I am sorry to pester you with my questions all the time but I wanted to know if you could help me with this. I am involved in a discussion with a Christian and the topic is ‘salvation’. I explained that there is no ‘forgiveness’ if sin is ‘paid for’ and any kind of ‘payment’ refutes any kind of ‘forgiveness’. I mean, if I owe some money to someone, he can demand a payment or he can forgive that debt. He cannot do both. However, this Christian said that by Eisa’s [as] alleged death on cross, God’s JUSTICE was atoned. His words:
The Bible (Leviticus 11:45) and the Qur’an (Surah 59, Al Hashr, verse 23) tell us that God is holy. The Christian view of God’s Holiness means that He is separated from anything that is unclean, bad, and hypocritical, in other words from anything that is sin. God is purity and righteousness. Sin separates us from God, it brings as its wages death, spiritual and physical. Once a person is dead he cannot do anything, he is completely helpless. That becomes clear by the fact that God will not judge according to our good or bad works alone (Romans 3:23-24, Surah 35, Fatir verse 45). Another reason why sin has such terrible consequences is that God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Surah 95 Al Tin verse 8). He loves us so much as who we are but he hates the sin we do (John 3:16) Therefore, in His mercy he chooses to forgive our sins. But if He would forgive our sins without punishment, then in His mercy He would become unjust!
I was wondering if there is a logical refutation to this.
Man has never considered grace and benevolence to be against justice. Injustice, in its absolute connotation implies to give someone less than what he deserves or to put on someone a burden, which is bigger than what he deserves. While in its relative connotation, injustice implies to deal with people in a manner, which is based on disparity among those people.
Thus, to give charity is not injustice but to wrongfully deprive a person of his possessions is, indeed, an injustice. On the other hand, to restrict charity to a particular creed may also, in certain cases, be termed as injustice. In the same way, if a person forgives another for the wrongs that the latter had inflicted upon him, the act of the former can by no means be termed as injustice, but rather benevolence. On the other hand, if a person inflicts a greater pain on another in retribution of the pain that the latter had inflicted upon him, it would indeed be an act of injustice.
Similarly, God’s forgiveness of man’s sins can in no way be termed as injustice, unless such forgiveness is administered with disparity among the subjects. While, putting a person into a severer punishment than what he deserves may, indeed, be termed as injustice.
The above should suffice as an explanation for the basic objection raised by the cited author. However, I would like to mention a couple of other observations regarding the whole issue here:
- The belief that the Christ (pbuh) suffered during his life and was ultimately crucified as an atonement for the sins of mankind does indeed raise a few questions not only regarding God’s justice but also regarding God’s mercy. Who would term the infliction of pain and suffering on an individual for the sins of another “Justice”? How can this infliction of pain and suffering on an innocent person be ascribed to a Merciful God? It would indeed be injustice and unmerciful if I was to punish one person for the wrongs of another [person or persons]. This injustice would not be any less injustice if the person I punished for the sins of another was my own son and in so doing, I was myself greatly grieved and pained! Thus, in my opinion, if someone believes that God shall deal mercifully with all mankind and shall forgive their sins in the hereafter and subsequently no person shall be punished, yet the good and the bad shall in some way be dealt with differently, this belief can be absolutely unfounded and baseless, yet it does not, in any way, involve God in an act of injustice. However, if someone holds that God, in this life or in the hereafter, shall [or has] put an individual [or a group of individuals] to a severer punishment than what that individual or group deserves [or deserved] as an atonement for the sins of the rest of mankind, I cannot understand how any person can hold such an act to be one in consonance with the principles of Justice and Mercy.
- Although forgiveness can purely be an act of benevolence and mercy, and in such a case, the question whether the person deserved to be forgiven or not does not always arise, yet both the Qur’an as well as the Bible, have mentioned that a sinner who accepts and confesses his sins (in front of God) and, wherever possible, tries for reparation of his misdeeds, sincerely repents and mends his ways in future, shall not only be forgiven but shall deserve to be forgiven. Actually, this is the only way a person can wash away his Kaba’ir (i.e. sins that according to the Qur’an shall be punished by everlasting burning). In the Qur’an, this is mentioned in Al-Baqarah 2: 160. While a close look at the Bible shows that one of the common messages of all the prophets was to call their people to salvation through repentance and correction of deeds. For reference, see Jeremiah 3: 12 – 13, Jeremiah 18: 5 – 12, Proverbs 28: 13 – 14, Job 36: 9 – 12, Ezekiel 18: 30 – 32, Isaiah 30: 15, Luke 5: 32, Matthew 4: 17, Luke 13: 2 – 3 and Matthew 3: 8. All these verses of the Qur’an as well as the Bible clearly show that man shall be judged purely on the basis of his deeds alone.
I hope this helps.
29th August 1999