An Open Letter To Christians (From A Baffled Nonbeliever)

Posted by Dan | Posted in Rants, Religion | Posted on 29-03-2013

2

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

— John 3:16 (KJV)

I would say this verse is pretty much the crux of Christianity: that our souls might have salvation in the afterlife because God made the difficult decision to send His only son to earth to die for our sins. We should be eternally thankful for His sacrifice.

I have tried for years to understand and believe in Christ’s sacrifice. It’s a core belief of millions across the world, and if it’s true then the fate of my eternal soul rests on understanding it (I’m not big on blind faith), but to this day I still can’t get my head around it. As it’s Easter I’m posting this as an open letter to Christians everywhere, asking you to help me understand the core belief of your religion. To understand God.

If you have something to say, please leave a comment below.

 

Here is my understanding so far:

Okay, say you’re God: in under a week you can create the entire universe, life and all. Creating human life is a doddle: a handful of dust or lump of clay, a spare rib, and presto — you have some humans! Your abilities are awe-inspiring and arguably infinite.

You create a garden where humans live forever, but stick a ridiculously tempting Tree of Knowledge in there and say “whatever you do, don’t touch this”. Inevitably and unsurprisingly, they touch it. You (over)react by going “No! Knowledge is BAD! I’m taking away your eternal life, and now you and all your descendants will burn in Hell/ache in Hades/stew in Abraham’s Bosom when you die!” [the jury still seems to be out on exactly what happened to BC souls, but they definitely didn’t go to Heaven]. Then you allow souls to be damned for a good few thousand years, occasionally accelerating the process by engaging in acts of genocide like drowning everyone on earth.

After aeons of watching people living incredibly difficult lives only to then die and possibly suffer for countless centuries in the burning pits of Hell for the crimes of “I didn’t worship you” and “my great-great-great grandparents ate an apple once”, you eventually have a change of heart. You realise you made some mistakes in your early years and decide it’s time to write a NEW Testament: this one will be a little less bloody, and will hopefully distract people from the sporadic bouts of genocide and that time you nearly made Abraham murder his child.

You’re omnipotent. You wield the power to instantly forgive all those tortured souls. You wield the power to destroy Hell. But no, you decide the only way for this to work is human sacrifice (with a touch of suicide) — even though you can make a thousand begotten sons out of clay, you decide to deal with this personally.

As you grow up in human form, you begin to lay the groundwork for your new easter2religion. For you decided that to simply save *everyone* isn’t really your thing: instead you’re going to enforce rules to decide who gets to go to Heaven and who remains bound for the lake of fire.

Then you die (well, the Jesus fragment of you). You suffer, sure, but the few days of torture aren’t even a drop in the ocean compared with the millennia of suffering endured by humans living in such brutal times (and that’s excluding those possibly burning in Hell for most of that time). You descend into Hell/Hades/Bosom, liberate people from the shackles YOU created, chain up some demons, then head back to Heaven after making a brief pit-stop at your tomb. You do this not to save mankind, but to offer them a *chance* at salvation — decided on your terms — from the suffering YOU inflicted on them because at the beginning of time two people wanted a taste of knowledge.

 

easter1

I’ve tried to understand this, and to see it as a virtuous act, but I can’t see how it possibly is. I don’t see it as a great sacrifice on God’s part or even much of a loving act. It’s more akin to torturing your child until you’ve broken their bones, then summoning just enough compassion to drive them to the hospital. On the way there you whisper: “This doesn’t have to happen again. I’m giving you a chance to be happy from now on… but ONLY if you do EXACTLY what I say.”

easter3

PS: Why does Judas get such a bad rap for being the ‘betrayer’? If he hadn’t betrayed Christ there would have been no crucifixion, ergo no salvation.

PPS: Assuming all BC souls *didn’t* go to Hell, and instead simply remained in Abraham’s Bosom/Limbo, does that mean that Christ’s crucifixion actually WORSENED the fate of all souls who don’t choose Christianity?

2 comments
Richard
Richard

Good evening! Please forgive this rather short and haphazard response as I'm attempting to offer some measure of response via the mobile.

To start with the fall, it wasn't just knowledge, but the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We don't know why it was there, but they were told not to partake of it, or their transgression would result in the fall and blighting of creation, along with their (and their descendents) subsequent death. They were made in the image of God and, as such a (somewhat pale) reflection were made the pinnacle of what they could be and, especially, to be able to exercise their minds and free will. So if Adam did walk and talk with God, his Creator, in the garden, then he would have known exactly who God was and the implications of it - in both God's sovereignty and His will to sustain and care for His creation.

The crux of the fall came not that they wanted knowledge, but that they were influenced to doubt the very words and experiences that they had personally had with God - but more so that they gave in and acted on that externally negative influence. They were not made corrupt, but they enabled their corruption.

