C.H. Spurgeon

Sinners, let me address you with words of life; Jesus wants nothing from you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as you are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings, and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."

Comment Policy: No profanity or blasphemy will be posted. You do not have to agree, but if you would like your comment posted, you will have to adhere to the policy.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Discussion of God/Christianity/Scripture with BT

Warning: This is lengthy.


Carried over from my posts here and here, we have the following from a commenter, named BT. BT’s comments shall be in red and my reply in green for this initial post. All commenters are welcome to freely give their thoughts. All I ask is that we try to stay to the topic without name calling and unnecessary verbal slurs, and try to show a little respect for each other’s view, even if we completely disagree. This is to be a discussion and not a war. Let it be noted that I am by no means a Bible Scholar, so what one will receive here is my honest beliefs. I would hope that is what we are given by each commenter.

Shall we agree, then, for the sake of a more focussed discussion, that we are discussing the Abrahamic god? (As an aside, if you have any insight into why that god is not referred to as the Mosaic or Adamic god I would genuinely appreciate your sharing it!)

I am not really sure, as to I don’t think I have ever called God, Abrahamic God. Scripture seems to say “God of Abraham” about 17 times, but it also has “God of Shem”, “God of Isaac”, “God of Nahor”, and it also says “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” a few times. Where do you usually hear this phrase? It could be that Abraham is noted as the father of us all in faith [Romans 4].

If you prefer we can even exclude (or not, your choice) the Islamic view of that shared deity; I don't know your background but I will freely admit that I am far less familiar with the Koran and Hadith than with the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah and Midrash, and less familiar with any of those than with the Christian versions of the Old and New Testaments.

There is no need to include, Allah, the god of the Muslims, because this god is not the same as the God of Scripture, nor do they see Jesus Christ as a Savior of mankind from sin.

Since we are agreed that the non-revelatory deist god is not relevant to our conversation, we have to speak of oral or written religious traditions. I don't think either of us is heir to a predominantly oral tradition; you are a Christian, and I am an atheist of Christian (specifically Roman Catholic) extraction.

Even where there are unwritten 'grace notes' such as the Catholic Assumption of Mary heading straight into Heaven, the Christian faith like its Judaic forebears is primarily based on a written scripture. The only question, especially if we're relying on translations, is which undeniable literal written word of God we're to go by.

Since I am Baptist, Scripture is our authority over oral tradition, therefore I find no support of a “Catholic Assumption of Mary” contained anywhere in Scripture, so I am a little unclear as why you write of it and include, “primarily based on a written scripture”.

I'm not a linguist or archaeologist either, and I'm only truly familiar with the English translations. My greatest lack is the gift of tongues, alas... I do have a number of English translations of the Holy Bible, though, both Catholic and Protestant, as well as several of the apocryphal gospels.

What I don't have is access to the mind of your god to let me know which translation to use. If you could please pray and ask your god which one we should work with I'd be grateful. Should your god have a preferred version I don't already own I'll be happy to purchase a copy so that we'll be conversing about the same text.

Just let me know which one you and He likes. Oh, and not to be forward or anything, but while you're discussing the subject I wonder if you'd suggest he actually straighten that issue out for everybody else as well? It certainly would help tone down the violence due to misunderstandings in a number of places around the world.

This is where I find more sarcasm than actual discussion. The study of translations and manuscripts evidence and Greek Texts, etc. is a very broad topic which covers much more information than I have in my limited knowledge of all that encompasses the topic. I have done some reading on the subject, but am far from being an expert of it. You are free to view my section on Bibles/Translations and I have other information on the side bar under “Variants of Silver?”. As for me, I use the King James Bible. What “violence due to misunderstandings in a number of places around the world” comes from Bible translations?

Where exactly are you going with this line of questioning? Or, what exactly are you asking of me?


From the other post, you had the following:

The characteristics normally ascribed to that god, alone - omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence - cannot logically exist together. Omnipotence is self-defeating; an omnipotent being cannot create a force which that same being cannot defeat, i.e. God can't make a rock so heavy even He can't lift it. Omniscience is incompatible with any power at all, because it includes the ability to foresee an action which can then be prevented, meaning the prophecy was invalid. Omnibenevolence, in conjunction with omnipotence and omniscience, is incompatible with the world containing needless suffering; a god which sees the suffering, is able to prevent it and does not do so is obviously not loving in any recognizable sense of the word, unless you are a particularly talented sado-masochist.

Omnipotence –Your question/statement, “God can't make a rock so heavy even He can't lift it.”

"What the above "paradox" lacks is vital information concerning God's nature. His omnipotence is not something independent of His nature. It is part of His nature. God has a nature and His attributes operate within that nature, as does anything and everything else.

Omnipotence is not the ability to do anything conceivable, but the ability to do anything consistent with His nature and consistent with His desire within the realm of His unlimited and universal power which we do not possess.”

Omniscience – Your problem, “incompatible with any power at all, because it includes the ability to foresee an action which can then be prevented, meaning the prophecy was invalid.”

I don’t quite follow your problem. Why does the ability to foresee an action, which can be prevented, invalidate prophecy? The ability to act in no way demands an act, does it? If so, why and/or how?

Omnibenevolence – Your problem, “in conjunction with omnipotence and omniscience, is incompatible with the world containing needless suffering; a god which sees the suffering, is able to prevent it and does not do so is obviously not loving in any recognizable sense of the word”.

Actually I had to look up this word, for I don’t believe I have ever heard it used before, so for the sake of others, the definition can be view here. I did find it interesting that it says, “As such, there is little agreement over how an "omnibenevolent" being would behave.”

With that said, concerning your concern of a loving God, having the ability to see and stop suffering, but does not (at least not every time), how can God also be loving? Would that be a fair meaning of your question? Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Notice that it does not say, “all things are good”, but that “all things work together for good”. Notice it doesn’t say, “to the good of all”, but says, “for good to them that love God”. Yes, yes, I realize that bad things still happen to Christians. The issue is that it ultimately works out to their good and the good of others. One example is death. Death is the doorway for a Christian into a sinless, perfect, peace and rest without any sadness. It also moves others to consider their own souls and relationships with God and eternity, and how they interact with people each and everyday, etc.

I say suffering rather than evil because the doctrine of free will, which is the best answer theodicy has to offer, does not cover agentless suffering. In the specific case of the Abrahamic god, the distinction is largely superfluous, as most of the actions described as taken by the Abrahamic god in the sacred texts can only be described as deeply and directly malevolent. The unprevented agentless sufferings of humanity outside those texts are simply icing on the cake of disproving that notional omnibenevolence.

