A few days ago, when I was sailing through the high seas of the internets, I came across a hostile island. Hostile in a sense that it attacked a basic doctrine of christianity. It attacked my beliefs. The attack was carried out in this manner:
My biggest issue with Christianity is the hypocrisy found in the absolute basest tenet of the faith itself:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, so that whosoever believe in him shall not perish but will have everlasting life.” –John 3.16
If you're like very other Christian I've ever tried to explain this to, you're probably shaking your head right now. That's a message of hope, you'll say. That's God's gift to the world.
Let's break it down:
God loves the world. Check.
God gave the world his only son. Fine, okay. I'll accept this aspect of the myth (not myth as in “lie” but as in “story”, which is what every single religion is based on).
His only son died in a sacrifice made by God. This was the father putting the son to death. Why? So that I may be absolved from sin.
BUT! And here's where it sucks: I can only be absolved from sin if I choose to accept the sacrifice. If I do not, God will not extend the benefit of the gift given the world.
Putting it all together: GOD'S LOVE IS CONDITIONAL. The all-knowing, all-powerful creator of all things only loves those who love him back. God loves me so much, that I have to accept a sacrifice made to absolve me of sin. If I do not accept this sacrifice, I'm not absolved of sin, and thus spend eternity in hell.
I have to admit, the argument is very sound. In fact, it is perfect. Logically the guy is correct. However this argument also follows the tradition of all the arguments against christianity. The traditions are these:
- The argument attacks a very specific verse in the bible(extra points for attacking the verse at the very center of christianity. Going into the lion's den and attacking the lion! Bravo!), any argument doesn't ever try to cover the whole picture.
- They all have a faulty understanding of christianity.
If the bible consisted of only that verse, I would agree with him completely. But that is not true. So I don't agree with him. I will give answer to this argument. But before that, I would like to establish this: God's love is unconditional. Let me start with the very verse that is under attack.
The key point that I want to focus on is this: God so loved the world, that he gave his only son. Can you see any condition there? No. There isn't any condition in there. Bible says:
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (KJV)
While we were still sinner, Christ died for us. God loved us despite our actions. Not because of it. There you go, the proof of God's unconditional love.
Now that I have given the proof of God's unconditional love, I would like to touch the nerve of the argument. But before I do it, I'd like to do one more thing. I'd like to make clear the purpose of christianity.
The guy seems to think that the raison d'etre, the reason for Christianity's existence is, as a doorway to heaven. Contrary to the popular belief, it is not so. Christianity's ultimate purpose is not to get people into heaven. Christianity is not a passport for some luxurious foreign country.
The ultimate purpose of christianity is to cultivate Christ like character in individuals. The word “christian” means “being Christ like” or “a follower of Christ”. A person who follows the teachings of Christ. So when you become a christian, you start think and act like Christ would. Whenever you find yourself at a crossroad or a choice, you stop and ask yourself, what would Christ do if he was in the same situation. But how a christian should act is besides the point. (Keep in mind these two paragraphs. Especially the purpose of christianity. I will refer to it later.)
Let me summarize the points:
- God's love is unconditional.
- The ultimate purpose of christianity is to cultivate Christ like character in individuals.
Now, let's go into the argument. The fault in this argument…. TING TONG. Huh? What the heck? My imaginary friend Jack just came in. Sorry about this,
Me : Hello, Jack! How are you?
Jack : I'm fine. How are you?
Me : Great! As always! Do you know what I found out? I have some great news. “God so loved the world, that…
Jack(shouts) : Stop, just stop. I have heard it. It is just a story. And an illogical story at that!!!
Me : Illogical? How?
Jack : You see… (Presents the above argument). That's how. (To my utter surprise he also presented the same argument! You are in luck. Otherwise you would have to come some other day to understand why this argument is wrong.)
Me : Hmm… You do have a point. However, I think you have misunderstood something. (I explain the purpose of christianity. The two paragraphs I mentioned above). So when you refuse to believe in christianity. You refuse to be like Christ. And that is why you can not go into heaven. And if you can't go to heaven, you must go to hell!
