Philosophical Objections to the Atonement (William Lane Craig)

The earliest Christian creed, which can be traced back to the original disciples of Jesus, began with the claim that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Hence, from a Christian perspective, the doctrine of atonement is not in dispute. Nevertheless, Christians may struggle to understand how Jesus’ death on the cross somehow reconciles us with God, and critics often raise objections to the Christian view. In the following lecture, William Lane Craig responds to philosophical objections to the atonement.

The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word that we translate into English as “atonement” does not appear in the NT. The Hebrew word is “Yom Kippur” which is directly translated into English as the “Day of Covering”. This word only appears in the OT. It does not mean “at onement”. Why? Christ did not cover the sins of the elect at the cross. He separated the sins of the elect “as far as the east is from the west” and God “remembers them no more”. The NT carries propitiation (God’s satisfaction) from the OT. Hebrews 10 and 1 John (the only NT letter to use the term) give real clarity to this point.

William lane Craig is a great teacher. Filled with passion and genuine love for God and those who want to learn about Him

If according to Divine Command ethics God can do whatever He wanted, why He can’t just forgive people for their sins and not punish anyone, moreover Christ His Son for their sins? Is it not true that according to theonomy based Divine Command ethics God could decide anything include just forgive people for their sins without asking for substitutionary attornment? If according to W. Craig the payment by the innocent person was only required by Divine Command ethics, then why Loving God Father would not choose any other way of dealing with sins, or simply pay it by Himself? And what kind of justice theory prohibit God the Father just to take the insult and sins of the world onto Himself and accept all His sufferings and consequences from our sins as His own payment for Himself? And this is exactly what Jesus GOD did paying for their sins without asking for any substitutionary attornment to Himself? SO, why God the Father did not go Himself on the cross but sent His Son? Is it considered to be a picture of the loving Father? This shows that the theory of substitutionary attornment is totally illogical and it never taught this by early church fathers and it came only in 12 century!
Moreover, Jesus is also the same God as the Father and Jesus God was also affected by world sins as God the Father and include pain of the unjust crucifixion by the evil people. But Jesus simply forgave the sinners without requiring any substitutionary attornment to Himself, yet people sinned against God Jesus even more than against God the Father! And if the substitutionary attornment has to be given by God Christ to satisfied God the Father, who then will have to give substitutionary attornment to the God Jesus? Yet, if Jesus could just forgive the sinners without requiring any substitutionary attornment for Himself why God the Father can’t do the same?
Moreover, from the cross, Jesus even asked His Father to forgive those who crucified him. But why He asked God the Father to forgive them if these people were just doing God’s ordained work by punishing Jesus on the cross? Moreover, they did this in order to give God the Father some kind of satisfaction of His anger that He before had collected it toward these people! So, how logic is working here?
Moreover, bringing the story of how God asked Abraham to scarifies his son Isaac to God, is totally incoherent here! Because if the theory of substitutionary attornment is right then to whom God the Father gave His Son as the sacrifice, as Abraham did to God? And if God the Father gives Jesus as the scarifies to “someone” else then He must go through all the pain that Abraham went when he needs to kill his son! Yet the theory of substitutionary attornment says that God the Father did not feel the same Father’s pain of losing his Son, but on the contrary God the Father was simply expelling His “anger” on Jesus giving satisfaction to Himself mystically presenting Jesus as the worst sinner? But again, how logic and God’s Father love is works here?
In the best scenario, the of substitutionary attornment may work as the Good God Jesus protecting people from the “bad and angry” God the Father who can’t forgive people without expelling His anger on someone, yet Jesus did forgive them with showing His love not the anger. And in the worst scenario, the substitutionary attornment theory looks just the same as paganism where unguilty children were required to be given as the sacrifices to the pagan idols and demons in order to satisfy their anger or sadistic desire for causing someone unguilty the pain and somehow feel the satisfaction from it! God the Father would never do that to His Son Jesus or any of his even lost and sinful children! Is it not that we teach in our churches that even if God needs to punish someone, he does out of love but not to satisfy His anger?
And, again, if Jesus who is also fully God, yet He can forgive the world without asking any substitutionary attornment to Himself why God the Father could not do the same? The theory of substitutionary attornment or penal substitution can’t answer these questions without making God the Father look like a bad God and making God Jesus as the Good God! And if this is true it would be totally wrong in understanding of whole Trinity concept!

