God is not Omnipotent

December 15, 2007 at 10:34 pm 191 comments

light 3Guest Commentary

Personally, I feel that most arguments for or against the existence of God are too rooted in normative conventions for my personal beliefs. In other words, I cannot accept arguments based on supposedly established conventions such as good, evil, right, wrong, etc., because those conventions were primarily established through man-made religions.

This is not to say that employing norms such as good and evil are not useful in arguing against the existence of a deity. Using religiously established conventions (Christian norms, in this case) of good and evil, and by understanding the hierarchy of God’s characteristics, we can show that the God that Christians imagine to exist contradicts himself, and therefore cannot exist.

The Christian tradition holds that God is many things: God is love, God is merciful, and so on. One characteristic, a seemingly unavoidable prerequisite to being a deity, is that God is omnipotent. God, according to the Christian tradition, is also good and cannot be or do evil.

The qualifiers that God are that he is A) Omnipotent and B) Good come into sharp contrast and contradiction. If God is in deed able to do anything, God would then be capable of doing evil, blatantly contradicting the assumption that God cannot do evil. Therefore, a God who can only be good and only does good is not omnipotent. A being who is not omnipotent is not God.

A more moderate and more readily acceptable set of qualifiers to the contemporary Christian is that God is A) Omnipotent and B) Capable of doing good or evil, but chooses only to do good. However, this also causes a stark contradiction with the Christian’s perspective of God. If the above is true, then there are still limits on God, rendering him subject to a greater force (and therefore not omnipotent).

First, if God has to be capable of doing only Good or Evil, then God himself must be subject to conventions of Good and Evil. If that is the case, then there is a higher power that reigns above God. This should not be surprising if God is in fact man made. A man made God would be expected to hold up human conventions of Good or Evil, and not the other way around.

If, however, God is the author of Good or Evil, then God himself cannot be Good or Evil, for he is the author. There is the possibility that God created Good and Evil and chose to follow only the conventions of Good, If that is indeed the case, then God, by his own design, is not omnipotent having chose to let his conventions of Good and Evil reign over him.

If the idea of God is shifted to allow him to do evil, then God is not good or evil; whether or not he is good or evil is relative. But if that is the case, then God is not in fact Good, nor is he love, nor is he merciful. God is omnipotent, therefore outside of any convention. If that is the case, he is indifferent to our plight as humans, indifferent as to whether or not we love him, and indifferent as to whether or not we spend eternity in pleasure or in eternal pain. But if he is subject to those conventions, then he can’t not love and can’t not care, and therefore he is not God, having allowed those conventions to rule over him.

- bry0000000

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The call for miracles Challenging Religious Myths 2: Atheism is just another Religion

191 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jmcrist  |  December 16, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Perhaps I misunderstood your post. But as a Christian, I just want to put forth the way I see it: God is good, and He’s good because it’s His nature to be good. God cannot do anything that is not in accord with His nature. Therefore, God cannot do evil.

    Just because there are some things God cannot do, such as an evil act, or a contradiction, such as create a square circle, this does not imply that He is not omnipotent. He can still have infinite power and authority. That’s all omnipotent means.

    I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on these things.
    -Michael

  • 2. salient  |  December 16, 2007 at 12:37 am

    Good grief, Michael.

  • 3. Thinking Ape  |  December 16, 2007 at 1:10 am

    jmchrist,

    God cannot do anything that is not in accord with His nature. Therefore, God cannot do evil.

    what about 1 Samuel 18:10 and Judges 9:22-23 when Yahweh sends an evil spirit to Saul and between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem?

    I’m not really interested in the philosophical aspect of this debate because the issue of God’s omnipotence has never convinced me either way. The fact of the matter is, however, that the Yahwist’s god is not omnipotent nor omnibenevolent. However, the distant God the Father of Christianity can be said since he really has no part in Christian’s lives (especially in America where “Jesus Saves” and the “Holy Spirit Lives” reigns supreme in the Tritheism).

  • 4. jim allen  |  December 16, 2007 at 1:41 am

    Let me disclaim that I am a Christian, AND I find your observations to be valid comments and difficulties that the concept of GOD provides in a honest discussion, between the believer and non believer.

    1) The scripture you refer to you are implying that GOD is evil because the “Spirits” are evil.

    Let me ask you this:

    If God has the power and desire to stop evil and suffering at 12:00 what would happen at 12:01? Why hasn’t he stopped it? What would be the implications?

    I think that it would not take to long to find more examples where there are more specific areas where apparent evil is being directed from God. One that stands out in my mind is the “Noahs Arc” story…… In my mind this raises more QUESTIONS.

    Good and Evil

    Evil does not exist by itself, because it cannot exist apart from Good. For example, rot can exist in a tree only as long as the tree exists. There is no such thing as perfect rottenness. A rusting care and decaying carcass illustrate the same point. Evil exists as a corruption of some good thing, it does not have essence by itself.

    Randomly

    jim

  • 5. Thinking Ape  |  December 16, 2007 at 1:57 am

    jim allen,
    I am assuming that your response was directed at my comment due to the passages. In which case I must clarify that I did not mean to insinuate that because of the “spirits” that were send by God necessitate that God is evil. The Bible itself states that God is the author of both Good and Evil:

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7

    “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” Amos 3:6

    “Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?” Lamentations 3:38

    Philosophically speaking, God cannot have the power to stop suffering without taking away free will (which is why I don’t find the argument convincing). Suffering is not an entity in itself, just as pain is not – it is a relative term. Evil, likewise, despite the “advances” of medieval Christian theology, is not an entity either, even in Christian scripture (and especially not in the Jewish Tanakh).

    This, of course, all leads me back to something I posted long ago – what about heaven? If, as you say,

    evil does not exist by itself, because it cannot exist apart from Good

    , will there then be no good in heaven since there is no evil or vice versa? Or will we be stripped of our free will?

  • 6. thewordofme  |  December 16, 2007 at 3:03 am

    Regarding the omnipotence of God, consider this:

    Judges1:19
    And the Lord was with Judah; and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

    Darn those pesky engineers. They are not supposed to make “God Defeating Machines.”

  • 7. JustCan't  |  December 16, 2007 at 3:05 am

    Thinking Ape…..Amen brother! You can’t quote a specific part of the bible to justify your apologetics and then leave out the parts that completely contradict it, and in a definitive language to boot.

    Thanks for keeping it “real”, we need more thinking apes in this world. A lot more.
    -C

  • 8. kramii  |  December 16, 2007 at 3:57 am

    bry0000000:

    Thanks for the post. If nothing else, it has piqued my interest. The thing is, however: I really don’t think your post makes any sense at all. Perhaps I just misunderstand it.

    As I read it, you view the statements “God is omnipotent” and “God can do only good” as contradictory, because an omnipotent being should be able to do evil?

    If so, this is sheer nonsense.

    What is omnipotence?. It is the power to determine the ultimate outcome of any process. By definition, there can only be one omnipotent entity in the universe: God.

    So, what is Goodness? According to the Christian definition, it is fundamentally “doing that which God desires”. Vitally, goodness is *not* just being “nice”, by which I mean that human morals have little to do with it. Of course, Christians view human “niceness” as something that is sometimes compatible with God’s desires. On the other hand, human morals and God’s desires are, at times, absolutely and completely different. According to the Christain definition, then, God cannot do evil – not because he lacks capability – but because Goodness = Godness. From a Christian POV, God *is* good. This means that he is neither the subject of goodness, not beyond goodness.

    What it all boils down to is this: Ultimately, omnipotence and goodness are actually two different words for the same thing. A god who does evil is no longer omnipotent, and is not God. And of “God” is not God, there is not goodness, no potency.

    I’ll put this another way: The reason that God cannot make certain choices is because the choice itself becomes meaningless once made.

    Another example of something that God cannot do is that he cannot choose not to exist. Why? Because God is the ground of all being, the source of all existence. Without God, there is not existence nor non-existence, no being nor unbeing. The choice becomes meaningless, for there is no nothing to choose.

  • 9. jmcrist  |  December 16, 2007 at 4:19 am

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7

    “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” Amos 3:6

    While we can get into the original Hebrew, I just want to point out that most versions do not translate into “evil” here. This is a rarity.

    Second of all, you’ve made the same mistake with Lamentations 3:38, and another one: you’ve taken it out of context. Read verses 30 – 40, and you’ll see that the disaster spoken of is punishment of sins. God says verse 33 that He does not willingly afflict people, also.

    The Judges 1:19 isn’t understood correctly either, mainly due to poor translation. It should read “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they [Judah] were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.”

  • 10. Anonymous  |  December 16, 2007 at 4:32 am

    God is his essence. If God is good, then he is totally good and there is no room for evil. If God is evil, then he is totally evil. There is no division or contradiction in God. How can God be perfect if there is division in God. Evil is a result of our choices and God chooses to still step into an evil world to redeem it through his infinite goodness. There was no evil in God’s actions when he was on earth in and through Jesus Christ.

  • 11. bry0000000  |  December 16, 2007 at 5:37 am

    So God afflicts people outside of his will? That doesn’t sound like an omnipotent god to me.

  • 12. bry0000000  |  December 16, 2007 at 5:38 am

    I still don’t know how to use the blockquote function :)

    Quoted Text for comment above: “God says verse 33 that He does not willingly afflict people, also.”

  • 13. Koji Oe  |  December 16, 2007 at 6:48 am

    God exists. God doesn’t exist. Why are we wasting precious energy on things that we humans probably will never know?

    Who cares.

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  December 16, 2007 at 11:35 am

    I like the logic twisting that this inspires. ;)

    This relates well to a post I put in recently. Hope I make this link function work right.

  • 15. LeoPardus  |  December 16, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Looks like I didn’t. Rats.
    http://de-conversion.com/2007/11/05/reasons-why-i-can-no-longer-believe-1-god-is-we-know-not-what/

  • 16. OneSmallStep  |  December 16, 2007 at 11:59 am

    According to the Christian definition, it is fundamentally “doing that which God desires

    Then this would be a rather dangerous idea of what “good” is, and it would be based on an assumption that God is always good and cannot do evil. How would you even go about defining what good is? We could end up in a position that stopping a murder is not good, because it’s not what God desires at that time.

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7

    “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” Amos 3:6

    While we can get into the original Hebrew, I just want to point out that most versions do not translate into “evil” here. This is a rarity.

    Get into the original Hebrew as in the word “ra” is used there, like it’s used in the Genesis for the tree of good and evil?

    Second of all, you’ve made the same mistake with Lamentations 3:38, and another one: you’ve taken it out of context. Read verses 30 – 40, and you’ll see that the disaster spoken of is punishment of sins.

    But the events occuring are still called “bad.” They aren’t seen as good things, and so God seems to be capable of doing “not good” things. If the bad things are ultimately good in the end, then doesn’t “bad” lose its meaning?

    It should read “The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they [Judah] were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had iron chariots.”

    But wouldn’t this imply that the Lord being with Judah wasn’t enough to overcome the iron chariots?

  • 17. onemorecup  |  December 16, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Dear bry00000,

    From the first paragraph on and on…” supposedly established conventions such as good, evil, right, wrong, etc., because those conventions were primarily established through man-made religions.”

    Response: Well, it is a good idea to put your biases right up front! Suggestion: Come to a working definition of ‘religion’. Depending on that outcome one can make a reasoned understanding that all religions are man-made.

    “This is not to say that employing norms such as good and evil are not useful in arguing against the existence of a deity.”

    Response: Goodness sakes! Please, when writing it is often a courtesy to apply the same standards to both. Insofar as not applying like standards to both is nothing but conjecture at best and terrible form at worst.

    It seems as though I have been writing about this for years now; where artisans of language allege they know the hierarchy of God’s conventions, twist various notions (and I think potions as well) and come up with this: ‘Ah-ha!’ moment where they think the Christian God contradicts himself.

    However, as poorly as this notion is designed, I will save real, scholastic and academic argument, for those who wish to see the issues on the same level playing field. (Btw, you don’t happen to be in Boise, ID?)

    God is omnipotent. God, according to the Christian tradition, is also good and cannot be or do evil.

    Response: Here again, an assumption is made about the character of God; moreover, this alleged character is again based on man-made assumptions. In addition, a working relationship of ‘evil’ might serve well in this postulate, vis-a-vie what may be evil to one, may not be evil to another.

    More of the same…human-made assumptions:

    This is getting worse that a Philosophy 101 course; furthermore, I’m not sure it even qualifies for ‘bad’ debate. Who is putting the qualifiers on God? Who may I ask it putting the limits on God? It seems to me that you are; moreover, if not you, then the evidence you are trying to submit is exactly the same bias used in the beginning of this piece.