Jack : What? I don't want to go to hell. I want to go to heaven.
Me : Then why don't you become a christian?
Jack : Because it is WRONG. Christians are hypocrites. I do not want to be like them.
Me : Christians are not hypocrites. When they say God's love is unconditional, they are right. See, he gave his son for all of us. When we were sinners. He loved us despite our actions.
Jack : Then why does he send people who don't believe in him to hell? Doesn't he love them?
Me : He loves them. But, as I said earlier, being a christian is about being like Christ. Not getting into heaven. So when you refuse to become a christian, you refuse to become like Christ.
Jack : You said the same thing earlier! Do you actually have any point or are we going to just go into circles? What does becoming like Christ have to do with heaven or hell? Why only christians are allowed to go to heaven?
Me : Let me finish. Christians are allowed to go to heaven because they are like Christ. If a person who is not like Christ enters heaven, then he will turn heaven into hell.
Jack : What nonsense are you talking about? How can anyone turn heaven into hell?
Me : Alright. Let me explain. Forget the stuff about christianity. Forget that it claims unconditional love. Focus on teachings and character of Christ. Wouldn't you agree that if everyone on this world becomes like Christ, even this world will become heaven? There will be no wars. There will be no robberies. Nobody will be selfish. But everyone would love each other and respect each other. Wouldn't it create an ideal world?
Jack : Well, I suppose.
Me : Now imagine that a single person who is not like Christ enters this ideal world. This heaven. A person who is selfish. What would he do? He will try to become the ruler and dictator of this heaven. In the process he will turn heaven into hell.
Jack : Hmm… I suppose that could happen.
Me : So now do you understand why God only allows christians to enter heaven? Because only christians can sustain the heaven. If a single person who is selfish enters this ideal world, he will turn it into hell. That is why God won't allow it.
Jack : I see your point. But then what about those who are not like Christ? They are going to go into hell. Right?
Me : Right. But it is because what they chose. They actually chose to go into hell.
Jack : What? How is that possible?
Me : Well, when you refuse to become a christian, you refuse to become like Christ. When you refuse to become like Christ, you refuse to let go of your self. Your pride. You refuse to admit that you are a sinner. When you refuse to admit that you are a sinner, you are saying God is wrong. Because bible says, all have sinned and fall short of God's glory. So you are saying that in this matter, I know what is right. In this matter, I am better than God. That is what Lucifer did. If you say you are better than God, you are saying that you are better than everybody else! So the whole world revolves around you. Your “self” becomes the center of your being. Your “self” becomes your God. And everybody knows where such selfishness leads to… So, because God can not allow selfish people into heaven, he sends them to another place. Wherever he sends them, that place is called hell!
Jack : How?
Me : Just as only christians can create and sustain heaven, selfish people wherever they are, can only create hell. Because of their selfishness, they will create hell for the people around them. They will not share anything. They only love themselves. They will steal from other. For their own pleasures, they will use others. They will create hell. And they will sustain this hell. That is why hell is described as a very bad place in the bible. So heaven is heaven because of the people who inhabit it and hell is hell because of the people who inhabit hell. Also, from an eternal perspective, hell will become more hellish every single moment and heaven will become more heavenly every single moment.
Jack : Hmm.. I see your point. I never thought of it like this. Thanks for explaining. I would like to talk to you about this but I have to go to another place right now. My other “real” friend is calling me!
Me : Alright, bye. Stop by some other time! Take care!
I hope that dialog with my imaginary friend Jack helped you to understand my point. The reason for becoming a christians is not to go into heaven, but to be like Christ so that we can sustain heaven. That is why you need to be a christian. So the argument wasn't really about if God's love is unconditional or not. It was a question. It was: If God loves everybody unconditionally, why does he send people into hell? I have answered the question so there is nothing more to discuss.
And yes, GOD'S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL.
Here is the map to the hostile island.