So why would God then continue to punish them even though they fell because of an external influence? Firstly, because they are responsible for their part and acting on it and, secondly, because God is Holy and Sovereign - if God has said that something must be so, then it must be/become so - He cannot go back on His Word because He is the absolute and self-sufficient one, against which all of His own creation is held. He must do what He said because He is not a corrupted man who created corrupted man, but the Supreme and perfect God. He is known as the judge because He has kept to His word and is the only one truly righteous to be able to hold any to account by His Law. If the first transgression is anything to go by, then breaking God's Law comes at a cost - as it is said, 'the wages of sin is death'. So, to honour God you give to Him the best that you have of the first of what you make (E. G. Abel), but also, the cost of something must be met, with a transgression valued at the cost of life needing to be met. Thus the later sacrificial system was established. Notice that even before they were cast out of the garden, God had set in motion events leading to the reconciliation of all creation (including humanity) to Him, and even more so, provides the man and woman with clothing, making the first partly atoning propritiatory sacrifice Himself.

With the wages of each instance of sin being death of the transgressor, then how could the OT sacrificial system, offering a substitute for the law-breaker actually make a man right with God, if, by His corrupted nature, he will naturally reject and despise the God who despite this continues to sustain him? Shortly, it can't.

Facetious, only part of the interest is being paid off a mounting debt.

Multiply that up for every person to have lived or will live and all the transgressions they will commit, and be His (more on this in a moment), and all of creation, then you are left with an almost infinite debt.

Jesus took on that debt by, not only living and being without sin (to again refer to sin as transgression against God) and living by faith in perfect obedience to the Will of God, but being able to overcome the cost by being the Son of God and God the Son, not a created (though having become incarnate and taking on flesh), but infinite (if willingly limited during the incarnation) being of infinite worth. It was a debt that only God could pay because, beyond realising their inadequacy and dependency on God and pursuing God in that manner, there is nothing that an autonomous created being could ever offer their Creator that could ever influence Him to think or look favourably on them. These offerings are all the more grotesque if offered in a sinfully self-possessed way (like the idea that someone will get into God's good books if they live a good life).

Thus the issue of the BC believers comes down to who trusted in God and, furthermore, trusted in His promises, especially of deliverance, however long it took them to do so. These were all, including prophets, patriarchs, high and low, very human and prone to failure but, ultimately, they placed all their trust in God and not in their own abilities. And if trusting in God and as a result/stemming/subsequent attempt at living a life for and with God provides the best life that can be had, then the cycle returns to Eden and the doubt instilled therein. The choice returns to trusting and seeking God.

God continually provided and provides a way to be reconciled to Him. God continually sustained and sustained (re: common Grace), but if God went to the effort to create and then instill His creations with the ability to choose to follow or reject Him, why should He override that ability and make them mindless automatons? Why should God dish out blanket reconciliation to those who would continue rejecting Him regardless? The wages of sin is death and it is a price that must be paid - by you or by Christ. But only one will bring reconciliation to God and only one can meet the debt of a life of absolute rebellion against Him.

Regarding Hell - depends on which translation of two different places and states, unfortunately translated to the same English word - oft in the OT, there is reference to sleeping in the Bosom of Abraham, or also considered to be the rest in the state and place of the dead, while there is much reference in the NT, more often by Jesus, the place of destruction (Gehenna - symbolised by a fiery place outside Jerusalem where refuse and whatnot was burnt and destroyed). Incidentally,most of what is known about this place of destruction has been supplied by Christ.

Nothing changes or has changed about the ultimate end of one who rejects God. For if God is so completely different and perfect, the standard against everyone is held, then God is completely right and justified to pronounce sentence and mete justice against anything and anyone that falls short of His Glory.

God doesn't and didn't want anyone to perish, but He must hold to His own Law, which the person, life and propritiatory sacrifice His Son and incarnation is the culmination, completion, fulfilment and fruition thereof.

And it is faith in Him and His work which reconciles, regenerates and begins the sanctification of the believer.

Everyone is given a chance (sorry, won't go into discussion of the doctrine of the anonymous believer atm), and often many.

Judas Iscariot did not have to betray Jesus. He knew all there was available to know, had seen all the miracles and transformations that Jesus had wrought, had lived and worked with Him for years, yet he still betrayed Him. Maybe for some it is more pity for Judas, because they can see the same pull toward such transgression in themselves - can see how easy it would be and really don't like it?

Anyway, please excuse and pardon me - must be off. Hope this offers some semblance of honest and helpful response (despite formatting) - I don't know very much and understand less, but the little that I do comes from the work and incredible mercies and blessings of God in my life. I very much hope this helps. R

BillLacey
BillLacey

@Richard That has got to be biggest amount of bullshit that I've ever read. All you did was talk in circles. You mean to tell me that your god put two people in a garden, then put a tree in there that they weren't supposed to touch (then why the hell did you put it in there?!?) and then set them up by also putting a talking snake in there to tempt them, knowing full well that all of this was going to happen (god knows everything past, present and future, right?) and then got pissed off when they did exactly what he knew they would do in the first place?

And how does sacrificing yourself to yourself to correct a problem that you caused in the first place going to fix anything?