In my previous post—January 8—I discussed some aspects of Christianity which might explain why people might find it so offensive—it’s supposed dangerousness, blatant irrationality, and the exasperating nature of some Christian people. None of these factors really explain the anger and hostility so often directed at Christianity. So what is the explanation? Since Christianity provokes people much more than Judaism or Islam (or generic theistic belief), there must be something about Jesus himself or the gospel message that bugs people so much. What could that be?
I suspect (as some readers intimated in their comments) that the resentment really has to do with the implications of Jesus’ crucifixion—the idea that he had to die (and resurrect) for our sins. This implies, of course, that there is something wrong—terribly wrong—with humans which needs fixing. Specifically, we need to be forgiven, and our offenses are so egregious that they called for a blood sacrifice. And not just any blood-sacrifice. Killing a toad or even an AKC-registered poodle wouldn’t do the atoning work. In fact, not even a human child sacrifice would do. No, it had to be the execution of a morally perfect person—God incarnate. Now if that isn’t insulting to our pride as a species, I don’t know what is.
Of course, this moral insult is well-deserved, if we are as naturally depraved as Scripture teaches. But for those who think there is nothing wrong with human nature (despite the constant wars, human trafficking, ethnic cleansing, child molestation, and countless other evils all over the globe), I can see how this would seem ridiculous and even be a rather annoying claim. Indeed, as the Apostle Paul said, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Lest we forget, the Christian story is also a profound compliment—that God loves us so much as to provide that sacrifice himself. Again, to quote Paul: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). And, as it turns out, this is the only way to reconciliation with God, as Jesus declares, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Yet this, too, is a blow to human pride, as it implies that we cannot save ourselves; even the most perfect repentance, apart from Christ, would be ineffectual in avoiding God’s judgment.
So whatever else might bug people regarding Christianity, the ultimate source of offense is human pride. People are offended by Jesus because his crucifixion represents both a divine condemnation of our sin and a statement that we cannot escape that condemnation on our own. Again, I do see why this would bother people who think the Christian message is false. If the Christmas and Easter stories are fictions, then our worldview is merely a profound insult; and as Paul says, “we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor. 15:19). But if Jesus really was the God-man and really did die and rise from the dead for us, then, well, that is wondrous—mind-boggling, in fact, and should make us very, very glad. Far from being offensive, it is the best possible news.