The Law of Redemption
I would like to backtrack a bit in this segment. Within Christianity, despite the consternation that it may create with fundamental Christianity, are varying views concerning the Bible and Jesus. Some of you reading this may view the Bible to be inerrant, infallible and divinely inspired, at least as it was originally written. Others reading this, including some who would identify themselves as Christians, have a very different view of the Bible, seeing it as a series of books compiled by men expressing their perspective of history and God. One can view the Bible as a sacred, holy book and yet not hold it to be inerrant, infallible or divinely inspired.
When it comes to Jesus we have those who believe that he was God and man as well as those who believe that he was 100% man and I am sure some other views as well and all of that can also be found within Christianity. We have those who believe that Jesus’ death was the absolutely necessary, one and only sacrifice for the sins of humanity but we also have those who don’t believe that Jesus’ death had anything to do with paying the price for the sins of the world and yet both groups see themselves very much as Christians. Strange as it may seem, both sides may speak of atonement when it comes to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection but there is a huge difference in how each group would define and interpret atonement.
I find myself within perhaps a unique group in that I have not only been a part of both sides of these issues, I have written from both perspectives. However, I am writing this series from a much more fundamental perspective for the rather simple and obvious reason that it is within fundamentalism predominately that one will run into the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment. To present “proof” based upon a less than infallible and inspired Bible would be no proof at all in the eyes of fundamentalism. The “proof” that I have presented so far is in no way outside the fundamental perspective. In fact, my focus on the actual Hebrew and Greek words and their meanings should fit fundamentalism like a glove even though I would suggest it creates a lot of problems with fundamentalism. In this segment we are going to look at another “glove” that should fit fundamentalism but instead creates big problems. To quote a rather infamous episode several years ago, if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.
Myriads of Christian books have been written showing how everything from the sacrifices in the Old Testament to the structure, materials and furniture of the Tabernacle and Temple were types and shadows of Jesus. In essence, things in the physical world are said to portray things in the spiritual world. Perhaps one of the most famous types or shadows would be the Passover Lamb. There are many aspects of the story of the Passover Lamb that are said to be allegorical pictures of Jesus.
Another type or shadow said to portray Jesus is the “Kinsman Redeemer.” In fact, fundamental Christianity reasons that Jesus had to become a man to redeem us because only a man could provide the sacrifice for humanity. If indeed Jesus is the kinsman redeemer, where do we find this type or shadow in the Bible, what exactly is the kinsman redeemer and what does the “type or shadow’ tell us about redemption?
The story of the kinsman redeemer is best portrayed in the book of Ruth but the basis of the story is found in the laws within the Torah, specifically in Leviticus 25. Briefly, this is how it works. Let’s assume that I fall upon hard times. Perhaps I have debts that I cannot pay or famine has struck or I have lost my source of income for some reason so I am forced to either sell some or all of my land to someone else or even worse, I sell myself and perhaps even my family into servitude to another party. In essence, I become a “servant” to someone else. To get out of this situation, I must somehow get the money to buy back my land or to buy back my freedom.
Now let’s assume that there really is no way for me to earn enough money to get back my land or to buy back my freedom. I simply cannot do it on my own. This is where the kinsman redeemer enters the picture. A relative (note that the law states that it must be a relative so a friend for example cannot do this) who has the means/money can pay my debt thereby releasing me from the servitude that I could not get out of myself. In return I will work for the relative for a certain amount of time but my working and living conditions should be much better as I will be treated as a relative and not a slave or servant. At some point (more on this in the next segment), I will be totally free.
We need to point out that in the Bible sin is often treated as a debt and as bondage. Sin is said to put us into bondage and the fundamental view is that there is nothing that we can do to get out of this situation much like my situation where I needed a kinsman redeemer.
Again, using the physical world as our example, let’s say that we got ourselves into a mess where we were so far in debt that our land was sold and we were sold but the value of our land and our servitude didn’t come close to covering our debt. Even if we worked a lifetime, we couldn’t earn enough to repay our debts. Spiritually, fundamentalism sees us in the same condition. We are “sinners” totally lost with no way to “redeem” ourselves so we need a kinsman redeemer to come and “save” us and that of course is said to be Jesus.
So far, I doubt that any fundamentalist would see any problem with the scenario I have laid out. However, let’s go back and look at the kinsman redeemer law a little more. Let’s assume that I have sold myself into servitude for whatever reason and there is no way for me to earn enough money to redeem myself. Whether a valid kinsman redeemer steps up and redeems me has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with me. That is not to say that I couldn’t appeal to a kinsman redeemer but ultimately it is not my choice or my decision. In essence I have no say in the matter. If anyone of my relatives shows up and pays off my “debt,” whether I like it or not, whether I agree to it or not, whether I want them to do it or not, the person holding the debt has no choice but to accept the payment. I “change owners” and now I become indebted to my relative. To put it another way, God/Jesus owns me now instead of “Satan” and using the allegorical aspect in the law, in theory God/Jesus is going to be a much nicer owner than Satan because God/Jesus and I are family.
Permit me to stress this point. This transaction has nothing to do with me. It is entirely between the person to whom I was indebted and my kinsman redeemer relative. If the kinsman redeemer is a legal kinsman redeemer then the redemption is entirely in his or her hands. If he or she has the means to pay off the debt and chooses to do so, then it takes place regardless of what I think of it. In fact, I could be entirely ignorant and unaware of any such law. I may not know that such a law exists but that doesn’t matter because none of this is up to me. My actions got me into the mess but I have nothing to do with getting out of the mess.
