This article continues a series examining R.E. Pucket’s article “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer”.
Part 1 may be found here.
Part 2 may be found here.
Part 4 may be found here.
Part 5 may be found here.
A variety of the Christian views that Pucket attacks in these questions are held by a very specific sect of Christian believers, and by no means characterize the whole of Christian views. The questions also occasionally make broad statements which either mischaracterize Biblical teachings, or are backed up with no supporting evidence. Where these mistakes are made, the responses are largely aimed at correcting these mischaracterizations. This is not to say that the attack has no merit, but the attack would need to be re-worked to fit a proper representation of that belief.
One of the important things that the Pucket list teaches is the danger of dogmatism. If a system of belief stands or falls on every minute doctrine or teaching within the system, then disarming one of these causes the whole thing to fall. Christianity has undergone inspection by hosts of intelligent and thoughtful people over its 2000-year history. Some, like Pucket, have come to the conclusion that it was untenable. Many more have explored different ways of thinking about and applying Christian ideas that do not involve abandoning the system. The very fact that Christianity is a system of thought that allows individual thinkers to explore it, rather than to blindly embrace it, at least suggests that it is not a system of intellectual tyranny.
This author suggests that many of things about Christians popularly believe may be found faulty without the entire system being destroyed. For Christianity to be untrue, it would have to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that either humans do not require some sort of salvation from evil and suffering, or that no such salvation has been provided.
The answers provided to the questions in this series may not always be punchy rejoinders, magic bullets, or truth bombs. They may be far from convincing to a skeptic; however they do show that Christianity is at the very least internally consistent and existentially plausible.
Finally, it is worth noting that the questions are sometimes phrased in highly emotive or sarcastic forms. These articles will attempt to respond to the fundamental objection being raised, rather than the tone in which they are presented, however the questions themselves will be presented in their original form.
11 – If Jesus died on the cross and spent three days in hell to pay for the sins of the world, then why would we have to go to hell ourselves and pay for them again? God is then, in essence, being paid for our sins twice.
(continued)…With that said, was Jesus’ sacrifice not worthy enough? If that is the case, why should we care that he died for our sins if his sacrifice means nothing at all?
There is little or no scriptural reference to Jesus going to hell, and this is certainly not universally held to be true by Christian denominations. This little doctrinal difference aside, the question still remains: why would anyone have to pay for their sins if Christ already paid for them?
This is fairly simple. Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient, but the salvation it offers certainly isn’t compulsory. As always, people still have the choice of abandoning their self-centered mindset, repent of their misdeeds, and cling to the salvation Jesus purchased; or they have the choice to continue to pursue their self-interests at the expense of the grace offered by God.
People are not dragged kicking and screaming into God’s presence. They either freely choose to approach him, or they do not.
12-13 If God wants us all to follow and worship him, why didn’t he create us as such? *Your expected answer will be addressed in the next question.
(continued)… What good is it for us to have free will if the intention is for us not to use it? Sure, we can use our free will, but we will burn in hell for eternity if we do. Russian roulette, anybody? It sounds like a set-up to me.
Since twelve and thirteen are essentially a two-part question, they will both be addressed together.
God exists prior to the creation of the universe, and is responsible for the creation of the universe. As such, the universe, and everything which resides within exists for God. God does not exist to meet the desires of his creatures, his creatures exist to serve God’s purposes.
God’s purpose for the creation of the universe, and for everything that has and will occur within it was the revelation of his nature through Jesus Christ. As stated in the question, human’s exercise of free-will has condemned them in the eyes of God. Immediately there is a seeming conflict in God’s nature. On the one hand, God’s purity and holiness cannot abide that which is imperfect. He must destroy all imperfection because of his very nature. On the other hand, God’s love – which is equal in potency to his holiness – must forgive and save that which is lost.
The resolution to this conflict is Jesus Christ. By living a pure life, Jesus satisfied God’s holiness. By taking on the sin of all people, Jesus satisfied God’s love. These acts have glorified Christ and perfectly justified God’s very nature.
Now, human free will may be used not to condemn but rather to save. Every person has the opportunity to exercise their free will and receive the salvation available in Christ.
As Christ himself said: “Whoever believes in [me] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
14 – In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, why would God kill Lot’s wife, Sarah, by turning her into a pillar of salt for simply looking in the wrong direction? *Warning of impending sarcasm.* God is a merciful God……….. right.
One point of Bible literacy before the question is addressed: Lot’s wife was not named in scripture. Jewish tradition holds that her name was “Ado” or Ildith or “Edith.” Sarah was the name of Abraham’s wife.
God’s mercy is abundantly clear throughout this story. Firstly, when Abraham pleaded for God to stay his destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God agreed that if he could find as little as ten righteous people, he would save the entire city for their sake. These are some extraordinarily low standards, all things considered. Secondly, the angels came to the city in order to warn of the impending judgment, giving the people opportunity to repent. Instead, the people attempted to gang rape the angels. Finally, rather than leaving Lot and his family – who were far from perfect themselves – to be destroyed along with the city, God warned them to flee the destruction to come and not look back.
Lot was not a native to the city, however his wife was. It was her free choice to ignore God’s warning. By choosing to look back rather than heed God’s warning, Lot’s wife forfeited the salvation God offered – an act of mercy she did not deserve in the first place. Instead she chose to take part in the destruction of the city she loved more than God.
15 – What purpose does hell serve? If it is punishment for sinful actions, shouldn’t it be used for correctional purposes? Seeing as though you burn forever, you will never get out of hell to show that you have learned your lesson.
(continued)…Would it make sense to live a faithful Christian life glorifying the Lord and to accidentally sin by saying a curse word the instant you smash your car into the back of a tractor-trailer, thereby being condemned to burn in hell forever?
As pointed out in the answer to question 9, when one accepts the salvation offered through Christ’s sacrifice, the forgiveness one receives is permanent and is not revoked by the occasional sin or backslide a Christian might do.
In fact, this entire question misunderstands the nature of Christian faith. It is not a system of karmic punishment or reward. It is not a matter of working to “be a better person.” Hell is not there to “teach a lesson” or to reform a person. This is not a matter of human behavior, but rather of God’s nature. God is perfect in nature, and he cannot abide anything less than perfection. God has provided a way for humans to be perfected even though they are not perfect. People who accept the redemption offered through Christ may freely abide in God’s presence without consequence or fear. Those who try to make it on their own merits, or who reject God altogether cannot stand in God’s presence and must be cast out forever.