The question in the title was posed to me by a friend, who is a self-described “secular Jew,” when I visited him during Christmas break. Let me first explain that “in his presence” means, for this discussion, living in the most intimate possible state with God for all eternity.
Three of us participated in this discussion; the other person is also a Christian alumnus of the University of Minnesota. We had a long discussion about my beliefs as a Christian and why I believe Christianity is the only true faith. He stated that he believes Christianity is a good way to live but not the only way to God. If God sits atop a metaphorical mountain, climbers can take many different paths up the mountain. He also believes that Christ’s death, while not necessary for our forgiveness, “illuminated the path” of service and sacrifice that he wanted his disciples to follow.
I argued that God is not on top of a scalable mountain but on the other side of an impassible canyon, and Jesus Christ is the only bridge. In the course of our discussion, I asserted that Christ was the only bridge because we all have some sin in our lives (Rom 3:23), that God cannot tolerate any sin in his presence, and that only Christ’s forgiveness can cleanse us of sin and allow us into his presence.
Our discussion resolved the various issues and controversies we had discussed into the single question that is the title of this post. If the answer is “no,” then the question becomes, “Why cannot God tolerate sin?”
I would appreciate any answers you might have.