    Well I hope you’ve been able to convince yourself; I say this inasmuch as nothing, nothing that has been written here, whatsoever remotely convinces me of anything. Unless of course we can, and are allowed to say ‘good try’ re-read Nietzsche, and ad nauseaum.

    Onemorecup

  • 18. meg  |  December 16, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    om shanti

  • 19. meatish  |  December 16, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    I agree with the above post that most of your “contradictions” have to do more with semantics than actually considering the nature of god. It is just impossible to put human constraints like this on an infinite god. Especially trying to use human terms such as “acts” or “will” or even the all-inclusive verb “do”.
    You cannot make assumptions about the nature of God, and then use those arbitrary assumptions in a self-contained argument.
    “Debating” god is pointless, as there is no evidence nor any philosophical constraint which can be applied to a God.
    However, debating the origin of man, such as the FALSE and sadly misguided theory of Darwinian evolution, has applicable empirical evidence, and is therefore valid.

  • 20. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 16, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    It is just impossible to put human constraints like this on an infinite god. Especially trying to use human terms such as “acts” or “will” or even the all-inclusive verb “do”.
    You cannot make assumptions about the nature of God, and then use those arbitrary assumptions in a self-contained argument.

    Indeed. The concept of “god” is completely meaningless.

    However, debating the origin of man, such as the FALSE and sadly misguided theory of Darwinian evolution, has applicable empirical evidence, and is therefore valid.

    Go talk to Shalini. She’ll school you good and hard.

  • 21. jmcrist  |  December 16, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    OneSmallStep:

    The word “ra” can have many meanings, just as many other Hebrew words, such as shalom, for example – which can me peace, well-being, contentment, integrity, etc.

    The meaning of the word is determined by the context it falls in.

    You said: “But the events occuring are still called “bad.” They aren’t seen as good things, and so God seems to be capable of doing “not good” things. If the bad things are ultimately good in the end, then doesn’t “bad” lose its meaning?”

    When we speak of God not doing “evil,” we’re speaking in moral terms. We’re saying that God cannot do anything morally evil.

    Do you see what I mean? Do you see the difference in saying “Man, that was bad,” or “Man, that was evil!”

    The first could apply to the aroma of a nasty fart, but the second could only apply to something morally wrong, such as Hitler’s extermination of the Jews.

    You said: But wouldn’t this imply that the Lord being with Judah wasn’t enough to overcome the iron chariots?

    No, I don’t think so. It only implies that God didn’t want them to win the battle.

  • 22. Jersey  |  December 17, 2007 at 12:52 am

    If God is only purely good and not evil, than how can Satan, who is only purely evil, exist?

    Plus, Isaiah speaks that God is not the author of evil, but how can any of his creatures, angels and demons included, turn to evil?

    Plus, how can Jesus speak that Satan can only speak lies, but clearly in Job Satan is not speaking lies, but asking God for tests of temptation…how can that be considered a lie?

  • 23. jmcrist  |  December 17, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Jersey:

    You said: “If God is only purely good and not evil, than how can Satan, who is only purely evil, exist?

    Plus, Isaiah speaks that God is not the author of evil, but how can any of his creatures, angels and demons included, turn to evil?”

    God gave us and the angels free will. This gives us the option to choose (would you want it otherwise?), and the capacity to do evil. If someone in their free will decides to murder another, does that mean God is responsible for the action? I don’t think so.

    Satan was an angel who had free will. He chose to do evil.

    How does it follow that because evil exists, God is not infinitely good?

    You said: “Plus, how can Jesus speak that Satan can only speak lies, but clearly in Job Satan is not speaking lies, but asking God for tests of temptation…how can that be considered a lie?”

    Where does Jesus say that Satan can only speak lies? Can you please cite the verse on this one?

  • 24. OneSmallStep  |  December 17, 2007 at 2:03 am

    Jim,

    The word “ra” can have many meanings, just as many other Hebrew words, such as shalom, for example – which can me peace, well-being, contentment, integrity, etc.

    I know — that’s why I asked if this was where you were going.

    When we speak of God not doing “evil,” we’re speaking in moral terms. We’re saying that God cannot do anything morally evil.

    But then God can still do evil. Perhaps not moral evil, but clearly evil goes beyond just morals, or it wouldn’t need that qualifier in explaining the type of evil God can and cannot do. So then God can do natural evil. Which is still evil.

    No, I don’t think so. It only implies that God didn’t want them to win the battle.

    Then why not say that? Why give the impression that it was the iron chariots that were responsible for the loss? Why would God even bother being with them, if they weren’t supposed to win?

    Where does Jesus say that Satan can only speak lies? Can you please cite the verse on this one?

    I don’t know the exact verse, but I believe this is from the gospel of John, in Jesus referring to Satan as a liar and the father of lies.

    If someone in their free will decides to murder another, does that mean God is responsible for the action? I don’t think so.

    I honestly think this depends, because you were created with that free will. And in order to have free will, or the option of choosing, both options must hold equal attraction. And the only way to find both attractive is to be created with the ability to be attracted by evil. So I believe the idea behind this is that an infinitely good God cannot create any creature with the capaiblity of committing evil.

  • 25. Thinking Ape  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:28 am

    Here is the entire problem – and it has nothing to do with semantic or even with philosophy: Yahweh is not God the Father. Simple as thought. The Yahweh of the majority of the Tanakh never was nor ever will be reconciled with the distant pseudo-philosophical Greek Idealist notion of “God.” You can sit around for two thousand years trying to justify this, but any normative or even heretical Jew will tell you it CANNOT BE DONE! Yahweh got down and dirty in the opening chapters of the original Bible. He had cups of tea with the patriarchs and walked on the mountains. As we get closer to the time of Jesus, towards the Book of Daniel (a major prophet for Christians, a totally insignificant “prophet” for Jews) Yahweh becomes an elderly giant as the “Ancient of Days.”

    Harold Bloom noted it best: the more powerful God gets, the more distant he is – so distant by Daniel’s time, that a new man-god was needed.

    As for the attempt to repudiate my verses as “out-of-context,” I only reply in telling you to look closer at who your Yahweh is. He is a god who plays games with people’s lives, whether deserved or not. Any equation of God=Love or God=Love will be circular, since this god has no standard of love or goodness. Until Daniel, he is wildly unpredictable and madly jealous and escapes any attempt of theologizing. Afterwards, he is impotent and eventually succumbs all significance to Jesus and the Holy Spirit (especially in America).

    …and if you continue to believe that God is in control of history and still cares one iota for his previous “Chosen people” – then you would have to believe that the Jews deserved punishment from God so much that 6 million should be slaughtered, which is exactly what many Jews think Christians believe since people like jmchrist have to explain certain evils, such as in comment 9 (the same comment which he/she attempts to change around scripture solely because it doesn’t work for him/her – just like how Christians decided to put Malachi at the end of the Bible instead of II Chronicles).

  • 26. kramii  |  December 17, 2007 at 6:35 am

    OneSmallStep:

    In #8 I wrote:

    According to the Christian definition, it is fundamentally “doing that which God desires

    In #16 you replied:

    Then this would be a rather dangerous idea of what “good” is,

    Agreed. It *is* a dangerous definition.

    and it would be based on an assumption that God is always good and cannot do evil

    No, it is not. It is an assumption that human definitions of good and evil are inadequate to desctibe God. It is also an assertion that, form a Xian POV, “God is good” is a tautology rather than an evaluation of God’s moral character in human terms. We define the word “good” in a special way. When a Christian says that “God is good”, we certainly don’t mean that we everything He does is moral by human standards. Quite the contrary. We Xians agree that God does things that people don’t agree with. (Perhaps this is why we Xians find so much comfort in the Psalms. Like the authors of the Psalms, we take issue with God over all kinds of things – but ultimately, we recognise that accepting His will is in out best interests).

    How would you even go about defining what good is?

    A very good question. Ultimately, we can’t – only God can. We can only know Good to the extent that we know God. We can only know God to the extent that He chooses to reveal himself.

    We could end up in a position that stopping a murder is not good, because it’s not what God desires at that time.

    Logically, I would accept this. I would clarify that logic by substituting “if” for “because”.

  • 27. OneSmallStep  |  December 17, 2007 at 7:02 am

    Kramii,

    It is an assumption that human definitions of good and evil are inadequate to desctibe God.

    And if those human definitions are based on Judeo-Christian values? Such as don’t kill, be kind to one’s neighbor, and so forth? How would you be able to find anything good or evil in the world? How would the Inquisition, or the Holocaust, be considered a moral evil, if it’s what God desired to happen? The very notions of good/evil become entirely subjective. All you have to describe this are human ideas of what good and evil is. As it is, they can’t be inadequate, or we couldn’t have a clear definition of what the fruit of the Spirit is, or how we would know the followers of Jesus.

    but ultimately, we recognise that accepting His will is in out best interests

    Based on what? If you can’t evaluate God’s character on any sort of good/evil idea, then how can you even know you’re following a good God? You wouldn’t even be able to determine what God’s will is, because you can’t use notions of good/evil. If God appeared and ordered you to kill someone, how could you know that the order does not come from God? It can’t even be said that one can use the Bible to evaluate this, because the Bible can be used to justify a lot of horrendous positions.

  • 28. kramii  |  December 17, 2007 at 8:30 am

    OneSmallStep:

    In #26 I wrote:

    It is an assumption [of Christianity] that human definitions of good and evil are inadequate to desctibe God.

    In #27 you replied:

    And if those human definitions are based on Judeo-Christian values?…they can’t be inadequate, or we couldn’t have a clear definition of what the fruit of the Spirit is, or how we would know the followers of Jesus.

    Some human ways of understanding Good and Evil are closer to God’s understanding than others. For a Christian, Judeo-Christian values are a good starting point. Nevertheless, they are still an interptetation of God’s intentions. Ultimately, people the flaws in our human nature get in the way of a full and accurate interpretation of God’s will. They are, therefore, inadequate. Useful, but not complete.

    On reflection, when we Xians say that “God is good”, we are saying two things. (1) That true “Goodness” and true “Godness” are the same thing, and that (2) God’s goodness is broadly Judeo-Christian.

    In (2), we recognise that we really don’t understand Goodness properly, but are making an approximation based on inadequate understanding.

    My original point is that the statement “God is good” and “God is omnipotent” are the same thing is based on (1). Your insightful question has made me realise that there is more to it than that.

    I also said:

    ultimately, we recognise that accepting His will is in out best interests

    You replied:

    Based on what?

    Experience. Revelation. Faith. Because we have spent time with Him and know Him. Because I have (at times) done what He has told me to do, and I saw the results.

    I believe my parents had my best interests at heart when they disciplined me, sent me to school, denied me too many sweets, taught me to be polite, got my hair cut, gave me pocket money, etc. Why? Because I know then. I spent time with them. I listened to their reasons. I observed the results of acting on their commands.

    It is much the same with God.

    If you can’t evaluate God’s character on any sort of good/evil idea, then how can you even know you’re following a good God?

    Because I define Good = God.

    You wouldn’t even be able to determine what God’s will is, because you can’t use notions of good/evil.

    We can use notions of good and evil, but recognise that these notions are incomplete and subject to revision.

    When I drive to a city I have never been to before, I set off in the right general direction and deal with the details en route. When I seek to obey God, I start off with what I do understand, and let Him adjust my understanding on the way.

    If God appeared and ordered you to kill someone, how could you know that the order does not come from God?

    Because I am not stupid! (Well, not that stupid, anyway).

    It can’t even be said that one can use the Bible to evaluate this, because the Bible can be used to justify a lot of horrendous positions.

    Some people mis-read road maps and end up lost. Does that make maps useless? No. But I agree that you need more than a map. You need experience of map-reading, experience of interpreting the road. Perhaps even a guide. The same goes for the Bible.

  • 29. jmcrist  |  December 17, 2007 at 11:45 am

    OneSmallStep:

    You said: “I know — that’s why I asked if this was where you were going.”

    If you knew beforehand that this argument doesn’t work, then why were you trying to use it? These are not the actions of one who sincerely seeks truth, but of one who only wants to win arguments.

    You said: “But then God can still do evil. Perhaps not moral evil, but clearly evil goes beyond just morals, or it wouldn’t need that qualifier in explaining the type of evil God can and cannot do. So then God can do natural evil. Which is still evil.”

    Evil is a moral word. If morality does not exist, then evil cannot exist either. You cannot say that God cannot do moral evil and still do evil. That doesn’t make any sense.

    You said: “Then why not say that? Why give the impression that it was the iron chariots that were responsible for the loss? Why would God even bother being with them, if they weren’t supposed to win?”

