Is an omnipotent God capable of sacrifice?


#1

I need some help.

I’m engaged in a friendly debate in another site with someone who is a former baptist and is now an atheist.

He put this question to me: “If God is omnipotent, how could he sacrifice. Being omnipotent, he would have nothing to lose. He could come down to earth again and again, knowing that he really wasn’t going to die. Therefore, if God does exist, there could be no sacrifice through Jesus.”

He’s been disatisfied with my answers so far, which have dealt with the fact that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.

I’d like to continue this debate with him on strictly logical and reasoned grounds.

I’ve been searching this site, but haven’t been able to find an answer that hits the mark. I’m also about to reread B16’s Introduction to Christianity to try to find some insight.

A googled definition of sacrifice brought this up: *Sacrifice (from a Middle verb meaning ‘to make sacred’, from Old , from Latin sacrificium : sacer, sacred; sacred + facere, to make)

*Is there something here that’s worth following through on? I think we usually think of sacrifice as something one gives up, rather than as making something sacred.

I greatly appreciate any help. One blessing of engaging non-believers, especially smart non-believers like this fellow, is that it causes me to think more deeply about our faith.

Plus, I think, he’s the type of guy who, if the light bulb goes off, will be as passionate about Christianity as he now is about atheism.


#2

Utica,
I wanted to give all sorts of helpful insights, however, I think you have the best souce for your on going discussion (not debate) at your finger tips. That is the work of our Pope you memtioned, “Introduction to Christianity”.

My only addition is perhaps the wrong person is reading it. My suggestion is this, give your friend this great work and ask him to read it and the continue your diologue. Just make sure you get the book back!


#3

The error in your friends argument seems to be in thinking Jesus really didnt die. He did suffer and die for us knowing full well he could have snapped his fingers and done it an easier way. To me anyway that makes it even more of a sacrifice as I know I tend to take the easy way out of tough situations more often then not.


#4

[quote=utica]I need some help.

I’m engaged in a friendly debate in another site with someone who is a former baptist and is now an atheist.

He put this question to me: “If God is omnipotent, how could he sacrifice. Being omnipotent, he would have nothing to lose. He could come down to earth again and again, knowing that he really wasn’t going to die. Therefore, if God does exist, there could be no sacrifice through Jesus.”

He’s been disatisfied with my answers so far, which have dealt with the fact that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.

I’d like to continue this debate with him on strictly logical and reasoned grounds.

I’ve been searching this site, but haven’t been able to find an answer that hits the mark. I’m also about to reread B16’s Introduction to Christianity to try to find some insight.

A googled definition of sacrifice brought this up: *Sacrifice (from a Middle verb meaning ‘to make sacred’, from Old , from Latin sacrificium : sacer, sacred; sacred + facere, to make) *

**Is there something here that’s worth following through on? I think we usually think of sacrifice as something one gives up, rather than as making something sacred.

I greatly appreciate any help. One blessing of engaging non-believers, especially smart non-believers like this fellow, is that it causes me to think more deeply about our faith.

Plus, I think, he’s the type of guy who, if the light bulb goes off, will be as passionate about Christianity as he now is about atheism.

[/quote]

1. Gods were given meals because they were thought to need them - that was part of the understanding of them which was behind the idea of sacrifice, when Israel had its own priesthood: gods needed attention, just as men did. Israel got ideas from its environment - and many of these ideas are present in the NT documents, often in different form: see Romans 12, for example, for what Paul says about sacrifice.

  1. Sacrifice is given to God, not because God needs it, but because man needs to worship. It’s a need in human nature. Since there is a God, a Being greater than man; and since this God has made all men in His own image, it is not surprising that we should want to act in accord with how He has made us. To give something to God, is what man does in offering sacrifice. It is separated from this-worldly uses - IOW, it is made holy - and it thereby ceases to be man’s, and becomes God’s. That is why destruction of a sacrifice has been so important: by destroying what is given, men make sure that they cannot be given it back - it becomes God’s, no matter what; it is a way to put the sacrifice beyond all possibility of being reclaimed; though, not all sacrifice has involved destruction.

So you’re right :slight_smile: - it is made sacred because it is “set apart”, made holy, so that it may be used for a holy purpose: so that it can be “made over” to God’s uses. To be “profane” is to be “outside the temple”, outside the realm of the holy, outside the area where the god of the temple is operative. temples are holy because they are god’s houses;& the most holy place in them, the sanctuary, is holy because it is where the god lives. the priest is the person who transfers the “profane” offering (a calf, say) from being “profane” to being “holy”. It can be used for the god - it is fit to be offered in sacrifice.

In the Mass, the priest, people, and place are all holy - so all can attend the Sacrifice, instead of being at a distance. God gains nothing - if anything, the God to Whom we sacrifice, is the God Who has provided the means of sacrifice: we give Him only what He has already supplied, so that from His riches we in our poverty may have something to give Him - & that something, is Himself. God is alway giving to us: we could not give to God, if He did not. That is why the Eucharistic Prayer says that “Of your own do we give You”, and stresses that He is the Creator of all things: for as He is, there is nothing that we cannot give to God, just as He has given us Himself in His Son. ##


#5

I’m actually writing a paper on this for my philosophy class at Notre Dame…

God is not only omnipotent, He is also omnibenevolent. A omnipotent capable God is capable of doing anything He wants, but through His goodness, He gave His only Son to die for us. I say that’s something you can bring up.


#6

Well… consider that we humans are CREATIONS and we are extremely FINITE.

Instead of viewing God as “omnipotent”, consider Him as “INFINITE”.

Meditate on Infinity. What is it? How would the use of our pathetically inadequate words [we are SO LIMITED by our available selection of words ] such as “Infinite” change or reframe or reformat the thinking of God’s essential nature.


#7

Does your friend feel that Jesus did not actually die? Does he apparently feel that, well, since Jesus was God and knew He would “come back” that somehow the beatings, the crucifixion, and the death were LESSER things than they would be for any of the rest of us? Gracious, what a twisted perspective that would be–and what an attack on the idea of divinity, making the omnibenevolent action of God, the one who created the universe and every one of us, less of a sacrifice than from the ALMIGHTY HUMAN BEING. Talk about remaking God into the image of man–and finding Him wanting, at that! :mad:


#8

Thank you everyone, for your responses. It is really helpful. Keep them coming!

[quote=TEME525]I think you have the best souce… the work of our Pope… “Introduction to Christianity”.
…give your friend this great work and ask him to read it and the continue your diologue.
[/quote]

I agree that this work would be great for him to read. I read it this past summer and it blew me away. I fell in love with B16 then and there! Sadly, I don’t think this guy will read it at this point.

[quote=Gottle of Geer] God gains nothing - if anything, the God to Whom we sacrifice, is the God Who has provided the means of sacrifice: we give Him only what He has already supplied, so that from His riches we in our poverty may have something to give Him - & that something, is Himself.

[/quote]

There may be something here that will appeal to his sense of reason. The idea that the only sacrifice that could fully be worth of God would be Himself. I need to sit with this more.

[quote=zahmir] God is not only omnipotent, He is also omnibenevolent. A omnipotent capable God is capable of doing anything He wants, but through His goodness, He gave His only Son to die for us
[/quote]

I think this is an excellent point, and it is essentially the one I already brought up with him. It’s the one that makes perfect sense to me.

[quote=Al Masetti] Meditate on Infinity. What is it?
[/quote]

Good point. Well before taking on the theology of sacrifice, this man needs to grasp the notion of an infinite God. The debate we’re in is the cart before the horse.

I was thinking about buying him Anthony Rizzi’s book The Science Before Science, although I haven’t read it myself yet. Has anyone here read it? Dr. Rizzi is a physicist and orthodox Catholic. I heard him on EWTN the other day. I think a solid science based Catholic view on the current state of science may appeal to this guy.

