Abrahamic Faiths, Christianity, God(s), Ideologies, Judeo-Christian Tradition, Late Night Thoughts, Love, Religion

Does the Christian God Love Us?

There are things about the Christian deity that make no sense to me.  For instance, the notion of at least some Christians that the Christian god, in the person of Jesus Christ, both unconditionally loves us and also condemns some of us to hell.

For, suppose there were a god, and suppose that god were the creator of everything.  Further suppose that god unconditionally loves its creation.

Could such a deity create a hell?

Could such a deity condemn people to eternal torture in one?

If it did either of those things, would we still be able to rationally say that deity loved us unconditionally?

When I have discussed this issue with Christians, I have generally gotten one of two responses.  First, some Christians have responded in ways that indicate to me they didn’t understand what is meant by “unconditional” love.  Unconditional love is love that has no strings or conditions attached to it.  So a god that unconditionally loved people would not say, for instance, “I love you only if you obey me.” Or, “I love you only if you are a good person.”  By definition, both of those kinds of love are conditional.

Second, some Christians have responded that although their god unconditionally loves us, the choice to go to hell is our own.  In other words, the Christian god does not condemn us to hell: We condemn ourselves to hell.  Consequently, the Christian god can still unconditionally love us even though some of us who it unconditionally loves will, by their own fault, be eternally tortured in hell.

I wonder about that, however.  If the Christian god is both all powerful and all loving, and really did create everything, then why did it choose to create a hell?  Put differently, why did it choose to create a situation in which some people will be eternally tortured?

At any rate, that’s one of the things about the Christian deity that just doesn’t make sense to me.

12 thoughts on “Does the Christian God Love Us?”

  1. That’s an interesting point, Jacob. But I feel there’s a difference between the sort of corrective punishment loving parents sometimes issue to their children, and the eternal torture the Christian god is said to issue to some of its “children”. If you were to eternally punish your child for something, then you are no longer trying to correct her behavior — you are instead inflicting a terrible vengeance. That would not be an act of love, but of hatred and resentment.

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  2. You know, in Judaism at the time of Jesus and since they had the concept of Gehenna where a persons soul would be purified by spiritual fire, as a punisment for sin but also as a way of expunging them of that sin. It is not eternal.

    I think this form of hell could be reconciled with a God that loves unconditionally, as its more like a parent punishing a child, but for their own good.

    The eternal hell that has developed within Christianity is more a scare tactic than a concept with any real cosmological or theological integrity. IMHO.

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  3. If thinking about this sort of thing is enjoyable, have at it, but it has absolutely zero use since there is no evidence for the supernatural. May as well have an argument about the answer to a koan or how Darth Vader managed to be redeemed in episode 6. Theology is nothing but circular logic, imagination, and special pleading.

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  4. Paul: “There are things about the Christian deity that make no sense to me. For instance, the notion of at least some Christians that the Christian god, in the person of Jesus Christ, both unconditionally loves us and also condemns some of us to hell.”

    That’s based on the impression given by the four gospels authorized by Constantine and his bishops at the Council of Nicaea – the four gospels that promoted (or at least didn’t conflict with) the “party line” that Constantine wanted the church to support. In one of the rejected “Gnostic Gospels” – I think, the Gospel of Thomas, but I’m not entirely sure of that – Jesus is quoted as having said that _nobody_ will be going to “hell.” You can see why Constantine wanted that idea suppressed.

    Decades ago, when I was attending pre-confirmation classes, the “right” answer for virtually every question in the workbook started with the clause, “We should fear and love God, that…” That’s one of the reasons I left the church (first the LCMS, and subsequently, organized Christianity altogether) – They can demand that I fear their god, or demand that I love their god… but they don’t get both.

    Of course, I’ve said that to LCMS clergypersons a few times. Their typical response is something like, “When we say ‘fear’ what we really mean is ‘respect’.” OK… then, when they’re indoctrinating kids in their early teens, why don’t they SAY respect instead of fear? Obviously, their intent is to scare the kids into obedience to the hierarchy.

    In my case, it failed dismally.

    – M. \”/

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  5. The problem is NOT that God condemns people to Hell. God gives us free will to believe in God (Fear, respect… whatever else it is… Our fate comes down to belief or lack there0f). If we to believe, we will be granted eternal stay in heaven. If we choose to deny God / NOT to believe then we condemn OURSELVES to ‘hell’… It is NOT God that does the condemning.

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  6. Popular preaching notwithstanding, you’d be hard pressed to find an actual biblical reference to God’s love being unconditional.

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  7. Mike: “God gives us free will to believe in God (Fear, respect… whatever else it is… Our fate comes down to belief or lack there0f).”

    Belief does not equate to fear nor to respect, nor does it necessarily equate to faith. An example of this from the SF series “Firefly”… Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the Firefly class freighter, “Serenity,” says to Shepherd Book, “You’re welcome on my ship, Shepherd. God isn’t.” It’s not that Reynolds no longer believes in a god… it’s that he no longer *has faith in* that god. A fine point, perhaps, but a significant one.

    Similarly, my position that your (or anybody’s) god can ask for either fear or love from me, but not both, doesn’t indicate disbelief. Indeed, it indicates a degree of belief. If I didn’t believe in deity, fear… love… it wouldn’t matter. I can neither fear nor love something I don’t believe to exist. So…

    “Our fate comes down to belief or lack there0f).”

    Does that mean that Mal Reynolds, believing, but lacking faith, would still be “saved?”

    – M. \”/

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  8. Actually, Mike, the problem is that people continue to believe in and act according to religious dogma that has no evidentiary basis in reality. Not only does this lead to a great deal of wasted time, but a fair amount of actual suffering, all for nothing.

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  9. @ Ceryx: That’s a very interesting point about the difference the Old Testament and the New. Thanks for sharing that!

    @ Erik: I’m inclined to agree with you that theology is more entertainment than substance.

    @ Meowlin: I’m glad the indoctrination failed. It too seems to me there is a contradiction between loving and fearing.

    @ Mike: I think I addressed your point in the post itself. Thank you for your comment!

    @ Anon: That’s true so far as I know. I based my post on popular preaching, and not Biblical verses.

    @ Kris: Thank you for your comment.

    @ Priyank: It’s my understanding that heaven and hell are most discussed in Revelations.

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