What kind of a Father is God if he punishes his son for the sins of others?

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #1

“This leads to another kind of question, one which even well-informed Muslims will ask. During the closing statements of my 2015 debate, Dr. Shabir Ally used the most caustic terms I have ever heard to challenge the gospel. He said that if the Father sent the Son to die for the sins of the world, then this was “cosmic child abuse.” What kind of a Father is God if he punishes his son for the sins of others?”

This quote is an excerpt from this book:

I’m curious how you guys would answer it in case you were asked in a conversation. :slight_smile:

(SeanO) #2

The way this question is worded makes the Son a passive victim of the Father’s will, but nothing could be further from the truth!

I list below a set of truths about how the Father and Son work together to achieve the salvation of lost sons and daughters.

The question makes it sound as if the Son is a young child - but in fact the Son is a young man who has freely chosen to do His Father’s will with full knowledge of what He was doing and has been commissioned (baptism by the Spirit), given the authority to execute judgment and given the authority to give life.

Jesus was not like young Isaac walking with his father to the mountain - Jesus was a grown Son who joyfully worked together with a Father who gave Him honor, glory, authority and power to achieve the salvation of lost men and women. A full grown man (Jesus was commissioned at 30) who also happened to be preexistent with the Father - Jesus was and is not a victim - He is the conquering Son of God who freely laid down His life - knowing that He had the power to break sin and death given Him by His Father.

1 - The Father has given the Son Authority

John 5:25-27 - Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

2 - The Father Commissioned the Son

Luke 3:22 - The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

3 - The Father Honors the Son

John 5:20-23 - For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.

4 - The Son Freely Obeyed the Father

John 10:18 - No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.

5 - The Father’s Will Led the Son back to the Father’s Side

Hebrews 12:2 - For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Mark 16:19 - After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

6 - The Will of the Father Saved Many and Led the Son to Perfection

Hebrews 2:10 - In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #3

Hi @SeanO. I appreciate your contribution. This is indeed one of the misconception other people have regarding the gospel. Christ indeed gave His life on His own accord. Both Atheists and Muslims would ask us this question. Another aspect of this question aside from people thinking that Jesus may be a passive victim is that people would presuppose that it would be unjust to be punished for another person’s sins. Like if it’s their sin, they are the one’s that should be punished. What do you think of this objection?

(SeanO) #4

@omnarchy I think this is a great opportunity to agree with the skeptic - the Cross is a great example of human injustice. Jesus did not sin - He did not bruise a broken reed - He should not have died.

However, it is also a great example to point to both God’s holiness and His grace. Jesus freely chose to offer His life because no one else was able - no one else was free from sin - the Father did not make Him do it. He chose to offer Himself freely. And He could do so because He is holy - sinless - spotless. For our Muslim friends we could discuss Old Testament sacrifices and how they pointed to Christ.

Second - it points to God’s mercy and grace. We cannot keep God’s laws - we are unable. But in His mercy God came for us. As Romans 3 says, there is now no boasting. We must humbly come to God and accept this free gift.

Romans 3:21-27 - But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded.

But I have a question for you in return, @omnarchy. What do we do if someone says they don’t like taking free handouts and they think it is weak to receive God’s mercy or that they do not need it?

I think this is also a challenge when we begin explaining grace and mercy.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #5

@SeanO I agree that the cross shows human injustice, since the gospel narratives tell us how humans would judge someone who is without sin. And I would like to emphasize further that the cross is something that shows God’s justice as well. I like Abdu Murray’s analogy of someone agreeing to be a guarantor in paying for another person’s debt. If they freely accepted in paying for it, then there won’t be any injustice if another person pays for another person’s debt. If it’s possible for us in human terms, then there won’t be any injustice for Jesus dying on the cross for our sins in order to pay for the penalty of our sins and purchase a place for us in heaven.

Regarding your question, I will let the other person clarify how they think it’s weak for someone to receive the mercy of God. This would give me the clarity on how I would respond better on their perspective. For the sake of discussion though, without the other person sharing their burden of proof, I would rather be thought of as weak and needy in accepting God’s provision, because in reality, there is no other way for man in being saved apart from the work of Christ. This shows how desperate our condition is. If it shows how weak and needy I am, but as a result shows how loving and greater God is, then I would accept that. God’s glory is our priority over making ourselves look stronger than we ought to be.

(SeanO) #6

@omnarchy Amen - yes, humility before God brings life!

(Helen Tan) #7

Hi @omnarchy and @SeanO

I think you both have covered the subject brilliantly. A few additional verses came to mind as I read your posts:

Jesus was not helpless. He chose to stay on the Cross. Matthew 26:53-54: Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

He focused on the staggering significance and impact of His sacrifice, and the joy of the cosmic victory that would bring empowerment to us, scorning the shame of the Cross. Hebrews 12: 1-2: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Isaiah 53:10:
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

This bruising was predicted in Genesis 3:15 when Adam fell and through this One Offering for sin, redemption is available for all. Isaiah 54:1 therefore exhorts the barren to sing because of what He has done.