Freewill is a topic I usually find interesting, even when talking to Christians. One will argue freewill, demanding God allow mankind to make any and all decision in and of themselves without any (are merely initial or some influence by God toward salvation) direct persuading by God, yet when something bad happens (whatever each individual may deem as something bad enough God should have stopped) mankind demands that God should have withheld the freewill of the individual(s) which caused the incident to occur. Doesn’t that make us hypocritical? It is like saying, “Let me have my freewill, but limit their’s God.”

These are not new observations by any stretch of the imagination; the problem of suffering certainly predates Christianity and Islam, and probably Judaism but the archaeological record gets scarce that far back. Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians have been struggling to answer the paradoxes for near enough the entire time the faiths have existed, and have not yet been able to do so.

The inability to explain fully all or some of the paradoxes of Christianity in no way allows mankind to completely dismiss the clear teachings of Scripture and the observance of God Almighty as Creator. God has many attributes besides your mentioned, (Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnibenevolence) see here, and therefore they all work as one, not as individually contradicting each other. For example, God is love and merciful, but He is also holy and just. Scripture declares, God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust, but Scripture also declares that God punishes both the just and the unjust when we disobey. His love cannot override His holiness whereby He can accept sin. Christ is the atonement for sin, whereby one may be saved from unrighteousness unto righteousness.

In science, it is perfectly permissible for a theory not to explain everything; at this stage of our development it would be ludicrous to expect anything else. The best and most mature theories will explain an abundance of observable facts, and that is enough to make a theory credible but not useful; to be useful a theory must predict facts before they are demonstrated. A complaint many physicists have about string theory is that while it explains many things it has not yet provided any disprovable predictions. The theory of evolution by natural selection is an example of a theory which is both mature and useful, and not just for enraging creationists either.

What is not permissible is for a theory (or even a hypothesis) to be internally inconsistent or to directly fly in the face of the evidence. The technical term for a hypothesis that does that is false.

Why then are unexplainable paradoxes and/or full knowledge concerning God (the Superior Being, our Creator, which is high above the mental capacity of His creation) such a discount to Christianity, when you admit to the same issue with science? The lack of the ability to know all there is concerning God, in no way removes God, but simply acknowledges man’s finite intelligence of such matters. The Scriptures clearly give what we need to know of God and the Savior Jesus Christ for salvation. It completely gives saving knowledge, for the rest is just extra.

17 comments:

BT Murtagh said...

Hi Tim,

We can shorten it up quite a bit, as I was covering a lot more territory than is actually of interest to you. You're talking about Christianity, not Islam or Judaism ("Abrahamic god" is the phrase usually used to refer to the common aspects of the big three monotheisms). Your preferred translation is the King James Bible; cool. That's pretty much all we need address from my second, rather rambling post, which you addressed first here.

I would have to say that I found the linked apologetic for the quality of omnipotence rather strained; it begins by redefining the word out of all usefulness. Omnipotence does mean "the ability to do anything concievable"; it does not mean "the ability to do anything within the constraints of a being's nature." If the latter were the case then I could well say that I am omnipotent myself, inasmuch as I can do anything I'm capable of doing within the constraints of my nature! The author then goes on to quibble over the definition of "rock" but that's why I phrased it as "cannot create a force that same being cannot defeat" - the specific nature of the force is irrelevant to the argument.

The point is that "omnipotence" is a null concept; it can't really exist. All things cannot be possible to any entity, because one decribable ability can preclude another.

The second paradox is really a variation on the first, inasmuch as omniscience is implied by omnipotence; if you can do anything, you can accurately predict the future. If an omniscient being can accurately foretell the future, it will know what it is about to do next and what the consequences are. Can it then change its mind and do something else? If no, then it is not omnipotent, for it lacks the power to change the future. If so, then it was unable to accurately foretell the future. An ability is constrained in either case, therefore omnipotence cannot be.

Again, this is simply a case where insisting on infinite ability is self-contradictory. It's a cool-sounding claim that doesn't stand up to analysis. You can say that your god is incredibly, unbelievably, unimaginably powerful, but to say it has infinite power is a nonsensical claim.

I'm surprised that "omnibenevolence" is a new term for you. I assure you it's common coin among theologians elsewhere. Anyway, all-good, all-loving is the concept, and your summary of the problem seems okay to me.

I don't think your answer fully addresses the issue though; if we agree that suffering is a bad thing, then a loving god who sees it and can prevent it would do so. It makes no sense to say that it'll all work out well in the end unless you also say that the god could not have made it work out equally well without the suffering.

If any being sees a bad thing about to happen and doesn't prevent it, it is either because of inability or by choice. Nonexistence, impotence or malevolent indifference, those are the choices the existence of suffering leaves gods.

Finally you ask, "Why then are unexplainable paradoxes and/or full knowledge concerning God (the Superior Being, our Creator, which is high above the mental capacity of His creation) such a discount to Christianity, when you admit to the same issue with science?"

But that's the exact opposite of what I did say, in terms of paradoxes! I said, "What is not permissible is for a theory (or even a hypothesis) to be internally inconsistent or to directly fly in the face of the evidence. The technical term for a hypothesis that does that is false." (First emphasis added, second was in original.)

I don't know how I can put it more clearly. A lack of complete knowledge is fine, but continuing to accept hypotheses in the face of internal paradoxes and falsifying evidence is absolutely not acceptable in science. I cannot for the life of me see how you gained the impression I thought it was from what I wrote.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

Omnipotent -
Actually I have found that this term has at least 4 different positions (and maybe more) and one in fact is, “God is able to do anything that is in accord with his own nature (thus, for instance, if it is a logical consequence of God's nature that what God speaks is truth, then God is not able to lie).”

The problem with your idea, “If the latter were the case then I could well say that I am omnipotent myself, inasmuch as I can do anything I'm capable of doing within the constraints of my nature!” is somewhat flawed, because there is not an “I” nature, but “human” nature. For you to be “humanly” omnipotent would mean that you would have the ultimate power to do any and all things, above any and all humans, to the utmost of human ability within human nature. No human has this.

The use of “force” instead of “rock” really does not change the question very much. Simply using the same constant as above, God’s nature would not allow Him to create anything (force, rock, etc.) that would be omnipotent over Himself. He is fully capable of submitting Himself, as Christ submitted Himself to the death of the cross to cleanse mankind of sin unto salvation, but remains very capable of unsubmitting Himself and/or overcoming that which He has submitted Himself to, as in taking sin upon Himself that neither He nor all that repent and accept Him as Lord and Savior will death have the power over, for we shall all be changed and given eternal life through Him.

A quick search reveals men far more intelligent than I continue to speak, debate, and study the idea of omnipotence. So the concept of omnipotence is not really null, but goes deeper than man is currently (and most likely ever) be able to fully understand or grasp.

