Dear Mohamed: The Original Sin and the Salvation on the Cross (partII)
An apology is in order…it has been too long since the first of my responses to you Mohamed, and for this I am sorry. I wish I could dedicate so much more time to this exercise but unfortunately time has become somewhat of a luxury in this day and age. This correspondence between us is valued by me and I want to make sure I give you an accurate picture of the Christian faith. Now time to thank you for your responses and for your open mind and heart. This is promising to be a fruitful discussion indeed.
So in the last post I told you about the original sin and what it means to us as Christians. Just to clarify again, the original sin refers to the state of absence from God’s grace. This is the only thing we inherited from Adam and Eve. We agree that whatever sins we commit in our daily life are our own responsibilities and we must repent in order to gain forgiveness.
Now you posed another set of good questions:
Why couldn’t God just forgive Adam and Eve?
Why did Jesus have to die?
David has done a wonderful job addressing your questions, but please allow me to offer my response as well.
Why couldn’t God just forgive Adam and Eve (and subsequently all of humanity I suppose)?
God indeed is merciful…in fact God’s mercy is infinite and absolute. But absolute mercy needs absolute justice in order to be perfect and complete. Of course we believe God is perfect and complete…it follows that He must be just as well as merciful.
Let’s revisit our King and his exiled son once more:
Ask any parent about their love for their child, they’ll tell you it’s the strongest love they feel for another human being. They would gladly sacrifice anything including their life for the sake of their child.
But is a good parent one who lets their child do what they please, then say “it’s ok…I forgive you”?? The king warned his son against a certain act, the son ignored the father’s warning. Believe me, as a parent having to discipline my child, I have often felt a wave of sympathy when she cried and said she was sorry after she did something she wasn't supposed to…I have come so close to saying “oh it’s ok, forget it”. However, I know in my heart that it’s not fair for me to raise a child without any understanding of right and wrong…of action and consequence.
God gave us free will and intellect. If He simply just forgave us for everything we did without a basis for the forgiveness, what use is our intellect and free will? What would differentiate us from animals? How would we understand the consequence of our sins?
Another point to consider is that we both (Muslims and Christians) believe that God punishes sinners who don’t repent. And we established that we both agree that God is absolutely just (3adel). It would follow that He can’t simply forgo evil and overlook sin, nor can He arbitrarily forgive anyone without there being a just basis for forgiveness. Meaning: God said that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) لان اجرة الخطية هي موت
So basically it is unjust for God to forgive someone, unless they can pay for their sin.
So how is it we are supposed to atone for our sins?
In Judaism, it was tradition to offer sacrifice to God for remission of their sins.
11لأَنَّ نَفْسَ الْجَسَدِ هِيَ فِي الدَّمِ، فَأَنَا أَعْطَيْتُكُمْ إِيَّاهُ عَلَى الْمَذْبَحِ لِلتَّكْفِيرِ عَنْ نُفُوسِكُمْ، لأَنَّ الدَّمَ يُكَفِّرُ عَنِ النَّفْسِ
11For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (lev 17:11)
22وَكُلُّ شَيْءٍ تَقْرِيبًا يَتَطَهَّرُ حَسَبَ النَّامُوسِ بِالدَّمِ، وَبِدُونِ سَفْكِ دَمٍ لاَ تَحْصُلُ مَغْفِرَةٌ!
22And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb 9:22)
Also in Islam, the concept of sacrifice is not foreign. Nor is the concept of life for life (Or substitutionary atonement). Look at the account of our father Abraham when God told him to offer his son as a sacrifice. Sura 37 verse 102
 Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what is thy view!" (the son) said: "O my father! do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills, one practicing Patience and Constancy!"
 So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),
 We called out to him, "O Ibrahim!
 "Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
 For this was obviously a trial,
 And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice
Note the use of the words sacrifice ذبح او ذبيحه and ransom فداء
That’s precisely what God did for all of humanity. He offered us a ransom so we don’t have to pay the wages of our sin: death, but so we would have eternal life.
As for the concept of sacrificing oneself in the history of the human race in general, it’s sufficient to consider soldiers in war sacrificing themselves for their countries. Or perhaps a parent sacrificing their life to save a child, or a rescuer risking his life to save someone in distress.
Considering all this, and the fact that God is omnipotent, all knowing, all seeing and sovereign…it should not be too difficult to accept that His absolute justice demanded payment for the sin, and His absolute mercy offered us the ransom for this sin.
For the next post, I hope that with God’s grace I am able to address your second question regarding why Jesus had to die on the cross.
Peace be with you and all the best for your impending exams.
Just a side note regarding your comment about those who die for their message:
"It's a good thing to die for the sake of your message,and this is what Istishhadyeen are doing and accused of 'terrorism' specially in Palastine. "
Well, I beg to differ here. It’s admirable when you sacrifice yourself for that in which believe…not so when you’re taking down other innocent lives with you. What have those people committed to deserve this untimely horrible death? Why make a decision their behalf to take away their life for a cause they don’t even know about? Having said that, please understand I have a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian cause…I just reject the notion of violence in all shapes and forms. OK, that was enough of a digression :)