Christianity and Human Sacrifice (Are they Relatable?)

A comment that can often be heard among those without the Christian faith is an unfavorable comment on the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of many. In particular, a negative perspective that can be found is one that points to Christianity as a religion of human sacrifice. One such person that makes a comment like this one is Dr. Sam Harris who said that “Christianity is actually a cult of human sacrifice.” Never mind the use of an emotionally charged word like “cult”, let’s think about the truth value of the claim that Christianity is about human sacrifice. In my estimation, the claim is made for two reasons. The first reason is to degrade Christianity as a faith without the central tenet of love it promotes, and the second reason is to make Christianity look like other religions that are often viewed as very primitive due to reasons such as human sacrifice. These two reasons explain why the rationalization seems so aggressive, but I suppose there is a third possible reason without such negative intentions: the person actually thinks Christianity is founded in human sacrifice and is simply expressing their opinion. Regardless of the combination of the three reasons found above, I’d like to look at how the third reason is incorrect, and thus the preceding two are incorrect.

When I first heard this I thought it was a very realistic problem for Christianity. It actually left me wondering. At first, I explained it away by saying that Christianity was actually the religion that ended much sacrifice. This is true I think. Beforehand, the Jews sacrificed animals every day, and now there was no need for them to do so because Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. Also, there were a lot of other religions requiring sacrifice that were called to believe in Christ, and thus all the converted people would cease to sacrifice. In essence, there was now a religion for all people that required no sacrifice because there was one sacrifice that was good enough; thus, less sacrificing was made. This seemed like a good answer to the problem; however, it wasn’t. It didn’t answer the problem of Jesus being a human sacrifice; it just showed that the end result was desirable. Thus, the uneasy feeling prolonged: until now.

The faith that Jesus Christ lived on this earth, suffered, died, and resurrected seems at first glance to be about a human being sacrificed, but it is truly not so. Moreover, the reason why it is not so is profound and pregnant with implications and answers. The reason why is (to my surprise) actually quite simple: Christianity is not a faith about human sacrifice, it is a faith about God sacrifice. The problem of human sacrifice arises when you read the story of Jesus through the lens that Jesus was merely a man. However, Jesus was not merely a man. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1-14). We read John 3:16 and think about Jesus as the Son of God, causing us to think of Jesus as merely a man, but the Son of God is Himself God in the flesh! Thus, the suffering and death of Jesus is not characteristic of human sacrifice, but God sacrifice. Thus, the third reason is wrong: Christianity is founded in God sacrifice—not human sacrifice.

Therefore, we can see clearly how the central tenet of love in Christianity is not degraded but empowered. This is so, because we can clearly see the love that God offers in that He did not ask for a human to be sacrificed, but offered a piece of Himself to be sacrificed. Consider Philippians 2:5-8 in which it is found that Jesus did not consider equality with God a think he lacked, and regardless of his status as a deity, took on the form of a man (a servant!), and took on the death of the cross. So Jesus in the form of God sacrificed Himself by becoming a man on earth rather than God in heaven, sacrificed Himself by being a servant rather than a king, and sacrificed Himself by allowing the humans he created (John 1:1-14) to kill Him. Moreover, Jesus sacrificed Himself by allowing our evil deeds to be placed on Him, removing Him from the presence of God completely (Mark 15:34). Does this sound like the sacrifice of a human to please God to you? Not to me. To me this sounds like the loving sacrifice of God to please Himself and us (1John 4:9-18). Moreover, this sounds like a display of the central tenet of Christianity: love.

And alas we can see that the sacrifice of Jesus does not make Christianity appear to be like other primitive religions, but actually causes it to stand apart. It stands apart as a religion that does not have human sacrifice, but has God sacrifice. It stands apart as a religion that does not just tell us to love, but shows us how to love. It stands apart as a religion in which the God does not merely say He loves us, but shows us that He loves us. Thus, Dr. Sam Harris, I reject your notion that Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice. Instead, I submit that Christianity is a religion of love (1Timothy 1:5; James 1:27).

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