In Fear and Trembling – The Peace from Our Lord
LeoPardus recently published 3 articles which focused on reasons he left Christianity. I will be reprinting 3 slightly edited articles from my old website that highlight only one of the main reasons I left Christianity – the tortuous doctrine of eternal damnation. If you have already read these, forgive me for this second go-around.
I used to wear a button on my hat. I wore it everyday for years. It was one of those buttons that I used to identify myself as a Bible Believing Christian, without having to go through the trouble of actually having to say it to everyone I met. My button had a cliché printed on it.
It read “Know Jesus Know Peace, No Jesus No Peace.”
Why did I have peace in Jesus? I was to have peace because my faith in Jesus Christ gave me hope of an eternal reward in Heaven. No matter the trials of this mortal life, no matter how I was persecuted for my faith, no matter what physical ailments may become me, no matter if death knocked on my door, I could say “O death where is thy victory, O death where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55). I was to have peace because I knew that I was a refugee here on earth, a mere nomad on this temporary and mortal plane. I was to have peace because after the Resurrection I would have an incorruptible body, all things would become new, there would be no more sadness and no more fear. I was to have peace because I was to spend all of eternity worshipping my Lord Jesus Christ for being so gracious as to pluck me from the damnation of hellfire.
Christians who visit this site claim that they have peace because they have no fear of damnation. They know they will be saved from hellfire by the grace of Jesus Christ, they are justified through faith, and have no fear of being deemed unworthy by their sinful flesh.
My question is, how can any Christian with this mindset have any peace knowing that the bulk of humanity will be damned? You may be saved; you may get to Heaven, but then what? You watch as 99% of the people who have ever lived are cast into the Lake of Fire? And then say – oh well, they had their chance, Hallelujah? I can’t see any peace or hope in that – Heaven is an eternity of survivor’s guilt!
I think Christians have a terrible time rationalizing this view of eternity, but they will never admit it. Many say they are uncomfortable with it, like CS Lewis admitted in The Problem of Pain, but they ultimately just swallow those ugly thoughts down and don’t dwell on them. They must in order to remain faithful to God. Just let go and let God. Let me site a recent example. Brad of seminarian blog recently made this comment:
I am the only Christian in my family, and the thought of them being tormented without end is… well… uncomfortable to say the least.
Yet, later in that same comment thread, Brad went on to say,
As a grace-loving protestant, I do admit that God has done all the work, but I certainly do not demand it. That grace then empowers my ability to love others […] you know the rest I am sure. Ironic? Sure. Absurd? Nah. Tis glorious.
Brad, you know I really like you and appreciate your visits here. But how can you be disturbed by the prospect of your family in eternal damnation, yet call the grace of that very God of Damnation ‘glorious’? Seriously, that is not a trivial question. In my humble opinion, it is an absurdity.
Another legitimate question to ask a Christian is, “what about all the people who lived before Jesus who never had an opportunity to accept his Salvation?” “What about the people who never heard of Jesus?” The standard answer a Christian gives these days is, “Trust God – He will judge fairly and do what is right”. Christians say this because the standard Fundamentalist answer is very unsavory. Paul makes it very clear that sinful humanity is without excuse (Rom 1:20). If people are saved by ignorance of the Gospel, we better stop preaching now because people have a better chance of making it to Heaven by ignorance. The ancient Chinese civilizations? Destined for Hell. The native Americans? Nope sorry, wrong place wrong time. The faithful Jewish people waiting for their Messiah? Sorry suckers, you rejected your Messiah. No wonder Christians just blandly say “Trust God – He will judge fairly”.
Sure, these are old questions. But unless you have universalist beliefs, the answers are always the same.
Here are some more questions that Christians should contemplate:
Is God bound by a morality that defines Sin? If so, then that something that defines morality is transcendent over our transcendent God. God has actually made the sacrifice for us to save us from sin. But this makes God far less than all-powerful since he is bound by that morality that when broken, sends us to Hell.
Is this option correct?
Or does God impose his own sense of morality on humanity, and call our transgressions from his morality Sin? If so, God’s morality is simply whatever he pleases it to be, and if he wishes to cast the ignorant into Hell for breaking a morality imposed by nothing but himself, then that is his prerogative. But that makes him worse than any tyrant who ever walked on Earth, and Christians are forced to endorse his program. If God set the defined sin, then God can impose whatever method he wishes for humanity to bridge that gap caused by sin. Is the belief in the sacrifice of Jesus by faith really the only way? Why? If God decides what sin is, he also must decide the salvific path for humanity, otherwise he is not omniscient So salvation through Jesus is not something God is forced to do, it is something that comes from his whimsy, and you are forced to follow this plan or be damned. Yes, at his own whimsy. Sorry, there is no love in any of that, and there is no justice in any of that. A God who would do this is truly mad.
Is this option correct?
Which option is correct? Either one makes the Christian God into a medieval barbarian. I see no way out of it.
There is an even more unsavory aspect to this. What about children who die very young? The mentally handicapped? The aborted fetuses? Somewhere along the line, Christians have become extremely uncomfortable with damnation involving these innocents. Ask your pastor about their eternal destiny – some denominations who otherwise consider themselves strict Biblical Literalists invoke an amorphous ‘age of accountability’. The rationale is that surely God is not so unjust as to cast children, mentally handicapped and aborted fetuses into eternal torment. But that is invoking our own sense of justice onto God. The Doctrine of Original Sin, and the first point of Calvinism teaches that mankind is conceived and born corrupt in their sin. The newborn and innocent baby is actually filthy and corrupt in its own sin, destined to Hell by default!
There is no age of accountability in the Bible – it is something man has imposed on God because Christians are very, very uncomfortable with the implications. If children are really saved from eternal damnation by dying before their ‘age of accountability’ then Christians should be thanking God for Roe vs Wade, praying that abortion clinics stay open, and maybe Andrea Yates really did the most loving thing she could for her children by drowning them. Dying young is a very easy ticket into eternal paradise.
Of course I am being absurd. By being absurd I hope I am making the point of how ludicrous I find this belief in Hell.
I took these thoughts literally, and I thought of them often. With the implications of eternal damnation destined for the bulk of humanity, I had no peace in Jesus. I looked at humanity in two camps – the Justified and the Heathen – the Saved and the Damned. I witnessed to my workmates fervently, because they were my friends, I enjoyed being with them because they were great people, and I could not imagine them in eternal torment. I prayed every morning for the Holy Spirit to empower my witness so they too could experience the peace of Jesus.
The devout Christian would have us believe that the purpose of life is to serve humanity, but the ultimate purpose is to serve God and win converts to Jesus. So they can win converts to Jesus. So they can win converts to Jesus. So they can win converts to Jesus. And on through the ages, the gears of the proselytizing life continue to grind on.
My dad, because he had embraced the Mormon faith, was doomed. Sure his Mormon faith was kooky, but his faith had helped bring him from a miserable, mean man to a real joy to be with and genuinely happy for the first time in his life. When I confronted my pastor about this, his diagnosis was that he only seemed joyful and happy, but it must be superficial because real joy only came through Jesus. My dad’s apparent joy was actually from a religion spawned from Satan. How my pastor could do this without ever meeting dad was beyond me, but I took him at his word. So I witnessed my faith to dad off and on for years, even though I knew he would never convert. He had no reason to. It was tortuous knowing that Dad was headed for Hell because he was following Doctrines of Demons.
I used to believe in Hell because I had to – but I refuse to accept this barbarous belief in eternal torture anymore. A God who would torture anybody for all eternity simply makes no logical sense. I challenge Christians to tell me they are ok with their unsaved friends, family and neighbors facing eternal damnation at the hands of their Christian God.
to be continued…
Picture: Hieronymus Bosch’s depiction of Hell. Detail from the right panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights tryptich c.1450