The Greater and Lesser Deeds

If God sent Jesus to save the world by dying on the cross for our sins (the greater deed) then he should at least be as passionate as Christians are to help people believe (the lesser deeds). Why would God do the greater deed and not also do the lesser deeds? This doesn't make sense of an omniscient, omnibenelovent, and omnipotent God. The excuses given for the paucity of evidence reveal that the Christian expects way too little from the God they believe in. [First posted 10/29/08]

51 comments:

Charlie said...

Why would God do the greater deed and not also do the lesser deeds?

Why doesn't God play football, since it is clearly a lesser deed compared to Christ's dying on the cross, and it would prove his existence to everybody? Why doesn't he spell his name out in the stars? Etc. He should be doing these things for us!

See how fun it is to use atheist "logic"? You can take it in any direction you please.

A better and intellectually deeper question is: why should one assume that were an omnipotent and extraordinarily intelligent being to exist, that being should always act according to our plans?

lee said...

I once read, " If there is one thing in this world that is obvious, it is that God is not obvious." The 38,000 denominations of the christian faith and the 2500 religions that currently exist in this world would seem to any reasonable person a clear example of the truth of that statement.

If an omnipotent and extraordinarily intelligent being exist, he is under no obligation to act in accordance with our plans and expectations. However, if He seeks to save his creation from His impending wrath, and, if he openly declares that "the universe declares His glory so that none are without excuse," and, if He has provided only one way through which all mankind may be saved, one would rationally assume that the way provided would at least be obvious and distinguish itself clearly from all the other false religions that exist.
The fact that Christians, from the first century to the 21st century and the brightest theological minds of the church hold such divergent views testify to how obtuse and occluded this subject really is.

TKD said...

Charlie:

See how fun it is to use atheist "logic"? You can take it in any direction you please.

Isn't it interesting how a response to an off-the-cuff concern of an atheist gets turned to an insult to atheists in general?

[W]hy should one assume that were an omnipotent and extraordinarily intelligent being to exist, that being should always act according to our plans?

The fact of the matter is that:
1) We don't know that God exists.

and apparently by your comment,

2) We don't know what a good, just, personal, etc, God would do if he existed.

Then how might you suppose that we turn our non-belief into rational belief? If we are provided with 'evidence', then that would presuppose that someone knows what God would do if he existed and has sufficient reasoning for that knowledge.

To make it clear, a counter-statement would be (in the spirit of John's post), "Why should one assume that a God who rewards faith would refuse to make his presence obvious?" If he has good reasons for such things, they have yet to be discussed and indeed we have no reason to believe that such reasons even exist.

To summarize, it seems, IMHO, that your comment is self-defeating.

Charlie said...

No, tdk, I grant that John's concern warrants agnosticism. Arguments from evil -- divine hiddenness and nonbelief arguments are sub-species thereof -- do not favor atheism or theism. At their best, we get agnosticism: the suspension of judgment.

Thus other arguments will have to be considered if we want to assess whether theism or atheism is more probable.

Charlie said...

"I once read, " If there is one thing in this world that is obvious, it is that God is not obvious." The 38,000 denominations of the christian faith and the 2500 religions that currently exist in this world would seem to any reasonable person a clear example of the truth of that statement"

Hello? They all believe God exists. Periphery doctrinal disagreements do not logically help your assertion that "God isn't obvious".

Jason said...

The excuses given for the paucity of evidence reveal that the Christian expects way too little from the God they believe in.

Hmmm...you mean a Christian should expect something more then just the not-so-insignificant gift of eternal life from God? Gosh, someone sure is spoiled!!

In the same way we don't choose our parents, so we don't choose our God. Just because you're not happy with how He's doing things, don't think for a moment everyone else should share this sentiment.

Evan said...

Charlie, with your avowed agnosticism, I'm wondering what other things you are also agnostic towards.

Are you agnostic with regards to Zeus, Mithra, Quetzalcoatl, Allah, Odin, Ahura Mazda, goblins, trolls, angels, demons, Satan, leprechauns, Paul Bunyan, Babe the Blue Ox, Hercules and Saturn?

