WWJD?

Christians claim that God is the basis of morality which we should exemplify. Jesus taught that we should be perfect as God is perfect. The early Christians argued that we should be holy as God is holy. It is straightforward that we should look to God, and what He does, and mimic it as exactly as possible.

However, Jesus further taught that we must love our enemies and forgive them. Jesus wouldn’t command a moral that God doesn’t ascribe to, would he? Give humans a higher calling, a greater duty than God Himself?

If we are to love and forgive our enemies, why can’t God love and forgive His enemies?

Since I am posting on a blog entitled “debunking Christianity” I thought it only fitting to figure out exactly what it is I am supposed to be debunking. What is this thing called “Christianity”? As we all know, there is no set and steady definition, by which we can say with bright line precision –“this is Christian and this is not.”

Some claim following the Nicene Creed is necessary to be a Christians. Some Protestants say Catholics are not “Christian.” The Mormons continually are rejected “Christian” status by both Protestants and Catholics. Christian Science adherents attempted to upstage everybody by putting it right in their name, yet still are assured by many camps they are truly not “Christian.”

I even have seen atheists claim that, by certain definitions, they are “Christians.” In reviewing all of these claims, the one base-line definition in which everyone seems to concur, is that it means to do the things that Christ taught. If you aren’t doing that, then regardless of race, religion or creed, you are not being “Christian.”

Obviously the place to look, then, is at Christ’s teaching. One of the stalwart principles, the very reason Christians claim the superiority of Jesus’ words, is the concept of Love. And what does He say about that?

“…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you,…” Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:27-28.

Jesus even points out that it is not to one’s credit to simply love those that love you. Even the pagans and sinners can do that. The identifying mark, the uniqueness of the Christian experience is the ability to love one’s enemies.

“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. “ Luke 6:32-33
“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Matt. 5:46

The Bible is replete with the claim that this type of demonstration of love is the defining characteristic of a person that is to be Christ-like. A Christian.

“All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:35
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:3-4
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those how obey his commands live in him, and he in them.” 1 John 3:23
“Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8.

So far, simple enough. Jesus defines morality. Jesus tells us the moral code. “Love your enemies.” Having been informed by many theists that I am now an “enemy” of Jesus, I rest easy in the fact that He loves me, right? Unfortunately, this moral code of “loving one’s enemy” does not apply to Jesus Himself.

At the end of the Luke passage regarding love, Jesus states, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) O.K. How is God merciful? He has mercy on whom he has mercy, and does not on those he does not. (Rom. 9:15-18) It would seem, that in copying God’s morals on mercy, the Christian can be merciful as those they want to be merciful, and not on those they choose to not.

All of a sudden, I am not so certain I like this “Christ-likeness.” It seems to have an ugly side to it. Jesus says, that it is to human’s credit to love those that persecute them, but when it comes to God, “He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink…” Matt. 25:41-42. It would seem we have a double-standard. Humans have to love those that persecute them. God does not. But if a human chooses to act like Christ, who was God, they are off the hook. No more loving those that persecute them.

Why are humans held to a higher standard than God, do you think? We have to exhibit more love than He can!

Now, Jesus said He is kind to the unthankful and evil, right? Luke 6:35. What does this kindness look like? Take a trip in the time machine, back to Moses’ day. Let’s observe the kindness Jesus shows to the unthankful and evil, shall we?

Numbers 31. The Midianites. “Kill every man, no matter what the age from 1 day to 100 years old. Kill every mother. Kill every widow. Keep all the virgin females to be your forced wives, as booty for the war.” I hope every moral barometer just blew off the charts.

Jesus is saying that the Hebrews, in exhibiting God’s love, had a right to kill and take virgins as wives (perhaps second or third wife at that). This is kindness to evil? (Assuming they even were evil) I would hate to see unkindness!

But imagine Jesus. Use the artist’s imagery, or your own. Picture his face, his eyes, his mouth, his chin. Place him in Jewish clothing. Now put him at the scene of Numbers 31.

He looks to his right. There a woman is running from a soldier, clutching her 2-year old boy to her chest, attempting to get away. Another soldier pushes her to the ground. She covers her baby boy. Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, it doesn’t matter. A mother will protect her child. She doesn’t care about rituals, or religions, or war. She doesn’t even care about dying. Just that her child will live.

The soldier thrusts his sword through her back into the boy. Killing a human outright is surprisingly difficult. Most would die from mortally inflicted wounds. The mother would pull away her son, who is screaming in pain and fear, and will watch him slowly die, while her own innards are sprayed upon his face. And Jesus watches this.

This is a bad situation. Christians need to read their tales as they are written. Not pretty them up with flannel graphs and pictures of bloodless swords and string and glue. Before imposing their moral system on others, they should take a good long hard look at their own.

Jesus looks to the left. A soldier has just killed a young man, and, expecting the same, his twelve-year old sister crouches next to the twitching body. The soldier shoves his bloody hand between the girl’s legs. (How do you think they determined who was a virgin or not?) His hand leaves a bloody mark. He pushes her over to a group of girls huddled and crying together. They have watched, and are watching their mothers, cousins and brothers die—screaming in pain. Her thighs slowly stick together with the coagulating blood of her brother. And Jesus looks on.

Jesus looks straight ahead. A group of soldiers is worn out from the killing. Both arms are covered in blood, as they have had to switch the sword from arm to arm, due to fatigue. They can hardly stand, due to the slippery blood. Waiting to recuperate, they gather in a circle around a few boys who are standing among their dead friends. Rather than wade in and kill them, while resting they wait. If a boy attempts to escape, the soldier would have to lift his weary arm and knock him down.

What look do you imagine on Jesus’ face? Even assuming there was some bizarre moral necessity that warranted the love exhibited by the killing of baby boys (they are explicitly mentioned!) so that the men could take virgin females as wives, do you think Jesus would have compassion on this horrible situation? Let’s see what Jesus does, shall we? “Count up the plunder, and make sure I get my share.” (vs. 26-28) THAT is what “kindness to unthankful and evil” consists of. THAT is what “being merciful as God is merciful” looks like. Jesus is mercifully relieving the bodies of their Gold, and the fathers of their virgin daughters.

It is at this moment that I breathe a sign of relief. Thank goodness Christians feel bound by what Jesus says! Otherwise, I could see the thought process of:

1. God loves His enemies.
2. God kills His enemies, takes their virgin daughters and their gold.
3. I must love as God loves.
4. You are my enemy.
5. *shudder*

My only hope is that these few words (not Jesus’ actions) keep them in check!

Why can’t God forgive his enemies? Shoot, I am not even trying to be an enemy of God. The evidence is overwhelming He does not exist, let alone be his enemy. We could equally say I am an enemy of Superman, or leprechauns.

Because of my occupation, I am often informed (and was on my initial blog here) about how I will or will not be able to argue my case before Jesus on Judgment day. This will certainly be an area that comes up:

“I looked for you. I searched history, philosophy, archeology, texts, articles, books, lectures, Sacred writings and even debated with any theist that would have me. As you can clearly see, I did not find you. I do not hate you (although some of your followers are pretty scary) I do not loathe you. I assumed, since you did not exist, that humans blamed their desire for virgins and gold on you.

“But now that I am here, apparently you will consider me an enemy. Then what was all that language about “loving your enemies”? Does that not apply to you as well? What about being merciful? Was that simply a ruse? The time on “debunkingchristianity”? Is making your followers think qualify as “persecution”? Then why create us with brains?

“I see you are hell-bent on not forgiving, not loving, and imposing impossible standards on persons you consider your enemies. Fine. Just remember, that, as humans, we did a better job of loving than you can. We can follow your morals better than you.”

When people tell me they find Christianity compelling because of what Jesus said and did—I look to what Jesus said and did. And safely say that I am not a Christian. Not even in being Christ-like.

First posted on 3/16/06

102 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

I think this is such a powerful post that Christians who disagree don't know exactly what to say about it. Which means you got 'em thinking! Powerful!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your post, though I am a Christian, because it elucidates a huge problem in the theology of most Christians. The mistake I think you are making, and not neccessarily you, but those theologians you might be referring to, is a category mistake. In other words, the Law that God gave to man, and the addendums and supercessions of the Law that Jesus made, are intended for mankind (a race of morally accountable beings capable of choices). The Law however, is not intended for God specifically because He is in a different category. You are confusing God with non-God, and the results are merely chaotic. You stated that God expects us to exert a level of love that He doesn't even adhere to. I think this is incorrect because you have confused the categories. Simply by God being in a different sphere of existence means that we will never be capable of the love that He is capable of, and consequently we have different requirements (the law) in order to model the holiness that God automatically possesses. This is why God can send lying spirits, decree death, and cause disasters to happen; simply because he is not sinful like us, He can do those things with loving pure intentions.
Another aspect that I think your post was lacking is the realization of the patience that God shows His enemies. Yes, He told them to depart, but how long had He given them mercy and grace?

John W. Loftus said...

Anon....
He can do those things with loving pure intentions.

Really now?

If I were to torture, repeatedly molested and rape some child, and then slowly burn her to death, I would not be a loving person. You're right about this.

But God can do these things in love? What? Did you really say this?

Hmmm. Really. Is that the best you can do here?

Now tell me this, does that child feel anymore love if it is me who is torturing, molesting and killing her, then if it were God doing it? No?

Come on now....listen to yourself! Why do you think you must defend God's actions in this way? No judge in any land would exonerate anyone--not even God--for doing such things.

And yet, you don't even have good evidence this God of the Bible exists in the first place. But yet you defend him here in this way. Why?

Rather, I would think that if in order to defend God you must resort to saying these things, then you'd better rethink whether this God of yours even exists!

Anonymous said...

Maybe if you would define what you mean by love, I could respond to you. However, you have used in 1) an entirely hypothetical situation (God raping and torturing) which He has not done, and 2) you mentioned the notion of "feeling" love. What do you mean by this? Is it a biochemical physiological response? You might want to figure this out before you judge the non-existence of your Creator on the basis of your amorphous and subjective misunderstanding of love.

Adrienne said...

God may not have raped and tortured, but he ordered his minions to rape and slaughter innocents. He gave virgin girls as booty to the Israelites.

I don't know of a case of God torturing anyone in this life. But there's always hell. Yes, I know, hell is a choice.

"Love me and obey me, it's completely up to you. But hey, if you freely decide to reject me, you'll spend an eternity in agony."

No pressure there!

Anonymous said...

you still haven't defined your conception of love.

DagoodS said...

Thank you, anonymous for tackling what is a difficult area for Christians to even face. Shows courage.

God on a different category Here is the problem. Too many times the Bible indicates that we are to act as God is in His Category. To say that we do not, because he is in a different category, renders the verses meaningless and inapplicable.

“Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt. 5:48
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36
“Be Holy, because I am Holy” 1 Pet. 1:16
“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 Jn. 1:6
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is Love.” 1 Jn. 4:8
“Since God so loved us; we also ought to love one another.” 1 Jn. 4:11

And of course, the icing on the cake:

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Eph. 5:1

Pretty clear that we are to imitate God. Can you give any scriptural basis for your contention that God is in a different category, and we are to not act as He does, in love?

I though it was interesting you included the lying spirits. We are to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:14). If God is in a different category of love, does this mean it is acceptable for God to lie? What has God lied about?

God’s patience How long is patient enough? Numbers 31:17: “Now kill all the boys…” Anonymous, that is ALL. That would mean a male baby that was seven days old would be killed. Is seven days patient? And can you explain why God was more patient with virgin females?

As to the sheep/goats patience, we live 70-100 years. According to Christian theology God as lived for-ever. Eternally in the past, eternally in the future. What is a mere 70-100 years to such a creature? Are you seriously saying that within what is not even an electron in an atom in a drop in an ocean on a planet made of water in a universe of water an act could occur which could cause such a creature to lose its patience?

This seems to be saying that God has a love, in which He killed himself to save a few. A love that the entire universe cannot contain or describe. Yet the patience of a two-year-old.

Again, any scripture that indicates how long God must be patient, before he can zap someone? Apparently “Love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4) is another one of those categories that we are in, but God is not.

As to the definition of love, I’ll go with 1 Cor. 13.

DagoodS said...

adrienne - I respectfully disagree. If one holds to the story, God tortured David's baby.

I'll blog THAT little rottenness someday.

Mick said...

The only way one can justify God's crimes is by saying "the rules don't apply to him." If the rules don't apply, he can do anything he wants.

If that's the case, then why even worry about whether he's good or evil? Why even ask? If he's God and he can do anything he wants, then our choices are to obey his dictates or prepare to suffer.

If that's the case, what's the difference between being God and being a devil?

I don't believe in God. But if I did, he would be my enemy. I would have to do everything I could to fight him and his evil. Even if hell awaited, it would be the only moral choice to make.

Huck Finn, while helping Jim escape slavery, realized he was breaking the law and thought he was disobeying God and would burn in hell for it.

"Oh, well," he said. "I'll just have to go to hell then."

