This morning I tweeted a link to an article I wrote on the complexity of salvation: “If God wants us to be saved, why isn’t salvation simple?” This prompted a response from a gentleman on Twitter named David Reilly. Reilly believed that this fact constitutes an objection to Christian faith. I argued to the contrary that it does not. Here is our brief exchange:
David: In my opinion, strong evidence that Christianity is false. One would reasonably expect that an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God would give a simple message, especially when the consequences of getting it wrong are eternal damnation. Oops there’s another one with no agreement.
Randal: Your argument is based on the premise that people end up separated from God because they non-culpably misinterpreted ambiguous evidence. This I deny. Indeed, I don’t know a Christian who would accept that premise. So your argument fails.
David: My argument is not “non-culpably…” but rather that those people believe as fervently as you that they are “with God” and you are separated from God. So this is an epistemological problem. Personally I believe it’s strong evidence that it’s all man made.
Randal: If you don’t assume that individuals who end up separated from God are non-culpably separated, then there is no problem. It’s like saying “I don’t believe that anyone goes to jail who isn’t guilty.” You just defeated your own objection. Thanks, I guess!
David: Well I’m an atheist so I can be fluid on my theology :). I’m just trying to make a point about epistemology. When I talk about hell it’s the same idea. I believe that hell is a myth, but if hell and conscious eternal torment were real, etc.
I think this is a helpful exchange because David expresses a very common objection, and yet, in my view, it is based on spurious assumptions. No Christian believes that people end up alienated from God eternally through no fault of their own. Rather, any person who ends up alienated from God is lost because of their own culpable choices.
To be sure, there is much else to be discussed and debated about topics like the nature of election and the nature of hell. But the bottom line remains that however those other details get worked out, any person who is separated from God is separated because of their own guilt and as a manifestation of divine justice.