I assume, from your argument that you are. Would you be as vociferous on a blog labeled "Debunking Greek Paganism"?

John W. Loftus said...

Charlie, your professed agnosticism is disengenuous. Do you deny Jesus is the Lord and do you renounce the God of the Bible?

eheffa said...

John brings up a good point.

Is Jesus all-loving or not... even in the smaller details?

According to Christian belief, the Jesus of the Gospels & NT is supposed to be the all-knowing, all-loving Son of God; co-creator with the Heavenly Father.

He, as creator, would have had to know how the world was formed, he would have understood genetics & germ theory, the cure for cancer & malnutrition. How could anyone with that sort of understanding withhold it from a world so marred by pestilence & disease and still be considered loving or compassionate? Imagine the suffering of children and adults over the ages that could have been averted with a few well-spoken tidbits of advice on water management, sewage & hand-washing. Wouldn't the evidence of his deep understanding of how the world works, have also enhanced his credibility? Instead, he betrays no understandings of disease or suffering that isn't in complete harmony with the ignorance of his day.

In similar vein, it is difficult to imagine that if Jesus was truly all-loving and knew what effect his words & deeds would have on the world, that he would have failed to be clear on some of the "obscure" doctrinal issues that subsequently tore his followers apart. (Think Gnostics vs Catholics vs Protestants etc.) Instead of speaking in riddles & parables, he could have been clear and direct to avoid misunderstanding. Those poor souls of the last two millennia condemned to die in sectarian violence at the hands of his so-called followers would have been grateful for a little more clarity. Perhaps these same people would have found another reason to kill each other but to think that this Jesus would have known that his ambiguity would result in such atrocities boggles the mind.

This would indicate that Jesus either didn't care ("Do not think that I come to bring Peace. I came to bring the sword"), or he was not prescient & had no idea of the implications of his words for future generations. In any case the Christian understanding of the all-loving, all-knowing Son of God fails close scrutiny.

(Other more likely possibilities would include an embellished legendary retelling of a more simple prophet's words or no historical Jesus at all behind the legendary Gospels...)

-evan

lee said...

"Hello? They all believe God exists. Periphery doctrinal disagreements do not logically help your assertion that "God isn't obvious"."

Hello? You assume I have some difficulty in understanding? Or is this your attempt at conceit and condescension?

No they all believe in a god or gods. "Debunking Christianity" typically deals with one specific God the great "I AM". Whom, according to traditional historical dogma, is the only God. Are you asserting that Zeus or Dionysus stands on equal footing as Jesus? Do the animist in some way affirm christianity? The fact that other religions refer to their Deities as god adds credence to your argument?

"Periphery doctrinal disagreements" Several of those 38,000 denominations hold conflicting views over doctrines which are considered necessary conditions for salvation. In the Christian faith the diversity of beliefs does not necessarily conclude that god does not exist, it does however infer that if he exist and if he expects his followers to "be ye perfect as I am perfect" he is incompetent in providing a clear and precise understanding of his expectations. And, therefore ipso facto if incompetent not god in any meaningful sense.

BobCMU76 said...

I stumpled across this blog which articulates much that has concerned me for most of my 50 some years. I thought maybe I'd add my 2 cents.

I consider myself a Christian. Most Christians of my acquaintance consider me an apostate. I believe that atheism is closer to the spirit of 'true' Christianity than superstitious obsession with personal salvation. I like to think of the Bible as antidote to superstition, but I guess in a homeopathic sense, where the antidote contains a measure of the poison.

One of the highlights of my life was a 10 minute conversation with Norm Geisler about genitalia on our resurrection bodies. What exactly does "like the angels" mean? What could be more heavenly than promiscuity free of consequence? Said tongue-in-cheek, but the alternative of Barbie-doll pudenda seems at least as preposterous.

Anyhow -- the topic is our expectations of the Divine... and our resultant disappointment and disaffection. The one whom I trust to guide me in such thoughts, was recorded as repeatedly insisting our expectations of a good parent were a fairly reliable guide.

And like all good parents, Divinity has Her own agenda. Her attitude toward us is not one of hostilty, nor of hovering. The "God" of too many Christians needs anger management or AlAnon therapy.

