A lot is said in fundamentalist Christianity about merit.
Specifically, that humans do not merit heaven but do merit hell. This seems like a problem for a few reasons:
- We are not responsible for existing
One day, I just started to be. It's hard to fault someone for not playing a game well if they had no choice about playing the game or the equipment they get or the location they're in. Some sects (i.e. Mormonism) resolve this problem by making pre-existance claims; that we were fully aware and made the choice to start physically existing. This is, of course, a tacit admission of the problem.
Mostly religions do not confront this, perhaps because it leads to questions about what a perfect being may be lacking such that existence is necessary at all (ie what does God need us for?). It's generally taken as an axiom that God just does need us for some reason and that there is Justice. The details just never get filled in.
- We are largely not responsible for our disposition
We are products of our biology and upbringing - for better or worse. Our daily decisions are ruled by this as well as how hungry we happen to be, how stressed out we are right now, etc… The region for free will is probably a lot smaller than people realize.
If our behavior matters at all within the concept of salvation, then it is largely informed factors other than free will. Calvinism holds to the doctrine of predestination (and then ignores that this nullifies the reasons for existing in this life at all). Fundamentalism generally discards the concept of works-based salvation. These are tacit admissions of the problem. These groups also subscribe to the idea of an omnipotent and omniscient being; this means that defects leading to sin are deliberately present. This leads all the way back to 'the fall' because their behavior would have been known in advance and there by design. This makes us innocent and, if their worldview is correct, just currency in an economy running on suffering. Yuck.
- We do not control the rules of nature
Since we didn't choose to exist, were designed to be this way, are buffeted constantly by various involuntary motives and desires that are difficult to control and don't have any input into the rules of salvation… its hard to see how justice could ever lead to damnation.