    I don’t know.

    You said: “I don’t know the exact verse, but I believe this is from the gospel of John, in Jesus referring to Satan as a liar and the father of lies.”

    Yes, John does say that Satan is the father of lies. But John does not say that Satan can “only” tell lies. I mean, if you haven’t read yourself in the Gospels that Satan can “only” tell lies, why were you saying that?

    A lot of people think the Bible is a crock because they’ve never looked into it – they’ve never read it themselves. They’ve only read what other people say about it.

    “I honestly think this depends, because you were created with that free will. And in order to have free will, or the option of choosing, both options must hold equal attraction. And the only way to find both attractive is to be created with the ability to be attracted by evil. So I believe the idea behind this is that an infinitely good God cannot create any creature with the capability of committing evil.”

    I’m not sure I understand the above paragraph. What do you mean? Can you spell it out a little more for me?

    Thanks!

  • 30. saintlewis  |  December 17, 2007 at 11:59 am

    I would simply say that ‘good’ is defined by God’s nature and desires – evil, is the lack of God’s explicit, overt will taking place, not so much a thing in and of itself, as the lack of a thing (like cold is the lack of heat). As such, there is not need for a ‘evil’ whatsoever – it is only the LACK of a thing – and there’s no need to believe in a ‘good’ above that of God, as it is simply an expression of God.

  • 31. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    I would simply say that ‘good’ is defined by God’s nature and desires – evil, is the lack of God’s explicit, overt will taking place, not so much a thing in and of itself, as the lack of a thing (like cold is the lack of heat).

    This doesn’t make sense on two levels.

    First, we have no way of directly knowing God’s nature and desires. The definition doesn’t help me at all in determining precisely what actually is good or bad. We disagree just as much — if not more — over what God’s nature and desires actually are as we do over what is actually good or bad.

    Second, the metaphor of evil as a lack of good — irrespective of a specific theistic understanding — is so drastically counter-intuitive that it demands more than simple assertion. In what sense is the rape and murder of a child a lack of anything? In what sense is the death of hundreds of thousand people in a tsunami a lack?

    That there is some evil that does appear to be a lack (indifference to others’ suffering, lack of compassion), but the notion that all evil can be shoehorned into this paradigm does not seem justifiable. One has to have more than a lack of compassion to rape and murder a child: One has to have the presence of the desire to do so. And I can’t for the life of me imagine what is specifically lacking from the presence of a tsunami. (Presumably, no one would be so vacuous as to start discussing lack as the absence of an absence.)

    It really appears like the “evil is lack of good” construction exists for one and only one reason: To excuse god from culpability for the presence of evil. It seems to me that there are only two reasonable paths for the believers to take: The trivial assertion that “what happens, happens”, or the notion that everything that happens — including child murder and tsunamis — should be considered “good” and praised in every sense, and never condemned in any sense. If it happened, it must be “god’s will”, it must therefore be good, and if we feel bad about it, our feelings are irrational.

  • 32. saintlewis  |  December 17, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    If Christianity IS a true, revealed religion, however, then God has TOLD us His nature and His desires, which is thus how we kno what ‘good’ is in any objective sense. In fact, apart from a divine concept of good, coming from the top, any concept of good can be no more than a largely agreed upon subjective idea, which can change and shift at the whim of the population, or those in power.

  • 33. saintlewis  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    p.s. – Barefoot…
    your 3rd paragraph could be refuted from so many angles that I don’t know where to begin…
    Some ‘evangelical’ Christians would disagree with your premise that God is culpable for the presence of evil whatsoever, as it surprised Him just as it shocks you – they’re called ‘Openness Theologians’.
    Others, believe they see good evidence in the Scriptures for a dual-will in God, one that desires one good, but for purposes we can’t always see or understand, allows certain ‘evils’ for a – down the road – ‘greater good’, and thus even ‘evil’ can be used ‘for good’. Even then, they would disagree that in those cases that evil IS good in those cases, even though in some secondary way, it is in God’s ‘permissive’ will.

    And there, of course, is also a good number of other effective responses – middle knowledge, & etc – any of which make your case unapplicable.

  • 34. saintlewis  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Lastly, is – per your worldview – the death of many in a Tsumani actually ‘evil’? If so, why and how?

    I don’t see it as EVIL, necessarily – just sad. If I were still a non-believer, however, I would perceive it as only sad, and ‘natural’.

  • 35. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    If Christianity IS a true, revealed religion…

    That’s a mighty big “if” there, pardner, and everything else depends on the answer. Prove that Christianity really is a true, revealed religion and we can go from there.

    your 3rd paragraph could be refuted from so many angles that I don’t know where to begin…

    Typical Christian bullshit. If you can refute my comments, do so. If you can’t, have a nice hot cup of STFU.

    Some ‘evangelical’ Christians would disagree with your premise that God is culpable for the presence of evil whatsoever, as it surprised Him just as it shocks you – they’re called ‘Openness Theologians’.

    That an omniscient deity could in any way be “surprised” would seem to do such violence to the ordinary meaning of “surprise” that one must suspect anyone proffering that line of reason of intentional, egregious bullshit.

    [I]s – per your worldview – the death of many in a Tsumani actually ‘evil’?

    Yes. Why shouldn’t it be? I’m an ordinary person, and I do in fact have empathy and concern for the well-being of other people. Their deaths are a tragedy. The loss and suffering of the survivors is a tragedy. It is evil in the sense that it is bad: had I the power to prevent the death and suffering the tsunami caused, I would have done so without hesitation.

    (Of course, am simply an ordinary person and I do not have such power; one expects just a little more, however, from a deity whose followers claim is not only very powerful but all powerful, capable of not only creating but also suspending at will the laws of physics.)

    To a naturalist, everything is natural, good and evil, happiness and suffering. Natural describes what is, not what we prefer or what we think should be.

  • 36. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Lastly is — per your worldview — the rape, torture and murder of a child actually ‘evil’? I mean, the child is going to heaven, and will escape perhaps decades of worldly suffering.

    Was the rape and murder of women and children, the human sacrifice, the wars of aggression and conquest, the genocide of whole peoples, as described in the Bible actually good? Are rape and murder bad only when they is not specifically commanded by God? In other words, is it the action or the lack of authorization that is evil? Was Hitler wrong only because he was not acting on the orders of God?

    These are not idle, hypothetical speculations: I’m referring specifically to actions clearly described in the Bible with simple, declarative language.

  • 37. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 17, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Oops… “Are rape and murder bad only when they are not specifically commanded by God?”

  • 38. OneSmallStep  |  December 17, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Jim,

    If you knew beforehand that this argument doesn’t work, then why were you trying to use it?

    I never said the argument doesn’t work. I brought it up to see if you were referring to the fact that ‘ra’ is used in both the tree of good/evil, and in the Isaiah verse as well. If so, I wasn’t going to go in that direction, because we’ve already made up our minds, and are familiar with the meaning of the word.

    You cannot say that God cannot do moral evil and still do evil. That doesn’t make any sense.

    Except you qualified evil with God cannot be morally evil. If evil by default only refers to morality, then why explain the type of evil?

    <blockquote? I mean, if you haven’t read yourself in the Gospels that Satan can “only” tell lies, why were you saying that?

    I’m not sure if this was directed at me, but I wasn’t saying that, I was elaborating on what another blogger said, in terms of the statement Satan can tell only lies. For the record, I have read the Bible. Several times. And if you say that Satan is a liar, that can lead people into thinking that Satan only tells lies.

    I’m not sure I understand the above paragraph. What do you mean? Can you spell it out a little more for me?

    I’ll try. You say that God has given us free will, which is the ability to choose. This choice involves whether one decides for good or evil. However — say you are making a choice between pumpkin pie and apple pie. The apple pie holds no appeal to you, so you go with pumpkin. To me, if you didn’t want the apple pie, then you didn’t really make a choice, because in your mind, the apple pie wasn’t even an option.

    If we apply this to good and evil, then in order to make a choice between the two, both must be appealing options. Evil must hold some sort of attraction, and the only way for evil to be attractive to us, to offer itself as something we might want to choose is for us to be designed to find evil appealing. So an infinitely good God would have created us to find evil appealing. Which means there is an abscence of “good.”

  • 39. jmcrist  |  December 17, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    OneSmallStep:

    Concerning evil, please consider this. If morality did not exist, then God couldn’t really do anything evil, could he? This is because if morality doesn’t exist, good and evil cease to exist. God might do some things that people just don’t like, but we could never say that what He was doing was actually immoral (or evil).

    Evil is a moral term. When we say that God cannot do anything evil, we’re speaking of some kind of moral action that is not good!

    My point in all this was that natural disasters and things that bring people death and suffering can still happen, and not somehow be inconsistent with the fact that God is good. Look, I don’t like suffering and death anymore than anyone else. And God’s purpose in all of this is to bring His kingdom on earth – the end of all sin, suffering, and death.

    The argument (perhaps it was not yours) doesn’t work. Do you see what I’m saying?

    You said: “I’ll try. You say that God has given us free will, which is the ability to choose. This choice involves whether one decides for good or evil. However — say you are making a choice between pumpkin pie and apple pie. The apple pie holds no appeal to you, so you go with pumpkin. To me, if you didn’t want the apple pie, then you didn’t really make a choice, because in your mind, the apple pie wasn’t even an option.

    If we apply this to good and evil, then in order to make a choice between the two, both must be appealing options. Evil must hold some sort of attraction, and the only way for evil to be attractive to us, to offer itself as something we might want to choose is for us to be designed to find evil appealing. So an infinitely good God would have created us to find evil appealing. Which means there is an abscence of “good.”

    First of all, I’m not sure I’m catching your drift on the whole freewill thing. I understood the paragraph, but I’m confused as to your view. Do you believe that you have free will?

    Secondly, if you read the accounts of Genesis, Eve was tricked, or deceived into sinning. After that, our nature was corrupted, and fallen, and our desires were twisted and we became immoral creatures.

    The deceit still continues today today. Do you not find it desirable to get completely smashed even though you know it damages your liver, impairs your judgment, and can destroy your relationships with those you love? Do you not find it easy to be enticed by your warped sexual lusts even though it might lead you into adultery, getting someone you don’t know pregnant, or contracting some kind of disease? I could go on and on with this.

    We all know the good we ought to do and fail to do it. We rationalize and justify our sin – even though we know we oughtn’t.

    There definitely is an absence of good in humanity – but it’s not God’s fault.

  • 40. Thinking Ape  |  December 17, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    There definitely is an absence of good in humanity – but it’s not God’s fault.

    Yet, if it was God’s fault, would you be capable of recognizing it?
    The Mysterious Stranger

  • 41. Jersey  |  December 17, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    jmcrist,

    Okay, so I have misquoted John 8:44 (NIV):

    44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

    But I got a question for you…how is it that God exists, but there are so many versions of God? Why cannot God stand up for himself and tell us himself? I see his speaks from the skies in Matthew when he talks at the time of Jesus of Nazareth’s birth, and when he gets baptized by John in River Jordan…how come he hasn’t done such since, so that the whole world can here him and finally be justified of his existence? Or would he rather not so that man can simply believe, rather than accept?

    I don’t mean to attack anything as well, but still, your defense on how God, creator of only good, could allow evil to exist, is poor. Either god is not purely benevolent (am I using the definition correctly here?), or he doesn’t exist. Or something in between. I don’t play only-black-and-white here. There is at least another 254 shades of grey somewhere in there.

  • 42. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 17, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    To me, if you didn’t want the apple pie, then you didn’t really make a choice, because in your mind, the apple pie wasn’t even an option.

    I don’t think this argument really works. I think this construction of choice is too limited, especially regarding moral choice. Should we say of a person who never much wanted to refrain from killing that he didn’t have a “choice”? Seems we would have to abandon the idea of choice as a morally relevant factor.

    And, in the end, something causes a particular choice. In what sense is the counterfactual, “She could have chosen differently,” meaningful without the proviso, “had she wanted to”.

    I think it’s much more general to define “choice” as having a causal history sensitively dependent on “intentional” brain states (with additional provisos, perhaps relating to foreseeability).

    In any event, the whole Problem of Evil is really a disconnection between our own intuitive notions of good and bad, and the way the world actually works. Intuitively, most people would affirm at least that suffering is bad. Suffering is at times unavoidable, at least by us, and sometimes not the result of any intention, but it is still bad.

    We would not, for instance, say to a person who got cancer by sheer bad luck that their suffering and sickness wasn’t bad. We can’t blame anyone, we can’t punish anyone because no intentional agent caused the cancer.

