Staks has touched another nerve when he says, “The littlest sin stains the soul just as much as a large sin. Both are equally as intolerable to God …. In [hell] for a pinch, in for a pound. … If a sin is a sin is a sin, [then] why not murder and steal like crazy [?]”
I’ve asked the same question: is Christianity a caste system, where no matter how evil Christians are, they’re in, but no matter how good nonbelievers are, they’re out? It would appear so.
The difference between biblical Christianity and every other religion is this: only the Bible teaches that we join God’s team totally on God’s initiative and not on our own merit. Even the faith by which we receive God’s grace is a gift. Why God would create people who cannot help being sinful is beyond me. The closest I can get is that anyone can fall in love with the beautiful, smart, witty, and healthy, but we intuitively have special respect for one who is willing to sacrifice for the ugly, dull, sickly, and hateful, and God wants to show us that he is willing to suffer and die for the undeserving.
To which you say, Yeah, right: try to sell that to someone who could sing, “Different is nice but it sure isn’t pretty / Pretty’s what it’s all about / I never knew anyone who was ‘different’ / Who couldn’t figure that out.” On the other hand, if there is no God, then people who are ugly, weak, and otherwise undesirable are by definition inferior; the only alternative is to say, “I think they’re just as worthwhile as anyone else,” but it’s just your word against someone else’s.
We don’t go to hell because of our sins; we go because we deserve to, because of our nature, which is to love sin and reject God. We are born alienated from God, and we prefer that alienation to the forgiveness, reconciliation, discipline, and process of self-denial that becoming conformed to God’s image requires. And by “we” I mean me.
Our sins are repugnant to God, but they’re not kryptonite that renders God powerless; if it were, he couldn’t watch us sin, He doesn’t like our sin, but his preferred way of dealing with it is unlike the police surveillance state; he prefers to come as a servant and healer, as Jesus demonstrated when he was on earth. Yes, there will be time for judgment, but he’s in no hurry. He offers forgiveness as a gift.
Let’s go the “sin is like an ink stain” analogy one better. As someone hands you a drink, he says, “It got in the way of my kid peeing, but only a drop or so got in.” Will you drink it? Or would only a floating pooplet stop you? Either way, it’s no go, right? That’s the “all sins are equal” aspect to God’s justice system. Now, you’re swimming in a lake and you hear someone say, “Warm water coming!” Or someone puts their infant in the water, even in a diaper: you know what that kids going to do eventually. Do you get out? But you would get out if you saw poop floating by. That’s the “all sins aren’t equal” aspect.
That’s the best I can do. I have no airtight answers. If the universe is fundamentally personal and good, I’ll find out for sure which side I’m on on judgment day. If it’s fundamentally dead, I’ll never know for sure. I prefer to hope.