I would have to go with C.S. Lewis somewhat:
C.S Lewis in his book the "Problem of Pain" holds that the nature of the paradox is internal to the statement. To quote: "This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it', you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combination of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them to other words `God can'" (p. 18). In the end, "not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God".

Omniscience –
Some of your questions here then, as you suppose, return to the previous above concerning the nature of God. God does not change His mind in that He has given His Son to save sinners, then later decides His Son will not save sinners. He often tells man they will be punished we do not repent and believe, so He does not change, but gives repentance or punishment upon the response of man toward repentance or rejection of truth.

Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, has given numerous prophesies, which not a one has fallen short of coming about. Although, some are yet future, because we see the ones of the past come true, faith can be held as to the future ones shall also. Because Scripture tells us the Savior would come, and He has, we know that judgment comes too.

“The word means to see or know all things.” We could get mentally bogged down to continue to ask, if God wanted to change, He would know He would change, and know what His changes would do, and therefore still know and still have the ability to have it all work toward the fulfilling of His prophecies recorded in Scripture. If He chooses not to change, His knowledge of all will still be. God not only knows all possibilities, but also the actual. Scripture is full of these proofs, that God in fact knows and sees all, Isaiah 46:10-11, Proverbs 15:3.

Omnibenevolence -
From the little I have read it seems that it is only causally used and more often as a technical term in academic literature. But that is neither here nor there, for there are many theological words that I have never heard or seldom come in contact with.

Your logic that “if we agree that suffering is a bad thing, then a loving god who sees it and can prevent it would do so”, is built around the human idea, yet even as humans we coin phrases such as, “no pain, no gain”. So we do believe some suffering is good? Why? Because it ultimately works toward our good.

Man brought suffering into the world by disobedience to God. God did not make man sin nor did He stop man from sin. What God did do, through benevolence, if you will, sent His own Son Jesus Christ, by which man could be redeemed from sin, creation redeemed from the curse, and man and creation could be eternally blessed with God without the ability to have sin reign within their being.

Our inability to grasp all of the “whys”, does not remove our accountability to that which is clearly given. We are a sinner, in need of a Savior. Christ is the Savior which came to seek out sinners. Faith in Christ changes sinners into saints.

BT Murtagh said...

I will agree with Lewis that "meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them to other words `God can'"; I would include in that the suffix 'do anything concievable.'.

If you want to redefine omnipotence to limit it and make it possible, that's certainly your option; fine, then, your god is omnipotent within the special limited sense of omnipotence you've described. By limiting your god's power in that way you also address (if one can call it that) the second paradox.

Your logic that “if we agree that suffering is a bad thing, then a loving god who sees it and can prevent it would do so”, is built around the human idea, yet even as humans we coin phrases such as, “no pain, no gain”. So we do believe some suffering is good? Why? Because it ultimately works toward our good.

I don't think normal people regard any suffering as good in itself. "No pain, no gain" is an acknowledgment that good results in the real world often do come at a cost of pain, but that doesn't make the pain desirable.

Certainly even if one denotes some suffering as desirable, for whatever perverse reason, despite being able to obtain the same good without the suffering (as your god presumably can), it's a far leap from that to say that all suffering is desirable.

If there exists any suffering which serves no greater good, and it's awfully hard to justify positing that such suffering doesn't exist, then the point stands; the pointless suffering exists either because your god chooses to allow it, is unable (because of constraints of its nature perhaps!) to prevent it, or simply doesn't exist - which I suppose could be considered a special case of the second option, come to think of it.

Man brought suffering into the world by disobedience to God. God did not make man sin nor did He stop man from sin.

According to your theology your god chose to make sin possible, chose to create humankind with a propensity toward sin, and chose to make suffering the consequence of sin. Moreover, if one takes the story of the Fall at face value, neither Adam nor Eve were aware at the time that it was evil to disobey God, because they had not yet obtained knowledge of good and evil.

Putting a pot of boiling water on a stove with the handle sticking out and telling an inquisitive child not to touch it doesn't absolve a parent from the responsibility when the child, by its nature not yet aware of either the moral necessity to obey parents or of the possibility of pain, pulls the handle and suffers excruciating pain and disfiguring scars the rest of its life. To suggest that the fault lies entirely with the child for disobeying is reprehensible.

All of which goes to prove what, exactly? To my mind, only that the story of the Fall is simply that, a story, and not one which survives even cursory analysis well.

The same may be said of the Redemption; why all the sadomasochistic drama of the Crucifixion 4000 years later, when a simple "Now that you know good from evil I'm going to forgive you this once, don't do it again" would have sufficed right at the start?

I'm sorry if that sounds flip, but the illogic of the theology really does invite it. Even if one accepts it at face value, it boils down to Jesus wanting us to be grateful for experiencing pain on our behalf, when there was absolutely no need for him to do so. It would be a lot easier to be grateful had the focus been on taking away the pain we humans were and are suffering ourselves.

One last question of theology and I'll await your reply; you say that humankind brought suffering into the world, and seem to imply that all human suffering is down to our sinfulness. I can accept that for suffering which is caused by human agency, but how does a human sin cause tsunamis, earthquakes, genetic diseases, microbial and viral infection, and the myriad other agentless causes of pain, unless it is through causing God to choose that such suffering should exist?

Tony said...

I hope I am not butting in to something I should not. If I have please forgive me.

Bt I appreciate you sharing your honest questions on this blog. I rarely get the opportunity to dialogue like this and would like to comment on one of the questions you wrote and an analogy you drew.

bt murtagh wrote: "One last question of theology and I'll await your reply; you say that humankind brought suffering into the world, and seem to imply that all human suffering is down to our sinfulness. I can accept that for suffering which is caused by human agency, but how does a human sin cause tsunamis, earthquakes, genetic diseases, microbial and viral infection, and the myriad other agentless causes of pain, unless it is through causing God to choose that such suffering should exist?"

The reason such things exist is because when sin entered the world through Adam's sin, not only was the human race cursed but the world itself was cursed as well. The redemption of Christ is not only for those that believe but for the cursed creation as well---read Romans 8:22

In a way you are correct bt. God could stop all suffering and, at least at this point, He has not chosen to do so. He has, however, promised that He will do away with suffering for those that come to Christ by faith. When God puts an end to the present suffering of man—whatever means of suffering there is: sickness, death. disease, weather, war . . . He will put an end to the world as we know it. God has promised to make things as they were in the beginning of creation. When he does, redemption of man will be over. Scripture tells us why God is waiting: II Peter 3: 4-15. God’s apparent waiting is for the salvation of many people.

