Having spent the past forty years of my life studying the philosophical infrastructure of the Christian faith, I have come to the conclusion that Christianity (as understood by Christian fundamentalists) is not a rational system of thought, that the primary axioms upon which the faith is based are inherently flawed, internally inconsistent, to the point that such can no longer be considered to be an ontologically valid theory of life. However, for the purpose of this discussion, it is absolutely essential that the reader understand that the pedagogy of Jesus is something quite different from that of the Christian faith, that the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus (the exhortation that we love God, our neighbor, and our enemy) are discernibly different from that of the dogma associated with such a highly politicized and humanly fallible institution known as that of Christianity.
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The fundamental propositions on which the Christian faith is based are as follows:
First, there is the unrelenting belief in an omnipresent (immanent), omnipotent (all-powerful), as well as omniscient (all knowing) God.
Second, that this God (although ostensibly stern and judgmental) is yet a loving God (1 John 4:8).
Third, that all human beings have been created by, and in the image of, God as the one and only creator of the universe.
Fourth, that human beings had no choice in that of their creation…… that no human being had the opportunity to choose to be, or not to be, a human being.
Fifth, that the vast majority of human beings is not saved (Matthew 7:14), and will therefore end up going to Hell.
Sixth, that salvation, according to the “inerrant scriptures” of the Holy Bible, is a function of having consciously accepted Jesus Christ as one’s own personal savior without regard to how good a life one may have lived…… that salvation is a matter of “faith” rather than “works.”
Seventh, that a relative inopportunity to accept Christ as one’s own personal savior cannot be considered to be a justifiable reason for which to avoid punishment in Hell.
Coincidentally, a couple of years ago, on the web site for the International Mission Board, an official entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, I ran across something referred to as the “Map of Lostness (http://going.imb.org/step_one.asp). It represents the percent of people in various areas around the world that are considered to be lost, that is, unsaved, and therefore destined to end up in Hell. Taking notice of the document, I located a web site that gave the most recent population figures for folks living in the different areas of the world represented on the “Map of Lostness.” After a few rather simple mathematical calculations, I discovered that, according to that document belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention, ninety-four percent of all people living on the Earth today are likely, upon death, to end up in Hell.
Now, given the foregoing presuppositions on which the Christian faith is based, allow me to illustrate, via a set of logical-deductive questions, the irrationality, and therefore the invalidity, of the Christian faith as understood by Christian fundamentalists.
Logical-Deductive Question #1-- Why would an essentially loving God, one in absolute control of all things, always there to help us out, while paradoxically realizing that the vast majority (ninety-four percent), none of whom had any choice whatsoever in choosing to become a human being, would, for whatever reason, end up being sent (by God himself) to the eternally burning fires of Hell?
Logical-Deductive Question #2-- Analogously (considering the parent-child relationship to be somewhat similar to that of God’s relationship with us as human beings) would it be reasonable for parents to have children knowing full well that they would end up with little choice but to place them in the kitchen oven, slowly roasting each to death? If parents were in fact to do such a thing (which, relatively speaking, is absolutely minimal compared to the eternality of God’s punishment) either would be declared to be insane or else so terribly evil that they would each be indicted for first-degree murder and therefore given the death penalty. However, as irrational as such a scenario might seem, God, apparently having done the same thing, is looked upon by the fundamentalist religious community as being an incredibly loving God!
Logical-Deductive Question #3-- Regarding an individual who had lived an essentially selfless life of love and compassion (an individual having spent the entirety of his/her life caring for the mentally ill, physically deformed, and indigent poor), but for whatever reason (raised as a Moslem in the Middle East or perchance having lived in China during the 1st century A.D. before word of Christ had spread to that particular area of the world) had little opportunity to accept Christ as his/her own personal savior, would it be reasonable for a God of love to send such an individual to Hell? For most folks (at least those capable of rational thought and a willingness to be honest) there would be a resounding “No, of course not!” However, for those of the fundamentalist community, there seems to be no problem, no problem whatsoever, no problem at all with an apparently loving God having decided to send an innocent person to the burning fires of Hell!
These are no doubt good questions, so good in fact that fundamentalist Christians refuse to consider them. For if such folks were to take the time to think through such issues, the mental conflict (the ontological dilemma) would be so great that they would have little choice but to abandon their faith in God. It is little wonder that in order to avoid such peril, the vast majority of Christians isolate themselves, make every possible effort to avoid contact with those who do not share their beliefs. That, of course, is the primary reason why so many of them do not want their children to attend public schools, why they are so likely to either home-school their children or to send them to schools run by that of their own particular church denomination. And for those who may eventually, and all eventually are, confronted with such issues, they are left with little choice but to defend themselves by insisting that such questions are illegitimate in that no one has the right to question “the truth of God.”
Given the need to protect their own rather flimsily structured cosmology of life, it is no wonder that such folks are unwilling to engage in an open-minded examination of their beliefs. For if they, in fact, did such a thing and were found wanting (realized that the “rock-solid foundation of their belief in God” had been shaken), they would have little choice but to question the fact of their own salvation; if, as a result of having asked such questions, they might well be on their way to Hell.
It should now be rather easy to understand why those of the fundamentalist community become so terribly upset when “unbelievers” challenge their beliefs. To give in, to admit that another’s logic just might possibly make a bit of sense, would mean that they may well have entered the realm of the unbeliever, the realm of the damned, and, of course, that is something no God-fearing fundamentalist Christian would dare to do! Indeed it would be rather admirable if such folks were willing to explore such issues with a degree of openness and objectivity. However, after having spent forty years discussing such matters with literally hundreds of fundamentalist believers, such an outcome is essentially out of the question, since, at least based upon my own experience, I have yet to find one fundamentalist willing to engage in an honest examination of his/her own religious beliefs.
Who knows, perhaps I was a bit threatening, or perhaps they were simply scared, scared to death, frightened that if they were to have taken the time to listen to me, their chances of going to Heaven would have been diminished, that listening to a bit of logic might have paved the way to Hell!
Concluding, let it be clear that my intention has not been to intimidate anyone who might consider himself/herself to be a Christian, but rather to simply clarify the imperfections, the logical-deductive shortcomings, of the Christian faith as a system of thought……. as an all inclusive theory of man.
G. Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.