Was The Cross Divine Child Abuse?

Was The Cross Divine Child Abuse?

Was The Cross Divine Child Abuse?  That’s how many of the New Atheists describe Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  God is portrayed as an evil hate monger that must have blood to quell his burning anger against mankind.  God forces Jesus to take the full brunt of his wrath against humanity, and Jesus has no choice but to obey His Father. 

Is this an accurate description of what actually happened?  I think most Christians would balk at this very different description of the cross from the one we are taught in our churches.  But this is how the cross can look to certain people.  And if their first exposure to the cross is this description, it’s easy to see why God may not seem so great after all.  So, who is right in their description?  The traditional Christian teaching on the matter, or the New Atheists? 

Let’s Draw A Comparison

Say for instance that my daughter is caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar.  Instead of punishing her, I punish my son instead. I tell my son that someone has to pay for the stolen cookies, and I have decided that it’s going to be him.  People would rightly say this isn’t fair.  It’s not fair that I punish my son for someone else’s crimes.  

But is that what’s taking place on the cross?  Is Jesus an unwilling sacrifice, paying for the sins of others against His will? Did God unjustly order His Son to pay for crimes he didn’t commit?

Is This An Accurate View Of What Happened?

The first problem with this alternative view is a misunderstanding, either accidental or intentional, of the relationship between Jesus and God.  Without a proper understanding of the Trinity, then the relationship cannot be correctly understood.  If God and Jesus are one, then the true nature of Jesus’ sacrifice makes sense.

A Willing Sacrifice

Jesus was not an unwilling sacrifice obeying the commands of His Father.  Jesus, as part of the Godhead, was in on the plan.  He willingly sacrificed himself.  1 Peter 2:21-25 gives a clear view of what occurred:

21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:

22   “Who committed no sin,

Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;

23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.[1]

The Greatest Love

When viewed in this context, we can see that this was not an act of divine child abuse.  This was a selfless sacrifice made by God.  He suffered in our place.  He bore the burden Himself.  When seen in this light, the cross is the ultimate representation of love.  Indeed, as John Chapter 15:13 states:

13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.[2]

In his book, “Is God A Moral Monster”, Paul Copan addresses the charge of divine child abuse. I can think of no better way to end this post that with his words:

“God shows himself in the crucifixion through a palpable darkness, an earthquake, and the tearing of the temple curtain in two. (Compare this event with the darkening skies, thundering, and God’svoice at Mount Sinai.) God’s great moment in history comes when all seems lost, when God seems defeated. God’s glory is revealed in God’s self-humiliation. No, the crucifixion was no act of divine child abuse. It was the history-defining event in which God gave his very self for humanity’s sake.”- Is God A Moral Monster- Paul Copan Pg. 52

Have you ever run across this objection before? How did you respond? 


Discuss your thoughts on this post on our Facebook Group here.  


[1]The New King James Version. (1982). (1 Pe 2:21–25). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2]The New King James Version. (1982). (Jn 15:12–13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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