Imagine a judge decrees that all jay-walkers must spend the rest of their lives in a very uncomfortable prison. He locks up a million jay-walkers, but then announces that, though they truly deserve life sentences, because he is loving, he will have his precious son pay their penalty. Now, remember that the penalty for jay-walking is life in prison. Yet, after only three days behind bars, the judge releases his son claiming “the penalty has been paid in full!” Could this judge be both just and competent in mathematics?
Though dubious that that someone can be justly punished for the offenses of someone else, let’s set that problem aside for the sake of this related dilemma. Perhaps we can imagine a judge allowing a mother to serve the life sentence of her criminal son, but now suppose that judge were to claim the mother’s time behind bars allows all criminals to go free. Is such a judge just? Some Christians argue that Jesus was himself innocent, suggesting that this allowed Jesus to pay for the offenses of billions of people. But would placing an innocent person behind bars be anything other than the substitute for one criminal? (We are of course, for the sake of argument, oddly assuming the penalties of criminal offenses can somehow be justly transferred to others.) What if the judge claimed that, because the child was innocent, this child could serve the life sentences of all criminals. Does this make sense mathematically? If you claim the life-time incarceration of baby John pays for
Eternity x billions = 3 days? the allegedly deserved life sentences of million of criminals, has there not been a mathematical blunder or unjust decision of the court?
But let’s now assume that baby John is the son of the judge. Would this change the justice dynamics? Could the life-time incarceration of baby John then somehow pay for the life sentences of millions of criminals? What would we say of a judge who attempted to claim his innocent son’s eternal incarceration allowed for the release of millions of criminals who he had deemed worthy of eternal incarceration? Would we not confidently claim such a judge was either unjust or mathematically confused?
But to keep this analogy parallel to biblical claims, we must also have the judge releasing baby John after only three days of incarceration. The judge knows that three days does not equal a life sentence, and that while one innocent baby could possibly sequentially serve the non-eternal sentences of millions of criminals were the child to live long enough, there is no mathematically coherent sense in suggesting that the innocent child can pay for the “deserve” eternal damnation of millions. And it makes even less sense if that child is released after only three days of incarceration. Do we not have. at best, a mathematically illiterate judge, and at worse, a judge with no understanding of justice?
Some Christian leaders suggest that the only actual penalty for offenses against God required is death. So it was merely the death of Jesus that redeemed us, and not the three days he remained dead. Does this make sense? If the penalty for our offenses is paid for upon our deaths, would not a loving God resurrect us? Would not a God who is able to resurrect humans, but who allows humans to suffer well after the penalties for their offenses were paid for by their deaths be unloving or unjust? Eternity is equivalent to three days no more than a billion dollars is equivalent to three dollars. Imagine walking into a store and asking the price of a coat, and hearing the staff say only “Money”. That is like saying the penalty for offending God is “Death” without quantifying the length of death. There is a salient difference to an eternal uncomfortable death and a mere three days of an uncomfortable death.
Eternity x Millions = 3 Days?
(Note that this argument may not apply to those who don’t believe humans who offend the God of the Bible deserve more than three days of death.)
As you research the quite varied responses of Christians leaders to the notion of a three-day death being equivalent to a “deserved” eternity of death, note the degree of convolution in the attempted responses. Do the responses reflect anything close to our notion of justice and love, and do the responses simply ignore the mathematical inequality? Do the responses simply end up invoking the mysteriousness of God? Do you think the responses exhibit an honest treatment of the issue?