In my book, Torn Between Two Worlds: Wisdom and Rhetoric, I named three of the most harmful doctrines in Christianity, but refrained from discussing the grace dogma. It is something that I at first dismissed as one of the top three failures of Christianity, but I might have to reconsider it.
Grace dogma says that there is nothing that you can do to earn your way into the Kingdom of God, you need only to believe in Jesus before you die. It is only through God’s Grace, that we are allowed into heaven. As with other dogma, great lengths are used to reinforce this claim. When all we should do is look at the direct words to Jesus to see this is not true. The first case is when Jesus told Nicodemus, a Pharisee (John 3:1-21) that he must be born again. He goes on to say that we stop doing wrong and start doing good to move out of darkness into the light. He says specifically that we must work to move into the light before we become spiritual or of the spirit.
Secondly, Jesus clarifies some of the Old Testament laws, making them more apparent. He says that is not enough to just not kill, but you must reconcile all with your brother, repaying everything to the last farthing before becoming free. (Matt 5:21-26) Jesus spoke in parable and when you understand he was speaking to simple people who could not comprehend His Kingdom, you can see how His simple stories tells what Origen later explains in his simple excellence.
A corollary to the grace dogma says that Jesus died for all our sins, past present and future. The first time I heard this I could not believe it. This is where the paradoxes that make Christianity laughable come from. It says that billions of people, who have no access to Christian teaching, have no chance to go Heaven, but a mass murderer who repents in the electric chair can!
What is the harm in this dogma? It removes any personal responsibility for sin and therefore, creates no incentive to follow the footsteps of Jesus. It makes the religion unpalatable to reasonable people and gives non-Christians yet another illogical teaching to attack. Jesus said that he came to save the sinners and Origen taught that this process is an unperceivably slow reconciliation that lasts lifetimes. What Origen describes is exactly what Darwin observed in nature. The paleontological record shows a slow specialization and beatification of nature with more cooperation and symbioses. The God who created the nature, did not create the version of Christianity we live with today which is giving power to the right extremists.
The true good news which Jesus brought is that He died for all the Fallen, opened the gate to Heaven and will rejoice when the prodigal son (Lucifer) will finally come home. This is God’s Grace, fore we and Lucifer do not deserve to come home. But He did not say it was a free ride, He ends Matthew 5 telling us “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This work we must do in addition to God’s Grace.