Does God ask me to believe the unbelievable? Through much of history we have been asked to believe in a “fireburning” Hell for the disobedient and unbelieving. Some have found this message unbelievable. The idea that God would condemn the well-intended, the honestly seeking, and the unknowing along with the willfully unrighteous has been a difficult doctrine for many, even the religious. Based on the actions of those who claim to believe this doctrine, my conclusion is that they really do not believe what they say. The horror of the orthodox, fundamentalist doctrine of eternal punishment would logically overwhelm any sane human being and compel them to unrelenting efforts to persuade friends, family, and acquaintances of their pending doom. No time would be wasted on the mundane cares of the world because nothing could be even remotely as important as “converting the lost.” Of course, this all pre-supposes that anyone can identify the lost in the first place, and history verifies that we cannot do that with any agreement. Since the “believers” are not engaged in this type of frantic, horror driven effort, they cannot really believe what they seemingly profess.
Down through the years many have come to question the “unbelievability” of eternal punishment. Traditionally, however, the Old Covenant dealings have been brought forward in Christian orthodoxy as the model for how God deals with man today. In contrast other “non-traditionalists” have concluded that under the New Covenant, God deals with all mankind in a different way than he dealt with Old Covenant
Many recoil at the idea that God can and will save all, saying that this understanding is not believable. In their minds the evil must surely receive some sort of punishment. This is clearly Old Covenant thinking. The law condemned and restitution had to be made. Christ has now changed all of that. God can and will forgive and forget. Any human requirements to receive salvation make the New Covenant no different from the Old. “Accept” is just another word for “earn” and makes one’s salvation dependent on one’s own efforts plus those of their teachers. In that sense, the New Covenant requirements are more onerous than the Old, because the Jews were under no obligation to convert outsiders to Judaism.
Do you see any inconsistency in a God who authors the Old Covenant which requires perfect obedience and then “progresses” to a New Covenant, which requires obedience to deal with sin (which is disobedience)? Where is the improvement in man’s ability to be obedient? As noted earlier, at least under the Old Covenant, the Jews had ample opportunity to know their requirements. Supposedly under the New Covenant, the poor lost man must rely on his Christian neighbor, or worse yet some foreigner from western civilization, to convert him. This is not progress in God’s dealings with man, and it is not consistent with the God of Love who is described in I Corinthians 13 so majestically.
To those who object to idea that God can and will extend mercy to all, I ask this question: “Would you rather disbelieve because of horror or disbelieve because of magnificence.” I joyfully choose to embrace the unbelievable God of Love, in the full assurance that he is able to do “exceeding abundantly more than we can ask or think.” This is the God our hearts always knew. His grace and mercy are not “cheap” as some would term it. But it is unbelievable, for sure.