Okay, I think the comments line of my “why do people go to hell” post is getting too long, and replying in the comments in that line is getting tiresome for people. So here goes me trying to simply post a reply when the questions are good (and don’t have quite as much swearing in them, please people, I try to run a family-friendly blog). I’m answering these not because I’m smarter, but because people ask.
Today’s installment: Questions from Jake (thanks for the really good queries BTW):
I’ve enjoyed reading the earlier blogs, and have learned much from your words. I myself am Agnostic. A fence-sitter if you please. I was raised a Baptist, and have attended a few Catholic churches, but I do not claim to be Catholic. I don’t know if its true or not, but I have heard that the old testament of the bible claims that our god is vengeful god, full of destructive power to rain down upon sinners. Yet, in the new testament, supposedly, he is depicted as the exact opposite. Are these correct?
Unfortunately, this is a pretty common understanding of scripture. Indeed, in the early Church it found full-flower in the heresy called Marcionism which saw in the Old Testament a different “vengeful” God from the one found in the New (so they rejected the Old). Scripture is not nearly that simple. For one thing, the Old Testament has mixed in among the plague and smitings and such, amazing acts of kindness and grace to his covenant people (Israel) despite their many many failings. God is seen as a shepherd to the hurting soul, not in the New Testament, but the Old (Psalm 23), and even in the midst of some very extreme punishments in Deutreronomy, there is clear forethought for the poor, the foreigner, the outcast, and the widow. Indeed, one of the most common words associated with God (Hesed) essentially speaks of a faithful love.
Similarly, in the New Testament, we see among the grace of God poured out for sinners in Christ Jesus, promises of wrath and of punishment. Most of the comments about hell are on Jesus’ own lips, and the book of Revelation has some very gory scenes concerning the punishment of the wicked on the earth (Chapters 8 and 9), and of the final judgment (Chapter 14).
So Honestly, God in both the Old and New Testaments is both vengeful and graceful.
I have designed a theory of my own, and I’d like to hear your opinion. God is perfect. But in most opinions, perfection itself means to be all good. Well we have seen that god has a dark side, so maybe to be perfect, you have to do what isn’t good, OR bad, just what is necessary. For every good a bad. Ying-Yang of christianity.
A possible interpretation, though by way of proviso, I don’t think of evil “existing” any more than a hole or any other absence “exists”. Evil for me is the lack of good. It only exists insofar as there is a good to be lacking something. Lies don’t exist without truth, injustice doesn’t exist without justice, and holes in paper don’t exist without paper. Truth can exist without lies, and paper can exist without holes.
But you are onto something. In the book of Job, in the face of Job’s suffering God comes to answer Job out of the whirlwind to say essentially that “your perspective is a little limited on this”. There’s more at play in any given situation than you can see at first (or even 20th) blush. That’s why I take as the title of this blog a reference to Romans 8:28. All things work together for good…. It’s a promise, and I’d say also an epistemology of morality. God is good, but we can’t always see that.
I haven’t been able to deciede whether or not god exist or not, but I have a hunch that there is something else after this. What it is, I don’t
know, but there is something.
You’ll excuse me for a second on this one, but it does seem a little surreal to have you deciding whether God exists or not. You can decide on your belief, you cannot decide on the reality. :-) Remember too, that god isn’t simply “what comes after”. Most theists would argue that God forms a grounding for reality itself, so we would say that there is something beyond the reality we see that in fact grounds reality itself.
Also, I don’t agree with the christian idea that if you don’t repent your sins, and embrace god, jesus, and the holy spirit, you won’t get into heaven. What if you lead a good, honest life? Shouldn’t that count for something? Does a small tribe in the middle of no where, who has never heard of our god, deserve to go to hell for not embracing him? I don’t think so…
This was more closely dealt with in the post you’re replying to (this one). Works really do not have a lot of value for a Christian when it comes to salvation. They don’t count for that AT ALL. My good works count no more than do the good works of some guy in an unreached tribe, they both count equally at precisely zero. This does not mean that good works are not important, but that they are the effect of salvation, not the cause. There are many causes possible for good works, and not all of them are good, so Christians don’t tend to look at the works as necessarily getting people saved.
The question is actually why do people go to hell. I think that it is because people turn away from God to the enjoyment of other things instead of God. If the Bible is to be believed (see Romans 3:10-18) everybody is in that boat. Now, if someone manages to turn to God , trusting in His righteousness and mercy not relying on his own works, but on God’s mercy, then He is saved. It’s unlikely that people will do that spontaneously, though.
Anyway, I hope this has been somewhat helpful.