Three Big Problems With The Atonement

One of the core doctrines in Christianity is the notion that Jesus died for our sins. Muslims most commonly point out that this doctrine is unjust, however there are at least two other problems with this doctrine, which are not very often pointed out clearly by Muslims: 1) The Atonement Invalidates The True Concept of Forgiveness  & 2) Jesus’ Vicarious Death Causes Problems For The Trinity (which is supposedly a description of God’s Holy Nature)

Let’s try to explore how serious all three of these problems are in a little more detail.

Argument no. 1: It is Unjust, Hence Compromising God’s Holy Attribute of Justice

Both Islam in Surah 91:8 and Christianity in Romans 2:14-15 teach that human beings are naturally inspired with certain moral intuitions. We all acknowledge the universally recognized moral principle that it is criminals who deserve to be punished for their crimes and not innocents. Even if an innocent person volunteers to suffer for the crime of a criminal resulting in the criminal avoiding the penalty of the crime we still recognize that JUSTICE has not been served, despite the innocent person doing a noble act of sacrifice voluntarily.

We often hear Christians say: “God leaves no sin unpunished”? What does that even mean?

Sin is not a tangible matter nor is it a liquid that is injectable into the body. Sin is either a thought or an action. You can’t punish crime without punishing the criminal. Sin is what a sinner does and it is the sinner who deserves the punishment. God doesn’t punish murder, theft and fornication, rather He punishes murderers, thieves and fornicators. We shouldn’t be treating sin as some type of abstract thing.

If one wants to clarify “well what we mean is that all sin must be accounted for and it was accounted for in punishing Jesus”. But Jesus was innocent and sinless according to Christian theology, hence how could he be “punished”? How could an innocent person be “punished” when the very word “punished” itself denotes that one is suffering a penalty for an offense that he committed? Innocents are not “punished”, rather they are made to suffer at times, but never “punished”.

But one may reply that Jesus was treated as if he was guilty even though in reality he wasn’t.  But isn’t that precisely the problem? Jesus being treated as something that he really wasn’t is nothing more than fiction. Calling this a “fiction” is not from me, but the words of John Nevin, a 19th century Reformed theologian who is said to have been one of the best students who studied at Princeton during his time. He wrote:

The judgment of God must ever be according to truth. He cannot reckon to anyone an attribute or quality that does not belong to him in fact. He cannot declare him to be in a relation or state that is not actually his own, but the position merely of another. A simply external imputation here, the pleasure and purpose of God to place to the account of one what has been done by another, will not answer. Nor is the case helped in the least by the hypothesis of what is called a legal federal union between the parties, in the case of whom such a transfer is supposed to be made; so long as the law is thought of in the same outward way, as a mere arbitrary arrangement or constitution for the accomplishment of the end in question. The law in this view would be itself a fiction only, and not the expression of a fact. But no such fiction, whether under the name of law or without it, can lie at the ground of a judgment entertained or pronounced by God. (The Mystical Presence and Other Writings on the Eucharist, pp. 190-91 cited in by Mark Horne, Real Union or Legal Fiction).

Those worthy and deserving of punishment must be treated accordingly and those not worthy and deserving of punishment must be treated accordingly. You cannot have the penal consequences of sins if you are not guilty of those sins. Also, if Jesus wasn’t TRULY guilty of the sins he was “punished” for, then that means that the guilt of the sinners weren’t TRULY transferred to him and hence we still have guilty people not being judged the way justice demands that they should. And if Jesus is TRULY guilty of the sins that he was “punished” for, then you have a sinful savior and God resulting in the destruction of his holiness.

One may say “Bassam, don’t confuse laws that are binding upon us human beings with laws that are binding upon God, for there are no laws binding upon God” I have two responses to that. First, the idea of holding a specific person accountable and guilty for his sins and not transferring the guilt to someone innocent is in and of itself a Biblical motif. Ezekiel 18:19-20 states:

19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Secondly, it is true that God is not judged by laws but that doesn’t mean that He isn’t necessarily good by nature. If he wasn’t then God would be able to turn all good into evil and if He could go that far then why not simply forgive all sin and hold no one accountable? Punishing the guilty and sparing the innocent is more than just a law, it’s a moral principle.

It is also fruitless to explain the problem away by saying that some good has come out of Jesus’ alleged sacrificial death, for just because something good might come about from an unjust act that does not make the act itself just.

1 Timothy 2:5 states: “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.

The task of a mediator is usually to bring two sides together and take charge of the interests of both the offended and the offender. He doesn’t take upon himself the guilt of the offender nor the wrath and fury of the offended, for he is to be the one seeking to reconcile between both parties as a third party member. But apparently that isn’t the case in light of the atonement.

