Does God love everybody?

October 27, 2007 at 3:30 pm 49 comments

World Map BluePerhaps the greatest appeal of the Christian faith, at least in our time, is the notion of unfettered love. The idea of a God who loves unconditionally, and seeks to empower mankind to do the same is desirable in a seemingly disinterested world. I will admit that still yet I find the idea of an omni-benevolent God to be psychologically alluring. But I am not certain that the Biblical God fits that criteria.

Everyone who has ever attended a Sunday School class knows John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” 1 Timothy 2 states that God wills for “everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That is a nice thought, but does God’s track record as recorded by his own followers in the Bible match up to that idea?

The story of Israel is one that is at first glance very beautiful. God chose an unworthy people to be his. In the midst of their suffering, their sin and their imperfections, God chose them. God protected them. He led them out of bondage and into the Promised Land. In the eyes of a contemporary reader, it can be a profound analogue to their own lives: in spite of the readers infirmities and so-called rebellion against God, he chose them and knows their name.

But there is something about the narrative that has always bothered me. The writings of the Old Testament seem to glory in the unworthiness of the Israelites. Upon God choosing them, there doesn’t seem to be any qualifying criteria, they are in no way morally superior to any other people group. In fact, even after God works to save and protect them, they continue to rebel and God continues to reinforce them. That’s great, really, that God is so devoted to the Israelites. But what about the other people groups of the world?

Why would an all-powerful, all-loving God choose only one nation to love? Why did the God who chose the morally defect Israelites choose to reject the morally defect Canaanites? Why is it that the God who revealed himself to Moses chose not to reveal himself to all the nations? Israel was “blessed to be a blessing.” Nice thought. But why did God not simply reveal himself to all the nations? Was he unable? If so, he is impotent. Was he unwilling? If so, then he is cruel.

You see, these are not just abstract groups of people from thousands of years ago. In the Christian conception, those were individuals who had value endowed by their Creator, they were souls made to be in relationship with their God. And yet, seemingly arbitrarily God rejected them. God did not stop at embracing Israel. His love for Israel was not passive in relation to the other nations. God did not simply protect Israel from outside attack. When God embraced Israel, he actively rejected the surrounding nations. Yahweh did not protect Israel from Amalekite aggression, he commanded Israel to commit genocide against the Amalekite people.

So what explanation is there for this duality in God’s treatment of nations in the ancient world? I have heard it argued that the nations commanded destroyed by God were not innocent; that they were decadent cultures that God commanded destroyed for the protection of the world. But surely, the all-powerful, all-loving Yahweh, who radically transformed the Israelites could do the same for the Canaanites? Did he not want to encroach on their ‘free will’? He did with Israel. By divinely intervening in the affairs of Israel while in ‘bondage’ in Egypt, God radically altered their future. So why not do the same with the various nations that God eventually has his beloved people destroy?

If God is in the business of bringing men and women into right relationship with him, with the renewal of his creation, it seems bad strategy to do so through a rebellious, morally defect people. It seems to me that God is either a poor administrator or an arbitrary despot.

The narrative continues in much the same way. Even in times that Israel is punished through exile, God wields nations like the Babylonians as a weapon, using them for his will. In effect, God causes the Babylonians to cause harm to the Israelites, only to blame them for it later and to have them punished by the Israelites. Yahweh’s love for Israel seems to be the blinding affection of an adolescent crush. He will use and hurt anyone in his path to do what he wants for Israel.

Today, evangelical Christians are quick to criticize Mormons. Though there are many areas of Mormon theology that Christians find disconcerting, I would like to focus on the Mormon idea that after Jesus resurrected, he appeared to men and women in the Americas to reveal himself here. Christians scoff at this (obviously, Jesus didn’t appear to people in America, that’s absurd! But he did, of course, rise from the grave and appear as a resurrected ghost to his own followers in Israel, that’s reasonable). But why would Jesus not do so? If a Christian is to be fair to the text, without a “born again” experience, an individual will end up in hell upon their death. If so, why would God reveal the Good News to a small, obscure group of people in a small corner of the world and wait patiently for that Good News to be spread thousands of years later, meanwhile allowing countless individuals to wind up in hell?

It seems to me that if Jesus were truly concerned about the souls of mankind he would have appeared to the Native Americans, to the Chinese, to the Africans, to the Irish, etc. Yet he did not. Instead, God twiddled his thumbs for two thousand years, waiting for his followers to get around to settling the new world and bringing his Gospel through the sword to subdue Native Americans. In some places of the world, God is still waiting for his followers to stop entire cultures from ending up in their hellish destiny.

Yet this God loves all. The God who has the power to appear to the most decadent cultures in a burning bush, the God who once walked side by side with Adam but chooses not to do so with Muslims in Iran, seems incredibly content to allow the narrative of his love to spread incredibly slowly, and by default to condemn millions of souls to eternal damnation.

God’s love, my friends, is presented by his own holy text, as being incredibly arbitrary. If the Christian religion is true, I am deeply concerned by the nature of this God.

- CarriedTheCross

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Deconstructing My Faith & Retrieving My Personhood By the way, who are the de-cons?

49 Comments Add your own

  • 1. karen  |  October 27, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Very good points. This is the stuff that contributes to cognitive dissonance and eventually leads some of us to deconversion when the proferred apologetics don’t cut the mustard. The Mormon example is a particularly good one, thanks!

