Jesus Didn't have to Die?


#1

In Karl Keating’s book Catholicsm and Fundamentalism he mentions that Jesus did not have to die. That he could have simply willed our salvation and it would have happened. That He died to show the depth of his love for us. The latter statement, I have no problem with. The former, however, is completely alien to me.

The way I’ve been taught, Jesus’ death was something of a “legal” issue. From the time of Adam and Eve, sin resulted in the shedding of blood. God had to kill some animals to cover Adam and Even with the skins. Later, God instituted the sacrificial system with atoning for sin with the blood of animals.

Originally, God gave Adam dominion over the earth and animals. When Adam sold out to Satan, God could not have just said, “Okay well…that was a bust. I changed my mind. Gimme my earth back.” He could not because He would have had to go back on His word, and God doesn’t do that.

So He had to “buy back” the souls of man by using the system He Himself set up. He Himself came and offered Himself as the final sacrifice - perfect and without blemish like the Passover lamb. And his blood did not simply atone for, it did away with our sins.

So yes…I believe Jesus did have to die according to the system that God Himself laid down. God could have chosen a bloodless redemption but He did not. By remaining spotless, He Himself was the perfect sacrifice to do away with sin “once for all.”

It also follows the concept of “covenant” found throughout the Old Testament. The shedding of blood, the becoming family, the exchange of benefits.

Thoughts? Clarifications?


#2

blaahahhhh! I meant to post that in Apologetics. Moderators move if you want. Thanks. :o


#3

Hello Curious,

I agree with you. God cannot go back on His Word. God cannot lie. If God says that the penalty for sin is death then this is the way it is. This is why Jesus had to die in we sinners place so that we can live. Jesus fulfills the law so the law does not have to be fulfilled through our spiritual death because of our sins.

NAB GEN 2:15

The LORD God gave man this order: “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”

Peace in Christ,

Steven Merten

www.ILOVEYOUGOD.com


#4

relief Well thanks Steve. I see that you are Catholic and I wanted the Catholic point of view on this. I wonder if there even is a Catholic point of view on this. Not only did I read that statement that Jesus didn’t have to die in Catholicism and Fundamentalism but I’ve seen it mentioned elsewhere on the forums.


#5

[quote=Curious]The way I’ve been taught, Jesus’ death was something of a “legal” issue.
[/quote]

That’s fine. But who made the Law?

God did. And God did not have to make sacrafice as part of the law. He chose to, knowing full well at the time that when He made such a law what the outcome would be.

And of course God did not have to make the law in that way. God doesn’t have to do anything… He is God, after all.

So, I have to side with the “Jesus didn’t have to sacrifice Himself for us” argument.


#6

I think that the point about Jesus not having to die is based on what Catholics call ‘natural theology’: that is, what can be discovered about God through reason, before revelation is brought in (to use the technical term ‘prescinding’ from revelation). And if you use logic (I won’t go through all the arguments, but check out the Catholic Encyclopedia at ), you find that one of the things that has to be true about God is that He is totally unconstrained by anything outside His own nature. Since He is truth, He ‘cannot’ utter a lie, for instance; since He is omnipotent, He ‘cannot’ make - remember that old conundrum? - a rock too heavy for Him to lift; since He is omniscient, He ‘cannot’ fail to know all things.

Now if we assume that the only way in which God could save His people was for Jesus to die, that is clearly a constraint: and we’ve just seen that God cannot be constrained by anything beyond Himself. So it therefore follows that Karl is quite right, and is stating perennial Catholic teaching: the Crucifixion was not the only way in which God could have saved us. (I too was appalled when I first read this, having also been taught as an Evangelical that it was the only mode of salvation.)

However, we don’t have to rethink our faith quite so radically as this may seem to imply. Taking Steven’s point, it becomes clear that, although God did not have to send His only Son to die for our salvation, the history of the human race and of the Chosen People, the Jews, is such that God is clearly planning our Lord’s sacrifice from the very start; and thus, since


#7

I think that the point about Jesus not having to die is based on what we know about God through reason and revelation. And if you use logic - though I won’t go through all the arguments), you find that one of the things that has to be true about God is that He is totally unconstrained by anything outside His own nature. Since He is truth, He ‘cannot’ utter a lie, for instance; since He is omnipotent, He ‘cannot’ make - remember that old conundrum? - a rock too heavy for Him to lift; since He is omniscient, He ‘cannot’ fail to know all things.

Now if we assume that the only way in which God could save His people was for Jesus to die, that is clearly a constraint: and we’ve just seen that God cannot be constrained by anything beyond Himself. So it therefore follows that Karl is quite right, and is stating perennial Catholic teaching: the Crucifixion was not the only way in which God could have saved us. (I too was appalled when I first read this, having also been taught as an Evangelical that it was the only mode of salvation.)

