Why Didn't God Create Us in Heaven in the First Place?

I argue that God could've created us in a perfect existence in the first place...in heaven. Christians must counter-argue that God could not have done so, given the amount of suffering that resulted from his decision to create us in a fleshly world here on earth. Let me explain with the problem of free will, as I've done before. If there isn't free will in heaven for the "saints" when they die, then why did God need to test us with it on earth, since without it in heaven we'd all obey God anyway? If there is no free will in heaven for the "saints" when they die, then why did God purportedly grant free will to Satan in heaven from which he purportedly rebelled? If free will is so valuable, then why would God reward the "saints" in heaven by taking it away from them, but punish "sinners" in hell by letting them (us) keep it and rebel forever? If, however, there is free will in heaven for the "saints" when they die, then there would also be the possibility of another rebellion in heaven in the future. Besides, would someone please explain to me why anyone in the direct unmediated presence of God would ever attempt to rebel against an omnipotent Being who loves them with a perfect love? Anyone who would even think of rebelling would have to be pure evil itself, and dumber than a box of rocks. But since I don't believe any person can ever be pure evil or that dumb, I claim it's extremely implausible to believe any person did attempt to do this, or that anyone with free will in heaven would ever try.
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Edited for Calvinists. If there is no libertarian free will at all then what is the point of creating human beings at all? If God did not create us with free will, then Calvinistic theology must justify why our particular world brings God more glory than a different world where he decrees from eternity that his creatures all perfectly obey him. If humans do not have free will, then there can be no rational justification for the suffering that we experience in this world. Such a God as that is only worthy of our disgust, since our world could so easily have been different if he merely pulled our strings to do good and not evil and made us feel as if we were freely choosing what we do.

42 comments:

JumpingFromConclusions said...

This brief article is pretty much the exact reason I find the problem of evil unsolvable for Christians who hold to an omnibenevolent God. If Christians didn't believe in the possibility of heaven, I could at least accept some Christian solutions as possibilities. But with a realm of eternal bliss thrown into the mix, it wipes out any hope for an adequate solution.

Bnonn said...

John, what about those Christians who strictly conform their theology to the Bible, denying human freedom but affirming God's total sovereignty?

What would you say to them? I contend that although the position against which you are arguing is certainly common, it is not genuinely biblical, and therefore if you claim to be arguing against the Christian religion, you are actually arguing against a strawman erected by some of its followers. No doubt your efforts might be helpful in debunking that strawman, and I have written many articles with the same purpose—but then how do you respond to people like me?

Regards,
Bnonn

John W. Loftus said...

bnonn, this is not a strawman argument. Many evangelicals are non-Calvinistic, and you know this, for I bet you argue against them. But not to leave you Calvinists out, I would argue like I did here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here. Enjoy.

John W. Loftus said...

I've edited my original post. Any attempt of the Calvinst to deny the implications of what I've argued for is merely gerrymandering words. Just ask them point blank if anyone could have desired to do anything differently. Make them answer. Yes or No? If not, then no one has a choice. I am an atheist because God so wills it, and this is absolutely repulsive since he also condemns me to hell for not believing. Why they defend such a theological view utterly amazes me at the ability of the mind to defend less than rational ideas gained as the result of the culture one was brought up in, which originated among superstitious and pre-scientific peoples. Wake up Calvinists! It is so patently obvious that God would be responsible for all of the suffering we experience in this world...all of it. And no theodicy can exonerate him from the guilt of this. Your God is a thug, a despicable gangster. I could not freely worship and love such a God even if he did exist.

Jospeh said...

Calvinists...God, I hate 'em ;-)

Seriously, though, these are some good points, John. I've often wondered what really happened in heaven between God and Lucifer? Was Satan created merely to be God's "staw man," so that God would look good by comparison or have something to save us from? And if Lucifer and a third of the angels rebelled, as most Christian traditions teach, what makes us believe it couldn't happen again? It is said that the very presence of God will be enough to satisfy us and make never want to sin again. So why wouldn't God just dispense with the games and show his presence to everyone now?

Christopher M. Jourdain said...

Speaking of the Devil being stupid I always thought that if the devil were smart he would realize he has God already beaten because he could simply refrain from participating in any way shape or form with the events of the book of Revelation. Since God is infallible his predictions can't be false, and by simple inaction the devil can make God a fallible being. But then God would vanish in a puff of logic. (of course this wouldn't work with the Calvinistic God which only serves to illustrate that the Calvinistic God is a silly arbitrary melodramatic thug)

exapologist said...

It's been a while, but I remember reading an interesting reply to the "freedom in heaven" problem by James Sennett in a 1999 issue of Faith and Philosophy. The crux of his response is his notion of "proximate freedom". Very roughly, the idea is that even if you only have compatiblist free will in heaven, your actions there have their causal origins in your prior actions on Earth (or the *Old* Earth), when you had libertarian free will. In *this* sense, then, you have freedom in heaven. And while you're unable to do evil in heaven, you're good actions have moral worth, since they have their ultimate causal origins in your libertarianly free actions during your pre-heavenly existence.

I'm not entirely persuaded by this response, or whether it could be extended to the problem of the freedom of angels, but it's at least a reasonable attempt to address the problem. What do you think?

Antonio Manetti said...

One way of looking at the problem of good and evil is to recognize that these distinctions are the creation of our consciousness.

If I recall Genesis correctly, Adam and Eve's transgression was to eat fruit from the tree of knowlege. When they did, the world did not change. Rather, what changed was man's perception of the world.

The element of truth in the myth is that it's human consciousness that sunders man's world into good and evil.

Once man became capable of making that distinction, the gates of paradise were shut forever.

Jospeh said...

Actually, the story of Adam & Even DOES say that the world changed (not just their perception of it). You know: thorns & thistles, pain in childbirth, physical death, etc. Myth or not, it's right there in Genesis 3.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks EA. I have not seen that essay, but I've heard of it. I think the question about Satan still applies. How did Jim argue for "sinners" who wind up in hell? Is there any inconsistency there with the freedom "saints" have in heaven? I would still press him on the differences between libertarian free will on earth and compatibilist free will in heaven. Why the change? I'd also ask him about the need for libertarian free will in the first place when God could create compatibilistic freedom in heaven without an earthly existence. What is the necessary connection between the two? I also question the value of compatibilistic freedom when it comes to a God who wants to be worshipped.

It might demand a different answer, though. I would argue that the whole notion of God needing, desiring, or wanting libertarian free creatures who worship him on earth when he hides himself from us, is unbecoming of a God who by definition is the all-sufficient One, who has no unfulfilled needs, desires, or wants.

What do you think?

Bnonn said...

Hi John. I appreciate your reply, but I'm afraid I don't have the time to read exhaustively through the various responses you linked. I have glanced at them briefly, however, and they all seem to be along the same lines. I will therefore work on the assumption that an engagement with the principles in your amendment and comments above will at least generally answer much of those other posts, which rely on the same principles.

You say:

If God did not create us with free will, then Calvinistic theology must justify why our particular world brings God more glory than a different world where he decrees from eternity that his creatures all perfectly obey him.

I would like you to please prove your assertion that Calvinistic theology must justify why our particular world brings God more glory than another (of any nature). While it may bug you, a consistent theology does not need to explain every possible question our curiosity may devise. It only needs to accurately reflect what God has revealed to us in Scripture. So here are some questions for you:

Firstly, has God indeed revealed that this world brings him more glory than any other? It may seem a reasonable assumption, and I do agree that he has created the world which most perfectly glorifies him, but is this scriptural or merely conjectural? Off the top of my head, I can't think of anywhere in the Bible that this is stated; neither can I come up with a deductive scheme which shows that God must have created the world which most perfectly glorifies him.

Secondly, assuming that this world glorifies God superlatively, is it necessary to understand the precise mechanism by which this is so in order for it to be true? Is it a requirement of a consistent theology that it has this level of explanatory power? I think you will have great difficulty justifying an affirmative answer to this. An inability of a theology to provide this understanding does not imply that it is false.

Thirdly, what do you understand God's glorification as entailing? In others of your posts, you have implied that you think it brings God glory when people praise him. But while praising God certainly brings him glory, it is not as if praise is equivalent with glorification. It is merely one means of it. Glorification might be loosely defined as the exercising of God's attributes. Therefore, it is perfectly cogent to consider that the exercising of God's wrath and justice against sinners glorifies him greatly, while even more superlatively glorifying his righteousness, and particularly his mercy and love to those whom he has saved.

If humans do not have free will, then there can be no rational justification for the suffering that we experience in this world.

As I have briefly shown, there can indeed be rational justification. You are blatantly abusing the term "rational", as most atheists do—using it as if whatever you personally opine is the standard against which to judge any other idea for rationality. Since the justification for suffering in the world is God's own glory, you will have to show me that this is a genuinely irrational justification (ie, self-refuting or internally inconsistent in some way). This you have not done.

Just ask them point blank if anyone could have desired to do anything differently. Make them answer. Yes or No? If not, then no one has a choice. I am an atheist because God so wills it, and this is absolutely repulsive since he also condemns me to hell for not believing.

Your question is incomplete, and so it can't be answered. In which context is it couched? In the primary sense (that is, from God's own point of view), no we could not have desired to do differently except in a theoretical and counterfactual manner. That is, God could have chosen to have us to desire differently if it had suited his purposes; but in such an event we could not have desired as we now do. In a secondary sense (that is, from our point of view), it is possible that we could have desired differently. But more information is again required, since desire is a tricky thing, an highly dependent on circumstance. However, in either case, you have not explained why this removes choice. It certainly removes free choice, but clearly a choice was still made, regardless of its ultimate cause.

As to finding this repulsive, no doubt you do. But I do not, and without any objective standard against which to judge God, you are simply letting us know what your own subjective, personal reaction is—which any Christian would already know, since you are an enemy of God and by nature hate him.

It is so patently obvious that God would be responsible for all of the suffering we experience in this world...all of it.

What is patently obvious, actually John, is that the notion of God being responsible for something in an ethical sense is incoherent and absurd. Responsibility entails accountability to a higher authority—which is clearly not only impossible, but meaningless, in the case of God. I agree that God is metaphysically the ultimate cause of all suffering, just as he is the cause of all things. But in that case, "responsibility" is just an ambiguous way of acknowledging God's total sovereignty—it has no ethical connotations at all.

I could not freely worship and love such a God even if he did exist.

Well of course not John. Plainly, if such a God existed, your love and worship would not be free in the sense you mean; that is, free from him. What on earth did you say that for? Do you just enjoy random tautologies?

Regards,
Bnonn

Thinking said...

John, I've been wandering around subject as well. Since writing about it (note sure if I can put links here: http://de-conversion.com/2007/07/16/is-heaven-bogus/), I have conversed with many Christians that deny much of what is commonly believed about heaven. Actually, so much about heaven has been denied that I wonder what substance there really is to it.

In all seriousness, with my puny human brain, this life, under the Christian system, appears not much more than a game for the "gods/God" - a game with arbitrary rules but ultimate punishment for losing.

John W. Loftus said...

bnonn, 24 years old and already you have an answer for everything! Amazing. Sometimes it comes with the territory, and someday you'll know what I'm talking about here (just don't forget that I was the one who told you this, okay?).

But stuck in what you wrote are interesting phrases, like "I would like you to please prove your assertion...", and "has God indeed revealed that this world brings him more glory than any other? It may seem a reasonable assumption...", and "An inability of a theology to provide this understanding does not imply that it is false...", and "no we could not have desired to do differently...", and "I agree that God is metaphysically the ultimate cause of all suffering..."

I don't think we'll agree. Calvinists live in an intellectual castle built in the sky that does not touch ground, in my opinion. I just think you need to ponder what you yourself said and ask if you are gerrymandering with words to defend what the evidence speaks loudly against. The very fact you called my initial post a strawman argument betrays some false or real ignorance of the theological landscape.

SteveJ said...

I became a Calvinist back in the early 1980s to escape my misery over the fate of the lost. I couldn't conceive of a God sending people He loves to hell (especially those ignorant of the gospel). But there it was in my Bible: Not only God condemning people to destruction, but also appointing them to that end beforehand. The pop evangelical explanations for the "election and reprobation" texts were unconvincing, much to my dismay.

So I finally couldn't take it anymore. "Fine, if God is foreordaining people to hell, that's what's right and just," I reasoned. "I won't fight it anymore." As a result, I became Calvinist and hardened my heart toward my fellow humans (totally depraved as they were). I read Puritan literature that heaped opprobrium on human nature at every turn. As humanity became increasingly vile in my sight, it seemed no big deal that God should allow the worst of sufferings to befall them. Surely it's less -- infinitely less -- than they deserve, I reasoned with considerable ease.

But in time, I saw the ugliness of that system. True, there are fine, loving people within the Calvinist tradition. I'll grant that instantly. But Calvinism has a singular ability to fashion the most arrogant, hateful, unkind, sanctimonius, humorless, hard-hearted, theologically conceited misanthropes who have ever claimed the Christian name. It's no coincidence that Calvin's Geneva and Puritan America were places of despicable persecution against dissenters.

Bnon, you might be a really good guy. And if so, you're swimming hard against the currents of the historical tradition you inhabit. If the evil and suffering in the world bothers you, know that it didn't bother many of your spiritual forefathers. In fact, it probably gave some of them a twinge of glee.

Super Happy Jen said...

You know in Star Trek Generations where Kirk and Picard are in the Nexus (a paradise) and Kirk leaps over a gorge on his horse, something that always scared him in real life but not in the nexus. That's what I imagine heaven would be like. Sure, you have everything you want at your finger tips but there's no thrill. Why? Because there's no potential for death or suffering.

What dullards we would be if we grew up in such an environment!

Bnonn said...

John, I notice that you spent a lot of time in your reply commenting on my supposed character and outlook, but very little engaging with my points. You say I am "gerrymandering" with words, against the evidence; but a gerrymanderer can be decisively and easily refuted, yet your comment was notably lacking in any such refutation.

Regards,
Bnonn

SteveJ said...

Reading over my last post, I think I was probably too harsh and uncharitable toward the Calvinists. It just supports the truism that a system's most vociferous critic is the former advocate who was burned by it.

Jospeh said...

From what I've read over the past few months in this forum, it seems to me that Calvinists have the game rigged. You can play, but only on their terms, by accepting their assumptions. Any reasoning outside of their own box is approached with dire caution. When pushed dangerously close to the edges of that box, diversionary tactics of all kinds are employed. Suddenly we are now playing a different game.

John, I thought, stated it quite aptly: Calvinism is an intellectual castle in the sky. My own analogy is of a beautiful gleaming building, set on a makeshift foundation bamboo poles. In its own closed system, it certainly makes sense. But when you dare to look outside of that system, you notice it trying to hold up a very lot on very little.

I was caught up in the Christian Reconstructionism movement (which I know some Calvinists would consider extreme). I was a young (16), zealous Christian at the time ready to take on anyone in debate. I took pride in winning church members and ministers over to my presuppositions, which never uttering the word "Calvin" (a hated name in my denomination). What impressed me about Calvinism was its attempt to do what I now suspect is impossible: to build an orderly, coherent system of faith by linking together two very different books: the Old and New Testaments.

I think what finally did it in for me was when I began to notice that Calvinist dogma just didn't gel with what I observed around me. I noticed non-Christians that were more genuine than many who were masters of the Five Points. Like Steve, I also picked up on a lack of evangelistic love for the contemptuous world. Finally, I just couldn't fathom why I was struggling so badly with sinful tendencies if God was indeed ordering my steps.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Antonio,

If I recall Genesis correctly, Adam and Eve's transgression was to eat fruit from the tree of knowlege. When they did, the world did not change. Rather, what changed was man's perception of the world.
Jospeh is right.
And because they had not eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they should not have been able to understand what it meant to disobey god. If that is true, not only does punishment with the problem of evil not fit the crime, there was no crime, only two brutes getting set up to get framed.
Adam and eve, if the story is true, were two ignorants caught in the middle of a squabble between two supernatural beings and one of those supernatural did not exercise due care and diligence in ensuring the safety of its children.

But in any case, as I demonstrated in my adam and eve article, the idea that mans nature is sinful weakens the case of an accurate bible since god foolishly only revealed himself through man in scripture and has not done anything to reassert himself since.

Jim Jordan said...

Lee, you're leaving out one important detail; Adam and Eve had a knowledge of good already (remember, they walked with God). If you do the math, gain the knowledge of good and evil when you already knew what was good means *bingo* you would gain the knowledge of evil. That was the moral of the story. They wanted to know what went on in the strip clubs and crack houses, so to speak.

John W began I argue that God could've created us in a perfect existence in the first place...in heaven.
Very true, and I would have preferred to have my daughter hatched as a fan of analytic philosophy and an evangelical Christian who shuns insincere religiosity and..well, she'd be exactly like me.

I would like to recommend another way, that we can become more like our Creator but remain uniquely individual. One thing we can be sure of is that we are free to choose. Freedom is God's design, not man's. But, when all details are known, the choice will be to spend our eternity in His presence.

That ultimate choices and freedom converge shouldn't be too much to ask of a deity that claims to be THE ultimate reward.

Respectfully yours.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Bnonn: Can you please explain how, if we deny human freedom, and accept a God, that God is in any way different from a child playing with dolls or toy soldiers, speaking words through their mouths, and then moving them into the cardboard boxes labeled heaven and hell?

Ironically, your position so totally reduces to the converse of the mechanistic view of human nature that athiests are -- usually incorrectly -- accused of holding and condemned for. Several writers in other threads -- including my friend Jennifer -- have suggested that a mechanistic position reduces to a position of pure pessimism "why not end it all now." But surely your position makes human life equally meaningless.

You claim that we exist merely to, in some arcane way, 'glorify' God. To who? Again, is he a child, producing a puppet show for himself? Certainly, if God existed, he would know his own glory, he would not need to demonstrate it to himself by torturing his puppets eternally.

The only way this 'glorification' could make sense would be if he were to have a need to glorify himself to some audience, if he were one of a host of Gods (I think of the Go'a'uld of STARGATE SG1.) A whole host of Gods, each one running his own planet and showing it off in front of the assembled Congress of Dieties. But that doesn't equate with a belief in monotheism.

Jospeh, I think you speak too highly of Calvinism. Beautiful? These ideas are the epitome of ugliness, either an evil collection of Gods who would glorify one who best tortured his puppets, or a single God so insecure and sick that he needs to convince himself of his glory by these warped games with his dolls (or action figures, if you prefer the image.)

Does this make sense even in 'its own closed system?'

Antonio Manetti said...

Actually, the story of Adam & Even DOES say that the world changed (not just their perception of it). You know: thorns & thistles, pain in childbirth, physical death, etc. Myth or not, it's right there in Genesis 3.

I don't accept the literal interpretation of Genesis. What I am trying to point out is the kernel of truth in the myth. Namely that the distinction between Good and Evil is the product of man's consciousness. In particular, his consciousness of self.

Good and evil have no meaning or existence apart from man. Animals experience all aspects of life, including disease, suffering, pain, starvation, predation and fear of predation -- even from one's own kind -- but only man, by nature, is burdened with the faculty of discerning such things as good or evil and cursed with the need to make sense of a world in which good and evil coexist.

One of my favorite books is Walker Percy's "Lost in the Cosmos". In it, he puts forward the notion that each child recapitulates man's fall. At four years of age, says Percy, the child is innocent, bright and eager, as interested in the world around her as Adam or Eve newly minted and in Paradise. At seven or eight, something changes. The child becomes moody and sullen, wilful, recalcitrant, withdrawn. And yet, nothing in nature has changed.

Bnonn said...

Prup, to briefly refute you:

1. God is more than a child.
2. We are more than toys.
3. Meaning is defined by God, so creation is not meaningless at all.
4. Glory entails an exercising of God's attributes, which naturally enough requires a medium through which to do so, in the case of punishment, redemption, and so on.

skepticalone2003 said...

Another question to ask is this: If free will and sinlessness are not logically incompatible in heaven, then how can Christians argue that they are incompatible on earth? Often Christians claim that God would have to have made us "robots," void of free will, to ensure that we never sinned. But if we aren't robots in heaven, then why would we have to be robots on earth? There is no logical reason why we couldn't have been created with the same perfect combination of free will and sinlessness on earth that we will presumably end up with in heaven.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jim Jordan,
my bible says in Gen. 2:16
"16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;

17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

1. it is not called the tree of knowledge of evil. What are they to infer about goodness from god if they had nothing to compare it too?

2. god said enigmatically that they could eat from any tree but that one, but how were they supposed to know what 'die' meant? To me it means cease to exist. It doesn't mean that the rest of humanity that comes after you is going to be punished which will result in god coming back to horribly tortured and killed on a cross to fix it.

3. He must have forgot about the Tree of life because since he knew this would happen, it would have been prudent for him to have prevented them from eating it first and then eating from the Tree o' knowledge. At that point he would have had a bigger problem.

But don't get me started on inconsistencies in the bible! Its just a myth anyway as evidenced by the characteristic of the god in human form and Him talking to his fellow gods in his Ugaritic pantheon when he said to himself "Behold, the man has become like one of Us".

Thats why saying that mans sinfulness comes from the fall is silly. And thats why the Problem of Evil is such a devastating argument to christianity, because is depends on a story that is obviously a myth and the logic doesn't hold up over time.

But wait, paul in Rom. 5:12 compares Jesus to adam, and paul seems to think that adam was real! Holy Smoke! What does that say about the crucifixion and Paul if we don't take the story of Adam literally? Well on this church web page it says that pauls argument would fall flat! Yikes!

Holy Tapestry! If the sinful nature of man makes man unreliable and god foolishly chose man to use to reveal himself in scripture, then the bible is suspect, and if the story of Adam is not true then Pauls argument comparing Jesus to Adam falls flat, and If jesus died for our sins starting at the fall then that can only mean that god committed suicide for nothing and it was a meaningless gesture! But he should have known! Double Yikes!

Which makes an alternate hypothesis that jesus was a rabble rouser, crucified like a public enemy and his meaningless death was romanticised in legend the simpler explanation.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Bnonn:
You did not "refute" me. You merely made a series of statements that, in one case, misunderstood what I said -- I did not say that 'creation' was meaningless, but that human life (the lives of one group of creatures one one planet around one of the billion suns in this galaxy) was, if we accept your theology.

Much more important, you failed to even address my key points:

"Glorification" means to 'show the glory of.' To what is God 'glorifing' himself?

There are only three possible answers, all of which are absurd by your own beliefs:

A:) He is glorifying himself to himself, which makes him absurdly, neurotically, insecure. How can he not be self-aware of his glory, why does he need to manifest it to himself?

B:) To his 'peers' or 'superiors.' Oops, there goes monotheism.

C:) To humanity. But given the glory he has demonstrated by creating the Grand Canyon, fjords, the Aurora Borealis, the Rockies and Himalayas, the coast of Mexico, and cats, how can the 'punishment and redemption' of creatures without freedom to determine their fates, who are, if not 'puppets' then certainly helpless before him, add to his glory? (Are you not portraying God like some Great Architect who designs and supervises the creation of a new Empire State or Sears Tower, and who, when he gets the praise he deserves, says "No, the wondrous thing about this creation is that I can stand on the Observation Tower, and with this tiny pebble, kill a helpless passer-by"?

How does hell and damnation add in the slightest to God's glory?

It is a good thing for you that god and hell are both myths, because if they existed, I can think of no human action more truly 'damnable,' more truly offensive to god than spreading the sort of vicious libel about him that you and your teachers do. Merely denying his existence pales in contrast.

John W. Loftus said...

Bnonn, I know. I've had endless discussions with Calvinists. I linked to where I answered you, so there was nothing left to do here. Calvinism makes atheists out of people, pure and simple.

In her book (seen on the right)Valerie Tarico claims “it doesn’t take very many false assumptions to send us on a long goose chase.” To illustrate this she tells us about the mental world of a paranoid schizophrenic. To such a person the perceived persecution by others sounds real. “You can sit, as a psychiatrist, with a diagnostic manual next to you, and think: as bizarre as it sounds, the CIA really is bugging this guy. The arguments are tight, the logic persuasive, the evidence organized into neat files. All that is needed to build such an impressive house of illusion is a clear, well-organized mind and a few false assumptions. Paranoid individuals can be very credible.” (p. 221-22). This is what Christians do, especially Calvinists, and this is why it’s hard to shake the Christian faith, in her informed opinion.

Michael Ejercito said...

How does hell and damnation add in the slightest to God's glory?
What better way to demonstrate His superiority over others than to cast His enemies into a lake of fire, where they will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb of God, the smoke of their torment arises forever and ever, and they shall have no rest day nor night?

God is great!

David B. Ellis said...

Michael, I can't help but wonder if you are simply playing a role as a parody of the power of religion to make normal people embrace the monstrous......and can't help but fear that you are sincere.

SteveJ said...

What better way to demonstrate His superiority over others than to cast His enemies into a lake of fire ...

What better way? I can think of plenty of better ways.

So you think it's a mark of glory to inflict pain on others to demonstrate superiority? Then the schoolyard bully must have a glory all his own.

John W. Loftus said...

To see a critique of Sennett's view see here.

Jospeh said...

I've been away from this discussion (at church actually--remember, I'm still a Christian struggling with his faith), so I'm getting caught up on a lot of very interesting points.

I just had a thought, in response to the conventional free will argument ("God must give us a choice and not interfere with that choice, thus allowing for the possibility of evil"). Ignoring for a moment that this argument cannot be established with Scripture, here's my quandary: What about those who are robbed of their free will choices?

I'm sure the Jews would have gladly chosen freedom from concentration camps, but were denied that choice because (we are to believe) God honored Hitler's free will and allowed him commit genocide. Do you see where I'm going with this?

It doesn't make sense to me that God should respect the freedom of some to choose, but not others. You would think God would at least intervene when the rules of the game are in jeopardy, to make a level playing field for everyone.

exapologist said...

Thanks for the link, John!

Bnonn said...

Prup, I'm afraid you have misunderstood me; not vice versa.

1. Human life is a part of creation, so in saying that creation has meaning, I covered human life.
2. I addressed your key points; I just did it briefly. The point of God glorying himself is not to "show off" but to exercise his attributes. You are trying to make God into some kind of super-man, rather than the transcendent and aseitic deity. How do the various physical features of creation you listed glorify God's justice or wrath?

John: comparing Calvinists to the mentally ill is another case of you engaging in ad hominem, but again fails to offer any kind of refutation to the points I made.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Bnonn:
If I have 'misunderstood' you it is because of your own misuse of language. To 'glorify' does not mean 'to exercise one's attributes' but 'to make manifest the glory of [something].' And -- Freshman English -- it requires an 'indirect object.' You must manifest something to someone.

So again I ask you, who is God glorifying to?

As for 'God's wrath' by your theory, people have no freedom, they are only doing what God created them to do, so how can he, sanely, be 'wrathful'? Or how can that wrath be just?

Again I hear the voice of a little girl. "Dollie, you've been bad. You'be disobeyed me. I'm going to send you to hell." The doll didn't disobey her, it did what she made it do. Now this might be therapeutic and fun for an eight-year-old, but for a God?

As for this justice, I occasionally hear Christians speak of how an offense against an infinite God is itself infinite and deserving of infinite punishment. But look at it from the point of view of the harm done. A man could no more harm this infinite god of yours than a butterfly could bite through an elephant's leg.
In fact, if God is infinite, no action of a finite human could have any but an infintely small effect on God. How is it just to punish an infintely small offense with an eternal hell?

John W. Loftus said...

bnonn said...John: comparing Calvinists to the mentally ill is another case of you engaging in ad hominem, but again fails to offer any kind of refutation to the points I made.

Bnonn, I did not try to "refute" you. You missed my point. My point was not about you being mentally ill at all. Sometimes rational people get so caught up with "seeing" things differently they cannot see anything else. And there is no "refuting" anything here anyway. I wrote this post with you in mind. You have given me plenty of clues to think you lack understanding. You'll disagree, no doubt.

Michael Ejercito said...


What better way? I can think of plenty of better ways.

So you think it's a mark of glory to inflict pain on others to demonstrate superiority? Then the schoolyard bully must have a glory all his own.

There are otherr ways for God to demonstrate Hios glory; God chooses to demonstrate His glory in the manner described in Revelations.

Remember that God's might makes right.

Shygetz said...

Remember that God's might makes right.

And this is the crux of Calvinistic theology--the worship of raw power. Unfortunately, the worship of raw power exercised at whim is abhorrent to most people, so Calvinists (and others) redifine words such as "glorify" and "goodness" to mean "whatever God does". By bastardizing language in this manner, they can keep their admittedly relatively tight theology without completely yielding the emotional appeal of Christianity.

"God is good," they tell us, "so you should want to worship him." However, they neglect to advetise that when they say "God is good," they really mean "God is God." While this is facially true, it is wholly uninformative regarding their theology. Even a brief investigation of Calvinism leads to the conclusion that, based on the most commonly held values of "good", their god compares unfavorably to psychotics who capture and torture children to assauge their own insecurities and need to feel powerful.

Calvinists are not worshippers so much as toadies. If the Calvinists are right, and God acts in the manner that they say he does (damning people to eternal torment with no freedom to choose otherwise), then only the evil and the fearful would worship him, as he exemplarizes the actions of the evil.

One interesting observation is that I have never met a Calvinist who has intentionally rejected God; that is, someone who believes God truly exists and is truly how the Calvinists say He is, but chooses to defy Him anyway based on the person's morality. I have met plenty of former Calvinists who have rejected *Calvinism* due to their inability to accept such an evil God, but never someone who has said "You know, the Calvinist theology has it right, but I can't in good conscience worship such an evil being." Do such people exist?

aslancat said...

Well, I was one for awhile before I decided God didn't exist. For a few years I thought that Calvinism seemed to be a logical conclusion if one took the Bible literally. It seemed monstrous of God to behave in such a way, and I could not love a God that was like that. And since I had decided that God was a monster, I believed that I was probably going to hell because God would not let someone who thought he was a monster into heaven. I was in seminary at the time and I told my mother that my reason for leaving the seminary was that I didn't know for certain what I believed about God, but that it seemed like he was terrible and so it did not seem very sensible for me to become a missionary and tell others about this terrible God. I still did go to church hoping that I could become a more liberal Christian, but though liberal Christianity sounded appealing, I didn't really believe in it. I continued to believe in the Calvinist God and that I was going to hell for hating him. Eventually I quit going to church, but was still afraid of the Calvinist God. I didn't completely believe anymore since I had read things that were convincing me otherwise. I was afraid that God existed, but hoping that he didn't. Then I read more and more in books and on this website and on other websites, and became more convinced. I suppose it would be hard for someone to keep living and rejecting such a God as the Calvinist God. If the world is run by a psycho and there is no hope unless one somehow forces oneself to believe that this psycho is good, why not just die now?

larryniven said...

(Er, this is maybe a double post? If so, sorry?)

I guess, since the author isn't terribly interested in playing with you, bnonn, I'll do it. I assume - perhaps incorrectly - that the Calvinist God is a 3-Os God and will base my arguments on that assumption.

"I would like you to please prove your assertion that Calvinistic theology must justify why our particular world brings God more glory than another (of any nature). While it may bug you, a consistent theology does not need to explain every possible question our curiosity may devise."

Ah, but here's the thing: we're questioning whether or not it's consistent. You can't just up and say that it is because that's the exact question we're offering evidence about.

"Firstly, has God indeed revealed that this world brings him more glory than any other? It may seem a reasonable assumption, and I do agree that he has created the world which most perfectly glorifies him, but is this scriptural or merely conjectural?"

You can probably get there from the fact that God is defined to be perfect. Furthermore, since you agree to it, you don't have a valid complaint.

"Secondly, assuming that this world glorifies God superlatively, is it necessary to understand the precise mechanism by which this is so in order for it to be true? Is it a requirement of a consistent theology that it has this level of explanatory power? I think you will have great difficulty justifying an affirmative answer to this. An inability of a theology to provide this understanding does not imply that it is false."

Fine, but you haven't addressed the problem at all. You seem to be attempting, through an appeal to ignorance, to dismiss the problem. That's not legit, please try again.

"Thirdly, what do you understand God's glorification as entailing? In others of your posts, you have implied that you think it brings God glory when people praise him. But while praising God certainly brings him glory, it is not as if praise is equivalent with glorification. It is merely one means of it. Glorification might be loosely defined as the exercising of God's attributes. Therefore, it is perfectly cogent to consider that the exercising of God's wrath and justice against sinners glorifies him greatly, while even more superlatively glorifying his righteousness, and particularly his mercy and love to those whom he has saved."

