This article will discuss two separate issues related to Christianity.
Is God Coercing You?
One issue in Christianity is the idea that God is coercing people by threatening them with an eternity in hell. 6 points:
- What is considered negatively as a threat of violence could just as easily be considered a generous, honest warning of the consequences of certain actions. When Christians say convert or you are going to hell this need not be a threat.
- The idea of coercion is that violence, or a threat of violence, is used to achieve some desirable outcome. This is different from God’s use of hell, although that fact may not be well represented or even well studied among Christians. God uses hell for justice, not persuasion, although if there is a persuasive byproduct that is a good thing. If God really wanted to force people to believe in him he need not turn to rhetorical persuasion, and he wouldn’t have given people free will.
- The idea that true voluntary action cannot exist in the face of coercion is false. Look no further than the Bible itself and the person of Christ himself to demonstrate this point. Jesus was threatened with death for doing the right thing and he took death. Moreover, God’s omnipotence precludes the kind of false positives we might observe in a situation of human torture.
- I have maintained the argument from economics, in the same way that David Friedman has, that markets function even while coercion exists. So for those libertarian-minded folks who argue for morality from the conditions necessary for free markets, the morality of voluntaryism and counterpart immorality of violence do not follow.
- There is no such thing as pure free will. Whether free will exists at all is an interesting question. I think it does exist, but it is obviously limited. I cannot simply wish to travel back in time or become rich, with my desire directly causing the thing desired to occur, whatever it may be. Instead, I can, I believe, pick from a select few choices I am offered. The view that a person must have pure free will for a proclamation of belief to be valid is not only erroneous, it is impossible, and even hypocritical because the one making the statement doesn’t have such pure free will. If the need for pure free will is rejected then the objection from coercion also is rejected.
- Even if God was coercing us, which he isn’t, if he was coercing you to do the right thing would it not be a good and justified coercion?
Many Christians claim the Bible is the Word of God. I have maintained that this is a reference to Jesus (John 1:1), and the Bible is scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). One danger of the view that scripture is the Word of God is Bible Worship. I think this is related to one argument for Sola Scriptura, which I reject:
- The Bible is the Word of God
- The Word of God is God
- Only the Word of God perfectly understands the Word of God
- Therefore, Scripture can and should interpret itself without interference. This is one of the more extreme forms of Sola Scriptura.
- The implication that people cannot correctly interpret the Bible.
- The fact that people came up with Sola Scriptura is an apparent absurdity due to #1.
- The false grounding that the Bible is in fact the Word of God. Try talking to your Bible. If it doesn’t talk back it is not the Word of God, as the Word of God became flesh.
Perhaps check out the Wesleyen Quadrilateral instead.