However, we don’t have to rethink our faith quite so radically as this may seem to imply. Taking Steven’s point, it becomes clear that, although God did not have to send His only Son to die for our salvation, the history of the human race and of the Chosen People, the Jews, is such that God is clearly planning our Lord’s sacrifice from the very start; and thus, since God does not lie, the Crucifixion was in that sense necessary. But only in that sense. Catholic theology has always stressed, for instance, that a single act of obedience by the Son would have sufficed to save us. The mode God actually prepared was far more wonderful and astonishing, and fits like a key into the whole of pagan myth and Old Testament history and prophecy: but it wasn’t strictly ‘necessary’.

Sue


#8

However, we don’t have to rethink our faith quite so radically as this may seem to imply. Taking Steven’s point, it becomes clear that, although God did not have to send His only Son to die for our salvation, the history of the human race and of the Chosen People, the Jews, is such that God is clearly planning our Lord’s sacrifice from the very start; and thus, since God does not lie, the Crucifixion was in that sense necessary. But only in that sense. Catholic theology has always stressed, for instance, that a single act of obedience by the Son would have sufficed to save us. The mode God actually prepared was far more wonderful and astonishing, and fits like a key into the whole of pagan myth and Old Testament history and prophecy: but it wasn’t strictly ‘necessary’.

Yes…yes…I believe that makes sense to me. I agree that God didn’t have to institute blood sacrifices and make His plan from the very start, but I do believe that since He did, that Jesus did have to go through with the crucifixion. God can be constrained - by His own word. But I do believe God could have chosen another method as well.


#9

[quote=Curious]In Karl Keating’s book Catholicsm and Fundamentalism he mentions that Jesus did not have to die. That he could have simply willed our salvation and it would have happened.
[/quote]

I didn’t read KKs book so I’ll have to take your word for it. But if that is what he stated, he’s in gross error. God, according to His infinite holiness, could not simply “will” our salvation. It would not only go against His infinite holiness but His infinite justice. Could have there been another way to redeem men from sin? I don’t know. But only God the Son could offer anything of “infinite” value (His shed blood) to satisfy (propitiate) God’s offended holiness because of sin. No creature could provide this.

There are things God cannot do. Such as, He cannot lie. He cannot go against His own holiness or justice. To simply “will” our salvation would go against His justice which had to be satisfied. Christ death was not merely a demonstration of His love toward us. It served an infinitely, legal purpose. And because of His death God is now FREE to save forever those who draw near to Him through faith in His Son whom He sent (Heb. 7:25).


#10

There was an article in This Rock last year that talked about this question. The author, Paul Thigpen, looks at Aquinas and Augustine and what they said about this. They said that God could have found another way, but that the sacrifice of Christ was necessary because God had ordained that that was the way Christ would save us. The rest of the article goes into why God would have chosen that way. It’s really interesting, and you can read it here:

Did Christ Have to Suffer?


#11

There are things God cannot do. Such as, He cannot lie. He cannot go against His own holiness or justice. To simply “will” our salvation would go against His justice which had to be satisfied. Christ death was not merely a demonstration of His love toward us. It served an infinitely, legal purpose. And because of His death God is now FREE to save forever those who draw near to Him through faith in His Son whom He sent (Heb. 7:25).

Yes…that is what I’ve always learned.

[QUOTEThey said that God could have found another way, but that the sacrifice of Christ was necessary because God had ordained that that was the way Christ would save us. The rest of the article goes into why God would have chosen that way. It’s really interesting, and you can read it here:
]

That about sums it up. I believe God could have chosen another way if He wanted to, but He obviously didn’t want to, therefore Jesus did have to suffer and die.


#12

[quote=Curious]Yes…that is what I’ve always learned.That about sums it up. I believe God could have chosen another way if He wanted to, but He obviously didn’t want to, therefore Jesus did have to suffer and die.
[/quote]

I think that the real problem lies with the idea that He could have just “willed” our salvation. He could not have done such a thing. That would go against His holiness and would not satisfy His justice. Sending His Son was the PERFECT solution for both God and man. In Him both God’s infinite grace and love are manifested - to His glory.


#13

[quote=Curious]In Karl Keating’s book Catholicsm and Fundamentalism he mentions that Jesus did not have to die. That he could have simply willed our salvation and it would have happened. That He died to show the depth of his love for us. The latter statement, I have no problem with. The former, however, is completely alien to me.

The way I’ve been taught, Jesus’ death was something of a “legal” issue. From the time of Adam and Eve, sin resulted in the shedding of blood. God had to kill some animals to cover Adam and Even with the skins. Later, God instituted the sacrificial system with atoning for sin with the blood of animals.

