Only those who are truly religious can avail the luxury of skepticism.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols,
or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer
I have found God, but He is insufficient.
—Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
FIRST AND FOREMOST, I would like to note to the reader that I am neither a theologian nor a scholar of philosophy; I am simply a man without profession who is conducting the following moral scrutiny under the rudimentary dialectic acquired through a life devoted to literature and psychology. Admittedly, I am self-conscious over tackling a subject in which I may be direly underqualified to discuss. Nonetheless, I wish to proceed with my conjecture.
The contemplation on the life and death of Christ, evoked by the Lent season, has impelled me to undertake the arduous task of composing an essay born of strife toward the conventional standpoint from which Christ’s crucifixion is viewed: as a glorious, miraculous event because through Christ’s death and resurrection, mankind’s grace and relationship with God are restored.
So here shall I properly begin my analysis:
In The Brothers Karamazov chapter entitled “Rebellion,” Dostoyevsky’s character Ivan Karamazov boldly states that mankind’s salvation rested on “the blood of a tortured child” (Christ is as innocent and pure as a child) and that a respectable man upon realizing this should “return God’s ticket” as its price will have cost him his conscience because the “ticket” has been soaked in the blood of the innocent. “If the suffering of children is required to pay for the original sin, I’d take no part of it.” Ivan speaks of children to make his point obvious: that eternal life is overpriced because it demands the sacrificing of the “lamb.”
Is it right to let an innocent be punished for another man’s sins? It has been preached over the centuries that out of love, Christ bore all mankind’s punishment in the cross. To quote my best friend,
What happened actually on a hill full of barbarians and soldiers on a good Friday afternoon was that the probability of bloodshed was shouldered by one man, on that one single moment of uncontainable glory.
The said perspective never fails to arouse indignation in me. I believe that the crucifixion is unjustifiable since “[that] child’s tear will remain unatoned for” even if He were resurrected and humanity were delivered from sin. (How could not letting an innocent die be a sin in itself—not to God, but to humanity?) Furthermore, how could the sight of a helpless child asking why he was forsaken seemed to have been overlooked as though his tears bore no weight? Is it all because his torment is part of God’s plan?
Still, it is impossible to raise objections against God; what right do I—a mere human being—have to rectify an existence that is perfectly beyond me? God’s logic can’t ever be argued since it is “the reasoning of another world, and it’s incomprehensible to the human heart here on earth.” However—and this is the crux of this note—that same premise urges me to rebel because God’s otherworldly reasoning does not apply to the human conscience.
The crucifixion account allows us probe into the nature of absolute obedience and fear (both construed as signs of faith) and how these values cost man his humanity: when Jesus told the apostles about the prophecy, Peter rebuked him, saying that shall never happen. But Jesus said that it is all written and they should do nothing but fulfill God’s will.
But what is the cost of this faith but the death of conscience? (God’s ordering of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Genesis 22 prefigures this.) The apostles understood it was God’s will for Jesus to die on the cross for the salvation of the world and get resurrected.
The cross symbolizes what God has done—offering to the world “His only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16)—in order to redeem the world from sin; the cross is also a grim reminder of the blood sacrifice: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). In the Old Testament, “spotless animals” are sacrificed in place of the sinner: this foreshadows the sacrificing of Christ, “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
In the crucifixion, we see that not a soul intervened with the authorities and the divine will to defend the innocent; not a soul revolted against the injustice, crying, “Thy will, will not be done!” There is only compromise and fear: the throwing away of conscience for the salvation of man’s soul.