Johhny Bradford, a guest poster over at Unreasonable Faith, has posted his essay on why he no longer believes. It’s filled with all of the usual things for which I thought Christian apologetics have provided adequate answers, but I suppose not since I repeatedly see these same tired old arguments popping up in deconversion story after deconversion story. Let’s analyze this one and see if we can clear matters up.
The first one is typical: how could a loving God send people into a state of eternal torment for simply not believing in him? Well, the problem with that notion is Bradford’s theology of man. He believes that people are basically good, that we begin life with an “A” and gradually decline in points until we have an “F.”
But that isn’t what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that we are dead in sin. Keeping with the grading scale metaphor, we are born with an F. But it goes deeper than that: we can’t earn an A, no matter what! Hell isn’t what God wants for us, hell is what we deserve. A fair and just God would send any human being that comes before his judgment to hell.
Thank God that he is also merciful. Because it isn’t his will that any should perish, but that all reach repentance, he has sent his only Son Jesus to pay the penatly for us and die in our place. All a person has to do is have faith that God has already accomplished his (or her) salvation, and that’s it.
The Old Testament sacrificial system pointed the way to the New Testament’s single sacrifice for all of our sins. The book of Hebrews makes that quite clear. So this sacrifice was necessary in order to appease the justice of God, which demands that he take action against sin rather than ignore it.
People go to hell on their own merit. I read once on a T-shirt that free will never brought anyone to heaven, but it sent a lot of people to hell. I forget now who said that (I want to say it was Spurgeon), but there is much wisdom in that saying. Whether you believe in Christ or not, you still sin and God must punish sin. Any sin, no matter how minor, makes you hell-bound. It has nothing to do with believing in or not believing in God. Only by placing your faith and trust in the finished work on Calvary can you avoid hell.
Which leads us to Bradford’s next point. Christians behave the same way as their non-Christian counterparts. The fancy terminology here is hypocrisy. Here, I agree with him. According to the intro to dcTalk’s song “What if I Stumble,” the speaker says that “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowlege Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.”
Christians aren’t suddenly made perfect by belief in Christ. Salvation is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but sanctification is an ongoing process that is often neglected. I blame the church in this case. There is a servere lack of discipleship in the church today. The main congregations are measured by baptisms, not retention. In reality, both should be a factor in determining the health of the congregation. In this, Bradford should take some of the blame as he is termed a “recovering Christian pastor.” So, as shephard of a flock, what did he do to help out with that problem? We wonder.
The atrocities of the Bible are discussed at great length here. The justification for what can only be described as mass genocide lies in the same theology of man previously discussed–man doesn’t start life with an A, he starts it with an F. Since the penalty for sin is death, those deaths were deserved. No one can stand innocent before God.
Of course, if I believed that hell was unjust, that hypocrisy was part of the case against the church, and that the atrocities of the Bible were unwarranted, then I would discard this faith, too. But I don’t believe in any of that stuff. Nor do I believe the typical atheist mischaracterization of those things, as Bradford clearly demonstrates that he does.
In all, I stand amazed that ministers of the Word can be duped by the secular opinion of the Bible and its contents. After all, we are taught that the world sees the Bible through a darkened lens, that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t understand it. Yet, these same criticisms keep popping up over and over again, even though they are answered by apologists like myself.