View #1: The Torture View
I recently attended a church service where the preacher gave a seven minute presentation of the gospel. It was the standard fundamentalist evangelical Protestant version of the gospel which I had not heard for a while. My involvement with Catholic teaching and the study of early church history has changed my perspective so this gospel message sounded pretty weird. Here it is in a nutshell...
- At a certain "age of accountability" I willfully chose to reject God. (But I don't remember doing this.)
- From that moment on my every thought, word, and deed has been grievously sinful — I am as dirty as menstrual rags and dung.
- Because God is holy and righteous he must torture (judge) me because his holy justice requires this. He does this because he loves me.
- But God provided a way for me to be saved: He would torture (judge) Jesus instead.
- All I have to do to receive salvation is to believe in an instant of time that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. If I am not one of the fortunate few who have even heard of him — well, too bad for me. Or if I've only heard the gospel from word-faith / health-wealth preachers, or stodgy denominational religious Christian groups (instead of "Spirit-filled" groups), or heretical teachers such as those in the early church, or from Catholics — well, too bad for me.
- I must repent of my sins to be saved. But I am saved by faith only, not by works. But if I am truly saved I will desire to do works that please God. But since I am a sinner even after being "born again", this will fail. So I don't have to try too hard to be good — it is not necessary and it will cause me to think that I am saved by my works. As long as I feel bad about my sins once in a while and ask God to forgive me I'll be OK.
- At the final white throne judgment God will see Jesus'
righteousness instead of my sin and will think that I am righteous even though I am still wicked and depraved, all this because I once chose to believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. It doesn't matter whether my efforts to repent from my sins have been fruitful or not.
- For those who reject the gospel (or have never heard it) God is obligated to torture them forever in hell.
This gospel message does not present God as loving, merciful, gracious, or even sane. No wonder so many reject this gospel.
View #2: My View of the Gospel
We have free will to accept or reject eternity in God's presence. Ultimately, at our death we will come face to face with Jesus and he will finally present us with the truth of it all (and the wacky things taught in the name of Christ will be exposed for their errors). Those who have habitually rejected doing good while alive might choose to reject the offer of redemption. Those who received Christ as Lord and Savior while alive will gladly bend the knee in worship.
Preliminary: before humans...
- God created the angels as free-will spirit creatures. One of them (Lucifer) started a rebellion against God and convinced one-third to follow him.
- God had given the angels some amount of sovereignty and authority and he would honor this.
- God determined to create the universe which would eventually be inhabited by living creatures and finally humans.
- For God's purpose he allowed the angels to participate in the design and ownership of the universe.
- The influence of the fallen angels caused the universe to be a place of pain, suffering, and death for the creatures who eventually inhabited it.
Humans created, instructed, and tested...
- 200,000 years ago God created humans who were made in God's image; moral beings able to discern right and wrong.
- Finally, in 10,000 B.C. God created two humans, Adam and Eve, the first humans of redemption history. (Each human soul is created by God; in this sense, God creates each person.)
- God gave them a command (don't eat the fruit) to test them. He graced them with innocence and free will but allowed them to chose to sin, to violate God's law, God's commandment.
- God allowed Lucifer (now named Satan, the accuser) to tempt Eve. In her weakness she succumbed and Adam in his weakness failed to protect Eve from this temptation and succumbed to her suggestion to disobey God.
- Once they sinned they felt ashamed — God had withdrawn his grace of innocence and their free will was wounded, requiring supernatural intervention from God for them to please God. Redemption history now began.
- God taught them religion — (1) offer the life of a living animal to atone for and to cover their sins, and (2) worship at the altar they erected.
The human condition...
- The human soul lives in the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is buffeted by the wicked angels who also inhabit it. There is constant spiritual warfare between the souls of humans, the wicked angels, and the faithful angels.
- Because of Adam's sin God allowed human souls to live in the lower spiritual realm inhabited by the fallen angels — we are members of Satan's kingdom. Because of this influence our souls are unable to resist its desire to sin (concupiscence).