Argument no. 2: The Atonement Invalidates The True Concept of Forgiveness

What does forgiveness mean? We read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15

Matthew 6:9-15

“This, then, is how you should pray:
” ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.[a]14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

So according to the Lord’s Prayer we are to ask God to “forgive us” our debts as “we also forgive our debtors”. We are to forgive men their sins if we are to see the Father forgive us of our sins.

If someone owes you a thousand dollars and you wanted to “forgive this debt” that would mean that you would have to forgo the thousand dollars and absorb your losses. If Kevin owes you a thousand dollars and then you tell Kevin you don’t have to pay it anymore and that John could pay it instead, that doesn’t mean that you have truly forgiven Kevin’s debt. Kevin’s debt is still there even though it’s not Kevin paying it anymore. The only way for you to TRULY forgive Kevin’s debt is for you to absorb your losses. Similarly, the only way for God to TRULY forgive us our debt is to let go of the debt all together. Now we don’t say that God “absorbs His losses” because God is independent of all creatures and has no “losses”, but the logic is the same in that God would have to forgo the debt all together in order to TRULY forgive us our debts. However, in Christianity we don’t see that because Jesus takes the debt and pays it.

In Luke 7:36-50 Jesus gives an example of true forgiveness. Focusing on verses 41-43 he says:

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

True forgiveness is a virtuous act of letting go of a wrong without exacting any form of payment or punishment in return. But Christianity teaches that Jesus bore the punishment of sinners on the cross fully paying off the debt. In that case there is nothing to forgive. Yes, only those who accept what Jesus has done for them will receive the benefits of his alleged sacrificial death for Christianity does not teach universalism, but in REALITY their debt to God wasn’t TRULY forgiven.

Argument no. 3: Jesus’ Vicarious Death Causes Problems For The Trinity (which is supposedly a description of God’s Holy Nature)

Romans 6:23 states that the wages of sin is death. Death here referring to a spiritual death. A spiritual death (unlike a physical death which is a separation of the soul from the body) entails the soul being separate from the presence of God. as one could see in Genesis 2:17 where God said that Adam would “surely die” for eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Life.

Now most mainstream Christians are of the view that all the three persons in the Godhead and not only the Father required propitiation (that is they required to be satisfied from the problem of sin) because if it was only the Father then the Son and Holy Spirit wouldn’t be as Holy as the Father, which would be problematic.

Now since all three persons required propitiation and since the wages of sin is spiritual death, how exactly did Jesus propitiate himself? He is supposed to be both the subject and object of propitiation. How does one satisfy his own wrath by punishing himself? Also, if Jesus is God and he must spiritually die and become separated from God, how does he become separated from himself? Despite having two separate natures he is still one person according to orthodox and mainstream Christianity. So how did he separate from himself? It appears that Christians say that he was separated from God the Father and that would count as a spiritual death. I’ll go with that idea for the sake of argument.

John Calvin and other reformed scholars such as Charles Hodge, John MacArthur, RC Sproul, John Piper and others insist that mere corporeal death wouldn’t have been sufficient, but that Jesus during his hours on the cross must have truly been separate from God the Father and that his soul endured such trauma.

But if Jesus were truly separate from God the Father for those few hours then doesn’t that mean that there was a temporary break and disconnect in the Trinity? Didn’t that intercommunion in the Godhead temporarily stop? Isn’t that a change in God, which Malachi 3:6 says cannot happen since God does not change?

Also, doesn’t Jesus dying and suffering for us mean that he is more worthy of honor and praise than the Father who only sent him? Does the commander who sends his soldier to die in a mission that saved the lives of millions deserve and get the same level of honor as the soldier sent to die? Surely not! The one who does the dirty work is at a much higher level in terms of praise and honour than the one who sent him to do the dirty work. Surely the Son feels a bit closer to us than the Father while the Father feels a bit more transcendent than the Son? So COULD (not should, but COULD) we honestly we love the Father AS MUCH as the son? Doesn’t the atonement raise problematic concerns for God’s supposedly Holy Triune nature?

In a nutshell, we could see just how really problematic the doctrine of the Atonement really is for Christians. If you would like more, then please watch my debate last year on this topic over here

P.S As I have publicly stated before, much thanks is due to the late Dr. Ken Pulliam, for his research on this topic assisted me very much.  

20 replies »

  1. The sacrificial system shows that punishment can be born by the innocent for the guilty. The sacrificial system and the criminal justice system are parallel to each other in the Mosaic law. Neither one cancels out the other. The priniciple of the non-transfer of guilt in the punishment of crimes does not nullify the same principle in the making of atonment by blood offerings. The passover also shows that God’s wrath is turned away by blood and a ransom price of human life was paid to set Israel free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.

  2. “If he wasn’t then God would be able to turn all good into evil and if He could go that far then why not simply forgive all sin and hold no one accountable?”

    But this is Islam’s view of forgiveness where no restitution of blood is payed to God in return for all the offences committed against his honour. The more man sins the more Allah can forgive and the more pleasure he can receive from our sin..

