NOTE: Through-out the text you will bracketed purple text insertions that begin with the word “Discussion”. These are suggested discussion questions for small group leaders, who would like to go through these topics in an interactive group setting.
“I don’t want to believe in a God who could send people to suffer in Hell for eternity. My God is a God of love.” This is a common and understandable objection, which deserves a thoughtful and thorough reply. Let’s start by analyzing some of the beliefs and assumptions that give life to this objection.
[Discussion: What underlying beliefs and assumptions does a person hold when they say they cannot believe in a God who sends people to suffer in Hell for all eternity?]
Secular western culture strongly objects to a God who can condemn someone’s sincerely held beliefs as wrong. It is even more scandalous that this same God would punish people for these wrong beliefs.
[Discussion: What logical inconsistencies exist with the assumption that God can’t condemn someone’s sincerely held beliefs?]
Now, the objecting westerners must at this point admit they believe the western culture and way of thinking is correct and other cultures are wrong.
For example, an objecting westerner might feel he has a right do decide what he can and cannot do with his body. Thus, he is uncomfortable with a God who says he can’t have pre-marital sex. In more traditional cultures, such as in many Islamic countries, society has no problems in letting a god decide these things. Furthermore, if someone is caught engaging in pre-marital sex, society might condemn and punish the person, sometimes very severely.
On the other hand, western culture has no problem in accepting the Biblical teaching of forgiving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek. In other more traditional societies, this type of teaching may deeply offend people’s idea of justice. Turning the other cheek makes no sense and denying rightful retribution is seen as condemnable.
Are the Islamic and traditional cultures wrong and the secular western culture right? If so, the westerner becomes guilty of what he is accusing God. He is condemning the sincerely held beliefs of more traditional cultures.
Do you see how this is irrational? The secular westerners have a problem with God saying what is right and wrong, yet we hypocrise by saying our western mentality on these matters is right and other cultures that think differently, are wrong. Thus, the secular westerner’s position is self-defeating.
However, as Tim Keller says, “For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Christianity is not the product of any one culture but is actually the transcultural truth of God. If that were the case we would expect that it would contradict and offend every human culture at some point, because human cultures are ever-changing and imperfect. If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place. Maybe this is the place, the Christian doctrine of divine judgment” and Hell.
Now, the objecting westerner might maintain his position and say he has good reason to condemn the religious beliefs of other cultures. He believes his modern western belief is correct, namely, a loving god accepts all relatively good people, regardless of their beliefs. Someone who used to think like this was Tim Keller. In hoping to find this non-judgmental loving god, he began to take courses in other major religions of the world: Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.
To his surprise, he found no other religious texts saying God created the world out of love. He discovered most ancient pagan religions believe the world was created through violence between opposing supernatural forces, where-as Buddhism doesn’t believe in a personal god. Where was the proof for this loving and accepting god Tim Keller had in mind? Was the only proof in the hopes and dreams of Mr. Keller?
On a personal note, having read all 114 surah’s of the Quran, it was interesting to discover the god of the Bible and the god of the Quran are quite different on love. The god of the Quran approves of those who do good, but, unlike the god of the Bible who loves the world, the god of the Quran never showed the highest form of love: that of self-sacrifice and self-denial. The god of the Bible demonstrated this on the cross by giving his life on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind, enabling him to be both a god of justice and love, and, outside the Bible, there is no evidence of another god who has demonstrated the highest form love. However, because we don’t want anyone to judge us—least of all God, we want to take the “love” part, unique to Christianity, and omit what the Bible says about this loving god also being a god of justice.
[Discussion: What logical inconsistencies exist with the position that God must only be a god of love and not of justice and punishment?]
For those who believe in this “God of love”, who accepts all relatively good people regardless of their beliefs, the question is: Where are you getting this idea of such a god? You most certainly are not getting it from any of the world’s existing major religions. The only place where this god exists, who is only love, who accepts almost everyone and judges no one, besides Hitler and Bin Laden, is in your own mind.
Just because you want such a god to exist doesn’t make it so. You are taking a powerful leap of faith believing in this god of your imagination. There is no support for such a god if you look at world history, religious texts, nature, or life in general. It seems you may have created your own religion, except there is no historical nor theological support for it plus your new religion is logically inconsistent when scratched below the surface, as we will proceed to now do.
Stay tuned for the 2nd part.
 As quoted in The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, p. xiv / location 1507/4761.
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