Yeah yeah, fine - what about God's attribute of omnibenevolence? Why isn't that (according to the evidence) "superlatively glorified"? Once again, this doesn't address the heart of the problem.


"As I have briefly shown, there can indeed be rational justification. You are blatantly abusing the term "rational", as most atheists do—using it as if whatever you personally opine is the standard against which to judge any other idea for rationality. Since the justification for suffering in the world is God's own glory, you will have to show me that this is a genuinely irrational justification (ie, self-refuting or internally inconsistent in some way). This you have not done."

I mean, besides the fact that you didn't show it, we again run up against the omnibenevolent-vs.-evil problem. You still haven't addressed the problem of evil at all. And, you seem to have added to it: omnibenevolence is now also contrasted with what you called "righteousness," which seems to entail a significant amount of wholly gratuitous suffering.

"Your question is incomplete, and so it can't be answered. In which context is it couched? In the primary sense (that is, from God's own point of view), no we could not have desired to do differently except in a theoretical and counterfactual manner. That is, God could have chosen to have us to desire differently if it had suited his purposes; but in such an event we could not have desired as we now do. In a secondary sense (that is, from our point of view), it is possible that we could have desired differently. But more information is again required, since desire is a tricky thing, an highly dependent on circumstance. However, in either case, you have not explained why this removes choice. It certainly removes free choice, but clearly a choice was still made, regardless of its ultimate cause."

Buh, what? Define "choice" for me. I don't think you can. Or, maybe more to the point, what is a non-free choice? And fiddling with perspectives doesn't solve the problem, it just masks it: just because everyone *thinks* they have a free choice doesn't mean they do, so your discussion is entirely useless.

"What is patently obvious, actually John, is that the notion of God being responsible for something in an ethical sense is incoherent and absurd. Responsibility entails accountability to a higher authority"

Er, no. That's wrong. For one thing, I suspect you're misinterpreting his use of the word "responsible." As in, if I eat a sandwich, I am responsible for that sandwich not being available for other people to eat. Furthermore, ethical evaluations take place strictly speaking with respect to ethical rules, no matter who (if anyone) is in charge of enforcingg them. This argument is plainly wrong-headed.

The only hope I can see for you is to say that you don't actually believe in a 3-Os God, because that'd undo some of my arguments above - but that means you *agree* with the problem of evil, so I'm not really sure what you can gain here.

(shameless plug: for more level-headed philosophy and commentary, visit http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com)

larryniven said...

Annnnnd, re: exapologist

It sounds an awful lot like that's not free will at all. In fact, I propose to go one further: it sounds like that isn't still *you* in heaven. From what I understand about compatibilist free will - which ain't much, so correct me if I'm wrong - it has to do with a person's nature. So, in heaven (so the objection goes) you can only do good, ergo your nature must be all-good. But on earth you do good and evil, which almost certainly makes you at least partially evil. So that makes me think that, not only is the "predetermined free will" not really free (which, c'mon, should be obvious), but that by the time you get to heaven (or hell, I guess, for that matter), your actions have been determined by an essentially different person.

Dan Marvin said...

I just don't know if there even will be free will in heaven. I know we won't want to leave and be tempted to leave. We can appreciate Gods goodness in the presence of evil. Unlike Adam who didn't know evil, Satan who didn't know evil, until they fell. We do! Because of it, we so appreciate his goodness and no matter what temptation that will come our way in heaven, if that could even happen, there would be no way, why? Because we knew how horrible evil was and now we can fully appreciate his goodness.

The presence of sin allows God to demonstrate his righteousness, the presence of sin allows God to demonstrate his love, and how else could he show the character of love that loves enemies and sinners if there were none? God endures this horrible assault on his everlasting holiness; he endures the horrifying blaspheming, history of fallen beings, he suffers it, the imposition it is on his purity to display his wrath to the fullest extent, to put himself on everlasting display.

Why are we here? What is the theological answer? To give the text book answer, to glorify God and enjoy him ever more. How do you glorify God? Here is how, you sinner, go get saved. Get saved so God can be glorified, that's it; this is the purpose of this entire universe.

God knew we would sin, He knew we would rebel, He knew we would introduce evil, He knew it. So that he can send forth a savior born of a virgin, to live under the law to save us under the curse of the law so that, we can be a little trophy of his grace, he can always point to us as a testimony to his goodness. Ephesians 2:7

We wouldn't know how God is righteous as he is, everlastingly, and give him glory for it if it hadn't had of been for unrighteousness, we wouldn't know he's loving as he is if it hadn't been for sin, we wouldn't know he's holy if it weren't for judgment.

How holy is God? So holy that he must send out of his presence, everlastingly, anyone who is not fit. Why of all this? That he might make known the riches of his glory, that is, he did all of this in order that he might gather into heaven a redeemed humanity who would forever glorify him for all that he is.

*paraphrased from Todd Friel and Dr. John Macarthur