of murder imputed to the felon, even though they didn't technically want to murder a person, but the guilt of that murder is actually imputed to that felon. Now, someone might say, well, that doesn't really apply in terms of the atonement, because in the atonement of Jesus, we have two different people. We have Jesus taking on the sins of another person. So it's not like Jesus did something kind of bad and he's being treated as if he did something terrible, in the felony murder rule, it's that Jesus takes on the guilt of someone else, even though Jesus is completely innocent.

Well, the felony murder rule actually has application in this particular instance because the felony murder rule also applies to accomplices. It applies to accomplices. What do I mean by that? Well, so let's say we have our instance where someone walks into a jewelry store and they want to rob the place and they don't have a gun. And their accomplice is outside waiting as a lookout, and that lookout doesn't have a gun either, but somehow during the smash and grab a security guard pulls out his gun and shoots someone, intending to shoot the robber, who he thinks is a mortal threat, but he intends to shoot the robber, but ends up hitting the store clerk and killing that store clerk.

So you get the scenario here? Neither the felon, nor his accomplice, actually owns a gun, or has a gun at the scene, but a security guard pulls a gun out and shoots someone else by accident, and that person dies, both the felon and his accomplice, though they didn't kill anybody, under the felony murder rule, have not only the action of the shooting imputed to them, but also the guilt for that murder imputed to them because the reason is they assumed the risk that in engaging in a felony like this, that endangers lives, that someone could lose their life. And so we hold them strictly liable for the death of another person.

There's a million reasons behind this. But the fact of the matter remains is that, someone else's actions are, under our legal system, imputed to another person and in fact the guilt for that action is imputed onto another person.

So we not only have civil means by which we impute liability, or whatever it might be, to another person or to an entire group of people through vicarious liability and also contractually through indemnification agreements, but we also have in a criminal sense, in the felony murder rule. But one of my favorite ways to actually talk about the justness of allowing someone else to pay the price for you is what's called a “surety.” Someone who has a surety, S-U-R-E-T-Y, or also what's called a “guarantor.” A guarantor can take on the liability of another person or even their obligations.

I'll explain the scene here. So let's say you have someone who wants to apply for a loan, but they have terrible credit and they will never get a loan from a bank. The bank knows that the minute I give you this money, I'm never going to get it back and you're going to have to chase you for the money, I'll have to get a judgment. I don't want to do that. You're not going to be able to pay me anyway. So I wouldn't give you a loan.

But let's say someone comes along and that person actually happens to be a billionaire. And you know they've got amazing credit. And they say, you know what, give this poor guy, who has no credit of his own, or bad credit, give him the loan and I'll sign as a surety, or a guarantor, of the loan. So if they welch on the loan and they don't pay you back, I will do it. You can come after me. I will pay the penalty.

Now that isn't unfair, is it? There's no way in which that's unfair. Yes, the original person knows that they have the obligation and the guarantor knows, well, I'm voluntarily coming to this table right now, knowing that the person might, in fact he probably will, not be able to pay their debts, but because I want them to somehow enjoy the benefit of the loan or to be free of the debt, I will be their guarantor.

It happens in leases. It happens in finance agreements all the time. All the time. And yet it's not considered unjust. You can see the analogy can't you? You can see it go right to Jesus. Is that Jesus comes and he looks at the Father. The Father says to Jesus, essentially, that these people owe me a debt, or they have to pay the price for what they have done in terms of rejecting me, or sinning against me, they've incurred a debt.

And Jesus says, “They can't pay that debt without perishing and I don't want them to perish. I will be their surety. You can sign me to it. I have no debts of my own to pay and I have infinite resources to pay them because the Father is God and the son is God, they share the same divine nature.” Even though they are separate, distinct personhood or minds, if you will, within the Trinity, the Son says I will pay and he voluntarily does so. And the Father is in no way being unjust when He collects the debt from the Son.

So you can see that we have legal principles that show us that this is actually happening. But now the question is this. Sure, we have vicarious liability and we have plenty of examples of imputation, of both action and guilt, where the guilt is extended to somebody else even though it's not removed from the original person and placed on the new person, it is extended to the new person, as it were. We have this with vicarious liability, indemnification, and the felony murder rule and sureties and all that stuff. But those are all essentially volunteer issues.

How are they volunteer? Well, a couple of ways. First, in vicarious liability, where an employer is held liable for the actions of its employee, the employer knows the law and knows that it can be held liable for the actions of its employees. And so it voluntarily chooses the employees it chooses to employ and knowing that there's a risk involved. So it voluntarily assumes the risk that its employees will do something wrong and make them vicariously liable. That's voluntary.

