Sunday, January 18, 2015

Doing Time

What follows may be a little odd, coming from a person who is on a sabbatical from "intellectual Christianity", but I think it will stimulate your thinking. This follows closely in hand with a talk I gave to a group of men at a breakfast a few years ago. Since the subject matter was up to me, what I presented was a passion of mine: time and time travel. I know, a weird topic for a group of Christian men. I posted my talk (as a transcript) to my blog: "I Grasp It, But It Keeps Slippin' Outta My Hands!". Please take a moment to read that before continuing, or what follows may seem even more outrageous than it does on the surface. May I suggest skimming down until you reach the paragraph that starts with "Anyone who has gotten to know me knows that I am hooked on the concept of time and time travel", as the beginning is more of an introduction for the guys at the breakfast.

Okay. Ready to go on?

When I first embraced Christianity's Protestant flavor, one of the notable differences between it and the Catholic upbringing I had, was their view of the cross. If you have never seen one, a crucifix is a cross with Jesus on it. The Protestants embrace a cross with Jesus notably absent. The reason for the difference is that Catholics want to keep the crucifixion in front of their attention, whereas Protestants believe that, since Jesus is no longer on the cross, and has risen from the dead, the cross should be empty.

Which is right? In a sense, both.

As a quick overview, Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins. The bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). This "payment" is commonly known as the grace of God: you didn't earn it - you just accepted it - God did all the work. The alternative is paying the penalty yourself.

Here's the question: What does the bible mean by "death"?

If the answer is physical death, than once you physically die, you've made the payment and "bam!" you're in heaven with God. If that is true, Jesus dying on the cross was a complete waste of time - you can do that payment on your own!

If the answer is spiritual death, than once you sin, you've died spiritually (become separate from God), made the payment, and again, "bam!" you're with God. If that is true, Jesus dying on the cross was a complete waste of time as well. Since we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

As a quick aside, the reason spiritual death is separation from God is that God is absolute holiness. It is not that God cannot be in the presence of sin, but sin cannot be in the presence of pure holiness. God's purity would "annihilate" the sinner. So, it is the love of God that keeps a sinner separate from Him. (Make sense?)

In the account of Adam and Eve, they were told in the day that they eat of the fruit (of the knowledge of good and evil) they would die. They ate, and didn't physically die. Actually, in pre-Jewish tradition, God slew an animal (shed the blood of an animal - killing it) and made tunics for them (Genesis 3:21). That "payment" was a temporary patch, if you will. In the Old Testament Laws, animals were sacrificed to pay for the sins of the people almost continuously. This was to cover the spiritual sin of the people temporarily, until he could send Jesus to make the payment once and for all on the cross.

So, if it is neither physical nor spiritual, what kind of death are we talking about?

Here is where I may seem a little cray-cray, and why I suggested you read "I Grasp It … "

The only kind of death that fits the penalty is "eternal separation from God". That's it. No other kind of death would fit the bill. Because of a person's sin, that person would be eternally separated from God - because like I said above, sin cannot be in the presence of a holy God.

So how did Jesus' hanging on the cross for a few hours, and dying there, pay the penalty of eternal separation? Let's look at three statements made by Jesus while on the cross:

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34)
"… My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46)
" … Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit …" (Luke 23:46)

Did you see what happened there? Jesus went from calling Him "Father", to "God", to "Father" again. The only time Jesus did not refer to God as "Father" was while on the cross. It was at that point that God "turned His head" and did not look upon Jesus, who had taken the sin of the world upon Himself (you can lookup the doctrine of the "scapegoat" on your own).

How long a time went between those statements is not known, but no matter how long, it does not add up to "eternal separation", since Jesus DID go back to calling God "Father" while still on the cross. So how DID He pay that price?

Remember at the beginning of this particular blog article, when I said that both the Catholics and the Protestants were correct in their view of the cross? They both ARE!

As I said in "I Grasp It … ", eternity is not defined as "time without end", but as "NO time". God lives outside of time. That is why He is without beginning or end (if He had beginning and end, he could not be God - as that would mean He is caused, and not cause-LESS).

In God's eyes, Jesus is "still" on the cross - separated from Him, and ALSO sitting on His right hand (Luke 22:69)

But J.P., the bible says that without the shedding of BLOOD there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). I'm sorry, you are so right. As a matter of fact, I cut myself shaving this morning - therefore I shed blood and paid for my sins. Of course not! The shedding of blood is another way of saying DEATH.

So, the Catholic crucifix is right, because for God, Jesus is eternally separated from Him on the cross (in eternity - get it?), and the Protestant "empty" cross is right, because Jesus is no longer there.

I guess this makes me either a Catholestant, or a Protatholic. And now, back to my sabbatical.

("Doing Time" is the title of a song by Bad Religion, from the album "How Could Hell Be Any Worse?" - catch the irony?)

© Emittravel 2015

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