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On the face of it, it’s absurd.  Perhaps even offensive.  The Son of God must die in our place to save us from our sins.  This is what God’s justice requires in order for Him to be able to forgive us; the only way for Him to reconcile His justice with His mercy.  Known as the doctrine of the Atonement, it’s one of the central doctrines of Christianity.  And it’s riddled with problems:

The other night I was watching a documentary about Bobby Kenney (RFK).  After his brother’s assassination, Bobby became a different person.  As those who knew him attested, he developed an empathy that had been sorely lacking beforehand, an empathy especially for those suffering marginalization and oppression, the exact opposite of his extravagantly privileged background.  He spent significant time with people who were deeply impoverished, particularly in Appalachia—perhaps the poorest region of the country at the time—and came away profoundly moved.

Underwood’s Deviled Ham.  That’s how I pictured Hell as a kid.  Not the deviled ham.  It wasn’t half bad.  No, the picture on the can.  I imagined Hell as a fiery place in the bowels of the earth where a little red man donning horns and a pitch-fork—the devil as pictured on the Underwood can—ran around tormenting people. 

Several years ago, Rob Bell wrote a very popular book called Love Wins.  In it, he argued that a loving God could never send anyone to Hell.  It’s beneath Him.  A loving God would give everyone a chance to repent—even after death—and wouldn’t stop pursuing them, wouldn’t “close the door to Heaven”, until they did.  Hence, in the end, (God’s) love wins.

As a volunteer firefighter, I’ve been to a number of fires where civilians have died.  I’ve never been to a working fire where a brother firefighter has died.  Once, however, we did come as close as you can to losing one of our own.  Two of our members were operating on the first floor of a house.  Fire was raging in the basement below.  Without warning, the floor collapsed, plummeting them into the well-involved cellar.  The firefighter who first witnessed them plunge into the fire below kept screaming: “They’re burning up!  They’re burning up!”

In high school, my baseball coach loved making us do wind-sprints.  For those who’ve never had the “pleasure”, a wind-sprint is when you run as hard as you can and just before you pass out, slow down to a jog until you catch your breath and repeat this insanity all over again for about fifteen more times.  My coach would line up our team in pairs and then have us jog around the gym.  The first two in line would then have to sprint as hard as they could around the gym until they caught up with the back of the line.  When they did, they’d yell and the next two up front would go.  We would do this over and over until we were delirious from exhaustion.

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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