The "greater deed" is the imperative.... in the metaphor of parenthood the passion of conception and the passion of childbirth. The lesser deeds are more voluntary. Feed a kid when he cries, or according to the clock? How long shall diapers be soiled before the child is bathed and changed? Is every BM a matter of utmost urgency?

The good parent strikes a balance. If I believe in any guide to the nature of the Divine as approaching Jesus' in authority, is would be Tao Te Ching. They are nicely complementary, I think. Though I'm called an apostate for thinking so.

Rick said...

It's interesting to hear atheists decry diversity as a sign of ailment. In virtually everything else, diversity is hailed as a sign of health and strength; be it the DNA of a species, intellectual pursuits in universities, or in the employees of a company.

I believe the restraint of creating a "state church" in the United States is a primary reason religion has remained much stronger here than in any of our Western contemporaries. The fact is that man is incapable of fully understanding an infinite, transcendent God; we can only see Him as through a veil in this life. Our Christian diversity is what allows us to continually renew and recenter upon the Word of God. Just as today; "liberal theology" donominations are dying out, and more fundamental donominations are growing in numbers.

Scott said...

Why doesn't God play football, since it is clearly a lesser deed compared to Christ's dying on the cross, and it would prove his existence to everybody?

Christians do not claim that God created the universe and divinely inspired the formation of the NFL because he wants to further the sport of football. As such, I don't see how this can be reasonably interpreted a lesser goal for God.

However, Christians do claim that God wants to give us eternal life, and that Jesus suffered and died on the cross as part of the process. But if we do not believe, he can't give it to us. Why would God go to all that trouble in the past, yet limit his actions in the present to what could be mistaken as random chance? Why are there so many conflicting religions who think it's really their God that speaks to them when they pray for guidance, etc?

Or to use your metaphor, why would he "drop the ball" at the 5 yard line when Christians claim he desperately want's to win the game and end zone is clearly in sight?

A better and intellectually deeper question is: why should one assume that were an omnipotent and extraordinarily intelligent being to exist, that being should always act according to our plans?

That's an excellent question.

If God is perfect, then why would he want to act at all? If God wants to create something outside of himself, this implies he is incomplete. However, human beings desperately want there to be some purpose behind the universe and they want to be apart of it. Sure enough, God just so happens to have created everything from nothing as part of a divine plan and that plan just so happens to revolve completely around us. Go figure.

We value faith and trust because we are finite beings. They are a direct result of our limitations. However, God is supposedly infinite and all knowing. God just so happens to value that which is logical impossible for him to exhibit based on the very properties ascribed to him. Again, Go figure.

We fear death, so God wants to give us eternal life. We are uncomfortable with the unknown, so God magically reveals different, but detailed, answers to specific people using some undetectable and unverifiable communication channel. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

So, yes. When one takes an a deeper and more intellectual look at the supposed actions of God, the question becomes: if a omnipotent and omniscient being being does exist, why should he appear tailor made to our wants and desires?

BobCMU76 said...

if a omnipotent and omniscient being being does exist, why should he appear tailor made to our wants and desires?

I like arguments that address this question, though few end up being all that memorable. The one that stands out the strongest, made by a Luvaitcher Jew who proselytizes Noahide (sp?) practice for Gentiles, was that the Torah is something no human or group of humans would construct to serve their own ends. It's just too onerous.

I tend to believe that power creates and propagates narrative which solidifies their power. A priesthood that says they see the unseen and can mediate between us and a bad harvest or dangerous wilderness or besieging army. That we need them and we need to make tribute to them to prosper, or even survive.

There's a share of that in the Bible, to be sure. But how much bigger a share in the world that gave context to the Bible?

lee said...

"Just as today; "liberal theology" donominations are dying out, and more fundamental donominations are growing in numbers."

Liberal denominations were once fundamental denominations.... and the cycle continues. Fundamental denominations do not start out reaching for greater understanding of theology and biblical history, they start out as bible schools where the main objective is to indoctrinate future clergy with the doctrines of their particular denomination. It is only when they begin to seek objectively, theology, archeology and biblical history that they slowly begin the process of liberalization.

pwoon said...

