Why atonement is necessary

We cannot expect a perfectly holy and just God to accept partial sinners

Muslims believe that if their good deeds exceed 50%, God will accept them. In other words, if their good deeds amount to 51% they expect a holy God to accept 49% sinners.

Ask your Muslim friends whether they think a perfectly holy God would accept and dwell with partial sinners.

One of the names of Allah is “Allah the Just God” (al-‘Adl)

The Quran also says many times that sin has its consequences. That means that God does not just ignore sins.

Surah 2:81. Nay, those who seek gain in evil, and are girt round by their sins,- they are companions of the Fire: Therein shall they abide (For ever).

Surah 51

59. For the Wrong-doers, their portion is like unto the portion of their fellows (of earlier generations): then let them not ask Me to hasten (that portion)!

60. Woe, then, to the Unbelievers, on account of that Day of theirs which they have been promised!

Surah 29:40. Each one of them We seized for his crime: of them, against some We sent a violent tornado (with showers of stones); some were caught by a (mighty) Blast; some We caused the earth to swallow up; and some We drowned (in the waters): It was not Allah Who injured (or oppressed) them:” They injured (and oppressed) their own souls.

The Christian concept of atonement means that God has dealt with ALL our sins. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed on us. God can accept us because all our sins have been wiped clean.

Romans 3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Muslim response

God, being sovereign, can forgive us without having to sacrifice His son.

Christian response

We need to realize the guilt of sin and how hateful it is in the sight of God, who is the Holy One ( Al quddus). 

The possibility of God’s forgiving a sinner on his repentance without Atonement is contrary to our innate feeling of Justice.  If a human judge were to do so, it would be said that he was unjust, for justice must be satisfied: but God does not do what is unjust, for He is Just (aladil), and does not therefore forgive without an Atonement. 

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you. The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.” Psalm 5:4-6 NRSV

“Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing…” Habakkuk 1:13 NRSV

This is precisely why God cannot let sin go unpunished, since his holiness will not allow it to continue. He will not acquit the sinner without there being a payment for the crimes committed:

“Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty.” Exodus 23:7 NRSV

Therefore, in order for God to pardon repentant sinners while remaining holy and just, someone had to take the consequences of sin.

The sacrifice had to be made by one who had infinite value since man’s value is finite and cannot atone for all of mankind’s sin:

“Truly no ransom avails for one’s life, there is no price one can give to God for it. For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice that one should live on forever and never see the grave.” Psalm 49:7-9 NRSV

This is precisely why God had to come down and ransom man, since only God is infinite in value:

“But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol for he will receive me.” Psalm 49:15 NRSV

Muslim response

Why can’t God forgive us without a sacrifice like He requires us to forgive our friends?

Christian response

A judge cannot overlook crime.  We are not judges. God is.

God has to be consistent with both His justice and mercy

God is both just and merciful. The way He responds to sin has to be a way that is consistent with both His justice and His mercy. Through atonement, God can respond to sin in a way that can be consistent with both His justice and mercy.

Muslims believe God will be merciful and forgive them of their sins if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. And if their bad deeds outweigh their good deeds, God will be just and punish them for their sins.

In other words, God is sometimes just and sometimes merciful. God does not respond to sin in a way that is both consistent with His justice and mercy at all times.

The Christian concept of God is different. God is always just and always merciful. Being just, He has to execute punishment for sins. Being merciful, He took on that punishment Himself on our behalf.

(Rom 3:24-25 NIV)  …redemption that came by Christ Jesus. {25} God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice…

 There was a story about a young woman who was caught for speeding. She was brought to court where the judge pronounced a fine of $100. After that, the judge did a surprising thing. He got down from his chair and walked down to pay the fine. The judge did so because he was the girl’s father. Being a judge, he had to be just and pronounce the sentence. But because he loves his daughter, he is willing to take the punishment and pay the fine himself.