    But this whole notion of “accidental” suffering goes out the window when we consider an omnipotent god. In this case, everything that happens is the result of an intentional, future-seeing entity. In fact, the counterfactual with the proviso, “He could have done differently had He wanted to,” is true by definition.

    (And this is just an idealized god. It has nothing to do with the violent, psychopathic character of Yahweh in the anthology of ancient horror fiction known as the Christian Bible.)

  • 43. jmcrist  |  December 18, 2007 at 12:39 am

    Jersey,

    You said: “But I got a question for you…how is it that God exists, but there are so many versions of God? Why cannot God stand up for himself and tell us himself? I see his speaks from the skies in Matthew when he talks at the time of Jesus of Nazareth’s birth, and when he gets baptized by John in River Jordan…how come he hasn’t done such since, so that the whole world can here him and finally be justified of his existence? Or would he rather not so that man can simply believe, rather than accept?”

    You know, I don’t think I have an answer that will satisfy you on this. But, if you sincerely want to know, you can ask Him like I did. Just say, “Look, God, if you’re out there, and this whole Christianity thing is right – I need you to show me, because I don’t see it.”

    I’m not trying to use this as a cop-out. If you want my explanation I can give it, I just don’t think you’ll buy it so I figured I shouldn’t bother.

    You said: “I don’t mean to attack anything as well, but still, your defense on how God, creator of only good, could allow evil to exist, is poor. Either god is not purely benevolent (am I using the definition correctly here?), or he doesn’t exist. Or something in between. I don’t play only-black-and-white here. There is at least another 254 shades of grey somewhere in there.”

    I see you’re frustration with this, but you’ve got to realize, we’re the ones who shipwrecked the world – not God.

    God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to trust Him, and love Him. If one of us decides we don’t want to, what’s God to do? “Make us” love Him? No! That’s not love!

    Instead, He says “Fine, have it your way. See if it’s better.” And then off we run to suffering…

    I mean, think about it. What sin in the Bible doesn’t lead to pain? Stealing, lying, adultery, greed – all of these things are a prison for ourselves. God doesn’t want us in the prison (and He’s provided a way out), but if that’s what we insist what is He supposed to do? Really?

    How do you feel about it?

  • 44. OneSmallStep  |  December 18, 2007 at 7:10 am

    Barefoot Bum,

    Should we say of a person who never much wanted to refrain from killing that he didn’t have a “choice”? Seems we would have to abandon the idea of choice as a morally relevant factor.

    We may be looking at this differently, but if we have someone who likes to kill, don’t we say there were psychological problems, then? Hence the whole “plea from insanity,” because the person wasn’t capable of thinking in a “normal fashion.” Plus, that would be allowing the killer to set his own moral code, and then excusing him by it.

    Jim,

    When we say that God cannot do anything evil, we’re speaking of some kind of moral action that is not good!

    And that’s fine, I’m just going back to the fact that if this is how evil were defined, then saying “God cannot be morally evil” shouldn’t be necessary. You should just be able to say “God cannot do evil.” That’s what I’m getting stuck on: that evil requires that constraint, in order to argue that God is not evil.

    My point in all this was that natural disasters and things that bring people death and suffering can still happen, and not somehow be inconsistent with the fact that God is good.

    If you cause a natural disaster that you know will bring pain and suffering, then you have done an evil act, though. We define evil as causing pain and suffering. It doesn’t matter what the intentions were — we don’t define the outcome based on intentions. I could have every intention not to hit someone with my car, but if I do, I’m not punished based on intentions, I’m punished based on the results.

    Do you believe that you have free will?

    Yes, but I’m not saying we don’t. I’m saying that it’s hard to say that God did not create us with evil, since to create us with free will would necessarily entail creating us to be attracted to evil.

    Eve was tricked, or deceived into sinning. After that, our nature was corrupted, and fallen, and our desires were twisted and we became immoral creatures.

    But only because she found eating the tree a viable option — she was created to find that attractive. She was created with the ability to want to sin, to find what the serpent said apealing. Had she been created wholly good, she would not have eaten from the tree in the first place. Sin is the desire to go against God. Even she had decided not to eat from the tree, she still would’ve had the desire to eat from the tree. Who “installed” that desire in her?

    Do you not find it desirable to get completely smashed even though you know it damages your liver, impairs your judgment, and can destroy your relationships with those you love?

    No — I don’t drink. I never have.

    Do you not find it easy to be enticed by your warped sexual lusts even though it might lead you into adultery, getting someone you don’t know pregnant, or contracting some kind of disease? I could go on and on with this.

    No to this as well. I don’t find casual sex attractive.

    (I do realize what you’re saying with this, in the basic sense. You don’t need to provide other examples).

  • 45. Anonymous  |  December 18, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Barefoot…

    You assume that your evolved mind can lead you to grasp truth, rather than simply ‘knowledge’ that gives you the evolutionary hand-up and enables you to survive. That is one point to begin at – an unprovable assumption, that most surely seems entirely reasonable to you, but is ultimately based on circular reasoning just as much as the next fellow’s theory. It is not different than beginning with the premise that a divine being exists, and trusting that He’s revealed Himself in history, which is documented in a text. This, too, seems entirely rational to me, and withing my world-view the pieces come together and make good sense.

    Apparently what is a huge leap for you, isn’t for me, and for a great many others. I see God everywhere – His existence seems obvious. Even as one who studies science, I recognize that science is just one way of knowing, and scientific ‘facts’ (there’s a troublesome word, though I’m sure they do exist – the question is whether we can objectively recognize one) take on a very different meaning within different worldviews, and sadly, if God exists, He’s the only true objective observer. The rest of us as just trying to make the best sense out of things that we can.

    So, looking at all the worldviews out there, and scanning over all of the beliefs and unbeliefs available, and looking at what I think I know about history, myself, and others – and reviewing the experiences I’ve had, and what I’ve seen ….no, Christianity being true, revealed religion doesn’t seem all that outlandish to me: not any more of a huge “if” than the phrase “If how my brain interprets the world my senses experiences actually corresponds to reality”. Everyone has to stand somewhere, and some of us recognize our circular reasoning, and some of us do not.

  • 46. amy  |  December 18, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Okay. I’m coming late into the conversation, many excellent points have already been made, and I don’t necessarily consider myself to have the same high-level thinking/argument/writing abilities as most of the regular posters here, but several comments have gotten my attention and I feel the need to write some responses, so bear with me.

    1. “Evil exists as a corruption of some good thing, it does not have essence by itself.” — Jim, from post #3
    I have heard this time and again as an argument from Christians. Couldn’t good be said to be a “perfection of some bad thing?” Something else I don’t understand about the Christian understanding of free will and God as creator of only good things: How could Eve choose to do evil if evil didn’t exist? If something exists as a choice, it exists. To borrow someone else’s analogy (sorry, don’t remember whose), I can’t choose between apple pie and blikfjla pie, because blikfjla pie doesn’t exist. If God created everything that exists, and evil exists, then God created evil. Otherwise choices between good and evil wouldn’t be possible.

    2. “Some human ways of understanding Good and Evil are closer to God’s understanding than others.”
    –kramii, from post #28
    I often hear two different arguments about God from Christians, and the above touches on them. The first argument is that there is no way our finite minds can understand God. The other is that Christians do in fact understand God, and are better able than people from other religions at determining what God wants or does not want. So which is it? And why do so many different varieties of Christianity exist if it’s so clear what God wants of us?

    3. “If God appeared and ordered you to kill someone, how could you know that the order does not come from God?” (onesmallstep, quoted by kramii in post #28)

    “Because I am not stupid! (Well, not that stupid, anyway).”
    – kramii, from post #28
    So, I guess Abraham was stupid, then, for going along with the whole sacrifice-his-son thing. Well, at least we agree on that.

    4. “A lot of people think the Bible is a crock because they’ve never looked into it – they’ve never read it themselves. They’ve only read what other people say about it.” — jmchrist, post#29
    jmchrist, if you’ve spent any time here at all, you would know that most (if not all) of the regular contributors here are former Christians, who have spent much time poring over the Bible. That argument isn’t really going to fly here.

    5. “If Christianity IS a true, revealed religion, however, then God has TOLD us His nature and His desires, which is thus how we kno what ‘good’ is in any objective sense.” — saintlewis, post #32
    Yes, like “do not murder.” However, the God of the Bible seems to have no problem murdering innocent children to make a point (plagues of Egypt). Why is that okay?

  • 47. jmcrist  |  December 18, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    You said: “And that’s fine, I’m just going back to the fact that if this is how evil were defined, then saying “God cannot be morally evil” shouldn’t be necessary. You should just be able to say “God cannot do evil.” That’s what I’m getting stuck on: that evil requires that constraint, in order to argue that God is not evil.”

    The word ‘evil’ only needs the constraint because people don’t use it correctly. I don’t know what’s to blame for this – perhaps it’s the moral decline of western culture, in which moral terms lose value.

    You said: “If you cause a natural disaster that you know will bring pain and suffering, then you have done an evil act, though. We define evil as causing pain and suffering. It doesn’t matter what the intentions were — we don’t define the outcome based on intentions.”

    I disagree with your definition of evil. Based on this logic, a father punishing his son is committing an immoral act.

    You said: “I could have every intention not to hit someone with my car, but if I do, I’m not punished based on intentions, I’m punished based on the results.”

    The only reason I wanted to address this separately was to say that in the scenario above, no immoral act takes place – unless of course the wreck was intentional. But,… then maybe intentions do come into play?

    You said: “But only because she found eating the tree a viable option — she was created to find that attractive. She was created with the ability to want to sin, to find what the serpent said apealing. Had she been created wholly good, she would not have eaten from the tree in the first place. Sin is the desire to go against God. Even she had decided not to eat from the tree, she still would’ve had the desire to eat from the tree. Who “installed” that desire in her?”

    Satan tricked Eve into thinking that eating from the tree was good. The account reads “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” Eve though it was GOOD for food, PLEASING to the eye, and DESIRABLE for gaining wisdom. Satan tricked her. Eve thought it would actually be a good thing to eat from the tree, not a bad thing – not an evil thing.

    The only reason Eve had the capacity for sin was because God gave her free will. I mean, seriously, would you have it any other way? God didn’t design her to love sin, God designed her to be in love with Himself – to have relationship with Him. We’re like two puzzle pieces that fit together, us and God.

    But, Satan, being more crafty than the man and at war with God, goes for what will hurt God the most. He deceives us, and tricks us into doing things that hurt God and us and other people. Satan says “This girl, right here, at this party – you two are in love. Who else will you find that likes the same songs, and can talk for hours on the same subject. You’ve only known her for five minutes, but don’t let that bother you – you’re soul mates! What does your heart tell you?” Or Satan says, “Your life really would be much better if you just had one of these CD Players. Too bad you don’t have the money… but you know, this big store will never know if you just took it. You won’t have to feel guilty about putting somebody’s livelihood in jeopardy by doing it either. This store makes MILLIONS a year – no one will feel the impact of just one CD Player.”

    My point in the examples was this: I’m sure there are a number of things in your life which you know you oughtn’t do – but have a thousand justifications for them at the slightest accusation. You see? We’ve been tricked into thinking that the things we oughtn’t do we must, and the things we ought do we don’t need to. I’m no exception to this.

  • 48. Shannon Lewis  |  December 18, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Amy – this is SaintLewis…
    what is wrong for us is not ‘necessarily’ wrong for God, as the SIN inherent in the act when we partake of it is the fact that we make ourselves out to be God. When we kill it is called ‘murder’ because we did not create the person we killed – we do not own them – they are not ours to treat as we will. If God kills a person, it is creator destroying his creation – a painter throwing away his own painting – a musicians choosing to record over his own song. Though it may make us sad when such a thing happens, especially if we particularly like the painting, or the song – is it morally wrong for an artist to do away with his own art? However, if I entered a gallery, and began trashing famous works of art, I would be a terrible criminal – that is, unless I owned it myself, outright.

  • 49. meatish  |  December 18, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Wow… this was actually a good, mature discussion until Barefoot Bum started using profanity and childish vitriolic remarks.
    That doesn’t win any debates, it just shows your militant bias and therefore shows me that you are incapable of having an open-ended discussion and leaving an open possibility that you could be wrong.
    You just hate Christians and want to slander and profane our culture because you are prideful and think yourself above our ‘naive’ world view.

    As for another quote:
    “But I got a question for you…how is it that God exists, but there are so many versions of God? Why cannot God stand up for himself and tell us himself? I see his speaks from the skies in Matthew when he talks at the time of Jesus of Nazareth’s birth, and when he gets baptized by John in River Jordan…how come he hasn’t done such since, so that the whole world can here him and finally be justified of his existence? Or would he rather not so that man can simply believe, rather than accept?”