"With god all things are possible", except of course, the total annihilation of evil and the devil. God cannot get rid of evil, so he is not omnipotent.

Bryce said...

I agree with pwoon.
theres all of this talk about god being all powerful yet the devil and 'evil' still seem to keep chugging along without interference. If the bible god REALLY wanted to deliver us from evil he would never have allowed it to exist. God is supposed to be perfect yet he created a bunch of flawed people and yet somehow he gets none of the blame. If ford builds a bunch of lemons for cars, the cars don't get blamed, the manufacturer does. And I don't wanna hear that 'god gave man free will' crap either. Not 1 xian can show me a reference to free will in the bible (there's plenty on predestiny). If god really wanted for man to be 'saved' and since he is supposedly perfect, it seems to me that he could've just made everthing without evil and wouldn't have had to send Jesus to get tortured to fix the 'glitch' in his creations. Of course I think that the whole story is absurd on many levels (especially for otherwise intelligent adults to seriously believe) but I just wished more xians honestly examined the belief system at face value rather than playing mental gymnastics to try to make such far fetched adsurdities make rational sense. The harder you force yourself to believe this Jesus story does not make it any more true than Santa claus or a pink unicorn or any of the other pagan deities that preceded the Jesus era, and people, non Xian and Xian alike, all except the pagan gods to be myth. I guess 2000 yrs from now Jesus will be a myth and David koresh will be the new deity...LOL.

BobCMU76 said...

I liked to play Populous. So much that my wife hid the game. It's been called the ultimate "God game." You can't keep everyone from dying. And you come to realize the same thing thing conservation biologists are fond of saying... individuals don't matter. Populations do. And more than that.... habitats do.

Anyhow... the "how can a just God permit injustice" is an argument as old as the Psalms, and I suppose as old as the Patriarchs. It seems maybe that God is not great, or God is not good, or God is simply NOT. And we thank Kroger for our food.

But perhaps, like me playing Populous, God is simply not concerned. Or at least not to our satifaction. David Cross says as much in one of his comedy routines, a parody of that ubiquitous plaque poem, FOOTPRINTS.

Jason said...

pwoon,

Why can't God get rid of evil?

pwoon said...

He can't get rid of evil, because if he/she/it could, he/she/it would. I mean, Jesus had to die on the cross so that people would be saved (go to heaven), and not go to hell and be with the devil, and yet the devil endures. Then again,

Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version):
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

But then, if he can destroy his creations (humans), then he can destroy evil. But he can't seem to

D Rob said...

Jason - God will remove evil. The time has not yet come.

Bill said...

The typical Christian response would be that God does do the lesser deeds...but that he does them through his people. Of course, such a response brings in the competing notions, both found in the Bible, that there is both human responsibility and God's "control" in the universe. Like most doctrines in the Christian faith, verses can be found in the Bible that support and negate both concepts. And, of course, these same Christians who claim to be "Jesus with skin on" in our world cannot heal the sick, raise the dead, eliminate evil from our world, or give us the cure for cancer, despite the fact that they claim to be one with God and to have the omnipotent, omniscient Diety living inside them. Yeah, right. Where are the "greater works" that Jesus said his followers would do? I couldn't do them when I was a believer. And I doubt others can either.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

John wrote, "If God sent Jesus to save the world by dying on the cross for our sins (the greater deed)"

Dying on the cross is not what saves ppl --- dying is common and universal --- it is His resurrection that saves ppl.

As far as doing a "lesser deed" exactly what would that be? Especially if largest mustard trees begin from the smallest seeds?????

I trust that God desires to share with those who can be entrusted, the good work that He does here --- and the biggest deeds begin with the smallest seeds.

I don't think coming to belief is a lesser deed as John labeled it -- Jesus said that if one just had a small seed of faith, they could move a mountain -- I believe He was speaking about breaking through to reach those whose hearts are coopted into worldly relations - that is the biggest overcoming.

3M

Bill said...

Actual, 3M, according to traditional theology it is belief that saves people. I.e. if you don't believe in Jesus' resurrection, then his resurrection does you no good. If Jesus' resurrection actually saved people, then it wouldn't matter if you believed in it or not, Jesus' act would be salvific, totally grace.

But in contemporary Christianity, it is the act (or work) of belief that saves a person. No belief, no salvation. Interestingly, in Matthew 24, Jesus talks about salvation being not about belief, but about how people treat one another. This is a good example of how church or Pauline doctrine seeks to negate the teachings of Christ himself.

Cole said...

Actually Bill true faith produces good works. Faith in God's pardon, God's promises, and God's power and not my own. This faith that saves and sanctifies is a gift of the Spirit. It's by grace through faith that one is saved. This faith that saves is the same faith that sanctifies. Faith working itself out through love.

Kilre said...

Cole,

Actually Bill true faith produces good works.

So it's still "faith over works" though, because, unless your prayers can move mountains...

Or, as I could be interpreting it, could you mean that, because you can grow in your faith, you can be moved to do good deeds (works) for others?

Faith in God's pardon, God's promises, and God's power and not my own. This faith that saves and sanctifies is a gift of the Spirit. It's by grace through faith that one is saved. This faith that saves is the same faith that sanctifies. Faith working itself out through love.

That's a lot of cryptic faithiness.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Bill = you said, "then it wouldn't matter if you believed in it or not, Jesus' act would be salvific, totally grace."

There is total grace -- God loves us before we love Him, independent of our awareness or belief in Him -- that is why He says that He comes to save the blind and deaf. By your standard, your idea of 'god' is that 'his' existence is predicated on our belief of 'him'. That is an idol.

Good day,
3M

Bill said...

To Cole: It then becomes a question of how many and what quality good works prove true faith, doesn't it?

And if faith is a gift from God, then why doesn't everyone have it, or what must be done to receive the gift?

But again, Jesus clearly taught that it was works done out of compassion that determined the "sheep" or the "saved." There is no way around this for Christians unless they want to admit that they don't follow Christ.

To MMM: You misunderstand me. I don't believe my beliefs either create or uncreate God. I am speaking of salvation. Most Christians would say, in keeping with Pauline doctrine, that salvation is based on believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. You have to believe in Jesus enough to accept him as your personal lord and savior. If you don't, you aren't saved - it is as simply as that. So I am stating that, technically speaking, it is one's beliefs that determine if one is saved or not. The problem is, no matter how much grace is spoken of, God requires faith (according to Christianity) and deeds (according to Jesus), and there is no way to know if one ever has enough faith or deeds to make the cut.

Breckmin said...

"I once read, " If there is one thing in this world that is obvious, it is that God is not obvious." The 38,000 denominations of the christian faith and the 2500 religions that currently exist in this world would seem to any reasonable person a clear example of the truth of that statement."

All it is really evidence of is that we are all "learning" and we are all at different stages of our learning.

Any two people who think exactly alike on everything...

one of them isn't 'thinking.'

The fact that we exist in a world of imperfections and complications (a temporary creation to deal with the REAL problem of evil and how it is a danger to a being of choice without motive and knowledge to always choose correctly)is just one of the many reasons why we would EXPECT to have diversity based on where we are in an accumulation of truth.

Breckmin said...

"If God is perfect, then why would he want to act at all?"

Perhaps in His Omniscience He knows it is better to give then to receive? Clearly, creating does NOT imply "need." God doesn't somewho "need" anything anymore than He "needs to be God." It is also utterly foolish to accuse God of somehow "needing" worship or appeasing Himself through having us worship Him. This would be evasive to our free will to worship Him...and His ALLOWING us to logically worship Him and thank Him (those of us who WANT to do this for all of eternity).


"If God wants to create something outside of himself,this implies he is incomplete."

The simple fallacy of this statement is that you would have to be "perfect" in order to judge that 'creating' is somehow an imperfection.

This type of flawed reasoning is easy to expose. With logic.

Breckmin said...

"If God sent Jesus to save the world by dying on the cross for our sins (the greater deed) then he should at least be as passionate as Christians are to help people believe (the lesser deeds)."

1. Jesus claimed to be One with the Father so we look to Jesus and His Example. It is utterly foolish to think that we can somehow follow the Example of an Infinite Creator Who logically "owns" everyone (unless He disowns you because you are tainted and didn't get untainted).

2. What this statement fails to realize is that God is in control of ALL things - including these Christians who are passionate to help people believe. God does the work this way. He works THROUGH the caring of believers. This is just one small part of it, however,
because it is a "seed" that is still GROWING (the Church or the Bride of Christ).

3. (and there are more points I could make)God COMMANDS these Christians to "do the lesser deed"
so your argument or assertion fails at the point at which God both "works through people" a particular way - AND the fact that
this work is HIS work and He Alone will receive the glory for it.

We are just instruments of His Will. (imperfect in the English because we create things and sin also).

"Why would God do the greater deed and not also do the lesser deeds?"

He does both..He works through people and through their choices.


"This doesn't make sense of an omniscient,(correct)

omnibenelovent,(God doesn't love
satan and his demons so this English word is clearly incorrect)


and omnipotent God. (practically useful, but clearly just as imperfect as using "all powerful" to encompass things which are not logical or not consistent with His Will). If you say "all logically powerful God" and assert the fact that God will only do what it is LOGICAL for Him to do...then you will be further away from gross imperfection...

"The excuses given for the paucity of evidence"

not excuses..just logical reasoning.

"reveal that the Christian expects way too little from the God they believe in."

It is only when you realize how Holy God is that you realize what a violation your sin is against such a Holy Creator. Because people do not realize how Holy God is...they never realize "how great a salvation" it is that they have.

God has already surpassed my expectations by showing me how much He loves me by becoming a Man and dying for my transgressions against His Holy nature. I would have NEVER known this if He had started with heaven - at left me at risk of not having the motive I would need for all of eternity to obey Him and trust Him.

Where there is partial logic..(and there is ALWAYS partial logic with finite created beings)..more logic is needed.

Samphire said...

"The one that stands out the strongest, made by a Luvaitcher Jew who proselytizes Noahide (sp?) practice for Gentiles, was that the Torah is something no human or group of humans would construct to serve their own ends. It's just too onerous."

Sheer nonsense. Unless, of course, you are able to argue convincingly that New York was built by alens because it is far too complex and its daily operations far too onerous for it to have been constructed by any individual or groups of individuals. It is the same argument creationists use about evolution. Living beings are far too complex to have come about through natural processes and the energy required just to stay alive too excessive therefore God.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

I had written this previously, "Dying on the cross is not what saves ppl --- dying is common and universal --- it is His resurrection that saves ppl. "

I wrongly wrote this in a way that it could be construed that I believe Christ's death was insignificant. While it is so easy to project an image of an angry and demanding deity upon the divine, Jesus shows us a God Who has total empathy and willingness to come alongside humanity in all our varying stages of existence. Jesus's death was exemplary of a God Who demonstrated compassion for human suffering and death -- I wrongly assigned only one aspect of His life (resurrection) to salvation but His entire existence and the sharing of the Holy Spirit is a witness of the divine and loving nature of God.

Bill, you wrote this "The problem is, no matter how much grace is spoken of, God requires faith (according to Christianity) and deeds (according to Jesus), and there is no way to know if one ever has enough faith or deeds to make the cut."

The situation you described here is one of a demanding god that leaves ppl feeling unaffirmed and insecure if they have earned his approval - that is an idol created by prideful religion.

At any rate, take care,
3M

Cole said...

Bill,

Works of compassion are a sign that you faith is true saving faith. It's not by good deeds alone because then you would be trying to earn it. This is what the Parisees did. It must come from a changed heart in order to be real. It's by grace that God takes out the heart of stone and puts in a heart of flesh. Trusting in God's pardon, God's promises, and God's power and not my own breaks the power of sin and opens my heart up to love.

One difference between a child of God and someone who isn't saved is that when the child of God falls down he gets back up and keeps going. The Holy Spirit convicts the believer and opens his eyes back up to see Christ and His ways as lovely and beautiful. He restores a hatred of sin to the believer.

I don't know why God doesn't do it for everyone. I know He's not obligated to save those who reject the Father and don't want to have anything to do with Him though. God is never obligated to be merciful to sinners. Grace is unmerited favor and therefore never owed by God. He cannot be said to be unjust if He doesn't give it to all. Grace is freely given by God. God is under no compulsion to give grace. He's not constrained by anything outside Himself. He freely gives it.

Bill said...

To Cole: You wrote, "I don't know why God doesn't do it for everyone."

You should. If God, the creator of the universe, lives inside you and you have, according to the Bible, "the mind of Christ", then you should readily know the answer as to why God doesn't give faith to everyone, especially if it is unearned. Again, according to the Bible, God is no respector of persons and the rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

You wrote: "He cannot be said to be unjust if He doesn't give it to all."

Certainly he can. If he is love and if he desires to save everyone and if he is sovereign, then he is unjust if he plays favorites. If everyone isn't saved, then the three axioms that God is love, that he wants everyone to be saved, and that he controls the universe are simply Christianese lip-service. This ties in with the problem of theodicy.

Christians are really good at saying exactly what God is like and what God wants to do, and then backtracking into either the sovereignty or mystery of God when God doesn't come through like they say he will. Again, if you have God actually living inside you, as most Christians claim, then these problems should be very easy to explain. If you can't, then God is either holding out on you or, perhaps, you are truly all alone in there. :)

Cole said...

Bill,

God is no respector of persons in the sense of race, age, gender, nationality. He still has a special love for His children. He shows common grace to all but special grace to His children.

I'm not God. He hasn't revealed everything to me. The secret things belong to the Lord.

You didn't read everything I said about grace and how it is unmerited favor. God is under no obligtion to be merciful to sinners. He owes it to no one.

Bill said...

To Cole: You wrote: "I'm not God. He hasn't revealed everything to me. The secret things belong to the Lord."

Then you truly are alone "in there." If you're not God, which I agree with, and you cannot adequately answer the questions which I have raised, then why attempt to speak for him at all? If the reason God will not save everyone is a "secret thing", then he has no right to judge the world based upon information that he has withheld.

I don't want to derail this thread further, so I'll simply conclude my part by saying that Christians (and I was one) do their best to straddle the fence of "salvation" by stating what God will do while, at the same time, stating that God's ways are a mystery or are not our ways. You can't have it both ways. You can't state exactly what it is that God desires and will do while also claiming that he is a mystery and essentially unknowable, especially when it comes to matters of "eternal" significance. One of the reasons I left Christianity is because of the illogic and contradictions found in the supposed deity of God. Theism makes no sense. If it did, there would be no need for Christian apologists.

Cole said...

Bill,

You're right. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm fucked.

John W. Loftus said...

Cole, perhaps you need help. I saw your other comment in another post above. What is it with you? Jean Paul Sartre said that we seek out the counselors who will tell us what we want to hear. You came here because you wanted to read what we have to say. You wanted to be convinced that you were wrong forreaffirming your faith. And you are wrong. You knew it when you came here after rejecting atheism. You wanted to be convinced you were wrong. You got what you wanted. That's how twisted the mind can be sometimes.

But the alternative isn't anger or lawlessness or a complete mental breakdown. Life is what you make it. Embrace the wonders of this present world. Embrace your friends and family. Find love. Do something creative. Leave the world better than you found it, one person at a time. Leave a legacy of kindness. You only have one life. There is no afterlife. So do the best you can with it. Make something of yourself for the sky's the limit.

Cheers.

Cole said...

I'm okay John. I'm done with the Bible.

John W. Loftus said...

Cole, you should be done with the Bible. Defending it and the beliefs in it make you look, well, stupid. But you're not stupid.

I think you'll be better off mentally not having to stress about this as much as I've seen you do over the years.

I wish you well. Is there a skeptics group in your area you can get involved with? I think being with people who agree with you would be good.

Cole said...

I don't know. I didn't know they had groups you could go to like that. I always have A.A. There's a couple of atheists that go to the one I go to. They're pretty open at that one. I am fixing to go see a counselor next week. Maybe she can help. I'm doing okay. I just get upset sometimes.

