I’ve heard an objection to Christianity that I was mulling this morning for reasons that probably aren’t interesting enough to mention. It goes something like this: “If the Gospel is that God offers eternal life to all who believe in Jesus, then I have a problem. Because I don’t believe God would send someone to Hell simply for believing the wrong thing.”
*Quick sidebar: I always want to ask someone when he says something like that, “Where do your ideas about God come from. How do you know what God is like?” Because in our day and place I think it is very common for people to think God must simply be like whatever they feel God should be like. But if God is a real being (and He is), that’s totally incoherent. Barak Obama and Michael Jordan and my father are all who they are regardless of what I feel they are. Only fictional beings can be re-written based on your own personal desires.
Here’s the snag with that, though: There’s an incorrect premise in the argument. By objecting that the Gospel Christians preach is morally flawed because it means God would be sending people to Hell simply for believing the wrong thing, the person is assuming that we’re morally neutral people (or even good people) who are simply asked by God to pick the right religious option.
But that’s not the case.
As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
Romans 3:10-12, 21-22(a)
No one goes to Hell merely for believing the wrong things. Every single person who has ever entered God’s eternal wrath and judgment has done so because he is a sinner against the perfect God who made him. And God gave His Son to redeem us from us our own lawless suicide. The Gospel is God’s offer of restoration to those who don’t deserve it. To not believe on Jesus is to not receive the medicine God procured (at an unimaginable cost) to heal you. If I refuse the treatment, it is not the medicine’s fault, or the doctor’s, that I die; it’s the gaping, self-inflicted bullethole in my head.
We are not blank slates commanded to fill in the right bubble on God’s spiritual ACT exam. We are willful rebels against the good King, idolaters and liars and adulterers and hatemongers all, and rather than wipe us from the face of His good, green Earth He chose to bleed out on a shameful Roman Cross that we might be made eternal sons and daughters.
If you think the Gospel is that some morally neutral people believe the right thing and go to Heaven and other morally neutral people believe the wrong thing and go to Hell, you’ve totally misunderstood our situation, here.
You, I, and our first father Adam tried to kidnap the glory of the only good King and hold His innocent world ransom, all while clawing our brothers’ and sisters’ eyes out as we tried to be kings ourselves on His free soil. But He has offered to ransom us from our own suicidal treachery.
The Gospel isn’t “Believe the right thing, good man, or you’ll get worse than you probably deserve.” The Gospel is, “Believe, wicked man, and be my son forever; I offer with open arms more than you could ever deserve.”
Don’t be deceived: A man will reap what He sows. And everyone reading this (and the man writing it) started adult life having sowed a gallon of poison into his own veins.
But the unfathomable Good News is that Jesus went to a cross to spill the antidote from His own side.