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I Want Blood!

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Today’s post is in answer to a comment/question on the Unlikely Bedfellows post the other day. JW asked, “The question is: What difference could a "blood sacrifice" make to God, all-powerful as He is? He can create as many entities as He wishes, ‘sacrifice’ them in any manner He prefers, as often as He desires. Jesus appears to have been an example of such: created by/divided from God, "sacrificed" by God, to God. What exact benefit could this have?”

GREAT question, and one of the questions >I< struggled with when coming to faith, and still have to go back and revisit from time to time because it is a deep and complex idea that is foreign to our modern ‘civilized’ minds. So this is just as good a time as any to revisit it. First, a disclaimer:  I am a chemist, not a theologian; nor have I taken any theology or philosophy courses. But I do ask questions, and I think about things a lot. Thus, this is an armchair theologian taking a stab at it. However, I will also email this question to some pastors whom I respect and report back with an update. Also, this is a deep, complex theological topic that has generated controversy and a number of scholarly works over the years (centuries, millennia…), but is probably a bigger issue for us today than it was for early peoples. So, here goes.

Let’s start with a ‘surfacy’ answer, then dig deeper:  God said so. In Paul’s letter to Christians in Rome, he states, “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) A wage is what is due to someone for their activity, so when one sins, they are deserving of death. I know. There are a lot of unhappy readers right now, for a lot of reasons. You are beginning to see the complexity. First, there is the issue of God saying so—the issue of authority. Then there is the issue of Paul saying something, but I’m attributing it to God—it is again an issue of authority. Third, how is sin defined here? How many sins? How big? How small? Fourth, is death a logical wage for sin and why? And so on… And, to me, this is the clearest verse on the topic!

There is no way I can address all of these in one post, so I am going to ask for some indulgence on your part, and roll with me. Jesus taught in parables because stories and analogies help explain spiritual truths more concisely and deeper in many ways than a theological dissertation. So I am going to follow His example and use an analogy. I’m not God, so my analogies are going to be much more limited in their effectiveness than His, but this is a picture that helps me grasp the issue on some level.

Let’s say you own a home. You invite people to come live in your home, and lay out the house rules. They proceed to completely ignore them, and even make fun of you for having such rules and for being so unreasonable as to act as if it is your house. Your home and possessions are being destroyed, and they are acting like it is their house. Therefore, you evict them.

Most of the analogy is pretty obvious. God is the homeowner and Creation is the house. We are the guests and we like to do things our way and find His rules seeming to limit our freedom. So how does He evict us and what does that have to do with blood sacrifice? Throughout Scripture, God is described as the ‘living God,’ ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life,’ the Source of Life, and so on. Therefore, it is logical that eviction from the source of life is death.

Here’s the rub for God:  in the analogy, who the interlopers are isn’t specified, and as far as you might be concerned, you’d just as soon have the place back to yourself anyway. God is different. He loves the rabble ruining His Creation and dissing on Him. He doesn’t want us to die because He created us to have a relationship together with Him, and eternal death is a bit of an obstacle to that. So what to do?

If eviction is the appropriate penalty for violating the terms of the lease, and death is the nature of the eviction, then we are in a fix. There is nothing left of us to continue in the relationship. Therefore, to resolve the conundrum, someone must pay the penalty who can ‘afford’ it. In other words, someone is needed who has, for lack of a better term, more life than the death of eviction calls for. Someone is needed who can pay for the damage and serve as a guarantor for the behaviour. There is one more requirement:  that someone must also not be guilty of violating the house rules themselves, otherwise they would need to pay for themselves and would not be able to pay for others. The only one who is able to pay the penalty of death and not be wiped out themselves is Life itself, i.e. God. And, as He is the one who set up the house rules, He can keep them. Therefore, He is the only one qualified to pay for the eviction and still be able to restore the desired relationship.

So, the reason it had to be Jesus to redeem us and the reason He had to be God incarnate, living on this planet with us, is because He had to live under His own rules successfully before He could be evicted in our stead. Only then would He meet both qualifications of a substitutionary evictee:  He had to be God to have enough Life to pay the eviction fee, and He had to be human meet the terms of the lease successfully. What’s more, because it was an unjust eviction, you can think of it as the homeowner owing the evictee, so the evictee can apply the payment once for all of the other residents. A payment was needed and a payment was made.

I realize it may still seem a bit stiff, but please reread this putting yourselves in God’s shoes as the homeowner with rowdy, destructive, disrespectful guests. If you’ve ever had a bad roommate situation or children, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

There are still many questions surrounding the topic and the analogy is far from perfect, but I’ve tried my best to answer the question asked as clearly and simply as possible. If you find this answer at least minimally acceptable, please consider the possibility that other questions and the things I haven’t touched on also have answers, and that the true, full and complete answers are better than my weak attempts to explain them.

I recommend reading the book of Romans in the New Testament of the Bible, especially the first 8 chapters. It is probably the most theologically dense section of the entire Bible, so take it slowly, read the cross-referenced passages and have a thorough commentary handy. Alternatively, an easier approach is to find online or in a bookstore various Bible Studies on Romans that will guide you through it by taking it in bite-sized chunks and asking questions for understanding. It really is worth taking the time to do this. If God is going to ask you to trust Jesus’ eviction as good for yours, then it only makes sense to understand it as much as possible, especially if you are struggling with the very idea that you have been served an eviction notice to begin with!

Like I mentioned earlier, I will get input from others who’ve spent more time studying this topic formally and update it. Also, if you do have other questions, I’ll be happy to both do my best and find more formal responses.

PS- I would like to offer one further observation:  many people have understandable difficulty with the exclusivity of accepting Jesus’ eviction as the only way to avoid our own. May I encourage you to read this article on crucifixion, and then consider the question:  why would God even go there if there were an easier way? And, given that He did go there, what does that say about how much He values you?



  1. Thanks, this is quite a nice explanation. I think I'd heard similar versions before, but this is a clear and well-phrased one.

    What I find most interesting about this is it requires that God be limited, specifically by the requirement that He act "appropriately", applying (or creatively working around) the penalties laid down by something (or Someone) that He is unable to simply ignore.

    If this is the case, that God has such restrictions, then the rest certainly follows, and the whole arrangement is a lovely workaround.

    But the Bible is quite specific about God claiming He *has* no such restrictions. One is forced to consider this as one of the many examples of His unjustified boasting, similar to the "I'm the only God, so don't pay any attention to all the other ones." issue.

    I look forward to additional discussion.

  2. @JW-

    Thank you for the kind words. As I tell my students at evaluation time, "tact is always appreciated, but not required."

    The truth is God does have a limitation, but not in the sense I think you mean. He is limited by His character, his nature. He cannot change who He is, and therefore His house rules are a reflection of His character rather than arbitrary.

    To understand this another way, you are a human, therefore you cannot be a dog or an amoeba or a rock. Similarly, God cannot both exist and not exist, and so on. The Bible is even more specific about the fact that God's nature is immutable. "I am the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow," and a host of others.

    So, while God's immutability may be a limitation, it is one for which I'm glad, because I can trust Him to not change the house rules and not invalidate Christ's eviction on my behalf.

  3. Regarding the statement: "The truth is God does have a limitation... He is limited by His character, his nature. He cannot change who He is..."

    I do not disagree with the concept, but I think it might be better to express it this way:
    Though NOT limited or bound to do so, He CHOOSES to keep His own rules (maybe because they are so GOOD and FAIR).

    This question reminds me of the historic "Can God make a stone so heavy that He cannot move it?"


  4. By the way, I think the original post ("I want Blood!") was very helpful. I really liked the analogy and plan to study it more.