“Jesus lived a perfect life so you don’t have to.”
Sometikes you hear it put like that. Or sometimes…
”Jesus kept the law perfectly because we couldn’t.”
”Jesus’s perfect life is imputed to us.”
If you are a fan of Christian whimsy you might like…
”Christ obeyed so we could be saved!”
However it’s put, the point is the same. And for the sake of argument let’s accept it as true. We’ll concede the point for now: Jesus obeyed the Law perfectly; we do not, and so our ability to be accepted by an absolutely holy God in the face our own absolute unholiness (our “fallen state”) depends entirely upon Jesus’s perfect obedience. That perfect obedience means perfect innocence before the Judgment Throne, which is then applied to the guilty—or at least those whom God has given the grace to receive it (the doctrine of “election”)—and this is how we can be saved.
Now, a dizzying amount of intellectual gymnastics must be performed to make this case, complete with a landing that doesn’t quite stick. Christian soteriology is one long smorgasbord of rational error, with contradictions tripping over themselves as they fight for space, and it begs a lot of questions. Questions which of course are never really covered in the church, let alone answered…not at least since John Calvin “answered” them by burning Michael Servitus at the stake. But, like I said, we willl accept the aforementioned explication of the salvation process for now.
Also, I ask the reader to please note that in accepting the terms of Christian soteriology in this article I must ignore the fact “choose to obey” is a contradiction in terms, as obedience is simply forced compliance which has nothing actually to do with choice (“you will obey or die” is NOT a choice, but is, in reality, quite the opposite). So, I will assume for now that Christ, in keeping the Old Testament commandments, used his will and chose to do so, as opposed to God using threats and force to compel him. In other words, I will assume that Christ’s relationship to the Law is one of voluntary acceptance and not authoritarian coercion, even though by definition law demands that you obey it, it doesn’t accept that you may choose not to. Of course the law would accept it if the law had anything really to do with choice. But then it wouldn’t be the law.
In looking at the claim that Christ fulfills the Law for us, we naturally ask how? To which the orthodox reply is that he ACTED in a way which satisfied the commandments, perpetually, for those who accept the imputation of the righteousness that this implies. In other words, Christ’s behavior reflected the commandments of the Law. The Law commanded, and Jesus acted accordingly.
We could thus say that it was Jesus’s obeyance of the Law which allayed the wrath of God towards us (through him) and not because he WAS God (accepting, only for now, the veracity of the Trinity doctrine). In other words, we must assume that Christ was not given an automatic dispensation simply for being God. His willful obedience of the Law thus is the only possible explanation for his fulfillment of it. In fact, being God doesn’t imply fulfillment the Law as as much as it implies a circumvention of it.
Ah. That’s very interesting.
Let’s pose this as a question.
Is Christ’s fulfillment of the Law a function of his willful obedience or a function of him simply BEING Christ (which equals being God)?
Here is where we find the problem which undermines the entirety of Christian theology, I submit. As usual, greed gets in the way of truth. Like all authoritarian ideologies, they want their metaphysical cake and to eat it, too. For Christians answer this question predictably. They will say both. And why is this predictable? Because contradiction is ALWAYS their response to questions concerning doctrinal premises.
But reason, and therefore objective truth, doesn’t contain a rational frame of reference for contradiction…which in this case is the claim that Christ merits what can’t be merited. Either Christ CHOSE to obey the Law or he fulfills the Law by metaphysical fiat. To say it’s both is to say it’s neither. And that’s nonsense, of course. Fake words.
As one method of getting around this clear violation of reason Christian soteriology attempts to merge two DISTINCT metaphysical components: man’s thought (man as a conceptualizing agent) and man’s choice (man as a willful agent). Of course doing this always goes wrong in hugely embarrassing and destructive ways, as church history reflects. Christian metaphysics FUSE the ability to think with the ability to choose, making them one and the same. But choice is in truth a mere CONTEXTUAL function of man’s metaphysical identity as a thinking agent, stemming from the fact that thought implies will. It’s the equivalent of saying that a pencil IS whatever it happens to write; there’s no root difference between what IS written and what IS the pencil. So one’s choices are not actually chosen, and yet in Christianity, with the right metaphysical subterfuge, it can still be “technically” called choice. That subterfuge is…
…it gets worse, because Christianity further fuses the false “thought/choice” singularity with an ABSOLUTE ETHICAL value. It makes ALL of Christ’s choices ethically GOOD by applying to Christ a “metaphysically ethical” (or we could say moral) value of Absolute Goodness; and it conversely makes ALL of man’s choices EVIL by applying to man a “metaphysically ethical” value of Absolute Evilness. This is why man cannot CHOOSE to keep the Law, and Christ always CHOOSES to do so.
Let me explain further.
Man, we are told, cannot keep the Law because he is fallen. By dint of his birth, or the fundamental existential depravity he acquires at birth (same difference), he CANNOT consistently (“perfectly” is the religious euphemism) follow God’s commandments. He has free will—this the Christian will concede—and CAN thus freely choose to do so, but because of his depraved nature WILL NEVER ACTUALLY choose to do so. In other words, his disobedience is a free choice that is utterly determined by his nature. His free will will only ever lead to a confirmation of his root metaphysical wickedness. His “choice” is always simply a reflection of his root moral-metaphysical Identity: Evil. Man is free to sin…and to ONLY to sin. Man is choosing his own condemnation, which is HIMSELF. Because he acts from his root moral-metaphysical Identity, and his root moral-metaphysical Identity is Evil, it is only possible for him to choose to disobey the Law.
Now, the reason I say it is a “moral-metaphysical Identity”, and not simply a metaphysical Identity, is because Christianity, as I mentioned earlier, merges metaphysics with ethics. In other words, it fuses two completely distinct philosophical categories. And in this way they believe they can claim that man is responsible for his own condemnation, via choice, and yet ALSO claim man’s CATEGORICAL moral degeneracy as a function of simply existing at all.
Of course Christ then represents the obverse side of this determinist coin—and yes, it IS utter determinism, having nothing to do with choice and will despite some relatively clever philosophical obfuscation. Christ we are told CAN keep the Law consistently because he is God. By dint of his birth he is able to CHOOSE to follow God’s commandments. But more than that, he MUST follow the Law. His perfect moral-metaphysical Identity which enables him to keep the Law likewise makes him UNABLE to break it. Because as with man, Christianity concedes that Christ has free will, and thus chooses to obey; but also like man, Christ’s choices must ALWAYS affirm his root moral/metaphysical Identity: GOODNESS. Because Christ is Good, all his choices must be Good. Likewise man, being Evil, must always make Evil choices. (For even if man were to choose to obey the Law on one day (Christianity concedes that man can sometimes do good, but only “in part”, or contextually) he will inevitably break it the next…which means that the Law, in general and in essence, remains COMPLETELY unfulfilled by man.)
Christ’s choices are determined by a singular source—his moral-metaphysical Identity of GOODNESS—that represents the inevitable conclusion of every choice. All of Christ’s choices will be in obedience to the Law; he cannot choose any other way, and yet still he is choosing. He is PRE-DETERMINED to always chose to keep the Law, just as man is PRE-DETERMINED to always choose to break it.
Remember, I am not making the argument that ANY of this makes sense. On the contrary, it is entirely EMPTY of sense. It is gnostic determinism in Enlightenmnet garb. This eradication of the lines between meaning and meaninglessness, between metaphysics, epistemology and ethics; the ascribing of blame to man and credit to Christ whilst also claiming that all choice is a pre-determined function of one’s declared root moral-metaphysical Identity; the clumsy integration of reason and mysticism…this is only what passes for truth in the Christian faith, not was truth actually is.
Behind it all is a fulcrum of intransigent nonsense upon which the entire theology pivots and directs itself. Thousands of years of equivocation, propaganda, and fear mongering have made the faith enigmatic and arcane enough, and the masses uncertain and anxious enough, to allow it to permeate the souls of billions of people, and to settle there with almost no resistance, and concommittantly without love. There is no love without truth. And there is no truth in the church.
How does Christ fulfill the Law for us? Is it because he is God, or because he chose to obey?
If we say it is because of his choice, then morality is a function of making the right decisions in the face of moral options. And thus man can likewise choose to make the right decisions and likewise fulfill the Law. But if we say that man cannot choose to make the right decisions because he is man, whereas Christ is God and thus can, morality and the fulfillment of the Law have nothing to do with choice at all, but are simply a pre-determined function of what one IS (his moral-metaphysical Identity) and not what one BELIEVES.
You see, belief drives the distinction between right and wrong and thus informs all of choice…which doesn’t actually exist because it is absolutely pre-determined, which makes it a contradiction in terms. Of course this nullifies “belief in Christ” as having any rational meaning and thus any moral value. One’s belief in Christ is irrelevant given the fact that he doesn’t actually choose or not choose to follow Christ; his nature DICTATES and DETERMINES his choice.
Choice, being determined by one’s moral-metaphysical Identity (e.g. Christ = Good and Man = Evil) is not actually choice. Which means that Christ did not in fact make any right choices in fulfilling the Law and man did not make any wrong choices in disobeying it. Christ was ALWAYS going to do good because he IS Good, and man was always going to do evil because he IS Evil.
So in conclusion, here is the truth that we all really need to accept; we need to stop holding on to childish, fantastical interpretations of reality. For fantasy, when we attempt to make it reality, is just hell.
If what we believe matters, and from that belief we act, and those actions matter, and thus both belief and action have real moral value, then man is capable, in and of himself, of fulfilling the Law because he is capable of making REAL and EFFICACIOUS choices. His nature is to apprehend right and wrong and to make REAL DECISIONS accordingly. For man THINKS, and to think is to believe, and belief matters because it drives actions and consequences, and those consequences are what the Law morally values. To say that man cannot fulfill the Law in and of himself BECAUSE HE IS MAN is to render thought and belief and action and consequence irrelevant, which makes the moral valuing of consequence irrelevant, which makes the LAW irrelevant, which makes CHRIST irrelevant.
Truth which cannot be acted upon and confirmed by REAL CHOICE by man and Christ precludes ANY Law based upon its moral implications. There is no moral value to the Law then if one cannot CHOOSE to follow it. And if the Law has no moral value then it can serve as no measure of Christ’s perfect life which is thus imputed to man so he can be saved.
The entirety of Christian theology is top-heavy with intellectual error: determinism, the suffocation of morality, the death of meaning, and the rejection of the will. It totters and collapses accordingly.