Regarding Catherine Wallace’s May 13 letter, “People aren’t compelled to love“: I agree that love is genuine when chosen freely and not forced, but I don’t see how this describes love in the Jesus story. Wallace stops short of identifying the “inevitable consequences” of choosing not to love Jesus: everlasting torment. Jesus warns people of this punishment throughout the Gospels, and instructs his followers to go to extreme lengths to avoid “stumbling” and risking hell “where the fire never goes out” (Mark 9:43-48).
Jesus describes hell as a “furnace of fire” where people cry out in pain (Matthew 13:42). From our standpoint today, it is a torture chamber, and to grant only two options of either submission or torture is essentially offering no choice at all. Given Jesus’ role in the New Testament as the heir to a supernatural kingdom, his warning of punishment in hell is analogous to a totalitarian dictator threatening citizens to fall in line or face the gulag.
Punishment by torture is, needless to say, completely incompatible with love. To torture someone endlessly is sociopathic beyond belief. For God to subject people to this unimaginable fate demonstrates a total absence of love or compassion. In Luke 16:23-25, for example, a man begging for a drop of water while being tormented in hell is depicted as being shown no mercy.
These teachings cannot be reconciled with our modern notions of freedom, justice or love. Their irrelevancy is further exposed in cultures that evolved outside the Christian sphere. Here in Japan, it should be obvious to Wallace that God did not give all of the people he created the “ultimate power” to choose to love or reject Christ, as she asserts. The New Testament only appeared in Japanese at the end of the 19th century, 1,800 years after the Gospels were written.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.