In indemnification agreements, you have the same thing, where you voluntarily contract to defend and hold harmless and pay the legal obligations, should they be found liable of another party to the contract. That's voluntary.

In felony murder you voluntarily assume the risk that if you're going to commit a felony, someone might die, and if that person dies, you might be held liable for their murder. And if you participate in a felony, even if you didn't do anything to cause the death of another person, you assume the risk that that guilt will be fastened onto you. Again, that's voluntary.

And with sureties and guarantors by definition, when you voluntarily agree to pay the debt or the penalty that someone else owes, that is by definition voluntary.

So now the question becomes, “Was Jesus's atoning sacrifice voluntary?” And for this, we do go to the biblical record. See Isaiah 53 says that it was God's will, the Father's will, that the son should pay the price, that the Messiah should pay the price for us. But the son submitted himself willingly to the Father's will. We see this in John Chapter 10 Verses 17-18. Jesus says this directly of his own mouth, he says this. This is his testimony, "For this reason, the Father loves me. Because I laid down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and I have the authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."

So you see directly on the lips of Jesus, that he does this of his own accord. He is not dragged unwillingly to the cross, contrary to what the Ahmadiyya Muslims said in the clip I played for you. They didn't quote the whole thing, because he doesn't want to go. He doesn't relish the torture and the separation and the forsakenness he's going to feel from the Father on the cross, but he willingly submits himself to it in John, in the Garden of Gethsemane prayer in John Chapter 10, the same book, he says he lays it down of his own accord and he has the power to raise it up again.

So this is important, because oftentimes people will refer to the Gethsemane prayer where Jesus prays on the night before his death, that he wants the Father to take away the cup of torture of the cross from him, if it be possible, but nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.

This is interesting because Jesus does say, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. But the point is, that's not possible and he knows that it's not possible because God is just, and He's maximally just and perfect in justice. He cannot forsake his sense of justice because He would be less than the maximally great being. He would compromise. But He's also merciful, and therefore He cannot compromise his maximum merciful this for the expense of his maximal justice. So how is He both just and merciful? How has He both just, and the one who justifies? How can He do both seemingly opposite things, where justice is getting what you deserve and mercy is getting what you don't deserve? How does God bridge the paradox?

It's not possible unless someone actually is punished and the guilt is imputed to another person, but that person has no debts of their own to pay so they can pay them for us. So justice happens in that sin is punished and mercy has happened in that we are forgiven.

So it is not, I believe, it is not possible for that cup to have been taken from Jesus at all. So now the question remains “then, then why did he pray that way? Why did he say what he said?” That's a fair question, but here's what I would say to you, and I get this, by the way, from Sam Shamoun, who is an apologist who debates and engages with Muslims all the time. I heard him give this response. He says, "When you look at the story of Lazarus, Lazarus is Jesus' friend, he's sick, and he dies, and Jesus lets him die, essentially. He takes his time getting there, so that he can raise him up from the dead. And then Jesus prays before he raises him from the dead. And he says, Father, I know you always hear me, but I pray these things essentially for the sake of those who are hearing this prayer. I'm praying it so that they know what this all means."

So Jesus prays a prayer to the Father that he already knows is going to be answered, but he prays it out loud so that other people can hear it. Now you juxtapose that with the Gethsemane prayer, where Jesus prays three times that if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, but nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. I think we could easily see that he does that by the way, within earshot of his disciples, which means that he wants them to hear, one, how horrible it's going to be, how much anguish Jesus is facing in that forsakenness he's going to experience on the cross when the Father turns away from the son and lets him die and bear the wrath that all of our sins deserve. That's going to be terrible. And Jesus wants his disciples to hear it, just like he wanted his followers to hear the anguish he feels over Lazarus's death, but how he relies and trusts on the plan that he and the Father have for the rest of the world in raising Lazarus from the dead.

Before we close, though, let's deal with one more objection. And it is the objection that even the Bible does not allow for a substitutional atonement or a penal substitution like we've been talking about. And this comes from many people, including Christians, but I'm going to specifically cite a Muslim, a well-known Muslim apologists named Ahmed Deedat, he died some time ago, but he was a very big voice for Islam, and he would often say that the atonement doesn't make any sense, but also it doesn't make biblical sense. And what he would do is he would cite Ezekiel 18 Verses 20-21, to say that no one bears the iniquities of someone else. No one pays the price for someone else. And these kinds of things.

