Christmas has been tamed but at its heart it is scandalous, shocking and offensive. I’ll let Richard Dawkins explain why. Dawkins was (over) reacting to the Pope’s Thought for the Day on the BBC yesterday.
“(this is)…the centrepiece of what Ratzinger actually did say in his Thought for the Day. ‘Christ destroyed death forever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.’ More shameful than the death itself is the Christian theory that it was necessary. It was necessary because all humans are born in sin.”
Absolutely, Christians believe that humanity is riddled inescapably with sin. Dawkins on the other hand resents the notion.
“That sin, with which every newborn baby is hideously stained (another charming notion), was so terrible that it could be forgiven only through the blood sacrifice of a scapegoat. But no ordinary scapegoat would do. The sin of humanity was so great that the only adequate sacrificial victim was God himself.
That’s right. The creator of the universe, sublime inventor of mathematics, of relativistic space-time, of quarks and quanta, of life itself, Almighty God, who reads our every thought and hears our every prayer, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God couldn’t think of a better way to forgive us than to have himself tortured and executed. For heaven’s sake, if he wanted to forgive us, why didn’t he just forgive us? Who, after all, needed to be impressed by the blood and the agony? Nobody but himself.”
Dawkins forgets completely about justice, refuses to think sin is all that serious, offensive or destructive. He fails to see in the cross God’s condemnation of sin, abhorrence of sin and rejection of sin because there is no price that needs paying. He’s God he can just let us off right? And so Dawkins fails to see the need for repentance and therefore of redemption. He misses the totality of forgiveness.
Dawkins sums up his feelings about the heart of the Christian faith, forget science, forget the creation of the universe, this is the key:
“But he [the Pope] is also guilty of promoting one of the most repugnant ideas ever to occur to a human mind: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).”
Sadly I don’t think Richard Dawkins would appreciate 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 but it’s what he needs to know.
At Christmas I’ll gladly stand up and promote, even boast in such repugnance. Not that I think it occurred to a human mind but instead began in the heart of God. Sin is costly, it is deadly, it is death. Sin is repugnant, repulsive and rancid. Frankly I need to be see that or I’d be complacent and reckless, and I’m grateful that someone stood in my place on the cross because when I stand in front of God in His place I’ll know I’m not out of place.
At Christmas we celebrate not just a birth but grace coming in human form, we celebrate salvation from repugnance. Merry Christmas.