    • Thanks for passing the link brer.

      The Christian author (Steve Hays) seems like a nice fellow (given his polite and professional tone), however I did not find his response to be rock solid.

      Steve said “Even if we grant Zawadi’s interpretation, Paul himself teaches penal substitution. Therefore, it’s counterproductive to cite Rom 2:14-15 as an argument against penal substitution.”

      Well, if Steve grants the interpretation of Christians, which I appeal to then that doesn’t mean that it is counter productive. I only appealed to Paul’s statement to show that there is some idea of universal principles. That is all. I know that Paul taught PTS. The whole point I am trying to make is that people such as Paul contradict the universal principle of “anti-PTS” to begin with!.

      Steve said: “On the one hand, Islam has numerous taboos which many non-Muslims don’t find intuitively wrong. Islam forbids alcohol, but many non-Muslims don’t regard alcoholic consumption as intuitively wrong. Muslims regard dogs as ritually impure. Many non-Muslims don’t. Muslims regard pork as ritually impure. Many non-Muslims don’t.”

      Unfortunately, Steve is passing off false analogies. Why is that? It’s true that there are certain laws such as bans on alcohol or principles (such as in the case of the PTS) exclusive to particular faiths, however in this particular context I was raising the point that the moral principle of the guilty needing to be held accountable for their crimes and not the innocent IS A UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE SHARED BY EVERYONE INCLUDING CHRISTIANS. The idea is that EVEN CHRISTIANS recognize that fairness denotes that the guilty pay for their own criminal actions and not the innocent. However, Christians for some odd reason only see this to be okay with Jesus supposedly dying for their sins. For this particular situation, they make it okay. They suddenly make an exception to this metaphysical moral intuition.

      You see the difference now? This isn’t a typical case of where a religion differs with others regarding certain morals. Rather, this is a case where all human beings (including Christians) recognize a certain moral principle, yet Christians violate this principle when it comes to the alleged death of the Son of God for their sins.

      Steve said: “From what I’ve read, orthodox (i.e. Asharite) Islamic theology is voluntaristic.”

      I’m going to have to let an Asha’rite Muslim (which I am not) defend that notion, since I personally believe that this contrary to Islam (as I have publicly stated before over here

      Steve said: “Mt 20:28 teaches penal substitution.”

      Keeping aside the fact that not all Christians would agree with this interpretation (the most amusing counter interpretation being that Satan gave up his possession of us because of our sins for the “purchase money of Christ’s blood”) this doesn’t change the fact that there is an internal contradiction between PTS and the concept of forgiveness as illustrated in the other passages, which I pointed to. To merely brush them aside as “certain aspects of Biblical forgiveness” doesn’t make the problem go away I’m afraid.

      Steve says that my “definition of forgiveness simply begs the question.”

      Steve says this as if us human beings don’t already understand what forgiveness means!

      Steve says “Zawadi is getting carried away with the word “separation.” That’s popular usage. Preachers often employ graphic, concrete language. This is just a spatial metaphor. Poetic. It doesn’t mean the Father and the Son were literally or metaphysically separated.”

      Well then…… what does it mean (would be nice to quote some scripture here)??? How do I understand that the “wage of sin is death” and apply it to the case of Jesus?

      Steve says “Due to the Incarnation, Jesus can be both the subject and the object of propitiation.”

      I’m curious to know where the New Testament teaches that Jesus was propitiated, for I only see the Father being mentioned as having his wrath appeased in Romans 3:25. Where does it mention the same for the Son and Spirit?

      Granting that Jesus was both the subject and object of propitiation…. Why would God PUNISH HIMSELF in order to APPEASE HIMSELF?

      Steve says “This objection is overly anthropomorphic. Too Miltonian (i.e. Paradise Lost).”

      Can Steve explain why several Christian preachers keep telling us Muslims that one reason why Christianity teaches that God is closer to human beings than in Islam is because Jesus came down to earth and lived amongst us and related to us, etc. etc. etc. Muslims keep hearing from Christians that God loved us sooo much that he came down to earth and died for us and to be close to us, etc. etc. etc. Does Steve disagree with this approach of Christians? If not, then can’t the Muslim rightly point out that the Father didn’t do all this, hence it’s expected that we feel differently towards the Father?

      Steve says “God doesn’t suffer. The Son qua Son doesn’t suffer:”

      In a nut shell, did the Son suffer for us or not?

      Kind Regards,


  3. Just cancelling the liability of punishment to sin, which is analogous to the cancellation of a debt, does not change man’s state of alienation.

  4. “The priniciple of the non-transfer of guilt in the punishment of crimes does not nullify the same principle in the making of atonment by blood offerings”

    Correction : “The priniciple of the non-transfer of guilt in the punishment of crimes does not nullify the principle of the transfer of guilt in the making of atonment by blood offerings”.