So I call to the stand, the late Ahmed Deedat to give his testimony about why the Bible doesn't allow for substitutional atonement or penal substitution, and then we'll analyze that.

Ahmed Deedat: This is exactly what the Bible is teaching. In the Book of Ezekiel, we are told the soul that sinneth, it shall die. Whoever sins, he will perish. The son shall not bear the inequity of the father, neither shall the father bear the inequity of the son. That righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him. Whatever the good thing the good man does, he will get the benefit, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

But if the wicked will turn, repent, come back from all the sins that he has committed and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live. He shall not die. That is Islam. Same. There is no change.

Abdu Murray: Notice something about what he has done here. It sounds convincing because he's quoted the Bible to refute the Bible, as it were. And he says that the soul that sins, it shall die. No inequity of the father can be passed on to the son, nor for the son to the father, and all that kind of thing. And even righteous people, they get their reward and the wicked get their punishments. And so that's what Islam teaches, he says, and that's what the Bible teaches. There's been no change, up until this invention, he calls it, of the penal substitution or Jesus's sacrifice or atonement on the cross.

Now, two things can be said about this first, the first thing is this Ezekiel Chapter 18 Verses 20-21 layout a general principle, but this passage doesn't speak to representative or vicarious liability, because it isn't meant to. The whole point of this passage isn't to talk about ways in which there can be corporate liability, or corporate sin, or even corporate reward, and we see that throughout the Bible. This particular passage is a general principle that, in general, when someone does something bad, we don't throw someone else in prison or make them pay the debt in general principles.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't special cases or even corporate cases where this happens. The whole sacrificial system from the Law of Moses on that Ezekiel himself would been a partaker of assumes the whole idea of vicarious liability, where a lamb, a spotless lamb, is a scapegoat, as it were, where the sins of the people and the sins of the individual are transferred to that lamb symbolically and then that lamb is killed as if that lamb were the person who gets killed for their sins or pays the price. So it's a general rule as a matter of jurisprudence, but it's not a specific rule that somehow goes against the idea of the atonement.

We see this in our own legal system. As a general rule in our legal system, the one who does the crime is the one who does the time, and the one who owes the debt is the one who's required to pay. But as I've already pointed out through the felony murder rule, through vicarious liability, through indemnification and guarantors, we have specific instances when people can actually have guilt or liability imputed to them, or can voluntarily take on the debts or the liabilities of another person. So in our legal system, we have a general rule, but we also have exceptions under various circumstances. And those circumstances are that we can have the imputation of liability or debt when someone else voluntarily wants to assume it or voluntarily engages in behavior that assumes it.

In other words, when you can and fairly ascribe to somebody guilt or liability, and they chose to risk it or chose to go ahead and do it, it's fair. In Ezekiel, you don't have that situation. The general rule is, absent a voluntary undertaking of liability, the sins of the father will not be meted upon the son, and the sins of the son not to the fathers and the different generations and that kind of thing as well.

But there is more, you see Ahmed Deedat failed to site once again, the entire passage. So I object, your honor. And here's what I would say is that he failed to site the whole thing, where Ezekiel 18 goes on to say that a righteous person who turns away from his righteousness and does anything wrong, will be punished and suffer that penalty. So a righteous person can suffer the penalty because they turn away from that. And wicked people who turn in repentance might receive reward or whatever it might be.

So the question is this, it becomes all too conditional. Who can really say amongst us, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you included, and me, of course, who can really say that we've been totally righteous? Who can say that we've been totally sinful? The point is this, that in our sinful condition, we need someone outside of ourselves to save us from us. We need a guarantor. We need someone who takes on the vicarious liability for us to save us from ourselves. If Ahmed Deedat wants to stand before God, and he did after he passed away, if he wants to stand before God on the strength of his own holiness and his own righteousness, and stand up before an ultimately Holy God, to be judged in light of that holiness, well then he has the right to do so. Every one of us has the right to do so.

In fact, that's actually offered to you and to me in the Christian faith, we can live by the general principle that the soul that sins will be judged, as offered to each one of us. But what's also offered to each one of us is that we can have Christ's righteousness imputed to us and our guilt imputed to him and stand before God, not based on our righteousness, but based on his. There is plenty of precedent for this in the legal atmosphere where we have this and what I would suggest to you, ladies and gentlemen, is that as we object to the substitutional atonement, recognize there is nowhere else to go either.

So yes, I think it makes logical sense. Yes, we have legal precedent. But above and beyond all of that, we have the reality that we need Jesus to be our propitiation. We need him to be our penal substitute.

Until next time, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is Abdu Murray and the defense rests.

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