A Few Questions for Christians
1. John 3:4 defines "sin" as a transgression against the law of God. Is this an accurate definition? If so, then what about people who have never been made aware of the law of God. Is it possible for a person to willfully break or disobey a law they are ignorant of?
2. The Bible seems to imply in many verses that unbelief in God is a sin in itself. Is this so? Are all unbelievers necessarily sinners simply by the fact of their unbelief?
3. Was Jesus Christ a being capable of committing sin? If he was, did he ever sin? If he was not capable of sin, then what was the purpose of Satan attempting to tempt him? Was Satan unaware that Christ was incapable of sin? If Jesus was incapable of sin, then did he have free will? Is it possible to create a person with free will but without the capability of committing sin? If so, then why didn't God make humans that way in the first place?
4. Do saved souls in heaven have "free will"? If so, is it possible for people in heaven to commit sin? If not, why not?
5. What is the doctrine of "original sin"? How is it conceivable that a person is guilty for the sins committed by their ancestors, or that for a person to commit a sin invariably means that their descendants will be sinners?
6. "Original sin" was supposed to have originated with Adam and Eve and their original transgression of disobedience to God. But is the story of Adam and Eve, which has highly mythological overtones, meant to be an actual account of a historical event, or is it an allegory (a story using tangible symbols to portray an abstract set of ideas)? But if Adam and Eve are allegorical or mythological characters, then where does "original sin" come from? And if the story of Adam and Eve is allegory, then how do we know that other stories in the Bible which portray fantastic events are not allegorical as well (such as, say, the resurrection of Jesus)?
7. It is either directly stated or implied in several verses in the Bible that the fate of individual humans is foreknown or foreordained by God. If this is true, then how could people have freewill?
8. When God created Lucifer, did he know that Lucifer would become Satan and rebel against him? If so, then why did God create him? And having created him, why does God permit him to do evil? Does God utilize or allow Satan to tempt people (for example, as told in the story of Job)? If God makes use of Satan in such instances, then how can Satan be said to be opposing the will of God?
9. Can the tendency of people to sin be explained or given a tangible cause in scientific or psychological terms? If so, how?
10. Does it upset God when people sin, or make him angry or sorrowful? Does a perfect, all-powerful being like God really experience such petty human emotions as frustration and anger? Don't such emotions in humans arise from an inability to achieve one's desires? How can an all-powerful being fail to have his desires realized? Furthermore, if God created sin and brought it into the world, how can he justifiably be upset by its existence?
11. What is the Doctrine of the Trinity? Is it intelligible? If so, then what does it mean? Can it be adequately explained by any sort of model or analogy? Must a person believe in the doctrine in order to be saved?
12. How does someone who is a non-believer, or who has no set belief in something expected to come to a belief in that thing without tangible evidence? If I tell you that I have a pet purple polka dotted elephant who lives in my apartment, and offer no evidence to support the claim, then can you make yourself believe that statement - and I mean honestly and sincerely and without any doubt whatsoever? Can a person will themselves to believe that two and two are five? If people are incapable of making themselves believe things that go against their knowledge and experience, then how could someone who is unable to believe in God or in Jesus to be blamed for their nonbelief?
13. It is a general tenet of most fundamentalist Christian sects that the only way to merit salvation is through belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the savior of humanity and that one's good works and efforts, whatever merit they have, have no bearing on salvation. Is this tenet correct? If so, then how do you reconcile that with the fact that various verses in the New Testament state or imply that salvation is possible without faith, or with just works? For example, in Matt. 19:16-18, a man asks Jesus what one must do to have eternal life and he gives a list of commandments to keep, but says nothing about belief or faith in anything. And in chapter 19 of Luke, Jesus proclaims that Zacchaeus has achieved salvation because of his good works in giving his goods to the poor. And John 5:29 refers to "those who have done good" coming into the resurrection of life. These and many other verses seem to suggest that good works ARE sufficient for salvation.
14. When God first created humans, did he know that he would later regret it, as told in Genesis 6:6? If so, then why did he go ahead with that creation? Did he know as he was creating them that he would later be required to sacrifice his only begotten son to redeem them?
15. Did humans turn out the way God intended for them when he created them? If not, then was his creation a failure?
16. Why did God require a sacrifice of his only begotten son in order to redeem humans? Couldn't he have redeemed them without a sacrifice? If not, then why not? Who was the "sacrifice" that God made to? If it was Satan, then what power did Satan hold over God to compel him to make such a sacrifice?
17. It is often said that God "sacrificed his only son" that we might have eternal life, but according to the New Testament, Jesus rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of God. How is this a "sacrifice", if Jesus did not actually die?
18. Could God have made Abel the Messiah, and then allow Abel's murder by Cain to satisfy his requirement that there be a blood sacrifice for the remission of sin and for the redemption of humanity? If so, then why didn't he do it this way? If it was NOT possible for Abel to fill the role eventually assumed by Christ, then why not?
19. When God grants salvation to people who declare their belief in him and in the sacrifice of his only son, presumably he is doing so to reward them for some virtue they display in professing that belief. What exactly is that virtue, then? Is it possible for that virtue to be duplicated by another act besides belief in God and Jesus? If not, then why not? Or is God simply an egotist who doesn't care about whatever else a person does as long as they acknowledge him as their creator and flatter his vanity?
