Why redemption?

I am always thinking about things. One that has been on my mind the past 2-1/2 to 3 years is "Why redemption?"

Sin, in the classical Jewish sense is a debt that needs to be paid. As the Bible says, "The wages of sin are death."

Paying the debt is one way of clearing it. However, it is not the only way. Someone can redeem the debt for you, i.e. they pay off your debt.

Classical Christian theology would argue that humanity is incapable of paying off its debt and overcoming death. So, a Redeemer is born, one who not only redeems humanity's debt by dying in humanity's place but also has the strength and power necessary to overcome death.

There are some wonderful apocryphal tales of Jesus' descent into Hell and how the gates could not resist against him, how He took Adam by the hand and led him and all holy people to the archangel Michael who ushered them into the glorious paradise. Humanity, which had been condemned by the tree of transgression, was redeemed by the tree of the cross. (look for it in the Gospel of Nicodemus – some variants are quite different).

However besides payment and redemption, there is a third option.

As Christians, we speak of God's love for all humanity, of His mercy, of His forgiveness.

Even the 'Our Father' taught to us by Jesus says "... forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us ..." (pick your favourite translation, it may say trespasses or debts instead of sins, but the meaning is the same).

This God of love, of mercy, or peace, of forgiveness chose not to forgive us, and demanded payment in full for our transgressions.

So why redemption and not forgiveness?

Comments

Colleen said…
Maybe i am asking for forgiveness insted of redemption. That must be where im going wrong.
Richard said…
I cannot think of a single Christian faith tradition that would ask you to seek a redeemer. They would all claim that Jesus was the redeemer, redeeming everyone once and for all. Having been redeemed by Jesus' death, we are reconciled with God, and have entered into a new covenant based on love and forgiveness.

Maybe I should have explained more in my post or maybe it is not clear where I am coming from.

Jesus is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He pays the debt that humanity owed God for their sins and which separated them from God - a debt which humans were incapable of repaying. By redeeming the debt, Jesus permits a new covenant to be entered into by God and humanity.

My question is: "Why could we not be forgiven from the beginning? Why the need for redemption?"

One argument could be that we were redeemed under the terms of the old covenant which did not allow for forgiveness and required payment in full. Jesus' redemption satisfies the terms of the old covenant thus freeing us to enter into a new covenant with God based on love and forgiveness.

Unfortunately, such an explanation does not sit well with me because I have a hard time believing in a God who is all loving and yet so petty as to demand the letter of the law of an outgoing covenant be fulfilled - no ifs, ands, or buts - before entering into a new covenant.
Mum2One said…
May I suggest the argument that forgiveness does not mean forgetting one's wrong doing. A lot of people think that when you forgive you also have to forget. Probably from the saying, "Forgive and Forget". But that's not truth. You can forgive and not forget. So a redemption is necessary to ERASE the sin.

Imagine if a family that has been traumatised already by the murder of their child but through time and healing, forgave the murderer. A few years later, they are told that he had been released due to lack of evidence and living round the next block to them. Should the family who has worked on forgiveness forget what the murderer is capable of and may be capable of and not warn any of their neighbours to watch over their children more carefully? My answer is no, they should warn as many families as possible but still have released themselves from bitterness and hate against the murderer.
Richard said…
Forgiveness is the act of freeing yourself of anger or resentment towards the person who has wronged you and / or releasing them of any indebtedness to you (whether in the form of punishment, restitution, or retribution).

This does not release the sinner of any obligations required for contrition and taking necessary steps towards ensuring their purification (rehabilitation).

In Christianity and Buddhism, forgiveness is generally seen as something unconditional. For Christians it is seen as a spiritual obligation, for Buddhists as necessary to avoid the build up of harmful emotions.

You may want to have a look at a blog entry I made on justice.

Redemption means somebody else pays for you. So, for example, if I borrow $500 from you, then I am indebted to you.

To clear the debt, I must pay it. However, I am out of a job and living on the street, so I cannot. My good friend, Prince Romp, redeems me by paying the debt for me. So my debt with you is cancelled and the act of redemption does not incur any form or sense of indebtedness.

Alternatively, you could have forgiven me the debt.

It is probably odd to think of sin in this way, but that is how the ancient Jews perceived it. Incidentally, in Jewish thought, forgiveness is something that is the jurisdiction of God, not humanity.

The Our Father was revolutionary not only in calling God Father, but also in saying forgive us our sins are we forgive those who have sinned against us.

Interestingly (probably shouldn't bury it in a comment), I remember a discussion I had with a Jewish man many years ago, he was arguing against Jesus being the Son of God.. His argument was quite simply based on God's response to Moses' question, "Who are you?". God replied, "I am what I am." His claim is that God referred to Himself as a thing, not as a person. Since Jesus was a man, he could not be divine, since a thing cannot become a person.
Mum2One said…
Somewhere along the line, you must have lost me. Just can't understand your question - "Why not forgiveness?... Why Redemption?" instead. Or perhaps you answered your own question along the way when you said justice has to be repaid. Forgiveness doesn't bring about justice. Just like Jesus can be exist as truly man and truly God, a bit of a paradox if you take it with our limited understanding, so can Justice and Forgiveness stand hand in hand. So forgiveness alone is not enough. Redemption, repayment of the debt, the blood of Jesus as our repayment was what it took to have a clean slate. Forgiveness was probably alreay given when Adam and Eve had to face God after the fall. But redemption still had to take place for justice to happen. The co-existence of God being a loving Father but yet also just is only something God can do in the perfect form.

I believe we humans can but only show a imperfect form of those qualities. I believe forgiveness (the letting go of the resentment) is hard for humans and is a continuous process but it is not impossible with the Holy Spirit's help.
forgiving said…
Nice site. There is a free CD or tape that uses subliminal affirmations to assist in the forgiveness and letting go process. You can get it at www.innertalk.com.
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forgive said…
Thanks for your contribution to the blog world. There are some free subliminal mind training tools that helped me with fear and forgiving--the whole letting go process, and you can get them with no hitches attached at www.innertalk.com/
forgiveness said…
The blog world is a great source of info. There are some free subliminal tools for fear and promoting forgiveness at www.innertalk.com/ They work for me.

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