    I haven’t touched on third point or the theory of the imputation of Adam’s sin. I think that’s enough for now to respond to. Thanks for letting me post all these responses but it was a big post from Bassam.

  5. “A simply external imputation here, the pleasure and purpose of God to place to the account of one what has been done by another, will not answer.”

    If it is the pleasure and purpose of God it answers. Period.

    Romans 4 v 24-25 “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”.

  6. “Why would God PUNISH HIMSELF in order to APPEASE HIMSELF?”

    He inflicts suffering upon himself by punishing our sins in Jesus. It is not punishment for something that he has done wrong but vicarious suffering for the wrongdoing of sinners.

    Rom 3 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.

    Why is this not God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as would be the natural meaning? This is the usage in the rest of the passage.

      • In the OT he punishes the animal put to death in place of the sinner. This proves the PST. Under the Mosaic Covenant man could not draw near to Jehovah without blood and a mediating priesthood which offered it to God on the altar.


    1) If penal substitution is required to forgive sins then penal substitution is given only to God the Father ,it is yet to be given to God the son and God the Holy spirit.

    2) Jesus forgave sins without penal substitution (Matthew 9:1-13; Luke 5:17-32) ,if he can forgave sins without penal substitution then why cant God the father ?

    3) Penal substitution makes God doubly unmerciful and doubly unjust .Doubly unjust because he is not punishing the guilty which is injustice no 1 and instead punishing the guiltless which is injustice no 2 .

    4) Penal substitution knocks of the nearness between an individual and God as it is when a person asks for forgiveness from his Lord he becomes near to him and pleads sincerely.If there is a substitution then what is the purpose of pleading to God.

    5) Christians claim sins are infinite so an infinite being should pay for it so Jesus being a God payed for the sins. Christians also claim it is not God who died on the cross but human Jesus ,if human Jesus died on the cross then it is finite person who died on cross so the death of Jesus also did not remit us from our sins

  8. It appears that Steve Hays has offered a second response over here

    Let’s take a look shall we…

    Steve said: “Zawadi ignores the fact that his interpretation of Rom 2:14-15 is disputed.”

    I’m ignoring it because it’s not relevant. It wasn’t a key argument of mine. There are many Christians who speak about universal moral values and all I simply did was attempt to point to the New Testament as a basis for it. If Steve is the kind of Christian who believes that it is only restricted to gentiles……. Well then fine. That doesn’t affect my argument one bit, since the transfer of moral guilt from the guilty to the innocent remains wrong universally amongst gentiles as well. Let’s read the passage again:

    14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, BY NATURE do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is WRITTEN ON THEIR HEARTS, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

    Seems quite clear to me that this passage is talking about some kind of idea of recognized and shared moral truths.

    Steve said: “And even if we grant his interpretation, his appeal is self-defeating. By his own admission, Paul taught penal substitution. So Paul doesn’t think penal substitution is intuitively wrong.”

    Obviously Paul taught it, otherwise I wouldn’t be raising the argument in the first place!

    Steve said: “Even if Paul taught that human beings are endowed with an innate grasp of certain moral truths, the (alleged) injustice of penal substitution doesn’t count as one of those moral truths.”

    Yes it does. You yourself Mr. Steve Hays recognize that transferring the moral guilt from the guilty to the innocent is unjust. You only choose to make an exception in the case of Jesus.

    Steve said: “There is no universal moral intuition against penal substitution or vicarious atonement. Many religions practice animal sacrifice or human sacrifice to appease their god or gods. The victim dies in place of those on whose behalf he is sacrificed. So that belies Zawadi’s facile appeal to a universal moral intuition to the contrary.”

    First of all, if we are going to be utilizing this kind of logic then that means there exists no universal moral truths in the world today. If we look hard enough we would find people who think racism, murder, rape, child molestation, drug dealing, etc. are okay. Steve providing examples of groups and people VIOLATING these universal moral principles doesn’t mean that he has shown that these principles are not universal.

    Secondly, your analogy of animal sacrifices is weak. In the case of Jesus, the MORAL GUILT was (allegedly) transferred to Jesus, while animals are not moral agents. The crux of the objection to PTS is that moral GUILT is being transferred away from the GUILTY to the INNOCENT. This is NOT the case with animals that are being sacrificed.

    Thirdly, I will concede for the sake of argument that there exists no universal moral principles, the strength of my argument is derived from the fact that CHRISTIANS THEMSELVES understand and relate to the injustice of transferring MORAL GUILT from the guilty to the innocent. They only attempt to make sense of it when it comes to Jesus.

    Steve says “Even if (ex hypothesi) Jesus were the exception to the rule, Jesus is inherently exceptional. So that wouldn’t be an ad hoc exception–even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that it is, indeed, an exception to the rule. Rather, that would another point of principle–given the exceptional metaphysical nature of the Redeemer.”

    This is exactly my point. Christians make this exception, yet Steve made no attempt whatsoever in demonstrating how this is a valid argument. Steve hasn’t shown us how it is just and fair that the guilty get to have the opportunity to have their guilt transferred to an innocent person.

    I as a Muslim surely do recognize that exceptions could be made in times when it comes to particular laws (some of which are exclusive to certain figures as taught in Islam) or how Allah could do things, while not immoral for Him, but for others could be immoral.

    But in the case of the PTS, it is different. It is inherently (and not conditionally) unjust to transfer moral GUILT to others.

    Steve says “So Al-Ghazali and Ibn Khaldun weren’t real Muslims. Zawadi discredits himself by such a preposterous claim.”

    Hmmm……….. so if a Christian were to say “I’m not a Calvinist Christian” or “I’m not an Arminian Christian” or “I’m not a Baptist Christian”, does that mean that he has excommunicated them from the faith??????!!!!!!!!!!!

    No Steve…. I recognize that Asharis are Muslims general (I’ve been engaged polemically against them for 5 years now heavily and I’ve made hundreds of statements in relation to them, I challenge anyone to find one example where I excommunicated them from Islam), I just simply don’t subscribe to that particular theological school of thought just as a William Lane Craig wouldn’t subscribe to Calvinist theology for instance.

    Steve says “There is no internal contradiction. Zawadi is arguing from silence. The fact that some passages don’t mention redemption as a condition of forgiveness hardly contradicts the necessity of redemption as a condition of forgiveness. The passages he quotes don’t say redemption and remission are antithetical. Rather, they don’t speak to that connection one way or the other.
    There is also a difference between divine and human forgiveness. To say God requires atonement to pardon sinners don’t entail the same requirement when men forgive their fellow man. Our duties to God and man are not interchangeable.
    There is no uniform concept of forgiveness. For instance, some people think forgiveness is unconditional while others think it’s conditional.”

    I’m talking about definition (what the word forgiveness means) and not about any particulars regarding method and conditions of application.

    Steve… it’s very simple brother. It makes no sense that WE ARE FORGIVEN our sins, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME our sins were ACCOUNTED FOR IN THE FORM OF “PUNISHMENT” (which Jesus allegedly bore).

    Very simple.

    If you want to define the word forgiveness in a way not understood according to the norm, then fine. Please do so CLEARLY. Otherwise, Christians are speaking gibberish according to Muslims, since it makes no sense to us how PTS and forgiveness are harmonious with each other.

    Steve says “Since Scripture doesn’t say the Father and the Son were “separated” at Calvary, I don’t have to quote a Scripture to the contrary.”

    Okay fine, I take it you don’t agree with all those scholars then. Fine. That’s your right.

    Steve says “What is there not to understand?”

    What I don’t understand is that the wage of sin is spiritual death. Spiritual death is separation from the presence of God, correct? So, shouldn’t then Jesus must have been separated from God the Father if he bore our sins?

    Help me out here. I’m trying to understand.

    Steve says “To begin with, Zawadi is committing the word-concept fallacy. The concept of propitiation can be present where the word is absent.”

    I never said otherwise. I didn’t demand that the exact word “propitiated” be presented. So that’s a strawman.

    Steve says “To say Jesus was propitiated would be an inference from Trinitarian theology.”

    An inference based or not based on scripture??? It only talks about the Father’s wrath being appeased.

    Steve says “To say that God punished himself is equivocal. God qua God didn’t “punish” himself. Rather, the Son of God Incarnate endured divine punishment.”

    Yes, God didn’t punish his divine nature, but his human nature. Yes, that’s clear. It doesn’t change the fact that God punished himself. The method and mode of how it was done isn’t what is being questioned at this point.

    Steve says “To say God “appeases” himself is a colorful, rather anthropomorphic way of saying that God exacts justice.”

    So God “satisfied” his wrath? Pick any word you like. It doesn’t matter to me. The point is that God had to punish himself in order to fulfill some kind of satisfaction or demand of his according to your theology. That simply doesn’t sound right.

    Steve says “If you’re going to attack Christian theology, you need to do better than pick on Christian preachers.”

    I don’t simply “pick” on Christian preachers. Rather, I am merely offering a counter rebuttal to their claims. So I would recommend that people such as yourself offer advice to “Christian preachers” instead of me, so that they don’t end up shooting themselves in the foot.

    The rest of Steve points weren’t too relevant to this specific discussion at hand and as for his point regarding the transcendence of Allah, one may refer to my 2009 debate with Thabiti over here and see the portions where this issue was discussed in order to know my thoughts regarding the matter.

    Kind Regards,


      • Excellent… we are making progress. We are reaching the stage where one side (clearly not mine) is beginning to really sound desperate.

        Steve said: “If Zawadi appeals to Rom 2:14-15 as part of his argument, then of course the correct interpretation is relevant. To say that’s irrelevant is a tacit admission that his original argument was irrelevant.”

