This seems like a slightly more reasonable version of the idea that I can be bound by agreements made by my ancestors but there's a reason we don't give children, immature and lacking in knowledge, full legal rights. Why should accepting agreements made by my soul long before I was born be any more reasonable than sticking a contract in front of a four-year old?We agreed to this plan. All who have been born, or will be born, agreed to the terms.
But isn't that in itself a doctrine? What of people who don't hold salvation through faith alone?We're not saved by having perfect doctrine, we're saved by pursuing a relationship with God. The closer to the truth your beliefs are, the easier it is to pursue that relationship, but since no one in this world has a perfect understanding of God, we're all in the dark to some degree.
I'm a little late in the topic to discuss the "isn't Jesus just a scapegoat?" issue, but I'd like to throw in my $0.02 anyway.
I see Jesus as the greatest love story in history, between God and the human race. He created us so that he could love us, and we could love him, but we rejected that and turned our back on him, to do as we chose. But rather than turning us out into the cold, like we deserve, he came to us and said "Its ok, I still love you, I forgive you, I will take the punishment in your stead, as long as you still love me" But it wasn't just any punishment, he chose to submit himself to the cruellest form of execution ever invented by mankind. God, who had never been alone in all of space and time chose to experience all the loneliness and suffering of the human race, because he loved us. How can I turn my back on such love? For that would be to say to Him "all you did for me, everything you suffered, it means nothing, I don't want your gift"
I've seen this idea that Jesus suffered more than anyone (I know, not quite what you said so yell at me if you mean different) in a few places now and I'm a little confused by it. I mean, crucifiction sucks, but he's not unique in that regard and it's not like we've any shortage of imaginative and painful ways to kill each other. Did Jesus really suffer more than anyone else ever? Especially if he knew that his death has meaning? Correct me if I'm wrong but Jesus' sacrifice tends to be seen as a triumph rather than a failure. Compare it to an atheist who dies painfully knowing she was unable to save the ones she loves and without the knowledge of a peaceful afterlife waiting, am I wrong in finding Jesus' situation the less spiritually painful? I even find Judas' story, a necessary betrayal that will lead him to be hated through all of time and dying alone in obscurity to be more tragic and befitting of ultimate suffering from a narrative perspective. Re-reading some of the responses above, the general consensus seems to be it was some special property of Jesus (e.g. sinless) rather than some special property of the punishment that made this a special event. Is this one of those things I'm going to find disagreement over?
I have to question this 'ultimate love story' too. If my girlfriend left me, would tying her up above a fire, then valiantly cutting her down (and getting quite badly burnt in the process) oblige her to love me? Be grateful to me? Shouldn't we be more concerned that refusing to love God carries what you call a punishment? You seem to be saying that removing this punishment was the ultimate act of love, but to me this seems to be the thing required to allow any kind of healthy relationship between people and God at all. I don't see how any kind of love bound by obligation can qualify as the 'ultimate love story', it seems fundamentally twisted from even the idea of unconditional love we might talk of between parents and children - but even then we'd find it quite sick if a parent punished a child for not loving them or expected them to be grateful for not going through with it.