Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jesus, Islam, and Atonement for Sin

One of the most common Muslim objections to Christianity is that it would be unjust and unfair for God to punish Jesus for the sins of others. Here Muslims are obviously influenced by certain Qur'an passages, which seem to deny that one person can "bear the burden" of another:

Qur’an 6:164—Say, “Shall I seek a Lord, other than Allah while He is the Lord of all things?” And no soul earns evil but only against itself; nor does any bearer of burden bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord will be your return, and He will inform you of that wherein you used to differ.

Qur’an 17:13-15—And We have fastened every man's deeds to his neck, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall bring out for him a book which he will find wide open. (It will be said to him): “Read your book. You yourself are sufficient as a reckoner against you this Day.” Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for the benefit of his own self. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear another's burden. And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning).

Interestingly, however, the Qur'an contradicts itself on this point, for other verses plainly declare that some people will indeed bear the burdens of others:

Qur’an 16:22-25—Your God is one God; so (as for) those who do not believe in the hereafter, their hearts are ignorant and they are proud. Truly Allah knows what they hide and what they manifest; surely He does not love the proud. And when it is said to them, what is it that your Lord has revealed? They say: Stories of the ancients; That they may bear their burdens entirely on the day of resurrection and also of the burdens of those whom they lead astray without knowledge; now surely evil is what they bear.

The Qur'an even contradicts itself in the space of two verses, claiming in 29:12 that disbelievers will not bear the burdens of others, and in 29:13 that disbelievers will bear the burdens of others!

Qur’an 29:12-13—And those who disbelieve say to those who believe: “Follow our way and we will verily bear your sins,” never will they bear anything of their sins. Surely, they are liars. And verily, they shall bear their own loads, and other loads besides their own, and verily, they shall be questioned on the Day of Resurrection about that which they used to fabricate.

But it gets worse for Muslims who object to Jesus' sacrifice, for Muhammad himself declared that Allah will punish Jews and Christians for the sins of Muslims:

Sahih Muslim 6665—Abu Musa reported that Allah's Messenger said: When it will be the Day of Resurrection Allah would deliver to every Muslim a Jew or a Christian and say: That is your rescue from Hell-Fire.

Sahih Muslim 6666—Allah’s Apostle said: No Muslim would die but Allah would admit in his stead a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire.

Sahih Muslim 6668—Allah’s Messenger [said]: There would come people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with as heavy sins as a mountain, and Allah would forgive them and He would place in their stead the Jews and the Christians.

110 Hadith Qudsi—Allah’s Messenger said: On the Day of Resurrection, my Ummah (nation) will be gathered into three groups. One sort will enter Paradise without rendering an account (of their deeds). Another sort will be reckoned an easy account and admitted into Paradise. Yet another sort will come bearing on their backs heaps of sins like great mountains. Allah will ask the angels though He knows best about them: Who are these people? They will reply: They are humble slaves of yours. He will say: Unload the sins from them and put the same over the Jews and Christians: then let the humble slaves get into Paradise by virtue of My Mercy.

Hence, if Muslims believe that it would be unjust and unfair for God to punish someone for the sins of others, then Muslims must reject Muhammad, for he claimed that Muslims with sins "as heavy as a mountain" will enter paradise and receive their virgins, because Allah will place their mountainous sins on the backs of Christians and Jews.

Compare this with the Christian claim that Jesus willingly pays the price for the sins of others, and you will see the real difference between Christianity and Islam. In Christianity, God loves us so much that he enters creation to meet the requirements of his perfect justice. In Islam, God hates unbelievers so much that he punishes them even for the sins of Muslims.

Of course, Muslims are still influenced by passages of the Qur'an declaring that "no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another." However, they would do well to notice what these verses actually say. The Qur'an does not say that "no one" can bear the burdens of another. Instead, it claims that "no bearer of burden" (i.e. no one who already has a burden of sin) shall bear the burden of another. In other words, if someone already has a burden of sin, this person can't bear the burdens of other people, for he has his own sins to deal with. This leaves the door wide open, however, for someone who is completely sinless (someone who has no burden of sin) to willingly bear the burdens of others.

Ironically, then, the Christian view is fair and just according to the Qur'an, while Muhammad's view is unfair and unjust!

If only Muslims would read their sources, they would have to abandon this objection to Christianity!

Here are some articles by Sam Shamoun for further reading:

"Qur'an Contradiction: Who Suffers the Consequence of Sins According to the Qur'an?"

"Does the Quran Really Deny That a Person Can Bear the Sins of Another? – Part 1"

"Does the Quran Really Deny That a Person Can Bear the Sins of Another? – Part 2"


Kanyanga Eberhard said...

Its ironic because Muslim claim that its unfair for Jesus to die for the sin of the world ! This proves that there is no accountability of sin in Islam because Allah will take away sin of muslim and load them on christain and jewish ! So muslim, you can kill, commit fornication, steal, lie, gossip and all kind of sin because Allah will load those sin on Christain and jewish, and you will enter heaven, its really funny !

Tom said...

Uhh-ohh. I think there's a problem here... AND an opportunity.