    God will not show himself definitively to the world because that would remove free will. If you know there is a cop pointing a radar gun at you, you won’t speed will you? Same thing, if you know God is watching and your actions have consequences beyond your mortal life, then you will not act according to your true nature.
    I hope that makes sense,

    Let’s keep this interesting discussion going guys, but please keep it mature and of course be open-minded and understanding. Thanks to both the atheists and creationists for an interesting read!

  • 50. Schizm  |  December 18, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    jmChrist, not to mention “Just do it and then ask for forgiveness later” – I’ve fallen into that one more than once.

    I am an Agnostic… , but only because I am Pro Life, I dont want to drink, I dont like smoking, and I have ethics very similar to those of Christians.

    Do you tink that I have to be Christian to be pro-life, Not smoke, not like pornography, not drink?

    I am all of those not because of a Bible, not becasue I am born again, but because I cherish life and am anti-nihilistic. I am a pro-contructinoist. AT the same time, I believe everyone should live out their lives as they want to (with the hard exception on abortion, but I dont want to debate abortion here please)

    The problem I have, is that the trinity makes absolute no sense. THe God in teh old testemant ordered Rape, Genocide, Mass Murder, yet says dont klill. The God of the BIble is horrific. He tortures people that dont “choose to love him” or whatever that means. I coudl go on and on.

    But yeah.. I dig the virtues of Christianity, I even go to church! There’s prboably a lot of guys like me at church, that think your Jesus is dead, and that he’s been dead, and they shake your hand and smile and go “Praise the Lord!”

    Ya see I have morals, but then again, I also like to listen to music some christians say is evil, I like horror films. I hate porn though, I hate a lot of thnigs that christians consider vile. But at the same time I like horror films, I dont think cussing is wrong, and if it doesnt seem reasonable then I dont worrty about it.

    So maybe I’m deceived, maybe I’m not. But Satan? Jesus? Resurrection? Bwahahaha that’s REDICULIOUS! At any rate, I continue going to church because, hey, I like a lot of things Christians do. Of course, the superstitions are RETARTED in my opinion.. but yeah.. it could be worse

  • 51. amy  |  December 18, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Shannon,

    Thanks for responding. I’ll see if I can communicate clearly what I’m thinking here. A painter (or any artist) is human. Humans, according to Christianity, aren’t perfect. So it would make sense that the things humans create aren’t perfect (although I would say we don’t actually create things, we just rearrange the raw materials of earth into new things, whereas God by definition would have created the raw materials, so God = creator, human = re-arranger).

    As a writer (the term is being used very loosely here), if I write something, and then decide it is lacking for whatever reason, I might choose to toss it. But God, being perfect, and good, by the Christian definition, would create only good things. So why would God want to destroy “his” creation? Why create a baby and then murder it?

  • 52. amy  |  December 18, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    “God will not show himself definitively to the world because that would remove free will.” — meatish, post #49

    Question: Can people choose to give up their free will? If not, is it really free will? And couldn’t a person choose to say to God, “I willingly give up my free will — please convince me you exist.”?

  • 53. amy  |  December 18, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    …’cause I’ve tried that and got no convincing from God.

  • 54. confusedchristian  |  December 18, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    I’ve never understood the notion of free will, neither have I understood the notion of predestination. I believe, that we all find ourselvse to be what our environment has made us to be. Being in the USA, I have the Christ on every corner.

    With all these Jesus fishes and Crosses and churches, there still seems to be a ton of murder, rape, etc. Does that mean we don’t have free will over what we become because of our environment but we have free will not to murder or kill? What exactly is free will?

  • 55. Anonymous  |  December 18, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Anonymous said,

    So, looking at all the worldviews out there, and scanning over all of the beliefs and unbeliefs available, and looking at what I think I know about history, myself, and others – and reviewing the experiences I’ve had, and what I’ve seen ….no, Christianity being true, revealed religion doesn’t seem all that outlandish to me…

    And if you were from Iran or Syria, you would be saying, “So, looking at all the worldviews out there, and scanning over all of the beliefs and unbeliefs available, and looking at what I think I know about history, myself, and others – and reviewing the experiences I’ve had, and what I’ve seen ….no, Islam being true, revealed religion doesn’t seem all that outlandish to me…

  • 56. Paul S.  |  December 18, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Sorry, that was my post above. Forgot to add my name before I hit “Submit.”

  • 57. kramii  |  December 18, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    amy:

    In #28 I said:

    Some human ways of understanding Good and Evil are closer to God’s understanding than others.

    In #48 you replied (numbers in brackets added):

    I often hear two different arguments about God from Christians, and the above touches on them. The first argument is [1] that there is no way our finite minds can understand God. The other is that [2] Christians do in fact understand God, and [3] are better able than people from other religions at determining what God wants or does not want. [4] So which is it? [5] And why do so many different varieties of Christianity exist if it’s so clear what God wants of us?

    Logically, I see no contradiction between [1] God being unknowable and [2] the idea that some group or groups of people might understand God better than others. In fact, all knowlegde works like that. As a group, for example, geologists understand rocks rather better than most, but nobody knows everything there is to know about rocks. Similarly, bakers (as a group) know more about making bread than, say, computer programmers. Nevertheless, no one baker knows everything there is to know about making bread.

    The only difference with God, as I see it, is in degree. God is more unknowable just because there is so much more to know about God than anything else. That is not to say, however, that developing a little knowledge is a bad thing. On the contrary, it seems to me that knowing God is a very worthwhile endevour indeed.

    As to [3], Christians knowing more about God than anyone else, I have my doubts. Every world-view has its merits. Sometimes Hindus (to pick another religion at random) have insight into reality that Chritians lack. Indeed, the atheists that post to this blog are often more switched on to the truth than many of my fellow Xians. That said, Xianity does have one thing that other religions (and non-religious paradigms) lack. We have Jesus, whom we believe to be God’s most significant revelation of Himself to His creation. Not his only revelation, but the most important one.

    So, [4] which is it? I have to say a qualified “both”.

    As for [5] why do Xians have so many variations in our beliefs? Essentially, the same reasons that different scientists, bakers, programmers etc. have different views of their own areas of interest. We all come to Xianity with different life-experiences, different prejudices, hurts, desires, educational bakgrounds, expectations, etc. We have different opportunities for revelation. We find it easy accept different things. Essentially, then, because we are all different. However, all of us are bound by a common thread: Jesus.

    Onesmallstep said:

    If God appeared and ordered you to kill someone, how could you know that the order does not come from God?

    In #28 I replied:

    Because I am not stupid!

    And you said:

    So, I guess Abraham was stupid, then, for going along with the whole sacrifice-his-son thing. Well, at least we agree on that.

    You are quite right to pick me up on my comment. I was being unnecessarily flippant. Personally, howver, I don’t feel qualified to judge Abraham so harshly. To us, Abrahams actions might seem daft. From his POV, he had reason to believe that God directed him to sacrifice his son. Interestingly, it appears from the story that God had never intended for Abraham to go through with the sacrifice. And, at the end of the story, Abraham had a better understanding of God than at the start.

  • 58. meatish  |  December 18, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    Amy-

    “Question: Can people choose to give up their free will? If not, is it really free will? And couldn’t a person choose to say to God, “I willingly give up my free will — please convince me you exist.”?”

    You can’t choose go give up something you really don’t posses. It is not as if you are pulling your free will around like a balloon and can simply let it go and become a robot. Every decision in some reference frame is made by free will. If you, say, choose to follow a dictator’s limitations on your actions, you do so willingly, because there are other alternatives, however unfortunate. However, if God revealed himself to you to exist beyond a doubt, (and you should decide for yourself what evidence God would need to provide in order to be ‘beyond a doubt’, because you could still submit that you were temporarily insane, and so on..) there would not be an alternative action of not believing, and therefore your free will in that frame of reference would not exist, and all of your actions would be dictated by that knowledge. I hope that makes sense.

    As for the second part, you could very easily say that to God. But God does not act contingent upon your requests. He is not accountable to anyone. I believe that you cannot really “ask” god for things, when you pray for them. Not even asking for the end of hunger or suffering. All you can pray for is for God to influence the physical extension of the Holy inside you, that is, the Holy Spirit. Through this he may give you strength of character, perseverance, wisdom, and so on, but in the present day and age he will not physically act on your prayers.
    So, I guess what I’m saying is that even if you willingly give up your free will, which is a contradiction of semantics I’d rather not address, God cannot even begin to address your request unless you have the holy spirit, and even then he will not do something contradictory to the nature of the Holy Spirit, although I am not a representative of God, this is just what I think.

  • 59. Paul S.  |  December 18, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    God is either a) knowable; or b) unknowable. If He is knowable, then some may have better knowledge of Him (i.e. understanding) than others (of course, how one can quantify one’s understanding of God is another topic).

    Its been my belief for some time that God is not only unknowable, but the mere concept of God is incoherent.

    So when you say things like this:

    kramii said,

    Ultimately…the flaws in our human nature get in the way of a full and accurate interpretation of God’s will,

    I have to ask how you can claim to know this? And if humans are unable to get a full and accurate interpretation of God’s will, what good does that will do us?

  • 60. amy  |  December 18, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    kramii,

    You wrote “…but nobody knows everything there is to know about rocks.”

    Granted, and I think I get the point you’re making, but not knowing about rocks, or baking or whatever isn’t going to place you in hell. Not accepting (knowing) that Jesus was resurrected, according to the Christian faith, will place you in hell. A bit different than rocks or baking. I know you weren’t speaking of knowledge of the resurrection specifically (at least not in the quote above, though you mention Jesus later), but still, it is knowledge about God.

    I agree that there is no way to know everything about God, just as you say there is no way to know everything about anything. What I’m saying is that it’s difficult to know anything at all about God, including God’s very existence. That doesn’t mean I don’t think God exists, it just means I have no idea what God is like if God exists.

    Also: “As to [3], Christians knowing more about God than anyone else, I have my doubts. Every world-view has its merits.”

    Agreed. Just because I don’t believe Christianity (or other religions, for that matter) doesn’t mean I think there is nothing of merit there.

    As for the other points (differences among Christians in belief, the whole Abraham thing), I’m going to let them go for now. Maybe I’ll have more energy for them tomorrow.

  • 61. OneSmallStep  |  December 18, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    God will not show himself definitively to the world because that would remove free will.

    Then there are quite a few people in the Bible who had their free will removed. And this argument doesn’t work, because there are people out there who if they see a police officer, might still speed for the fun of it.

    there would not be an alternative action of not believing, and therefore your free will in that frame of reference would not exist, and all of your actions would be dictated by that knowledge.

    But this is conflating two ideas of belief. God could show Himself to me tomorrow with no holds barred, no confusion, I know 110% that God exists. That doesn’t mean I’d give allegience to God, or trust God, or any of that. There would not be an alternative to knowing that God *existed.* It does not follow that I would then still love God, or follow God “correctly.”

    Though it may make us sad when such a thing happens, especially if we particularly like the painting, or the song – is it morally wrong for an artist to do away with his own art? However, if I entered a gallery, and began trashing famous works of art, I would be a terrible criminal – that is, unless I owned it myself, outright.

    The other complication with this comparison is that in order for it to be “okay” that God kills people, people must be reduced to no more than a painting. Or a piece of music. Humans then become two-dimensional, and lose any sort of value or worth. Imagine telling someone who just lost their family “Well, they were nothing more than paintings anyway.” I would fully expect anyone who uttered that to a grieving victim to be slapped.

    This is one of the things that bothers me about this type of justification – in order for it to work, you have to remove yourself from the suffering of the situation, and watch from a great distance.

    Jim,

    The definition of causing injurious or deadly harm is one of the means of describing evil, per the dictionary. One of the ways to define it is “causing deadly harm.” I was not clear in that, in the pain and suffering area. But it was meant to be attached to a natural disaster, which would meet the definition of “evil” as it causes deadly harm.

    And people can do evil acts without evil intentions. We see that throughout history.

    Satan tricked Eve into thinking that eating from the tree was good.

    It doesn’t matter that she thought it was good, it was still a sin. And it doesn’t matter that she thought it was good — Eve *knew* that she wasn’t suppose to eat of the tree. She *knew* that disobeyed God, and yet still desired to eat of it after talking with the snake. She knew it wouldn’t be a good thing. And yet she still found the fruit attractive. She still wanted to eat it. That is what sin is. And that’s being justified by the fact that the serpent tricked her. And how this a trick when God says, in no uncertain terms, “Do not eat of the tree.” That’s not a trick, that’s convincing someone to do what s/he already knows is wrong. If it works here, then we can say, in your CD example, that Satan tricks us into thinking it’s good, and thus we can’t be judged by God – we thought it was good.

    I apologize if this is overly harsh. I’ve had a long day, and can’t quite read my own tone at the moment.

    The only reason Eve had the capacity for sin was because God gave her free will.

    But then you have to want to choose evil – otherwise, there is no “free” choice between the two, you just automatically pick one. Why would I choose something that doesn’t appeal to me? However, this would mean that I wasn’t designed to be consistently good, or consistently loving or any of that. I was designed with some sort of flaw. I was certainly not designed to be perfect. If God is perfect, and that perfection means that God lacks the ability to sin, then I was created imperfectly.

    I mean, seriously, would you have it any other way?

    I actually think the free will defense doesn’t work, because it’s not consistently true. People don’t have free will in every situation: people don’t choose to be murdered or abused. Free will seems to get elevated to this status of what God loves above all else, regardless of the consequences. Not even we respect free will that much – we have limits on it. It especially doesn’t work for me if sin entails a desire that goes against God, because you can’t control your desires. I don’t make an active choice to feel jealous or hatred. I have a choice as to how I respond to those feelings. But not starting or stopping those feelings.

    Kramii,

    I missed your response the first time around, so I’ll comment here.

    Personally, howver, I don’t feel qualified to judge Abraham so harshly. To us, Abrahams actions might seem daft. From his POV, he had reason to believe that God directed him to sacrifice his son.

    Why not? We would judge people harshly today if they killed their children based on God’s orders. Or if they attempted to, and then said God stopped them at the last minute. That child would be removed from his/her parent. Yet Abraham’s situation is justified, which seems to be morally relative .

    My point with the killing someone example is that you would know it’s not from God because you are not stupid – which you answered correctly :). And yet we see instances of God ordering that in the Tanakh, and that is not seen as “ bad.” I often see the response here that it’s the Tanakh, or we don’t have to worry about that, or God was justified in doing so. But then I can’t use the idea of it being stupid as a reason why it’s not from God, because it wasn’t stupid at one point. My reasoning can’t be “God doesn’t order us to kill.” It would have to be “God doesn’t order us to kill *anymore.*” If good=God, then killing people was good at one time.

    And if I am understanding you correctly, you know that God is good because God = good. However, isn’t this like saying, ‘I know the Bible is true because the Bible says so?”

    That’s also not “knowing.” You would know I was good (this is an example, please don’t respond with “we aren’t good, we’re all sinners) if I was kind to people. Or helped people. That is empircal evidence to determine my “goodness.” We lose that type of firmness when evaluating God Himself.

  • 62. amy  |  December 18, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    meatish,

    You wrote, “However, if God revealed himself to you to exist beyond a doubt…there would not be an alternative action of not believing…”

    I agree, as far as believing goes. But I would then have a choice of accepting or rejecting God (in terms of whether or not to follow God). As it stands, I can’t follow a God I can’t see.

    You wrote, “As for the second part, you could very easily say that to God. But God does not act contingent upon your requests. He is not accountable to anyone.”

    Fine. But why would God not want me to know him, to know the Christian religion is true? I would think that would be God’s will for everyone. Either God loves everyone, or not.

    Also, “…in the present day and age he will not physically act on your prayers.”

    Wow. Is that a Christian doctrine I missed the last 15 years of my life? I don’t recall seeing it in the Bible. Care to point me to it? I mean I agree with you, I don’t think God physically acts on prayers, but I don’t believe in Christianity either.

  • 63. OneSmallStep  |  December 18, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    It doesn’t matter that she thought it was good, it was still a sin.

    I don’t think I was quite clear in this section. I’m told that she was tricked, and thought that eating the apple was good. Yet that was a sin, but if she thought that eating the apple was good, then she wasn’t choosing to go against God, she was choosing to do good, which is choosing God. How can she then be punished for this? She didn’t choose to act against God, she choose what she thought was good. Where’s the intention to sin here? Intention to sin first requires desire to choose the option that goes against God. Yet she was not choosing to go against God, if she thought this was good.

    HOwever, if she did deliberatly follow a desire to go against God, then I’m back with who installed that desire in the first place? It can no longer be a trick if she went into this with her eyes wide-open. And if there was that desire, then she still would’ve sinned, even if she never ate the fruit.

  • 64. The Barefoot Bum  |  December 18, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    OneSmallStep

    if we have someone who likes to kill, don’t we say there were psychological problems, then? Hence the whole “plea from insanity,” because the person wasn’t capable of thinking in a “normal fashion.”

    You’re not understanding the legal definition of insanity. Legally, a person has to be able only to understand that society considers an action wrong to be considered legally sane. After that, it’s considered given that criminals as a whole don’t think “normally”.

    Plus, that would be allowing the killer to set his own moral code, and then excusing him by it.

    I mean quite the opposite. In your sense, no one ever has any choice: we can decide only one way, and we must conclude that we didn’t really want the other way. Want can be inferred only from choice.

    Anonymous:

    You assume that your evolved mind can lead you to grasp truth, rather than simply ‘knowledge’ that gives you the evolutionary hand-up and enables you to survive.

    I assume no such thing. You appear to be considering “truth” to be some sort of mystical quantity that cannot by definition be empirically verified. I simply define my knowledge as the best grasp on truth that I presently have and work from there.

    I see God everywhere – His existence seems obvious.

    Obviousness is a big cop-out. “I don’t need to explain it, it’s obvious.”

    meatish

    this was actually a good, mature discussion until Barefoot Bum started using profanity and childish vitriolic remarks.

    Grow up, lad. Grown-ups are talking here.

  • 65. bry0000000  |  December 18, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    Actually, Barefoot, I kind of agree with meatish. Not that I don’t understand you; I used to be, and unfortunately, can still be, pretty militant against Christianity.

    Sorry for not having commented. Poor internet and such. It will come soon.

  • 66. OneSmallStep  |  December 18, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Barefoot Bum,

    Legally, a person has to be able only to understand that society considers an action wrong to be considered legally sane.

    Isn’t the plea also used in terms of emotional insanity? The person wasn’t thinking in a clearly for a period of time, or didn’t understand it for a period of time.

    In your sense, no one ever has any choice: we can decide only one way, and we must conclude that we didn’t really want the other way.

    I know what you’re saying in terms of moral choice. If we go back to the killer, and he doesn’t want to not kill, we could say that there wasn’t a choice, because “not killing” held no appeal. Bear with me on this. But on top of this choice is the awareness that killing people leads to jail time, and the killer really doesn’t want to go to jail. So now the choice has become complex, because it’s blended between either killing people, or not going to jail. In this case, he has a want in both areas, but one want supercedes the other. So he has made a selection between two desires. This can get very interwoven, so you can see why I went with the pie metaphor. In the case of Eden, it was to eat the fruit or not eat the fruit. In the case of the killer, the choice is no longer around the same object: it’s between two different objects.

    I’m not saying that no one ever has a choice — but that a choice must entail a pull towards all the options that are an outcome of that choice.

  • 67. bry0000000  |  December 18, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    I hate not having an online connection :). So much to catch up on…

    Saintlewis:

    “If Christianity IS a true, revealed religion, however, then God has TOLD us His nature and His desires, which is thus how we kno what ‘good’ is in any objective sense. In fact, apart from a divine concept of good, coming from the top, any concept of good can be no more than a largely agreed upon subjective idea, which can change and shift at the whim of the population, or those in power.”

    If we choose to accept this, then we must accept that God is the architect of Good and evil. But if this is to be true, then God is outside the realm of Good and evil and is neither. If, hypothetically, there was another ‘god’ being that co-existed with God and had a different outlook on what good and evil were, the traditional Christian God would, in this other god’s eyes, be neither good nor evil, given that he exists outside his own construct of good and evil. Given that, we can conclude that God is not good as he is good’s architect. In order to be good, God would have to submit to the convention of good. That’s not a trait of an omnipotent.

    But I guess the overall point is that our idea of God, the God that is presented to us in the Bible, the God that contemporary Christianity presents to us, is self-contradicting, exposing him as manmade. This is definitely not the work one would expect from an atheist I think; an agnostic may be more likely to have written this, concluding that a non-contradicting God could exist.

    ThinkingApe said that God’s omnipotence didn’t convince him in his decision to deconvert. I would have to agree with him that God’s omnipotency is irrelevant when questioning whether or not he is the creator. It does, however, expose the logical inconsistencies in the God that is presented to us by most Christians, and I also think it takes a little away from the divinity of the bible.

    Could a relatively powerful non-omnipotent God have created the Universe? I’m sure it’s conceivable, but in my mind, he would have to be subject to something else, such as the laws of nature or a more powerful god.

    I don’t know if this answered any questions or raised any new discussion points. I’ll troll through the comments more carefully and answer what I can.

  • 68. jmcrist  |  December 19, 2007 at 12:42 am

    OneSmallStep,

    You said: “It doesn’t matter that she thought it was good, it was still a sin. And it doesn’t matter that she thought it was good — Eve *knew* that she wasn’t suppose to eat of the tree. She *knew* that disobeyed God, and yet still desired to eat of it after talking with the snake. She knew it wouldn’t be a good thing. And yet she still found the fruit attractive. She still wanted to eat it. That is what sin is. And that’s being justified by the fact that the serpent tricked her. And how this a trick when God says, in no uncertain terms, “Do not eat of the tree.” That’s not a trick, that’s convincing someone to do what s/he already knows is wrong. If it works here, then we can say, in your CD example, that Satan tricks us into thinking it’s good, and thus we can’t be judged by God – we thought it was good.”

    I agree with you, it is sin and there is no exception. I’m not saying that the sin is justified, and I apologize because I did not communicate that clearly. Perhaps trick was not the right word, perhaps I should have described Satan as some kind of conman. Regardless, I think you get the drift. My purpose in the above was to illustrate the fallen-ness of man. Most people know that the end result of their evil actions will come back to haunt them in some manner. We know that a thing will hurt us, yet we do it anyways.

    My explanation for this strange behavior is that we are deceived for a time – and we somehow let Satan do it. I’m not sure how it worked out in the Garden of Eden exactly. I know that our Fallen Nature is a result of the sin of Adam and Eve. I don’t know the exact nature of their creation, but I do know that we post-Fallen creatures have an inclination for sin or evil that doesn’t seem to be present before. We’re more easily duped and enticed, and sometimes we find it attractive. The apostle Paul says in Romans 7:19 “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

    All this is not to say, however, that God created us with an inclination for sin. No! God gave us freewill, and with that the capacity to choose evil over good. Our inclination to do evil was the result of the fall.

    You said: “But then you have to want to choose evil – otherwise, there is no “free” choice between the two, you just automatically pick one. Why would I choose something that doesn’t appeal to me? However, this would mean that I wasn’t designed to be consistently good, or consistently loving or any of that.”

    What your saying seems true. But the thing is, the sin WAS made appealing to Eve. That’s how it always is. Satan has to dress it up and disguise it to be something it isn’t. No one shoots themselves in the foot! Come on! Think about it.

    You said: “I was designed with some sort of flaw. I was certainly not designed to be perfect. If God is perfect, and that perfection means that God lacks the ability to sin, then I was created imperfectly.”

    I don’t think Adam and Eve were created to be perfect.

    You said: “I actually think the free will defense doesn’t work, because it’s not consistently true. People don’t have free will in every situation: people don’t choose to be murdered or abused.”

    Right. People don’t have free will when someone else’s will is imposed on them. God doesn’t impose on our wills that we love Him. He gives us a choice.

    You said: “It especially doesn’t work for me if sin entails a desire that goes against God, because you can’t control your desires. I don’t make an active choice to feel jealous or hatred. I have a choice as to how I respond to those feelings. But not starting or stopping those feelings.”

    While I agree that sometimes feelings arise that you did not intend, I disagree in that you can’t stop feelings. I think you can, it just takes self-control.

  • 69. Jersey  |  December 19, 2007 at 1:06 am

    jm: I can’t talk to something that, my idea is, doesn’t exist.

    Plus, I tried one time with “all my heart” to ask this God of his existence. Hmmm…Buddha told me he existed, Krishna (or Vishnu if some disagree with who is the true version) did, the Ibrahimic Gods of Islam (at age 14, mind you) and Christianity both said yes…um, either Mara or Satan messed with my mind, or that was all pure disillusion. (And don’t quote the Epistle by James 1:13, I already read it. I need sources as well as the Bible when I do my research.)