Show me a morality more powerful than that - being willing to suffer hell for doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

DagoodZ,
nice name. While I agree that all these commands are for us to imitate God, and to strive to be holy and perfect like God, the manner in which we are to do this is by obeying His commands to us, not by attempting to do everything He does. One example of this category difference would be when the Pharisees were upset at Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, yet Jesus responded by saying My Father is working, ie. violating the Sabbath. The law was for man to keep the Sabbath holy, but God is not a man. An example would be a child disobeying a parent's rule. The child would be wrong to break the rule, but the parent is not bound by the rule. You see, God is holy no matter what He does, and no finite human can stand in judgement of His acts; yet we are to strive to attain holiness by obeying His commands, (which can only be accomplished through regeneration). God can kill, cause physical pain, bring natural disasters, allow Satan to mess with people, allow people to wallow in their sin and hurt themselves, and etc... while remaining perfectly holy. By the very fact that we are creatures, and sinful creatures at that, we cannot do any of these things; so we strive to attain holines by obeying His commands (I should mention that there are special occasions where God may command men to kill - this would be an good), and really the only way to attain real holiness is through faith in Christ.
I would like to ask if your outrage at the evil God allows is merely the apparent evil that you believe Christians have in their system, or is your outrage against the evil that you believe to be in the world? THis is important because, 1) You can point the finger at Christians all you want and demand that they be consistent, (thats why I'm responding to you, to show that my system is consistent) However, 2) being atheist (which I assume you are) you have no real grounds for believing in evil yourselves, so all the atrocities that you point out are ironically non-existent in your system. Which is it? At least be honest.

Bruce said...

However, you have used in 1) an entirely hypothetical situation (God raping and torturing) which He has not done

So Mary was pregnant with Jesus but she still considered herself a virgin? I only know of one way a woman gets pregnant. So maybe somebody took advantage of her when she was asleep or used some sort of date rape drug, thus explaining why she thought she was still a virgin.

But then we find out her baby is the son of God! If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck...

b4d6uy said...

Someone just pointed me to this site, so I've not read through very thoroughly. Couple questions:

1) In debunking Christianity do you offer an alternative world view?

2) The usual, "why are we here?" "what's the purpose of living?" "why not just kill yourself?"

3) Do you have hope for anything?

Your intro states, "We believe Christianity is wrong, false, and incorrect as a system of belief and as a basis for behavior." I'm what you would call a Christian, and I totally agree with this statement.

I think it's pretty healthy to admit you're atheist or agnostic. I knew a "personal atheist" once who was more Christlike than anyone I'd met at the time.

Peace.

B

nedbrek said...

I think what is being consistantly overlooked is that God does not have one or two aspects (all loving or all patient). He has a plan (to show His presence through the people Israel, and to bring about His Son). He is just. Holy in all ways.

Numbers is too meaty for me right now. I will certainly consider your complaints after I read it fully later. It appears the Midians were a source of constant corruption for the Israelites. They had consistantly rejected God and followed false gods.

Mick:
"If he's God and he can do anything he wants, then our choices are to obey his dictates or prepare to suffer."

Pretty much. We can be slaves to sin or slaves to God. God created the world. It is His to do with as He pleases. Sorry if that sounds harsh. There are many parables related to agriculture. If the crop does not yield fruit, it is thrown into the fire.

If we seek fulfillment in the world, we will always be unsatisfied. Maybe depressed, or distracted through consumption, or escaping in fantasy or drugs. Only God can fill us, so we will be satisfied.

JCHFleetguy said...

I guess I was expecting better.

Central point: God is God and we are not.

Do parents allow their children to judge and punish each other - or is it their job to judge and punish. If, as a parent, you allow your children to do this your kids should be taken away (unless one is babysitting and then their authority should be limited by a very strict set of words)

God is the creator and stands outside the creation. Your thoughts about morality and ethics are really irrelevant to Him. He is Good because He sets the rules - period; so if you, as the creature, disagrees with the creator - you are the one that "doesn't get it", not Him.

As to Mary, rape requires penetration last I heard. Who said God penetrated her? As to what is necessary the last you heard - well, again - what do you know about how God carried this out?

We can flip genetic switches in a chicken egg to create a chicken with teeth - and God cannot flip the genetic switches in a human egg to create a functioning embryo? Without creating a penis and a sperm? Hmmmm.

Anyone, this is too, too simple a stuff to make me break a sweat.

Oh, the next thing you will say is that if that is a moral and good God then you are glad you are bad and immoral. Right is right; and how can we justify . . . blah, blah blah.

Really, creator and creature. It is ok if you do not want to get it though:

Romans 1:19-21: . . . that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

I came off harsher than I wanted; but the best secular minds in the world have been doing this stuff for 2006 - 33 = 1973 years. The state of the argument is on such a higher level than this stuff.

I guess I am reacting out of disappointment - I was expecting so much better when someone sent me here.

Mick said...

nedbrek said...

Mick:
"If he's God and he can do anything he wants, then our choices are to obey his dictates or prepare to suffer."

Pretty much. We can be slaves to sin or slaves to God.

Mick sez:
Well ... I've got a bit more imagination than that. I don't have to be a slave to anyone, I can be free.

nedbrek said...
God created the world. It is His to do with as He pleases.

Mick sez:
If that's how it works, then, again: let's forget all these arguments about God being good. They don't matter. Why not just say, "I serve an evil God"?

To go back to the parent/child analogy, is that how parents treat the children they create? If so, do we consider that moral? I think not.

nedbrek said...
If we seek fulfillment in the world, we will always be unsatisfied. Maybe depressed, or distracted through consumption, or escaping in fantasy or drugs. Only God can fill us, so we will be satisfied.

Mick sez:
You, my friend, have clearly never had a Guinness. But I jest.

If that were true, I'd still be a Christian, as would be the founders of this blog. And this, I think, is one place at which Christian doctrine is clearly disingenuous, assuming there's only one satisfying answer - God - to every question. If that were true, nobody would ever reject Christianity - yet they do.

It's interesting to me how Xians always - excuse me, often - assume that if you claim happiness outside of God, you're "escaping into fantasy." Of course, that's how I feel about people who claim to have a relationship with an invisible friend - they're escaping into fantasy. I don't rely totally on anecdotal evidence, but my own experience is that I was never half as fulfilled as a Xian as I've been since.

But back to the main point: God clearly performs atrocities in the Bible, things for which any human being would be thrown into prison or executed. I'm not willing to give him a "get out of jail free" card because he's God. If he commits evil, he's not God; not a God a decent person could get behind, anyway.

If you do believe in supernatural beings like God, how do you know you're not being deceived by a very clever demon? He lures you with sweet talk about love, offers to make you special and "chosen" and promises riches in a life afterward. And all you have to do is obey him; no matter how divisive, evil or backward his commands are. He'll make them palatable and justifiable.

Sounds like a demon to me.

All you really know about God is what he has, presumably, told you. (And if you pay attention, early on in the Bible he tells a very serious lie to Adam and Eve. Oh, I forgot: he's God. He's allowed.)

Have a seat. Let me tell you about myself. I'm sure you'll believe every word.

Daniel said...

I think anonymous raised a good point:
being atheist (which I assume you are) you have no real grounds for believing in evil yourselves

First, discussing how moral "bad" versus moral "evil" are contextualized would take an hour, but let me simplify by agreeing that I don't believe in some anthropomorphic concept of evil. Evil is not a force. People make bad/wrong decisions, which makes them bad/wrong people in that context. Utilitarianism does not require nor exclude the existence of God.

I will admit to having a healthy dose of outrage at the bad that all religions which preach some of the central dogmas of Xianity and Islam do. A lot of my outrage is likely a holdover from the sense of betrayed trust I felt in discovering what I have discovered about the Bible and evidence against god's existence. I think the authorities do a moral wrong by passing on false information, glossing over problems, and outright distorting the history and uncertain origins of the dusty scrolls which modern Xianity would be nothing without. I will thus admit to having a bit of a motive. I want others not to be lied to, betrayed, and have their sense of themselves destroyed as they acquire more knowledge of the origins and history of Xianity. I don't want them to go through what I did. Call it a crusade if you wish.

jchfleetguy,
Did Mary have a choice that she would be impregnated? If I fling divine seed across the room on your daughter and impregnate her, without her consent, would you call that "wrongful impregnation"? "assault"?

Rape is just a concept, the technical requirements for humans to perform rape (penetration requires members and organs) obviously aren't paralleled by a Divine Phallus. Still, Mary was told she would be impregnated, according to these myths, not asked.

It does, however, remind me of a beautiful little piece reflecting Yahweh's "goodness": Deut 22:23-4 (NASB)

Stone a woman for being raped in a city, because her cries weren't heard (forget that "his hand was over my face" bullsh*t). You gotta love ol' Yahweh, He knows women are just askin' for it!!

Next, jchfleetguy declaims:
We can flip genetic switches in a chicken egg to create a chicken with teeth - and God cannot flip the genetic switches in a human egg to create a functioning embryo? Without creating a penis and a sperm? Hmmmm.

You obviously don't know much about biology. Sperm and eggs only contain one half of the genetic information required to form a zygote. You can't "autoinitiate" cell division within the ovum without adding 23 chromosomes, to make the total 23 pairs = 46 total. God had to "poof" this genetic information into Mary's uterus. There are no "genetic switches" to flip.

Anonymous said...

Brother Danny said:
"people make bad/wrong decisions, and that makes them bad/wrong people in that context."

- My question is, where is your foundation of bad/wrong in any context? It is perfectly logical for you to point out the apparent inconsistencies in the Christian worldview, as long as you admit that the problem of evil is irrelevant to you personally. You said that it would take an hour to define morality. Really, I don't mean to be harsh, but why should it take you an hour to tell anyone why it was wrong for the 9/11 bombers to kill thousands? The reason is that you have no foundation for morality, and it takes quite a while to construct a complex system of utilitarian or existential morality. Unfortunately, the harder you work to define morality without God, the more it collapses under your feet.

Bruce said...

1) In debunking Christianity do you offer an alternative world view?

The Affirmations of Humanism

"why not just kill yourself?"

Because I enjoy living. Don't you?

3) Do you have hope for anything?

Ummm, have you read the name of this blog?

Daniel said...

Anon,

Did you purposely ignore the very next sentence I wrote after that reference? Was the dishonesty intended or an unfortunate consequence of fast skimming?

Just as your premises are unprovable:
1) God exists.
2) God's actions are good.

So contextualized ethics requires unprovable axioms:
1) Actions, thoughts and behaviors constitute moral decisions and capabilities in human beings
2) Said actions, thoughts, and behaviors must be evaluated in their context, compared to other to the available options, and analyzed in the immediate and future consequences, to determine their moral standing, but objective conclusions may not be possible (e.g. justification for injury to others, especially in war, is nearly always relative)

So on the one hand, you have blind faith asserting a divine mandate exists for determining the good/bad, and on the other hand, common sense and utility admitting that not every decision and action have clear moral foundations (e.g. avoidance of pain that causes pain to others)

Which one, by Ockham's Razor, is really superfluous to the discussion? After all, your definition of God is based on Scripture, which is, itself, a relative standard of how the Hebrews saw God, while the Muslims would prefer Mohamed's contemporary exposition on the Deity's dictates (they would say his supercedes yours). Who is right? Can you objectively demonstrate God's foundation, without resorting to subjective and ethnically-prejudiced views of God?

exbeliever said...

anonymous,

Sorry to jump in on your conversatin with dagoods, but I'm just so tired of the "what's-your-foundation-for-morality" and "what's-your-foundation-for-the-laws-of-logic" arguments.

I think Dawson, an atheist commenter, here, described it best as the "Duh, I don't know. Therefore God exists" argument.

I answered these two questions from a relativists point of view here. Dawson answers these questions from an objectivists' point of view on his site.

And the whole thing is besides the point to begin with. YOU believe that there is a universal, absolute morality. YOU tell the rest of us that your god is "good."

On the one hand, you tell us that the words "good" and "evil" have meaning because there is a universal morality. You, then, change that definition when you say that your god is "good." We can no longer judge him by the "universal morality" that you just told us exists. It is a dishonest tactic!

DagoodS said...

It must be something in my presentation style. I can’t seem to figure it out. I notice that when I discuss Christianity, I cite verse after verse after verse, I am careful to keep it in context, and if the Christian wants to call me on it, they can look it right up on their own.

The Christian, though, does NOT reply with verses, but wants to use analogies. Usually parent/child ones. Notice not a single verse given in support of any argument against what I am saying. (The Romans 1 was jus the usual-“you atheists know there is a God.”) As a Christian, I always thought of the Bible as a light. That if I showed it to a non-believer, because they were in darkness, they would run from the light. (John 3:19) Now, I see, in an amusing fashion, the reverse is true. I show them the Bible and they shy away from it! I guess it truly is a double-edged sword! (Heb. 4:12)

Again, I will ask—for those that claim God is operating by a second set of moral criteria, that we are to NOT follow, can you provide any scriptural back up for that statement? That we are to NOT do what God does? (Try Romans 12:19, then explain what “revenge” God was taking on 2 year old boys, that the Virgin girls did not get.)

There are three problems with the parent/child analogies:

1) The verses are clear that we are to imitate God. The Parent (God) says the child (humans) are to do EXACTLY what God does. None of the analogies take that into account.

2) We are fully morally responsible, according to the Bible. We are even going to judge angels! (1 Cor. 6:3) If we are held responsible as fully functional adults, then the comparison to children is not apt. We treat children differently, as they are maturing. At greater ages, we give them greater responsibilities. Eventually we expect them to have the exact same moral responsibilities as adult humans.

3) What kind of parent holds their child to a HIGHER morality than their own? If a parent told me that they think their own children should have higher standards, I would question the parent’s standards. “Hey kids. When I love the crotchety neighbor, I get to throw rocks and bottles at him. I am holding you, though to a higher standard of letting him throw rocks and bottles at you, without complaint.”

The use of these analogies shows that the child (humans) are more moral than the parent (God).

