The question this week comes from Elise, and it’s puts an even finer point on our Lenten #progGOD Challenge (there are already some great responses). When you read her question, you’ll hear traces of Calvinism in what she’s been taught, so I hope that some Calvinists will chime in. Implicit in her question are all sorts of other questions about the nature of God and the nature of justice. Here’s what Elise asks:
I have had an ongoing relationship with Christianity in which I alternately really get it or really don’t. I really dug into this the last time I fell away, and the biggest issue I have is with the Cross (the very thing most Christian’s find so empowering).
That’s not to say I have a problem with Jesus sacrificing Himself on the Cross; I understand the mercy, the sacrifice, the love that is inherent in that gesture, and that part I think is awesome. The issue that I have is that it was required in the first place. How could a loving God heap death and/or eternal damnation on his children for their sins and call it justice? Why did Jesus have to step up in the first place?
I have heard the argument of unknowable justice, but I don’t think a majority of us would think eternal damnation is a reasonable response to a mistaken belief or a wrong action. Sure, punishment is necessary sometimes, but I much more understand the Catholic idea of Purgatory (adjusted slightly); it seems just that a loving God would purge us of our sinful nature, and this might not be the most pleasant experience, but after that’s purged out of us, then we can go to heaven. It makes sense that this period of purgation would be longer for an unrepentant sinner than for a good person who is a non-believer or for a repentant believer, but not that it would be eternal.
Also, currently only about 33% (estimated from various sources, I can site if need be) of the world is Christian, so the other 67% seem pretty out of luck on this if only believers get to Heaven; and that doesn’t seem just either. To reference Rob Bell, I find it unlikely Ghandi is in Hell. Assuming God knew Jesus would sacrifice and fix the problem, it still seems wrongs. I don’t think it’s reasonable to say “the ends justify the means” on this one. I’m sorry that was long, but it really all blends into one complete question for me: How is the Cross’s necessity combined with the fact that only about 1/3 of the world’s population identifies as Christian/Believer a demonstration of the justice of a Loving God?
Here’s the drill: you respond to Elise below, and I’ll reply on Friday. See all of the questions in the series here.