If all of the "burdens" of Muslims are gonna be loaded onto the backs of Christians, Jews, polytheists and unbelievers... then what happens to the poor "humble slaves" of Allahu Ohyynhkksmoohr when the "mighty and all-knowing" Allahu completely runs OUT of the aforementioned "backs" onto which the Muslim "burdens" can be loaded?

I mean, when ALL OF THE WORLD becomes Muslim, then we'll be fresh out of non-Muslims won't we? PLEASE tell us that Allahu can make s'more "unbelieving backs" onto which the burdens can be loaded.

AND, could a household of oh, say... 19 Muslims just go to the market to buy some freshly made "back" (like pork-loin or ribs) for burden loading? In the day when we run out of non-Muslims, a market like that could be REALLY important. Could we have special brands of "back" (like FuBu or Nike or Addidas)? Maybe YUM brands would wanna get into this niche. "Kentucky Fried Back", anyone?

So what we need is a futures market - sort of like pork-bellies futures - where "humble slaves" can invest in some SERIOUS "back" (to ensure against a lack of "burden bearing") and shore-up their bets for entering a paradise of 72 versions (of the Ko-ran, of the ah-Hate-iths and of The Reliance of Gozer).

David, there's gonna be a TREMENDOUS competition for shares and an amazing marketplace: this could be bigger than OPEC. We could all get in on the ground floor. PLEZ let us know when the sales open. Old timey "indulgences" will be NOTHING compared to this.


Radical Moderate said...

Interesting I heard a Muslim the other night that said that the Hadeeth in Sahi Muslim 6668 really means that the Jews and Christians will bear the "Left over Sins" of the Muslims. He could not explain what a "Left over sin" actually was.

Derrick Abdul-Hakim said...

Hi David,

Here’s a related objection. It is unjust for God to punish someone for the sin or wrongdoing of others. Or more generally, it is unjust to punish *anyone* for the malfeasances of others. Here’s why.

The underlying norm fueling this objection is desert. Desert, broadly construed, is what each person is due in virtue of some action. Why do we deserve things? There are many theories on offer. However, the most basic intuition is we deserve things in virtue of our efforts. As political philosopher George Sher writes of desert, “persons deserve things for sheer hard work” (Desert, pg. 53). Indeed. For example, I deserve a raise for my hard work. My twin brother deserves to win the race because he trained harder than his opponents. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady deserves his current NFL salary in virtue of (say) throwing 20+ touchdowns a season. And so on. In each example each person deserves some desert claim, D, in virtue of some action, A.

However, we do many things. And many of the things we do we do involuntarily. For example, we all cough and sneeze involuntarily. Moreover, there are many things we are coerced to do, such as going to primary school or paying state and federal taxes. It seems odd to say we deserve things in virtue of things we have no control over. So for desert to be of normative significance, it must rest not merely on what we produce but on what we *voluntarily* produce. Desert understood this way, then, is connected with action since it rests on what one voluntarily produces e.g. I deserve a raise because I voluntarily perform the demanding labor. If my boss discovers I did not do the labor, and I am not responsible for it, I do not deserve a raise. Putting aside compensatory desert, we can formulate the general principle of desert as follows:

DESERT: S deserves D in virtue of voluntarily doing (or intending or attempting to do) A.

S is the subject, D is the property, treatment, or thing deserved, and A is the act or desert base. This simple formulation seems to be the normative force behind many Qur’anic verses. In fact, it’s impossible to make sense of many Qur’anic verses without DESERT. Reward and punishment, according to the Qur’an, are both tightly related to acts (or desert bases) and some subject. For example, Q2:62, Q40:17-30, and Q99:7-8 tell us everyone will be rewarded or punished according to what s/he has done. No one will be rewarded or punished for what s/he hasn’t done. In short, to be rewarded or punished one must be responsible for the *relevant* act. This seems operative with respect to repentance as well (e.g. Q2:54). So what about Jesus? Let’s apply DESERT. Let D equal punishment, let A equal some sin, and let S equal Jesus:

PUNISHMENT: Jesus deserves punishment in virtue of voluntarily committing some sin.

The obvious problem with PUNISHMENT is that according to both Christian theology and Islamic tradition Jesus was sinless. Since Jesus was sinless, there’s no way to ascribe blame to him. There’s no way for God to justly punish him. Given DESERT and its background in the Qur’an, there's no coherent way to punish him. Thus, Muslims reject Christianity’s central tenet because it rests on the assumption that Jesus was punished for our sins. So when it is said, for example, in “Christianity, God loves us so much that he enters creation to meet the requirements of his perfect justice” we can only give the Lewsian incredulous stare. What does “justice” mean here?

Foolster41 said...

" There’s no way for God to justly punish him. Given DESERT and its background in the Qur’an, there's no coherent way to punish him"
So then, if God cannot justly put the sins on others, then if you're being consistant, you also reject Islam based on Q. 16:22-25 and 29:12-13? That's great to hear!
You don't explain the seeming contradiction of the Quoran's position shown in the main post, or how your views expressed can coexist with Islamic theology.