Anonymous - While I agree that all these commands are for us to imitate God, and to strive to be holy and perfect like God, the manner in which we are to do this is by obeying His commands to us, not by attempting to do everything He does Unfortunately, this breaks down, when, as I have pointed out again and again, one of the commands is to do exactly what he does. So, yes, God commands to attempt to do everything morally that he does.

God can kill, cause physical pain, bring natural disasters, allow Satan to mess with people, allow people to wallow in their sin and hurt themselves, and etc... while remaining perfectly holy. And this is where Christianity gets scary.

If God is perfect, holy, merciful and loving, in doing this acts, and Christians (as the verses specifically state) must be perfect, holy, merciful and loving exactly as God is, then this provides Christians with a license to kill. Why is it that Christians cannot kill, but must love their enemies, yet the very founder of morals and love CAN kill and DOES NOT have to love his enemies?

(I should mention that there are special occasions where God may command men to kill - this would be an good) No, anonymous. There are many, many occasions on which humans kill, and claim God told them to do it. It is only because it is your particular religion that this becomes “special” and “good.”

Yes, I am outraged. Shouldn’t we be outraged at genocide? The day we allow genocide to exist is the day we are no longer human. The day we sanction genocide as “special,” “moral” or “good” is the day we become monsters.

As to consistency, that is the point of the blog, isn’t it? There is no consistency within the requirement that Christians are to act like God, Christians are to love their enemies, but God does not have to love His enemies. The fact that no verses are coming to counter this statement demonstrates the difficulty. (Have I mentioned that once or twice?)

being atheist (which I assume you are) you have no real grounds for believing in evil yourselves, so all the atrocities that you point out are ironically non-existent in your system. First of all, this is a blog about Christianity’s inconsistency. That God is the author of morality, but Christians are to NOT do what God does. Meaning, they would have a differing moral system.

Second, why don’t I believe in the concept of evil? I see actions of people that are best described by this word, and the idea behind the word. Atrocities are very existent “in my system.” It is not difficult at all to see a person kill a 2 year old boy, his mother, and his father, and take the 12 year old sister as a forced-bride and say, “Yep, that is evil. Nope, that is not loving one’s enemy.”

My question is, where is your foundation of bad/wrong in any context? Easy enough.

1. Not breaking the law.
2. Not performing an act that I would have an aversion to having done on me or my family.
3. Not intentionally causing unnecessary pain.

Those three things tend to cover enough. Why is it that theist think just because they have difficulty defining morals with some human telling them what God says, we must as well? (And if you want to say those are arbitrary, they are just as arbitrary as defining a God that is moral, and allowing it to commit genocide as a moral act.)

DagoodS said...

nedbrek:
I think what is being consistantly overlooked is that God does not have one or two aspects (all loving or all patient).

But God claims to be all loving. Whether he is patient, just, merciful, holy, perfect, or any other attribute, the one thing that he will do, and will always do is a loving act. Can you say there is ever an act that is NOT all loving? Of course not. We can, therefore, focus on everything God does, at any time, and say, “THAT is loving.” No matter what it is. Unless you say He can turn it on and off?

It appears the Midians were a source of constant corruption for the Israelites. They had consistantly rejected God and followed false gods. So God can’t figure out how to convert them? Why are the virgin females not a source of constant corruption? Why aren’t the virgin females rejecting God and following false gods? Why are the 2 day old baby boys so rotten to the core, they must be killed, and cannot be rehabilitated?

It is funny. Here we have the all powerful, all mighty God, that created the Universe, yet He can’t figure out how to present himself so as to convert one race of people. Shoot, even we as humans can figure that out. The only solution God can come up with is to wipe ‘em all and let….uh….er….God sort them out.

Please do the research. Study the history and the archeology. What “false” gods were these people worshipping? How do we differentiate them from the Hebrew Canaanites?

nedbrek, the story is myth. Legend. You do not have to look for justification for killing them, because they weren’t wiped out.



JCHFleetguy – I am glad that this blog was so simple an argument for you. As it was so simple to respond to, I look forward to your proofs and argument from the Bible as to where it states we are to NOT act as God does. Where we are to love our enemies, but God does not have to.

As it was disappointingly simple, this should equally be a simple task for you.

“God is God and you are not” is not even the question here. The question is whether God has to love his enemies, since he claims we have to. Or does God require a HIGHER standard of morals for us.

Adrienne said...

Anonymous wrote:

God can kill, cause physical pain, bring natural disasters, allow Satan to mess with people, allow people to wallow in their sin and hurt themselves, and etc... while remaining perfectly holy.

Then what makes God "holy"? Just because God supposedly is all-powerful? How do you know this supernatural entity who claims to be God isn't really an evil entity with extraordinary powers instead (like Satan)? If God can do all these terrible things, then what differentiates him from the Devil, really?

JCHFleetguy wrote:

He is Good because He sets the rules - period; so if you, as the creature, disagrees with the creator - you are the one that "doesn't get it", not Him.

Aha, at last the truth comes out. You call God good not because He acts in ways that you think are good. You call your God good because you believe that He/She/It has powers that you don't and will punish you if you disobey.

You can call God "good" and "holy" and all these other meaningless adjectives, but what it really comes down to is "(God's) might makes right." And apparently might makes "holy" and "good" as well.

Jason said...

Morality can be explained in atheistic terms. I am in the process of doing so myself on the unchained radio forums. Given this atheistic morality, it is entirely possible to condemn the example of divine morality that the Bible provides.

JCHFleetguy said...

You can call God "good" and "holy" and all these other meaningless adjectives, but what it really comes down to is "(God's) might makes right." And apparently might makes "holy" and "good" as well.

I didn't say God was good because of His might - I said He was good because He is the definition of good. He wrote the rulebook for the game. He set the playing field. Whatever analogy you want.

It has nothing to do with fear and power. I never said anything about being punished - I said someone who thought his definition of "good" was better than God's was foolish and didn't get it.

dagoods

God did love His enemies - remember that died for everyone thing. However, parents do have to punish their children - children should not be punishing their brothers and sisters.

So, you so love the world that you die for someone else, then you might have earned the right of judgement. Take on the sins of everyone who ever lived (before and after you) and you will certainly have earned that.

Let me know when you accomplish that, and then we will know you have actually become like Christ. You, of course, know that while we are to be like Christ - none of us have, or will, actually achieve that. Until someone does, the responsibility of God certainly will not fall on his or her shoulders.

You want to come up with "higher" and "lower" standards. It has to do more with rights and responsibilities. Division of labor. Those that are judges and those that are not.

We are not good - any of us. As such, we have no business even beginning to try to judge others.

Or try this: we are not governed by the same rules as God because we are not Gods. Different creatures, different rules.

I notice that when I discuss Christianity, I cite verse after verse after verse, I am careful to keep it in context, and if the Christian wants to call me on it, they can look it right up on their own.

The Christian, though, does NOT reply with verses,


Actually, you proof-text with the worst of them. First of all, you flip back and forth between the Old and New Testament as if the cross and the new covenant meant nothing. Secondly, you ignore massive amounts of nuance because you want to prove your "we are supposed to act like God" meme.

Sure we are - except for that God as Judge thing. Sheep and Goats, cities in worse shape than Sodom and Gomorrah, milestones around necks for making spiritual children stumble (which of course this site is aimed at doing), judge not unless you want to be judged by your standards instead of God's, etc.

Then, you want to play as if the creator of the universe has to play by your understanding of our genetics. Silly. Really.

So, let us start at the start - where all the laws and prophets hang

Mark 12:28-31
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, `HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

This is what Jesus did that we are supposed to do. As was said, I believe in the Matt or Luke version, go and do this and you will be fine.

This is the foundation of God's morality; not all of your bunk above. Until you accomplish this, the next step is a bit irrelevant.

Want a little scriptural viewpoint of the first two requirements to meet - go here

brother danny

God had to "poof" this genetic information into Mary's uterus. There are no "genetic switches" to flip.

Ok, I stand corrected. He poofed the genetic information in. (Do you think God couldn't do this?) Next.

As to the Mary and rape thing - did she complain? Do you think that God might have known she would be overjoyed to birth the Messiah? Saw into her heart?

Incidentally, I think Mary was in the line of David also.

DagoodS said...

JCHFleetguy, thank you for the longer response. Few things to touch on.

I notice that you still have not provided any verses that say we should love enemies as God loved his enemies (cutting off their heads and what-not) although you made brief references to a few situations which I will address in a moment.

I am well-aware that the Bible seems to be quite contradictory in this fashion. Jesus loves the whole world except Midianite baby boys God loves the world except King David’s son. Your pointing out the “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31) doesn’t help much. I can point out that God does not love His neighbor as Himself, either.

Unless, of course, you are saying we are NOT God’s neighbor, but some sort of minion. In which case, that whole “God loved the world…” doesn’t mean as much. And you still have the problem of our being ordered to imitate God.

The problem, JCHFleetguy, is not so much in trying to harmonize this characteristics and command of God. It is a very simple resolution. The Bible was written by various humans, with various differing motivations, causing these contradictions.

JCHFleetguy: God did love His enemies - remember that died for everyone See, this is where it stops making sense. Christians claim that this is the greatest act of Love that was ever committed. That if we were to begin describing it, all the pens and paper in the world cannot contain the words that would be appropriate for its description.

Jesus loved me to die for me. BUT, He does NOT love me enough to love me as himself. Or to love me as an enemy, even. It becomes, not an act of love, but a purchase agreement. A way in which Jesus earns the right to torture me forever. That seems, to use your word, silly. Doesn’t make sense. That he would have this much vast love to die, but not enough to forgive.

What you have created is a friend that loves you so much he died for you. (Jn 15:13) and then demands you act in a certain way, or he will burn you forever. What is the difference if he didn’t love in the first place?

….parents do have to punish their children… I see. Jesus was punishing the two year old Midianite boys, but the Virgin Females didn’t need punishment. Do you know why I keep bringing this up? Because Christians like analogies. I want to look at what they claim their God actually did in History. Please, no more analogies. Explain how God was “punishing” children, and why he didn’t “punish” the Virgin Females.

To be honest, I think that Christians deliberately avoid this, because they have no response. I have brought it up again and again, and at least nedbrek had the honesty to say it was too weighty to get into at the moment, and recognized the difficutly.

We are not good - any of us. As such, we have no business even beginning to try to judge others. Please understand that we are talking to a variety of Christians. Some hold verses as inspired, some hold others that are not. Clearly, by this statement, you do not hold 1 Cor. 6:1-8 as authoritative. No real way for me to know that.

However, for others that DO, it is quite, quite clear that Christians are to judge each other, judge the world and judge angels. Judging all the time. I just hope they read the “love your enemies” before they start Judging. God obviously didn’t.

Actually, you proof-text with the worst of them. I confess I breathed a sigh of relief here. See, I am not a seminarian. You will see this a blog of ex-seminary students, ex-pastors, and ex-apologists. I might manage to squeeze into the ex-apologist, but certainly not the other two.

I have to “earn my stripes” as it were, to show I have done a little bit of research in the field of Bible Study, as well as studied the Bible. (Those two are quite different.) Your accusation of “proof texting” with absolutely no evidence, no examples, no proofs of any kind showed two things:

1) I do know my Bible; and
2) You have nothing to back this up.

If you think this is true (and I could be making a mistake)—Show it! Pull a verse out, and Show how I used it out of context. That Jesus, or Paul, or John was saying something completely different. That “loving ones enemy” and “acting as God acts” are not tenets of the scriptures I quoted.

Yes, I am aware of “nuances” such as covenant theology. I would dearly love to scuttle that concept right now, but have been encouraged to stay on topic. I’ll blog it out, at some point. For now, a taste—When did the new covenant begin, and why didn’t the author of Hebrews know that ?

These “nuances,” JCHFleetguy, are nothing more than Christian’s attempt to resolve various difficulties in the conflicts between authors, and interpret (rather than read) and bend and twist the Bible to say something it does not.

For example, Christians want the trinity. The idea that all three are God, and there is only one God. Fine. That means I can substitute “Jesus” for anywhere it says “God” in the Tanakh. This tends to make Christians uncomfortable. They want God the Father to be the big bad meanie, and Jesus to be the God of Love.

You want one God, and Jesus to be God? Then you are stuck with this throughout the Bible.

Which gives us verses like Mark 10:18 reading, “Why do you call God good?” Jesus answered, “No one is good, except God alone.” Again, it stops making sense.

As to your various examples:

sheep and goats I dealt with this. It IS a problem. If God loved those goats so much that He committed suicide for them, and performed the greatest act of love, ever, why then would he stop loving them and give ‘em the toss into a fire?

Look, I can’t help it if Paul placed the judging in the hands of Christians, and later on some other authors decided they would prefer God did it. That is a contradiction in your Bible, it doesn’t make the first verse go away. I see this conversation often.

Atheist: The Bible says A
Theist: Ah, but the Bible also says Not A so your A can’t be true.
Atheist: How does the Bible saying two different things make A go away?

More importantly, it seems that one day, when the theist wants Not A they point out those verses, and when they want A they point out THOSE verses. Handy thing, this Bible, to go back and forth. Moving on….

Sodom and Gomorrah I won’t quote it all (too long) but this is after Jesus is sending out the Twelve. Matt. 10:1-15 Luke 10:8-12. I found it curious you would use this as an example of God having the power to judge, because if you read the verses, it is actually the disciples doing the judging!