  • 70. TheDeeZone  |  December 19, 2007 at 3:43 am

    Thinking Ape,
    In #3 However, the distant God the Father of Christianity can be said since he really has no part in Christian’s lives ….

    Unforunately, your observation is true for many Christans. It shouldn’t be though. In fact God should have a vital part in our lives as Christians. I am remined of something I read once: ” What good is faith or religion that makes no differance in one’s life?” If Christianity is just about following a bunch of rules, acting or looking cetain ways that it has become a legalist religlon and is of little benifit. Christianity involves a relationship with the Almighty God.

    In # 25,” I only reply in telling you to look closer at who your Yahweh is. He is a god who plays games with people’s lives, whether deserved or not.

    Please explain your comment about playing games. — DH

  • 71. TheDeeZone  |  December 19, 2007 at 3:53 am

    One Small Step

    In #27 in your discourse about defining good & evil you made the following comment.

    It can’t even be said that one can use the Bible to evaluate this, because the Bible can be used to justify a lot of horrendous positions.

    You are correct the Bible has been used to justify a many bad things. The fault here isn’t in the Bible but rather those who claim to be Christians and attempt to use wrongly use the Bible to justify their positions. I am reminded of a line from a DC Talk song “The greatest comdenmation against Christianity is Christians.”

  • 72. TheDeeZone  |  December 19, 2007 at 3:59 am

    Barefoot Bum,

    Prove that Christianity really is a true, revealed religion and we can go from there.

    Is there anything that can be said to prove Christianity is the true revealed religion? I have read several things that prove this to me. While I find your comments interesting no matter what how much you refute Christianity my positon will not change. To me it sounds that you have a reached a similar conclusion about your position. I know that God is real & I have seen is hand at work in my life. This does not mean my life is perfect, trouble free or easy. This dialog reminds me of “Paschal’s Wager”.

  • 73. OneSmallStep  |  December 19, 2007 at 6:53 am

    Jim,

    I know that our Fallen Nature is a result of the sin of Adam and Eve.

    This would then leave us with God not our “full” creator. I’m certain you would say that God did not create us with the fallen nature. Yet God did create us 100%. Except part of our creation now entails that fallen nature. Or it leaves us with God allowing us to be “put” in something with the fallen nature.

    All this is not to say, however, that God created us with an inclination for sin. No! God gave us freewill, and with that the capacity to choose evil over good. Our inclination to do evil was the result of the fall.

    Why not? We needed the inclination to do good — wouldn’t you say that came from God? And again — why would you choose evil unless it held some sort of appeal? How would it be possible to have that choice unless we’d be put in a position where we’d want both? And who created us to want both? This means that Adam/Eve weren’t created to be fully good. If you create something that’s fully good, then that means they’ll never choose to go against good.

    What your saying seems true. But the thing is, the sin WAS made appealing to Eve. That’s how it always is. Satan has to dress it up and disguise it to be something it isn’t.

    This seems to be saying two different things here. Sin wasn’t made appealing to Eve because it was evil. She thought it was good. She thought she was doing good. She wasn’t making an active choice to go against God. She wasn’t choosing to sin, then, if she thought it was good. She was choosing to follow God, if she thought it was good. This isn’t even a valid choice, then. It was a choice disguised as good, with Eve thinking she was doing the right thing. If she didn’t realize it was wrong at the time, why were she and Adam punished for it?

    I don’t think Adam and Eve were created to be perfect.

    And yet they were expected to be perfect — and then punished for not being perfect. If we aren’t designed to be perfect, either, then those who actively try to do good should be rewarded.

    People don’t have free will when someone else’s will is imposed on them. God doesn’t impose on our wills that we love Him. He gives us a choice.

    But the free will defense is often presented as God loves free will above all else. God loves our free will, but not enough to stop bad things, such as murders or abuse. Someone else’s free will is respected at the expense of the victim.

    While I agree that sometimes feelings arise that you did not intend, I disagree in that you can’t stop feelings. I think you can, it just takes self-control.

    But you can’t stop the sinful feelings from arising initially, and then you will be punished for having those feelings.

  • 74. amy  |  December 19, 2007 at 9:19 am

    One Small Step wrote, “But you can’t stop the sinful feelings from arising initially, and then you will be punished for having those feelings.”

    I’m surprised to be taking the Christian side of the argument here, but my understanding of sin is that sin is acting upon feelings, rather than the feelings themselves. Purposely, knowingly indulging in sinful thoughts and feelings is seen as sinful, whereas the random sinful thought that just pops into one’s head now and then is seen as human nature (hope I’m making sense here). Perhaps I have attended more liberal churches than some of you (Episcopal, Quaker), although at one point I considered conversion to Catholicism and took RCIA classes, and the Catholic teaching on sin is definitely that it is the action a person is punished for rather than the thought/feeling.

    Are you referring to the passages where Jesus says to cut of your hand, poke out your eye rather than sin, etc? The churches I attended always taught that was hyperbole. Although, as I mentioned in my post to kramii (57), with all of the different varieties of Christian “belief,” how can any Christian be sure he/she is on the right path?

  • 75. kramii  |  December 19, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Paul S:

    In #59 you said:

    God is either a) knowable; or b) unknowable. If He is knowable, then some may have better knowledge of Him (i.e. understanding) than others (of course, how one can quantify one’s understanding of God is another topic).

    Agreed. I must admit these threads get confusing at times. I am at fault here: the words I used in #57 is easily open to misinterpretation. Whan I talked about knowability in #57 comment I was refering back to amy’s post. When I said that God is unknowable, I meant that He cannot be completely known rather than that he cannot be known at all.

    You also said:

    Its been my belief for some time that God is not only unknowable, but the mere concept of God is incoherent.

    Based on what? Just because and idea is icoherent to one person, does that mean it cannot be understood by another?

    In #28 I said:

    Ultimately…the flaws in our human nature get in the way of a full and accurate interpretation of God’s will

    You replied:

    I have to ask how you can claim to know this?

    I have no absolute certainty, but it seems likely given what I believe about human limitations and God’s character.

    You asked:

    And if humans are unable to get a full and accurate interpretation of God’s will, what good does that will do us?

    I would say that even a partial understanding is better than none.

    amy:

    In #60 you said:

    Not accepting (knowing) that Jesus was resurrected, according to the Christian faith, will place you in hell. A bit different than rocks or baking.

    Agreed. Believe in God or not, we I think we would agree that some kinds of knowledge have more practical value than others.

    What I’m saying is that it’s difficult to know anything at all about God, including God’s very existence.

    Again, I agree. Things and people reveal themselves to us. God is the same, except that he does not reveal Himself to our physical senses, but to that part of us that I call my spirit. That seems to be the first difficulty. And the thing with God is that there seems to be something within us that works against knowing Him.

    That said, I believe that knowing God (a little) is actually possible. To me, it feels like reading a foreign language – the more I read God, the better I understand Him, the easier it becomes to read and understand more.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t think God exists, it just means I have no idea what God is like if God exists.

    I was like that, too. Sometimes I think it was easier that way!

  • 76. OneSmallStep  |  December 19, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Amy,

    I’m surprised to be taking the Christian side of the argument here, but my understanding of sin is that sin is acting upon feelings, rather than the feelings themselves.

    I think Catholics teach sin in a different way compared to Protestants. In Catholicism, there are two types, and the names escape me at the moment. But I had sin defined to me by a Protestant as desires that go against God. It might depend on how one defines indulgent — let’s take lust for example. What if you don’t want to lust, but you can’t stop yourself from lusting? You aren’t actively indulging in those feelings, but I think it would still be defined as a sin. In terms of the cutting off one’s hand passages — I’ve seen a lot of churches teach that as hyperbole. I’ve also seen churches that teach that as literal truth, in that Jesus was using that to demonstrate how bad we are, because it’s not about physical action, but an internal viewpoint, as well.

    Jim,

    This seems to be saying two different things here. Sin wasn’t made appealing to Eve because it was evil. She thought it was good.

    This may be coming off as a contradiction, compared to what I said earlier– I earlier argued that it doesn’t matter if she thought it was good, it was still a sin. Looking at the situation from an outsider’s viewpoint, we woudl argue that it was how Christianity would define sin: it went against God. Hence my whole “what does it matter what her perception was.” However, from an internal matter, from Eve’s perspective, can we still say it was a sin? She did not think “I’m going to make a choice to go against God.” Rather, based on the fact that she thought it was good, she would be thinking, “I’m making a choice for God, because it’s a good choice.” Eve did do something “wrong”, but that wasn’t her purpose in eating the fruit. I hope this makes sense.

  • 77. jmcrist  |  December 19, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    OneSmallStep:

    You said: “This would then leave us with God not our “full” creator. I’m certain you would say that God did not create us with the fallen nature. Yet God did create us 100%. Except part of our creation now entails that fallen nature. Or it leaves us with God allowing us to be “put” in something with the fallen nature.”

    God created man in His own image. Man chose to sin, and this sin caused mankind’s nature to break, or contract a disease, so to speak. This disease is what we call the sinful nature, or the fallen-ness of man. God did not create the fallen-ness in man, for the fallen-ness was the consequence of disobeying God.

    Do you see how this allows for God to be 100% our creator, and yet man still be fallen?

    You said: “Why not? We needed the inclination to do good — wouldn’t you say that came from God? And again — why would you choose evil unless it held some sort of appeal? How would it be possible to have that choice unless we’d be put in a position where we’d want both? And who created us to want both? This means that Adam/Eve weren’t created to be fully good. If you create something that’s fully good, then that means they’ll never choose to go against good.”

    God made us in His image to know right from wrong. God gave us free will to choose. That means we might choose to do good, or evil. That’s it, man. Stop trying to imply that God gave us some desire for evil. That’s not the case.

    Someone who is “fully good” (which I take to mean “completely full of goodness”), is someone who is perfect. From the sentence you used this phrase in, I gather you see it the same way. God did not create man perfect. You know this already. Logically it does not make sense that any perfect thing would have an imperfection. How could a perfect being do anything imperfect? Wouldn’t an imperfect act imply an imperfection in the being? How could one who is made perfect ever have any imperfection?

    You said: “This seems to be saying two different things here. Sin wasn’t made appealing to Eve because it was evil. She thought it was good. She thought she was doing good. She wasn’t making an active choice to go against God. She wasn’t choosing to sin, then, if she thought it was good. She was choosing to follow God, if she thought it was good. This isn’t even a valid choice, then. It was a choice disguised as good, with Eve thinking she was doing the right thing. If she didn’t realize it was wrong at the time, why were she and Adam punished for it?”

    Eve knew that what she was doing went against God’s commandment. Satan tricked her into thinking that God was holding out on her, that it would actually be of benefit to eat from the tree. Eve didn’t trust God.

    (PS. Do you think intention matters now? Earlier you said it didn’t. Now you’re saying that Eve’s good intention frees her from guilt.)

    You said: “And yet they were expected to be perfect — and then punished for not being perfect. If we aren’t designed to be perfect, either, then those who actively try to do good should be rewarded.”

    God gave them one rule in the Garden. One. I don’t think that’s some kind of unreasonable demand to request of an imperfect creature. Do you?

    You said: “But the free will defense is often presented as God loves free will above all else. God loves our free will, but not enough to stop bad things, such as murders or abuse. Someone else’s free will is respected at the expense of the victim.”

    I’ve never heard this free will defense you speak of, but I just want to make it clear: I don’t like murder or abuse or other evils any more than you do. It makes me angry and it hurts.

    But, we live in a broken world among broken people. I’ve got God’s promise that He’s going to right it all someday and wipe every tear from our eyes and banish every evil from the land. I’ve got God’s promise that justice WILL be done, and that vengeance is His. Have you ever asked yourself what would be just punishment for Mao or Hitler or Stalin? It would be IMPOSSIBLE to administer justice to them here on earth! Just impossible! What are we going to do? Hang them?! Do you call that just? But this dilemma is not so with God. He is just in the most perfect sense of the word, and perfect justice He will give to those who have been murdered and raped and cheated – and anyone else who has been brought harm.

    God WILL right all wrongs.

    You said: “But you can’t stop the sinful feelings from arising initially, and then you will be punished for having those feelings.”

    I don’t think the Bible says this. Do you have a verse your speaking of specifically?

  • 78. jmcrist  |  December 19, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    I apologize. I did not read your correction as to Eve’s intentions until after I had already made the post.

  • 79. amy  |  December 19, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    You wrote: “But I had sin defined to me by a Protestant as desires that go against God.”

    Yes, now that you mention it, I think I have heard something similar…that sin was something that separated a person from God. For the most part, though, the Protestant churches I have attended never really focused on sin much, but like I said, I tend toward the more liberal denominations.

