Atheist: “How about this? If god is without limits why would he have to send his son to die In order to forgive sins, why is he bound by rules that would make that necessary? If he was without limits wouldn’t you expect that if he wanted to forgive sins he would just do it without having to have a blood sacrifice. The fact that god can only forgive sins if there is some sort of blood sacrifice indicates that it was in reality an idea of primitive man and not that of a supreme being”

Christian: Those questions are more problematic for the Western Christian view that has prevailed from the Middle Ages and especially after the Reformation but they don’t really come up in an Eastern or patristic context.

The question was asked so I will try to give an Orthodox answer…

You are right, God could have simply forgiven us but we would have remained unhealed had not the Great Physician become one of us and modeled the perfect life of love (“what is unassumed is unhealed” -St. Gregory of Nyssa). Our slate would have been clean but we would still be prone to sin. God’s intention was not just to dust us off but to totally transform us from the inside out.

Christ’s death was not required by some blood lust from the Father to satisfy an imaginary rage nor was it a ransom to the Devil to buy us back. As St. Gregory the Theologian explained, “Now we are to examine another fact and dogma, neglected by most people, but in my judgment well worth enquiring into. To Whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause? If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his Father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanityof God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things? So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence.” (Oration 45.22)

Killing Christ was our idea and allowing it to happen for our healing was God’s choice “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”  The cross is the culmination of Christ’s love for us but we are saved by His total act of love from His birth, through His life, death, and resurrection.

In short, Christ’s death was not because the Father was limited by some law but because our human response was limited in love and gratitude for His coming.



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