Not sure how this supports your position. Who is making the determination that the home is “deserving” in vs. 13-14? Plus, isn’t this directly contradictory (my point in the blog) to Jesus’ earlier statement that loving those that love you is not to your credit? That even sinners do that?

Yet here, Jesus is saying, “If they deserve it” (earning salvation? Hmmm) “then give them peace. If they don’t welcome you, let them eat sulfur!”

*singing* “Can you feel the love tonight…..?”

Milestones Ah. Making “spiritual children” stumble. I do not see where, exactly this is talking about God judging as compared to humans judging. I could see where one interprets that into the text (Mark 9:42). This is Jesus’ hyperbole of “cutting off hand” and “plucking out eyes” for those that care.

What, exactly, is “causing one to sin”? If I am a sharp looking female, and some guy sports wood because of it, do I get a milestone? If someone sees me speeding, and decides they can too, am I deserving of drowning?

I agree with the concept (within Christian doctrine) that we shouldn’t cause others to sin. Not sure how this relates to the topic on hand.

Judge not How very interesting. I wonder if God will really impose this. As we judge others, God will judge us. (Mt. 7:1-2)

I “judge” that I accept others as they are. If I am bound to love them, I accept the fact that they, even a few Christians, may not like me. Will God judge me in this fashion?

I “judge” others that it is reasonable to use their life experiences, knowledge and observations to make the determinations as best they can, including becoming convinced there is no God. Will God judge me in this fashion?

I “judge” others that fail to consistently love as they claim their absolute moral demands, as not pragmatically believing it is an absolute moral. Will God judge me in this fashion?

I will have no problem whatsoever, JCHFleetguy, if we approach a Judgment seat, and Zeus looks down on me, and says, “I will hold you to the standard you held others.” I can reply with confidence, “I did it myself for 70 years. I will freely admit I failed at times, but part of my standard is accepting that others will fail too!”

I agree that Christians should love their neighbors. Never said they shouldn’t. Just wonder why God can’t figure it out.

Thanks, again, for the response.

JCHFleetguy said...

God is fine with loving His neighbors and His enemies. He might have sent me by for that purpose.

My point is that the very core moral command you do not do - even the core natural law idea of giving what people deserve to them.

Again, we are not God. Probably the best short explanation is at the beginnings of Roman 2:

[after a laundry list of stuff designed to include everyone] Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,

Again, the distinction between God and us (He must judge) and why we cannot (we are guilty of the same crimes). We will not get far until we agree that God is not bound by the same rules - how can created and creator ever be bound by the same rules. How can your child's obligations to you ever be equal or identical to your obligations to your child - and you are not actually their creator.

We will also not get far if you think you have any right to judge God - or that by registering your complaint He may change His nature.

Of course the scripture you cited is proof that we are to try to be like Christ. And we are. The proof-texting comes in not citing the piles of scripture about us not ever making it - and the many implications of that.

And the first way to be like Christ - the core, the starting point, the "do this if nothing else" - is to "love God with your all" - love God the way Jesus loved God. Right down to sweating blood in anguish but still going to the cross. I notice that was not in your list of texts.

You are doing the opposite so on a "Christian morality" level you are as immoral as they come - you cannot even give to someone what they deserve from you.

Shane said...

If we are to love and forgive our enemies, why can’t God love and forgive His enemies?

The comments have, unfortunately, seemed to get off track, but the answer is very, very simple:

God does not command us to forgive the unrepentant. God will forgive anybody - who is repentant. He does not make a double standard.

Furthermore, you must be well aware that Christians regard love as love truly is, not as kindness, which is what folks nowadays tend to mean by love. I'm sure you've heard it before, but it is clear that a parent who never punished her children would not be showing them true love.

Please read The Limits of Forgiveness

This is my first stop here. So far, I've not been that impressed. I'm not saying this to be rude, I'm only stating a fact. You do seem dedicated, which is wonderful, but if all your arguements are of the same quality as what I've seen so far, then I'm very dissapointed.

yuckabuck said...

Whoah...almost afraid to bud in here.
I appreciate what you guys are trying to do here, and have bookmarked the site. I am not afraid to read arguments against my faith and am always grateful for anything that helps me to see the Bible in a truer light than my unconscious biases had before allowed me. Surely I will never read Numbers 31 the same again....
However, I must take issue with some of the biblical exegesis in this discussion, specifically about the duty to "imitate God." I must say that Dagoods's style of biblical interpretation seems to border on the fundamentalist style of "proof-texting." His request for a Christian to cite "verses" to disprove him may have been rhetorical, but it was perhaps unintentionally representative as well.
All of the comments above reflect a knowledge of systematic theology, philosophy and apologetics. I am no expert in these, but perhaps I can speak from the perspective of a biblical theologian who is more comfortable with discussing Hebrew culture and greek rather than foundationalism and such things.
The ethic that Jesus is shown in the Bible as commanding are what are sometimes called an "interim ethic" or a "between the times" ethic. Any theologian worth his/her salt will tell you that the context for EVERYTHING Jesus says is "The Kingdom of God is here." (Not just imminent, but "here already"- Matthew 12:28 means that this kingdom's presence is now here in some way. Of course, in what way the Kingdom is here now or will come later is one of the two most hotly debated topics in modern Jesus studies and even spills over into Time, Newsweek, etc.) At the same time, Jesus tells his followers to look for the Kingdom to come in final apocalyptic fury. When the biblical Jesus counsels non-retaliation and such, it is meant as directions for what to do between the times of "tasting" (Heb 6:4-5) the Kingdom's presence and seeing its final fullness. I have ineptly blogged about this in more detail elswhere at http://yuckabuck.blogspot.com/2005/12/purity-or-struggle-power-or-weakness.html
The other problem seems to be that many of the verses quoted by Dagoods above do not seem to be commanding an unqualified imitation of God, or are not strict commands to copy God. For example:
Luke 6:36 tells us to imitate God in his mercy, not in his non-mercy. So it may be true that God will show mercy to some and not to others (Romans 9:15-18), but this verse is only saying to copy the mercy instances. You may reject God's inconsistency in showing mercy, or complain that his ethic is lower than what he commands his followers, but that is a different argument.
1 Peter 1:16, 1 John 4:8, and 4:11 do not say that we are copying God at all; merely that "because" or "since" (Greek "hoti") God is or did such and such, then we should act thus and therefore. Also, since "holy" means "separate," then 1 Peter 1:16 merely says, "Be separate because I am separate." But the way that both parties are "separate" could conceivably differ.
Matthew 5:48 tells us to be "teleioi" as God is "teleios." I am told that the ancients had a different conception of "perfection" than we do. The word means something more like "complete" or "meeting its intended purpose," and is frequently translated "mature." In context, where Jesus has just said that God rains on just and unjust, he then says that his followers are "complete" when they also do good to just and unjust. Again, there is no blanket order here to imitate other aspects of God than the one feature mentioned. To do good only to friends is to be "incomplete."
Ephesians 5:1 takes up the various criticisms into one. First, it also is qualified in the previous verse (4:32) as well as the following (5:2). There is a conjunction in 5:1 that is not always translated ("oun," therefore) as well as another conjunction ("and") in 5:2. We are to forgive others because God forgave us...therefore imitate God (in forgiving) and live a life like Christ, which clearly refers to Jesus in his "earthly time."
Second, the "interim ethic" idea is in the background here and appears both before and after 5:1. In 4:30, we have been "sealed" (now), looking ahead to the day of redemption (future). Then 5:3 says that immoral or greedy people (now) will not inherit the Kingdom of God (future). Christians are to live a certain way (imitating God in forgiving and living a "life of love" like Christ) now because they have been put in a situation (kingdom has come) where their present actions have future repercussions (inheriting final kingdom).
Sorry for the length. But I must be honest that the biblical argumentation on this thread was thoroughly unconvincing to me. As I said, the Numbers 31 stuff was powerful, and the questioning of God's actions, ethics was also thought-provoking, and is probably the heart of Dagoods' complaint. But the whole line about Christians called to imitate God's ethic (including his Numbers 31 "justice") really fell flat to me. Since you are trying to maintain a high quality site here, I thought I should mention it. I hope I have cited "verses." Thanks.

yuckabuck said...

To Shane-
I have heard that we are only to forgive the repentant, but that wasn't Jesus' example on the cross. He asks God to forgive the unrepentant people who happened to be brutally murdering him at the time. Just sayin...

Shane said...

Yuckabuck, there is a key point here. Jesus asked the Father to forgive them not just because, but 'for they know not what they do.' Christ does not hold those accountable for what they, through no fault of their own, do not know. Even Jesus makes this plain, in John 15:22 - "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin."

Jesus prayers for them according to the same principles as John lays out in 1 John 5:16-17, where the apostle instructs that we pray for those whose sins are not unto death, and God will forgive them. However, as John writes, we ought not to pray for those whose sin is unto death. This is because only the personally repentant person can gain forgiveness for such sins. This is what the writer to the Hebrews speaks of in chapter 10 verse 26, where he says, "if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries." If a person knowingly and deliberately sins, his sin is unto death spiritually. Christ prays for the forgiveness of those who are crucifying them because they don't have any idea what they are doing, they are simply following orders.

DagoodS said...

JCHFleetguy – I love Romans 2. Paul has just spent 1/2 a chapter making all kinds of judgments about people. I imagine them just about to draw in their breath to respond, when he says, “But let’s not judge each other, O.K.?”

Still does not make 1 Cor. 6 go away. And John 5:22 says God doesn’t judge anyone, but rather God does!

I am glad that you see the scripture says we are to try to be like Christ. That was my point. If we are to try to be like Christ, and one of the recommended ways to do so is to Love one’s enemies, it is natural to presume Christ loves his enemies. Yet that is not what we see.

Are you saying that Christ is not being loving when he is in judging mode? This is the same God, that saw what the world was like, understood it was full of sinners, and, the Christian tells me, committed the greatest act of love by dying for it. Then he goes into Judging mode, and says, “What? They are a bunch of sinners? Fry them!”

Finally, if you are attempting to demonstrate that the Bible carves out an exception for how we can imitate God as to judging, shouldn’t the Bible also carve out an exception for how we can imitate God as to loving? If, as you are indicating, the Bible is carving out exceptions, and love is one of them, I would think this is a biggie to be stated. Yet it is not.



Shane, thank you. You make my point admirably. The site you provided states exactly what I am been questioning. It states that since the Bible says we do not have to forgive a non-repentant person, (Luke17:3) then it follows that God does not have to forgive a non-repentant person.

In the same way, the Bible states we are to love our enemies, (using your methodology) then it follows that God is to love His enemies.

If we don’t, God doesn’t. If we do, God does.

You also raise another excellent point, as well. You claim that Luke 17:3 limits forgiveness to only repentant people. That Luke 23:34 to knowing, repentant people. John 15:22 to knowing, repentant people that hadn’t seen Jesus. (Psst. You might want to talk to JCHFleetguy. He quoted Paul as saying “nature” is the reason men are without excuse. You are saying “Jesus” is the reason men are without excuse. Why is it that Paul didn’t use Jesus, I wonder?)

Not sure what to do about 1 John 5:16-17, since no one is real clear as to what a “sin unto death” is, and it doesn’t talk about forgiveness, but prayer. Heb. 10:26 talks about “sinning” in general, not a specific reason for non-forgiveness. And everybody sins deliberately, even after receiving the knowledge, so read literally, Heb. 10 would send everybody to hell. 1 John 3:6 also says that by living in Jesus, one stops sinning. Of course, this contradicts what it says earlier at 1 John 1:10.

You also forgot the sin of unbelief being unforgiven. John 3:16, Rev. 21:8. And of course, the big one-blaspheme of the Holy Spirit is unforgiven. Mark 3:29

BUT….

Immediately preceding Mark 3:29, in vs. 28, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.” That all seems pretty definite. Especially since He goes on to slice out the one exception. Mat. 12:31 confirms this. Luke is not quite so clear in Luke 12:8-10.

Further, Luke 11:4 says we are to forgive anyone who sins against us (may be “indebted”). Using your method of “if we have to, God has to” then God will as well. John the Baptist saw that Jesus was to take away the sin of the world. Jn. 1:29. 1 Jn. 2:2 says Christ’s death atoned the sins of the whole world.

So what do we do with this mess. If I blaspheme the Holy Spirit unknowingly, is it forgiven? Or if I know it, and repent, is it forgiven? If I sin unto death, unknowingly or later repent, is it forgiven? When Jesus says all the sins will be forgiven, should there be a footnote at “all” with a notation that “all” really means “all except all the exceptions found elsewhere”?

I am well-aware of “Scripture interprets Scripture.” I guess my point is, when I try and do so, applying “love your enemies” and how God loves, I am informed that I am “proof-texting” But when a Christian does it, it is “interpreting.” Unless, of course another Christian disagrees, in which case Christian number one will likewise be accused of “proof-texting.”

Of course we are unconvincing in our Biblical presentation. Christians have already determined they will “interpret” the Bible to mean what they want (and the thing is so contradictory, it is simple to do so) and any other statement is dismissed an incorrect interpretation, or proof texting.

Again. I can’t help it if your source of information lacks clarity as to its position. The subtle demonstration here, is that even Christians cannot align as to what their position is in this regard.

DagoodS said...

yuckabuck – thank you for the response. I chuckled a bit at your post. Not at you! But we have been informed in this site (and elsewhere) what seems like millions of times, that God is the sole absolute author of morality.

