I’ll do one more post on this one, and then I’m moving on because I don’t want to ruin a perfectly good discussion by getting all repetitive. I’m just a little agnostic in a big world, and my viewpoint is all I have to offer here. Past a certain point of explaining it, I’m defending it – which I don’t need to do. I hope that folks who read my opinions here are able to see that, argue or not, this is the perspective of someone who doesn’t subscribe to any organized religion.
Anyhoo, ila’s comment helps me to illustrate something that may not be clear to folks with a different take than mine on religion. She compares sharing the Gospel with stopping someone from walking off a cliff. In both cases, she seems to be saying (and ila, step in if I’m wildly overinterpreting!) that the one person is saving another from an obvious danger and that doing so in no way implies judgment.
I would love to agree, but think about this: To someone who is not Christian, only the cliff is such a clear case. Based on the widely shared assumption that everyone wants to live, warning someone in this case would be the only thing to do.
But only Christian faith makes the second case – sharing the Gospel to prevent hell – comparable. Only Christian faith states that hell is the danger on the other end of not believing. To a non-Christian, the second case is not a demonstrable danger with assumptions shared by both. Not only that, but avoiding the danger that the Christian postulates requires more than a single, simple act, like stopping. Avoiding the danger – which you do not see – means changing certain beliefs and activities and even feelings. That’s much more complicated than just not stepping off a cliff. And it may be simple, but it’s not easy, and it’s especially not easy if you’re not positive that it’s necessary.
It’s also a matter of judgement. You have to believe that the other person is right and can see something you can’t, and that their assessment of your behavior is correct. That’s accepting someone else’s judgement in place of your own, judgement about what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s safe, and what’s not. And this is how it looks to someone who isn’t Christian. It may not feel like it, but judgment is part and parcel of evangelizing if you’ve decided you’re saving others from hell. It’s a difficult conflict and it sounds like it’s a Scriptural one. And with the authority vested in me as a self-described agnostic with the Biblical knowledge of a second-grader (if that), I’m not sure how you can resolve it without dropping the hellbound thing.