Sola fideists tend to believe that one can only make it to heaven by genuinely believing that Christ died on the cross for our sins. Without that belief, and no matter how well one has behaved, one is doomed to eternal suffering in hell. Thus, one's eternal well-being, it would seem, hinges upon a belief.
In this post, I will not address the implausibility of the doctrine. Rather, I will argue that it is self-defeating in light of the alleged qualities of God and should therefore be rejected.
Firstly, we are told by Christians that God is morally perfect and omnipotent.
Secondly, if sola fide is true, then God rewards people for ascent to belief in the Christian story, and punishes eternally in hell those who fail to do so. The key observation is that reward or punishment is metered out by God depending on whether one can come to believe a particular idea ("by faith alone").
The problem is that no morally perfect agent would reward or punish others based on their beliefs. Only one's intended actions can be the object of moral punishment or reward.
Consider the following thought experiment: In Calgary, everyone drives a car (and so it actually seems these days), and while some exceed the speed limit by more than others, everybody speeds sometimes. People are always free to obey the speed limit, though nobody ever consistently does because everybody has inherited a speeding tendency. When caught in a speed trap, citizens are asked by the officer if they believe - on faith - that P, where
P = the Calgary Police Department (CPD) is staffed by morally perfect fairies who want you to obey the traffic laws.
Speeders are then made an offer: genuinely believe that P is true on faith and you will be pardoned and heated seats will be installed in your car. On the other hand, fail to genuinely believe on faith that P is true, and you are punished with a pricey ticket and worse: jail time if the fine is not paid. Reward and punishment are dissociated from the act of speeding; rather, they depend entirely on whether the citizen believes that P or not.
Since everybody speeds from time to time (some more than others, of course), speeding itself becomes irrelevant; it no longer makes any difference regarding who is punished or rewarded. The CPD drops out of the business of identifying and preventing speeding and becomes nothing more than a bunch of thugs demanding special respect or collecting cash for their coffers.
Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?
Similarly, the only way that God can maintain his moral perfection is if sola fide is false. God must give up his moral perfection if he doles out punishment or reward based on ascent to a particular belief rather than on intended behaviour. Since God is morally perfect by definition, the doctrine of sola fide is self-defeating: God cannot exist if sola fide is true, and if God cannot exist, then sola fide cannot be true. If you're a sola fideist, it's time to realize, as many other Christians have, that you're wrong, and it's time to stop proselytizing this doctrine, as ugly as it is, because you think it's true. It can't be.
As the product of a nominally Christian family and deeply Christian schooling, I believed in the "saving grace" of Christ. But as I thought more about the faith imparted to me by my respected elders, I eventually found that I could no longer genuinely believe. This was not a choice. (If you think that it was, please consider whether you could choose to believe that Santa Claus is real.)
Somewhere along the path of my deconversion, believers in sola fide must conclude that, barring being "born again", I became destined for eternal hell. I plan to teach my children to think critically and while they will ultimately make up their own minds about life after death and the saving power of belief in the Christian story, there is a very reasonable chance that my kids will also find both pills hard to swallow. Believers in sola fide must conclude that my children are likely to also be destined to eternal hell. That's quite a threat for doing what seems epistemically right: for me, nothing could be worse.
The fact that I lose not one wink of sleep over these possibilities indicates just how much I think that Christianity and the doctrine of Sola Fide are false. But it is Christmas after all, and so I implore the good people who believe in sola fide - many of whom are cherished relatives and friends of mine - to really and seriously consider just this one part of the doctrine. Would a morally perfect agent really punish my children and me with eternal suffering for thinking carefully about the Christian story and failing to be able to come to genuinely believe in its truth, on faith? This is not the behaviour of a morally perfect agent. I'm not the first to notice that this is the behaviour of a mugger who puts a gun to his own child's head and threatens to pull the trigger unless the child surrenders something of value. One can say that the mugger is a "loving" parent who "freely offers a gift" if the child does so, but those additional words are just nonsense. Any agent who behaves this way is evil.
I tried to surrender, but simply couldn't anymore. If God exists and really is all-powerful and morally perfect, he doesn't have to pull the trigger, and he wouldn't. Otherwise, he really is a mugger. He's holding a gun to your head, too, and the mere fact that you may be able to surrender doesn't make Him good.