#10 Post of 2014 – Is Christian Salvation Unjust or Unfair?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Many non-Christians have accused the Christian God of being unjust or unfair because he asks that they recognize their sinfulness before the Creator-God, recognize their need for forgiveness, and then place their trust in Jesus Christ and his atoning death. They argue that this is just too narrow, too exclusive. God, the argument goes, is simply unjust and unfair.

But if we look at the biblical data, we see that regardless of how exactly God determines who will spend eternity with him, his selection is eminently just and fair.

First, we know God is loving and merciful. See this blog post on God’s love in the Old Testament and this post on God’s mercy in the Old Testament. There are several more passages that can be highlighted:

“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Ps. 145:8-9).

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:44-48).

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4).

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Second, we know that God is just and morally perfect. See this post on God’s moral perfection in the Old Testament. But also consider these passages:

“Shall not the God of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25)

“He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Ps 98:9).

“The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail” (Zeph. 3:5).

 “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed” (Acts 17:31).

“God will give to each person according to what he has done” (Rom. 2:6).

Time and again the Bible reassures us that God will deal lovingly, mercifully, and justly with all of humanity. As Glenn Miller notes in his excellent article, “Notice, that there will be NO excuse of ‘not fair’ with God’s judgment…no one will argue that their situation is Unfair!” When we all stand before God, not one of us will dare to accuse God of unfairness or injustice.

  • sean

    Your justification here is entirely an appeal to faith. It does not look at actual deeds made by God nor moral criterion laid out in the Bible, a book non-Christians often see as contradictory when those delineations are contrasted with assertions like the passages you’ve highlighted above. It doesn’t take into account what the words justice and fairness mean. I don’t see that this is the way to explain this idea to non-Christians. (Your article seems targeted at addressing concerns of that audience)

    A prime example would be that many non-Christians see it as unjust that the same person in a different place and/or time could have different outcome. (with respect to your earlier post on salvation, an issue I still haven’t resolved. I’ll talk to some people and try and find a different way to word it, because I think you’re missing my point on that subject) I do not see that this post explains the justification behind the assertions of God’s goodness, and that is what a non-Christian is going to look for when discussing the morality of the Bible, as they do not share your faith in the Bible.

  • This post is an appeal to take ALL of the Bible seriously. All of these verses are strong counter-examples to the alleged instances of God being unjust or unfair in other passages in the Bible.

    What these verses point out is that the writers of the biblical books were very concerned to communicate God’s justice, love, and mercy. Those kinds of verses certainly aren’t necessary. They don’t have to be in the Bible, so why are they there?

    You seem to be saying something like, “Oh, well of course the writers of the biblical books would say that God is just and loving and fair and merciful. Every holy book says that about it’s particular god.”

    My response to that is: Really? Are you sure about that? Are there exact parallels to these verses in all other holy books? I doubt it.

    Do they all say this? “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

    If the Bible goes out of its way to say these things about God, then anyone reading the Bible should take these things into consideration. If you ignore these verses, then you are simply cherry-picking the verses you want to confirm your biases against Christianity.

  • sean

    To your point about descriptions of kind and loving gods existing in other religions, yes there are indeed many.

    I’ll preface by saying that there’s a stark contrast between most monotheistic and polytheistic religions. Polytheistic ones tend to use god in the sense of more powerful than man, but not all powerful/kind/loving etc. Most monotheistic ones however do. How’s Judaism sound? Or Islam? Mormonism? If you want to lay claim on all the Abrahamic faiths, then I’d like to know what descriptions you find of the god of the Bahá’í faith, or the god Aten. There’s Shangdi, popular in the Shang dynasty in China. Looking to Africa there are a lot of different religions; more well known ones that fit the descriptions you demand are Mukuru and Chukwu.

    To do they all say they sent a son to die for us; no. But you are setting up a no lose situation for yourself. If they did, they’d just be a different version of Christianity in your eyes. (albeit probably a very different one) The question isn’t whether or not they said that specifically but what they did for man.
    You seem to think that a god sacrificing himself, or some other person (never understood that Jesus duality), is the best thing a God could ever do for us. Why? Because your holy book told you so. These other religions have the same thing, just their book told them something else. about how good god is. Consider this, if you just ignore “且吾所以知天之愛民之厚者有矣…為王公侯伯,使之賞賢而罰暴” then you’re cherry picking. (Translates roughly to “Moreover I know Heaven loves men dearly not without reason…He appointed the dukes and lords to reward the virtuous and punish the wicked”)

    I am saying something like ‘of course they thought their god was good, so does every religion.’ How could I not after doing the research?

  • I’m afraid doing superficial internet searches is not going to cut it. You need to compare the detailed texts to each other. I am quite confident that upon careful examination, you will find that the goodness, love, mercy, and justice attributed to the Christian God is radically different than the gods of other religious traditions.

    Are there superficial likenesses? Of course. But once you go deeper, you will see a chasm start to form.

    As an aside, I was listening to a devout former Muslim the other day who converted to Christianity. One of the things he said is that there are no verses in the Quran where God provides comfort to a person who is suffering, yet he finds them all over the Bible.

    My point is that there are massive differences among portrayals of God in different religions, but you’re going to have to work at it. A 10-minute internet search doesn’t quite get you there.

  • sean

    And yet the time I spent (15 minutes by the way) appears to be infinitely more than the time you’ve spent. You’re ‘quite confident’ though you’ve not looked yourself at every religion surely. There’s simply not enough time. Is Christianity different, yes. I’m not one of the conspiracy theorists who believes it’s a total amalgamation of other religions. It does have differences, but most every religion, if one looks deeply, has the same sort of chasm that separates it form other religions. I’m not sure what’s special about yours. He’s nice? (goodness, love, mercy, and justice) But there are parts where he’s not. He kills millions of people, and either ends (as you believe) them or tortures them (as some Christians believe) You there just assert that you don’t know and you know he knows best. But anyone of any faith can do that (and they do)

  • Vivacious

    How do you answer the question of probability? E.g. if you were born in Austin, TX, and went to a Christian high school there, your probability of becoming a Christian is 80%. If you were born in Indonesia, where the population is primarily Muslim, your chances of becoming a Muslim is over 90% (because your mom & dad, friends, are all Muslim, etc.). Your chances of knowing Jesus in Indonesia are infinitely worse than in Austin. Can you comment on your thoughts on this scenario?