People have various reasons for not accepting the tenets of the Christian faith. Ethically, there are three common reasons for rejecting Christianity: the problem of suffering, the problem of Christian claims of exclusivity (“Jesus is the only way”), and the problem of hell. This article will show that the first two are really not good reasons, and in the next I will discuss how the third problem relates well to the view that human history exists to resolve the angelic conflict.
Probably the most common way in which Christianity is attacked ethically is the moral problem: how can a good God allow suffering in the world. This view seems sound if considered superficially but it actually has an intellectually dishonest premise. The basic argument: Christians claim God is all-powerful and all-loving but still there is so much suffering. Therefore, He is either all-loving but not all-powerful which is why the suffering doesn’t stop, OR He is all-powerful but not all-loving which is why the suffering doesn’t stop, He doesn’t really care. First there is the matter of the Gospel: “God made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). God Himself knows a little about experiencing unjust suffering, but the reason this view is intellectually dishonest is that it cherry picks only two stated attributes of God to build its argument. If God were only all-powerful and all-loving, sure, there perhaps might be some merit to this viewpoint, but adding just one additional attribute satisfactorily answers the conundrum: God is all-knowing. So, if it is true that He is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing and yet allows suffering in the world, there must be something He knows that we don’t, and whatever it is that He knows must satisfy His attribute of love that He limits His attribute of power to allow the suffering currently being experienced in the world. “As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:9). The people who lob this charge are actually claiming that they have more knowledge than an all-loving and all-powerful being because in their estimation there could be no reasonable explanation for the suffering and they have arrived at that conclusion on the basis of a few years of education and 20, 30, 40, maybe 50 years of existence. In such a short-time they somehow think they have attained more knowledge than an infinite being. The resolution to the problem of suffering doesn’t solve the actual suffering being experienced by actual people, but it does provide a solution, as not only is the God of Christianity all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing but He has also given us some information that tells us He will intercede at a point in time to bring an end to the suffering being experienced.
The second most popular way of dismissing Christianity is by attacking its exclusivity: how can it be that Christianity is the only one true way to be saved? What about all the heathens in all the heathen lands that have never heard about Jesus, how can God justly condemn them? Well, from within the Biblical framework, the charge that there exists cultures that have never been in contact with the Gospel can be refuted; however, even if one accepts the premise, it really makes no sense if one attempts just a second of clarity on what Christianity teaches. If you did that you could definitely not conclude that Christianity makes sense as one among many options; instead, holding to Christianity but denying the exclusive component results in Christianity being by far the most barbaric option. Christianity teaches that all have sinned, that the punishment for sin is death and that there is nothing humans can do on their own to have their sins forgiven. But, since God loves the world, He decided on a decidedly unique way to save it: He sent His Son to be born of a virgin, to live a sinless life, then as a consequence of being the Son of God to be arrested, tried, crucified and buried. In that brutal death on the cross God took the consequences of our sin so that all we have to do is receive the gift of forgiveness, “as many as received Him to them He gave the right to be called children of God, to as many as believe on His name” (Jn. 1:12). Going back to the attributes of God: He is all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful and with all of that this is the solution He came up with to solve our sin problem. It must, then, be because it was the only way. But, what if it weren’t; what if all roads do indeed lead to heaven? He can be a good Muslim, and she a great Hindu, and she a so-so (you know, more good than bad) atheist and as long as we’re genuine, we all get to the same spot. This would mean while one can get to heaven just on the basis of being a pretty good fella, God still decided it was appropriate to send His only Son to have Him crucified! What?!!! If the Christian message isn’t exclusive, then it is abhorrent: it preaches a God who offered His Son as a sacrifice, just ‘cuz. It seems, then, that when someone rejects Christianity on the basis of its exclusive claims, they are mostly revealing that they haven’t fully grasped the very basic tenets of Christianity.
In part 2 I’ll discuss the one ethical charge that has a little bit more heft than the two more popular ones discussed above.