  • 2. Rebecca  |  October 27, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Good post CTC.

  • 3. loopyloo350  |  October 27, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    For god so loved the world does not sound as if he is limiting himself or anyone else. You are assuming that Christians think they are above everyone else. Many do, but many that call themselves christian, do not really follow the principles that Jesus put forward, nor are they doing GOD’s will. loopyloo350

  • 4. Jim  |  October 27, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    CarriedTheCross,

    An excellent post. I appreciate your perspective on this. And I have a few response points, I suppose.

    God had a purpose for choosing Israel as His people. Israel was to be a beacon to other peoples to model for them the amazing love of their God. That was their purpose. There was a geographical reason for this too; since Israel was situated in a trade route b/w Europe, Asia and Africa, that nation had a great chance to model the love of God to other folks. This was their mission, if you will.

    This is why God comes down on them so hard so many times, because they failed to act as the people of God should act. This was God’s way of reaching all the peoples of the world, through a nation well situated to do that.

    You say: “That’s great, really, that God is so devoted to the Israelites. But what about the other people groups of the world? Why would an all-powerful, all-loving God choose only one nation to love?

    God showed his love for other nations as well, yet in different ways. Prophets were sent to non-Israelites in the Old Testament, to share the message of God and to try to bring them to repentance. Jonah went to Ninevah. Nahum went out as well. Daniel was in Babylon. He gave chances. Israel was commanded to care for foreigners and the poor in their land as well.

    Also: “But surely, the all-powerful, all-loving Yahweh, who radically transformed the Israelites could do the same for the Canaanites? Did he not want to encroach on their ‘free will’? He did with Israel. By divinely intervening in the affairs of Israel while in ‘bondage’ in Egypt, God radically altered their future.”

    The Israelites in Egypt called out to God while in slavery, and he remembered his promise to them (Exodus 2:23-25). As far as the Canaanites, they were cursed by Noah for their ancestor’s sin, which was a big deal in that time (Gen. 9:24-27). Their lot in life was decided by the free will of their ancestor Ham.

    Really, it seems like this comes down to some idea of fairness.

    I sense from your writing that it would only be fair that since God showed himself to one people group, therefore he should show himself in at least the same way to all people groups. Love equals fairness. If one group gets to be with God, then by golly, all should be afforded the same opportunity.

    But if it were truly fair, and truly an exact accounting, God would not show himself to anyone, let alone the Israelites. No one deserves God. God has already gone beyond fair, all this is mercy.

    Yeah, we deserve fairness, but that’s not what we want. But God truly being fair would be that we’re all up the creek without a paddle. God has been merciful.

    For example, if you get pulled over for no brake lights, and should receive a ticket, but the cop gives you a warning, is she being fair, or merciful? She’s showing mercy. Fairness would be giving you the ticket, since you broke the law. That’s what you deserve.

    But does that mean that every person the cop therefore stops for no brake lights for the rest of her shift, or the rest of her career, must be shown the same mercy? No. She is obligated to fairness, yet she’s also allowed to use discretion, since she’s the cop. We don’t argue about this, or say this is unfair. We’re thankful for the mercy if we receive it, knowing we don’t deserve it at all. I think it’s a similar way with God.

    If God were truly fair, we’d be in trouble. Praise God that he gave any opportunity at all for people to know Him. We certainly didn’t deserve it, but His love made for a way.

  • 5. JP Manzi  |  October 27, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Excellent post with excellent thoughts.

    Jim,

    Point well taken, still it leaves us with the last sentence in the orignal post “God’s love, my friends, is presented by his own holy text, as being incredibly arbitrary. If the Christian religion is true, I am deeply concerned by the nature of this God.” God created, allowed to fall into some sin that effects all and then picks and chooses who, how and when to interject in their lives.

    Is he playing a game?

  • 6. Jim  |  October 27, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    JP Manzi,

    A great and difficult question. I will start by saying, no, God is not playing a game. I’ll try to unpack that as well as I can.

    I’ll start with an example: I know my Dad loves me. But I know he also allowed me to make mistakes, and allowed me opportunities to sin against him (lying abour curfew, etc.) when I was growing up, and a teen-ager. He gave me latitude to have a social life, but within that latitude I was able to sin against him. Does my Dad allowing me that latitude to sin against him mean he doesn’t love me? Not at all. Was he playing a game? No way. The freedom with boundaries he gave me tells me he loves me.

    Similarly, God loved humankind enough to give us the choice to love Him through our lives. But with that choice came the latitude to be able to sin and reject Him, and we do that too. That latitude doesn’t mean he doesn’t love, rather, it’s evidence of love.

    God created, allowed to fall into some sin that effects all and then picks and chooses who, how and when to interject in their lives.

    I would say this is correct, yet also incomplete. God also chooses to use us to work out His sovereign plans for saving sinners. He loves us enough to include us in His plans. We are commanded to share the love and messsage of Jesus with all, in hopes of saving some. People are free to choose, and God loves us enough to let us choose and to respect our choices. To force Himself on us or to make us love him would not be love.

    Because of our own sin though, do we deserve any interjection by God in our lives? No, we don’t deserve that. But through His mercy, He has given a path to Him. I am thankful that there is an opportunity for mercy available for us to not receive what we would otherwise justly deserve.

  • 7. Samanthamj  |  October 27, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Great post. I share the same questions you wrote:

    “But why did God not simply reveal himself to all the nations? Was he unable? If so, he is impotent. Was he unwilling? If so, then he is cruel?”

    So far, any reasonings and logic presented to me by chrisitans to explain this, just leaves me scratching my head and still wondering the same basic thing.

    ~smj

  • 8. susan hanshaw  |  October 27, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    So much of what we have come to believe is a reflection of how we as people view ourselves. We focus primarily upon our physical bodies and ignore the spiritual energy that flows within us.

    This energy knows know religion. It is an energy that flows within all of us from the source creator. Whether you chose to call the creator God, or Ala, or another name it still remains the same. It is an inborn power we may all tap into to attract and manifest whatever it is we wish. As long as our wishes are for the good, then we each have the same inner power wating to be “discovered.”

    A very solid post with much to reflect upon. Thank you!

  • 9. JP Manzi  |  October 27, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Jim, thank you for the very cordial dialogue.

    I truely understand what you are saying but bringing up the example of your own Dad can be taken in the other direction, since your example is a comparison between him and God. To keep the comparison going, would your own Dad punish you for eternity for a finite offense? It’s just not logical to conclude that if god is love, he would send his own creation, his own children to eternal torment for finite “crimes”. All he has/had to do is reveal himself. Making a presence to a community thousands of years ago was a start, but why not continue. Please, I beg you, do not tell me he has revealed himself through the “written word”.

  • 10. Jim  |  October 27, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    JP,

    I also thank you for your cordial(ness?)…your cordial approach as well.

    I am thinking over your latest question, which is quite a great question, but don’t have time to answer now … I got free tickets to an NHL game tonight! Don’t want to be late.

    So be expecting a reply, hopefully soon.

    -Jim

  • 11. carriedthecross  |  October 27, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Jim, I too would like to thank you for your cordial and thoughtful response.

    “But if it were truly fair, and truly an exact accounting, God would not show himself to anyone, let alone the Israelites. No one deserves God. God has already gone beyond fair, all this is mercy.”

    This begs the question, why would an omniscient, omnibenevolent God create an entire species which he knew would ‘rebel’ from his wishes and require punishment. It seems that pushes the underlying problem one step further, but it still makes God to be cruel.

    “For example, if you get pulled over for no brake lights, and should receive a ticket, but the cop gives you a warning, is she being fair, or merciful? She’s showing mercy. Fairness would be giving you the ticket, since you broke the law. That’s what you deserve.”

    I know all analogies, by definition, eventually fail, but this one seems to do so pretty quickly. If the police officer were to have been the indirect cause for my brake lights failing, and were then to pull me over, it would seem to me that she would be morally required to show mercy.

    …some quick thoughts, back to the game. ;)

  • 12. ReasonIsOutToLunch  |  October 28, 2007 at 2:20 am

    I am wondering if the God of the Bible loves anyone. Let’s assume we have been given freewill by God. I am going to also for arguments sake say that curiosity is also a God given trait. So, God puts a tree right in the middle of paradise and says that this is the tree of knowledge you shall not eat of it. It seems God can only love the blindly obedient that have no curiosity what so ever.

  • 13. marie  |  October 28, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    ReasonIsOutToLuch,

    That is a really interesting point! If God “chooses” some people to be saved, why would he create the rest of us? We didn’t ask to be put in this predicament!

  • 14. Thinking Ape  |  October 28, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Marie,

    That is a really interesting point! If God “chooses” some people to be saved, why would he create the rest of us? We didn’t ask to be put in this predicament!

    Personally, I would prefer to be a mindless puppet glorifying a god then spend eternity in hell – which is probably why “hell” was invented. The logic of a “loving” god who could have easily just created a heaven on earth for his pleasure, but instead chose to give humankind a choice that seemed to be, at least according to Genesis, no better than the whims of the Greek gods. Compare Adam and Eve with such stories as the Apple of Discord or Pandora’s Box.

  • 15. Yueheng  |  October 28, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Anyone who has objectively read the numerous Old Testament passages where the God of the Bible orders his followers to commit genocide will find the notion that he loves all people illogical. A cursory reading of just one incident in the OT is a stark revealer of the nature of this God. In Numbers 31, God instructs Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites and kill them all. After a savage campaign in which all the Midianite men were killed, the The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and seized their herds, flocks and goods as plunder.

    Moses, furious that his men had defied the Lord’s directive by allowing some Midianites to live, ordered his men to kill all the boys and the women who had slept with a man. The only ones allowed to live were the virgins.

    One could argue that the Israelite soldiers had showed mercy to some of the Midianites. But apparently, the God of the Bible and the Bible and his wing-man Moses did not think very much of this mercy.

  • 16. The de-Convert  |  October 28, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Here’s a good list of such scriptures:

    http://literalbible.blogspot.com/search/label/God%20Kills?max-results=100

  • 17. Yueheng  |  October 28, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    I often wonder whether how Christians would react if a pastor would used some of hose Yaweh-as-Mafia-Chief scriptures in their sermons. But I suppose, Christianity being such a diverse religion, a broad range of reactions can be expected. Maybe those of a more liberal persuasion might squirm to hear about Yahweh’s ethnic cleansing campaigns. But I’m sure there are some Christians who will just take these scriptures as “evidence” of God’s awesome might and righteousness.

  • 18. ESVA  |  October 28, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    My pastor, whose son has Down’s Syndrome, mentioned in this morning’s sermon that God had given Brandon to him as a special gift to draw him (the pastor) closer to God. Think carefully about what Pastor Earl said: God either allowed or willed Brandon to be born handicapped for Pastor Earl’s benefit. In other words, God used one human being for the benefit of another. Apparently, in the workings of God, some people are tools (in Kant’s words, means) rather than ends in themselves. So, does God love some more than others? Pastor Earl, an incredibly gentle, generous man, would be appalled if anyone spelled out to him that baldly the implications of his statement. It appears to me that he hasn’t thought all they way through this part of his theology.

  • 19. mangimosbi  |  October 29, 2007 at 12:01 am

    “The God … and by default to condemn millions of souls to eternal damnation.” Well if thats what you think God is then you should go on living your life as if God is like that.It won’t change who He is or what He has done.I mean no malice when I say this.

    But if your are truly seeking then just look at the Cross and think about it.

    For no amount of logic or theological hair splitting can answer all our questions. At the end of the day it comes down to that little thing called faith.

  • 20. Oxysmoron  |  October 29, 2007 at 3:06 am

    Be fruitful and multiply doesn’t mean God created ALL of us… who do you think was doing the multiplying?

    We are the product of our own multiplication.

    A blind man born is not the product of his father’s sin, nor is he the product of a well intended, sappy sort of blessing.
    **********************************************************

    God chose a people called: Israelites, yet He too shows forth His willingness to gather unto Himself those OUTSIDE of the camp… called: aliens and strangers… who were (even in the old testament) grafted in. Abraham and Sarah for instance was not an Israelite, nor was Noah. Also Rahab and Ruth were not Israelites. Adam and Eve were not Israelites. Let us too not forget that Jesus CHOSE 12 desciples and even a devil… Judas.

    He truly is not a respector of persons.

    Yep, even that ole muderous Saul who became Paul… God love em!
    *******************************************************

    I believe there is a lil’ misunderstanding in view of the scripture… God condemns MAN…

    correction:

    I have not come to condemn anyone…

    we of ourselves condemn ourselves… this is why God is Just in His Judgment.

  • 21. Lyndon  |  October 29, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    “Perhaps the greatest appeal of the Christian faith, at least in our time, is the notion of unfettered love.”

    I think it’s startling for many people to consider that the “message” has changed significantly throughout history. There have been in fact as many different messages as there are messengers, and that trend continues today. As your post shows, this latest emphasis on the love of God for all mankind is still in direct contradiction to many previous “messages” and texts. Well articulated.

  • 22. Melissa  |  October 29, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    This is pretty intense stuff. These questions are tough, and should be carefully looked at, and not just answered with a cop-out statement like, “just have faith and trust in God.” Although i think it is good to have faith, and i myself live a life of one. I think it is important to really look at questions like these and try to figure them out as much as possible.

  • 23. Melissa  |  October 29, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Sorry, i accidently entered that in before i was finished.

    I don’t have a very good answer to the your questions about how God loved the Israelites more, so i’m just going to leave that alone rather than just ramble.

    I do know this however, God came down to earth, and humbled himself by becoming like his creation. He sent his only son knowing that he would die, as the “sacrifice of all sacrifices.” That was it, God took care of it all. Then he built his church so that we could carry out the ministry of Christ. He could do it on his own, but he wants to be in relationship with us so he lets us be a part of his plan. Does that not show God’s love for everyone? Through his son he made it possible for all mankind to be in relationship with him. He saw that Israel had failed so he came down and intervened. Not that the church is his plan B, but rather a continuation of his original plan.

    God knew even before time, who would choose him and who would not. He hates it when people go to hell, but everyone has made their choice and he won’t interfere with free will. God understands everyones hearts, and although it is tough to swallow i think it could be said that since he knows everyones hearts and whether they would choose him or not he does not even have to give them the opportunity, but usually he does.

    I feel like my comment, and everyone elses is merely like throwing pebbles into a huge pit. This is really deep and i don’t think it can be properly debated or figured out by leaving comments on a blog.

    All i know is that God is big, and sometimes it is hard to put him in our little minds.

  • 24. LeoPardus  |  October 29, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Melissa:

    God knew even before time, who would choose him and who would not. He hates it when people go to hell, but everyone has made their choice and he won’t interfere with free will. God understands everyones hearts, and although it is tough to swallow i think it could be said that since he knows everyones hearts and whether they would choose him or not he does not even have to give them the opportunity, but usually he does.

    It amazes me that anyone can pack such an amount of nonsense into one sentence. I have a friend who is a die-hard Calvinist like you and he spouts this sort of stuff fairly often. I’m convinced it does harm to a mind to make it do this. Like driving a car forward and then throwing it suddenly into reverse, then back to forward, then steering hard right,……

    All i know is that God is big, and sometimes it is hard to put him in our little minds.

    Not at all. We make Him up in our minds as we go along.

  • 25. JAN MICHAEL LACHICA  |  October 29, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    AMEN TO THAT! LeoPardus

    For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord
    For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    Isaiah 55:8-9
    Gos has a highest standard than us….

    we have no rigths to question him
    Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?

    The Romans 9:20

  • 26. HeIsSailing  |  October 29, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    God’s love, my friends, is presented by his own holy text, as being incredibly arbitrary. If the Christian religion is true, I am deeply concerned by the nature of this God.

    God’s grace, as demonstrated in Scripture, is just another word for God’s arbitrary nature.

  • 27. Yueheng  |  October 30, 2007 at 1:55 am

    Melissa:

    But your Bible teaches that God does interfere in man’s free will. Or more accurately, whether or not a person is saved does not seem to be dependent on human will. In his letter to the Romans, Paul quite explicitly negates the idea of free will in salvation when he writes:

    For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. — Romans 9:15-18, NIV

    This passage seems to indicate that your God is not like some neutral bystander who lets his creation choose their own path. Rather it is he who decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. And it does not depend on depend on man’s desire or effort.

  • 28. Brad  |  October 30, 2007 at 8:17 am

    Yuehen touched on a good point. Even within the same verse, there are apparent paradoxes of free will and God’s sovereignty.

    Are they mutually exclusive? *grins mischievously*

  • 29. Melissa  |  October 30, 2007 at 10:53 am

    The “paradox” between free will and sovereignty is less of a paradox and more like a balance. There are two sides to the coin.

    Yuehen:
    That verse is emphasizing the sovereignty of God becuase in Paul’s letter to the Romans he was trying to convince the Israelite Christian that the Gentiles christians could also be saved and not only could they be saved, but they were indeed equal with the them. There are plenty other verse that emphasize God’s love for all mankind, and the author of each verse has different reasons for emphasizing God’s sovereignty, and our free will.

  • 30. Brad  |  October 30, 2007 at 11:14 am

    “The “paradox” between free will and sovereignty is less of a paradox and more like a balance. There are two sides to the coin.”

    That is a statement not too common in the Western mindset. Bravo! It took me years to be able to wrap my mind around that (somewhat), and now that I have some understanding, and can accept the mystery of it, I’ve found a lot of peace. Nice illustration with the coin, btw.

    “in Paul’s letter to the Romans he was trying to convince the Israelite Christian that the Gentiles christians could also be saved and not only could they be saved, but they were indeed equal with the them.”

    Sooo important to take the audience into consideration. Well said. It seems to be a very common theme for Paul in uniting the Jewish and gentile Christians among the young churches. 1 Corinthians 10: 1-11 comes most obviously to mind (where Paul writes to a mixed audience and refers the the Exodus community as “our” forefathers). Excellent. Just excellent.

  • 31. Yueheng  |  October 30, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Melissa and Brad:

    Perhaps you need to consider the possibility that the Bible is a collection of contradictory theologies which were written by different people in different times and can never be satisfactorily reconciled. In the passage I cited, Paul seems to be denying that human beings have any input in their salvation. “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” There may be other verses elsewhere that suggest human beings have a choice to be saved, but it still doesn’t take away the clear meaning of what the author of the letter was trying to say – that God hardens whom he will harden and he saves whom he will save.

    Even if Paul was indeed writing to a specific audience, he was making some categorical claims that flies contrary to the free-will theology of some Christians. He was describing a God who chooses who will be saved and who will be condemned. This is clearly not a God who loves “everyone”.

    Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

    There’s no ambiguity here.

  • 32. karen  |  October 30, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    That is a statement not too common in the Western mindset. Bravo! It took me years to be able to wrap my mind around that (somewhat), and now that I have some understanding, and can accept the mystery of it, I’ve found a lot of peace. Nice illustration with the coin, btw.

    I’m surprised that you think that analogy is not common, Brad. I heard about the “two sides of the coin” in sermons all the time, as relates to things like faith and works, free will and predestination, and on and on.

    It seemed like any time a pastor was willing to take on an apparent contradiction, we got the “two sides of the same coin” analogy. Closely followed, of course, by the “you have to take those verse in the proper context” admonition. ;-)

    Going back to what we discussed on another thread, for people who WANT to believe them, those arguments may seem more than sufficient. But looking at them purely objectively, from the outsider perspective, they really look like weak attempts to reconcile irreconcilable contradictions.

    They also are arguments designed from the top-down to make something come out to the “right” conclusion – or at least they seem that way to me now.

  • 33. Brad  |  October 30, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    Yueheng, you said:

    “Perhaps you need to consider the possibility that the Bible is a collection of contradictory theologies which were written by different people in different times and can never be satisfactorily reconciled.”

    I have considered it, and have found overwhelming evidence that that is not the de-facto conclusion. There are a number of factors that easily explain the apparent pardoxes/inconsistencies (which are only so because most of us sit in a purely western context philosophically). For example, the differences between eastern and western philosophy (with biblical philosophy smack in the middle), and Peter’s words in II Peter 3:15-16 (15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.). There is much in the way of internal evidence that the authors were very much on the same page. “The Canon of Scripture” by F.F. Bruce is one of the best books on this topic.

    “Even if Paul was indeed writing to a specific audience, he was making some categorical claims that flies contrary to the free-will theology of some Christians.”

    And that is why the claims of Paul should be more authoritative than the theological claims of modern Christians.

    “There’s no ambiguity here.”

    Here’s an interesting perspective on that quote… Paul is quoting God in Exodus 33:19. From the reformed perspective (at the minimum, I don’t know how widespread this view is), God was saying that there is not factor outside Himself that constrains His choosing. He was not really saying, as a child says “I’ll do whatever I want.” He was saying that there is not human condition or merit that earns or requires Him to act on their behalf. God is wholly sovereign.

    Just thought it was pretty cool, don’t know if it is related or not. :-)

  • 34. Brad  |  October 30, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Karen,

    “I’m surprised that you think that analogy is not common, Brad. ”

    It wasn’t the analogy that I found uncommon, but the willingness to “sit in” that tension and apparent paradox. When we westerners engage a middle eastern text, we often find things that clash with our worldview. Some people toss the text and think that it must be wrong, and some are willing/able to work a little outside their worldview.

    And yeah, the analogy is good, but only if it is followed up on. Cop-outs suck.

    “Going back to what we discussed on another thread, for people who WANT to believe them, those arguments may seem more than sufficient. But looking at them purely objectively, from the outsider perspective, they really look like weak attempts to reconcile irreconcilable contradictions.”

    Hrmm… that’s really… interesting. I’m not 100% sure I know what you are saying, so if I’m wrong, please correct me. I think that, to a certain degree, we do need to “want” to believe before we actually do. There is of course an element of free will, yet in saying that Christians are “called” by God, He is certainly involved too. I have no idea where to draw the line (if it should even be drawn). However, it is fundamentally impossible to look at something “purely” objectively. We can be aware of our subjectivity, and thus work outside our worldview (to varying degrees), but we cannot help but think and act as we are shaped by our experiences. There are a ton of factors involved, but even seeing “weak attempts to reconcile irreconcilable contradictions,” you are viewing them as such in light of your worldview.

    Now, that is NOT to say you are automatically wrong because you cannot be objective. That is taking it too far. However, we cannot claim to be able to know absolute objective truth as relationally subjective beings. The key/goal/idea/hope is that we can at least weigh communication, doctrine, truth, and out views of all those while being self aware.

    In reading the above, I don’t know that I had any main coherent thought, so if that does not make any sense, I apologize! I hope it made sense.

  • 35. Yueheng  |  October 30, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Brad:

    In your reply, you don’t seem to have convincingly explained how the passage in Romans is reconciled to the idea that God gives us free will to choose between being saved or condemned. You claim that Exodus 33:19. means that “God was saying that there is not factor outside Himself that constrains His choosing.” So who chooses who is saved? Is it man or God? The fact is that the passages in Romans and Exodus that we have look at indicate that God, and not human free-will, is the arbiter deciding who is saved or not. God chooses who is saved and who is condemned. This is clearly not a God who “loves everyone”.

    He was not really saying, as a child says “I’ll do whatever I want.” But as I read the pages of the Old Testament, I find that the God of the Bible behaved a cross between a spoilt child and a dictator (a frightening combination). He destroys the world in a flood when he gets upset with how his creations are behaving. He orders his followers to kill women and children and engage in ethnic cleansing. He often makes murderous threats against his misbehaving people. In Jeremiah 13: 13-14:

    This is what the LORD says: I am going to fill with drunkenness all who live in this land, including the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets and all those living in Jerusalem. I will smash them one against the other, fathers and sons alike, declares the LORD. I will allow no pity or mercy or compassion to keep me from destroying them.’ “

    Is this a God who loves everyone?

  • 36. Melissa  |  October 30, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Yueheng:

    The story in Jeremiah certainly does depict a God who loves everyone. You have to read the whole story. This particular story is talking about God’s judgment through a prophecy given by Jeremiah. The reason for this prophecy is because Israel and specifically the tribe of Judah was worshipping other gods. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but think about it like this: My God is a jealous God. If you saw the one you loved deeply (like a husband or a wife, or whatever) fooling around and even being intimate with another person, would you be sad/hurt/angry/wrathful? Here are these people, whom God had delivered from Egypt, given an innumerable amount of blessings, always provided for what they needed, and went with them and prospered them wherever they went , yet they still turned their back on him. I think God completely has the right to destroy every one of them! But you also failed to see the end of the story, in chapters 30-33 God promises to restore the Israelites and free them from any bondage. He has mercy on a very undeserving nation. This to me does look like a God who loves everyone. This looks like a God that loves deeply and passionately.

    As for the issue first brought up in the blog. I have researched and studied for hours and can’t find a complete and logical answer to why God loved the Israelites and seemed to use and abuse the other nations. But here are a few of my ramblings that i wrote during my research, which may or may not make sense to you (honestly they don’t make complete sense to me):

    This is how I see it: God is just. Meaning sin has consequences and God has to enforce them. We all deserve to be judged because of Adam, but even if Adam didn’t sin, I know i have sinned too many times to count, and it’s only by the grace of God that he loves me still. God’s will is sovereign, and he chooses whom he will have mercy on and whom he will have compassion on (as mentioned above in Rom. 9:15-18) I tried to find verses on how we choose God (freewill) and it was underwhelming. There were only verses like Psalm 140:6 that states : “Oh Lord i say to you ‘You are my God.” So this is the conclusion i have made: God does choose us, but according to what he already knows (foreknowledge) about our hearts (whether we will choose him or not). God is just and Israel was lucky to have been loved by God. He could have simply killed everyone, which is what we all deserve, however, God sent his son to die for an unworthy people and now all have the opportunity to have a relationship with God. He does love everyone, 2 Pet.3:9, “He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentence ” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son.” But he is also just. I don’t want this to seem like a cop out, but this is all i can say: I don’t always understand God, and all that He does, becuase i am finite and he is infinite. There is no way anyone could completely understand Him. It’s ok to try, but sometimes we hit a dead end because of our limited mind. I will continue to think and research this, but I’m not going to ditch God over it because i trust him, and he has only proven himself trustworthy, faithful, and loving thus far. We have a very deep relationship and this will not shake it.

    Well that’s it. I’m going to keep asking God, and he may or may not reveal himself to me, he truly is a mystery and sometimes we just have to live with that.

  • 37. Yueheng  |  October 31, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Melissa:

    Christians often say that God is beyond human conception and can’t be boxed in by human thought. But then they often appeal to human emotions to describe God. You wrote: “If you saw the one you loved deeply (like a husband or a wife, or whatever) fooling around and even being intimate with another person, would you be sad/hurt/angry/wrathful?” But shouldn’t an all-loving God be above all these human emotions?

    Furthermore, in the holy book supposedly authored by this all-loving God, there are numerous instances where this God’s anger led him to order mass-killings of women and children. ““He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentence ” Contrast this with the following passage:

    This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ” — 1 Samuel 15:2-3

    Here. you have a God who bears a grudge on something the Amalekites did a few centuries ago during the time of Moses and he has apparently forgotten about his earlier claim that children should not be put to death for their father’s sins (Deuteronomy 24:16) And in his grudge, he orders children and infants to be slaughtered. Not even animals are beyond the scope of his wrath.

    This is not a God who loves everyone. He is a God who loves only those who worship him and obey his divine whims.

    Out of curiosity: If God ordered you to kill women and children from a tribe of non-believers, would you obey His will?

  • 38. Bret  |  November 2, 2007 at 5:16 am

    Yueheng–

    it’s important to understand that God’s wrath is real, but it is not a contradiction to love. The name of his wrath is “jealousy,” and in fact, God’s name is Jealous (34:14).

    Jealousy is the anger that is right and good when the love due a spouse is stolen by another lover. (In human terms, a husband whose anger is not kindled against another man pursuing his wife probably does not value and love her very much at all). Man was made for God, and when we give our affection to other lesser gods, the vain idols of lust, money, and pleasure, or any other God, his anger is kindled.

    But we know that it takes a long time for wrath (ex. 34:6-8) because he is slow to anger. In the case of the Amalakites, yes, God ordered their genocide, but he also sent Israel into slavery for 400 years to patiently contend with another peoples, though He knew they would remain in their sin (ex. 15:13-16)

    The bottom line is that God’s love isn’t the tranquil aura of universalism. It is the fiery torrent of Divine Desire that strikes out against false lovers, and refuses the dignity of love to be scorned. God’s name Jealous is crucial to understanding his Wrath, and the violent nature of His Love.

  • 39. Bret  |  November 2, 2007 at 5:26 am

    Melissa–

    the theology of Israel is really lacking on this page: I wouldn’t stress too much about it. In reality, Israel is as much a picture of God’s wrath as HIs love. Just a brief read through Deuteronomy 32 and Leviticus 26 explains the constant assault on Israel for thousands of years, including the holocaust. It was no picnic for them as the chosen people because they could never get past their proclivity towards idolatry, and in this way they were similar to the other nations in the earth, yet different because they felt God’s wrath more acutely. I think that’s an honest read.

    Secondly, God uses Israel as the blessing point and the punishing point for all the other nations. The reason is that the nations hate God and they consequently hate the people that show His glory. Egypt in Exodus is the textbook example of this. Yueheng, this also helps to explain the Amalekite genocide: the Amalekites were a sinful people who loved darkness and worshipped demons– their conflict with Israel just brought that to a head. It has nothing to do with God’s caprice and everything to do with understanding how God brings judgment.

    What’s more, He’s going to push the issue of Israel again. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear.

  • 40. OneSmallStep  |  November 2, 2007 at 5:51 am

    Jealousy is the anger that is right and good when the love due a spouse is stolen by another lover. (In human terms, a husband whose anger is not kindled against another man pursuing his wife probably does not value and love her very much at all).

    But that’s not how the word ‘jealousy’ is used. People are jealous when someone gets a promotion ahead of them, or someone has something they want, such as an expensive car or house. Yueheng’s point was that God is very far above us, and yet human emotions, such as jealousy, are used to describe God. To me, this reduces God to our level, in that God experiences the human emotion of jealousy, which is a negative emotion. We are essentially saying that humans have the ability to affect this infinite God so far beyond us, and from a certain perception, that can look very egotistical. It’s saying that out of everything in this vast universe, man has the ability to anger this infinite God. God’s reaction to Israel “straying” is precisely how a human would react. Shouldn’t a God with those charateristics act better than us?

    the Amalekites were a sinful people who loved darkness and worshipped demons– their conflict with Israel just brought that to a head.

    But that’s not why they were being punished — they were attacked in Samuel for something their ancestors did, at the time of Moses. And the infants were punished for this as well.

  • 41. Yueheng  |  November 2, 2007 at 11:12 am

    In one of his letters, Paul wrote:

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

    If we take the above as the standard for God’s love (which is logical if one accepts that Paul’s writing was inspired by God), we will see that the God of the Bible fails to meet virtually all the above-listed qualities. He claims to be patient, but he has no qualms in ordering non-believers to be utterly wiped out. And ordering the murder of women and children is certainly not “kind” by any logical standard. The God of the Bible is also constantly boasting about how powerful he is and making violent threats to destroy those who don’t bow down and worship him. One example:

    Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished. See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold. Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children. — Isaiah 13:15-18

    Bret wrote:

    The bottom line is that God’s love isn’t the tranquil aura of universalism. It is the fiery torrent of Divine Desire that strikes out against false lovers, and refuses the dignity of love to be scorned. God’s name Jealous is crucial to understanding his Wrath, and the violent nature of His Love.

    This seems like an utterly perverse line of argument to me. It’s like saying: “You know, sometimes you need to be really violent and vengeful to show that you love someone. If he/she doesn’t reciprocate your love and you retaliate by punishing and destroying that person violently, it just shows how much you love this person!”

    It seems quite clear to me (as it should be with any objective person) that this God’s love is the fiery torrent of hatred which strikes out against infants, children, and animals. This is a God who has no qualms in dashing infants to pieces, instigating the violation of women, ethnic cleansing and the sexual enslavement of women (see Numbers 31:25-35 where this loving God ordered 32,000 Midianite virgins to be divided amongst his followers, leaving 32 as tribute for himself). This is a God who intends to eternally burn and torture people who do not worship/believe in him. I think it takes some real mental gymnastics to attribute the quality of Love to a God willing to murder children and infants.

  • 42. jesse lockhart  |  December 10, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    iokjik

  • 43. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 10, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    The sort of “love” that Yahweh shows for human beings is very similar to the sort of “love” an abusive husband shows his wife and children. And, sadly, the apologia and excuses of Christians are very similar to those of the psychologically damaged abused spouse and children.

  • 44. Spencer  |  October 24, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    A recurring idea in the scriptures is that God makes covenants with his children. A covenant is a two way promise. God usually sets the terms of the covenant, and it typically follows a commandment/blessing pattern. When there are groups of people who make these covenants with God, we get groups of covenant people. Israel was a covenant people. God did not choose them arbitrarily. To Abraham was given special promises, this is called the Abrahamic covenant. 3 things were promised. One was land (the holy land area). Another was seed without number (in those days it was a legacy to an individual to have lots of descendants). Abraham was also told by God that He would establish his covenant among Abraham’s children. God was basically saying that he would help Abraham’s descendents to achieve the same blessings that God had given Abraham. (What father or grandfather wouldn’t want God to reach out to his children and grandchildren and love them like He has loved us and blessed our lives). After God made a covenant with Abraham, Abraham’s descendents rebelled against that covenant from time to time.

    I don’t know why the peoples who lived in that area of the world didn’t make covenants with God the way Abraham’s descendents did. I do know that they often believed in idols in that area and they did a lot of things that were wrong becaue of that belief, like offering their children in sacrifice and sleeping around because of the fertility god. When a person doesn’t keep certain basic commandments, God won’t give them higher commandments to live – (like the way the law of Moses was lived for so long as opposed to the higher teachings that Christ gave).

  • 45. Alban  |  May 27, 2013 at 5:12 am

    Is anyone monitoring this site that can eliminate dedicated commercial advertisements in contributing opinion? HELLO, HELP!!

    Attorneys that cannot write coherently…sales people with excitement about commissions or dreams of MLM bonuses with unusual interest in a variety of swelling or crashing issues…like this audience is their specific market. Guess you gotta love capitalism.

    Pop-ups would be annoying but less obstructive to the conversation. And it would be a way to make some money…just a thought..

  • 46. Alban  |  June 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Does God love everybody? Well apparently there must be some sort of sustaining force that continues to allow this kind of babble #s 46-51, 53, 55 & 56 to enter the contributor’s nest

    Maybe I am missing something. Does a third steering mechanism infer a safer driving environment, hence less accidents? Is this some kind of code that triggers more significant dialogue?

    cag and ubi dubium, where are the machetes and the chainsaws on this stuff? Is it inescapable- like an under-appreciated life with a beginning and an end; and no rational explanation of where it came from or where it will go? can’t say it doesn’t exist.

    Just like a ‘bad penny’, it just keeps turning up. If there is a god, may it’s just advocating for more risk…faster cars and more sex! (for less $) With a Jewish bent God might be blessing we gentiles with not having to pay retail.

    That could be the best explanation for “salvation” yet,

  • 47. cag  |  June 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Alban, just like you, I have no control over any of the content. I trust that the honest contributors here are not subject to such obvious spam, but then I’m reminded that some of them actually bought into the biggest scam of all time, religion.

  • 48. Alban  |  June 18, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    That we can agree on, but emphasizing now more than ever Knowing has a whole different set of criteria than believing or imagining could ever have conjured up. A little bit more than outward observation, science or reason by themselves or together can surmise.

    A better question for this segment of the site might be, “is a lasting, unconditional satisfaction available to everybody?”

  • 49. Ethanael  |  July 23, 2013 at 3:20 am

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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