When I say, “O.K., then if he is the author of morality, we should follow his lead,” I am informed that we are to NOT imitate Christ. I can’t win! :-) Apparently he is the author of morality, but we have to figure out on our own as to what WE are to do, as moral or not. Almost like (gasp! Dare I say?) relative morality. Ephesians 5 goes on, after saying to imitate Christ that we are to “find out what pleases the Lord.” (Eph. 5:10)

On a more serious note, as to copying God, are we to imitate Christ or not? You make a definition without distinction by stating we “copy God as to HOW He is merciful, but not WHEN he is merciful.” Is that in Luke 6:36, or are you reading it in? Further, how can we tell when God is being merciful or not? Was killing baby boys and saving virgin girls “merciful”? I have seen it argued as such.

I did not follow your distinction on the other verses, either. You claim the verses “do not say that we are copying God at all…” and then you go on and say, “because or since God is or did such and such, then we should act thus and therefore.” But God’s “such and such” is the same as human’s “thus and therefore.” If we are to do it “because or since” God did it….how is this not copying? Oh, it doesn’t use the word, “copy” that I will grant you. But if it isn’t copying, what is it? Mimicking? Repeating? Xeroxing?

As to the difference between our “separate” and God’s “separate” this enters dangerous grounds. God’s holy is not like our holy. God’s love is not like our love. God’s judgment is not like our judgment. God’s mercy, justice, truth, and morality, is not like our mercy, justice, truth and morality. At this point, then, effective communication breaks down. To what value is it, to declare God loving, if it has no meaning and no relation to the human concept of love?

Isn’t the point of the Bible to communicate? To explain things (as best possible) to humans to obtain a relationship to God. What good is it, then for God to say, “I love you, but my word ‘love’ is nothing like your word ‘love’ so therefore you won’t have a clue what I am talking about.” I know that is a bit of hyperbole, but once we start saying God’s definitions are different than ours, we enter a world in which all communication breaks down. I have said it before, and I will say it again. It is of no value to have the following conversation:

Theist: God is square.
Atheist: So God has four sides and four right angles?
Theist: Not at all. God’s squareness is nothing like our squareness.
Atheist: Then why tell me God is square?

yuckabuck said...

Dagoods, thanks for the prompt reply! I may have not have been clear in places, as I was trying to be brief, and still get enough sleep. (I failed on both accounts.)

Your reply shows the same predilection for philosophical categories to take precedence over hermeneutics that I mentioned previously. That's fine. Indeed, interpreting Scripture does require the use at least of basic logic, so I am not saying that there is a sharp line between philosophy and exegetical theology. But I still must insist on the need for a better exegesis of texts. There is a science of exegesis that goes beyond a believer's simplistic "analogy of Scripture," which is a concept that is probably abused by Christians more than it is used wisely. And this is not an exercise that requires one to be a believer, or necessarily have "spiritual insight," being instead a strictly historical task engaged in by "believers" such as N.T. Wright to "unbelievers" as Elaine Pagels or Marcus Borg. Texts must be interpreted in light of their cultural assumptions, the text can never mean what its original hearers wouldn't understand, etc. etc.

(Rabit trail: If the science of exegesis is so basic, then why do the individuals named differ so markedly in their views? Engaging in historical/ literary criticism of the bible causes these individuals to dispute what parts of the bible should be used as data and what parts are "additions." These are the matters that spill over into Time magazine articles and the like.)

For example, you continue to press the equation that Jesus=God. That may create interesting arguments, such as whether or not Jesus approved of genocide in the Old Testament, but to impose it on the verses you mentioned is simply eisogesis. I was not reading something into Luke 6:36, though I think I skipped over it too fast. It is actually a parallel to the Matthew 5 verse we looked at. The point of the verse, from the context, again has to do with non-partiality. That is how we are to be merciful. Show mercy equally, as opposed to, say, showing more mercy to people born on Tuesdays, and less to those born on Fridays. To try to say that Christians are being told here to completely immitate God in showing mercy in some places and pouring out judgement in others just does not exegetically fly.

Again, I am not saying that the THEOLOGY of the trinity does not place Christians in a predicament with Old Testament atrocities. It certainly does. I have been questioning my faith, as I am frequently wont to do. And no, it actually doesn't "make me stronger," but it does keep me more honest. The atheist I work with can vouch for me. Your objections are strong on their own. They do not need the false support of this:

"Because Jesus=God,
and Christians are told to imitate Jesus and God,
therefore Christians are told to imitate God in his final judgement, or at least everything I think is an atrocity in the Old Testament."

The squares argument again seems to be framed in a way that would get the fundamentalists goat, but overlooks exegesis of texts in a historically credible way. (Granted that we are arguing over texts as they are accepted by Christians. If you argue that everything in the New Testament did not relate back to Jesus, but was added by the church; then the historical meaning of texts becomes irrelevant. You can then join the cacophony of debate among biblical theologians, join the Jesus Seminar, and get your name in Time magazine. And we wouldn't be having this particular discussion.) What I am saying is that the argument should look like this:
Biblical theologian: The bible says act like God when he acts like a square.
Atheist: But God acted like a circle on Wednesday.
B.T.: Yes, but he acted like a square on Tuesday, and that is what we are to imitate.
You may object that such a thing is inconsistent. I suppose you're right, but I'm not really interested in arguing about it now. But my point would stand that the above is what those bible verses are saying. This was a clever philosophical argument on your part, one that raises issues of epistemology and whether or not "God-talk" is meaningful. But it does not bear on the verses. Be a better handler of Scripture than most Christians, and you will be a force to be reckoned with.

The point of the Bible is not to completely explain the Christian life on its own, though many fundamentalist/cessationists now assert it. The point of the bible is to point to Christ. And Christians are clearly told to imitate the earthly life of Christ, as well as the leading of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-18), as they both combine to define an ethic for living "between the times." While whether or not "God is the (ultimate) author of morality" may be a crucial philosophical debate, it just does not bear on what historical "meaning" of the verses you quoted might be.

Sorry if I'm not into all the various philosophical fur-flying going back and forth, but it just doesn't hold my interest anymore. But even should I apostasize from the faith, I will always stand for correct historical exegesis of the bible, even if I did not believe it anymore.

DagoodS said...

yuckabuck – if you take time out of your busy schedule (we all have busy schedules) to frame a response, the least I can do is consider it and reply.

I also appreciate your indicating what methodology you use—historical exegesis, or as you state: “the text can never mean what its original hearer wouldn’t understand….” (I could tease this out by pointing out Jesus deliberately spoke so the original hearers wouldn’t understand (Mark 4:11-12) but we have plowed up enough snakes without needing that!)

The question, though, arises as to why it has be based upon the original hearer. Couldn’t an appropriate methodology also be that the text can never mean what the original author wouldn’t intend? Which can be an altogether different result!

A great example is the statement taken from Shakespeare, “First let’s kill the lawyers.” Most “hearers” understand this to be derogatory; negative against lawyers. However, taken in context, it is an anarchist, stating the first order of causing discord was killing lawyers. The speaker intended something different.

But assuming we use the hearer as the method, the next question that comes forward is—which hearer? I see four possible choices (but that doesn’t meant there are more, of course)

1. The original hearers when Jesus is alleged to have said this.
2. The hearers when Luke 6:36 was an oral tradition. (Luke obtains this second hand. Depending on one’s resolution of the synoptic problem, this would be the hearers of an oral tradition, the hearers of “Q” or the hearers of Matthew.)
3. The hearers when Luke wrote it.
4. The hearers of anyone who reads it.

I would be more than happy to apply your methodology, but except for the elimination of option four (I think), I do not know which “original hearer” you meant. Also, the elimination of number four creates a bit of a problem as to how to determine what is valid today and what is not.

But even with that, it becomes speculation to determine when this statement originated, to what community it was promulgated, and what that community would have understood. We don’t know when Luke was written, where he got this saying from, to whom he was writing, and when it was written. All of this is a matter of debate, and argumentation.

You seem to be claiming that Luke 6:36 “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” is applicable to the “how” God is merciful, not the “where, when or why” God is merciful. What I see, frankly, is that this is going to be very difficult to proof out that the hearers, regardless with whether you use Hearers 1, 2 or 3, understood this to be “how” and not “when, where or why.” We are speculating as to who the hearers even are, let alone what they understand, and certainly as to understanding to this specificity!

Show mercy equally, as opposed to, say, showing more mercy to people born on Tuesdays, and less to those born on Fridays. But according to Romans 2:11, God does not show favoritism, and, pursuant to James 2:1, neither should we. Again, the when, where and why of God appears to be the same as we should apply.

Using your methodology, can you demonstrate that the heares of Rom. 2:11 were to understand that they were to not show favoritism as to How God does not show favoritism, but not the why?

To try to say that Christians are being told here to completely immitate God in showing mercy in some places and pouring out judgement in others just does not exegetically fly.

Oh, I agree. But it leaves us in confusion as to what is means for us to love our enemies, when it appears God does not. Do we have differing morals as God? Can we exhibit love better than He can? And we are placed in a position of guessing as to what is moral, merciful, holy, loving and perfect. As I pointed out before.

Another problem that is left on the table, and difficult to narrow down. What is merciful from God’s standpoint? “Mercy” is the deliberate decision to not apply a law. It is the exact opposite of justice, which is strict adherence to the law. I have no idea of God is doing something merciful or not, because I have no way to independently verify the law to see if He is following it or not! If I recall correctly, Geisler, in responding to the genocides of the Tanakh in Strobel’s books (I borrowed them, and do not have them as a reference. Sorry.) said that these killings were “merciful” in that the children were going to grow up and go to hell.

So is this even a “how” in your methodology, and not a “when” that mercy should be applied?

Here, another example. John 3:18. Whoever believes on Jesus is not condemned. Whoever does not is condemned. O.K., we now have a law. It is “just” for God to impose this law. Does God ever exert mercy in this area? God determines as to who will be barred from heaven. Rev. 21:8. Is this following a law, or does he exert mercy in this area? Rom. 11:32 says, oddly, that God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

O.K. If God is going to have mercy on his enemies, what will it be? Can we start to see why there are universalists?

The point of the Bible is to point to Christ. Great. And we are to imitate Christ. (Please note I do not take that to the extremes, such as requiring us to be virgin born, or become stone masons, or ride two animals.) Christ said “love your enemies.” Will Christ, as God, have mercy on all, and love his enemies or not?

To be fair, the fur-flying philosophical arguments only hold my interest so long as well. I like the fact that you at least propose a methodology. I think, though, more work would need be done as to they “why” of that methodology, and even then, it will be very difficult (due to our lack of information) to employ. And when I apostatized from the faith, part of it was the realization how difficult it is to figure out a “correct” historical exegesis. Primarily the lack of a valid methodology to determine facts from myth.

Shane said...

Shane, thank you. You make my point admirably. The site you provided states exactly what I am been questioning. It states that since the Bible says we do not have to forgive a non-repentant person, (Luke17:3) then it follows that God does not have to forgive a non-repentant person.

In the same way, the Bible states we are to love our enemies, (using your methodology) then it follows that God is to love His enemies.

If we don’t, God doesn’t. If we do, God does.


My methodology is most certainly not that God's actions are dependant on ours. We must love our enemies, but if we fail to do as we ought, this does not mean God will. The refernces you make from the site are being misrepresented. The point that the site makes is that we cannot be held to a higher standard than God, not that God must be held to the same standard as us.

Sin unto death is what the Catholic Church calls mortal sin - sin which causes the spiritual death of the soul. This is an entirely different arguement, but I would most certainly agree with you, at least in a limited sense, that a faith based solely on the Bible simply cannot stand up.

1 John 3:6 does not say that a Christian will never sin. It says that nobody who remains in Christ sins habitually. The word translated as 'sins' in 1 John 3:6 is hamartano, a progressive present verb. The tense indicates that the word refers to habitual sin, not any or all individual sins. You may argue that many Christians do sin habitually. This is true. However, they do not remain in Him. Those whom sin habitually are cut off from the vine that is Christ. This too references what Catholic Theology refers to as mortal sin.

John 3:16 and Rev 21:8 do not say that the sin of unbelief is unforgivable. They say simply that unbelief is a sin. Should a person come to belief, it most assuredly may be forgiven.

There is no problem with Christ saying that "all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them." I may build a soup kitchen and say that "all the hunger of men will be eliminated." Of course I mean I will eliminate all the hunger of all men who come to the kitchen, just as Christ means that all the sins of all those who come to Him will be forgiven.

Christ's death did atone for the sins of the whole world. This is what theologians refer to as full atonement. The sacrifice of Christ did atone for the forgiveness of all - there is infinite forgiveness. However, this forgiveness can only be obtained by those who seek it through repentence. I may say that my bank account will pay for all the debts of the whole world. If I have enough money in it and am willing to pay the debts of any who ask, then I am telling the truth. I may even have more than enough money to pay all the debts. However, I will only be able to pay for those who come to me and ask.

JCHFleetguy said...

I am hesitant to approach your questions since you have ignored mine - but I guess i am a sucker for a stupid argument:

I love Romans 2 (link goes to 1:18 - 2:3). Paul has just spent 1/2 a chapter making all kinds of judgments about people.

Let's get a definition, at least for me, down. Judgement implies sentencing to me; or at least the ability to convict prior to the sentence - and of course a specific criminal. So, I see no judgement of any people in the last half of Romans 1. I see Paul talking in socio-historical language about God "giving people over" (in my mind, allowing them to just be themselves - how liberal) to myriad types of foolishness because they chose to ignore God and practice idolatry. Paul is examining the human condition, and giving enough examples of moral stupidity that no reader could feel left out. I am convinced that if he thought anyone was left out, he would have added more examples. There is no body that he judges here - he actually doesn't even say that everyone who exhibited, say, "disobedience to parents" is included in his comments. Someone could have a godly reason to disobey their parents.

