Right…I’m a bit ashamed to be asking this question, I mean it sounds like such a basic point but I found myself absolutely stumped.
Earlier today I was giving a lecture at a high school about Christianity in general (not just Catholicism) and just brushing the surface about basic beliefs and differences between denominations. Well when it came time to take questions this girl asked a very simple question about free will and choice.
Obviously I can’t repeat it word for word since it wasn’t written down or in english but it went something like this…
"We’re told that the Abrahamic God is both good and just, and he gave us free will to reject or accept his message. If we accept and obey, and indeed forsake our free will we are rewarded in the next life.
If we decide to exercise our free will, we are punished eternally. If I give a boy a bar of chocolate but tell him he can either give it back to me or I’m going to punch his teeth out that’s not a choice, that’s blackmail. A choice can have consequences, but all of the consequences for sin are made up by God. If I trip and fall onto a sword by accident that us one thing, it’s something else entirely if someone forges a blade specifically to slide under the trajectory of my fall juwt because they can.
If God is omnipotent, he can remove sin any time he likes and free souls from it…He doesn’t. God cannot be just because he blackmails us into submission by fear, to burn or obey is not a choice, that is barbarism. A God that resorts to blackmail for obedience is not good. “Love me or I’ll hurt you” is crazy, and the crazy is only doubled when we’re told “Belive in this obscure event with thin to no verifiable evidence outside of sycophantic scripture written two generations after it took place out of all the other myriad of religions in the world older than it or I’ll burn you forever”.***
The second point wasn’t so hard to speak against, I explained the Catholic perspective on that matter but I ended up stalling so I didn’t have to respond to the first one.
I’ve been pondering it since, and I did check a series of short videos the girl mentioned youtube.com/watch?v=aUtSM2oVy_E . You’d think I’d know better at my level of university study but for such a basic question…I don’t know what to think, I’d hate to think of it in the terms of “love me or suffer”, because that certainly does look like blackmail, and Catholics are told the ends never justify the means.
Does anyone have any thoughts? I’m sure this isn’t the first time a question like this has been asked but it totally threw me today.