The substitutionary attornment was only come in the 12th century and later cause the Catholic church to come of idea of indulgence. Early church fathers never teach the substitutionary attornment theory! Why the protestants need to accept this unthinkable theory instead of accepting the fact that Father God gave His Son, and Jesus gave Himself just to show how all sins of the world is being laid on God’s heart and cause Him great pain and suffering. ALL PERSON OF GOD TRINITY IS THE VICTIME OF OUR SINS! And Jesus was the same victim of the people’s sin as Able was the victim of Cain’s sin! So, now the blood of Jesus speaks about our sins today better the blood of Able! And only understanding can bring us to repentance before the God Son and GOD the Father who gave His Son to us but we killed them to satisfy our anger and sin on Him. Yet, only after we killed Him we finally understood the depth of our sins and came with repentance to God. The substitutionary attornment only saves people from God’s anger and later guilt but it nothing to do with the sinful soul. Yet, if we think of all God Trinity as the victim of our sins throughout all human history. And if we can finally understand that God wants to forgive all sinners unconditionally without any substitutionary attornment! Because God’s plan is not to satisfy His anger but to bring us back to Him through repentance by showing us Jesus’s wounds from the cross and GOD Father’s pain form our sins and our sinful evil nature that make us want to kill His SON!

But can we really deal with this matter in this legalese manner? Are we doing a big mistake by not putting the argument in it’s probably most simple way… which is to accept, that by the time God entered man’s nature makes it possible for him to free man and make all possible for the ones of his kind. Through God’s incarnation there is a man in front of us , Jesus the Christ, who had the ability and the appointment of doing what we could not do. It is inevidable that Christ could not play less of the role of ours, since he had had the authority (how could God not?) to come in flesh.
The fact that God abided in us has the consequence of the Christ having all the rights and burdens which we can bear. The incarnation itself is more important than anything else and no legalese way can make Christ’s rule over mankind invalid. It is absolutely legal and true that the one who accepts to participate to our pure nature has the right and had already decided to accept our sins as a sinner, no less. Who is the one who will say that this can be illegal? Meaning that not only God has decided to set things this way, but even through logic, can’t we or God himself simply choose our representative and send him solve our problems? This has nothing to do with who is to blame, but has to do with our kind, our race our future and a pure representative who held our enemy’s wrath without sinning, winning the prize for the rest of us. A brother and a Lord. Redemption and atonement come indirectly by the time he took our nature, the first cause was him to live and carry us on his shoulders.

Owwww my brain

Penal substitution cannot take away or cover our sin, sin must be forgiven or covered, washed or cleansed. Punishment is the wrong premise. So sad.

Listening to talks like this is a wonderful way to develop the mind with which to worship God.

The whole idea of atonement is completely ludicrous. If there is a God, I would think that this idea is an insult to him. If he has the power one would expect, why would he need to do something like sending Jesus down to pay for our bad deeds? That is completely fucked up and proof that human beings are morons.

A very learned way of making difficult to understand things now absolutely not understandable anymore and missing the whole point in the process. Sad. Especially because I appreciate Craig’s efforts in the Creation-Evolution debate.

I usually do not like Dr. Craig’s explications because he often wanders too afar from theological discussions in a very artificial dichotomy between philosophical exploration and theological exegesis. But, it so happened that this very topic is a disproof of his often dualist approach to apologetics, and so I very, very much enjoyed this discussion of his. By coincidence and also to the point that I am raising, I have been under personal study in the Scriptures of the nature of the Atonement (thanks also for the etymology) for recent days. And I have approximated to Dr. Craig’s last philosophic solution by the Scriptures of Hebrews 2, Isaiah 59, and Mark 12:1-12. Thanks for uploading this.

