If Adam and Eve aren’t real personages but legendary ones none can be condemned eternally to suffer a punishment in hell because he or she doesn’t believe the factuality of the stories of creation from the Bible. It is unacceptable for someone to be punished for rejecting the alleged facticity of a lie. From the point of view of historical facts, a myth isn’t the truth and everyone has the right to know through science how things really were.
The classical theism maintains that we should believe that Adam and Eve were historical personages and we should also believe all religious consequences of this assertion. We should believe that Adam and Eve had disobeyed God’s command and for this reason, they would have been punished with death. We can believe in the cross for its moral value based on the sacrificial love even if we don’t believe in the need to be redeemed for the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sins.
We are sometimes told that if we don’t believe what organized religion considers the truth we can be damned forever. This doesn’t seem to be right and the reason is that we shouldn’t be forced to believe that a legend is a true story. Nobody should be forced to believe a doctrine or dogma based on a literal interpretation of the creation myths from the book of Genesis.
Regarding the texts of the O.T., we are facing two possibilities. Either we consider many of the stories from the O.T. the results of human imagination in which God is depicted in a misleading way, or the O.T is the authentic image of God. In the O.T. God is presented other than the way in which He was described by Jesus. One finds in the narratives of the N.T. that Jesus revealed the Father as being the personification of unconditional love, but according to some texts of the O.T., He did many things which don’t express such love.
If the real image of God is the one which can be found in the N.T. and if God is perfect and He loves even His enemies as Jesus has said, then in the O.T. we cannot find Him. God in the O.T. hates His enemies and seeks their destruction. The story with Joshua and Jericho is relevant to this issue.
“21 Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.” (Joshua 6; 21 NRSV)
Another example is the story which maintains that Saul had been sent to destroy an entire nation, even the animals, and that couldn’t have been an action commanded by God who loves His enemies.
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In the times of the O.T. God didn’t practice genocide only once with the occasion of the Flood, but several times. The excuse found by some religious devotees is that all those nations had been constituted of sinners. We shouldn’t forget that all the so called sinners were people like anyone else in that age. God didn’t announce His Law amongst those people and He didn’t perform miracles in their midst so He couldn’t have had any pretension for purity from them.
“21 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” (Mathew 11; 21 NRSV)
God didn’t perform those miracles in Tyre and Sidon, therefore, He didn’t have any basis to expect repentance from them. In spite of that, Tyre was a target for God and it suffered numerous disastrous events.
“The oracle concerning Tyre. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, for your fortress is destroyed.* When they came in from Cyprus they learned of it.” (Isaiah 23; 1 NRSV)
Some devotees would say that only the Jewish people had been chosen by God and had a covenant with Him, and all the other nations of the world didn’t. Even if the Jewish people had a covenant with God they were nevertheless disobedient to Him many times, probably not much less than other human beings. The whole story is based on the presumption of the existence in reality of Adam and Eve who, being disobedient to God, have given Him the right to judge and condemn everyone, including any nation. God could have decided to destroy a certain nation on the basis that the alleged first human beings would have sinned and through them all human beings were sinners. According to the Bible the price for sin is death. (Romans 6; 23)
If we admit the real existence of Adam and Eve there are strong theological consequences and one of them is that all human beings deserve to die in God’s eyes. If they deserve to die there is only one more step toward the admission of eternal hell.
If God didn’t create Adam and Eve He isn’t responsible for the human condition but He can, if He wants to, grant eternal life to anyone He wills.
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If one doesn't take the first 11 chapters from the book of Genesis to be literally real he or she is entitled to have doubts about the reality of other parts of the Bible also. One doesn’t need to become Gnostic in order to explain the profound inconsistencies between the O.T. and the N.T. Looking to the O.T. as to a compilation of many exaggerations does the same thing. How can one be sure that the history of the Jewish people as it is depicted by the O.T. is real if the story about the creation of the world isn’t real? None can get such assurance from the Bible and particularly when he or she tries to compare the image of God in the O.T. and in the N.T.
Many problems arise from this comparison. One of them is the problem of the existence of hell. How can a generous and loving God punish anyone with eternal hell for an action which took place on earth? Every human being on earth leaves under specific conditions and has to fight for his or her survival hence punishing someone for his or her innate instincts of survival out of the context of life on earth is absurd.
Any punishment that we get on earth has to consider the human condition and also has to have a limit taking into consideration that human beings are mortal and live under a finite perspective.
All things which are done in the finite dimension of the reality have to be judged in that dimension and bad deeds have to be punished accordingly. Punishing a human person with eternal hell for mistakes made in a finite life on earth is preposterous. We are not eternal beings who live eternal lives or at least many human beings don’t believe that we are. Building any doctrine on the premise of human immortality without any proof that we are immortal and accepting as rational the condemnation of human beings to an eternal punishment for their earthly mistakes or even more for their unbelief in God are very dangerous principles. Even if one doesn’t believe in immortality he or she will be punished with hell if eternal life really exists. Why should one be punished for something which doesn’t exist for him or her? This doesn’t make sense. One should be punished only for his or her mistakes which are connected with tangible realities or at least with his or her faith.
People make many mistakes sometimes with good intentions and they are mostly punished for them during their life on earth. After suffering the consequences of their wrongdoings on earth human beings would have to pay again a very high price for them being punished for the second time for the same deeds with eternal hell.
After a life of many problems and sometimes sufferance on earth, many sinners would be deemed unworthy for heavens and doomed to hell according to with the classical theistic view of Christianity.
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This double jeopardy is unacceptable and if God can do what He wants being stronger than humankind this by itself doesn’t make things right. Even a child born in another religion than the Christian one or in an atheist family and who died before attaining full discernment and maturity of thinking would be punished for eternity and that for only 14 or 15 years lived on earth. In the narratives of the O.T., many innocent children have died following divine actions. If all stories from the O.T. are as accurate as the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis it wasn’t God killing those children but human imagination.
In any case, children from another religion than the Christian one or born in an atheist family would be considered by many Christian followers to be doomed to hell anyway if those children wouldn’t become adult Christians. It would be the fault of their parents for keeping them far from the Christian baptism.
Only Jesus is considered to be the Way of salvation and there isn’t another way for eternity. It isn’t only about the name Jesus but more importantly is about the content of His teachings. Jesus thought humankind a set of principle which must be practiced not only professed theoretically. What would be better for salvation to be a Christian only by the name or to practice Jesus’ teachings without the name Christian attached to the person? Jesus’s teachings are universal and they become effective when someone becomes a loving and spiritual person with or without allegiance to a certain religious institution, religious doctrine or dogma. This universality of Jesus’ teachings makes them valid for anyone who practices them.
There are many texts in the Bible which can bring us to the conclusion that hell isn’t a real place in which the sinners would spend their eternity. God has said that He had set in front of the Jewish people the life and the death and that He advised them to choose life.
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