Yes, I do. I can fix it so it’s less ridiculous. It involves a couple of major changes which would likely get me burned at the stake, but at least it’d make more sense.
First, let’s recap the current story: God creates man, man defies God, God condemns man to death (first by eviction from Paradise and eternal life, next by global flood), God (as his own son, the avatar Jesus) later returns to earth to a) try and convince everyone he’s God and b) have himself executed as the ultimate scapegoat in order to take on all of man’s sin against himself and spare man from the eternal Hellfire he presumably created. Got that? God sacrifices himself to himself in order to save mankind from his own wrath (with the proviso that man believes God did precisely that, otherwise the deal is off).
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the story. I’m equally sure we’re all familiar with the objections: God is all-powerful – in fact, the supreme power in and outside space and time – so he shouldn’t have needed to be tortured and killed as a mere man by other mere men and have those same men believe he did so in order that they be saved from him. God is all-loving – in fact, we’re led to believe that even Hitler might be in Heaven if he recanted his many sins – so if he chose he should be able to simply forgive us all our imperfections, without demanding we accept his sacrifice. God is all-seeing – in fact, we’re told God can see all of us, all the time, all the way into our hearts and minds through and past all our thoughts and feelings – so he shouldn’t need us to pray or worship him or abstain from sex or wear certain things or not eat other things or even do good works in order for him to see the truth of our characters.
If God is the god, the most powerful god, the only god, he shouldn’t have needed to make such a horrid spectacle of himself in order that we all be spared hellfire. If he loved us all and wanted to forgive us all our trespasses and keep us from torment, he has the power to do so without imposing upon us rules & beliefs unsupported by evidence. So, the logical conclusion is that God probably isn’t all-powerful, all-loving or perhaps … he’s simply not alone.
What I suspect is this: the one named “God” is not the only god out there and Christians have been lied to for thousands of years. God did not have himself (as avatar Jesus) sacrificed to himself in order that we be saved. Instead God, out of his all-consuming love for man, had himself sacrificed to another, at least equally powerful god – a god he had been at war with for thousands of years up to the point of the crucifixion. A god who he expelled to Hell in the Beginning. A god who was once an angel, one of God’s own children, who he then left alone in the deep darkness and who then became more powerful, more vengeful and more evil than even God himself could predict or prevent (otherwise, being all-powerful and all-knowing, he could have done so): Lucifer. Also known as Be’elzebub, Satan, Lord of Evil, Prince of Darkness – The Devil Himself. God, who created the world and created life, left the dead and the underworld to Lucifer as a bargain, to do with what he wished as he did with Adam and as he did with Noah’s wicked neighbours. Lucifer, at the beginning, accepts this. But, Lucifer being Lucifer, wishes an advantage. As men die, his numbers increase & his new damned souls – the demons – outnumber the angels. God notices what Lucifer does to souls in Hell and God does not like it. God becomes angry and vengeful. War is inevitable. Souls, angels, devils are thrown together in battle between Heaven and Hell. Neither gains an advantage. Even if God is indeed all-powerful and could smite Lucifer in the blink of an eye, his very love for Lucifer – his first son, older than man – stays his hand from annihilation.
God, after two thousand years of stalemate with Lucifer, decides that the obliteration and torment of souls must stop and begs a parlay. Lucifer halts his armies and demands a sacrifice: God is to manifest as human, live a human life and suffer and die as a human. He may try and gain as many souls for Heaven as he can – he may even perform what miracles he can to as many people as he can to save as many as he can from being conscripted into Lucifer’s army or consigned to his pits – but he only has one human lifetime in which to do it. Whosoever accepts the sacrifice of God may be granted Heaven for eternity; whosoever denies it will join Lucifer in Hell to suffer or serve as Lucifer sees fit. Lucifer, being outside time & space just as his Father is, chooses ancient Palestine & Judea as the setting: the region is occupied by Roman forces; written communication is possible but difficult to disseminate quickly; word-of-mouth reigns but the languages used will soon be dead; existing religious & political powers will be hostile toward any radical philosophy; lives are short and punishment is brutal. God knows the odds are against him but, out of love for mankind, he agrees. God knows this is the best chance – the only chance – that he has to save man. But even as he agrees to the terms, he knows that most people will not accept his sacrifice and will join Lucifer – either as solider or slave – once they die.
The rest we know: Lucifer chose wisely. Romans and Pharisees identify the charismatic rabbi named Jesus as a threat to both the political and religious status quo, torture him and later have him executed in a most brutal and agonising fashion. Although God, working as Jesus Christ, is able to perform great deeds and gain traction among the Hebrew population, his life is short even by the standards of the time. Though he cheats even death itself and tales of his deeds spread it takes a generation, long after Jesus’ disciples were dead, before written accounts surface. Once they do the going is slow, but eventually the cult of Christ the Anointed One is adopted by the very people who murdered him. The Roman Empire, almost five hundred years after Jesus’ execution, make Christianity the state religion, eclipsing Roman paganism (but appropriating the major pagan festivals as markers of Jesus’ birth and death – a shrewd political decision as it leaves Romans free to indulge & feast in the same way at the same times of the year).
In time however, the Roman Empire declines and is replaced by numerous self-governing states around Europe and the Mediterranean. But the Empire is not dead: building on what wealth and power it has left, the Roman military empire becomes a boundary-crossing spiritual empire, spreading and defending Christianity (and gaining more wealth and power than the early Romans could have dreamed) by word, deed, fire and the sword. But, since the fifth century, they have always been careful not to speak of God’s deal with the Devil. You cannot admit weakness in the face of your flock – equally in the face of your enemies. Any texts describing God’s pact with Lucifer are hidden in vaults or crypts or simply burned (as are heretics who dare to speak of such things) and only selected texts are allowed to become Gospel – even texts which do not agree with each other or have little spiritual value are preferable to those which belie God’s supremacy.
And so, we come to today: the Empire still exists, but has challengers and dissenters: even after many years of Inquisition, torture and death there are still Jews who do not accept Jesus as the saviour and a different type of Christian, the Protestant (of which there are countless varieties), does not agree that the only way to Heaven is through the Empire. Persecution has been carried out and war has been waged over differences in theology. A prophet named Mohammed, who claims to have received the last & final version of God’s word, is revered in the places Christianity could not reach and again, wars are fought. Lucifer’s forces become strong, as do those of God but once again God, seeing so many join Lucifer’s ranks in both servitude and suffering, is reaching his breaking point. He ponders another sacrifice. God became man’s sacrificial lamb at Lucifer’s demand but after two thousand years of losing more souls than he gains he wishes something more definite. He wishes confrontation. He wishes an end to the war. For the first time, God desires victory – to defeat & if necessary vanquish his son, Lucifer. He long ago revealed his desire to John, who wrote it down for all to read – a final battle between Light & Darkness on the plains of Armageddon. Lucifer also knows what’s coming, but he does not know when, so he too builds his forces in preparation. For thousands of years, Christians are told “when God decides the time is right, he will return as Jesus the Conqueror and vanquish the Devil and his minions; the righteous shall be forever blessed and the wicked forever damned”.
Christians still wait and the Cold War between Heaven and Hell continues.
But at least now it makes a bit more sense.