I think i needed to swallow a dictionary before watching this, otherwise good

The Reformed-Calvinist doctrine of penal substitution is the parallel of the Latin-Augustinian doctrine of original sin, whereby God imputes the guilt of Adam to all human beings. It was never entertained in the Christian East. Each person bears responsibility for his own transgressions, as the Scripture attests.

Sin naturally results in death, as sin is separation from the Source of life, and by “taking our punishment” and “becoming the curse” for our sakes, Orthodox Christians understand Christ to have entered our fallen condition and received in Himself, voluntarily and undeservedly, the full consequences of our sins. God does not declare the innocent guilty, devising legal fictions to bring about utilitarian outcomes. “We” esteemed Him afflicted by God, but God was well pleased with His Son. It is worse than Nestorian to suggest that the Father turned against the sinless, divine Christ on the cross, and it is worse than antinomian to suggest that the central operation of God’s justice in creation is based on the falsehood of “let’s pretend you’re guilty and they’re innocent.” If the debt is paid, there is no room left for forgiveness. Christ entered death so we would be raised to life WITH Him, not instead of Him, so in this sense the atonement is participatory rather than substitutionary.

I did not watch the whole presentation, but I mainly focused on where he said that penal substitution is justified via divine command theory. I would agree with him, but I think this leads to problems. Divine command theory taken consistently would hold that our moral intuitions and reasoning give us no insight into God’s moral perfections. If this is the case, then why are counter-intuitive and abhorrent acts of “justice” like penal substitution justified because God has no moral obligations, but the many decrees of Allah that Christians find morally abhorrent a reason to believe Islam is false, since it goes against their moral intuitions. Take this example, a person in a kingdom commits a petty crime, but because of the King’s draconian standards he will be tortured to death, but the prince comes in to satisfy the wrath of the king, and take the place of the original person’s punishment. We would think that this king is a madman or tyrant, but when this standard is applied to god, the response is that God has no obligations. Well, Allah has no obligations, and can do as he pleases. Do our reasoned and honestly reflective moral concepts lead us to insights about what is true morally? If so, I believe this leads towards Karma, since it fits best Kant’s synthetic a priori between virtue and happiness. In Christianity it seems as if one’s happiness is not proportional to the virtue that they have done in life, but that they happened to guess the right religion. Thinking about this, I am laughing because I have in mind the South Park episode where everyone is puzzled that they are in hell, and surprised to find out the Mormons were correct.

Perhaps this is a weak objection, but why did Jesus come at all? I mean, weren’t we doing just fine sacrificing innocent animals? I’m certainly not complaining but it does seem to raise some questions.

I always found WLC bit sleazy and dishonest. As always he discusses in full non-existent issues. :slight_smile:

Humanity was hopelessly lost. Mankind fell straight from the start and was utterly incapable of saving himself. So God put a plan together because He loved mankind. It was a long and detailed plan that spanned many generations. Humans needed to be shown that they could not fix their broken relationship to God. God gave a small tribe laws to follow perfectly, but not a single person could do it. No one had made to heaven on his own. No one had made it to God.

Christ was the last piece of the puzzle. God would come down and be as He expected mankind to be from the beginning and then willingly took the punishment that mankind deserved. The trap was broken. God would offer Grace freely to all that would accept it. Some would not accept it and were cast out into the second death.

Sin addiction creates a barrier between us and God. It prevents us from accepting God’s Grace. It makes us hate God. It makes us incapable of recognizing God.

Everyone born after the cross knows the Light of Christ. We knew it before we came into this world. If we haven’t been ensnared by sin, we will know it when we leave this world.

Thank you for sharing this.

I am unconvinced by any theory of the atonement I’ve heard, but I have no coherent alternative to offer.

why are we sinners? why are we in need of this atonement? why atonement as human sacrifice? why that time and place? none of this makes any sense when we consider science and evolution and genetics…