        As I explained already, I didn’t appeal to Romans 2:14-15 as my key argument. It’s already a given and assumed that most people (unlike Steve as I have just come to know) recognize that there are universal moral principles. Many Christians talk about such universal notions.

        Steve said: “That only became irrelevant when Zawadi belatedly discovered that his interpretation of Rom 2:14-15 is disputed. He certainly didn’t cite Rom 2:14-15 at the outset with the understanding that his appeal was irrelevant. Rather, his initial appeal was shortsighted, and now he’s trying to save face.”

        I already replied back to Steve saying: “There are many Christians who speak about universal moral values and all I simply did was attempt to point to the New Testament as a basis for it.”

        I didn’t appeal to Romans 2:14-15 as proof that the Christian must accept this notion (since most people do already), rather I only cited it and the Qur’anic passage in order to show that Islam and Christianity have something in common in this regard.

        Word of advice to Steve….. when you have “belatedly discovered” that you have misunderstood the intent of my statement, either admit it or just drop your argument.

        Furthermore, just because the interpretation of that verse is disputed it makes no difference as I have already explained! It doesn’t matter if you limit it to gentiles.

        Steve said “The onus is not on me to establish the correct interpretation of Rom 2:14-15. Zawadi is the one who cited that passage to prooftext his argument. The onus lies on him to justify his interpretation.”

        I already provided my argument by capitalizing and emphasizing specific words in the passage and relying on the apparent reading of the text. You would have to provide a proper explanation. Stop running away and hiding behind the “well there is a difference of opinion” defense. So……… basically you would admit that my argument could work on the millions of Christians who would take the interpretation I am referring to then, right?

        Steve said: “In which case, penal substitution is not intuitively wrong to Paul.”

        Yes, he believes in a doctrine, which is a violator of the humanly recognized principle that it’s unfair that innocents die in the place of the guilty. That’s the point.

        Steve said: “I do nothing of the kind.”

        Yes you do, unless you’ve got issues. You recognize that innocent people today can’t serve jail time for criminals. You know it’s unjust. You know that generally speaking, you can’t punish the innocent in the place of the guilty.

        You only choose to make EXCEPTIONS to this because of your faith.

        Steve said: “The atonement of Christ is by no means the only case of this generic principle. Within Scripture we have federal headship, corporate solidarity, and collective guilt. Later generations are blessed or cursed on account of what an earlier generation did, or the actions of a patriarch.”

        Just as with the animal sacrifices, you keep providing false analogies.

        Ken has done a good job addressing your analogies:

        Steve said “Let’s consider some Islamic examples. Take inheritance. A son inherits the estate as a birthright. It’s not something he earned. Not something he did. Rather, that’s based on his relation to a second party. What his father did.”
        Take tribal chieftains or caliphs. If you’re the son of the caliph, you are born into a high social position. That’s an ascribed status, not an achieved status. That’s not something you deserve. Rather, that’s based on your relationship to a second party. Because of who your father is, you automatically inherit a high social standing.”


        “you get the credit or blame for what a second party did. Something is credited to your account apart from your personal actions. What someone else did is functionally attributed to you, as if you yourself did it.”

        How on earth any of these examples are analogous to the atonement is beyond me.

        The child’s inheritance is an issue to do with rights of children over their fathers and the father’s duty towards his children.

        Achieving a particular status due to being the son of a Caliph is not necessarily Islamic. If one looks at how Umar the second caliph ensured that his son was given no privileges simply because he was his son then one would see the true Islamic model. An honest caliph following proper Islamic guidelines would only hire qualified people and be fair.

        It’s not simply a matter of getting credit or blame because of what a second party did, rather it’s the transfer of GUILT from the guilty unto the INNOCENT, WITH THE INNOCENT BEING PUNISHED “IN THE PLACE OF” (NOT ALONG WITH) THE GUILTY.

        Steve said “I had an aunt and uncle. My aunt Bess had a cat. My uncle Art was not a cat person. He hated her cat….”

        It’s hard to take this seriously.

        Steve said “The onus is not on me to disprove the alleged universality of these principles. Zawadi is making the claim. He shoulders the burden of proof.”
        It is common knowledge that all societies and cultures today recognize these principles. Someone or some group violating them does not disprove that.
        Steve said “Zawadi hasn’t begun to establish the existence of a universal moral intuition against penal substitution. He hasn’t even bothered to explain how he’d go about attesting the existence of a universal moral intuition to that effect.”

        It’s simple. Where ever you go in the world today, you would see that people recognize that only the guilty are held accountable for their criminal actions. No judge in the world today would sentence an innocent man to jail in substitute of another for criminal offenses. If you talk to anyone or ask anyone whether it’s “fair” that a guilty person gets away with his crime because some innocent person happen to get his guilt transferred to him and suffered for it, they would say no.