- Humans are weak and constantly provoked to sin by the wicked angels and by their souls' desire to sin (concupiscence).
- God has allowed this state of affairs for his good, holy, and righteous purposes. We cannot possibly hope to understand his motives but we must trust him.
- Meanwhile, even the animals suffer pain and anguish as they eat each other or are eaten or are maimed and killed in the most hideous and painful accidents.
- God, in his mercy, determined to redeem this fallen world and the poor, helpless creatures he created.
- God is Trinity — One in essence yet three persons. God is love. God is good, merciful, just, holy, righteous.
- The pain and suffering of the world is only temporary. The wickedness of the spiritual realm is only temporary.
- In creating the universe and the creatures, God intended to include these in his very nature; to "deify" them.
The incarnation of Jesus...
- God prepared Mary as a sinless vessel to provide for the incarnation of Jesus.
- In a supreme act of humility Jesus as deity took on a human form, In doing so he merged this created universe to become a part of God's nature; he "deified" the universe and the creatures he created — praise the Lord!
Our responsibility and role...
- Regarding humans: God's Spirit interacts with the soul of each one of us.
- We all become aware of wickedness, sin and evil. How we respond to this determines our eternal fate.
- God's Spirit interacts with our soul. How we respond to this determines our eternal fate.
- If we choose to be troubled by the wickedness, sin, and evil we experience, we can have some hope of eternal redemption.
- If we respond favorably to God's subtle promptings in our soul we can have some hope of eternal redemption.
- Those who harden their hearts against God are in serious trouble.
- Those who are blessed to hear the Christian gospel message presented accurately and sensibly are very fortunate.
Salvation through Jesus...
- Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is necessary for eternal salvation.
- Jesus reveals himself to everyone (for many, this will occur at death; perhaps after we think they have already died).
- Ultimately, each person either accepts or rejects Jesus. For those who spent their life rejecting the promptings of God's Spirit and willfully indulging in sin, their prospects are dim. For those who sensed the enormity of their sin and habitually called out to God to be merciful, they have good reason to be hopeful.
- God does not judge us; our own sin judges us.
- At the final judgment some will choose to spend eternity in fellowship with God, some will reject this. It is impossible to explain or understand why anyone would willfully choose to reject God.
- For those who reject — eternity in hell.
- For those who accept — eternity in the new heavens and new earth.
My unique views...
I listen to Christian teaching and preaching on the radio from time to time but find myself unedified and alienated by it (to say the least). In trying to discern the disconnect between them and me I've concluded they aren't talking to me. Their audience is someone who...
- They have a turbulent life, rapid mood swings, perhaps symptoms of a mild mental disorder causing anxiety and guilt and worry, needing someone to continually assure them they are OK.
- They are unsaved, unredeemed, needing to hear the gospel presented repeatedly with an invitation to ask Jesus to save them and come into their heart.
- They are hopelessly addicted to mortal sin needing conversion to God daily — but it doesn't "take" and they must repeat this often.
- They are easily duped into clearly false interpretations of the Bible, every passage and image turned into the most wild allegory and having symbolic meaning.
- They enjoy listening to sermon-style ranting and pounding, ultra-passionate, being talked-down to like children, hollered at, cajoled.
- They understand "Christian-ese" and it resonates with them. To me it sounds like gibberish based on false doctrine.
It all seems cult-like; no wonder the modern culture is put off. For those who don't feel terrible about themselves and who are not desperately seeking relief, looking for someone to patronize them, this false gospel is irrelevant and, worse, condescending and insulting.
No, I do not think of myself as above everyone else; I'm just trying to live a holy life of virtue pleasing to God and to not to be deceived by the cult-like and false gospel rampant in fundamentalist evangelical Protestantism.
(And yes, I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior and fully expect to spend eternity in his presence, worshipping him, in the new heavens and new earth; this by faith having repentance from sin and not by works.)