The bottom line is that Paul does not present the laundry list at the end of chapter 1 as sins to be judged; but the result of God allowing us to act ("given over to") in the ways shown because the human race turned to idols instead of God. These are our "thorns" to be overcome in our Christian life. It strikes me as almost an analysis of how "original sin" actually looks.

I imagine them just about to draw in their breath to respond, when he says, “But let’s not judge each other, O.K.?”

Exactly, we are all afflicted with some or all of the foolishness in chapter 1 - so get some humility. Again, we are not in a position to sit in the judgement seat of God, or even to act as His representatives in judgement, because we are all a mess. No one is good, not one.

Still does not make 1 Cor. 6 go away.

The comment string got long. What am I trying to make "go away" in I Cor 6? That "the saints" will judge "angels" and "the world"? I have never taken that (or heard it said in any other way) to mean anything other than during the 1000 year reign of Christ - after believers have been taken up with Christ into the heavens and brought back to reign. Some transformation might occur in that process :-) (Matt 19:28 - twelve Apostles only; Rev 20:4). Nothing in all of that implies that we still living with our sin natures have any right to judge on God's behalf.

Or that we should take our legal cases to the church rather than the secular courts? That's a good idea. Kind of a junior level warm-up to the 1000 year reign. Do you have a problem with Christians submitting their legal problems to other Christians instead of secular courts?

Or do you mean his statements in verses 9-10 that certain folk will not inherant the Kindgom of God? Is this Paul's judgement, or revealed statement of God's judgement? If I tell you that murderers will go to prison and perhaps be executed am I judging murderers - or just stating the nature of the law and its consequences.

And John 5:22says God doesn’t judge anyone, but rather God does!

Your substitution of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit for each other is cute - and I actually do it a little myself; but the three personalities in the single Godhood have always implied different job descriptions (see here, here, here and/or here). What you see as a great "problem" is really just clarification of the roles for Christians. I am not sure why you even brought it up.

I am glad that you see the scripture says we are to try to be like Christ. That was my point. If we are to try to be like Christ, and one of the recommended ways to do so is to Love one’s enemies, it is natural to presume Christ loves his enemies. Yet that is not what we see.

This is where you simply want to ignore what I have already said and restate what I (and others) have pointed out to be false.

First, the command to love our neighbors and even our enemies doesn't mention doing this because Christ does it, or God does it. This is our job. I have mentioned that we are not God - and however hard we try to follow Him we will not. This is what you want to ignore. Love God with your all (for you "any" would be a step forward); and your neighbor as yourself - and then you can perhaps get in God's face over how He handles stuff.

Second, God did love His enemies in a profound way - while we were still His enemies He sent His son that we might be His friends. Does our creator owe us anymore than that? Or really even that much? God can do with His enemies as He pleases; and I can do to my enemies as He commands. Really pretty simple unless you think you are in charge and are calling God in on the carpet to "splain" Himself.

Finally, Christ showed righteous anger toward desecretion of God's house a couple of times - but when did Jesus show hatred of His enemies? At the cross, when He asked God to forgive them in their stupidity?

There is only a contradiction here because you think you are a god, as Satan suggested to Adam and Eve would be the result of the fruit they ate. You got the poison - find the antidote. Quick.

Are you saying that Christ is not being loving when he is in judging mode? This is the same God, that saw what the world was like, understood it was full of sinners, and, the Christian tells me, committed the greatest act of love by dying for it. Then he goes into Judging mode, and says, “What? They are a bunch of sinners? Fry them!”

This is actual nonsense. God says we will fry over two issues (at least after Jesus's advent):

First, failure to accept the free gift of grace offered through His Son's death. He let you off the hook for all the sin - and you spit in His face. It is not your sin that will burn you, but you absolute arrogance and rebellion in the face of the resurrection. Good luck though - maybe universalism or annihilationism will be true. I mean this sincerely. I do wish the best for you. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity in the chapter on Forgiveness:

my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my, enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life - namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.


Now, as much as I do not think God is required to deal with His enemies the way I am - I think this is exactly how God and Christ loved their enemies. Christ went to the extent of becoming a victim in order to give us a chance to "be cured and made human again"

Second, blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Few even agree on what this means. I tend to the "ascribing the work of Satan/demons to the Holy Spirit". Probably agnostics and athesists are pretty safe from this one.

Finally, if you are attempting to demonstrate that the Bible carves out an exception for how we can imitate God as to judging, shouldn’t the Bible also carve out an exception for how we can imitate God as to loving? If, as you are indicating, the Bible is carving out exceptions, and love is one of them, I would think this is a biggie to be stated. Yet it is not.

I have seen no exceptions on judging, or loving, so this is again kinda nonsense.

DagoodS said...

Shane – what is the difference between a Christian that continues to commits sins and a Christian that habitually sins? Is this a definition without distinction?

I do not know Greek grammar. Is the tense for hamartano the same for the first occurrence and the second in vs. 6? What about vs. 8 in 1 Jn. 3? Or 1 Jn. 5:18?

I looked at your site. It did imply that we did not have to forgive repentant sinners, and then immediately makes the statement that God does not. If I incorrectly followed one thought to the next, I honestly don’t see how.

Rev. 21:8 is pretty clear that unbelievers are one of eight groups of people that will be tossed into the Lake of Fire. That is being forgiven?

Bit of a problem with your bank account analogy. You aren’t God. If you were, and you had such a bank account, and you wanted to pay the debts of the world, what would stop you? Nothing. That’s one of the perks of being God. Apparently, if this is how God works, he only wants (or is only able) to save those that perform a work—asking.

Salvation by works (even if it is as minimal as asking) kinda kills the whole “Grace” thing. Rom. 11:6

DagoodS said...

JCHFleetguy – I went back and looked at your posts. I did not see a direct question that I missed. However, it is certainly possible that you implied a question with a statement that I DID miss. If so, give me a frame of reference, couple of words, and I will go back and re-read it. Thanks.

Yes, I see the difference between our definitions of “judging.” I define it as making a determination about someone. Like, “You run faster than I,” or “I am a better Christian than you.” That is why, it amuses me that Paul, in Romans 1 gives a determination that people actually know there is a God (they don’t) and that their thinking before futile (it doesn’t) and their hearts were darkened (they weren’t)

I do not see “judgment” as being limited to only those persons in a judicial position to make convictions, but rather as applying to everyone. Luke 6:37, for example, seems broadly applied. Persons in a judicial, convicting position, for example, are not in a position to “forgive.”

But clearly, if we are using two different definitions of “judgment” then we would be talking past each other. Forgive me, but please, also understand, that in talking to yuckabuck, I am would be trying to figure out what “judging” meant to a First Century Roman Jew, I tend to use “judging” as my Christian background was wont to do, and you, in a slightly different form of Christianity, define it another way.

I sure would be a whole lot easier if Christians around the world agreed on the same terms. But they don’t. Which can make conversations sometimes inaccurate.

Oh, and Paul had more examples in Galatians 5:19-21. Drunkenness, discord, dissensions, selfish ambitions, factions, “and the like.” (Kinda catch all.)

1 Cor. 6:2-3. “And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!”

While, in talking of “judging the world” or “judging angels” I could see where this would be discussing future events. But the point Paul is trying to make is that, if Christians will be doing these great big judgments, certainly they can judge now. I don’t see how this can ALL be interpreted as future events. Especially, since in vs. 4, Paul goes on to say “appoint Judges” in the church. I doubt you are saying churches should be appointing Judges just to be ready in case the 1000-year reign starts tomorrow, and they were unprepared!

Do you have a problem with Christians submitting their legal problems to other Christians instead of secular courts? Lol! Already in place. There are “Christian” Arbitration Associations, created precisely because of 1 Cor 6:1-8. The reason I place “Christian” in quotes, is that they are comprised of Christian arbitrators, and both participants must claim that they are Christians. Although they can use any type of lawyer, Jewish, atheist or Christian. The law is the same as the state, so the only “Christian” thing about it is the declaration of faith of those involved. Like a “Christian” Hardware store. There are not sanctified screwdrivers and justified jack-hammers, just an owner that happens to be a Christian.

I don’t know how well they do (I was only peripherally involved in one once.) Most Christians that I know of don’t WANT their legal matters taken before other Christians. Don’t trust them!

I brought up John 5:22, because I was being (obviously, too) subtle. You indicated that God sits in the Judgment seat. Which one? You indicate the three personalities, but this trinity business gets mess. Jesus clearly states, that of the three, the Father “judges no one.” And that the son (Jesus) will do all the judging. 1 Cor. 6 (and Rev. 20:4) says that saints will do some judging. Rev. 21:11-12 says God the Father will do Judging. (cf. Rev. 5:6-7)

If Jesus makes a distinction as to God the Father, and God the Son doing judging, yet both are God, and Rev. contradicts John, we end up in a mess. The Christian can pick who is judging or not, depending on the verse they want. Yet another contradiction.

First, the command to love our neighbors and even our enemies doesn't mention doing this because Christ does it, or God does it.

The error is in the word “because.” It doesn’t have to mention it. Can’t we use scripture to interpret Scripture?

1. We are to love as God loves, true? (To the best of our ability.)
2. We are to love our enemies, right?
3. It is therefore, reasonable to presume that God loves his enemies.

Otherwise, God is holding us to different standard than He has. A standard that HE says is a greater one! It is more to one’s credit to love their enemies than to love those that love one back.

And curiously, you go on to say, “God loves his enemies.” Great. Then he will “do good to them” including me. Somehow I don’t see an eternal lake of fire as “doing good.” Or does God only have to love his enemies so far? Less than we do?

Really pretty simple unless you think you are in charge and are calling God in on the carpet to "splain" Himself.

I do not think I am in charge. Not by a long shot. Nor do I feel this is “calling God on the carpet.” However, I most certainly can ask God to explain himself, test that and question it more. He tells me to! “Test everything. Hold on to what is good.” 1 Thess. 5:21. Couldn’t be more clear. I see no exclusion for God in that statement.

Not sure how I “spit in God’s face.” I have reviewed the facts of the claimed resurrection. They are unbelievable. Have you “spit in the face” of Zeus? Of course not, you don’t believe in him. You don’t think you have “spit in the face” of the Mormon God, the Muslim God, the Hindu God, the Native American Spirit, the Aztec God. You have done your research (I assume) and the evidence fails to compel you as to those god(s) existence. If I told you that you have spit in the face of Anubis, would that move you much? I think not.

If God feels that by the use of my brain, and the review of the facts as they exist cause me to conclude Vishnu does not exist is admirable, but the same use to conclude the resurrection did not occur, then so be it. If his feelings are so thin that he considers this “spitting in his face” then I cannot help it.

I agree with you on blaspheme of the Holy Spirit. Both on what it is, and that we atheists and agnostics are safe. :-)

Can we imitate God in the area of Judging or not? If we can’t, what other areas are we to NOT imitate God?

JCHFleetguy said...

We get closer - which is always a pleasure.

Scripture can indeed, and must, interpret scripture; and all commands in scripture do not rest on the same basis. Your logic triplet fails there: we are to love our neighbors and enemies as we love ourselves - not as God loves. So point one, the basis of your premise, is false. Of course, I think I have said God did love His enemies - but that is not why we are to love our enemies.

And, Lewis's analogy is correct. I do not have to "go good" to my enemies - I just have to wish for them the best. The Jews in Nazi concentration camps didn't have to "do good" for their guards and executioners - just try to wish they would become human again.

Hey, I am a Natural Law kinda guy - first and second tablet - and you specifically did know (and left Christianity) and I think Paul is correct - the world does know. We can leave that on the table as unresolved. You personally being a Christian and backing out is the basis for the "spit on the face" comment.

We, however, agree about testing our beliefs intellectually.

JCHFleetguy said...

Couple of things I missed in my hurry:

I said that the church judging the brethens civil issues was a minor league warmup to the 1000 year reign. I agree - there are areas where Paul said we should begin to act as judges. Notice not all of us - but elders/pastors/etc. I am sure he would say those spiritually gifted in this area. Traditionally, the first thing a community of humans always had to do was establish judges for disputes between them. I think this is a far cry from the direction not to judge in Romans 2. Of course, if we are going to take Revelations literally then the dead in Christ and the living church has been taken up to be with Christ and come back down with Him to establish his earthly Kingdom. I assume some transformation takes place and God will pick who judges the nations and not the local church.

I think that difference is seen in your two cases. Of course, it only takes a finish line or a stop watch to know who runs faster. To know who is the better Christian requires seeing into the heart and viewing them as God views them - which only God can do. One the church elders could judge, the other they couldn't.

We certainly can view people's actions and know they are disruptive, drunken, rebellious, cause dissention, etc. - we can be "fruit inspectors". I think that direction to inspect fruit creates the distinction about judgement that I see. To see that someone does, or does not, have the fruit of the spirit externally - and therefore know how you want to deal with them - is different than judging where their heart actually is.

You will rightly say this is a fine line that Christians cross way to often - agreed absolutely. Where do I see the line crossed? People screaming murderer at a women entering an abortion clinic. People telling folks they are going to hell because they are gay. Me saying you should burn, rather than being concerned and warning you might burn. Jesus is standing at that gate and will allow in whom He chooses for whatever reason He chooses - and I, like God, should not want to see anybody perish. If I am happy in thinking that someone gets to go to hell, then the line is crossed.