20. Why did God have a "chosen people"? (The Israelites) Were they in any way required for any of his plans to redeem humanity? What role did they thus play?
21. According to the Christian doctrine of Salvation, Jesus (who was innocent) paid the penalty for our sins. Is it any kind of justice for the innocent to suffer in place of the guilty? Consider this analogy: a vicious criminal who is responsible for several brutal murders and whose guilt is unquestioned is scheduled for execution. On the eve of the execution, a kindly, beloved local parishoner calls up the governor of the state and requests that he (the parishoner) be allowed to be executed in place of the convicted killer. Of course such a proposition would never be accepted. How then, can the Christian atonement be considered just or sensible?
22. According to the New Testament, Jesus only went to Hell for a few days before being raised from the dead into an immortal existence at the right hand of God. Yet unsaved sinners face an eternity of torment when they die. How then can it be said, as Christians often do, that Jesus "paid the FULL penalty" for our sins when he suffered only a few hours and those who are not saved suffer for eternity?
23. In God's view, was Jesus' crucifixion a good act or an evil act? Were those crucified him ultimately doing right or wrong? Jesus said (Luke 23:34) "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Seeming to imply that the crucifixion was an act of evil by its perpetrators. Suppose, then, that Pilate or the mob had instead set Jesus free? Would God's plan of redemption and salvation have collapsed? If so, then how could God have viewed the crucifixion as an "evil" act? Along similar lines, why did Satan assist in the crucifixion by possessing Judas, as he was said to do in Luke 22:3 and John 13:2? Did Satan know the purpose of the crucifixion was the redemption of humanity? If so, why didn't he work to prevent it instead of aiding it?
24. According to the accounts of Matthew and Mark, Jesus cried out to God while on the cross and asked why he had "forsaken" Jesus. Did Jesus fully understand at this time the purpose of the crucifixion? If so, then why did he express such despair?
25. Given that the majority of the people who have lived and died during the time of Christ never accepted him as their personal savior, is it correct to term God's plan for redemption through Christ a failure? If not, why not?
26. Say a young man decides to accept Christ as his personal savior. Now say that that same young man, several years later, becomes disillusioned with the Christian religion and decides to give it up. By doing so, does he automatically forfeit the salvation he presumably gained when he first accepted Christ? Now take this same man. Say that shortly after first accepting Christ, he had been hit by a car crossing the street and been killed. If he died with his salvation intact, then was his accident not fortuitous? And by the same token, was it not extremely UNLUCKY for the person in the first example not to have been killed in an accident, and later lose his salvation?
27. What is the purpose of hell? Since unsaved souls are tormented there for eternity, it cannot be to redeem them. And since heaven is a place of perfect peace and security where everyone is free from harm, it cannot be to protect the people of heaven from the people of hell. How is it just to punish people eternally for crimes they committed during a short, finite lifetime? Why is it necessary for God to separate souls into two classes after their deaths?
28. What is the status of people who live their lives never having heard of Jesus or the Christian religion? Are they automatically damned? If so, how can it be fair to deny them salvation because of knowledge they did not have? If such people ARE granted salvation, then it is clear that belief in Jesus is NOT a requirement of salvation. Why, then, is it required of people who have heard of him? How can it be fair for someone to be damned who has heard of Jesus and doesn't believe in him, and to automatically save someone who hasn't heard of Jesus (but who might have disbelieved in him if he had)?
29. Say that a non-believer kills another non-believer and is sentenced to be executed for this crime. While on death row, the killer "finds religion" and accepts Jesus as his personal savior (as many real-life death-row inmates do). Does this now mean that the killer, upon his execution, will have his soul pass on to heaven while his victim is suffering for eternity in hell?
30. What is existence in heaven like? Will souls be supplied with bodies similar to those on Earth? If a person lived their life in a severely deformed body will they find it healed in heaven, or will they have to carry their handicaps with them for eternity? Likewise, will people who suffered from mental retardation on Earth be given a normal level of intelligence in heaven? What about souls who died as babies or as fetuses? Will people who were ugly and unattractive in Earthly life have to keep their bodies, or perhaps will they be given choices of "beautiful bodies" like in the Twilight Zone episode "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You"? If one does not have the same body one had in Earthly life, won't this compromise one's sense of personal identity?
31. Satan is represented in many Bible passages as well as traditional doctrine as constantly attempting to beguile or deceive humans into committing sin. Since Satan as a supernatural being is presumably much more powerful than an ordinary mortal human, it would seem that he would have a great advantage and the power to achieve this goal in most cases, and that most people would be helpless against this power, making them his victims. So is it fair to say that people who have been deceived by Satan in this way deserve damnation? What proportion of the responsibility for a person's sin falls upon them and what upon Satan?
32. What is the status of souls who lived and died before the time of Jesus? Were they automatically saved, or are they eternally damned? Are Adam and Eve in hell now? The Old Testament makes no mention of hell as we know it in the New. Does that mean that hell itself was not created until Jesus came on the scene?