Recently, someone asked me a number of questions on a variety of things. What I have done here is organize the questions into three sections. I list the question and then I answer it. At this article’s end, I give a final word to summarize this all. I place this under the “Timeout” umbrella since the question did not really have a unifying theme.
- Is it true that all religions are based on fear and people believe in something because they were told if they don’t do so, they are going to be punished by God or many gods?
As for the reasons people believe in something, this would be a question that the appropriate person(s) would need to answer.
- Are all peoples’ beliefs honest or do they just believe and practice religions to avoid punishment? And if God knows that many people who are Christian worship Him because they are in fear of punishment, is this not hypocrisy? Does this mean that people don’t truly love God, but only worship Him because they are afraid of punishment?
Answer: Only God and the appropriate person would know both whether or not the appropriate person’s beliefs are honest and the motive behind the appropriate person’s beliefs.
A person who worships God because of a fear of punishment is an oxymoron. After all, perfect love casts out fear (see 1 John 4:7-21). Furthermore, Jesus Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). A true Christian is a born-again, penitent individual who both trusts in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and bears fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8; John 3:1-21; Acts 16:31). A person who fears punishment from God cannot possibly be one who worships Him. Natural man does not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). As a result, he/she cannot possibly worship Him. After all, if God sees righteous deeds from unregenerate individuals as a filthy garment, why would He not view “worship” from unregenerate individuals any different? People who worship God do so knowing that their sins are forgiven. As a result, they have no need to fear.
- What if the Bible has no hell? Would people still be Christian if there were no hell and they don’t have to worry about being punished for all eternity?
Answer: It is important to understand that all Scripture is inspired of God, true, profitable for many great things and without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; John 8:32 & 40, 10:35, 14:6, 17:17; Psalm 12:6, 19:7-9, 119: 9 & 11 & 15 & 104; Ephesians 4:21, 5:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Samuel 7:28). Plenty of passages in Scripture describe hell as a real place of conscious, eternal torment (Romans 2:8-10; Revelation 9:2; 19-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:14-46 Mark 9:43; Isaiah 66:24; Luke 13:22-35; 16:19-31). Needless to say, hell is very real.
A FINAL WORD
It is safe to say that the questions this person asked me are common.. Unfortunately, it is not as easy to know why someone believes the way he/she does. This is more of a case-by-case type thing. Thankfully, a penitent believer can know what God’s Word says on certain matters (such as the reality of hell, why someone who worships God because of a fear of punishment is an oxymoron, etc.). A penitent believer can also know the base of many a religion. While fear is definitely not at the root of them all, false teaching and personages of light are at the base of a few of them (Carlson & Decker tackle that in this book I reviewed here). One would need to study much to find out more about the respective religion (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1).
May we turn to God’s Word as we seek to address some of these questions people have. People are most certainly asking away. May we be diligent, gentle, and faithful/truthful Bereans as we address them all.