I would be personally estatic if universalism is true. I just see no reason to believe it is.

JCHFleetguy said...

Oh, yes I have indeed spit in the face of vishnu, zeus, and the god/goddess of wicca.

If I die and find one of them on the judgement seat - I am dead meat.

you pays your money and you takes your chances.

DagoodS said...

JCHFleetguy, I think we are at that point of impasse, perhaps? Two quick points:

Love for enemies Where is the verse that says we are to “love our enemies as ourselves?” This is a combination of Luke 6 and Luke 10. (Or Galatians 5, if you want.) Luke 6 requires, in loving an enemy to “do good” toward them.

I understand your human limitation in “doing good,” but God has no such limitation, true? But even then, you concede God loves his enemies. If so, based upon how God has defined Loving one’s enemies in Luke 6, how can he provide the atonement for all sins (fulfilling his requirement of “justice”) and then not “do good” by withholding it from some? Or is God simply “wishing the best”? God wishes something, but cannot fulfill it?

If God wishes that I do not go to hell, God loves me enough to fulfill His own requirement to keep me out of Hell, and God’s death provided atonement for all the sins of the world--how can I possibly end up in Hell? Unless you say that God wishing for something else, say “free will” trumps his wish to not send people to hell. In which case “doing good” is allowing free will? He doesn’t want to torture me forever, but granting me free will for a few years is more important?

I guess I am still looking for the verse that says we should NOT love (to the best of our ability) as God loves. And what the limitation is on our love.

Judging You say: To see that someone does, or does not, have the fruit of the spirit externally - and therefore know how you want to deal with them - is different than judging where their heart actually is. A nice sentiment. However, the Bible contradicts this. Gal. 5:19-21 is a list of “fruit” at which the end, Paul states specifically that anyone who practices these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. He certainly did not pull punches about “where their heart is.” As I pointed out (what seems a long time ago) in Romans 1, when we started off this line, at vs. 21 Paul says where their heart actually is. See also Rom. 2:5.

I am glad you attempt to exercise the difference. Since Paul did not, though, many Christians do not feel they have to, either.

JCHFleetguy said...

We were probably at an impasse before we started :-)

I agree that I combined those. I think "enemies" serves as one of those definitions of "neighbor". Since all the laws and prophets hang on the "Jesus Creed" I think I can "get away with" saying that.

Again, I hope universalism is true. For it to be, the Bible would have to be scizophenic (well, have multiple personality disorder actually) which is probably your point - but I have serious reasons for it not being mine. So, I have to find a way to tie God's love and desire to do good to the obvious references to hell on the part of Christ. Atheists and agnostics reject the whole thing as internally inconsistent. Liberal theologians love scissors and white-out. I prefer atheists and agnostics in that frankly. Probably something about hot or cold and not lukewarm in Revelations. Frankly, the Book does hold together (and has for 2000 years) and I think the honest two choices are to reject it in whole or accept it in whole. Avoiding its inherant and mind-bending difficulties is just lazy in my view.

Of course, I believe that God did indeed "set Himself up" in "making us in His image" with free will. Also, I see no reason that it is contradictory that God chose that path for humans. Could He have done otherwise? That is a useless question. He didn't want robots - and I can understand that.

A view I like although it isn't Biblical is that Satan's rebellion came for just this reason. If God was stupid enough to make us in His image and give us free will, then Satan had to be able to do a better job of running the store.

The Galatians "bad fruit" are all activities/behaviors; and of course he points out "good fruit". In 1 John, John again tries to define some ways we can tell whether someone sincerely is a Christian (love for the other Christians). There is of course the assumption that the death of the "old man" and birth of the new should be transformational - that Christ in us should change us. That is reasonable and hence "fruit inspection".

However, I think Romans 2 is still different. The language in Romans 1 is socio-historical - this happened a long time ago to humans in general - and that list is, as I said, kind of a way we are all screwed up (pick yours). So Paul says, "yeah, all this is bad and God will deal with it" but also "hey, you do the same stuff so don't think your different". In other words, get off your high horse.

Somewhere in that tension is where I see I have to live. Again, no scissors, no white-out, not easy.

Finally, I see no verse that says we are to love as God loves. We are to love God with our all; but our neighbor as ourselves. That is two different levels of committment. And as Jesus said, do that and you will be just fine.

Josh (joshster@epals.com) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan Marvin said...

He is the judge of the universe, dude. You can’t let lawbreakers go free, that would be anarchy! Try that in our courts, ‘well, you raped and killed so we are going to give you $200 for your troubles and send you on your way. The rest of the article talks about how we should love everyone while God can punish…exactly! We are evil and not fair at all but God is. He is morally sound and we are morally bankrupt.

Beautiful Feet said...

There is so much to say here, but to put it as succinctly as possible, the "god" you are discussing is an idol who is bound and obedient to human projections and designed to appease and enable our misconceptions of the divine. I believe in scripture the name of this idol is Baal.

To approach scripture as a solely literal work keeps ppl blinded to the process of maturity and deliverance. In Paul's writings there is demonstration of both deliverance from his legalistic upbringing (his writings start out from a more territorial religious stance)and a progression/maturation of his faith.

Also, Jesus approaches the lost with a prophetic approach - with language that will potentially appeal/relate/intervene and ultimately save them.

Many religious fall to the temptation of moral conceit so I believe God's main objective is to move towards human heartedness and grace. And there is grace for ppl to develop a preference for light or dark.

To eliminate these processes of grace, maturation or deliverance results in a corrupted view of Christ.

3M

isom kuade said...

This has definitely been one of the better dialogues here. Great post and great comments on both sides (of the ones who are actually dealing w/ the arguments).

Bronxboy47 said...

Anonymous: You see, God is holy no matter what He does, and no finite human can stand in judgement of His acts....



Well, there you have it in a nutshell. You have effectively eliminated every reason for obeying this God other than abject fear of horrendous reprisal. If anything that God does is holy, then he can lie about his plans for us and still be holy. He can lie about his own nature and still be holy. We have absolutely no reason to trust a God who transends the basic human consensus--incomplete and evolving as it may be--of what is "good".

Mysterium Tremendum said...

I don't think I'm suppose to be like God in every way. In fact it's impossible to be like God in everyway. Moreover. when I try to play God and be like Him in every way it leads to pride and arrogance. God is in a category all by Himself. There's ways I'm to be like God and ways I'm not to be like God.

God is all-knowing I'm not

God is self-sufficient I'm not

God is in control I'm not

God is all-powerful I'm not

God is everywhere at once I'm not

God's ways are the ways of infinite wisdom and knowledge mine aren't

I'm humbled in believing that there's a God and I'm not like Him in everyway.

Bronxboy47 said...

You can dress up nonsense in Latin and it's still nonsense. Mysterium Tremendum indeed!

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I don't see the nonsense at all. God alone is God. I'm not God. I'm finite and limited. He's infinite and unlimited. There's a huge distance between me and God.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium Tremendum: When you blithely declare that you fail to see the nonsense, you're not telling me anything I don't already know.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium Tremendum,

If your God can behave like a demon and still be holy, how can you be sure he's not a demon? The entire structure of your religion could be one vast demonic plot. By your own admission, the God you worship isn't obligated to treat you fairly or to tell you the truth, and yet you insist you have every reason to trust him. As far as I'm concerned that's madness.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I don't think my God behaves like a demon. He does allow evil and suffering but He has a morally justifiable reason for allowing it. I trust God because He's all-powerful and all-wise and all-knowing and He promises to work everything together for my good. No matter what happens I can rest content that He will work it for my good. He knows what's best in His infinite wisdom.

Bronxboy47 said...

Sorry, my last post was meant to be addressed to "Anonymous".


As for Mysterium Tremendum: "He is in a category all by himself. He alone is God."


And you know this how? Because a God who is so transcendentally holy he isn't under the slightest obligation to deal fairly with you nor to tell you the truth has told you so? Good luck with that.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium Tremendum:

If you agree with Anonymous that "God is holy no matter what he does", then your faith in such a God is seriously misplaced. Such a God is under no obligation to keep faith with you. Of course you will recoil from such a possibility, telling yourself God couldn't possibly be that cruel--despite countless indications that he could--but what is cruelty to an utterly holy God?

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

God promises to never leave me or forsake me. He is holy and therefore He keeps His promises. Nothing can snatch me out of His hand. Since He is holy and keeps His promises I can trust Him. He doesn't do evil things. He allows evil things to happen with good intentions and morally justifiable reasons and He promises to work all things together for my good. When my future is in the hands of an all-wise, all-powerful, all-knowing God who promises to work all things together for my good I am free to take any risk that love demands-no matter the cost.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium Tremendum: You are merely regurgitating Sunday school pablum. You are clinging to the Disney-fied version of God. You seem to believe that God's holiness obligates him to keep his promises, when in fact, it does just the opposite. God's holiness places him beyond the reach of our human expectations of honesty, justice and fair play. Who are we, mere creatures, to call him to account for anything he does or fails to do?

Shane said...

I often describe myself as a Christian Atheist. The Christian Atheist does not "follow Jesus", she uses the stories and cultural concepts of Christianity as a framework for organising her thoughts, but those thoughts are not dependent on that.

Jesus was not perfect; he had some completely ridiculous ideas. But he did tell some good stories (like the Good Samaritan, illustrating, of all things, the corrosive immorality of religious belief!).

The Church of Jesus Christ Atheist was established specifically to look at these issues. It has been a bit quiet lately, but come on over and warm it up a bit :-)

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I never said God is obligated to be merciful to me. I don't think God is obligated to be merciful. But He has freely chosen to give it to me. He has promised me future grace. When I was speaking of God's holiness in this context I was referring to His moral purity not His transcendent majesty. I believe that God is the Holy Other and that His ways are the ways of infinite wisdom but He doesn't do evil. He allows evil and He has morally justifiable reasons for allowing evil. A scripture that supports this is found in Genesis when Joseph was sold into slavery.

Genesis 50:20

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.


The intentions on the part of man were evil and God held them responsible for their evil deed. Yet the actions on the part of God were good in allowing the evil. His intentions were good and He had a morally justifiable reason for allowing it.So, God did nothing wrong by allowing the evil.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Also, the question about God judging sinners. The way I see it is that God is perfect and therefore He has the right to judge. I'm not perfect and therefore I don't have the right to judge. Whoever has no sin cast the first stone. God being God has rights and prerogatives that I don't have.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium Tremendum: "I don't think god is obligated to be merciful to me"

Oh but you do. You believe God must conform to your human understanding of "moral purity" by keeping his promise. But, if anything that God does is holy (or morally pure) he is obviously not bound by your understanding of what is morally pure. Your God is a law unto himself. No matter what he does, he is beyond being questioned or held accountable.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

God has freely given me His promise of future grace. He wasn't obligated to do so.

Bronxboy47 said...

You steadfastly refuse to face the fact that, having given you a promise, he is not under any moral obligation to keep it. He is a law unto himself. After all, you are worshiping a God who thinks finite offense merits infinite punishment. That's an idea that bears no relationship to what any rational person considers just. And once divine irrationality enters the picture all bets are off.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I agree that God is under no obligation to keep His promise. But He freely chooses to do so anyway. And for eternal torment. I'm not sure the bible teaches it. I think a good case can be made for annihilationism. From what I've read the fires of hell are eternal and it's where the worm never dies. The lake of fire is the punishment of eternal fire where ungodly humans will suffer for awhile and then go extinct.

Jude 7-

Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities....serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (ESV)

2 Peter 2:5

If by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. (ESV)


Sodom and Gomorrah serve as an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly. They will suffer eternal punishment, be turned to ashes and condemned to extinction. Indeed, Malachi prophesies that the righteous will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of their feet.

Malachi 4:1-3

For behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evil doers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of Hosts, so that it will neither leave them root nor branch.
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in it's wings....And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act says the Lord of Hosts. (ESV)

Then in Ezekiel 28:18-19 we read of the prophecy of the final doom of the prince of Tyre. He will be no more forever.

Ezekiel 28:18-19

So I brought fire out from your midst; it consumed you and I turned you to ashes on the earth....you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever. (ESV)

Indeed, all wicked people are doomed to destruction forever:

Psalms 92:7

That though the wicked sprout like grass and all evil does flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever. (ESV)

The two strongest scriptures against this view come from the book of Revelation. Revelation 14:9-12 and Revelation 20:10. But when we compare scripture with scripture the problem vanishes.

Isaiah 34:8-10 states:

For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompence for the cause of Zion. And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur, and her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; it's smoke shall go up forever. (ESV)

Notice that the text says that the smoke of Edom will ascend forever even though Edom was completely destroyed and annihilated. Obviously Edom isn't still burning today. It's best to interpret this to mean that Edom's destruction was irreversable. Although it was completely destroyed and annihilated it's smoke is said to rise forever. This is also true with the ungodly who will be condemned to extinction in the book of Revelation:

Revelation 14:9-12

And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, those who worship the beast and his image, and who recieves the mark of his name. (ESV)

The text doesn't say the wicked will be tormented forever. Only that they have no rest day or night and that the smoke of their torment rises forever. This passaege is clearly taken from Isaiah 34. Just as Edom was destroyed so shall the wicked be destroyed even though their smoke will ascend forever.

