Sometimes my brain likes to play hooky and wander off into truly bizarre territory. I’m hoping it will settle down and get back to work if I post this.
Growing up in the Church of Christ, we were taught that being baptized was absolutely essential to salvation. (We had answers to the thief on the cross issue, but the unofficial answer seemed to be don’t bring it up because it pisses people off.) If you didn’t get dunked, you couldn’t go to heaven.
We also, of course, knew Mark 3:29:
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.
So, here’s a hypothetical scenario for you. Pretend that you are a devout Church of Christ member, and someone you really care about has not been baptized. You think that person may come around, but it hasn’t happened yet. Someone holds a gun to that person’s head, and he tells you that if you don’t blaspheme against the holy spirit, he’ll kill your unbaptized friend.
What should you do? Let that person die, and a person who perhaps could have been saved goes to hell. Blaspheme, and you are going to hell no matter what. It seems to me that if you truly love the other person (doesn’t the Bible say you should?), then you would make the noble and heroic sacrifice of damning yourself so that the other person has a shot at salvation. The thing is, though, it always seemed to me that Church of Christ theology essentially boiled down to “how to avoid hell.” As a matter of fact, I’ve been told since I became an atheist that without the fear of eternal punishment, I have no reason to be a good person.
So what is “good” is that scenario? Obeying God, or giving your (eternal) life for another – which is more than even Jesus supposedly did? And if God punishes you for disobeying his command in order to save another person, then is he really good?
Viewed as a pure thought experiment, I kind of have a sick fascination with this sort of thing. When I was a believer, though, questions like this used to keep me up at night worrying. Was I right, for the right reasons, with the right motivation? Sure I had my conscience, and I had the ability to reason, but what did God want? After all, a fool like me couldn’t be trusted to make moral decisions. God’s word was clear, and if I didn’t see the (right) answer, then that was my fault.
As glad as I am to have left all that behind, I still have these attacks of morbid curiosity from time to time. I’d ask my believing family this question, but they’d probably just get angry at me for “stirring up trouble.” Oh well.