Christianity calls Jesus a kinsman redeemer but then Christianity alters the law of the kinsman redeemer without any “legal” right to do so at least as far as I can tell. Christianity states that Jesus paid the price for the sins of the world – exactly what a kinsman redeemer is said to do – but then says that if you don’t accept and acknowledge the transaction personally, the transaction is null and void and God will then punish you for your sins. This is ludicrous, if for no other reason, than the fact that God would be exacting punishment for the same “crime” twice. Apparently Jesus paid the price but because you mentally rejected his payment, God will exact the punishment from you a second time. None of you would like to be “billed” a second time for something you already paid for. After paying for $100 worth of groceries, how many of you would be content to leave $50 worth of the food behind in the grocery store? Why does fundamental Christianity think Jesus paid the price for the sins of the whole world but would then settle for 10 or 20 per cent of humanity being “saved?”
I won’t get into much detail but allow me to throw out something else for you to chew on. Christianity often states that Jesus bore the punishment for humanity’s sins. At the same time, Christianity often defines the punishment for humanity’s sins as eternal punishment in hell or the lake of fire if you prefer. If that is the case, how can anyone claim that Jesus bore the punishment to which humanity was to be subjected? If he did, Jesus would be spending eternity in some place being punished by God, not apparently seated at God’s right hand for eternity. It seems to be a real stretch to suggest that a lifetime in hell and 3 days supposedly spent in hell are somehow equivalent. Is it just me or is this just one more example where we really don’t think about what we claim to be true?
Getting back to our kinsman redeemer, it was up to him to decide whether he wanted to redeem his relative who was in bondage. He didn’t need the permission of and in fact, he didn’t even need to ask the person in bondage. He simply exercised his right as a legal kinsman redeemer to buy back his relative or the land of the relative depending on the situation. The “owner” of the relative in bondage or owner of the land also had no say in the matter as long as the entire price that was owed was being paid.
So, based upon the actual law of the kinsman redeemer and the fact that Christianity presents Jesus as the kinsman redeemer, I ask you who believe Jesus to be the kinsman redeemer thereby saving people from their sins…. I ask you...
Just exactly who did Jesus decide NOT to redeem? (Remember by the law the kinsman redeemer could redeem any relative.) Are you going to tell me that Jesus decided to leave people out and instead let them spend eternity in hell when he had the ability, based upon the kinsman redeemer law, to “save/redeem” them? Or are you willing to admit that you are going to alter the law to fit your theology?
Are you going to tell me that the despite the fact that God is not willing that any should perish according to the Bible, and despite the fact that Jesus is supposed to be “God” and therefore he would have the same will as God (kind of redundant isn’t it), and despite the fact that Jesus apparently had the “means” to pay for the sins of the whole world, are you going to tell me that he simply chose not to and instead chose to leave some unredeemed?
Are you going to tell me that Jesus saw “Satan” holding all of humanity in bondage and despite being able to free everyone, he decided to buy back just a small percentage of humanity and leave the rest imprisoned in bondage, destined to being punished forever by God in hell?
Remember that one of the major factors in the kinsman redeemer redeeming a relative was the following FACT – the new owner would be much kinder to the person in bondage because they were family, they were kin, they were related. If Jesus is my kinsman redeemer, who was my old owner and who is my new owner who is apparently going to treat me much better? The obvious answer based upon Christian theology would be Satan is the old owner and Jesus and/or God, the new one, but fundamental Christian theology destroys that view for the following reason. What could any master do to a servant that would be worse than punishing that servant for all of eternity? Humanity’s old owner, Satan, is not the one who is going to do that. It is God who is “supposedly” going to do that. Of course to escape that view we must leave most of humanity unredeemed by our kinsman redeemer so that God becomes the “owner” of only those “saved.” What that leaves us with is a very limited redemption by Jesus as the kinsman redeemer and if that is so, one must ask if Jesus really paid the price for the sins of the whole world or only for a select few that he chose to redeem. And that leads us to Calvinism and predestination and God choosing before the world who would be saved and who would not which is my opinion, one of the most disgusting, denigrating doctrines man has ever come up with concerning God. It and the idea of God punishing people forever in hell rank one and two on my list of doctrines that need to disappear and the sooner the better.
I am tired of walking on egg shells around people in case we disturb their doctrines and beliefs. I realize that the following statement may sound sarcastic and sacrilegious but it is about time people stand up to these horrendous doctrines concerning God. Apparently the Armed Forces may have a commitment to no one being left behind on the battlefield but God/Jesus are quite willing to leave behind most of humanity. If that is your God and your Jesus, so be it -- but it isn’t mine. And it isn't the God or Jesus of many, many people today and though it may surprise and shock some fundamentalists, it isn't the God or Jesus of many followers of Christ back in the first few centuries (A.D.) either. Fundamentalism has had control of Christianity for too long. It is time for the teachings of Jesus to be "redeemed" and set from the bondage that they have become encased in. To use a biblical cliche, "the truth can indeed set you free."
Sorry this got a little long.
In the next segment, we will look at another law which makes the idea of an eternal hell even more bizarre.
Blessings, shalom, namaste