        For Steve to deny this would only demonstrate his desperation. This is common knowledge, which requires no proof. It’s like asking me to prove that universally people in the world today hate to feel pain and like to experience joy.

        Steve said: “If you honor the Son, you will honor those whom he has sent. If you dishonor those whom he sent, you thereby dishonor the one who sent them.”

        Honoring the Son entails honoring the Father because honoring the Son means that you recognize he who sent him who is God. Honoring the son IS A REFLECTION of honoring the Father. It’s not that the honor given to the son was transferred to the Father.

        Steve said “If you dishonor God’s name, that’s culpable. You incur guilt.”

        As for dishonoring God, yes you would incur guilt because you committed a sin. Again, nothing to do with transfer here.

        Steve said “If honor and dishonor are transferable, so are guilt and shame. Honor can either be an achieved status or an ascribed status. Far from being “exceptional,” this is typical of many ancient cultures as well as Third World cultures.”

        Sorry, none of your analogies work in showing that the guilty could get off the hook for their crimes, while the innocent suffer instead receive that guilt and suffer on account of it.
        Steve said “There’s no presumption for me to overcome, for Zawadi hasn’t begun to make a case for his claim. He’s been asserting his position rather than arguing for his position.”

        Again, the desperation continues.

        Steve, do you have kids? Let’s assume you do.

        If you found out that one of your kids did something really really bad. Are you going to punish the other kid and let that kid who did the wrong get off the hook?

        Another example, let’s say somebody physically assaulted someone. He goes to court. The final ruling, which takes place is… the one who was physically assaulted decides to endure the punishment himself in the place of the person who committed the actual assault. Now… do you Steve think that is fair????

        I could keep giving you examples till tomorrow, the point that I am trying to make is that CHRISTIANS THEMSELVES recognize the principle that THE GUILTY MUST PAY FOR THEIR OWN CRIMES. They only choose to MAKE AN EXCEPTION when it comes to Jesus.

        Steve’s BIG MISTAKE is that he thinks that because of this EXCEPTION, that means that he considers himself and other Christians as not viewing the transfer of guilt to the innocent to be something wrong. No, no…….. the reality is that they do recognize that it is wrong, but they tell themselves that God is an exception. So the REALITY of the matter is that they are going against this established moral principle (that the innocent shouldn’t be punished as a substitute for the guilty). So Steve can’t simply reply back saying “In some cases it’s wrong, while in some cases it’s right. It’s not inherently wrong or right.”

        Steve said “Zawadi said the Asharite position is “contrary to Islam.” That’s much stronger than merely claiming that he doesn’t subscribe to that particular school of thought.”

        Steve arrogantly refuses to concede that he misinterpreted my position. So, I guess according to Steve’s logic if a Calvinist were to say “The Arminian stance on predestination is contrary to Biblical teachings” then that would mean that the Calvinist is excommunicating the Arminian from the faith? As a matter of fact, according to Steve’s logic (due to his arrogance to concede he is wrong) anyone disagreeing with another would entail that he is excommunicating him from the faith, since the only reason why one would disagree with a position is because he believes that the position is contrary to the holy scriptures.

        Steve said “And unlike Zawadi, Al-Ghazali and Ibn Khaldun are renowned and revered representatives of Islam.”

        And there are many other reverted representatives of Islam, besides them who wouldn’t agree with their positions. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that they are “authoritative”. They are not our “popes”. I could appeal to more renowned and reverted representatives of Christianity than Steve (such as Martin Luther) who said some really interesting things (maybe Luther’s stance on the book of James?) that Steve would really not like to hear. Since, Steve would say that it all comes down to evidence and not personalities at the end of the day, I would say “Great, please show me the same courtesy”.

        Steve said “Once again, he’s committing the word-concept fallacy.”

        Sorry, but you’re the one using the word forgiveness in a way contrary to the norm.

        Steve said “You’re not my brother.”

        Oh I could just feel the love coming out of you! I was referring to you as my brother in humanity (which you are whether you like it or not) and I said it to be friendly. If you don’t want that then hey… don’t worry I will still sleep comfortably at night!

        Steve said “At the same time, but not the same person. Zawadi skates over that fundamental distinction.”

        The “not the same person” bit won’t help Steve. The fact is that sins are either forgiven or they are not. If sins are forgiven then that’s their account. If sins are not forgiven, then they would be accounted for by punishment. They can’t be both.

        If Steve’s sins were merely transferred to Jesus and accounted for by Jesus being punished, it makes no sense to say that Steve has been forgiven his sins. Rather, we say that Steve was shown mercy not having to retain his sins and was given the ability to pass them along to someone else. however, his sins weren’t “forgiven”. They didn’t disappear into thin air. They weren’t pardoned or brushed aside. Someone else had to take the heat for them. An innocent person unfortunately.

        Steve said “I already explained how they’re harmonious. Zawadi doesn’t engage the argument. He merely folds his arms, stamps his feet, acts petulant, and repeats his refuted claim.”

