And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. -- 1 John 2:2
The doctrine of propitiation isn’t something that’s talked about too much in modern Christian circles. Hell, heaven, sin, repentance, prayer, Jim Dobson… these are all topics that get covered constantly, but propitiation? Not in any church I attended. I think I know the reason. The doctrine is bizarre, inconsistent and incoherent to even the most religiously brainwashed.
The definition of propitiation is “An atoning sacrifice to gain or regain the favor or goodwill” of God. To propitiate is “to appease or pacify” God.
As in the verse quoted above, Jesus’ purported death on a cross was to placate the wrath of a god who supposedly has a considerable grudge against humanity. Humanity just didn’t work out as He intended.
So, propitiation is a blood-soaked offering lifted up to appease the wrath of blood-thirsty deity. When this deity sees hemoglobin, he feels better about things and can finally overlook offenses that normally cause his eyes to blaze with righteous indignation.
When this deity sees hemoglobin, he feels better about thingsBut modern ears and minds aren’t accustomed to thinking of God in the throes of blood-lust. Why in the world would killing something and looking at its plasma satisfy anyone’s – including a deity’s – righteous indignation? Has God got a thing for vampires? To tone things down a bit for 21st Century Christians, propitiation has been repackaged for the modern ear. Christians are now told that all humanity has a “sin debt” to God: We are in debt to God for our sin and the debt must be paid. The death of God’s only son on the cross paid that debt, so it is said.
Enough of the introduction already – get to the point.
How many reading this have ever received a traffic ticket for some driving infraction? After paying the fine, do we turn around and cry out for forgiveness? Think about begging and pleading and weeping to be forgiven by the court for the traffic violation – after already paying the fine.
If the penalty has already been paid, there is nothing left to forgive.
In Christianity, however, the payment apparently isn’t sufficient. God won’t forgive your debt even though Jesus paid the full penalty for the sin debt of the entire world!
If the penalty has already been paid, there is nothing left to forgive. If while on your way to traffic court a friend unexpectedly steps in and pays your debt for you, do you still have to appear in court and pay your debt? Do you a have to beg anyone’s forgiveness to be free of the debt? Obviously, once your debt has been paid, it’s been paid! You are off the hook. You have no legal requirements toward the court or even toward your friend.
Forgiveness and debt paying are two different things. If the court forgives my debt, I don’t have to pay anything – the debt is forgiven. If, however, someone else pays my debt, then the debt is paid and I no longer need seek mercy and forgiveness to get out of the debt.
Forgiveness of debts and paying of debts are mutually exclusive exercises. Either one pays a debt or one is forgiven of a debt, but no one paying a debt begs forgiveness of the debt. Conversely, if a debt has been forgiven, there is no longer a requirement to pay the debt.
Jesus’ death on the cross is said to have paid the debt for the whole world of humanity, but all of humanity is still supposed to actively seek the forgiveness of God!?!
Has the debt been paid or not?
What I am suggesting here is that having been placated through the blood of His son -- the debt payment He supposedly required – God has nothing left to forgive. The entire debt has been paid. Even God can’t forgive a debt that has already been paid, because if the debt is paid, there is no longer a debt!
So which is it? Does God forgive sinners of their debt, or has the debt for sin already been paid?
Somehow, in Christianity, it makes sense to have a debt that has already been paid and yet still must be forgiven. Somehow forgiveness for a debt can only be granted once payment in full is credited to the account. And, once a person becomes a Christian, regularly groveling for forgiveness of daily stumbles is a regular routine, even though propitiation has already been made.
What do you think?