As Easter approaches, celebrants all around the world will extol the virtues of God’s sacrifice on the cross. While I accept the praise, I tend to cringe at the rationale.
The rationale is also offensive to critics of Christian theology. What kind of logic is to be found in the proposition of an all-loving God that creates fallible creatures that are punished eternally for their weakness? That is cruel and arbitrary to the core.
I’d like to offer another analogy: think of evil as a cell in the body. If we performed surgery to remove that cell, how many other cells would be destroyed in the process? Is it fair that those cells should suffer and die so that the single cell can be removed?
That is the problem facing God. Yes, s/he could do the surgery and destroy evil. But in the process innocent creatures would be harmed.
In human medicine, the alternative to surgery is to condition the immune system to locate and remove the malignant cell. That can take some time, but has the advantage that it establishes a memory in the immune system. Future malignancies are dealt with far more efficiently.
Humanity is the immune system. Unfortunately, we have an auto-immune disorder. It’s not something that happened in Eden, because the serpent existed before we did. No, it’s something that precedes even the creation of this reality.
So why did Jesus choose to die on the cross?
Because experience of the disease is required for diagnosis and treatment.
Because God failed to protect us from evil, and so bears responsibility for our suffering.
Because while there is no sufficient form of atonement for our suffering, to share it, at least, might inspire us to grasp the power that is tendered for our healing.
That is the beauty of the resurrection. Not even death is beyond that power, should we chose to have faith in the love that is offered to us.