It was not an act of cowardly child abuse. It was an act which achieved the greatest victory for all eternity on behalf of and for the benefit of humankind. It was the greatest act of sacrificial love ever to be expressed to undeserving objects. It pained God the Father and God the Son but They both saw the joy of welcoming us into His Kingdom and Family.

1 Corinthians 1:18: For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

(Anthony Costello ) #8



These are all good points. I wonder, however, if a more robust understanding of Trinitarian theology would aid both the believer and non-believer in avoiding this misconception. After all, Jesus and the Father are “ontologically” one, even if they are relationally and economically distinct (i.e. distinct in their operations). Jesus **is** God after all, He is not merely a glorified man as some early heresies tried to make him to be.

I would add therefore to your list of verses Philippians 2:5-11, which clearly shows Jesus’ self-emptying for the sake of humanity and His oneness with the Father in being. It is not God the Father committing “cosmic child abuse” on some created son, as some popular level skeptics might claim, it is God the Son allowing Himself to be abused. If Jesus were not the eternal Logos, then perhaps the skeptic would have a point, but, a clear understanding of the Trinity makes the doctrine of Atonement entirely consistent, and entirely loving.

God bless,

P.S. An excellent book on this is “Pierced for our Transgressions” by Jeffrey, Ovey and Sach.

(SeanO) #9

@anthony.costello Very good point :slight_smile: Jesus’ divinity certainly is a strong argument that He was not a helpless child when He went to the cross.

Depending on who is asking the question, appealing to the Trinity directly may require being prepared to defend that doctrine as well, so I think whether or not this is the best line of reasoning may depend to a degree upon the audience.

I would be careful about saying Jesus ‘allowed Himself to be abused’ because I do not agree that any abuse occurred - at least on God the Father’s part. I would prefer to say “Jesus allowed Himself to suffer injustice at the hands of men”.

What are your thoughts?

(Anthony Costello ) #10


With regards to my comment that “Jesus allowed Himself to be abused,” the abuser in this case would be mankind, not God the Father. That is what I meant, if I wasn’t clear. The abuser in the atonement is clearly us, not God.

As to the audience and whether or not they would grasp the all-important distinction of Jesus’ divinity making a difference in this instance, I don’t know. It seems to me after much theological study that we have to, in some way, start and finish with the Trinity, since it is the Trinity that is the foundational and fundamental fact of reality. Which kinds of audiences did you have in mind when that concern came to you? Are you thinking specifically of Muslims?

God bless,

(SeanO) #11

@anthony.costello Thank you for the clarification.

I think a Muslim audience would certainly be one example. But you may be correct that the Trinity - or Jesus’ Divinity and Sonship - is the way to go. But in my opinion it would be safer not to use the word ‘trinity’ when fielding a question on another topic, because that word could allow a skeptic or questioner to get off on a rabbit trail rather than processing the answer to their question about the justness of Christ’s crucifixion.

Since the Bible never uses the word ‘trinity’, I think it would be reasonable to avoid the use of the word even if employing the concept.

What are your thoughts?

Also, what did you mean by “the Trinity is the foundational and fundamental fact of reality”? I find that an intriguing statement.

(Anthony Costello ) #12


Nice discussion, thank you for the very precise follow-up questions.

I see your point that bringing up the Trinity in a conversation with certain groups (or even with believers) can get very technical, very quickly. I guess it’s important to take into consideration some practical matters as well, since the language of the Trinity is not something that can be readily grasped. At the same time, it just seems to me that the fact of Jesus’ divinity is what makes the atonement not only coherent, but also an act of outpouring love as opposed to wrathful violence. Or, better said, it is what makes the outpouring of God’s wrath also an act of love. Still, I see you point about how one question on the atonement could lead to a long rabbit trail trying to demonstrate the triunity of God. At the same time, I think it would be prudent for Christians to prepare themselves as best they can to actually provide that demonstration. One could at least point to the Gospel of John and the “I am” statements as a start. If the skeptic (or Muslim) finds John “too late” with regards to Christological development, then a good grasp of Mark might be in order. Richard Hays has an excellent book on this called “Reading Backward” which makes some strong arguments in favor of a very early, very high Christology in Mark. Again, however, this is certainly a matter of preparation for the Apologist.

I guess what I meant by “the Trinity is the foundational and fundamental fact of reality” is something like the claim that all world views have some ontological starting point or some “brute fact” that just is that from which all other beliefs spring. Now, if Christianity is true (which we obviously agree it is), then God is triune, therefore the Triune God just is fundamental reality. Perhaps another way to say this is 1) if God is Being (the Ground of Existence) and 2) God is Triune, then 3) The Ground of Existence is the Triune God.

