Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 9

Is the good news barbaric? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For people who claim to follow logic and evidence, evangelistic atheists like David Madison sure make emotional appeals. Consider how in this section he starts with talking about John 3:16. For him, it sounds nice at the start, but then it gets to judgment. Naturally, before too long he gets to the cross.

I do wonder why Christians aren’t put off by this barbaric feature at the heart of their theology. Does it bother you?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 66). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Of course it does, because I know I’m in part responsible. It bothers me that sin is so evil that this is what it takes to redeem humanity. Madison sees it as bothersome, but for the wrong reason.

Another problem with John 3:16 is that it encourages religious arrogance, the assumption that “our religion is the one true religion.” That is, those who don’t believe in Jesus are excluded from the promise of eternal life. This means that the vast majority of humans have missed out on God’s love for the world. Tim Sledge has done the math: A few moments of simple analysis reveal that if we take the words of Jesus seriously, a clear majority of humanity is destined for an eternal address in hell. About 2.1 billion of the world’s 7.5 billion people alive today identify themselves as Christians—about one out of four—which leaves more than 5 billion people headed for hell. When you apply even a remotely similar ratio to previous millennia, according to the Gospels, an all-powerful, all-loving God created a world in which most of the beings made in his image are destined for torture—torture so extreme it would cause instant death in this mortal life.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 66-67). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

There’s a lot here.

First, it’s odd to talk about a religion being arrogant for thinking they’re correct, when it’s not arrogant apparently to think that all religious believers are incorrect and the non-believers are. If thinking you are correct means you are arrogant, then everyone is arrogant. The reason you hold to any belief is you think you are correct in holding to it.

Second, I have read Tim Sledge’s book already, though I don’t know why I didn’t write a response to it, and see him as someone who messed up his own life, had affairs, and then lo and behold decided Christianity was false. That doesn’t mean his arguments are wrong, so let’s take a look at his claim. To begin with, most evangelicals don’t hold to Hell being a place of torture. Sledge still has a fundamentalist viewpoint.

Third, we don’t have the numbers on all of history and many of us don’t think that those who never heard are automatically hellbound. You can read here for instance. Sledge would need to actually show the numbers which we don’t have. Besides that, if he wants to take Scripture as the authority on this point, Revelation also tells us about a great crowd no man could number from all over the Earth.

Finally, what does this have to do with if Jesus rose from the dead? If you are unsure about the status of those on the outside, it seems strange to say you yourself will stay on the outside. If Christianity is true, it doesn’t matter if 1 person believes it or 10 billion people believe it.

Madison goes on to look at other New Testament passages on judgment and says:

These verses undermine the assumption that God’s love is the essence of the New Testament. The wrath of God, so prominent in the Old Testament, is right here as well. And anyone who reads the letters of Paul can easily pick up on his certainty that wrath is God’s default emotion.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (pp. 67-68). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Odd. I have read Paul’s letters several times and never thought that, but then again, I also do hold to impassibility so I hold that God does not have emotions. Basically, Madison’s argument is again “God is a judge and I don’t like that.”

By the way, these same atheists will complain about the problem of evil and then when God acts as a judge, they complain about that as well.

But no matter if 3:16 and 3:36 are the words of Jesus or simply the words of John, the author, the wrath motif is by no means rare in the teachings of Jesus. So, it’s no exaggeration to assert that his attitude was: Do what I say, or I will hurt you.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 68). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Which presumes that man is innocent and God comes and says “Hey! You’re doing great! Now do what I say or suffer!” A better analogy is man is on death row waiting to go to the chair for his last moments and God is the governor who offers Him a pardon in return for loyalty.

He then has something to say about the parable of the sheep and the goats.

And isn’t it too bad that quite a few categories of sinners aren’t included in this list of those who deserve eternal fire? What about slave owners, child abusers, murderers, and rapists? It’s easy for religious doctrine to stumble over itself and get into a hopeless tangle. In John 3:16, we read that those who believe in the son of God win eternal life, but in Matthew 25, “inheriting the kingdom” is based on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 70). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Ah. Because Jesus didn’t give an exhaustive list, there’s a problem. Jesus is speaking to day to day people. Most of his audience would not have engaged in child abuse, murders, rapes, and even owning slaves. They would engage in the activities He did speak about.

As for the difference between John 3:16, an ancient Jewish mindset would not understand believing in YHWH and yet not living in obedience to Him. If you called someone Lord, you lived as Lord. If anything, this could be a way of saying that if you claimed John 3:16 and yet did not live it, then you did not really claim it.

The final objection he brings up in this chapter is about the coming judgment of Matthew 24-25, but since that’s the point of the next chapter, we’ll wait until then.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)




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