Luke 2:22-40; Does God Want Sacrifices? part 2
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Luke 2:22-40; Does God Want Sacrifices? part 2 

This is the second essay in a series exploring the question of why the Bible often describes animal sacrifices as activities with which God evidently approves. Last week, I suggested that animal sacrifices were a necessary step toward a world free of sacrificial violence. This week, I will consider the theory, held by many Christians today, that God approved of sacrifices but they are no longer necessary.
The biblical witness reflects a wide range of accounts, and I think people can select passages to support virtually any position on any ethical issue. Indeed, there are many passages in which God seems to insist on animal sacrifices. Further, many passages describe Jesus’ death as a sacrifice, though Christians differ on the purpose of this sacrifice. Many hold that the animal sacrifices of the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus’ sacrificial death were meant to atone for sin by “balance the scales” of justice.
I find this theory problematic. It violates my fundamental sense of justice that innocent beings – whether non-human animals or Jesus – would be killed to atone for someone else’s sin. Indeed, I would not want to worship a God who demanded such injustice. I might choose to worship such a God out of fear of that God’s wrath, but I would not do so out of respect.
Some argue that sacrifices, particularly Jesus’ sacrifice, were necessary to atone not for specific sins but rather for innate human sinfulness. I will consider that theory next week. Then, I will offer a different theory for Jesus’ sacrifice which, perhaps, will lend insight into the reasons for animal sacrifices in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Go on to: Does God Want Sacrifices? part 3: Substitutionary Atonement Theory
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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