I’m putting this out there as a thought experiment that no doubt needs some refining and work on it. I was out for a run and thinking through various responses to faith. It struck me that the idea of substitutionary atonement is far more prevalent in our society. It is far more common than we realise because it struck me that insurance is a form of this.
In his famous wager, Blaise Pascal said we should choose to believe in God because we lose little at death if we believe but he does not exist. But if we do not believe and God does exist, then we stand to lose a great deal. Reason, self-interest and the very rational policy of hedging your bets, suggests Pascal, are all reasons to believe in God now.
This idea of faith as a some kind of cosmic insurance policy though is not quite what I mean by saying Jesus is our insurance.
I have various forms of insurance, house, travel, car insurance and even health care schemes like our dentist plan is essentially a form of insurance. What we do is pay our premiums so the insurance company will, in the event of something negative happening, stand in our place and pay the full cost that we would otherwise not afford to pay.
The insurance company acts as a financial substitute. I pay insurance because I want someone of greater financial resources and strength than I, to stand in my place in the event I wreck my car. I won’t be able to afford a new car, nor pay for the damage to the other fellow’s car. I need someone to pay those costs for me. Thank you Ms Insurance Company.
Animal sacrifice, then, acts as a form of ‘spiritual insurance’. Something bad has happened (sin) that has caused damage to me and the other fellow, judgement has been decreed and I’m going to pay the full cost. But it’s OK because I’ve been paying my premium. It has been costly (this lamb was pure and spotless, the best I had), but the sacrifice has been accepted by one strong enough to cover the full cost of the damage done. But in this system I had to keep paying my monthly, yearly premiums.
Jesus is the offer to fully cover us, to stand in between us and the full cost of the damage caused by sin and to overturn even the destruction of death through the resurrection. A lifetime offer we might say.
Is there still a sense in which we pay? Well, paying our insurance, offering our animal sacrifices and trusting in Jesus are all acts of faith in some sense. I trust the insurance company will be solvent when I need it to be, that it can afford to cover my debts. I trust that the same to Jesus, that He is good for what He promises and the payment is my faith and obedience. Those things will never be enough, they can’t actually save me and they don’t add up to enough nor are they meant to, but they are the terms of the agreement.
OK, what have I missed? Where does this analogy break down?