I'm tired of looking stupid by trying to defend the Bible. Thanks for saying I'm not stupid. I'm also sorry for that comment. I tend to get a little crazy sometimes.

John W. Loftus said...

Cole, may I quote what you just said in a post of it's own while describing your journey here at DC?

"I'm tired of looking stupid by trying to defend the Bible."

Cole said...

Sure

BobCMU76 said...

One can indeed look stupid trying to defend God. He doesn't need anything from us, for sure.

Living good as John suggests is all very well and good. I often wonder why Christianity is an impediment, and certainly not a requirement for doing so.

But the paradox, which we know in our gut to be true, that a generous life is a selfish way to live -- because it's more gratifying than an inquisitive, combative way of life -- is something that doesn't really hold up to analysis. We just know.

There are other things we just know. It's easy to look stupid saying 8 plus 7 is 15, when somebody can show us on a clock, 8 plus 7 is 3. Or is it us Christians, with our circular thinking, who insist is must be 3, because otherwise bankers have earned all they stole and can spend it freely on blow and ex-marine bull hookers. What was the name of that fellow who was briefly notorious as a free-lance Whitehouse reporter? JEff something.

Chuck O'Connor said...

Cole,

Go easy on yourself man. Progress, not perfection and all that. Questioning presuppositions because you perceive their rigidity leads to incoherence does not demand that you immediately replace them with an equally rigid system. It is okay to say, "I don't know". Isn't that what AA means by "One day at a time"?

Evangelical Christianity denies progressive knowledge and that is crazy-making.

Be good to yourself man.

mdg583 said...

I have struggled in my faith over this issue. I wondered, how can God's plan for humanity involve billions of casualties? But I realized something. God's greatest purpose is not the salvation of man. It is his own glory, which involves the salvation of some and the condemnation of others. And besides that there are things about God's work that I probably won't understand until I go to be with him.

There is a misconception about the nature of God that drives these types of arguments. If we expect God to be like us, or his idea of what is right to be like ours, we will get confused. I think if you really read the Old Testament honestly, and then also the New Testament, you will see that God's nature isn't how we expect it to be, but it is good.

cicely said...

One difference between a child of God and someone who isn't saved is that when the child of God falls down he gets back up and keeps going.

This would only be valid if atheists, or believers in gods other than the particular god wortshipped by the person making this claim, don't ever "get back up and keep going". Simple observation suggests that this is simply not true. From a Christian perspective, all those non-Christians carrying on with their lives in the aftermath of the big Indonesian tsunami are sufficient proof that this statement cannot be true. Any atheist carrying on after the loss of his family in a house fire, is sufficient for disproof.

mdg583 said...

You basically say

1. God is love. - I agree with this.
2. God desires the salvation of mankind. (I take no delight in the death of the wicked - Ezekiel) (1 Timothy 2:3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. )
3. God is sovereign. - I agree with this.

4. All of mankind is not being saved.

More thoughts:
Comparisons and contrasts are part of God's work, it seems. To show evil for evil, and good for good. To offer salvation to men, and to judge the wicked. Maybe the way to say it would be to say God delights in the salvation of men, but also desires the judgment of the wicked. In that sense, to say God desires the salvation of man does not contradict the reality that not all men will be saved.

Breckmin said...

Cole,
Defending the Bible is easy, once you know that the "bible" really is and once you know what the Perfect Word of God really is and how to differentiate between them logically.

The whole problem with people claiming that Christianity has somehow been "debunked" is because of Christians who have improperly placed the "goal posts" in the wrong places.

It makes John's job easier...but it doesn't change the fact that born-again Christianity is an objective reality and that God the Father/The God of Abraham/Jesus Christ is the fundamental reality of the universe.

Question everything!

but when you question...pray for protection.

Breckmin said...

"Evangelical Christianity denies progressive knowledge and that is crazy-making."


In all fairness to Christianity, I have never known an intellectual Christian who has claimed that knowledge is not progressive with respect to our learning of it.

The more objections that atheists make to Christianity...the more logical explanations are needed...so of course this knowledge would be progressive.