[quote=Tantum ergo]Does your friend feel that Jesus did not actually die?
[/quote]

No. It’s more that he put forth the question as proof that God does not exist. In his thinking, if God did exist He could not possibly sacrifice Himself because He would be incapable of sacrifice.

I really love this site! What a wealth and blessing you all are. I learn so much here.

Without seeking it, I’ve become the Catholic apologist on this other site. God help them all! I’m such a newbie. It’s not a realigious site, but often religious threads begin in parts of the forum.

The interesting thing is that more and more I feel that I’m needed there. It’s just a little piece of the world, the cyberworld at that, and it doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. But I feel a great tenderness for folks like this man. He and I agree about absolutely nothing, but I get a strong sense that his search is sincere, that all it needs is a little nudge in the right direction. So I feel very responsible in answering his question with as much care as I can.


#9

If his main contention is that God does not exist, then I would focus on what he defines “God” to be. I would compare his definition against the standard that God “is” existence. Also, see if he will at least acknowledge that the “concept” of God exists…

God bless you for this.

hurst


#10

Well, if our faith is strong enough then we know we “have nothing to lose” either, right? We still fear suffering and death to some degree or another, but I think one of the reasons God gave us salvation in the manner He did is to show us that we too “have nothing to lose”.


#11

[quote=utica]He’s been disatisfied with my answers so far, which have dealt with the fact that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.
[/quote]

IOW, as is typical of atheists, he conveniently ignores the correct answer to his objection.

– Mark L. Chance.


#12

[quote=utica]I need some help.

I’m engaged in a friendly debate in another site with someone who is a former baptist and is now an atheist.

He put this question to me: “If God is omnipotent, how could he sacrifice. Being omnipotent, he would have nothing to lose. He could come down to earth again and again, knowing that he really wasn’t going to die. Therefore, if God does exist, there could be no sacrifice through Jesus.”

He’s been disatisfied with my answers so far, which have dealt with the fact that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.
[/quote]

Something I missed [there really should be a “mea culpa” smiley :)] :o

It’s very important to emphasise the reality of the Incarnation - to say that God was not going around disguised as a man, but genuinely became man, without reservation.

The Incarnation gave Jesus no advantages over us:
[list]
*]He was hungry, He mourned, was filled with grief, valued friendship, was betrayed, bled, was pierced, died.
[/list]
[list]
*]Yet - this man is God.
[/list]The balance includes emphasising both of these - they are complimentary, not mutually exclusive. To ignore either, results in a grievously lop-sided Christology:Jesus becomes:

God in a human appearance
A mere man
A hybrid of the two
A loose union of God with man

  • or some other variation of these.

The Cross is what keeps the two together: it is a guarantee that God takes part, personally, in the extremity of human suffering. God is not a privileged God Who can safely watch from a distance: when the Patripassians claimed that the Father had suffered too

The NT does not show us Jesus Who was cushioned from pain by being God: it does stress the reality of His sufferings, simply by mentioning the Cross so much - it spends far more time on the Crucifixion than any other document from antiquity did, because the Gospel of His Resurrection makes no sense without what led to the Resurrection. ##

I’d like to continue this debate with him on strictly logical and reasoned grounds.

I’ve been searching this site, but haven’t been able to find an answer that hits the mark. I’m also about to reread B16’s Introduction to Christianity to try to find some insight.

A googled definition of sacrifice brought this up: *Sacrifice (from a Middle verb meaning ‘to make sacred’, from Old , from Latin sacrificium : sacer, sacred; sacred + facere, to make) *

**Is there something here that’s worth following through on? I think we usually think of sacrifice as something one gives up, rather than as making something sacred.

I greatly appreciate any help. One blessing of engaging non-believers, especially smart non-believers like this fellow, is that it causes me to think more deeply about our faith.

Plus, I think, he’s the type of guy who, if the light bulb goes off, will be as passionate about Christianity as he now is about atheism.


#13

Hi -

I’m just reporting back on my efforts.

Here’s a sample of one post I put to this atheist fellow:

Because of The Fall, God required a perfect sacrifice in order for us to be reconciled to him. Sacrifice has another meaning in addition to a giving over or offering. The sacri in in the word sacrifice has the same root as the word sacred. Sacrifice means to make something sacred.

To sacrifice to a god is to offer that god something sacred. God the Father required a perfect sacrifice for our redemption. Since God is perfection, the only perfect sacrifice, or sacred offering, could come from God.

So God, who is infinite, entered into our history and into the constraints of time and space. As a being fully human, he could feel the agony of his passion. As a being fully God, he could be the perfect sacred offering.

It’s true that God could do that over and over if he wanted. Actually that’s what happens, in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Through the power of the Holy Spirit (God), the priest standing in persona Christi and those assembled offer up the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Son (God) to the Father (God).

It is the same sacrifice that happened on Calvary. It is not a rememberance or reenactment, but literally the same sacrifice. This is possible because God, who is infinite and beyond the constraints of space and time, is also omnipotent and may enter back into our world of the material and be truly present, under the appearance of bread and wine.

Meditating on this, a God who can be both beyond time and space and a God who can materially enter into our world, has helped me grasp the reality of being both a tiny speck in the vast ocean of the universe and, at the same time, a participant in the great drama of human life.

Christianity is the answer to how one can know and be known in a reality that, fully, is beyond our human comprehension.

(continued in the next post)


#14

And a sample of another post put to someone who chimed in and is more of an agnostic:

I don’t think that you can force yourself to believe something when sincerely you do not. I do think that in exploring any aspect of human existence we ought to take advantage of the entire deposit of knowledge and wisdom in drawing our conclusion. In other words, stay on the journey of looking for the truth.

Since your search is in the realm of the philosophical, I would compare the great religious traditions and look at the philosophy and even the cosmology that they support. For a study of Christianity, a good start is Aristotle. Christianity is the pulling together of the personal God discovered by Israel, and the God of All Being, or the Logos the Word, discovered by the Greeks.

For some solid reading in what the Catholic Church teaches about the nature of reality, Thomas Aquinas would be excellent. He helped rekindle the study of Aristotelian philosophy, and helped establish the use of empirical evidence as a legitimate way of coming to know God. His work sparked the devolopment of scientific discovery in Western Civilization. Summa Theologica is his major work. I haven’t read it fully myself. It is a major work. But there are many secondary sources for getting at Aquinas. One good one is Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox by GK Chesterton. There’s also a new book out I’ve been wanting to read by the physicist Anthony Rizzi called The Science Before Science. I believe it deals a lot with the work of Thomas Aquinas.

Also, the first part of Pope Benedict XVI’s book Introduction to Christianity would be good. The first part deals with the nature of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God, or rather Being, of the Greeks, Logos. Interstingly, B16 wrote this almost fourty years ago. In one meditation, he paints a picture of the ultimate reality of God that is completely in synch with discoveries in physics like string theory. If nothing else, it would be a good read to assure yourself that Christianity, at least as taught by the Catholic Church, is not anti-science, and believes in the use of all of the senses in coming to know God.

Yes, it makes sense to hope that God doesn’t notice our unbelief. :slight_smile: However, God knows all, so our hope is in vain. Even a Saint as great as Augustine struggled with doubt. He said, “Lord, I believe in you. Help me in my unbelief.” Don’t worry, when it comes to doubts about faith, you’re in good company. :wink:

I’d be interested in any critiques of these. I know I made some claims that I’m actually not 100% sure about.

There was a little movement. The atheist fellow finally admitted that he does wonder if there is a god, and that he does live his life with a degree of “faith” (for him that means “faith” that everyone will agree that money has value, but I thought that the notion of having “faith” in anything was good movement.)

And the agnostic fellow really was appreciative of the reading list.

Thanks again everybody. This apologetics thing is kinda fun. :slight_smile:


#15

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