I came across a website the other day that caught my interest. 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. I read through them and decided that they should not remain unanswered. So here’s my answer to the pamphlet’s first supposed reason to abandon Christianity.
1) Christianity is based on fear.
I don’t think the main motivator used in the Bible is fear. It seems to me that God uses positive encouragement more than negative. That is, he encourages us to obey by offering reward more than he does by threatening punishment. I did a quick search and found that hell is mentioned 13 times in the Bible and punishment 23 while reward is mentioned 55. Although I understand that my reading of the Bible is biased, I honestly think that joy and pleasure is used more often to prod us to doing good than a fear of hell. Here’s some examples off the top of my head:
…in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps. 16:11)
…your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 6:4, 6, 18)
…that your joy may be full. (John 15:11, 16:24)
I could go on, but I don’t think I need to. I contend that the chief motivator used by Christ and the Apostles is not fear, but joy. We speak of the Joy set before us, not the hell we flee behind us. It is true that many times, however, God uses threats to convince us to follow him. I don’t see how this is a bad thing, though. I use threats with Joseph, too. Sometimes I know that a promise of reward won’t motivate him properly. A threat is not a bad thing, so long as threats are not my only means of getting obedience. Love is a much better motivator and God uses that most, as far as I can tell. Many preachers, it’s true, only use fear to keep their congregations in line. But I think it is unfair to use them as the standard for judging the faith of Christ.
I think one of the unique things about Biblical Christianity is that the primary motivation for obedience is union with God. Not a fear of hell or a promise of carnal pleasures in a man-centered heaven, but walking with God. God is the chief attraction and the main motivator. Christianity is not based on fear. As I see it Christianity is based on love and joy.