Biblically and theologically speaking, then, all Christian doctrine in some way or to some degree find their way back to the Triunity of God. John Webster has pointed this out calling the Trinity a “distributed doctrine” in that all true teachings ultimately derivate from this fundamental fact about God’s nature.

Does that make sense?


(SeanO) #13


Enjoyable discussion indeed!

Thank you for mentioning Richard Hays’ book - I may need to pick it up. I certainly agree that all of the Gospels have a high Christology if we read them with an honest heart and sharp mind. I suppose my personal experience sharing the faith is that people are not always convinced by reason alone and if too many controversial topics arise, they leave with feelings of doubt even if all of their questions were addressed. But my experience is certainly limited.

Thank you for explaining the concept of the Trinity as fundamental to reality. The idea of a distributed doctrine that is the source of all other doctrines is one that I will need to ponder. Systematic theology is very helpful but also such a challenge because the conclusions made often involve words or ideas not directly presented in Scripture. In that sense - John Webster’s claim is derived from Scripture but not necessarily stated in the Scriptures.

Thought provoking ideas!

(Jimmy Sellers) #14

I know this late in this topic but I did want to run it up the pole. When I think of that question in context, from a Muslim worldview, I know that is front loaded with the idea of Honor/Shame. In other words, men are born innocent it is sin that causes shame and shames only remedy is a group hug or if you will people with authority. I don’t think any amount of Christian theology is going to move someone away from this worldview save the conviction of the Holy spirit.

In a case like this would it make sense to appeal to the honor/shame paradigm (65% or the world’s population operates in this paradigm)? If you are not familiar with it here is a link to a great video less than 5 mins.

One more link to better explain Honor/Shame as it relates to Islam.


I think that the average Christian misses the fact that the Bible in an Honor/Shame book to the max. So, the point that I am trying to make is if my response to sin is shame and not guilt and the only way to alleviate my shame is through the invention of a higher person or power, isn’t that what God is doing through Jesus? So, then the original objection (I am personally accountable for my actions) can be addressed and the need to defend the child abuser can be seen as a strawman position or a false dilemma.

(SeanO) #15

@Jimmy_Sellers Having done some intercultural ministry myself, I think honor/shame is a very crucial concept and one that I think I will probably spend the rest of my life relearning because it is simply not natural to me.

In the context of this question, the New Testament does emphasize that the Father honors the Son - John 5:22-23 - " Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him."

So while Christ experienced crucifixion at the hands of men, He ultimately received honor from the Father and, one day, honor from all people. I am sure that is barely scratching the surface of this dynamic.

In terms of honor/shame in the Bible, I really enjoyed the following book from IVP. It made a lot of good points - like the possibility that Uriah was aware of what David had done and was intentionally refusing to preserve his honor - trying to shame him into repentance of some kind. Even if that position is not correct, it’s still not something I would ever have thought of…

(Jimmy Sellers) #16

Honor/Shame is not the western way and you are right it is not something that can be understood in a single read or a 5 min video. Reading the Bible in this vein does help me to better understand what was being said and how it might have been understood.

When I read MSWE the David account caused me to take a deep breath as it totally was not the way I was taught to understand the story. I have been thinking on it for a while. I also found that the young mans response to the 23 Psalm was not greeted with the same comfort that it gives me,

Let me add as a complement to your book recommendation


(SeanO) #17

@Jimmy_Sellers Desilva’s book looks great - I’ll have to check it out!

(Steven Kalinowski) #18

Thanks for the above comments. Will try to keep in mind the honpur/shame concept.
It seems that the word “abuse” right from the start should be challenged. To me, a parent or anyone who abuses someone obviously has no love for that person. It is a horrendous, gross, selfish act of the perpetrator.
This cannot be of God.
However someone who is punished under law is a way of making someone responsible for his/her actions.
A parent will punish a child put of love and for their good. It is obviously not about abuse.
So, why would God allow his Son to be punished? Justice must be paid somehow, or God is not just… Who could bear it? Only God could and did. He even drew out human evil onto Himself voluntarily …to expose it… and returns love and mercy in return to those who will accept it… those who see their need outside of themselves.
It’s interesting that the Quranic god has very little or no concept of love … mercy yes … but is without relationship.
It was indeed Jesus himself on the cross willingly for us… there was no substitute.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #19

Hi @Jimmy_Sellers. No worries, your contribution is not really late. For me what you shared about the honor or shame paradigm helps us look at this debate in another angle, which could help us in better articulating what we want to share with people who have this kind of assumption.

I appreciate everyone’s feedback on this. :slight_smile: