Reasonable Doubt about The Atonement: Psychopathy

This is intended as the first of a series exploring Biological Bases of Behavior and its implications for Christianity. The focus of this article is on Psychopathy and its implications regarding the Atonement.

It explains that psychopathy is regarded alternately as an emotional disorder and/or a genetically selected sub-population of people that cannot feel love, empathy or remorse. It shows that it is inherited and likely has a genetic component. It discusses the correlation with differences in amygdala function between this population and the mean. Considering Matt. 22:37s commandment to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, the question becomes, what happens to the psychopath in this process? According to the explanation of the Atonement, it may cover their sins, but they cannot meet the requirement to love God, and repent.

This link provides a great overview of Evangelical views of Atonement. It was written by John W. Loftus to show how viewpoints of Atonement are linked to the cultural values of their period. And here is a different article from another blogger with a similar topic to this one. It argues that modern cognitive science leaves little room for the existence of a "soul."

Christianity depends on the belief that Christ died for our sins. From the perspective of the Evangelical all the sins of all of the people in the world past, present and future went onto Christ and when he died, he died as atonement for the sins of the past, present and future people of the world. People are predisposed to sin rather than follow Gods law. People are predisposed to behave in a way that is not consistent with Gods law.
How did people get that way? Was it the original sin of disobeying Gods law in the garden of Eden or was it something that happened as a result of the way we are made?

Allegedly Jesus died for us so we won’t have to, yet people are predisposed to sin for biological reasons as much as for “moral” reasons. For God to have gone to the trouble to become Man and go through the crucifixion it seems like he should have eliminated biological bases for behavior that make it likely that people will disobey Him. If he had done that it would have become purely a moral question.

God created humans along with the world. So it follows that he made us this way. To say that he didn’t infers that something changed the initial state of our nature. If something changed, what was it? If we stipulate that Adam and Eve were real, and if we say that the decision to eat the Apple was made by Adam and Eve, how did the thought even arise in them to disobey God unless it occurred naturally? If it would not have occurred naturally but it was the result of a deception by Satan, then either they had no clue what they were doing and we are suffering the problem of evil for their stupidity or they had the mechanism built in to disobey God. The circuitry was in place to entertain the idea of disregarding the importance of obeying God. I’m sure if they had more life experience or had a concept of what the implications would be they would not have done it, but that is an argument for another time. So it appears that we had the propensity to disobey God built in. Let’s call it freewill.

To say that Humans choose to disobey God infers that we know what God wants in the first place. I will stipulate for the purpose of this article that we should be able to understand how God wants us to behave from scripture.

What does God want from us?

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38. This is the first and great commandment." Matthew 22:37

And some others follow.
Love one another as we love ourselves, to act justly, to love mercy, to keep the commandments, obey God, believe God, trust God, know God, seek God, repent, strive to overcome our nature and have faith.

These words were written by people that did not understand the properties of the brain. These words were written before the discovery of principles that demonstrably affect behavior such as not being able to process emotional information or being genetically predisposed to disease. Severe mental disorder was thought to be the result of spirits. These words were written before anyone knew that the emotional disorder of Psychopathy was possible.

If we know that mental processes can be affected by influences other than internal thoughts, then that casts doubt on the whole concept of absolute free will. If we stipulate that there is a non-absolute type of freewill available to everyone, then we can see that there is a varying degree of freewill accessible by everyone. What degree of freewill does a Psychopath have? What degree of free will does a Sociopath have? What degree of free will does a person with depression have? What degree of freewill does a person have that has a tumor that affects mental processes? What degree of free will do you have? The functioning of the Brain can be altered by chemicals and trauma as much as it can by a persons internal thought processes, environment and culture. Decision making processes including those relating to morality can be handicapped by the structure of the brain itself. One aspect of freewill is accessibility to options. When your options are limited by the environment or by your cognitive abilities, your freewill is limited proportionally.

If you can force a Psychopath to behave according to Gods Law, you can’t change his "heart" (motivation), because he is born that way and there is no known therapy to counteract it. There is no way to get him to feel love or loyalty to God so from the start, the biblical mechanism for redemption for the psychopath is flawed. There is no scriptural mechanism for the salvation of the psychopath.

A popular rebuttal to this problem is that God can save anyone he chooses to through his grace. He will save those that are incapable of understanding that allegedly Jesus sacrifice on the cross was their way to salvation. There are several problems with that view.

First, typically Evangelicals, believe in the Doctrine of Original Sin, that we are born into sin such as described by David in Psalm 51:5. We do not need to learn how to sin, it comes naturally through Adams sin. Only learning about Jesus and believing saves you. Jesus was the Second Adam. Non-Evangelicals will point to an interpretation about Davids baby and a belief that god will do the right thing. However nowhere is this problem specifically addressed in the Bible. Scriptural evidence better supports the assertion that they are not saved.

Second, non-Evangelicals believe that passages such as 1 Cor 7:14 can be interpreted that children will be saved if they die before they can understand the Gospel. But the Evangelical understanding of that passage does not mean saved. It means being made ritually clean in the sense of Jewish law in the case that an believer marries an unbeliever. They are made ritually clean, and the marriage and children are acceptable to God, which is not the same thing and significantly less important than salvation.

Third. Romans 2:14 - 15 talks about the law written on our hearts. Commonly called "the law of conscience". It is a type of Universal Moral Law written on our hearts as a result of being made in Gods Image. It is independent of the saving grace of Jesus, it is enough to condemn however, and it supports the view of Original Sin.

Fourth, allegedly Jesus as the "the perfect sacrifice" was ultimately pleasing enough to god to forgive everyones sin and give them a fresh start. They are still born into sin but they the get the chance at salvation because of His sacrifice on the cross. Psychopaths are incapable of repentance or loyalty to God. However, since psychopaths exist, then that means the sacrifice while maybe technically perfect, wasn't effectively perfect.

Now with these premises in mind, lets discuss some outcomes.

If say that we don't know what god will do with babies and the psychopath, then we have fundamentally weakened the concept of the Atonement and Original Sin. It was supposed to be the way to salvation for everyone, a reconciliation with god.

So if Non-Evangelicals are right and we are qualified to say that God will do the right thing and save the 'incapable', it raises the question of "the right thing" by whose standards? Ours or His? I see this view as contradicting the Christian "Test" solution to the Problem of Evil/Suffering; that even the rape and murder of children work out for the greater good but we can't know how that happens, and also that good is defined by god and we can't understand that either, and that is why so many acts of god look evil to us. It undermines the idea that the Evil in the world is a test for us. If God can save anyone he wants, and the Psychopath, or the criminally insane can run around and do hideous things with no remorse and still get saved, then this view of salvation is terribly unfair. The freewill of the innocent, or not so innocent can be undermined by a sub-group of people that can do anything and still be saved. If we say that god will do the right thing in principle by saving babies and the psychopath then we have set a precedent to say that we are competent to judge when god would do the right thing. Using that warrant I will say that raping and murdering children is not the right thing and does not lead to the greater good therefore the Problem Or Evil cancels God out because a benevolent God should not permit that.

If we are going to say that god will not save the psychopath or baby, then most people would find that unconscionable, we can add to our list of Problem of Evil grievances, and we have fundamentally weakened the concept of the Atonement and Original Sin because it was supposed to be the way to salvation for everyone, a reconciliation with god.I think the problem of unsaved babies, and the psychopath, is an unhandled exception that halts the system.

Through research in psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience and genetics it is becomingly increasingly clear that behavior is not only a matter of wanting to do the right thing, it depends on having an internal mechanism that supports it.

I used a podcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a basis for this article. The podcast was called “Inside the Mind of a Psychopath”. The reason I chose Psychopathy as the first topic for this series was because Psychopathy is clinically considered an emotional disorder that disrupts empathy. Psychopaths are not able to Love and therefore not able to follow the First Great Commandment from Matt. 22:37.

In the synopsis of the interviews that follow, the various researchers give their perspectives on Psychopathy.

Dr. Robert Hare says the psychopath is not what the media portrays. They are individuals that are intact but at the core, lack emotional concern or empathy for other people. They don’t understand that other people have rights. They don’t feel remorse or guilt. They lack a conscience and this can’t be explained in intellectual deficiency, psychosis, mental illness or brain damage.
Traits that make up a Psychopath are shared with Psychotic and Sociopathic personalities but some traits make them distinct from each other. Psychotic personalities are considered delusional, and Sociopathic personalities have the ability to feel remorse or guilt.

Psychopaths know exactly what they are doing but they just don’t care. Psychotics are not aware that what they are doing is wrong. The term Sociopath describes the “hardcore” criminal. Some psychopaths are also sociopaths, or hardcore criminals, but they don’t feel remorse.

Traits that collectively describe a Psychopath are a shallow emotional life, they are fairly superficial people, they use deceit to intimidate and control other people, they tend to be fairly dominant in controlling people, they have enormous sense of entitlement (they believe everything is due to them), they are fairly impulsive in a controlled sense, they lead a nomadic lifestyle, they commit a lot of irresponsible behavior, promiscuity, lying and they have a need for excitement. None of these traits individually warrant the diagnosis of psychopathy, but collectively they do. All these traits make up the personality of a person that would find it easy to violate social norms of behavior but not necessarily to the degree of criminality.

Dr. James Blair believes that psychopathy is an emotional disorder, comparable to depression and anxiety. He is convinced that their behavior is a result of the difference in how their brains work. Types of emotional learning are impaired. They don’t process emotional information properly. The way that emotions interact with attention to process objects in the environment, and the way that emotions interact with decision making is interrupted. They are not as good at recognizing facial expressions as non-psychopaths.

Some children exhibit psychopathic tendencies. Dr. Blair is performing MRI studies on them to see the differences in their brains. Children are less likely to have had strong environmental influences in their behavior. One of the tests is to recognize facial expressions. Children with psychopathic traits show a reduced response in the amygdala compared to children without psychopathic traits. The amygdala are also important in feeling fear. So it may explain why psychopaths are not afraid of getting caught if they commit a crime, and their apparent lack of conscience. If a person has trouble interpreting how someone else feels, it would be almost impossible to have empathy, and learn the difference between good and bad behavior.

Dr. Blair believes that since psychoapthy is an emotional disorder, and since emotional disorders respond well to pharmacological treatments, once the systems that cause psychopathy are understood, it is likely that it can be treated pharmacologically.

Dr. Essi Viding says that children with psychopathic traits differ from children with anti-social behavior. They lack empathy for people they offend and rarely feel bad about what they’ve done. Children with psychopathic traits will deliberately hurt other children especially if they are perceived as being weak or needing protection. Sometimes they will hurt other children for amusement and not feel bad about it. If they feel bad, they feel bad about getting caught. They usually blame others for their own actions, they can be cruel to animals and they seem to have a slightly odd emotional profile. They are superficially charming in an attempt to manipulate people to their own ends but don’t actually show sincere affection and can change their loyalties quickly. She conducted studies on twins that show that the traits are largely inherited. She and her colleague are planning to look for genetic markers in DNA to identify risk factors for psychopathy in the same way that certain gene combinations identify risk factors for heart disease.

Dr. Marnie Rice believes there is a genetic basis for psychopathy and believes that it was evolutionarily selected for. While she acknowledges that psychopathic behavior is outside the mean for average human behavior, she sees it not as a disorder but as a natural variation within the human genome. In some ways it made for an evolutionarily “fitter” person. She thinks psychopaths have evolved to fill an evolutionary niche. The only required behavior to make evolution work is to successfully pass on your genes. Promiscuity and lack of empathy are traits of psychopaths and this leads to mating and reproduction. They tend to start having sex earlier, and tend to move between partners frequently. Barring any inhibiting factors, psychopaths are likely to have more offspring than non psychopaths. Dr. Rice’s research into psychopathic sexual preferences show they are selectively interested in post-pubescent females. They are not as likely to be interested in the same sex or children. Psychopaths are most successful in environments where they can remain anonymous and jump from mate to mate. The city is a perfect place for that behavior.

Changing the behavior of psychopaths using typical therapy doesn’t work. Some traditional therapy makes them worse. After treatment they have a higher likelihood of repeating the offending behavior. They use what they learn in therapy to gain an advantage to increase the successful outcome of their subsequent behavior.

In summary, I repeat, if a psychopath can be forced to behave according to Gods Law, his motivation (“heart”) can’t change, because he is born that way and there is no known therapy to counteract it. There is no way to get him to feel love or loyalty to god so from the start, the biblical mechanism for redemption for the psychopath is flawed. There is no scriptural mechanism for the salvation of the psychopath.

REFERENCES

Atonement Theories and Cultural Understandings.
The Soul: A Rational Belief?
CBC Radio: Inside the mind of a psychopath (scroll down to the bottom of the page when you get there)
Wikipedia on Psychopathy
Dr. Hares webpage
Dr. Blairs webpage
Dr. Viding’s webpage
Dr. Rice’s book on this topic
The Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy
Dr. Porters Webpage

64 comments:

Jason said...

"There is no scriptural mechanism for the salvation of the psychopath." I'm sorry but I don't see how this sort of article debunks Christianity...?

The whole 'salvation' argument starts and ends with these verses: Rom 9:16 "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."

Titus 3:5 "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us..."

Through His mercy, God can choose to save a psychopath as much as he can choose to save an unborn child.

Lee Randolph said...

Well, if its that easy what was the point of all that crucifixion stuff?

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Lee wrote: "These words were written by people who did not understand the properties of the brain".

Could you please explain a bit more about these people who "understand the brain" and just who are they? Just recently, a belief that brain cells could not regenerate was just overturned. Now, who are these people who understand the brain and what scientific conclusion will be found false for the future???

http://www.brainlightning.com/regen.html

Lee Randolph said...

HI MMM,

Could you please explain a bit more about these people who "understand the brain" and just who are they?
I only said it was written by people that didn't understand the principles as outlined in the article. I will concede that the conclusion of the article is vulnerable to new information that could possibly refute it, but I don't see any in your response.

Just recently, a belief that brain cells could not regenerate was just overturned. Now, who are these people who understand the brain and what scientific conclusion will be found false for the future???
I infer that your point is that since science got this wrong and corrected itself, it is likely that the conclsions about psychopathy are likely to be wrong and correct itself to come in line with theology.
Not all scientific conclusions get overturned. It could very well be that this is a valid finding. It could very well be that the only way to correct psychopathy is with pharmacology. As I said before, I don't see any new information to refute these conclusions, only a potential "part to whole" fallacy.

zilch said...

Very interesting post, Lee. While it seems premature to claim that there is selection for psychopaths, the fact that defection (in game theory) and parasitism (in the biosphere) can be fit strategies, if they constitute a small percentage of the whole, makes the possibility worth looking into.

Jason: this is of course an issue which divides Christians. But if "works of righteousness" don't count, what is sin? It seems to me that all those lists of sins are rendered meaningless, and there's no point in trying to avoid sin, if anyone, including psychopaths who are constitutionally inable to repent sins, can get their ticket to heaven through the whim of God.

richdurrant said...

I'm really not sure I grasp the Evangelist concept of the atonement as it applies to salvation. It does seem that it doesn't really matter what you do because you are chosen by God for salvation. It's hard for me to nail down what the belief is. So how is it that you become saved? There must be some method because I have been told many times before that I am lost and can be saved. But does God have to "choose" me or can I "choose"?

Shygetz said...

Through His mercy, God can choose to save a psychopath as much as he can choose to save an unborn child.

But you must love God and truly repent of your sins to be saved and forgiven, right? This is standard Protestant doctrine, and is shared by all Evangelical theologies that I know of as a minimum for salvation.

If a psychopath is truly unable to feel remorse (and, thus, repent) and truly unable to love God, then how does he fit in to God's divine plan? Why did God create psychopaths to begin with? What greater good does the existence of people who are biologically unable to empathize fulfill?

Jason said...

Lee,

It is that easy. God is a God of mercy who forgives sin. Jesus' death tranforms believers from a life of slavery to sin to a new life of service. The fundamental predicate of the atonement is that it is man's attitude to sin which needed to be changed, not God's.

Jesus' sacrificial death removes our sin. This it does by fulfilling the old covenant sacrificial system, paving the way for God's forgiveness. Note this point. God's forgiveness is not literally "purchased"; that would be no forgiveness at all. We are frequently told that sacrifice does not automatically secure God's favor (cf. Mic. 6:6-8). Rather, it fulfills a covenant obligation which is a precondition for God's forgiveness. Once the sacrifice is made, the sinner may seek forgiveness, and if he or she is sincere, God will freely forgive.

Nonetheless, the real question regarding salvation and psychopaths is this: if a psychopath has no knowledge of sin or God, will he be judged as if he did? The answer is no. Therefore, it's no good talking about someone's salvation until it's first established what their understanding is of salvation itself. Scripture tells us that children are 'covered' by their parents in terms of salvation until they reach an age of accountability. That is, if a child's working knowledge of God's commandments & good and evil isn't at a point where they can be held accountable for wrongdoings, they're 'covered' by their parents. A psychopath is in a similar boat. If their capacity to love God and follow His commandments is non-existent as a result of brain trauma, etc., then there's no point hypothesizing about their salvation potential because we're not given enough information to make that sort of call. Who's to say they also won't be 'covered' by a believing parent, sibling, etc.?

Jason said...

Shygetz,

Your questions are unanswerable precisely because no one possesses enough information to know the ins and outs of God's Plan or how He views those people who don't have a capacity to love.

Regarding the 'minimum requirements of salvation', don't forget baptism :) Nonetheless, I point you back to the example of children who aren't at the age of accountability (1Cr 7:14). Will they still be given salvation if they die before reaching such an age? The simple fact is we're not told. Judgment is the domain of God.

B H said...

Jason wrote: the real question regarding salvation and psychopaths is this: if a psychopath has no knowledge of sin or God, will he be judged as if he did? The answer is no.

Odd that you would state that so flatly then in the end say we don't know. For all the Bible says on the matter, the answer could be "yes" - we just don't want it to be.

I think the issue of whether the god in question will forgive a psychopath or not isn't the issue (especially given that the relevant holy books don't directly describe such disorders). The very existence of such a severe emotional disorder seems to counter the belief that our physical lives are a test for our immortal souls. If a creator truly wanted to test us, why would they design bodies that are subject to physical failings that prevent the learning or application of morality?

Lee Randolph said...

Bravo Joe! Thats what I'm talkin bout.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
It is that easy. God is a God of mercy who forgives sin....
Jesus' sacrificial death removes our sin. This it does by fulfilling the old covenant sacrificial system, paving the way for God's forgiveness.

I wouldn't call requiring a sacrificial death "mercy". And I wonder where the requirement came from. God is supposedly the boss. He required it of himself? is there some limiting factor that made it necessary? If god can forgive babies and psychopaths without a sacrifice, why not everyone else? It doesn't make sense.

The fundamental predicate of the atonement is that it is man's attitude to sin which needed to be changed, not God's.
There were laws in those days. I think you are ignoring some qualifiers here. Namely that the ancients were more sophisticated than you are giving them credit for. Murder, rape, theft, fraud, all that stuff has always been bad. History has demonstrated that mans attitude has remained constant in condeming behavior that is generally not in keeping with sustaining a community.

Rather, it fulfills a covenant obligation which is a precondition for God's forgiveness.
Look at yourself! A precondition for the master of the universe? The supreme being in the universe has an obligation? To who?

Nonetheless, the real question regarding salvation...Scripture tells us that children are 'covered' by their parents...A psychopath is in a similar boat. If their capacity to love God and follow His commandments is non-existent as a result of brain trauma, etc., then there's no point hypothesizing about their salvation potential because we're not given enough information to make that sort of call.
I'd like to see that "childrens clause" if you don't mind quoting chapter and verse. And I'd like to point out that while I am backing up my conclusion in writing with scripture, you are trying to artificially extend a principle (that I doubt is undisputed) that you have no right to extend.

By saying that there are exceptions that are not covered by the atonement, you are saying that it wasn't a perfect sacrifice. Face it, god demanding his own death in the body of an allegedly righteous man from himself as payment for sin (bad hehavior i remind you) that he obviously built into us is just dumb, and any way you look at it, it still looks dumb.
Hold that thought! Excuse me while I slap myself silly because I choose to have dogs that behave badly. Ok, now back to business!

Let me "extend a principle"!
More likely (if he existed) the "atonement" was a self-justification/rationalization needed because they were wrong about Jesus from the start and he wound up nailed to the cross like a criminal because he was disturbing the peace and he either died and got thrown into a beggars grave or was let down and got the hell out of dodge.

Jason said...

bh,

Rom 2:12 "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law..."

Rom 4:15 "...for where no law is, there is no transgression."

Jason said...

Lee said: "I wouldn't call requiring a sacrificial death "mercy"."

John 3:16-17 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

God's mercy was being extended to mankind via Jesus.

"If god can forgive babies..."

Forgiving babies isn't possible since there's no need to forgive anything where a knowledge of sin (i.e. good & evil) doesn't exist.

"History has demonstrated that mans attitude has remained constant in condeming behavior that is generally not in keeping with sustaining a community."

Correct but man condeming man for improper behaviour doesn't have much to do with sin. I'm not sure what the relevance is...?

"Look at yourself! A precondition for the master of the universe? The supreme being in the universe has an obligation? To who?"

God has placed preconditions on salvation and blessings ever since the Garden. For example, the blessings offered to the Israelities were conditional on following the commandments of God. Jesus had to be sinless when he offered himself up. Baptism is a requirement for salvation. Conditions exist all over the place. I'm not sure why you're surprised by this...?

"I'd like to see that "childrens clause" if you don't mind quoting chapter and verse."

1 Cor 7:14.

"Face it, god demanding his own death in the body of an allegedly righteous man from himself as payment for sin that he obviously built into us is just dumb, and any way you look at it, it still looks dumb."

I completely agree. There are some very difficult, if not impossible issues to deal with for all those Christians who believe in the Trinitarian penal substitution concept (e.g. If Jesus is God then how did his death appease his own wrath?).

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Reading Jason's comment "if a psychopath has no knowledge of sin or God, will he be judged as if he did? The answer is no." and comparing that with Dan Marvin's comments about how non-Christians are doomed to hell no matter what the cause gave me an idea.

It strikes me that it would be interesting if one of the members, every few months would go through the recent comments from believers and put up a post comparing the various positions that were magisterially described as THE 'Christian' or 'Biblical' teaching on specific points of controversy.

You could call it "Believer vs. Believer" (maybe with an illo based on the old MAD "Spy vs. Spy") or "Let's You and Him Fight."

This is, btw, a serious suggestion. I've been getting as annoyed at Shygetz at the Hyrda-headed nature of 'Christianity.'

Shygetz said...

And yet, Jason, you still have not answered the question; what possible greater good could be best acheived by bringing into the world people who cannot possibly feel empathy or love, and who therefore could not possible love God or their fellow man? If such a person is not held responsible for their actions by God due to their "ignorance of the Law", then what is the possible purpose of their existence?

Jason said...

Prup,

I have no doubt you've known for a long, long time that Christianity isn't a uniform, collective body where everyone agrees on everything under the sun and indeed no one's claiming Christianity is such an entity. The disciples argued amongst themselves, Jesus debated with the Jews, the apostles had run-ins with the 1st century churches. It's what happens when people stop letting the Bible speak for itself.

If you think the Bible says "non-Christians are doomed to hell", then it shouldn't be any problem debunking my beliefs. If it doesn't, then the opposite is true. It's really quite simple but it does require some work on your part. It's no different then two atheists disagreeing or two scientists disagreeing: one is right, one is wrong. Showing there are differences between the two sides isn't cause to reject the general, collective belief.

Jason said...

Shygetz,

I've already answered the question to the best of my ability. Quite simply, no one knows the fine details of God's plan and no one possesses the foresight to understand the meaning behind everything God creates. Fortunately or unfortunately, it's all outside the scope of our limited understanding. :)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
regarding your answer to shygetz, ignorance is bliss isn't it?
sigh.

and regarding your answer to prup....be careful where you throw stones, we have a lot of years of bible study under our belt!

"John 3:16-17.... God's mercy was being extended to mankind via Jesus."
I know what you you've been taught, but what do you think? If you think that requiring and causing a sacrificial death is mercy, then we have a disagreement that is wide and deep.

Forgiving babies isn't possible since there's no need to forgive anything where a knowledge of sin (i.e. good & evil) doesn't exist.
there you go again, putting out bad information. The doctrine of original sin, being born in sin is clearly documented in psalm Psalm 51:5 and taught since at least Augustine of Hippo.

Correct but man condemning man for improper behaviour doesn't have much to do with sin. I'm not sure what the relevance is...?
What are the ten commandments if not gods law? Isn't gods law written on our hearts? Isn't there a universal morality? Men condemn men for some of the same thing that God condemns men for.

Conditions exist all over the place. I'm not sure why you're surprised by this...?
I'm not surprised about conditions for humans, I'm surprised on the need for god to impose it on himself and inhabit a man that was tortured and killed (in an act of mercy) as a sacrifice to himself for conditions that he created as a reconciliation, to himslef. mercy, me. He brought it on himself to reconcile a condition he caused.

I knew it. Your childrens clause regards jewish ritual cleanliness and the lesser of two evils. It was better to marry than be sinful, but if you had to marry an unbeliever, they were made "clean enough" so that your children weren't born ritually unclean. It has nothing to do with infant salvation. heres an exegesis on that for your edification and reading pleasure. Being "clean" is a step or two below being immune from sin or being saved.

I completely agree.
I'm glad to see we have some common ground. Stick around.

Face it, not only does the atonement make no sense on its face, now there is empirical evidence that weakens it. The atonement makes no sense as long there exists a category of people that cannot be saved. Rather than playing the victim and pretending to kill himself, God should have fixed what Paul talked about in Rom. 7:15-24. Even Paul saw the evidence for Biological bases for behavior. And as Joe pointed out, and delivered the punchline to my series, the TEST of the Problem of Evil makes no sense either.

Christianity is one big, long self-justification.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Lee said, "If you think requiring and causing a sacrificial death as mercy..."

Have you considered that Jesus's experience of going through death and resurrection was faithfulness expressed in an act of love? I've often seen it referred to as sacrifice by religious in an attempt to manipulate and use it to lord over others guilt and promote compulsion - but I believe it was an act of faithful love and overcoming.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

I wanted to add further comment about the plight of those with psychopathy - regardless of our ability to scrutinize and understand a bit of the nature of those who suffer such, do you believe that we ought to be relieved to express compassion to these? Whether we believe psychopaths can respond or not to love, does this excuse anyone who is able to recognize another's affliction, from extending the appropriate form of help?? Can we do that without God? I think we can do much better with God with our approach towards those who suffer such. I feel that the parable of the demoniac may have been an accurate portrayal of Jesus' encounter with what we would now refer to as a psychopath - naked and violent with multiple voices - Jesus didn't retreat but relieved him of his suffering. I think most people would resort to fight or flight reactions.

I can remember a report sometime ago that was aired on a popular nighttime program in which it was explained how crack cocaine babies could never fully develope their brain capacity and personal ability to form close connections in personal relationships. The follow-up many years later of the child profiled in the original story disproved the medical prognosis. It was heartening. The adoptive mother refused to relent to the prediction she was given.

The expectation of responding towards God from one who is disabled with psychopathy is less than those who claim the ability to recognize another's malady - it is our decision to chose either to withhold or to extend the proper aid.

I believe in scripture, it is said that for those who much has been given, the expectation is higher.

Jason said...

Lee,

My apologies for not being able to answer Shy's question :)

1. John 3:16-17 I know what you you've been taught, but what do you think? If you think that requiring and causing a sacrificial death is mercy, then we have a disagreement that is wide and deep.

It's not about what anyone's been 'taught', it's about simply reading what the Bible says about Christ's sacrifice.

2. "The doctrine of original sin, being born in sin is clearly documented in psalm Psalm 51:5..."

Which part of Psa 51:5 is "documented" proof of original sin...? "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (KJV)

Infants are not guilty of sin because they have not transgressed Divine law. Scripture is adamant that only those who have transgressed Divine law have sinned - and that sin is not imputed where knowledge of that law is absent: James 1:15 "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

I'd now like to see some passages of Scripture which tell us that children are not innocent before they transgress and that they have something to repent of.

3. "Men condemn men for some of the same thing that God condemns men for."

I must be missing something here. My original comment: 'The fundamental predicate of the atonement is that it is man's attitude to sin which needed to be changed, not God's.' For some reason, you disagree, I'm just not sure what the disagreement is...?

4. "I'm not surprised about conditions for humans, I'm surprised on the need for god to impose it on himself..."

Scripture says Jesus was a human born 'under the law'. It says nothing about God being Jesus. Issue solved. :)

5. Where do you get the concept of children 'being born' in 1 Cor 7:14? The children are made 'holy' by a believing spouse. That's what the verse says. Nothing about newborns...?

6. "The atonement makes no sense as long there exists a category of people that cannot be saved."

Who can't be saved?

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Jason:
This is curiosity, not a challenge to you. You are a Christadelphian, as you state on your website -- and I'd seriously suggest various members read the site before commenting to you, because Christadelphians have a number of beliefs that differ from 'mainstream' Christianity or Evangelicalism. For example, you are, as you have stated, Unitarian in that you do not accept any Divinity of Christ, you do not accept hell, etc.

However, you state here: "if a psychopath has no knowledge of sin or God, will he be judged as if he did? The answer is no."

and

"Forgiving babies isn't possible since there's no need to forgive anything where a knowledge of sin (i.e. good & evil) doesn't exist"

But, on the Christadelphia home page, among 'doctrines to be rejected' -- another page worth checking out, btw -- it says:
#22:"We reject the doctrine - that those without knowledge - through personal choice, immaturity, or lack of mental capacity - will be saved."

It seems to me that this contradicts your statement. Am I wrong? (I sincerely am curious.)

zilch said...

I must admit that all this stuff about sins, repentance, and salvation is pretty confusing to me, and it would seem that many Christians are similarly in disagreement about what these things mean. I'm usually willing to leave it aside as a curiosum of the story-telling and story-interpreting prowess of believers, but this bit intrigued me.

Jason, you said, speaking about the salvation of psychopaths: "Who's to say they also won't be 'covered' by a believing parent, sibling, etc.?"

I've never heard of such "covering", and I would like to know a) where it appears in Scripture (while I'm no expert, I know the Bible pretty well and I don't recall any such concept), and b) how far does this "covering" extend? If parents and siblings count, how about uncles? Neighbors? Jesus? Just curious...

Lee Randolph said...

Hi MMM,

Have you considered that Jesus's experience of going through death and resurrection was faithfulness expressed in an act of love? .... I believe it was an act of faithful love and overcoming.
What was Jesus purpose? He was born to sacrifice. He was a human. If you believe in the trinity, you believe he was god. He was a human sacrifice to god. Or a human sacrifice to himself. Either way, any way you look at it he was a human sacrifice. And if you believe it that, then you should be wondering why the psychopath exists, since they undermine the 'perfection' of the sacrifice.

do you believe that we ought to be relieved to express compassion to these? ....Can we do that without God?....I feel that the parable of the demoniac may have been an accurate portrayal of Jesus' encounter with what we would now refer to as a psychopath - naked and violent with multiple voices - Jesus didn't retreat but relieved him of his suffering.....I think we can do much better with God with our approach towards those who suffer such.

It more accurately reflects a schizoprhenic, and st. pauls experience on the road to damascus resembles temporal lobe epilepsy which is known to be a biological process that eilcits religous experiences. It can be caused from external stimulus.
As for treating psychopaths, we ought to figure out how we can all increase the likelihood of a successful outcome for all of us. If it means compromise, fine, if it means they take to drugs to be like us, fine, but one thing is for sure that giving it to god isn't going to work. Research and hard work do more than prayer, I think you all know that.

I believe in scripture, it is said that for those who much has been given, the expectation is higher.
yea, thats a nice sentiment echoed by many an office manager. Its just one of those things that is naturally intuitive isn't it?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,

It's not about what anyone's been 'taught', it's about simply reading what the Bible says about Christ's sacrifice.
and.....it says he was a human sacrifice right? And the existence of the psychopath makes it imperfect right?

Which part of Psa 51:5 is "documented" proof of original sin...? "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (KJV)
Ah.....there it is like a cool breeze on a warm summers day. The doctrinal contradiction with other types of christianity. It always warms my heart because it reassures me that since no one understands it, I'm not missing anything.

3. "Men condemn men for some of the same thing that God condemns men for."......I'm just not sure what the disagreement is...?
My point is that we didn't need god to tell us what right and wrong was because it was clear what it takes to mess up a community and it was clear that type of behavior should be avoided if a community was to be sustained. In reality the egyptians learned it before the alleged tribes of abraham.

Scripture says Jesus was a human born 'under the law'. It says nothing about God being Jesus. Issue solved. :)
What are you doing here commenting on DC? You're not a real christian! ;-)
Do you want to volunteer as a contributer to DC? [double ;-)]

5. Where do you get the concept of children 'being born' in 1 Cor 7:14? The children are made 'holy' by a believing spouse. That's what the verse says. Nothing about newborns...?
hey, you tossed your misinterpetation out at me, I corrected you.

Who can't be saved?
Psychopaths for the reasons listed in the article.

woohoo! we've come full circle, want to go again?

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Lee asked, "What was Jesus's purpose? He was born to sacrifice".

For me, I see Jesus's entire life as an act of empathy and demonstration of God's love for us - God did not commit the crucifixion - that was the work of pride-infected people. It demonstrated how it is possible to look God in the face and reject His ways - I believe He knew of our suffering and was willing to come to demonstrate God's love for us so that we might be inspired to move more towards a whole, full-life and not be governed by fear.

Lee also said, "but one thing for sure is, giving it to god isn't going to work.."

I'm interested in knowing how you are so certain about this - are you like the researchers who once claimed that brain tissue could not regenerate?? I'm sure they once spoke with confidence as well.

I love scientific discovery - but I am not impressed by all of the conclusions that are formed - I have experienced healing myself so I know what is possible with God.

At any rate, thank you for conversing here.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

MMM: If your 'healer' would contact the James Randi Educational Fund and be willing to demonstrate this under rigidly controlled scientific conditions, he will win Randi's long-standing offer of one million dollars.

And if you argue that "God will not allow Himself to be tested" why not? Randi is perhaps the best known skeptic in the world. Were a healer to win this award, it would do more to bring people back to God -- out of respect, not out of fear as with 9/11 -- than almost anything I can imagine.

Or do we, yet again, have an example of God not wanting to convince people through facts, preferring them to believe by faith, the same sort of blind faith every God receives.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hello Mr. Prup - My response is "no". My healing isn't for scrutinizing, especially if one's purpose is to reduce God to a play-dough puppet that can be manipulated to his own agenda. That would be Baal - a god whose personality traits changed according to the geographical location where he was worshipped - in other words, a manmade god.

If you express a heartfelt condolence to someone and then are put under interrogation for the sincerity of that emotion, you could not prove that you were being honest, could you?? If someone doubts you and holds to that doubt, there is nothing you can do to convince that person. But if someone knows you and is open to trusting you, then you are not even scrutinized in the first place, are you??

Please consider this - do you feel as though extracting and demanding evidence of God is a practice that would be found in heavenly realm - do you believe we will be discussing the existance of God? Do you believe arrogance is heavenly behavior??? Should God promote those practices that are not within His realm? Do you think God should promote pridefulness?

You do not have to believe me, Mr. Prup.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi MMM,
I'm interested in knowing how you are so certain [that giving to god won't work] - are you like the researchers who once claimed that brain tissue could not regenerate?? I'm sure they once spoke with confidence as well.
Ahhh......there's that lovely part to whole fallacy again!

Giving it to God was the default way to handle mental illness until the middle ages. At that point, someone got the crazy idea that maybe it was naturally occurring and started pursuing that route.
Since then the average for successful outcomes have been steadily improving.

And i speak from experience too, much as you do, but I'll bet you a beer that the difference is that my experiences can be independently verified and are documented.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

First, Lee: I think you understate the case. It is not just in medicine that 'giving it to God' has shown no record of success comparable to the record science has accomplished. I'll ask you, and more, any believers, any area where they can claim that 'giving it to God' HAS succeeded better than purely secular action by man.

I'll give one main example, the weather. As long as things like lightning and hurricanes were viewed as 'Acts of God' the death toll kept about the same. But lightning rods, satellite weather viewing and predicting, etc. have lessened -- not eliminated but lessened the toll from these 'acts of God.'

Imagine the following 'mind-experiment.' Imagine a town full of believers who decide to 'give' traffic control to God, for one week. During that week there would be no traffic enforcement, the traffic lights would be turned off, no use of radar or enforcement of drunk driving regulations, etc. But every person in that town would report to Church every morning and pray, sincerely that they would be kept safe from traffic accidents. The results I leave to your imagination -- but I wouldn't set foot in that town that week.

As to 3M's cliches about 'not putting God to the test,' doesn't God want people to believe in him? And by responding to such a test, he would immediately bring thousands of skeptics, doubters, and unbelievers -- as well as believers in 'false religions' to belief in Him.

Your comments "If someone doubts you and holds to that doubt, there is nothing you can do to convince that person. But if someone knows you and is open to trusting you, then you are not even scrutinized in the first place, are you??" are simply nonsense. That's what evidence is for. (A certain American President said very few sensible things in his career, but 'trust but verify' was one of them.)

Of course, if someone trusted me, I would still expect them to verify my statements. That's why I quote sources, that's why I welcome challenges -- and why I differed with John in the dispute that removed me as a member here.

More later, I'm running late for a doctor's appointment.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Lee, I'd love to have a beer with you, even though I prefer Merlot.

Mr. Prup, to have to justify onesself is a burdensome way to relate I think. I'd rather be in the company of those who simply enjoy each other and have each others' best interests at heart. But I thank you for the conversation.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

One more thing;

Lee referred to the part to whole fallacy - You are welcome to your definition but I believe that faith and grace allow time for sorting out - progressing and growing towards forming values, conviction, discernment, priorities. This is a process that is repeatedly referred to by Jesus' words. By faith, I am enabled to see and tell the difference between what consitutes divine love and behavior that is infected by pride. Our worldly lives do eventually arrive at a culminating point, but, by grace, we are not required to live habitually and compulsively by black and white determinations.

Also, you mentioned that prior to the Middle Ages, the approach to mental illness was given to God - I do not accept that - I believe that many who suffered mental illness were mistreated and abused (and no doubt, as it is today, some of the abuse was probably carried on in the name of a god)-

Also, I thank you for pointing out my prior error on calling the demoniac a psychopath -I agree with your correction that he would be labeled a schizophrenic nowadays. After giving it some thought, I believe that the psychopaths were/are more deceptive in their approach to others and no doubt many were/are politicians.

Okay, thanks once again!

Kyle said...

Rich Durant Said:
"I'm really not sure I grasp the Evangelist concept of the atonement as it applies to salvation. It does seem that it doesn't really matter what you do because you are chosen by God for salvation. It's hard for me to nail down what the belief is. So how is it that you become saved? There must be some method because I have been told many times before that I am lost and can be saved. But does God have to "choose" me or can I "choose"?"

Hi Rich!

Did you mean Calvinist instead of Evangelist? They are the ones who think that God chooses from among sinful men according to His own purposes to save some to their great benefit. The rest are justly condemned. But this is an 'after the fact' analysis of what happed. The experience of salvation involves the individual coming to a recognition of God's terms (repentance, faith in the Jesus of scriptures) and their sinfulness and need for that salvation. The candidate for salvation makes a choice about whether the losses that come with following Jesus are worth the benefit. If they cross the threshold and trust Jesus to save them, they are saved. Calvinists and Arminians basically agree on how a Christian experiences the first steps of faith but they disagree about what God's role was and if man made any determinative choices or if God directed completely man's action apart from man knowing it at the time.

From the POV of the person being saved, they encounter some presentation of the Gospel and wrestle with the issues inolved. They overcome some emotional and intellectual barriers and soften their attitudes about Jesus and his claims, at least enough to find him more trustworthy than they are skeptical about him. Then they submit as an act of the will to the Lordship of Jesus and trust him. The final result is a settled trust in who Jesus is and what he did for them and an ongoing committment to be a follower of him.

Hope that clears it up a bit. If not I can take another stab at it.

Kyle

Jason said...

Prup,

Good question.

I haven't been saying that babies and psychopaths will be saved because of a lack of knowledge. What I'm saying is that those individuals who don't know the law because of diminished mental capacity won't be judged in the same way as those who do. As mentioned already, the ultimate judgment is left with God. We can't condemn a group of people simply because they don't understand good & evil any more then we can condemn a baby for understanding the atonement. They might be saved, they might not - the point is we don't know.

Jason said...

Lee,

1. "and.....it says he was a human sacrifice right? And the existence of the psychopath makes it imperfect right?"

Eph 5:2 "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour."

The existence of a psychopath doesn't make anything imperfect for any of the reasons touched on already in the previous posts.

2. "Ah.....there it is like a cool breeze on a warm summers day..."

I'll ask again: Which part of Psa 51:5 is documented proof of original sin?

3."My point is that we didn't need god to tell us what right and wrong was because it was clear what it takes to mess up a community and it was clear that type of behavior should be avoided..."

It's not about what should be avoided, it's about how to deal with sin under the new law, specifically being humble enough to ask for forgiveness, to forgive others, and to recoginze a mistake has been made.

4. Issue solved.

5. "hey, you tossed your misinterpetation out at me, I corrected you.".

I'll ask again: Where does 1 Cor 7:14 talk about newborns? Children are made holy through a believing parent - this is what the verse says. The children are 'covered' by their parents, hence the responsibility is on the parents to live a Christ-like life.

6. "Who can't be saved?" "Psychopaths for the reasons listed in the article." Psychopaths won't be judged under the law since they don't know the law. They're no different in this regards then babies. Ultimately, they may or may not be saved, we can't say one way or another.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
I see you'd like another go. alright then. The bible is ripe with cherries for picking and interpreting any way you want. By taking the non-evangelical angle you are effectivley helping me make a two pronged argument, one for the insufficiency of the atonement and the other for the insufficiency of scripture leading to the inconsistencies between denominations.

First, typically Evangelicals, (my old crowd anyway), believe that we are born into sin as described by david in psalm 5:15. We do not need to learn how to sin, it comes naturally through Adams sin. Only learning about Jesus and believing saves you. Jesus was the Second Adam. By my old criteria, you are not saved. If you want more than that, google it.

Second, I repeat, being made clean in that passage does not mean saved. Newborns are subsets of children. They are made ritually clean, which is not the same thing and significantly less important. If you are not satisfied with my answer and the link, Google it.

Third. romans 2:14 - 15 talks about the law written on our hearts. Commonly called "the law of conscience". It is independent of the saving grace of jesus, it is enough to condemn however.

Robert L. Reymond says it as follows.
Paul’s foundational premise here is that men are aware of the basic moral teaching of God made known through God’s general revelation to them. Thus it is that Paul speaks of conscience – the self-conscious self-evaluative process of assessing the degree of one’s moral success or integrity – within men because they are made in God’s image.
-- Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville), 772

Fourth, the perfect sacrifice was ultimately pleasing enough to god to forgive everyones sin and give them a fresh start. They are still born into sin but they the get the chance at salvation because of His sacrifice on the cross. Psychopaths are incapable of repentence or loyalty to God. However, since psychopaths exist, then that means the sacrifice while maybe technically perfect, wasn't effectivley perfect. But then, perfect means perfect doesn't it so I'm being needlessly nit-picky.

It's not about what should be avoided, it's about how to deal with sin under the new law, specifically being humble enough to ask for forgiveness, to forgive others, and to recoginze a mistake has been made.
I repeat, the psychopath can't do that.

Jason said...

Lee,

Being made 'clean' is reflected in the rather important step of baptism, a prerequisite to salvation. Upon baptism, the believer is made 'clean' (Acts 22:16, 1 Cor 6:11). Baptism isn't required of a child - in face this teaching is completely absent in Scripture. Therefore, a child is symbolically made 'clean' by a believing parent. Once the child reaches an age of accountability, they're faced with the same decision their parents were: to become baptised and follow Christ or not.

The idea of original sin doesn't have its origins in Scripture which is precisely why there's no mention of children sinning, children being baptised, or childrens approaching God asking for forgiveness. It's also why Christ remained sinless - he was never born into sin (and thus Christians conjured up the false concept of the immaculate conception).

Psychopaths are incapable of loving God but then that has nothing to do with their salvation. For someone who is mentally unable to ask for forgiveness or repent and there exists no knowledge of sin. A baby isn't sinning when he hits his parents because the idea of 'sin' doesn't exist. It's no different for a true psychopath.

Note 1 Timothy 1:13 "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief."

So, like I've said before, the unwilfull lack of knowledge isn't grounds to condemn. It is however grounds to commit their judgment into the hands of God. We simply don't know beyond a shadow of a doubt what their fate will be.

"I repeat, the psychopath can't do that."

Go back through the thread and take a look at the original point. We weren't discussing psychopaths, we were discussing the atonement.

John W. Loftus said...

Just for the record, I think Lee's argument in this post seems to be excellent. I usually don't comment if I don't feel qualified to do so.

Joseph said...

"So, like I've said before, the unwilfull lack of knowledge isn't grounds to condemn. It is however grounds to commit their judgment into the hands of God. We simply don't know beyond a shadow of a doubt what their fate will be."

Interesting discussion. Then, it would be better for people never to hear about Jesus or read the Scriptures, wouldn't it? Otherwise, would be held accountable for what they hear and be worse off than they were before. From a Christian perspective, do you really think that a psychopath wouldn't be judged by a just God for doing things that are objectively wrong? Murder, rape, theft will all go unpunished because the psychopath simply doesn't recognize them as wrong? Sounds a little f-d up to me.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Joseph,
exactly, and it minimizes adams sin in the garden and the atonement. There's doesn't seem to be any way out of this for the christian.

I am waiting for IrishFarmer to tell me what it is about this article that led to his 'demotion' of DC on his blog. I presume he has a bulletproof argument refuting it. I'd like to see it.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi John,
thanks for the encouragement, I was wondering if I had bitten off more that I could chew.

Joseph said...

"I presume he has a bulletproof argument refuting it. I'd like to see it." The Christians evangelicals/fundamentalists have been a little silent around here lately. Hmmmm, do you think it has anything to do with the quality of the articles? I'd love to see some thoughtful response to mine on the Messianic prophecies or John's latest on Scriptural inconsistencies.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Joseph,
thats a tempting conclusion, but I wouldn't commit to it. There could be other reasons.

keep up the good work!

Jason said...

Joseph said: Then, it would be better for people never to hear about Jesus or read the Scriptures, wouldn't it?"

There is no 'better'. Either you know about God, etc. and are judged (worthy or unworthy) or you don't know about God and aren't judged. Either way, the ultimate fate of the unworthy and the latter is death.

"From a Christian perspective, do you really think that a psychopath wouldn't be judged by a just God for doing things that are objectively wrong? Murder, rape, theft will all go unpunished because the psychopath simply doesn't recognize them as wrong?"

As I've been saying, I don't know and no one knows what the final judgment will be for this subset of people. It's no different then infants. We just don't know.

richdurrant said...

The atonement covers all sin for everyone. Whether you choose to repent and be forgiven of your sins is up to you. Those who are not accountable for their sin are covered by the atonement also. Sin is sin regardless of the knowledge one has. Accountability comes into play once you gain that knowledge, hence the term accountability. Those who don't understand sin, infants, little children, those without sufficient mental capacity, are not accountable to God for sin because of their lack of ability to understand right and wrong.

And Joseph, Lee was right, there are other reasons for some believers lack of comments lately. For me it has been time. The quality of posts here is quite good I just can't comment on all of them, I wish I could though.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason, Rich,
I just don't see how you can get around that "gods law is written on our hearts" stuff. That supports the Universal morality that christians talk about.

If its not true, where does the Universal morality fit in?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi rich,
thanks for the encouragement. I think I speak for all of us when I say this is a labor of love. We deal with a lot of sophisticated people and issues. For both sides, it takes time to think things through, sort though values, beliefs and check for consistency.

An off the cuff response can land me in trouble, especially with a guy like you.

richdurrant said...

"I just don't see how you can get around that "gods law is written on our hearts" stuff. That supports the Universal morality that christians talk about."

I'm not sure I agree 100% with this so I would have to better understand that principle before I commit to it.

"An off the cuff response can land me in trouble, especially with a guy like you."

Don't sweat it, I let the red flags from the HG help me know whether you're in trouble or not;)

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

Rich, no disrespect intended...just idle conjecture on my part. Glad to have you engaging in conversation with us! I enjoy reading your thoughtful exchanges with Lee.

Jason, you said: "As I've been saying, I don't know and no one knows what the final judgment will be for this subset of people. It's no different then infants. We just don't know." But we do know that murder, rape, theft are all wrong and worthy of some kind of punishment, don't we? The Biblical God can't just overlook it--it is inconsistent with his justice. Yahweh even commanded that innocent animals be put to death in under the Law of Moses if they were mixed up in funny business, even incidentally. Seems like the pendulum always swings in favor of punishment, at least from an OT perspective.

richdurrant said...

Joseph, no worries, It's hard to offend me

Jason said...

Hi Lee,

...what exactly is the problem with the 'law written on hearts' bit...?

richdurrant said...

Here's another question for those who believe we are born with the original sin. Why does the atonement not cover the original sin? Does this mean that Adam and Eve were never forgiven of that original sin? If that is true then the atonement may not cover every sin, even if we repent.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
I'm really doing my homework on this article. Thanks for the challenge. I looked at your website to get a grip on where you are coming from.

anyway, in my POV the problem with having the law written on the heart is that it is a kind of universal moral law. Not good enough to save us but good enough to condemn. It comes from being made in the image of god, and being condemned by adams act.

if that is the case then the psychopath, aborted "fetuses" (there are quite a lot of naturally aborted "fetuses"), and the "lost jungle tribes" are all condemned. They can only be saved by Jesus's grace. Now with that said, I have been looking at sites that have been bending over backwords to come up with a workaround for the 'incapable' and it seems to all boil down to something link an interpretation about Davids baby and a belief that god will do the right thing. Nowhere is this problem specifically addressed, not even in that "kids made clean" verse you keep pushing. Like I said, I am sure that being made ritually clean is not grounds for salvation. Scriptural evidence better supports the assertion that they are not saved. And in fact I think the originator of this doctrine didn't think it through well enough. They had no idea that the psychopath existed and evidently didn't think about babies. Think about it, they knew about 'demon possessed' people (scizoprhenics?) and only said they could be cast out. They don't get 'cast out' these days.

