Why Muslims reject the doctrine of atonement



Doctrine of atonement denied in the Quran?

Surah 6:164. Say: “Shall I seek for (my) Cherisher other than Allah, when He is the Cherisher of all things (that exist)? Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another. Your goal in the end is towards Allah. He will tell you the truth of the things wherein ye disputed.”

Christian response

This verse tells us we cannot bear the sins of each other. Christians will agree with that. Only God can be our Protector and Intercessor and therefore only God can atone for our sins.

How can someone else’ righteousness be imputed into us?

Christians believe that we are righteous because of Jesus Christ and not by our own righteousness.

(Rom 3:21-22 NIV)  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. {22} This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,

Muslims believe that it is not logical for someone else’ righteousness to be imputed into us.

Christian response

On the last day, Muslims believe that their deeds will be weighed and if our good deeds are not sufficient, Muhammad will put his clothes on your scale so that his good deeds can help you.

In the Hajj, for some Madhabs, they allow a vicarious hajj for another person even when parent had died. 

Muslims believe that even when they die they will benefit from the prayers of a pious son.

Why is it necessary for God to provide the ransom?

Muslims always ask Christians why they insist God Himself has to come down in the person of Jesus to die for our sins. The answer is simple. The price of ransom is too great. No one can provide the ransom except God. This teaching can even be found in the Quran.

Surah 6:70. Leave alone those who take their religion to be mere play and amusement, and are deceived by the life of this world. But proclaim (to them) this (truth): that every soul delivers itself to ruin by its own acts: it will find for itself no protector or intercessor except Allah. If it offered every ransom, (or reparation), none will be accepted: such is (the end of) those who deliver themselves to ruin by their own acts: they will have for drink (only) boiling water, and for punishment, one most grievous: for they persisted in rejecting Allah.

The Bible tells us Jesus claimed to be that ransom.

(Mark 10:45 NIV)  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It should be personal repentance that saves us, not somebody else’s death

Christians do not believe that Jesus’ death automatically saves everybody. Jesus never taught that no one would perish because he came down to die but rather only those who repents will be saved.

(Luke 13:3 NIV)  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

Jesus’ death is a violation of the clear OT commands prohibiting human sacrifices.

Since Jesus was also under the Law (Cf. Gal. 4:4), his death would be an express violation of the commands of God, which did not allow for humans to be put to death, only animals.

(Gal 4:4 NIV)  But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,

Christian response

The Bible prohibits human sacrifices to false gods as an act of worship.

(Cf. Lev. 18:21, 20:2-5; Deut. 12:31, 18:10; 2 Kings 16:3, 17:31, 21:6, 23:10; Jer. 7:31, 32:35; Ezek. 20:31)

Jesus’ death was not a sacrifice to the gods or even to God as an act of worship. It is the death of a person guilty of sin.

(Isa 53:6 NIV)  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus’ death from a legal standpoint was morally acceptable since his purpose in coming to this world was to take upon himself the punishment we deserved because of our sins.

God is interested in obedience, not sacrifice

In 1 Samuel 15:22-23:

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”

Psalm 51:16:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

Psalm 69:30-31:

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.

Christian response

No, that is not what this verse says. God is more interested in the condition of our heart than He is with external acts such as sacrifice, prayers, alms, and pilgrimages.

Humans can intercede for other humans. There is no need for Jesus to die.

Psalm 106:23 So he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.

(Exo 32:30 NIV)  The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

Christian response

Humans can pray for their fellow humans so that God will be merciful towards them. However, no amount of prayer for another person can ever atone for all their sins.

How can somebody else’ death pay for my sins?

Muslim

Would the substitution of the innocent for the guilty be accepted in a secular court of justice?  Man sinned, and you say the sinless Christ suffered for him.  This is contrary to Ezek. xviii, 20.

(Ezek 18:20 NIV)  The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

Christian response

The verse above teaches that man cannot share each other’s sin or righteousness. However, Jesus Christ, whom we believe is God, is able to pay the price of our sins. This was taught by Christ Himself.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(Mat 26:28 NIV)  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Christ willingly laid down his life in order that others might live. We often look up to and admire men who willingly give up their lives to defend either their families or country. Their deaths are considered heroic and a demonstration of unconditional love, not murder or suicide. Hence, Jesus’ willingness to die for unworthy sinners is the greatest display of God’s infinite and unconditional love for fallen humanity.

Muslim

How could He make atonement for the world, since we are told in the Old Testament that no man may make atonement for his brother (Ps. xlix. 7)?

Christian

That means atonement to save a man from death.  The next verse says, “For the redemption of their soul is costly” (Ps. xlix. 8).  Hence Christ’s death was necessary to atone for sin.  Christ was not a mere man, though He was truly man.  “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor. v. 19).

Ali son of abu talib slept in Muhammad’s bed and was prepared to die for him. Muslims considered this a heroic act. In a similarly way Jesus died for us.

It is not illogical that our penalty for sin should be paid by somebody else.

There was a story about a young woman who was caught for speeding. She was brought to court where the judge pronounced a fine of $100. After that, the judge did a surprising thing. He got down from his chair and walked down to pay the fine. You see, the judge was the girl’s father. But being a judge, he has to be just and pronounce the sentence. But because he loves his daughter, he is willing to take the punishment himself.

If a father learns that his son has committed a traffic offense that requires payment of a fine or else he goes to jail, will the father not help the son to pay the fine?

