Friday, April 24, 2009

Justice and Mercy

Eli, I was writing a paper in my Mythology class, and I was comparing/contrasting the Christian God with the Greek ones. Now, I wanted to say that God showed his willingness to satisfy the demands of justice and those of mercy in the atonement. Is that an accurate thing to say, or is that a strictly Mormon idea?

This view is presented by the Mormons most candidly in the story of "The Mediator" which I'm sure you're familiar with. God is represented as a loan shark who demands his debtor to pay him back what he owes. The debtor begs God for mercy but the reply goes something like: "No, because then justice wouldn't be satisfied." Jesus is represented as a friend who who has mercy on the debtor and pays God the debt, but then turns around to the thankful friend with these shocking words: "Now you must pay me back. It won't be easy, but it will be possible." And the lesson of the story is, both mercy and justice are "satisfied". Except the story doesn't explain what happens when the debtor can't pay his new debt to Jesus...

One can easily be fooled into thinking that this is the same as the Biblical view of the atonement, but it is definitely not. As we've talked before, it is important to see that it is God the Father who extends mercy to mankind by sending His Son. Christ obeyed the Father by going to the cross. Jesus did not step between man and God as the "good cop", but as the obedient servant of His Father.

It is true that justice demanded satisfaction, but it is not like a loan that needs to be payed back, but an offense that needs to be punished. A loan can be refinanced (which is what the Mormon Jesus does), but a crime cannot. Man has broken God's law, and the law which demands death must be fulfilled. In actuality, that punishment must take place is more about the vindication of God's holiness than a mere legal detail. If God doesn't punish sin, as He said He would, then He becomes a liar and an unrighteous judge. God's character is at stake in judgment (a theme throughout the whole Bible... "Will not the God of all the earth do right?") So when we see it in this light, we see that punishment is inevitable for all of us as true as God is God; but the beautiful thing is this: that God, because of the sacrifice of Christ, is totally satisfied and therefore freely forgives the pleading sinner of all His crimes without ever demanding a payback! "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12) Payback would be unthinkable!

Unlike Mormonism, God does not have a necessity to be merciful. There needs no "satisfaction of mercy". However, God, out of the great love which He has for mankind, chose to be merciful in sending His Son, and in this His mercy and grace is truly magnificent in the fact that it was NOT out of necessity but out of love. The cross of Christ, which is what reconciles sinful men to a holy God, is the demonstration of God's pure mercy and love towards the world. That He died for the sins of sinful, undeserving and death-sentenced sinners is what constitutes his love: for men scarcely die for good men, and they might dare to die for their friends and family, but God shows us how different and greater His love is from ours, in that while we were His enemies, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). So the fact that His mercy is surprising is what makes it so glorious. Grace that isn't surprising isn't grace. If it is born of necessity then it really is just a job.

There is no God like Jehovah!


Micah and Katie said...

I didn't know about that Mormon story, thanks for sharing it here. I think I prefer the biblical story of the guy that owes like a couple million bucks and the ruler is like: "ok, I'll wipe it out". This great forgiveness is paid for at a high cost of course, but I think it shows God's forgiving heart! "Now you must pay me back", yikes < : S

Eli said...

Amen, Micah!

Michael Spotts: . said...

Informative. Thanks.

The Big Bad Banker said...

Interesting take the Mormons have on things. Do they not stop and realize, with what could we actually pay God back with? He created the world and all therein. What could we possibly give Him that He did not already have? Jesus said the poor in spirit would inherit the kingdom of God. Poor folks cannot buy a marvelous kingdom.

Be blessed. I hope we can talk some time Lord willing.

Anonymous said...

I like what you said here: "In actuality, that punishment must take place is more about the vindication of God's holiness than a mere legal detail." Amen!

Anonymous said...

What you don't understand is that the "Mormon" view of the creditor is not God the Father. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. You see, He provided the way for a mediator, who is Jesus Christ. The Creditor is justice. It's the laws of God, that without Jesus Christ, we could not pay back. So as Christ pays the demands of Justice and pays our way with His eternal Atonement, Satisfying the demands of justice, He has set the terms for us, giving us His Gospel. Which is namely Faith in Jesus Christ, and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism by Immersion, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. We cannot pay back God for anything! But we must do all the Jesus Christ has asked of us for Him to accept us into the Kingdom of the Father.

Be careful about being one-sided, and giving only parts of a story. The spread of misunderstanding and bias pave satan's many pathways.

Eli said...

Hi anonymous,

I encourage you to read this article on The Mediator parable:

You cannot separate God from His justice. There is only a law because He is the lawgiver. God's law and justice do not exist apart from Himself, but these are essential to His own nature. Therefore, to say that law and justice require payment is to say that God requires payment.

The good news of the Bible is that God, the just one, has provided Christ for us to deliver us from His own wrath. But if we do not trust in what Christ did for us on the cross, then we will perish under the wrath of God.

Take care,