So if we are qualified to say that god will do the right thing and save the 'incapable', the right thing by whose standards? Ours or His? I see this view as contradicting the christian PoE view that even the rape and murder of children work out for the greater good but we can't know how that happens, and also that good is defined by god and we can't understand that either, and that is why so many acts of god look evil to us.

If we are going to say that we don't know what god will do with babies and the psychopath, then we have fundamentally weakened the concept of the Atonement and Original Sin. It was supposed to be the way to salvation for everyone, a reconciliation with god.

If we are going to say that god will do the right thing in principle by saving babies and the psychpath then we have set a precedent to say that we are competent to judge when god would do the right thing. Using that warrant I will say that raping and murdering children is not the right thing and does not lead to the greater good therefore the POE cancels god out.

If we are going to say that god will not save the psychopath or baby, then most people, except maybe michael ejercito, would find that unconscionable, we can add to our list of PoE grievances, and we have fundamentally weakened the concept of the Atonement and Original Sin because it was supposed to be the way to salvation for everyone, a reconciliation with god.

In any case, I think the problem of unsaved babies, and the psychopath, is an unhandled exception that halts the system.

richdurrant said...

If your not accountable for your sins then how is it possible to be condemned for sins you are not accountable fot? And if you are not held accountable for sin, why are you born accountable for the original sin? I don't see how that is possible, that accountability has one exception, original sin. If we are accountable for original sin, then are we accountable for our parents' sins?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richdurrant,
I presume you are Mormon. If thats the case, can you tell us how Mormons handle this problem?

Jason said...

Hi Lee,

“if that is the case then the psychopath, aborted "fetuses" (there are quite a lot of naturally aborted "fetuses"), and the "lost jungle tribes" are all condemned. They can only be saved by Jesus's grace.”

It's no different then anyone else, Christians included.

Eph 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

“Nowhere is this problem specifically addressed, not even in that "kids made clean" verse you keep pushing. Like I said, I am sure that being made ritually clean is not grounds for salvation.”

It has been addressed - just not in the way you want: 'God will do the right thing.'

Ritual cleansing is done through baptism. Baptism is a requirement for salvation. Mark 16:16 “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…”

“Scriptural evidence better supports the assertion that they are not saved.”

Where?

“They had no idea that the psychopath existed and evidently didn't think about babies.”

Or, better yet, maybe we’re not told about what God does with psychopaths or babies because in the grand scheme of things, it’s out of our control no matter how we look at it. Judgment is God’s. Not. Ours.

“So if we are qualified to say that god will do the right thing and save the 'incapable', the right thing by whose standards? Ours or His?”

His.

"If we are going to say that we don't know what god will do with babies and the psychopath, then we have fundamentally weakened the concept of the Atonement and Original Sin. It was supposed to be the way to salvation for everyone, a reconciliation with god.

Original Sin isn’t a Biblically-taught doctrine and salvation, as already mentioned, is a “gift from God”. He can give it whomever He wants. Babies and psychopaths included.

“If we are going to say that god will do the right thing in principle by saving babies and the psychpath then we have set a precedent to say that we are competent to judge when god would do the right thing.”

Agreed. But then no one’s said God will save babies or the crazies. What has been said over and over again is that we don’t have enough information, nor are we supposed to, to know how God is going to judge babies or psychopaths. It’s up to Him and Him alone.

“If we are going to say that god will not save the psychopath or baby..."

Then it’s a good thing no one’s said God won’t save the psychopath or baby.

“In any case, I think the problem of unsaved babies, and the psychopath, is an unhandled exception that halts the system.”

It halts the system only if you ignore the Biblical evidence. Children are covered by their parents until they reach an age of accountability and psychopaths aren’t judged under the law since they’re incapable of understanding the law. By passing judgment in either case, people are denying or forcing the mercy of God. The simplest and most Biblically agreeable task is to simply “Judge not…”. End of story.

richdurrant said...

Yes Lee,
Since you have to have the ability to understand right from wrong before you can be accountable for your sins, those who are not accountable are covered by the atonement and return to heaven.

"it’s out of our control no matter how we look at it. Judgment is God’s. Not. Ours."

Yes but can someone be judged unable to stand trial by reason of accountability?

"He can give it whomever He wants. Babies and psychopaths included."

So can he also then decide not to save one who does everything he asks of us? They are baptized, confess Jesus is the lord, follow the commandments, repent, go to church, ect.., and after all of that God can decide not to save them? If this is the case I don't see how you could call such a God just. If this isn't the case then there must be a specific method by which I can be saved, and if that includes accountability then if I am mentally unable to understand the gospel and am not accountable for sin then there must be some kind of exception to the rule. We have a conflict here in that you are apparently able to know when you are saved (I can't remember who said that but it was a Christian maybe in another thread) except for cases like babies and psychopaths we just don't know. It seems that we should either know about who can be saved, or we have no idea and it is up to God to decide regardless of how we act here. Of coarse the later is against scripture because we are told things to do for our salvation. If those who are found without sin at the last day are to be saved, then if someone is not held accountable for there sin then they would be included in the found without sin and should be saved. If not I don't see how condemning them is "doing the right thing."
Jason your are essentially saying this in your last comment without committing to an answer, just leave it up to God, which I agree with, but if God will do the right thing and these are people who can't be accountable for sin, the right thing would be salvation not condemnation right?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richdurrant,
first, I don't think the scripture supports your view, and while I haven't seen any evangelistas or fundamentalistas chime in, I don't think they would agree with you, but I can't speak for them. I do believe however, that they would do scriptural gymnastics to somehow save face for god.

If I stipulate that god would save anyone he wants to, then I would say that there are a broad category of people that should be saved that are not obvious to us, and I still say that this view devalues the atonement and the crucifixion to the point that we have to wonder why it was necessary. I would argue anyone that doesn't believe in God, if god is real, is crazy (the "fool" in his heart, yada yada) and incompetent to decide. Since that is the case, If god can save anyone he wants to, why not save 'em all? Why not create a policy of remediation and repair instead of punitive. Wouldn't you all say that atheists are incompetent to decide if god exists or not?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi guys,
I forgot to mention that the principle that you are using to justify god saving those that are incapable can be used to show the he wouldn't let evil exist if he existed.

Jason said...

Lee,

No one's saying God will save babies or psychopaths by default. What's being said is that there's no point in taking a hard line and saying they will be saved or they won't be saved because we don't have enough information to make that call. Hence, we leave the decision with God.

richdurrant said...

Yes Lee I may not find something in the bible to directly support that view, but it also was in response to how Mormons handle this problem. There are several verses in the BOM and other scriptures we use that do handle this problem. I actually am looking also at how other Christians are answering this problem. Even though they hold similar belief, they stop short of declaring who God may or may not save, leaving judgment to Him. i see some holes there and some things that don't add up so I myself am trying to clear up the belief better.

darbea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.