The Atonement and God’s Justice

The problem of sin and God’s solution to it should be the central focus of a true faith. If a religion stumbles at this point, all those who follow it are in eternal danger. Here, I will be examining the concepts of sin and salvation in Islam in contrast with the Bible.

1. Sin is simply defined as any disobedience or rebellion against God. Through the sin of Adam, the penalty of death passed to all mankind. “Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The punishment for sin is death which is separation from God. Islam denies this, although the Quran admits that Adam and Eve sinned and Allah said: “Get ye down (all ye people) with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place  and your means of livelihood for a time” (Q2:35).

God’s holiness is manifested His hatred for sin and delight in righteousness, hence sin is grievous (Lev. 19:2). But Allah, doesn’t have a problem with those “who avoid great sins and shameful deed, only falling into small faults” (Q 53:23). That is, sinners will make it to Allah’s paradise.

2. God’s justice demands that sin be punished – no matter how ‘small” – but in His mercy He instituted a means whereby an innocent life is given as a substitute for sin. It’s a life-for-life principle. All the patriarchs – Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob etc approached God on the basis of an animal sacrifice as a substitute for their sins. The Quran also makes reference to the idea of ransom or substitute “And We ransomed him [Isaac] with a mighty sacrifice” (37:107).

3. When God sent the 9 plagues upon Egypt, He instituted the Passover ceremony which involved a lamb been killed and its blood is used as a substitute for the death of the firstborn. It was only on that basis that Israel was saved from God’s judgement on Egypt (Ex. 12:13, 21-23). Later, when God gave Moses the Law, He instituted a ceremony called the Atonement meant to take away the sins and uncleanness of the Israelites.

“In various parts of the Bible” says The Lion Handbook to the Bible “all these offerings are said to ‘atone’  – to cover sin- indicating that any act of worship was set squarely in the context of God’s forgiving grace …It was a God-given area of contact between God and man, bringing man into fellowship with God.”

But the Quran says “And the beasts of sacrifice- We have appointed them for you as among Allah’s waymarks…The flesh of them shall not reach Allah, neither their blood, but godliness from you shall reach Him” (22:34-37). The person speaking here is obviously clueless about the significance of the Atonement. He didn’t know that the blood was meant to cover (“atone”) for sin. God said: “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11). Evidently, the speaker in the Quran is not the God of the Bible.

4. God spoke to prophets after Moses about the coming One who would be a substitute like the Passover lamb, whose blood would provide atonement and from whom mankind can be saved from His judgement (Is. 52:12-53:12). This Person is Jesus Christ. He is “the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world” (Jn. 1:29). On Him was placed the sins of mankind (“The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” Is. 53:9). Like the Old Testament scapegoat, He came to bear away our sin. The substitutionary sacrifice of Christ is the consistent message of all the prophets and apostles of God in the Bible.

Conversely, the Quran says: “No laden soul [sinner] can bear another’s load [sin]” (17:15).”That no burdened person (with sins) shall bear the burden (sins) of another” (53:38).

But since Jesus is sinless, He would be an exception to this rule. Aside this, the Quran elsewhere says: “That they may bear their loads complete on the day of resurrection and some of those that they lead astray without any knowledge. O evil the load they bear!” (16:25) “And they shall certainly carry their loads and other loads along with their loads and upon the Day of Resurrection, they shall be questioned concerning that they were forging” (29:13).

5. Entrance into the Islamic heaven is by balancing the scales of Allah. Sura 23:102-3 says: “Then those whose scales are heavy, they are the successful. And those whose scales are light are light are those who lose their soul in hell abiding.”

This simply means that if you have 60kg of good works and 25kg of bad works, you are qualified to enter Allah’s heaven. You may be a murderer and rapist, yet you will be allowed to go scot-free because you did some good deeds in the past. This is utterly unbiblical. Such an aberration doesn’t exist in any earthly court let alone in Heaven. If the penalty of sin is death, how is it then “good works?” A single sin before God is like a drop of Mercury in a cup of tea, it ruins the entire tea. Adding more hot water to it will not help. In fact, the idea of scales weighing the works of the dead came from ancient Egyptian paganism.

6. Muslims frequently argue that: “Our God forgives sins without blood sacrifices.” Well, that may be true, but based on the Quran, Allah’s forgiveness is actually based on favoritism. Allah will overlook the sins of certain Muslims and multiply the good works of some!

Sura 42:23 “And whoever scoreth a good deed, we add unto its good for him…”

Sura 29:7 “And as for those who believe and do good works; we shall remit from them their evil deeds and shall repay them the best that they did”

This is a system of mercy without justice and such a view of God is not once taught in Scripture. All of God’s attributes – holiness, justice, love and mercy act in accordance. “Justice and judgement are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face” (Ps. 89:14). God’s justice demands that sin be punished no matter how “small” it is. But in His mercy, He came down in a human body to pay the debt for our sins. Thus, all one can do to escape the eternal judgement for our sins is to believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was a sufficient payment for sin. A person’s refusal to believe this doesn’t change it. To accept God’s plan of salvation is true submission, to reject it is rebellion.

7. The Quran also says: “Forgiveness is only incumbent on Allah towards those who do evil in ignorance (and) then turn quickly (in repentance) to Allah. These are they toward whom Allah relenteth…And seek forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Sura 4:17, 106)

“O ye who believe! follow not Satan’s footsteps: if any follow the footsteps of Satan, he will (but) command what is shameful and wrong: and were it not for the grace and mercy of God on you, not one of you would have ever been pure: but God purify whom He pleases: and God is One Who hears and knows (all things)” (Sura 24:21).

This sounds very close to what the Bible teaches that we are saved by God’s mercy and grace through Christ except the clause that Allah chooses whom he wants to purify. Of what use is his mercy and grace if they are based on favouritism? Also, neither the “ignorance” nor “quickly” are defined nor why Allah forgives some people and not other people. That is injustice. This simply means that in Islam, repentance doesn’t guarantee forgiveness. Besides, if forgiveness is Allah’s prerogative of what use then is the scale for measuring one’s good works?  Certainly, the Islamic soteriological framework is not only unbiblical and illogical, but also devoid of justice.

8. The Bible teaches that on the basis of the shed blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sin is guaranteed. “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself…”(Col. 1:20) Thus, while Christians can approach and fellowship with God on the basis of Christ’s blood, there’s no ground for fellowship with God in Islam. It’s a religion without redemption; it fails to cater for man’s sin and provide an assurance for Muslims beyond the grave.

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