Why did Christ have to be born?

Christianity is founded on the belief that Christ’s mission was to sacrifice himself to redeem the sins of the world. But which sins?

Surely not just a little boy telling his mother to shut up, or a fair maiden turning out not to be quite so maidenly? Anyway, according to another basic tenet, all individual sins derive from the original collective one.

So, in the conviction of any Christian regardless of his confession, it was that sin that God redeemed by being incarnated, living for 30-odd years as a man and then accepting an awful death.

Hence His sacrifice wiped man’s slate clean of the Fall and therefore of wholesale guilt. Yet since the evidence before our very eyes shows that man didn’t become pristine as a result, a second sin, Mark II as it were, must have replaced the first one, and this substitution could only have occurred after original sin had been redeemed.

Logically, this must have been the sin of rejecting Christ. That offence isn’t identical to original sin, though neither is it dissimilar to it. Both, after all, represent rejection of God: the first by disobeying and the second by failing to recognise Him.

If Original Sin Mark I was disobedience and therefore rejection, then Mark II is rejection and therefore disobedience. But mankind in its entirety never rejected Christ. Some – arguably most – people did so, yet some – arguably few – didn’t.

However small the second group may have been, it was made up of people who of their own accord chose to belong to it, thereby, if we follow this logic one step further, cleansing themselves of the new version of original sin.

Therefore the choice between acceptance and rejection cannot be collective. It has to be individual and it has to be free. That’s the meaning of John 32:8 – “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Knowledge of truth is the first step towards freedom, and it’s up to each of us to acquire this knowledge – or at least to accept it if it’s offered by an outside donor.

This can only mean that after Christ’s sacrifice each individual can establish a personal account with God, and, even if we start out that way, we don’t have to stay tarred with the brush of original sin for ever, be that Mark I or Mark II.

It stands to reason that a man could do nothing to redeem the collective Mark I, which is why Christ’s sacrifice was necessary. But it’s equally clear that a man can do something to redeem the individual Mark II.

This understanding has a far-reaching significance in secular matters as well. For, whenever we demonise some people for presumably belonging to a diabolical corporate entity without any proof of individual wrongdoing, we dehumanise not only them but, by denying free will, all of mankind.

Thus a German who belonged to the SS was complicit in its atrocities, by association at least. But if one accuses an ordinary person who lived in Germany at the time, the accuser must bear the burden of concrete proof. The same goes for Russia and her KGB. Neither nations nor religions do murder; it’s people who do that, and they do so because they freely make a wrong choice.

It can still be argued that, since the world at large demonstrably didn’t accept Christ, we may be slated for collective perdition. But what’s undeniable, at least for any Christian, is that Christ showed a clear path to individual salvation, and we are free to take that path or not.

Free will thus becomes the most important possession of man, which it can only remain if we stand to gain from a correct choice or suffer the consequences of a wrong one (this is a veiled argument against the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, but we won’t go into that now). God’s is the absolute freedom, but if we are truly created in his image, ours has to be at least a relative one. Only God can be totally free, but that doesn’t mean man has to be totally enslaved.

Such thoughts are hard to escape on this day. And when they flood in, all those Brexits, Covids and trade deals begin to look puny and trivial. Well, until tomorrow at any rate.

A blessed Christmas to all of you, whatever your religion, origin, race or sex. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”  

10 thoughts on “Why did Christ have to be born?”

  1. Thank you for this account of Christian doctrine. To my mind (and preference) one can arrive at the same end-point (personal responsibility) after having omitted completely the Christ element on the assumption that it is an historical myth, not a real event. Thus, atheism is as complete and perfect a system of thought as the Christian (or any other) religion. Admittedly however, it lacks comparable colourful features such as Father Christmas!

    1. Bernie, the problem with atheism is that us, the planet and in fact the whirling galaxies are just an accident with no purpose. A mass of energy spinning off into a meaningless eternity. This is a very different “end-point” than the Christian perspective where a loving father gave life and spirit to people for dominion to care for ‘a garden of delights’. But instead the first people chose to carve-out their own and the future course of mankind. The Son of the Father gave us the chance to be born again. It’s a chance to be part of His reset.
      So, atheism is very different, and has never produced a perfect system in thought and certainly not in deed.

    2. As far as I’m aware, the events described in the Gospels are verifiable, broadly speaking, to the satisfaction of most unbiased historians. Jesus of Nazareth is not a mythical figure. Christianity is an attempt to make sense of those events. (Islam, for example, comes to a different conclusion.) Christians are those of us who have accepted the consequences of those events and embraced them in our hearts, or have tried to most of the time. A very blessed Christmas to you and yours!

      1. As Wittgenstein put it, the greatest mystery of the world is not what it is, but that it is. Pondering this, one has to ask questions that atheism can neither answer not indeed ask. How did the world come about? Why? What’s the meaning and purpose of life? Atheism is equally feeble at first principles and last things. That’s why, though there have been very clever atheists, an atheist philosopher is impossible by definition. Once an atheist approaches what Dostoyevsky called ‘the accursed questions’, a gate slams shut: thus far, but no further.

  2. But we know enough about the Universe to appreciate that this world is a tiny part of the whole, a part that cannot itself have any purpose or meaning precisely because such concepts are just that: inventions of the human mind.

    That some people prefer to let their thoughts be guided by religious ideas is understandable; atheism is not a comfortable mental position. But it is one we owe to ourselves if we recognise how small and unimportant an element we are in the Universe, no matter how important we are to life on Earth (because of our highly developed mental processes).

    1. Atheism is the far more comfortable mental position. You live, you die and your actions have no consequences in eternity. Everything is tangible and finite. Yes, the universe is big, but the fact doesn’t affect day to day life all that much.

      A Christian, on the other hand, must get his round the Incarnation and the Hypostatic Union, for starters. God the Creator (by the way, Mr Atheist, where did all matter in the universe originate?) chose to enter the world and suffer as a human being, out of love for those small and unimportant elements you describe. Small and numerous, but all unique and yet made in the image of God. Incomprehensible certainly, fanciful you may think, far too good to be true but simultaneously terrifying. Full of seeming contradictions, yet a complete system of though. But definitely not comfortable.

    2. Of all the compelling reasons to doubt the existence of God, why would you choose this one? What does size have to do with meaning? Why cannot something small and peripheral be of great significance?

      A much better argument against the existence of the Judeo-Christian God would be: Why would He deny the gift of faith to humane seekers of truth, whilst granting that very ability to vicious fanatics?

    3. Regarding; “atheism is not a comfortable mental position”…I certainly agree! Atheistic belief in scientific theories for existence face problems. Evolution demands Big-Bang chaos turning into fine-tuned clockwork solar systems to minute precise DNA formation from that random event. Whereas the second law of thermodynamics shows that energy becomes less useful over time. Energy becomes less useful to maintain order and to do work; it’s termed ‘entropy. Thus, more entropy corresponds to less useful energy. Atheists shoot themselves in the foot as what we know, (order tends to disorder, clocks wind down, metal rusts, stars burn out) contradicts the ‘faith’ in evolution.

  3. “the greatest mystery of the world is not what it is, but that it is.”

    Correct. All these efforts such as SETI in the search for other intelligent have come up nothing.

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