Sixteen years ago Richard Dawkins released his book The God Delusion. In that book, a highly educated and respected Oxford professor takes much delight in using out of date, barely reasoned arguments that a first-year undergrad is trained to debate to try and refute the existence of God. He then ends the book saying we can’t be completely sure God doesn’t exist – the guy couldn’t even convince himself with his own arguments.
In the second chapter of his book, he begins by attacking the God of the Bible with a line of accusations about his character. According to Dawkins, God is a lot of horrible things, including “filicidal.” What’s filicidal you ask? He’s accusing him of murdering his own child. He’s obviously referring to the death of Christ on the Cross and the Christian belief that it was the Father’s will to crush the suffering servant for the sins of all of us. Some atheists love to trash this as divine child abuse, or child murder.
Now at first glance, you have to agree with Richard Dawkins. Child sacrifice is a horrible crime and one we all agree on these days. Sadly, this was not always the case. Many cultures in the ancient world, and not so ancient world, practiced child sacrifice. In fact, as recently as the modern era tribes were encountered in Africa, the Americas, and other regions which practiced child sacrifice to their gods. The Bible always called this evil.
Yahweh himself strongly commanded the Israelites to never do such an abominable thing in Israel, of course, they disobeyed him, but that’s a discussion for another video. Even when God tested Abraham and asked him to sacrifice his son, God never intended to allow it to happen. He provided a substitute, a lamb, and it is very likely that God was using this test, at least partially, to show Abraham, the former pagan, the futility and evil of child sacrifice. So, if child sacrifice is thoroughly pagan, and the Bible calls it an evil practice, then how could God the Father kill his own son?
Because God the Father is not the Father of God the son, in the same way that any human father is to their son. In human child sacrifice, a human father takes their defenceless child and brutally murders them to appease some terrible, petty deity, in order to get better crops, favour in war, or some other perceived blessings. If God were Jesus’ Father in the human sense, then this would pull apart the whole gospel. But God is not Jesus’ Father in this way.
Just as God the Father is fully God, so is Jesus, the Son of God fully God, along with the Spirit who is also fully God. One God in three persons. They have lived in a perfect relationship for eternity, and always will. Their relationship is as eternal as their power, and there is no helpless member of the Trinity. Jesus is God’s son in the sense that he is eternally begotten of the Father, of the same essence, and is an equal person, in the three-person Godhead. In his earthly ministry, he submits to the Father as a son does to their father, and he now sits at the right hand of the Father on the same throne. The Father’s will is the Son’s will, and the Spirit’s will. They are united and unified in a way that we as humans can only dream of and will not fully experience until heaven.
Therefore, Jesus was not some helpless human being sired by some Zeus-like deity in a nubile human beauty and killed in some petty ritual. No, the cross was the culmination of God’s plan of redemption, that had been conceived before the creation of the world, by all of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus was raised as a man, by human parents, but he was the God-man, fully man and fully God. Perfectly capable of taking care of himself, to a degree that none of us can fully comprehend.
After all, Jesus said this: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18). Jesus laid down his life by his own will, because, if he hadn’t, no one would have been able to lay a finger on him.
God didn’t murder his Son, God the Father and God the Son got together with God the Spirit and hatched the ultimate plan to rescue us from the consequences of our sin. The people who murdered Jesus were the corrupt Roman officials and weak Jewish leaders. But he went to his death willingly to pay the sacrifice for our sins. He let them nail him to the cross, so the punishment we deserve for our sins could be forgiven.
“How could God kill his own son?” is the wrong question. Why did Jesus willingly die for us is the question we should ask? And the answer? Because he loved us and wanted to make a way for us to come to the Father.