toxic thought waste site

Theological whimsy, metaphysical larks, and other spiritually radioactive waste products.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Salvation Economics

According to Christian theology, Jesus paid the price for our sins. In the spirit of Freakonomics, then, we might be inclined to ask: how much does it cost to redeem a sinner?

In the Old Testament there is the notion that a certain amount of sheep or other animal blood can wipe away a given sin. In fact the rules are pretty specific. Apparently there aren't enough sheep around to permanently wipe out the sins for one person or at least the absence of this formula in the OT would lead us to this conclusion. But Jesus comes along and his blood is enough to cover the whole of humanity (or at least the predestined few - depending on who you are talking to).

Mathematically then we have the following equation:

souls * cost_per_soul = total_price

where
- souls is the number of people who are going to get into heaven
- cost_per_soul is how many sacrifice units are required per soul (generally measured in blood volume)

total_price can be further broken down as:

total_price = blood_volume * coefficient_of_atonement

Clearly sheep have a pretty small coefficient_of_atonement, whereas Jesus has a very large one. We assume it can't be infinite since if it was then he would have only had to shed, let's say, 1 drop of blood and suffered for less than a second and would have easily accounted for all souls for all time.

Now the problem is that we have too many unknowns in:

souls * cost_per_soul = blood_volume * coefficient_of_atonement

We don't know how many souls have or will be redeemed. But still we have the take home message here that every moment Jesus was on the cross he was loosing blood and saving more souls. I can't help wonder if this makes Jesus like Schindler in "Schindler's List". If he had been able to loose more blood he could have saved more souls. Does Jesus regret not spending more time or suffering more so that more could have been saved?

Of course we also need to consider that compared to someone dying of cancer or someone living in a torture camp he really didn't suffer that much. One day of pain with the foreknowledge that you will rise again and rule in heaven is not such a big price. I think a lot of people would be willing to pay that one time price for an infinite reward like that. I for one would be willing to give it a shot. And this considering that I'm allergic to thorny crowns.

[digg]

5 Comments:

Anonymous casey said...

Hmmm. Interesting. I find it quite interesting that you seem to be constantly reducing a theological position to a mathematical equation. Are you an engineer? Just curious.

But, while I find it interesting, I would depart from your presupposition - that the equation is about a set volume of blood, or a prescribed amount of suffering, rather than on the identity of the one sacrificed.

A literary study of the Gospels will show, if I am not mistaken, that the significance of Jesus' sacrifice was not so much the amount of blood shed, or the amount of suffering endured, but the significance can be found in the identity of the one sacrificed - The Son of God, The Second Person of the Trinity, Very God of Very God. It is a matter of God suffering on behalf of humanity. In that sense, your attempt at suffering for a day, with foreknowledge of resurrection, would not be sufficient. While I admire your intentions (Jesus said - no greater love does a person have than this, that he lay down his life for his friends), your death would not have a greater effect than Christ's, as, sadly, you are not Jesus.

An identity, especially the identity of the Son of God, is not something that I think can be represented mathematically.

There is one further thing I would like to point out. As to your point about Jesus suffering more, and maybe saving more people...and if Jesus regrets not sticking it out a little longer - Jesus died at the appropriate time, as, the accounts state that he gave up his spirit, saying, It is finished, or, completed. This indicates that the death occurred in his own time. But, even more than that, in the Christian faith, Jesus is seen as perfect, and his redemption as perfect - in essence, this means that the death and resurrection accomplished exactly what God intended it to accomplish - no more or less. So, within the Christian faith, it can't really be said that if Christ had done x or y, the number of saved would have been z + 10 or so. Christ did exactly what he came to do.

Cheers,
Casey

Mon Feb 26, 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Jesus made the mistake. If everything was going according to plan, then why did Jesus say, "My god, my god, why hast though forsaken me?"? Sounds like Jesus and God weren't on the same page at a really critical time.
And, I suspect this anonymous, toxic-thought blogger is really just having some fun using math to illuminate one of the many limitations of religion. As soon as a human gets egotistical enough to presume he or she knows something about god's character, things fall apart. If you're going to take Christianity seriously (and the blogger does not appear to be doing so) then you must also take Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Mormonism, Bah'aism and all other religions with equal seriousness.

Tue Feb 27, 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger evtujo said...

First of all, Mr Anonymous, if any one is anonymous it is in fact you! Second of all, Bah'ai? There are more Esperanto speakers than followers of Bah'ai. So please don't include that in any list of relgions you want me to take seriously.

Oh, and by the way, Saluton!

Tue Feb 27, 10:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you be able to elaborate on the relationship between number of followers and a religion's seriousness? Zoroastrianism has fewer followers than Bah'ai. But who's counting?

Wed Feb 28, 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger evtujo said...

Dear Bah'ai Guy, my only problem with Bah'ai is that they make claims about the nature of an ultimate being w/o any evidence.

That and the only Bah'ai follower I've ever met was a cross-dresser, so thinking about Bah'ai brings up uncomfortable feelings for me that I'm trying to supress.

Wed Feb 28, 02:49:00 PM  

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