I would like, if I may, address the analogy you used of Adam and Eve with God and a young Child with their parents and boiling hot water; I do not think that is a good representation of the truth. A child, especially very young children, is still in the developmental stage—even their minds are developing and growing. They must be taught and kept from such things as will harm them because they are not capable of making decisions for themselves. Things are a little different as we grow. Obedience is never expressed when there is no temptation to disobey. Take a teenager for instance. Should we, because they really do not know the difference between all right and wrong, restrict our teenagers to the point that they are incapable of acting in and of themselves? Should we, as parents, so control their lives that we do not allow them to demonstrate their obedience? Do I keep my teeage daughter locked up at home because I am sure that she does not understand any of the consequences of her disobedience because she has no cognitive knowledge of the evil I and her mother might warn her of? This is a much different case than that of a baby–and is such the case with Adam and Eve in the garden. They were, as far as we know, adults who were responsible people. Before the fall, I do not believe they had the propensity to sin—that inclination came afterwards. They acted of their own free choice—they weighed the options and made their decision. That decisions was not made out of ignorance as with a baby, it was a personal choice to disobey God.

But, even still God was not a passive agent in the matter. God made the first covering for sin and He also made the ultimate sacrifice for us to be forgiven of our sin through the cross of Christ. God is not just some unhappy despot in heaven looking down on us poor individuals and enjoying the suffering we are going through—He is rather actively involved in a plan of redemption that will include all those who come to faith in Christ.

Tony

BT Murtagh said...

Hello Tony,

Tim did say at the beginning of this that all and sundry are welcome to comment as long as they behave appropriately.

With regard to the world being cursed after sin, I would comment that if one posits that there is an omnipotent god in charge of things, that god bears responsibility for all otherwise agentless suffering in the world; after all, it would have been just as easy for such a god to allow only human-caused suffering as a result of the Fall. Humans must bear the responsibility for suffering caused by human actions, but not for earthquakes since we cannot initiate or prevent them.

The tsunami in Southeast Asia a few years ago is a perfect example. No human action caused that event, and an omnipotent god could have prevented it easily, without humankind even being aware of the possibility. The enormous suffering entailed is down to God in your and Tim's universe, which poses a problem if we are to believe God doesn't want us to suffer needlessly. In my universe, of course, it was just an unfortunate consequence of a cooling planet, and no one bears any responsibility for the pain. Some people find it unacceptable that the eternal "Why?" of a horrible disaster should be answered with a "Why not? It's just down to luck." For myself, though, I find it more palatable than "Because your creator wanted it that way."

As for the notion that Adam and Eve were responsible adults at the time they first disobeyed God, I can't concur; the analogy is exact. The story clearly states that they did not know the difference between good and evil prior to that initial action of eating from the Tree. Without knowledge of good and evil, how could they possibly make a true choice? It is for precisely that reason that we do not hold children and mental defectives fully accountable for their actions. Further, they had no experience of hardship prior to being cast out from Eden, so they could not truly know what the consequences would entail.

Extending the analogy to your teenage daughter is not valid, because a teenager is aware both that she is expected to obey her parents, i.e. that it is wrong (evil) not to do so, and that as a practical matter her behavior is liable to have painful repercussions. Neither is true of the toddler in my initial story, and neither was true of the couple in the Garden story.

Finally, regarding your contention that your god is "actively involved in a plan of redemption that will include all those who come to faith in Christ" I will make two points; first, that it seems rather arbitrary to only redeem those who chance to have been exposed to the Christian scriptures, and second, at the risk again of seeming a bit flippant, that the plan seems to me an abominably poor one, needlessly complex and involving far more fear, death and pain than necessary. Why, indeed, need the redemption of humankind involve any fear, death or pain at all?

I'm pretty sure that, were your god to reveal himself unambiguously and offer re-entry to the Garden for those who renounce sin and pledge themselves in service, the vast majority of humankind would take the offer. Why not just do that? As a plan, it's a lot simpler and to quote Douglas Adams, "It would work, everyone would be happy and no one would have to get nailed to anything."

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

BT,

It is not necessarily redefining omnipotence, if there are already four (or more) definitions/positions. Acknowledging that God is, and thus realizing that His thoughts are above our comprehension (except for it being brought down to our level), it would follow that we most likely do not have a clear understanding of what omnipotence actual is. Meaning, how can a being (human) that is not omnipotent fully understand all there is to being omnipotent, unless the omnipotent Being (God) gives a clear testimony to all that is possible to know and given in a degree whereby the lesser being (man) is able to understand? God did not see it fit to give us all of the details, so our knowledge is limited to that which is contained in Scripture and what can be learned from it by the Spirit.

I didn’t say pain was desirable, but that it works together for good of those that love God. Pain lets us know something is wrong, and Scripture tells us how we can fix it. We humans and this world go through the pain of sin and corruption, but this pain can be done away with by trusting in Jesus Christ, whereby He has promised to remove all sin and pain in the new heaven and new earth, in our new bodies without sin.

Why must the blame fall on God’s shoulder when He clearly told Adam, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”? How much good or evil Adam knew at this time is pointless, for it is clear he knew that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. Just like today, whether one knows the law or not, if you break the law you will be punished. Ignorance will not set you free of guilt. At least Adam did know the law and freely chose to disobey. Even the serpent twisted the words of God to Adam and Eve saying, “Ye shall not surely die”. Clearly Adam and Eve knew they could either trust God (which they had seen) or trust this serpent (which they had seen). They chose the creation over the Creator, which man has been doing ever since.

Do we always stop our children when they are learning and are about to do something wrong? Nope. So it is really dad and mom’s fault when they allow their child to touch something after they have told them not to? Why then do they discipline the child? To show the child what is right and wrong. When children disobey, fellowship is broken, punishment/discipline is administered, repentance of the sin and trust the parent will forgive follows, and fellowship is restored.

The same is with God and man. Man disobeyed (sinned), fellowship was broken, punishment/discipline was given, Christ was sent for atonement (for there is a need for forgiveness but also cleansing of sin), man is called to repent and trust in Christ for forgiveness, then man can have fellowship renewed with God.

Why the cross? To condemn sin in the flesh, Christ had to come to earth and live a sinless life fulfilling all points of the law – which man is incapable of doing. So, it was necessary for Christ, God, to take on the likeness of sinful flesh, to live the sinless life, so that He could take the sins upon Himself, endure the punishment of God for those sins, yet not be condemned Himself, and enable all those that put their faith in Him to be counted as righteous, because of His righteousness whereby is given all those that believe.

See, when a person commits a crime against the law today, they may serve some time, then may be released, but they are still guilty. With Christ, man is also cleansed from being guilty as if they had never committed the crime.

