The following is a letter, which I submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. See http://www.gotquestions.org/ for the website. This could, at least in theory, be a great website to get answers from. I was particularly interested in one of the paradoxes I came across, which is that the Bible contains the command "thou shalt love God, etc." which might defeat the purpose. If love is to be unconditional, a command can not force it to be. As a result our love for God is at best forced (not unconditional), at worst motivated by fear (which is contrary to love), both representing a paradoxical situation. In addition to the meddling with our love for God, I contend that God's love for us is also conditional, because of the punishment/reward system, a conditioning tool that challenges our free will to love.
Of course, in the extreme case, this casts a doubt on whether our interpretation of the Bible correctly depicts God.
I used this letter to point out certain other aspects of the response from "Got Questions Ministries" on this question and decided to share it with my audience. Your response is welcomed.
Here goes . . .
September 12, 2014
Dear Got Questions Ministries,
I found your website and find it highly informative about the ways you communicate to people about Bible issues. On the one hand, I like the idea that there is a site that answers genuine questions about the Bible, but I noticed that you do not approach the question from an open minded standpoint. I also noticed several speculations that serve to create the solution to a question. These speculations in turn seem to rely on the supposition that the Biblical story "makes sense" and possibly also relies on the supposition that the Bible is "inerrant" and "authoritative". These assumptions are indicative of various informal fallacies (1), mostly reasoning towards a desired result. I'd like to note that in his book "101 Myths of the Bible", Gary Greenberg (2) notes that most stories of the OT Bible are taken from older myths of different cultures, changing names of characters, and changing other elements to serve a monotheistic standpoint. Greenberg's view leaves us at worst with the Bible as a collection of distorted myths. But at best, according to me, as a collection of coded messages, if the Hebrew Alphabet itself is the key to understanding, worth of preservation, hidden in plain sight, see (6) below.
The Bible is vague on so many topics that a site like yours could give more insight in precisely its lack of clarity (its alleged layers of meaning can be likened to obscurantism , purposely hiding knowledge to serve a ruling or intellectual superior class, a fundamentally undemocratic tendency) rather than to "defend" it and come up with (arbitrary) answers, which themselves can only serve as the starting point for a longer debate.
In particular, I am highly concerned about your one-sided answer to the question on God's unconditional love (4), a question that lies at the core of Christianity. In your guidelines for questions, point 3, you say you provide answers to genuine questions of people who are genuinely interested in what the Bible says (5). In the several answers I have read, I noticed that this guideline allows you to avoid important details out of fear of entering a debate, and gives you ample opportunity to misrepresent God, Jesus or the people you are ministering to. Therefore, I am concerned that the impression you leave to the people is a biased one. Of course, it is everybody's own responsibility to verify their assumptions, but it is those who put information out who are setting an example and can be scrutinized for their methods.
In this case, conditional on taking the Bible at face value, you did not mention that God will base a decision conditional on the acceptance of His "free" gift of love. Only if you accept, then will God reward you with eternal life; or else God will punish you eternally without mercy. It follows that God's love for you after this life (and by implication during this life) IS conditional. Also, I see the punishment/reward system, which God has installed and is apparently determined to carry out through His Son, as the main cause for the perpetuation of sin, rather than its cure. Therefore, I do not agree that God's love is unconditional.
In your answer, God's love is defended with His "gracious self-sacrifice". But this implies the identification of God (invisible, spiritual, eternal) with Jesus (visible, human, temporary), which I find impossible to accept. Jesus's sacrifice is either mute or insufficient (since He rose from the dead, He did not really die) so that God's requirement becomes even more arbitrary and authoritarian, or the Bible misrepresents the facts and Jesus's death was a human sacrifice to appease a God of wrath, not love.
To make a point in case, if I were God and omnipotent, I could do better by giving this person a second chance, a second life in this case, and send him or her back to earth, and see how different circumstances would alter their preferences to respond in a certain way. Perhaps, they will some day learn that it is their own love they can discover, rather than mine.
On the other hand, leaving open the possibility that God is not omnipotent, then I could still do better, namely to forgive this person altogether. Forgiveness, after all, is a sign of love. Love is strength: love casts out fear, there is no fear in love (1Jo 4:18).
In these cases, it seems that I could do better than God in my “final solution” to the problem of sin, than to resort to an unchangeable verdict of eternal condemnation.
Is God so concerned about His image, that He can not appear to be weak against transgressors? It is rather paradoxical to fear a loving God, as fear precludes love (see above). Requiring us to love and fear God seems impossible. But the Bible stresses over and over that we should fear God (Lev 19:14, 32, 25:17, Deu 6:2, 13, 10:20, etc.) and to love God (Deu 6:5, 10:12!, etc., Mat 22:37). Again, how is it possible to love a God we fear? The confusion that arises from trying to conform to these contradictory requirements causes deep traumas and, we must conclude, is God's intention. I maintain that we could love God only in the absence of threats. Any threat God makes is bound to be challenged and interpreted as a lack of love or a condition on His love. To call this response a sin, is to beg the question. This problem and its particulars deserve much more attention and are not mentioned in your answer.
Lastly, I'd like to point out that "sin", defined as "transgressing God's law", is nevertheless transgressing against some (arbitrary) human standard of conduct, for we have only the written word, which was written by people. Even if God spoke to the people who wrote the Bible (but please be reminded of Greenberg's book, rendering this assumption very unlikely), we have only their word, not God's word. And even if we have their word, assuming genuine honesty, we have only their interpretation of their experience, in a translation, from which we make up our own interpretation. This puts us at least five steps removed from God's message: God's message -> Interpreter -> Writing -> Interpreter -> Translation -> Interpreter (we). To point out these five steps, may help you to become more aware of the many pitfalls awaiting us in trying to understand the Bible, let alone explaining it to others. From this record (the Bible) we infer that God apparently spoke to them and therefore God is also able to speak to people today. If God would actually speak to today's people in person, it would change a lot, wouldn't it? I maintain that He does. Therefore it seems to me that believing human writings, and subsequently basing one's decisions on these beliefs rather than on one's own experience and communication with God, classifies as sin. So, to overcome sin, one has to improve one's own communication with God (if God does not improve His first), and rely less on that which was written. When one reaches the point where one does not have to rely on the written word for one's understanding, it is also the point where it becomes opportune to point out to others the lessons one has learned: to share one's humanity.
If you like to know more about me, please visit my website, dedicated to my book "The End of Religion, The Beginning of Self. Using the Hebrew Alphabet as Secret Wisdom Key" (6). You may sign up for a free eBook version of my book.
Please, feel free to respond and thank you for reading,