Originally, God gave Adam dominion over the earth and animals. When Adam sold out to Satan, God could not have just said, “Okay well…that was a bust. I changed my mind. Gimme my earth back.” He could not because He would have had to go back on His word, and God doesn’t do that.

So He had to “buy back” the souls of man by using the system He Himself set up. He Himself came and offered Himself as the final sacrifice - perfect and without blemish like the Passover lamb. And his blood did not simply atone for, it did away with our sins.

So yes…I believe Jesus did have to die according to the system that God Himself laid down. God could have chosen a bloodless redemption but He did not. By remaining spotless, He Himself was the perfect sacrifice to do away with sin “once for all.”

It also follows the concept of “covenant” found throughout the Old Testament. The shedding of blood, the becoming family, the exchange of benefits.

Thoughts? Clarifications?
[/quote]

Your conclusion not fall far from what Keating is trying to say. Christ had to suffer and die for our sins as far as God had planned it, but God could have planned any way he wanted to save us.

Augustine supports this when he says that God could have saved us in any number of ways.

Aquinas goes into great depth about why God sent his only son to die to save us rather than just forgiving us. He sets out several reasons and I will set them out here. Here it is.

On the contrary, St. Augustine says (De Trin. xiii): “There was no other more suitable way of healing our misery” than by the Passion of Christ.

I answer that, Among means to an end that one is the more suitable whereby the various concurring means employed are themselves helpful to such end. But in this that man was delivered by Christ’s Passion, many other things besides deliverance from sin concurred for man’s salvation. In the first place, man knows thereby how much God loves him, and is thereby stirred to love Him in return, and herein lies the perfection of human salvation; hence the Apostle says (Rm. 5:8): “God commendeth His charity towards us; for when as yet we were sinners . . . Christ died for us.” Secondly, because thereby He set us an example of obedience, humility, constancy, justice, and the other virtues displayed in the Passion, which are requisite for man’s salvation. Hence it is written (1 Pt. 2:21): “Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.” Thirdly, because Christ by His Passion not only delivered man from sin, but also merited justifying grace for him and the glory of bliss, as shall be shown later (Question [48], Article [1]; Question [49], Articles [1], 5). Fourthly, because by this man is all the more bound to refrain from sin, according to 1 Cor. 6:20: “You are bought with a great price: glorify and bear God in your body.” Fifthly, because it redounded to man’s greater dignity, that as man was overcome and deceived by the devil, so also it should be a man that should overthrow the devil; and as man deserved death, so a man by dying should vanquish death. Hence it is written (1 Cor. 15:57): “Thanks be to God who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was accordingly more fitting that we should be delivered by Christ’s Passion than simply by God’s good-will.

ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/TP/TP046.html#TPQ46A3THEP1


#14

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. xiii): “We assert that the way whereby God deigned to deliver us by the man Jesus Christ, who is mediator between God and man, is both good and befitting the Divine dignity; but let us also show that other possible means were not lacking on God’s part, to whose power all things are equally subordinate.”

I answer that, A thing may be said to be possible or impossible in two ways: first of all, simply and absolutely; or secondly, from supposition. Therefore, speaking simply and absolutely, it was possible for God to deliver mankind otherwise than by the Passion of Christ, because “no word shall be impossible with God” (Lk. 1:37). Yet it was impossible if some supposition be made. For since it is impossible for God’s foreknowledge to be deceived and His will or ordinance to be frustrated, then, supposing God’s foreknowledge and ordinance regarding Christ’s Passion, it was not possible at the same time for Christ not to suffer, and for mankind to be delivered otherwise than by Christ’s Passion. And the same holds good of all things foreknown and preordained by God, as was laid down in the FP, Question [14], Article [13].

ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/TP/TP046.html#TPQ46A2THEP1

On the contrary, It is written (Jn. 3:14): “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.”

I answer that, As the Philosopher teaches (Metaph. v), there are several acceptations of the word “necessary.” In one way it means anything which of its nature cannot be otherwise; and in this way it is evident that it was not necessary either on the part of God or on the part of man for Christ to suffer. In another sense a thing may be necessary from some cause quite apart from itself; and should this be either an efficient or a moving cause then it brings about the necessity of compulsion; as, for instance, when a man cannot get away owing to the violence of someone else holding him. But if the external factor which induces necessity be an end, then it will be said to be necessary from presupposing such end—namely, when some particular end cannot exist at all, or not conveniently, except such end be presupposed. It was not necessary, then, for Christ to suffer from necessity of compulsion, either on God’s part, who ruled that Christ should suffer, or on Christ’s own part, who suffered voluntarily. Yet it was necessary from necessity of the end proposed; and this can be accepted in three ways. First of all, on our part, who have been delivered by His Passion, according to John (3:14): “The Son of man must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” Secondly, on Christ’s part, who merited the glory of being exalted, through the lowliness of His Passion: and to this must be referred Lk. 24:26: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His glory?” Thirdly, on God’s part, whose determination regarding the Passion of Christ, foretold in the Scriptures and prefigured in the observances of the Old Testament, had to be fulfilled. And this is what St. Luke says (22:22): “The Son of man indeed goeth, according to that which is determined”; and (Lk. 24:44,46): “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning Me: for it is thus written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead.”

ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/TP/TP046.html#TPQ46A1THEP1


#15

[quote=Stone]I didn’t read KKs book so I’ll have to take your word for it. But if that is what he stated, he’s in gross error. God, according to His infinite holiness, could not simply “will” our salvation. It would not only go against His infinite holiness but His infinite justice. Could have there been another way to redeem men from sin? I don’t know. But only God the Son could offer anything of “infinite” value (His shed blood) to satisfy (propitiate) God’s offended holiness because of sin. No creature could provide this.

There are things God cannot do. Such as, He cannot lie. He cannot go against His own holiness or justice. To simply “will” our salvation would go against His justice which had to be satisfied. Christ death was not merely a demonstration of His love toward us. It served an infinitely, legal purpose. And because of His death God is now FREE to save forever those who draw near to Him through faith in His Son whom He sent (Heb. 7:25).
[/quote]

Gods justice is subject to God. God is not subject to anything, not even his justice. If he were there would be a higher power than him. God has characteristics though that are part of his nature, like honesty, and strength, and love, and all the other virtues. Here is what Aquinas says to this.

Objection 3: Further, God’s justice required that Christ should satisfy by the Passion in order that man might be delivered from sin. But Christ cannot let His justice pass; for it is written (2 Tim. 2:13): “If we believe not, He continueth faithful, He cannot deny Himself.” But He would deny Himself were He to deny His justice, since He is justice itself. It seems impossible, then, for man to be delivered otherwise than by Christ’s Passion.

Reply to Objection 3: Even this justice depends on the Divine will, requiring satisfaction for sin from the human race. But if He had willed to free man from sin without any satisfaction, He would not have acted against justice. For a judge, while preserving justice, cannot pardon fault without penalty, if he must visit fault committed against another—for instance, against another man, or against the State, or any Prince in higher authority. But God has no one higher than Himself, for He is the sovereign and common good of the whole universe. Consequently, if He forgive sin, which has the formality of fault in that it is committed against Himself, He wrongs no one: just as anyone else, overlooking a personal trespass, without satisfaction, acts mercifully and not unjustly. And so David exclaimed when he sought mercy: “To Thee only have I sinned” (Ps. 50:6), as if to say: “Thou canst pardon me without injustice.”

ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/TP/TP046.html#TPQ46A2THEP1


#16

Am I a thread killer? It seems like it sometimes.


#17

This is what we learnt at catechism class.

Adam was a man, but he had supernatural gifts. He possessed sanctifying grace, infused knowledge and impassibility.

Adam and Eve lost these gifts when they comitted original sin. Therefore, the order of things became twisted.

There are three stains from original sin. Weakness of the Will, Darkness of the Intellect and inclination to Evil.

The sin of Adam and Eve was infinite, therefore to make up for this great fall, God needed a greater sacrifice. Therefore, he permitted His Son Jesus (who was truly God and truly Man) to be the second Adam and undergo being crucified for our salvation.

So did Jesus have to die?? yes, he did, because he was the only one that would be able to atone for the sin of Adam and Eve.


#18

[quote=jimmy]Gods justice is subject to God. God is not subject to anything, not even his justice.
[/quote]

Justice is a part of His divine nature. He cannot deny Himself. His justice is not some entity outside of Himself which is subject to Him. This argument is nonsensical.

The question is, could He have simply “willed” our salvation?


#19

[quote=Stone]Justice is a part of His divine nature. He cannot deny Himself. His justice is not some entity outside of Himself which is subject to Him. This argument is nonsensical.

The question is, could He have simply “willed” our salvation?
[/quote]

He could have willed it if he desired, but He found it more suitable and better to become man for many reasons, as Aquinas says in the post above.

To be just is part of Gods divine nature, but who is to say that he is not just if He says, “you are forgiven.” without the passion? What is just is subject to his divine will.

The passion was necisary in as far as God had pre-ordained that it would happen. God could have done it in any way he desired though. It was necisary because God made it necisary.


#20

[quote=Curious]In Karl Keating’s book Catholicsm and Fundamentalism he mentions that Jesus did not have to die. That he could have simply willed our salvation and it would have happened. That He died to show the depth of his love for us. The latter statement, I have no problem with. The former, however, is completely alien to me.

[/quote]

One question: Is God omnipotent?


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