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 religion. 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.
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.”
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?