How Could a Perfectly Righteous God Allow His Innocent Son to Die?


God’s righteousness is perfect. He will never do anything that is not righteous.

What do you make of the assertion that willing an innocent victim to die is not righteous?

And what is righeousness? Is it a created think or essential to God? Jesus “fulfills all righteousness” (Mt 3:11) so is it somehow incomplete in creation? He is our righteousness, He gives us righteousness, but I’m not even sure what it is.


That question is not a fair assessment of Jesus’ death. He wasn’t just innocent Jesus was willing, not just his Father.

The worst thing that can happen to anyone isn’t death–it’s eternal damnation. Everyone dies, whether they are killed when young or die of old age. Physical death, in and of itself, is not, therefore the greatest of evils.

Righteousness is being in union with God. Jesus restored our union with God by satisfying the divine justice as both a divine and human person in the person of Jesus Christ.

Only a divine person could satisfy divine justice, and since man owed God what he could not repay, God sent his Son to be both the divine and the human person who could and would do so.


What do you make of the assertion that willing an innocent victim to die is not righteous?

Jesus is God. Jesus Himself, innocent victim, chose to die for our sins. (St. Paul expounds further on this in his epistles when stating that while ‘for a good person one might barely be able to die’, Christ went beyond this "by dying for us while we were still sinners’). While Jesus did ask His Father to ‘take away the cup if you will’, He further went on “thy will be done.” IOW, He chose to believe that if God required His death on the cross, this death was God’s will and thus totally righteous.


The important thing to remember is that Jesus was not a murder victim - He was a Sacrifice.

When Isaac was taken up the mountain by his father Abraham to be sacrificed, he provided us with a picture of what happened when God the Father sacrificed His Son, Jesus Christ.

When the Jews (and other pre-Christian peoples) offered Sacrifices to God, they believed that the thing being sacrificed was not being destroyed, but rather, that it was being sent, intact and alive, to Heaven.

I have sometimes wondered whether Isaac was ever disappointed that he didn’t get to go directly to Heaven on that day. In any case, he would not have believed that he was being destroyed (murdered) but that he was being given to God, to go and live with God for eternity.

Just as Isaac was restored safe and alive to his father, so also, Jesus was restored safe and alive, through the Resurrection.

For me, it always comes back to that line, which I heard in a movie - “Which one should I sacrifice, Daddy?” “The one you love best of all, my son.”

This is the summary of all the teachings of the Old Testament on the nature of sacrifice.

EDIT: Christ’s return at the Resurrection, intact and alive, is the evidence that His death on the Cross was indeed a sacrifice, and not a murder.


God knew from all eternity what would befall the human race that he would create. Jesus and His father so loved their creatures that Jesus knew for all eternity that he would take on a human body and soul and die to redeem us from our slavery to sin. As God the Son he was more than willing to do this necessary act. As the human Jesus it must have been terrible to know what he would have to go through to redeem us, but he remained true to the will of his Father.


Christ was not an innocent victim.

He was no victim at all. As another poster pointed out, He was a willing sacrifice. No one took His life…He laid it down of His own accord.

There is a world of difference there.

We sometimes forget that God is God. We sometimes forget that the Son is no less God than the Father.

Almighty God.

You asked:

“How Could a Perfectly Righteous God Allow His Innocent Son to Die?”

This is the wrong question…as it is filled with assumptions that are not supported by the Scriptures.

The question really is:

“How could a perfectly righteous God allow Himself to be killed in the place of sinners?”

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. Wow.

Now that is the question.


God is righteous. Man is not. Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary because of the sin of man. It is only because God loves us that He even played the role He did in redeeming us.

God didn’t allow anything. He chose to sacrifice His Son so that man may be redeemed and allowed to dwell in the perfection of His Kingdom. And He did that all because of His love for us.

It is out of that love that God created us in His image. It was man that chose to sin and break the perfection He created us in. It was God’s love and righteousness that He sacrificed for us so that we might regain that again.

THAT is truly, truly incredible.


Christ is both God and Man and he is Priest and Victim. How, it may be asked, can “these things be”?

The answer will be understood if we recall that Christ is God, that he is Man, and that he is the God-Man (St. Augustine, De Civ. Dei, x 20). As God he is the recipient of Sacrifice, because it is the Trinity which is worshipped and propitiated in Sacrifice. Some theologians, indeed, regard the Father, the first Person, as the acceptor of the sacrifice of the Cross, and the words of Trent, Christ “offered himself unto God the Father,” and certain texts in the New Testament seem to support the view. But generally the expression used at Trent is taken to be one of appropriation which means shortly that certain actions common to all three Persons are attributed by convenience and analogy to one Person above the others. The expression in this context is, however, still more simply explained by the fact that Christ is regarded there as the God-Man, “the one mediator of God and men, the Man Jesus Christ.” However mysterious and above reason this conjunction of the natures in one Person must ever remain, it does allow for the possibility of God using manhood as a propitiatory gift, endowing it with his own personal merit, and so combining the representative and the pleasing and holy.



If Christ had been the Word and no Man, then he could not have been a Mediator, for there would have been nothing between himself and the Father save a distinction of personality. If he had been but a Man, again mediation in the strict sense would have been impossible, because the gulf between sinful man and God would not have been bridged. The mysterious conjunction of two natures does, however, resolve the difficulty; and as long as the mediation is assigned to One who does not lose anything of the Godhead by being Man, nor anything of his Manhood by being God, we can understand how Christ though God can offer sacrifice to God.

The difficulty arising out of the identity of Priest AND Victim in the redemptive sacrifice is still less serious because there is no obvious inconsistency in a priest becoming a victim of his own sacrifice. As our Lord had both roles and alone could discharge the debt as representative, it is fitting that he should be both offerer and offered. If, indeed, the office of the priest entailed the slaying of the Victim, then the difficulty would be serious indeed, but it was the Jews who shed his blood: our Lord did not take his own life.



allow Himself to be killed


He was not killed. He laid His life down, and He took it up again.


Joh 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Joh 10:15 as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Joh 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.
Joh 15:13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Joh 19:30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

In the entire ordeal He went through, He could have stopped it at any time; He could have called down legions of angels or just stopped the world, because He is the One who sustains it, according to Colossians. God was offering up God to God; Jesus was offering Himself up as priest and as sacrifice to His Father; in many ways everyone else was and is and will be a bystander.

But how can it be righteous for a righteous man to die when he has committed no wrong? He did not deserve punishment, so He was being unrighteous to Himself, was He not?

Righteousness is being in union with God. Jesus restored our union with God by satisfying the divine justice as both a divine and human person in the person of Jesus Christ.

Then righteousness is a created thing, because our union with God is, as we are, created. But God is called our righeousness. How can He be a created thing?


Actually, your question is:

“What is the nature of God”, and this why:

Your question is a form of the famous “Problem of Evil”. This was an intersting intellectual exercise which has become a cause celebre amongst some philosphers, there are philosophers who devote much of their writing to this subject.

But the Problem of Evil is obviated by the doctrine of free agency (*See *Alvin Plantinga’s excellent essays), as many here have pointed out–Christ was a willing sacrifice, not a murder victim.

If a person believes they have their agency, and I would say most if not all do believe that, then the problem of evil simply fails. For if we act as agents of free will, we cannot be acted upon by God in the manner in which you speak save God violates his own laws. So God acquiesced in Christ’s application of the law, but he did not order it.

In life, men want mercy but justice is required if we wish to live in a world that is “fair”. Well, how can men make the death of an innocent person “right?” We cannot. We cannot bridge the gap between what is desired (mercy) and what is required (justice). So if the postulate is that God can do this thing, your question becomes: “What is the nature of God?” And I suspect this also leads us to “Why are we here, what is our purpose in life?”

These are the questions all faith and philosophy go round and round on.

Know this though: the problem of evil is simply an exercise, it is not a philosophical “proof” of anything. The POE has never overcome free agency, it cannot.

Cheers mate,

Harry R. James


Somehow, it was perfectly righeous for a righteous man to become unrighteous so we could become righteous. But in becoming unrighteous He became more righteous, even though He was already righteous.

God is just. In the end mercy and justice are the same thing, as they are both attributes of God, Who is simple (essence = substance = will = action, etc.) so if God is both just and merciful, one cannot say that part of God is just and another part is merciful. He is all justice and all mercy, without division.

But is God righteous? Is this an attribute of God that is a result of the hypostasis, part of God taking on human form that was not there before?

All theological questions ultimately evolve into Who is God.


Not sure I follow you here. What righteous man became unrighteous in the Atonement? I don’t think that is part of the equation.

Simply because God has attributes that he identifies and says we can rely on does not mean those attributes are the same. Justice is required but we desire Mercy. The Atonement bridges the gulf between the two, it does not equilibrate them and make them the same thing.

Many philosophies seek the idea of “oneness and nothingness” but that’s not what Christianity teaches that I can see.

I don’t know, I think god was righteous and his son was so.

Becoming man was not required for Christ to be righteous for he was divine prior to our existence, no? How God the Father came to be, who he is in every aspect of his being, is not known to me, but I hope to learn one day first hand.

We know that others were called prior to their brith:

Jeremiah 1:5
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Where did they and their righteousness come from then? Did they have to become a man to become righteous?


Harry James


**allow Himself to be killed **

He was not killed. He laid His life down, and He took it up again.

Are you saying that Christ committed suicide?


Christ said He was killed.

You are mistaken.

Act 3:15 “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.”

1Th 2:15 “Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets”

Luk 20:14 “But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

God allowed Himself to be killed.


The outcome of sin is death. Jesus took upon himself the entire sins of the world, past and future. That is why Jesus died-for our sins. I think the Lord started taking on our sins in the Garden of Gesemine-as His sweat turned into blood. Every wound was for our sins. And He is risen-indeed He has!


Well put – excellent post, Atemi. :thumbsup:



So, Atemi, you say He laid His life down, then you say He was killed. Which is it?




They are not exclusive claims.

If I let someone kill me, someone that I could stop at any time, I have both laid down my own life and was killed.

When Christ said He “laid down” His life, He meant He gave it up.

Have a great Resurrection Sunday, friend.


I think this question was answered quite well by our good High Priest, 'Caiphus in John, Chapter 11:

"You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish."

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit