The scaring parts of the Bible¶
The Bible contains scaring passages. Believing in a Kingdom of God includes the possibility that I –or my friends– might “miss the connection” and get excluded from this Kingdom. These worries arise from the idea that there must be some kind of divine justice.
Jesus tells quite some stories about people who “missed the connection”. The most impressives of them include Luke 16:19–31 (The rich man and Lazarus) or Matthew 25:1–13 (Parable of the Ten Virgins), Matthew 22:2–14 (Parable of the Wedding Banquet). Or Paul later (Romans 6:23) wrote: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Gospel does not say that everything is hunky dory and that the world is full of joy, peace and egg cake.
The Bible warns us about a problem, but also tells us what we can do about it. It calls us to “repent”, that is, to turn away from sin.
One problem with this call was the question: but what about the original sin? I can repent from my personal sins (which raises the question who has authority to judge whether something is a sin or not), but you cannot reasonably demand me to go back to paradise and change the history of Mankind.
TODO: The following partly covers with About the cross.
Indeed the Jewish culture had the idea that God punishes sins even through generations (2Mo 20:5: “for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me”; 34,6-7; 4Mo 14,18; 5Mo 5,9). Such words express the observation that a culture is more than a single human’s life, and that we are also responsible for the world where our children and grandchildren will have to live after us.
On the other hand, already five hundred years before Jesus, when the biggest part of the Jewish population suffered as slaves under Babylonian oppression, the prophet Ezekiel 18:20–21 wrote: “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.””
Christianity answers this question by giving Jesus the title of “Lamb of God” or “Redeemer” because he died on the cross as an atonement for all our sins, including the original sin. This image of the Lamb of God is an important aspect of Christian faith and a base of inspiration for many liturgical formulations.
Keith Giles provides a beautiful explanation in his book “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” (via Why Bad People Will Be In Heaven), which I summarize –or expand– for myself as follows:
When I will die, my soul will get born into another world, which we can call “Heaven”. But only the “good” parts of my personality will be part of my soul. These “good” parts of my personality are the skills and virtues I developed during my life on Earth that are in harmony with God’s plan. The “bad” parts will be removed, “burned” in a purifying “fire”. All humans will be there in Heaven, but they will be purified. Even Adolf Hitler is in Heaven because he also had skills and virtues that were in harmony with God’s plan, regardless of the mistakes he made and the evil things he caused.