In a previous thread, I have been having a interesting exchange with the author of the article I was critiquing, Steve Jones, an exchange which is very much worth reading. I would like to draw attention to (at the writing of this post, recent) comment he made:
OK, you've mitigated the guilt of religious killers. You've deemed all humans, even the most decent and loving, evil as Hitler. You've presented a theology in which people are responsible for doing what they're incapable of doing -- then punished horribly for not doing it. You've set forth an end-time scenario in which God burns people with fire, strips them down to the most depraved level possible, then hurls them into a place of endless toruture [sic].
Tell me, is that faith beautiful and appealing to you?
The question goes right to the crux of the issue. Can one see Christianity beautiful and appealing to us? Are we ashamed of sin, of hell, of the damnation of those who did not receive (not merely reject) Jesus Christ, and final judgment?
The offence of the Gospel shines through here. As it is written:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor. 2:14-16)
The Gospel message is death to the ears of those who are perishing. It is foolishness to them, morally repugnant and revulsive to their senses. Their very persons feel ill at the understanding of the Gospel message. It is a fragrance of death unto death for them.
Yet the Gospel message is life to those who believe. We see ourselves as creatures under a Creator. We see our wickedness. We see how wretched and blind we are. We know that God does not owe us anything, not even our lives. We grasp unto Christ, the Wisdom of God, for He is our only hope.
All Christians should be able to say yes, such a faith is beautiful and appealing to us. Not because we are sadists who love to see people in hell, but we see here the mercy of God towards us who justly deserve the same punishment. That all men are originally destined for hell due to sin is a reality, and that God is still just and loving if He wants to send everyone there. There is no injustice in God. Yet God has mercy on those whom he saves, freely of grace.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Eph. 2:1-5)