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 teachingand the study of early church historyhas 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 timethat 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-wealthpreachers, 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 judgmentGod 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 make God out to be particularly loving, merciful, gracious, or even sane.No wonder so many reject this gospel.
View #2: My View
My view of the gospel:
- 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.
- God finally created two humans (Adam and Eve )who were made in God's image; moral beings able to discern right and wrong.
- God gave them a command (don't eat the fruit) to test them. He graced them with sinlessness but allowed them to chose to sin.
- 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 sinlessness.
- 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 soul lives in the spiritual realm.It 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 their desire to sin (concupiscence).
- Humans are weak and constantly provoked to sin by the wicked angels and 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.
- God prepared Mary as a sinless vesselto 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 universeand the creatures he created — praise the Lord!
- 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 souls 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.
- 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 wilfully choose to reject God.
- For those who reject — eternity in hell.
- For those who accept — eternity in the new heavens and new earth.