Muslim response

Deuteronomy 24:16: Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.

In Ezekiel 18:20:

The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

Ezekiel 18:30-32:

“Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

Christian response

These verses tell us that each of us will be held accountable for our own sins and not for the sins of others. However, we have no way to pay for our own sins. We need the blood of Jesus.

It was the people who made the sacrifice. They received forgiveness because the sacrifice they made was symbolical of self-sacrifice.

If you look at the symbolisms of the lamb sacrifice, you will see that it was were never symbolical of self-sacrifice. Which part of the symbolism refers to self? Instead we can see that it all points to Jesus.

The symbolism of the unblemished lamb

In the sacrifice of the lamb, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb “without blemish”.

(Exo 12:3-5 NIV)  Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. …{5} The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.

In relating to another Old Testament passage, we know that the lamb without blemish is symbolical of Jesus who was without sin.

(Isa 53:7-11 NIV)  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a *lamb* to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. …{9} He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though *he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth*. {10} Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a *guilt offering*, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. {11} After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my *righteous servant* will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

From this verses, not only do we know the symbolism of the “unblemished lamb”, we know that it does not refer to the person offering the sacrifice but to Jesus who sacrificed himself for our sin.

The symbolism of the blood

(Exo 12:6-12 NIV)   {6} Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. {7} Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. …{12}  “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. {13} The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

Special emphasis was placed on the blood. At no point in time did the people offering the sacrifice shed any blood. But Isaiah 53 talks about someone who would.

(Isa 53:6-7 NIV)  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. {7} He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

The people did not shed any of their own blood. Yet the blood had everything to do with the forgiveness of sin.

Lev. 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

Jesus shed blood and he taught that this was so that they would receive forgiveness of sin.

(Mat 26:28 NIV)  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

How can one man’s death atone for the sin of many?

One diamond may pay a debt of many thousands of rupees.  But the true reason why Christ’s death has atoned for the sins of the whole world (1 John ii. 2) is that He died as the Head of the human race and as its representative (1 Cor. xv. 22, 45-49)

(1 Cor 15:22 NIV)  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

(1 Cor 15:45-49 NIV)  So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. {46} The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. {47} The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. {48} As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. {49} And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

If Christ did not suffer eternally in hell, how could he have atoned for your sins?

Muslim

Your Bible says that death is the wages of sin (Rom. vi. 23)-death of the body and death of the spirit, that is to say eternity in hell (Rev. xx. 14).  If Christ did not undergo for men both parts of the penalty, eternity in hell as well as death of the body, how then can you say that He bore the punishment of your sins?

Christian

The punishment of eternal death was the punishment due to finite being, man. Christ, being God and infinite, did not pay for our sins through spending eternity in hell.

Atonement does not cover all sins

It is noteworthy that the offences atoned for by sacrifice were only sins that were committed unintentionally. But for willful disobedience of the laws of God there was no sacrifice.

(Num 15:27-31 NIV)  “‘But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. {28} The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. {29} One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. {30} “‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. {31} Because he has despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.'”

Christian

This is in line with Christian teaching that atonement and repentance come hand in hand. Jesus’ death is an atonement for sin only for the person who is willing to repent and accept Him as his Savior. If that person is not willing to do so, Jesus’ death does not result in atonement for that person’s sin.

That is also taught in Numbers 15:30-31. The person who sins defiantly and is not repentant continues to have guilt remaining on him.

If the forgiveness of sins is dependent on the death of Christ, how was it that He forgave sins before He died? And how were men saved in the ages before His birth?

Throughout the ages, man was saved because of what Christ has done. Those born before Christ was forgiven on the basis of what Christ was going to do and those born after Christ on the basis of what Christ has done.

The Old Testament tells of outward rituals that the Jews had to do with symbolism pointing to the death of Jesus.

Read the section on “Jesus the Lamb of God”

Where is the justice of the innocent suffering for the guilty?

The substitution of the innocent for the guilty in the case of human justice could not be admitted.  But much of the difficulty which is often found in accepting the Christian Doctrine of the Atonement of Christ arises from the fact that so many people mistake an illustration for a full explanation or statement of the doctrine.  We have again and again seen that no human language is adequate (because of its imperfection) to express Divine realities.  Almost all the objections are based upon a misunderstanding of this fact.  I hesitate therefore to use any illustration, lest it should be misunderstood.  But if you remember that what I am about to say is intended only as a (necessarily imperfect) illustration, it may perhaps be helpful to you.  Remember too that, if you find defects in the illustrations, that does not disprove the truth of the doctrine.  In one sense we frequently see that the innocent suffers for the guilty.  A mother’s pangs usher the child into the world 1 .  On the other hand, a drunkard’s or a spendthrift’s children suffer in consequence of their father’s sins.  Or again, a child’s prosperity may be due to his father’s toil and suffering.  So our salvation depends on Christ’s sufferings for us.  Christ, the sinless One who suffered, the Just for the unjust, is Himself also the Judge of living and dead.  If a judge is compelled by a just law to sentence a man to pay a heavy fine, and if the judge is kind and generous enough to pay the fine himself when the other cannot, is not justice satisfied as well as mercy shown?  None but the sinless can be a substitute for the guilty, for a debtor cannot pay another’s debt, a criminal cannot pay the penalty for another criminal.  Hence the Bible represents the sinless Christ as making atonement for us (Isa. liii. 5; 1 Pet. ii. 21-24).

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