As to your concern, “first, that it seems rather arbitrary to only redeem those who chance to have been exposed to the Christian scriptures”, this is again not God’s fault. To adhere to a belief in God, we must trust the Scripture concerning Him. It shows that Adam and Eve were the first people, and saw God and knew of Him. It also states that Enoch [Jude], the seventh from Adam, prophesied of the return of the Lord to execute judgment and convince men of their ungodly deeds. So we have from the beginning mankind knowing he was to live right by obeying and trusting God. Generation after generation of vain thinking and rejection of Truth has led to groups of people today of never hearing the gospel message.

As for, “I'm pretty sure that, were your god to reveal himself unambiguously and offer re-entry to the Garden for those who renounce sin and pledge themselves in service, the vast majority of humankind would take the offer.” As I am sure you know mankind also, how many do you think would just speak the words to appease God to allow them to enter into paradise, never truly repenting of their sin, acknowledging their guilt, and placing their faith in the Savior Jesus Christ? For this, I would have to disagree with you, for Scripture clearly shows seeing and hearing the very Savior, the Son of God, whom they waited for, did not keep them from rejecting Him.

If it didn’t work in a sinless garden with sinless people, what makes you think it would work with sinful people? This is why God is creating a new heaven and new earth, for a redeemed sinless people that place their trust in Him now, that He will forgive and transform into a people that will never know of sin again.

BT Murtagh said...

Hi Tim,

I've already accepted your definition of omnipotence for this purpose, and agreed that if you limit the definition in that manner then the paradox doesn't arise. That point is well taken. You actually muddle the issue with your continuation here; it is not necessary to fully understand what it is like to be omnipotent in order to appreciate the logical possibilities that it opens up.

For example, an omnipotent being should be fully capable of removing all pain, right now, right here on this earth. I would ask why the removal of pain needs to be limited to a new locale and to certain people. Why can't your god just say "There'll be no more pain because I've decided I don't like it, there's no more sin because I forbid you nothing. Don't worry, be happy now!" What would it cost an omnipotent being to do that?

Getting back to your specific theology:

You still miss the point about Adam's innocence. Sure he knew what God's law was - what he didn't know was that it was wrong, evil, to break God's law. I would also question whether Adam could be truly cognizant of what "ye shall surely die" actually mean given that there wasn't any death about to provide instructive examples.

Besides, having equipped the Garden with a poison tree for no apparent reason other than to provide an opportunity for his creation to err, it seems excessive to say the least for God to punish not only the transgressors but also all their descendants for a single disobedience.

I don't know if you're a parent, but I assure you that a good parent a) takes reasonable precautions to keep a child's environment safe, like keeping pot handles and poison out of reach, and b) tailors the degree of punishment to teach without lasting harm, like a swat on the butt or other transient unpleasantness instead of scalding burns or death or multi-generational exile.

Why the cross? To condemn sin in the flesh, Christ had to come to earth and live a sinless life fulfilling all points of the law – which man is incapable of doing.

Sorry, that still doesn't parse. Why does Christ have to do it that way? Again, normal people don't want someone else to share their pain, they want it to stop, and I still have yet to see any good argument as to why an omnipotent god can't simply do that, without all the narcissistic proving that he can take pain as well or better than we can.

Besides that, what is the point of Christ doing that which humans are incapable of doing? He's God, of course he's capable of things we're not.

As to people even knowing what Christ did, a child born in a place and to parents where the Gospels are unknown is simply not going to know them. It's absurd to say that such a child deserves pain and damnation and accuse her of "vain thinking and rejection of Truth" because she hasn't heard this prophecy of Enoch.

I think it absurd even to suggest that such treatment is deserved of someone who has heard of Enoch, or even been fully exposed to the Gospels, until and unless they are given valid, objective reason to believe that those stories are true, as opposed to all the other stories of the other religions.

We're provided by many competing religions with a multitude of conflicting stories and, assuming the correct one is even amongst the offerings we're exposed to, we're expected to pick it out in spite of obvious implausibilities in its content and despite contraindicative objective evidence in the world at large, and on pain of eternal suffering believe it true based on nothing but faith.

As Robert Heinlein wrote, "It strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe."

Tony said...

bt

I do not believe nor did I say that our creator wanted the tsunami. As I said earlier, these natural disasters are part of a sin cursed world---the same is true of hurricanes like Katrina, tornados and any other type disasters.

But, you are correct in saying that God at least allowed it. God is sovereign. Yes, He did indeed allow the tsunami, but not so men could suffer needlessly. Could it be that God allowed the tsunami because He desired to reveal Himself to people in a way that they could learn to trust Him and be saved from the eternal consequences of sin? I think so. I am a pastor and I have visited many people whom I have shared the gospel of Christ with that were unresponsive until some tragedy. Now, you may feel that such dealings with men are wrong and repulsive. But I will ask you: If hell is real, and it is, and if men who die without Christ go there, and they do, wouldn’t a small bit of suffering be worth it if it lead a person to faith in Jesus Christ? Eternal hell is far worse than any tsunami, hurricane or any other disaster or disease.

As for the garden analogy, the focus was not on their knowledge of good and evil–rather it was on their obeying or disobeying God. Obey meant blessing, disobey meant cursing.

Bt, God has revealed Himself unambiguously. His attributes are revealed in nature, His truth has been recorded in the Scriptures and have stood the test of time, and he has revealed Himself in the countless lives that He has changed through salvation in Jesus Christ. God does offer re-entry into the Garden but that offer does not negate that the penalty of sin be settled. How much simpler can it be than god sent His son to die in order to pay the penalty of sin. It is so simple that the youngest child can comprehend and it is a love that is so vast that the most elite theologian can never dive to its depths. Without Christ being nailed to the cross there is no re-entry! The crux of the matter is that sin must be paid for. We can pay ourselves or Christ can pay it for us—that is up to us.

Tony

BT Murtagh said...

So, Tony,

God chooses to cause or allow extreme suffering in a disaster of this world in order to nudge them away from the even more extreme suffering he has set up in the next? It's worth the bit of torture he inflicts now if it prevents him inflicting worse later?

I see both sets of suffering as needless, and the one certainly does not excuse the other. You're absolutely correct that if I believed in such a god I would find his ethics repulsive to my sense of natural justice. The concept of hell is utterly repugnant, purest unadulterated sadism; it is literally without redeeming features, since there is no escape and the condemned are eternally tortured for the amusement of the elect, often simply because they failed to win the ridiculous game of cosmic peek-a-boo called faith.

Your god has absolutely not "revealed Himself unambiguously" or we wouldn't be having this discussion. Ambiguousness is the absolute best face you could put on it; there is a world of evidence to make an objective observer doubt his existence. It would be trivial for an omnipotent god to remove that ambiguity; it could be done in a myriad ways, even as simple as signing his name in very large letters on the face of the Moon tonight, and atheism would be history by morning. You've actually succeeded in annoying me by making such a patently ridiculous statement; you can't possibly be deluded enough to think it true.

You still have not explained why Christ had to be nailed to a cross to remove sin, you've merely reiterated it several more times. I don't know how much more plainly I can put the question, and to reflect your phrase back at you it's one the youngest child can comprehend: if God can do anything, why can't he wash sin away without the torture?

Frankly the whole idea reminds me of a disturbed adolescent's reasoning - "Look, I stuck a nail through my wrists. It really hurt, a lot. That's how much I love you. That should make up for how I treated you before. If you don't love me back you're going to be really, really sorry."

If you want people to love you, you treat them well, and honestly. You do not make them play guessing games. You do not threaten them with irreversible consequences if they fail to please you in every way. You do not insist they sing your praises even while you hurt them or allow them to be hurt.

Honestly, you folks like to talk about your personal relationship with your god; it seems to me to be such an unutterably dysfunctional one as to be beyond therapy. Love just shouldn't have that strong an admixture of fear and jealousy.

Tony said...

BT,

I never intended to annoy you nor any one else for that matter. I have just as hard of a time understanding how you cannot see that God is revealed as you have with me saying that He is clearly revealed.

You wrote: “The concept of hell is utterly repugnant, purest unadulterated sadism; it is literally without redeeming features, since there is no escape and the condemned are eternally tortured for the amusement of the elect, often simply because they failed to win the ridiculous game of cosmic peek-a-boo called faith.” Because you see hell as “utterly repugnant and a purest unadulterated sadism does not change the reality of it one bit. You reject the concept of hell based upon the fact that you don’t believe it or you just don’t like it. Neither is a good reason. Your use of biblical terms and stories from the Bible tells me that either you are familiar with church life or you have studied Christian literature, perhaps the Bible, in some depth. So what I am about to say may not be new to you at all, but it is certainly not to annoy you nor anger you in any way. You are correct to say that there is no escape in hell and the condemned are eternally tortured, but you are dead wrong in your assessment that hell is for the amusement of the elect. People don’t go to hell because they messed up in a game, people go to hell because they deserve to go to hell since they have sinned against Holy God and have rejected His offer of salvation. I will write a bit more about that a little later.

You wrote:” You still have not explained why Christ had to be nailed to a cross to remove sin, you've merely reiterated it several more times. I don't know how much more plainly I can put the question, and to reflect your phrase back at you it's one the youngest child can comprehend: if God can do anything, why can't he wash sin away without the torture?” The reason that Christ had to be nailed to the cross to remove sin is because that is the avenue that God chose to provide redemption for men. Christ’s death on the cross was the propitiation (the appeasement of the God’s wrath upon sin) for men. Through the Cross of Christ God demonstrated two things very clearly. 1. He in His Divine Holy nature is repulsed by sin and He judges sin where ever it is found. When Christ, who knew no sin, took upon Himself our sin and was made sin for us He was severely judged by God. Why, Because God judges all sin. 2. The second thing God demonstrated very clearly is that He loves the human race. How could God or anyone else show a greater love than that of giving of ones own Son for the sake of another. Jesus even said: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.
So the answer to your question is, as I said before, quite simple: At the cross of Christ, God demonstrated His wrath upon sin and He also demonstrated His great Love for the Human race.

Now, back to the concept of hell. We are all in a dire straight when it comes to our position with God. Why? Because we have all sinned against Him. For the most part, when we think of sin we think of the vile acts that some evil men commit. Acts like murder, rape, incest and such . . . And those are truly wicked sins committed by wicked people. But, we have all sinned as well. Have you ever done anything that you know was not right? Have you ever lusted, stole something, lied to someone? Have you ever felt the need to apologize to someone? Or felt bad because of the way you have acted? These are sins just the same—they may not be as bad as other sins, but to God, who is pure and Holy ALL sin is vile and repulsive and His divine Holy nature requires that sin be dealt with.

Obviously you are an intelligent person and even though you strongly disagree with me here, I have the image that you are a very decent fellow from the perspective of the world. Most people are good, decent, and moral people who want to life peaceable lives. There are quite a few “bad apples” among the human race, but most are good people. But even as good people, we all have this sin problem. While we may be able to live with one another in harmony in our sin, we will not be able to live in harmony with God. That sin, no matter how small, must be dealt with.

On another post you talked about all the religions in the world and said there are many that we are not even aware of—that is true. But you asked (and this is a Tony paraphrase, not an exact quote), How can we possibly know which one is the right religion? The reason that Christianity is the right religion is because it is the only religion in the world, past or present, that deals with man’s most basic need. Christianity is the only religion that settles the problem of sin. For those that accept God’s provision of grace through The cross of Jesus Christ by faith the sin problem is forever settled.

Hope this helps, But in any case, I have enjoyed the discussion

Tony

BT Murtagh said...

Hi Tony,

I'm sure you didn't intend to annoy me, and I probably shouldn't have mentioned it. I have no doubt whatsoever that I am frequently annoying myself, though I too try not to be. Given that we're discussing topics which cut pretty close to the quick we need to cut each other some slack, eh?

It was not your claim that your god had revealed himself which I found annoying, to be clear, but your claim that the revelation was unambiguous. An unambiguous revelation would not be interpretable in any other way; that's what unambiguous means. I and every other nonbeliever have no difficulty in interpreting the world around us as not containing a god, so it should be plain that no god has been unambiguously revealed, even if at all.

Moving on, let's be clear about one thing: I do not disbelieve in hell because I find the concept repugnant, although I do find it so. I disbelieve in it because I see no reason whatever to believe it exists; the idea doesn't explain anything I see in the world, and the entire cosmogony of which it is a part is contradicted by the evidence I do see.

The reason I bring up the repugnance of the hell concept and the inanity of saying Christ "had to die on the cross" - and I note you've now admitted that is a path "that God chose to provide redemption for men", not the only possible way - is simply to highlight that the Christian theology does not even make sense on its own terms.

I have already explained how God could show greater love than by suffering a painful albeit temporary death; rather than suffering himself, he could take away everyone else's suffering. Not just the ones who find the right scripture, but everyone. By your theology even good, kind people are condemned to hell if they haven't been exposed to Scripture; it seems psychotic to me that you insist they deserve eternal suffering - eternal! - for having rejected an offer they never received and have no way of recognizing as genuine if they did.

Saying that Christianity must be right because it is the only one which deals with sin shows that you haven't examined many other religions. Have you read any other holy texts besides the Judeo-Christian ones? Trust me, the Bible is not unique in that regard. Better yet, don't trust me; hie thee to a bookstore and begin the process of taking your blinders off. Grab any major non-Christian religious text and read it.

What you'll find is that all of them deal with the same issues; why are people bad, why is it better to be good, where's justice to be had because it doesn't seem to be here, how did the world come to exist, are you serious am I really going to die for keeps, that sort of thing. They all claim to have at least some of the answers. A substantial number claim to be the ultimate authority so you needn't look further. And, of course, they all agree that the others are in error to one degree or another.

I know you're not willing to accept this, but the Bible is only one among many, and it is no different and no more authoritative than any of the others. The differences are purely local, in that it's more popular and takes up more bookshelves here, i.e. not in Arabia or India or the Orient. Other holy books are more popular elsewhere, and they are all roughly as good and as bad as the Bible, in that they try to explain things authoritatively but generally fail.

They fail for the same reasons the Bible fails; because they fail to offer evidence of their claims, because the evidence that exists contradicts their claims, and usually because their claims are internally inconsistent as well.

We've gotten bogged down a bit in your particular theology here because I wanted to show how it is not internally consistent; tap-dance all you will, the precepts that your god loves each one of us like a parent is simply not consistent with the notion that he's willing to torture most of us.

I could just as easily - no, scratch that, far more easily - have poked holes in the factual claims the Bible makes, but so many others have done that so thoroughly that I see no need to add to the pile. Anyone in the modern world who honestly believes the tale of Noah's Ark to be literally true can only be doing so by maintaining a willful ignorance and refusing to think about it. Yes, an omnipotent god could arrange to cover the planet with water and then dispose of the water afterward, but it makes no sense to believe that's what happened; there's no physical evidence in favor and much against, and the historical accounts of three literate civilizations of the putative time conspicuously fail to note that they had all drowned.

If we take the tale to be a myth or instructional parable, which is the only way any intelligent person should take it, then we need to wonder what else might be a myth. Unless there's good reason, by which I mean supporting physical evidence or at least historical documentation from outside sources, I see no reason why I should believe any of it which contradicts what we know of the physical workings of the universe. That includes not only worldwide floods, but pregnant virgins and dead people coming back to life as well.

To sum up, I'll quote Carl Sagan's elegant aphorism on how to detect baloney: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Your holy books make claims which are extraordinary to the point of lunacy, and I haven't seen one single solitary shred of credible evidence that they are anything other than myths.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

BT,

I can understand your question, “Why can't your god just say "There'll be no more pain because I've decided I don't like it, there's no more sin because I forbid you nothing. Don't worry, be happy now!" But your question, “What would it cost an omnipotent being to do that?”

For one, it would cost God His holiness, but also, it would not help man in the full sense. What you are asking God to do is deny His holiness to remove the punishment of sin upon man, to show He loves us. Isn’t this a little selfish, like when people say, “if you really love me, YOU will do this”? God showed His love by sending Jesus Christ to be atonement for sin, that we could miss out on His wrath and live eternally without sin. But it seems that this is not acceptable to some people and they would rather God had done or do it a different way. See, for man to have to repent and put faith in a Savior for the remission of sin is quite different that God simply allowing man to not repent and put their trust in Him, by removing sin and the punishment thereof.

You asked why Christ had to be crucified on the cross. To be acceptable to a holy God, there must be forgiveness and payment for sin. Scripture says, “without shedding of blood is no remission. [Hebrews 9:20-23]” Simply, it was the plan of God, for it is written, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” [Acts 2:22-24] This is simply God’s plan for redemption. We can deny it, disagree with it, or not understand it, but the fact remains, as God, He is completely in His right to do as He sees right. Acknowledging that He has declared, “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” [Isaiah 46:10], and that He knows all this is/was/will be, and what can/could/could have been, there is little doubt, with the acknowledgement of God, that He indeed has chosen the best of all things possible in His creation and control of all that is.

As in sports, a player may not agree with all of the rules, but to participate, they must abide by them. I realize this is somewhat a poor analogy, because there is often injustice with man, but there is no injustice with God. The fact of the matter is, God has decided what is good and evil, so who are we that cannot fully understand the idea of a holy God verses sinful man, to say He is doing this whole created universe thing all wrong? We that can in no way completely understand this earth, not to mention the entire universe around it, how can we expect to think we can challenge God in saying, “we think you could have did this better”?

When it comes to the sin of Adam and Eve, guilt is not removed from one simply because they did not know something was bad, or how bad, or exactly what was meant by the punishment. Crimes committed by people that claim a mental condition that they say don’t fully understand the crime are still punished to a penalty they most likely do not fully understand. There are crimes on the law books that most are not aware of, but if the law wishes to, they are legally capable of finding the person guilty and giving punishment whether that person knows of the crime or the punishment. Some of the crimes are not even consider evil, as in a helmet for riding a motorcycle. It is not evil to not wear a helmet, but a person is still guilty and punished if they refuse to obey the law whether they knew it or not or fully understand the why behind the law.

Being a sinful creature, or if one does not like the word sin, we can say a human is capable within his being to do good and bad. The problem with man, is it is also bad to NOT do that which God has said to do. God says do not steal. Okay stealing is bad (sin). God says to love Him. Okay NOT loving God is bad (sin). We do not have to do something evil to sin, we simply do not do that which we are told to do.

Man sins so much, that we don’t often know when we are sinning. Even if we do a charitable act, if our motives/thoughts are not pure, we have sinned. I realize this may be a little hard to accept or understand for some, but as a Christian I must adhere to Scripture and Scripture states that “the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:7] Our actions and our heart (motives) both play a role in whether God sees our actions as good or bad. Because of this, man is unable to attain salvation, or remission, or payment for our own sins. For this cause, Christ suffered the wrath of God for us, by the plan God decided.

God has said, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” [Ezekiel 33:10-12] So God does not take pleasure in the punishment of the wicked and nor should man. Hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matthew 25:41], but man goes there because they freely reject the salvation given through acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior.

If you notice the ministry of Christ, most often He says, “Repent and Believe on me”, and seldom says, “Obey Me or go to hell”. The emphasis of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to come to Him in faith so that one will be freed from sin, cleansed of evil, relieved of pain and suffering, and given eternal life of sinless perfection. The emphasis is not on missing hell, but gaining all the love of God and fellowship restored.

As mentioned before, the lack of the knowledge of God and Scripture around the world is placed solely on mankind as they have clearly rejected the message from the generation of Adam. It would be the same if you took yourself and all of your immediate family off to a secluded place and began to teach for hundreds or thousands of years that 2 + 2 = 5. Eventually no one is your generations would know 2 + 2 = 4. Whose fault would that be? The fault is of the initial persons that left the Truth and may have known the Truth and turned a blind eye to it. But, even so, some may be without the gospel or Scripture, God has said, “that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” [Romans 1] God loves mankind enough, that He hard code the concept that He exist in each of us, knowing that man would turn away from Truth. Even though we are born with this, we deny it by searing our conscience which convicts us [1 Timothy 4:2] and we, because of the sin nature, are easily blinding by the god of this world, Satan [2 Corinthians 4:4].

One must considered if they believe God and Scripture to be a myth because it is, or because it does not fit their own logic, therefore they will not accept it.

Tony said...

Thanks BT,

For now we have arrived at the root of our differences. I believe the Bible to be true and you do not. I want to discuss this but I do not have the time today, for this is a rather broad and extensive topic that needs more then just passing comments. I would however, like to discuss this matter with you at another time if you will. I will be glad for Tim to email you my email address or we can continue to come back to this blog—your choice-- if you will.

Yes, I do understand the term unambiguous and yes I see that God has revealed himself in such a manner. I see an unambiguous revelation of God in creation. Now, I assume you would rather believe in an evolution of some sort. Evolution is a ridiculous notion to me be because it depends upon the chance of a complex world evolving in a manner that contradicts basic laws of science. The second law of thermodynamics says that "everything in the universe is [and always has been] breaking down." The Evolution theory (and it is a theory and is by no means proven fact) defies the basic laws of science and teaches that things evolved into their present state. Sorry, but it takes more faith to believe that than it does to believe in a Sovereign God and creator. To believe in evolution or something of the like is a conscience choice you make that is based upon theory—certainly not fact.

You wrote something that I find interesting. What did you mean by: “I do not disbelieve in hell because I find the concept repugnant, although I do find it so. I disbelieve in it because I see no reason whatever to believe it exists; the idea doesn't explain anything I see in the world, and the entire cosmogony of which it is a part is contradicted by the evidence I do see.” What evidence is there in the universe or solar system that you see which contradicts the cosmology of God and judgement? It seems to me that both the complexity of the universe and solar system point to a creator rather than chance.

When you say you have shown how God could have demonstrated a greater love than He did, you fail to realize that such an idea is based upon you own notions and presuppositions. God demonstrated two things in the cross of Christ. 1. His wrath upon sin 2. His love for humanity. Maybe I am psychotic at times, but I am not the one that insist that people deserve hell. The Bible tells us we deserve hell because we have sinned against God—and no where did I even hint to the fact that people would go to hell because they reject an offer they didn’t receive. I don’t believe that at all. I looked back over the last couple of post and I am not sure where this thought came from. Men go to hell because they reject God-- period. It is not the desire of God that they do so–in fact God provided a way that none of us have to experience the awfulness of hell. That way is through the person of Jesus Christ.

Now, back to what I think is the crux of the matter. Please correct me if I am wrong. I believe the Bible to be true and you do not. Yes, I believe the story of Noah’s Ark to be a literal story and factual. The difference between us is I take what the Bible claims and believe it and then listen to claims that try to disprove it—which seem flippant at best. You began you hypothesis with the idea that the Bible is untrue and then use theories and unproven thoughts to give credence to your ideas. You say there is no physical evidence of a world wide flood. I believe that there is actually quite a bit of evidence that there actually was—we can talk about that if you like.

Personally, I like the quote you gave: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That is true. It is also true that the Bible makes such claims, but there is also the evidence that back it up!

I hope we can continue this conversation, I find it rather intriguing.

Tony

BT Murtagh said...

Well Tim & Paul,

I've tried to explain why I find your theology unconvincing in terms of its internal structure, especially regarding the motivations of your god in setting things up that way. Your answers seem to boil down to that that's just the way it is and we poor limited humans can't be expected to understand it, but it must be good because your god set it up that way.

I reckon I'm doubly damned if you're right, because not only do I see no reason to believe that that is an accurate depiction of the universe, but if it were so I'd consider your god a thoroughgoing monster of evil whom I certainly couldn't worship with any sincerity.

I think there's more of a difference between us than that you believe in the Bible and I don't; that's more in the nature of a symptom. I rely on logic and evidence to sort out what to believe, and am willing to discard authorities if they don't measure up; you have already decided to believe an authority, and will only use those tools to shore up that authority, never to question it.

Paul, I considered it, but I don't feel it is a useful way to spend my time to educate you on what a scientific theory is, or how to evaluate evidence, or why the theory of evolution by natural selection is not about simple chance, and then to point you at the overwhelming mountain ranges of evidence showing that the world is billions rather than thousands of years old, and that life evolved from simple beginnings into more complex forms, including ourselves.

If you really want to know, the information is out here; all you have to do is start reading it and thinking about it in the absence of preconceived notions. That doesn't mean "start with the idea the Bible is false" at all; I didn't. However, it is very likely to end up that way, because the physical evidence does not support the Bible story, not at all.

I hope you do take that journey, because the reality is far more interesting than the myth, and I speak as one who has become intimately familiar with both. However, if the blindingly obvious problems with the story of Noah's Ark haven't already occurred to you then you not only have not researched the issue, you haven't even thought about it. Again, the information and arguments are easily available; just read some books and Web sites by people who don't already agree with you.

Anyway, it's been somewhat interesting for me too, but not really interesting enough to justify the time it's taking up. With all good will to you both, I'll be leaving this discussion at this point, as I don't feel there's much more value to be gleaned from it for me.

Writer, Splinters of Silver.com said...

BT,

I appreciate your time spent with the discussion and the character we were all able to show, even though we disagree on what each of us consider important issues.

But the other commenter is Tony, not Paul, although I may have quoted a lot of Paul from Scripture. :)

I understand that you hope we will leave Christianity and come to the logic of Science, whereas we would hope that you would, not necessarily leave science, but come (or come back) to Jesus Christ.

Again, thanks for the discussion. I think it is helpful for us to understand the other person’s thoughts.

Tim

BT Murtagh said...

Whoops! My apologies to Tony for suddenly renaming him! ;)

Anyway, my regards to you both.

Tony said...

Thanks BT and Tim

Bt you are the first Atheist that I have run into that can dialogue intelligently without the use of profanity and/or demeaning statements. I do not mean by that that others are not out there, but I have found that there are not many like you. Thank you for the discussion and I hope our paths will cross again some day.

I wish you well

Tony

John Bunyan

To be saved is to be preserved in the faith to the end. 'He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' (Mt. 24:13) Not that perseverance is an accident in Christianity, or a thing performed by human industry; they that are saved 'are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.' (1 Pet. 1: 3-6) But perseverance is absolutely necessary to the complete saving of the soul…. He that goeth to sea with a purpose to arrive at Spain, cannot arrive there if he be drowned by the way; wherefore perseverance is absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul.