Guest Post: Did Jesus’ Death Save Us From Sin?

After reading the first of Christian Piatt’s Banned Questions series, I contacted him asking if I could borrow a page from the book as a guest page. Now, having read and equally enjoyed the second book of the series, I contacted him again, asking about running a second guest post from this book. I chose this short discussion by Phil Snider.

Phil was asked to answer this question: “Jesus forgave people of their sins before he died. How could he do this if he actually had to die in order to save us from sin?”

//For many years, I sat in church quietly wondering why God’s forgiveness was based on the idea that awful violence had to be inflicted upon Jesus in order for God to save us from sin. I was never comfortable with this idea, but I feared voicing my questions would make my Christian friends think I was a hell-bound heretic.

It was only when I went to seminary that I learned this wasn’t the only way to view Jesus’ death, and I’m glad to say I no longer believe Jesus had to die in order to save us from sin.

As it turns out, the idea that Jesus had to die on the cross in order for God to forgive our sins took nearly a thousand years to develop, and numerous theologians have pointed to its problematic implications. Chief among these concerns are questions related to God’s power and God’s character. In terms of God’s power, why is it necessary for God to sacrifice God’s Son in order to grant forgiveness? Is there, as Frederiek Depoortere says, “some higher authority or necessity above God with whom God has to comply in doing this”?

In terms of God’s character, can’t such a belief make God out to be “a perverse subject who plays obscene games with humanity and His own Son,” like the narcissistic governess from Patricia Highsmith’s Heroine who sets the family house on fire in order to be able to prove her devotion to the family by bravely saving the children from the raging flames?

Instead, my Christian faith is grounded in the affirmation that God’s love is unconditional, which leads me to believe that God’s forgiveness is unconditional as well. All of which means that Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness—offered before he died—is one of the things that makes him most Godlike!


  1. Thanks for this post. I wish you would expand on what you found to be the reasons for Jesus dying and reconcile the different verses that point to Jesus taking our sins. My confusion is why would God punish an innocent man? Isn’t that, in human terms, sin itself to punish someone who is not guilty? You have mentioned another question I have been struggling with: why is it necessary for God to sacrifice God’s Son in order to grant forgiveness? But you haven’t fully answered this and other questions in this post, is there a broader and scripture-backed answer you have?

  2. Hamman, I suppose it’s unlikely that the author of the post noticed your comment. I am in contact with the person who wrote the book, but he collects essays from lots of sources.

    Anyway, I do tackle this topic in my upcoming book about John’s Gospel, so keep your eye open for publication. 😉

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