Vicarious Atonement in Peru

 

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Jamie, Katie and I at the Huaca del Sol y la Luna (The Temple of the Sun and the Moon) in 2011.

Facebook recently reminded me of a fun trip Jamie and I took five years ago to Peru’s Northern Coast. While there, we had the opportunity to visit the ruins of two pre-Columbian civilizations, the Mochica (100-800 AD) and Chimu (900-1470 AD). Recent huaca (sacred temple) discoveries have revealed that both were theocratic civilizations led by a class of priests that represented the people before their pantheon of gods, the most prominent of which were the sun and the moon.

What we found to be most interesting as we walked through the Huaca del Sol y la Luna (The Temple of the Sun and the Moon) ruins was the platform that served as the place of sacrifice for the sins of the pueblo. Imagine our shock when our tour guide pointed to the area in which the sacrifice was chosen from amongst their own people.

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Chimu ruins.

The concept of vicarious atonement (the belief that the shed blood of one man or animal acts as the payment for sins of an entire community) can sound at best primitive, and at times downright ludicrous to modern ears. Many New Athiests (like the now deceased British columnist Christopher Hitchens in his best selling rant against religion, God is Not Great, to just name one) discount the validity of Christianity by wrapping it together with the religious beliefs of ancient civilizations like the Mochica and Chimu. They poke fun at the proposition that the entirety of sins racked up by humanity throughout all of history were paid for 2,000 years ago in a remote corner of the world by a carpenter’s son on a cross.

I too, would probably share the same view of Christianity if it wasn’t for one thing: the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Sure, the message of the cross may sound like “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The historical veracity of the Resurrection separates Christianity from primitive religious belief and every other reglious claim since the world’s beginning. It proves that not only did the one, true God of the Universe require an atonement for the remission of sins, but that He himself gladly provided it in the death of His only begotten Son, who “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin, and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 3:18). He is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

 

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