        You’ve change the definition of forgiveness. Find us one single dictionary, which exists that wouldn’t contradict how you reconciled forgiveness of sins with the atonement.

        Find us one example of how your utilization of the word forgiveness here is something we could relate to in our common day usage of it?

        Steve said “Zawadi hasn’t cited any “scholars” in his post, or his subsequent replies to me. Instead, we’re treated to vague references to anonymous “scholars.”

        In my post I said “John Calvin and other reformed scholars such as Charles Hodge, John MacArthur, RC Sproul, John Piper and others insist that mere corporeal death wouldn’t have been sufficient, but that Jesus during his hours on the cross must have truly been separate from God the Father and that his soul endured such trauma.”

        So unless you are denying that they took this position, I seen no reason to cite. Are you denying that they said that Jesus was separated from the Father?

        Steve said “Once more, Zawadi is getting carried away with metaphors. “Separation” from the “presence” of God is a spatial metaphor. “Spiritual death” is a biological metaphor.”

        I still don’t understand. Please provide me a clear answer. Here it is again… “What I don’t understand is that the wage of sin is spiritual death. Spiritual death is separation from the presence of God, correct? So, shouldn’t then Jesus must have been separated from God the Father if he bore our sins?”

        Steve said “Actually, that’s how Zawadi framed the issue. Now he’s backpedaling.”

        Steve, enough with the arrogance. Admit when you are wrong. Here is what I originally said “I’m curious to know where the New Testament teaches that Jesus was propitiated, for I only see the Father being mentioned as having his wrath appeased in Romans 3:25. Where does it mention the same for the Son and Spirit?”

        Tell me Steve… where did I demand that the specific word propitiated be presented in my words above? Please…….. this time don’t be arrogant and dishonest. If your ego is too high to not allow you to admit that you accused me of something incorrect, then the least you could do is ignore this bit, but please stop ruining your credibility by continuing to insist upon your failed attempts.

        No excuses this time Steve….. I am asking you to show me where the New Testament that teaches that Jesus was propitiated (NO, I AM NOT LOOKING FOR THE EXACT WORD, JUST THE CONCEPT, HAPPY NOW? CLEAR ENOUGH FOR YOU?????).

        Steve said “Notice Zawadi’s inability to follow the argument. If the Trinity is based on Scripture, then an inference from Trinitarian theology is implicitly Scriptural. You don’t need a specific prooftext to draw a logical inference.”

        Look at Steve’s desperation. Steve said “If the Trinity is based on Scripture, then an inference from Trinitarian theology is implicitly Scriptural”.

        Notice how Steve is arguing that just because he could infer the Trinity from scripture, then that would also logically necessitate that whatever doctrines are necessary for the Trinity should also be present in this scripture.

        This is nothing more than a typical fundamentalist trying to escape reality. So basically if someone were to attempt to show that the Trinity is problematic in light of scripture then Steve would simply dismiss the argument by saying “Well… whatever we human beings infer from the Trinity must definitely be taught in scripture!”.


        I’m sorry, but Steve has not put forth any argument demonstrating how just because the Bible teaches the Trinity (ONLY for the sake of argument of course, I’m just playing along here), then this would necessitate that THE BIBLE also TEACHES that all three persons in the God head required propitiation. Scripture, only talks about the Father. How about the other two???

        Steve may wish and dream and hope and desire that he could insert his assumptions and personal inferences of the Trinity into scripture, but the reality is that he can’t. Sorry Steve.

        Steve said “Observe how Zawadi is equivocating in this very paragraph: “God didn’t punish his divine nature…God punished himself.””

        Who said that “Himself” has to be his divine nature?

        Steve said “To say “that simply doesn’t sound right” is not an argument. Where’s the argument?”

        The argument is that the belief that God had to attain human flesh and punish that flesh in order to have his wrath satisfied is………… well you fill the blanks. Is it absurd or foolish? Don’t get offended, Paul himself said that such a doctrine would sound foolish to Gentiles. That’s strange though. Why would God have us human beings believe in something, which sounds so foolish and is so against our natural beliefs and intuitions? Strange indeed.



  9. “then this would necessitate that THE BIBLE also TEACHES that all three persons in the God head required propitiation. Scripture, only talks about the Father. How about the other two???”

    Scripture only talks about the Father? Where do you get this idea from?

    Propitiation was a collective work of the triune God upon the triune God as it’s object. Where is your evidence to the contrary?

    “14 For WHEN Gentiles, who do not have the law, BY NATURE do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is WRITTEN ON THEIR HEARTS, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”

    From which we conclude that that the Gentiles don’t always keep the law that is written on their hearts. The Gentiles also go against what their conscience tells them. “Conflicting thoughts accuse or excuse them”.

    Paul concludes all under sin, both Jew and Gentile: 3 v 9. “For we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” This shows the necessity of atonement.

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