End pt. 1

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Pt. 2

The only passage that talks about being tormented forever is in Revelation 20 where the beast, false prophet, and satan are said to be tormented forever and ever. One way of looking at this text is to say that satan and his angels will be tormented forever and ever. After all, hell was created for satan and his angels. It tells us in Mathew 25: 41-46:

Then He will say to those on his left, depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels....And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (ESV)

So, while satan and his angels will be tormented forever human beings will suffer the punishment of eternal fire but will go extinct. In fact the Bible explicitly tells us in Matthew 10:28:

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (ESV)

The other way of interpreting the forever and ever in Revelation 20 would be to interpret it symbolically, as I already noted, from how it was originally written in Isaiah 38: 4-10:

For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompence for the cause of Zion. And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur, and her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; it's smoke shall go up forever. (ESV)

Again the passage says that Edom's smoke shall ascend forever but clearly Edom has stoped burning and it's smoke is no longer going up. The passage could be speaking symbolically of destruction that will be irresversable. In fact the passage in Ezekiel 28 could not only be describing the complete annihilation of the prince of Tyre but has also been taken by scholars as a prophecy concerning Satan:

Ezekiel 28:13-19

“You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I exposed you before kings,
to feast their eyes on you.
By the multitude of your iniquities,
in the unrighteousness of your trade
you profaned your sanctuaries;
so I brought fire out from your midst;
it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
in the sight of all who saw you.
All who know you among the peoples
are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
and shall be no more forever.”

So, it's possible that even Satan will be completely destroyed in the end.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

You understand, of course, that your interpretation of the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment flies in the face of centuries of mainstream biblical exegesis and church teaching, and places you squarely in the minority camp.


I have long since give up playing the competing bible verses game. Perhaps there is something to predestination after all, and we are all predestined to interpret the bible according to our own predestined natures. You are certain God cannot operate outside of the box your interpretation of the bible has place him in--no matter that the vast majority of Christians have never interpreted the bible as you do. But you're convinced (or merely hope) that your interpretation is the correct one. Keep a firm grip on your "blankie", it's sure to be a bumpy ride.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Bronxboy 47 wrote: "But you're convinced (or merely hope) that your interpretation is the correct one."

While a crowd stood around Jesus, He asked them, "Who do you say I am?" Each person had a different answer and only one was chosen as being able to clearly see Jesus for Who He was. Now Jesus did not condemn or correct the others for their perspectives. The one thing all of the ppl in the crowd had in common is that they were gathered around Jesus inspite of their different views and understandings of Him. So it is throughout the history of mankind. God's grace allows for diverse understanding and sharing of our perspectives. We may not all be filled with spiritual insight, but we aren't all expected to be.

You also wrote "Keep a firm grip on your "blankie", it's sure to be a bumpy ride." Are you one of those who holds blankies in contempt?? I am sad for anyone who has not had the experience of a benevolent and nurturing presence in their life.

The best to you Bronx,
3M

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I never said I was certain of it. But I think a good case can be made for it. Regardless I think hell as a place of eternal concious torment could be defended as well. There's nothing unjust about it.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

I guess it should come as no surprise that someone capable of believing in talking serpents, magical fruit trees, a human created from the rib of another human, etc., is also capable of believing finite offense merits infinite punishment. Or will you now favor me with yet another convenient revisionist update of traditional Christian belief?

Bronxboy47 said...

MMM,

I feel no contempt for blankies per se, but I do find the phenomenon of adults who can't part with them somewhat tragic.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

You continue to refuse to address the point I've made repeatedly, and that is that your God transcends all human moral concepts and is not bound by them, nor (according to St. Paul) should he be. So, I repeat, this God of yours who is not constrained by human standards of morality, makes you a promise, and you continue to assume that he will keep that promise because that is what a morally upright human would do. Would you please respond to this specific proposition in the context of traditional, as opposed to revisionist, Christian belief.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Dear BB; You wrote, "I feel no contempt for blankies per se, but I do find the phenomenon of adults who can't part with them somewhat tragic."

I love when Jesus confronts the Pharisees to let them know that He has come to retrieve the lost children of Israel! I hope I will never again be so cynical as to hold in contempt of myself and humanity in general, who are vulnerable and in need of comfort - alcohol, drugs, illicit relationships, materialism power struggles, self-righteousness - all very real-life substitutes for blankies and benevolence!

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I won't try to defend eternal torment. Afterall, I'm not sure the Bible teaches it. I do believe in miracles though. A Being that can create this universe out of nothing can surely perform the lesser miracle of making someone from the side of another human or creating a mgical fruit tree etc.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I did adress your point. God isn't obligated to keep His promises but He free chooses to do so anyway.

Bronxboy47 said...

It's amazing how you Christians credit your God with the ability to do anything and everything except create a world in which hell isn't necessary.

As for backing away from the doctrine of eternal punishment:

Given the incremental adjustments to Christian doctrine to date, how many more centuries do you think it will take before you revisionists fess up and abandon the concept of God entirely?

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium,

"God isn't obligated to keep His promises but He freely chooses to do so anyway."


This is a mantra you can continue to repeat until the cows come home, but it doesn't come to grips with Paul's assertions about God's prerogatives. God is under no obligation to keep his promises to you. He could just as freely "unchoose", and who would there be to hold him to account? Don't forget, he did have second thoughts and decided to drown everyone, minus one family, and start over.

And by the way, given the incremental adjustments Christian doctrine has undergone to date, how many more centuries do you think it will take before you revisionists fess up and abandon the concept of God entirely?

Bronxboy47 said...

It's amazing how you Christians believe in a God who can do anything and everything EXCEPT create a world in which hell isn't the final destination for the vast majority of mankind. You seem to think this is a conundrum your God is incapable of solving. So much for the assertion that with God all things are possible. Quite obviously that assertion needs to be severely deconstructed.

Bronxboy47 said...

3m and Mysterium,

Let's go back to the very beginning of your myth. God is under no compulsion to create anything. He is wholly self-sufficient and complete, lacking nothing. All that exists is God, encased in his own bliss. And yet, in the midst of this total self-sufficiency desire suddenly appears out of nowhere. God conceives a project that he knows in advance will require the suffering and death of his own son and that, despite this, the vast majority of his creation will end up in hell. And you really expect me to believe that given a choice between continuing on in divine bliss or starting a ball rolling that will lead to untold suffering and horror, that a loving, sane God would choose the latter? This is the sort of creator in which you would have me put my trust?

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I already told you that I'm not sure the bible teaches eternal torment. In fact I gave scripture to the contray. Yet you continue to bring it up.

I agree that God is self-sufficient in the trinity and that He doesn't need anything. There is mystery here. God is infinite. The finite cannot fully grasp the infinite. But as far as the trinity goes God loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. They are complete and lack nothing. The Spirit of love that flows between them is the Holy Spirit. It overflows and fills the entire universe with grace. God doesn't need me. I need God. God is complete and self-sufficient in the trinity. I've already told you why I trust God.

Bronxboy47 said...

The Bible doesn't "teach" the trinity either, the church does; and you appear to be well and truly indoctrinated. How many teachings has the church modified or abandoned over the centuries?

The very word "overflow" indicates both an excess and a lack of control, neither of which are attributes one normally associates with God, and yet you let this pass under the guise of "mystery". And for something that is an infinite "mystery" you seem to be armed with an inordinate number of finite "facts". This "mystery" only rears its head when it bumps up against logic. The very same logic the church has had to concede to over and over again.

Bronxboy47 said...

...I will concede, however, that for those willing to abandon logic, the "mystery" defense is an impregnable fallback position.

Bronxboy47 said...

You and your church use human reason to arrive at conclusions reason cannot digest without betraying and abandoning the very process leading to those conclusions. It's closed circuit madness, mumbo jumbo of a very high order, but mumbo jumbo nonetheless.

I apologize for the testiness of this reply, but your smug certainty about the genesis of a "mystery" has finally touched my last nerve.

Bronxboy47 said...

As for the church whose amended doctrines you counter my observations with:

The church has planted itself firmly in the middle of history's road, deflecting and delaying human progress, torturing, burning, and spilling blood for centuries. The church's hierarchy are humanity's Uncle Toms, enjoying all the best that life in the big house has to offer, while leaving the rest of mankind to scramble after the crumbs. I would be more inclined to credit their pronouncements if they were to put their villas and palaces on the market,sell all they that have and give the proceeds to the poor as they have been commanded to do.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I think the bible does teach the trinity. I won't give you the scriptures because you said you don't like to argue scripture. Yet you continue to tell me what the bible teaches.

The overflow of the river of God's Spirit of grace flows with complete control. God is in control. Since He is in control the overflow of the Spirit of love isn't chaotic.

There is no contradiction in the trinity yet only mystery. One God three persons. The Father beholds His own image in the Son and He is completely happy. This image that the Father loves is first and formost His humility and His holiness. The Son loves the Father and the Father loves the Son. They are complete and lack nothing. The Spirit of love that flows between them is the Holy Spirit. It overflows and fills the entire universe with grace. Whoever is thirsty can drink from this fountain of grace.

Bronxboy47 said...

The Bible "teaches" absolutely nothing. The church infers doctrines from cherry picked passages of scripture and proceeds to teach from those inferences. If the Bible clearly "taught" anything there wouldn't be so many competing versions of Christianity.

Bronxboy47 said...

Apparently it doesn't cause you the slightest twinge of reflective uncertainty that the Westboro Baptist Church is as convinced of the correctness of their doctrine as you are of yours.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

The bible clearly teaches something. It says: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Now, there is disagreement but there is also agreement. Namely, that it was God who created.

I don't think God created because He lacked anything but out of the overflow of His grace. As I already explained about the trinity. He wasn't obligated to create neither is He obligated to sustain.

Bronxboy47 said...

Again I say, the Bible teaches absolutely nothing. The Bible asserts, it does not teach. It is the church that takes its pet assertions found in the Bible and teaches them as fact.

Bronxboy47 said...
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Bronxboy47 said...

Surely your Jesuitical mind is sharp enough to grasp this distinction.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree then. Here's something else I believe the bible teaches:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. (Romans 8:28)

When my future is in the hands of an all-wise, all-powerful, all- knowing God who promises to work all things together for my good I am free to take any risk that love demands-no matter the cost. No matter what happens I can rest content that God will work it out for my good. To live is Christ and to die is gain.

Bronxboy47 said...

At last, something we can agree upon! We've clearly reached an impasse and are now simply talking past each other. But I cannot end this discussion without mentioning that it is becoming increasingly clear that the rapidly intensifying hostilities between competing religions is possibly the biggest threat to continued existence of mankind on this planet. But I doubt that in your cosmological scheme of things this is of any great importance. Your God's will will be done no matter what.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

In the end God's sovereign will will be done and He will accomplish His purpose. I don't try to figure that out though. I'm not God. I just try and go by His revealed will which is loving my neighbor as myself and loving God above all else. If that is an area of concern for you then that's great. I don't believe in killing each other over religion.

SpartanCaver said...

Gen 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

I am in God's image. Then I am a reflection of God. When I look into the mirror, I should be seeing the image of God. God and I are alike. I am God like. Any of this not scriptural? Did I get the literal meaning of the scripture correct? Therefore, if God is Love, then I too shall love, no? I shall be like God and love. If God is spiteful, hateful, revengeful, destruction, fear, then I too should be all of the above? If this God is the same one that created 25 million species of beetles, did he do it to show off? If this God is the same one that created and delivered bacterial meningitis into the brain of an innocent 3 year old child, that he may suffer un-describe pain for twelve hours, all the while calling out to his father, my friend, a deacon and saint of the church, just as a test of his faith, then I don't want to be like God anymore. F*%k this God and all who would apologize for him. There can be no excuse for this kind of deity.

I offer solid physical evidence of God not existing. I have two parents. They have two parents. These 4 people had to exist and reproduce for me to be here. Each of these 4 had 2 parents 8 people and 4 births. then those needed 8 births, and 16 births before those and so on. I did the calculations back to the first century and there had to have been over 1 quadrillion, that is 1 followed by 20 zero's just for me to exist. There is a flaw in that somewhere down on a lower branch of the family tree, there was an ancestor common to different branches. (I am my own third cousin.) However, remember it took just as many for you to be here to read this blog. And just as many more to create the internet, operate the power grid, and many many more animals and plants had to exist to provide the food to get you here. It boggles the mind to remember anyone along that chain need only exercise their "free will" and maybe kill themselves or marry someone else and you would not be reading this. God has got to have better things to keep up with.

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium Tremendum,

Hi, it's me again. I would be interested reading your reaction to an article entitled Divine Deceit located on the Internet Infidels site: http://secweb.infidels.org/article804.html. Pay particular attention, if you would, to the article's 4th and 5th paragraphs. I don't expect that it will change your mind on the subject we've been discussing, but perhaps it will provide some food for thought, assuming of course that your faith hasn't eliminated the need for such activity.

Bronxboy47 said...
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Bronxboy47 said...
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Bronxboy47 said...

Okay, I think I've got this hyperlink business figured out. Sorry about all the deletions.


Christians assume their God is omnibenevolent without any real justification. I recommend they take a peek at this article on the Secular Web site:Divine Deceit

Bronxboy47 said...

Mysterium Tremendum,

I don't believe in killing each other over religion.



Why not? Your God certainly does.

Mysterium Tremendum said...

Bronxboy,

God says, "Veangence is mine I will repay. Rather, if your enemy is hungry feed him." God is perfect and has the right to judge. I'm not perfect and therefore I don't have the right to judge. Whoever has no sin cast the first stone. God being God has rights and prerogatives that I don't.