    Also: “In Catholicism, there are two types, and the names escape me at the moment.”
    If I recall correctly, they are called mortal and venial, mortal obviously being the more serious, as far as one’s soul is concerned.

    To bry0000000: Thanks for such a thought-provoking article! I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts. So glad I found this website; now I don’t feel so isolated in my experience of losing faith in Christianity.

  • 80. amy  |  December 19, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Here I thought I said all I had to say on this thread, and jmchrist gives me this:

    “Have you ever asked yourself what would be just punishment for Mao or Hitler or Stalin? It would be IMPOSSIBLE to administer justice to them here on earth!”

    How is any sort of “punishment” going to undo what has already been done? All three of them suffering in hell for eternity will never undo the damage they did. It won’t bring the victims back. It won’t erase what happened. Punishment doesn’t do that.

  • 81. bry0000000  |  December 19, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    kramii said:

    “What is omnipotence?. It is the power to determine the ultimate outcome of any process. By definition, there can only be one omnipotent entity in the universe: God.”

    Actually, Omnipotence is power with no limits. An omnipotent God would be able to do anything. Sorry it took me 80+ comments to catch and respond to that :(.

  • 82. OneSmallStep  |  December 19, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    OneSmallStep:

    Do you see how this allows for God to be 100% our creator, and yet man still be fallen?

    No, because I think it’s trying to have the situation go both ways. It’s trying to say that God is the 100% Creator and creates nothing evil. And yet say that man is inherently sinful because man is fallen. We are born “fallen” and yet God did not create us this way, it’s simply the disease. We have man created in God’s image, and yet man’s choice caused man’s nature to “break.” But then every man after that is created with that broken nature. So how hands-on is God in creating each individual person?

    But at what point in the process does this “fallen” nature stick to us? From the moment of creation? At birth? Was there a “gap” left in us to allow the fallen nature to sneak in? In any other circumstance, we hold the designer to be fully responsible for how the “design” behaves. If there’s a defect, it’s the responsiblity of the designer, not the design itself.

    Also — how are you qualifying man was created in God’s image? Obviously, that image did not include an inability to sin. It also didn’t require perfection. So what are your constraints on the “image and likeness?” As a side note, here is another difficulty I have with free will: God created us with free will to choose good or evil, but since God cannot choose to do evil, does God have free will? I don’t see how. So this would mean that we are created with something that God Himself does not possess. Is such a thing possible if we are God’s likeness? Can God create us to do something He is incapable of doing?

    Stop trying to imply that God gave us some desire for evil. That’s not the case.

    But why would you choose to do something unless you found it attractive? I’m sure we would agree that God gave us the desire for good. Right? The desires *have* to be there. If we were simply created blank, with no desires at all, how would we function? Why would we do anything, other than sit and stare at things blankly? We need those desires in order to make a choice — so in order to choose good or evil, we need the desires in place, first. What good would free will do if we have no reason — aka, desire — to choose?

    Eve knew that what she was doing went against God’s commandment. Satan tricked her into thinking that God was holding out on her, that it would actually be of benefit to eat from the tree. Eve didn’t trust God.

    Pet peeve of mine, and I know this goes against orthodox Christianity, but can we just call it the serpent? Nothing in that story indicates that the serpent was Satan. Nothing in the Tanakh indicates the serpent was Satan. As it is, Satan acts very differently in the Tanakh compared to how Christianity portrays Satan. The serpent is the most crafty of all the creatures — animals — that God made. And the serpents descendents are punished for what the serpent did. Why would they be punished if the serpent was Satan?

    Anyway, we’ve now gone from Eve thinking she was doing good, to Eve knowing that she was breaking God’s commandment. I don’t think we can have both ideas going on here: if she knows that she is breaking God’s commandment, then she knows that what she is doing is not good. You earlier said that Eve thought she was doing a good thing, not a bad thing. But then part of that “good” has to include a lack of awareness of breaking God’s commandment, and that’s impossible because she stated that God didn’t allow it. Unless you are saying that Eve was tricked into thinking that it was good to disobey God. But I’m not sure that would work, because earlier the idea was that Eve saw the tree as good to eat, and pleasing to the eye.

    God gave them one rule in the Garden. One. I don’t think that’s some kind of unreasonable demand to request of an imperfect creature. Do you?

    It is not unreasonable if the temptation was presented as, “Hey, eat this.” But if she truly thought she was doing good, from her perspective, what then? She was objectively breaking the commandment, yes. But we can’t say it was her intention to disobey. Not if she truly thought this was a good act.

    I’ve never heard this free will defense you speak of

    It hasn’t presented like this word-for-word. But that’s often how the defense comes across when someone asks why bad things happen to those who don’t deserve it — people are murdered because God wanted someone to have free will. I see this as elevating free will above all else. Free will is more important that stopping a murder and other evil acts.

    Do you call that just? But this dilemma is not so with God.

    I don’t call this justice. But if any of those people repented right before their death, they would still escape justice, because they’d receive no punishment. There would be no repercussions for them for the actions they committed. Unless you would define “sorrow” as a repercussion.

    You said: “But you can’t stop the sinful feelings from arising initially, and then you will be punished for having those feelings.”

    I don’t think the Bible says this. Do you have a verse your speaking of specifically?

    Do you believe that only those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, or those who follow certain doctrines are “saved?” I know this seems out of nowhere, but your answer to this could make my response meaningless.

    Say you hate your brother, and yet action-wise, you are nothing but kind. You don’t express that hate, but it’s there. Are you still sinning? I would say yes, because we are told that you can’t hate your brother and love God. That “hate” has to go beyond mere action. Same with the lust, or Jesus says that those who hate are like murderers — we can make sure we don’t act on the lust, but how easy it is to simply stop lusting? Or hating? It’s not like flicking off a light switch. Or let’s go back to your prior example of someone who really wants to drink — they can really want to drink their entire life, and yet not do so. But that want is still considered a “sin.”

    I apologize. I did not read your correction as to Eve’s intentions until after I had already made the post.

    And was your first reaction “Gah! Why couldn’t I see that *before* I typed out my whole response!!” ;)

  • 83. OneSmallStep  |  December 19, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Whoops — my post was supposed to be addressed to Jim, not myself.

    Amy — I have two conservative Protestant friends, so I’ve heard the saying a lot. As well as see the explanation in books like ones by Gregory Boyd. But I can see liberal Protestants not taking those statements so literally.

  • 84. jmcrist  |  December 19, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    I’m going to reply at length tomorrow. I’m going to make it as clear as possible, hopefully putting and end to this dialog. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the dialog, I just feel like we’re starting to run in circles. After our final comments (whenever those come), if you would like to discuss another issue I would be happy to.

    And by the way, It’s J M Crist. Not Jim ;]

  • 85. OneSmallStep  |  December 19, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    J M Crist,

    My apologies. You know those studies they do where if you supply the first two words, or the first word and the last word with the middle gibberish, your mind still knows what the word is? That’s what happened here.

    Granted, the word wasn’t actually “Jim.” But in most cases, it would be. :)

  • 86. kramii  |  December 20, 2007 at 11:10 am

    bry0000000:

    Somewhare I said:

    What is omnipotence?It is the power to determine the ultimate outcome of any process.

    In #91 you replied:

    Actually, Omnipotence is power with no limits.

    Fair enough. Thanks for the correction.

    You said:

    An omnipotent God would be able to do anything.

    I can’t agree, because this leads to logical contradictions. I prefer “An omnipotent God would be able to do anything that it is logically possible for an omnipotent God to do“.

    You said:

    Sorry it took me 80+ comments to catch and respond to that

    It is a tribute to your post that it has generated so many interesting replies, and things are missed amongst them. I appreciate your taking the trouble to respond.

  • 87. jmcrist  |  December 20, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    OneSmallStep:

    Here’s how I see it: God creates man in His image. I’m not positive I know what this means, but I know it’s not in our physical image – for God is Spirit. I imagine it means that He made us to be moral and spiritual creatures. This seems to be what makes us different than the animals. Again, I could be wrong, but this is my best guess. Regardless, my argument isn’t built from this premise.

    So, God creates mankind with free will. He does this because God wants relationship with us. He cannot “force” us to love Him, because that’s not love. God is willing to give us free will, even if it means that some of us will choose to do evil.

    God did not create us to like evil. He sets His love and commandments before us, and gives us a choice. We know what we ought to do, and often do not do it. Personally, as a Christian who has struggled with sin, I can speak from experience that when I sin it’s usually because I allow myself to be deceived. I realize the road I’m about to trod down is not a good one, yet for the immediate pleasure or satisfaction (or whatever it may be) I choose to trod down it. I allow myself to be deceived because in order for me to trod down the road I must have some justification for doing so. I begin to tell myself that it’s somehow not as bad as I think it is. In the Garden of Eden, this is the role the serpent played. He started a dialog with Eve and eventually had her duped. I experience this almost every time I fall in to sin.

    Does this mean that God created us with some attraction to evil? I do not think so. As I said, to trod down the road usually requires some kind of false justification. I *know* (and this is why I’m guilty) that what I’m about to do I should not. Yet, somehow, I choose to believe the voice inside my head that it’s actually not as bad as it seems. This is kind of like the fat man who knows a bowl of ice cream is actually harmful to his health, yet begins dialog with his own conscious to grant some allowance.

    Now, I am not saying that the serpent, or Satan, is some kind of figurative character. No – I believe he is very literal. The way in which I think he appears to us is in the crafty manner he appeared to Eve – in the justifying of sin.

    If man has not been made to like sin, then why does he choose it? He chooses it for a number of reasons. I will not spell them all out, but here’s one: gratification. You may know that there’s nothing inherent in sex that makes it sinful. Sex was created by God, and all of creation God said was “good.” What’s sinful, is when we miss God’s intention for sex and break His commandment. Why would someone commit adultery? I’m guessing that it’s because secret liaisons and sex has some kind of thrill in it. Do you see how this person may not have any desire to sin, no desire whatsoever to break God’s commandment, but a great bodily desire for gratification of the sex drive?

    You see, one of the biggest mistakes one can make in looking at Christianity is to assume that it’s always simple. Sometimes it is actually quite complex.

    As for hate, and lust, and the “intentions,” I’ll say this: take a second to examine your own experience and answer this question. Have you ever had a lustful thought of the opposite sex that almost came from out of no where? Perhaps you saw a billboard or the cover of a magazine and BAM! – lustful thought. Well, even if you haven’t, I have. And I don’t think that something like that is my fault. As a Christian who is engaged to be married, lust is something I battle day in and day out. I am bombarded at times with images and thoughts that I cannot account for. Somehow they just pop in to my head and I have to shew them away. The very thing I’m trying to avoid seems to be haunting me! Do you think that this is a sin? Do you think it is sinful to have unintentional thoughts? Do you think a just God would punish someone for an unintentional thought? I don’t. But I do think He’d punish someone for willingly and knowingly breaking His commandments. If I were to indulge in my lustful thoughts and play out little fantasies in my head, then yes, I’d be very very guilty of sin. And sometimes I fail – I admit, I am not perfect. But all of this is to illustrate a simple point, and I think it’s easily understood. I think this same idea applies to hate also. If I were to entertain hate instead of rejecting it and sending it away, I would be guilty. But if you silence it and replace it with love, is that not the right thing to do?

    I think I’ve addressed some of the major points we’ve been discussing. If I’ve missed anything I’ll try to cover it after your response.

  • 88. OneSmallStep  |  December 21, 2007 at 12:29 am

    J M Christ,

    If you do not respond to this, I won’t take it personally. As you said, we were starting to go in circles.

    Here’s what I’m still left with: God made man in His image. Yet man is born inherently sinful. At what point does that sin contaminate the image? When does sin enter into the picture of our individual creation? I didn’t see an answer to this particular line of questioning. How “hands on” do you see God involved in your creation?

    God did not create us to like evil. He sets His love and commandments before us, and gives us a choice.

    But He did create us to like good, correct?

    So, God creates mankind with free will. He does this because God wants relationship with us. He cannot “force” us to love Him, because that’s not love.

    Okay, but this still leaves us with something that is perfect — God — creating an imperfect being. By any definition of perfection, such a thing cannot occur. Imperfection cannot spring from perfection. This also leaves us with God creating man with free will, and yet God does not possess free will. How can God create a being to have something that He does not Himself possess?

    The other complication involves the idea of “force.” If you force someone to do something, you are making them do something they do not want to do. Say we were created completely and totally good. We were created perfect. We were created without the ability to sin, and created to never do evil. We would, by default, love God. But we wouldn’t be forced to love God, because loving God wouldn’t be something that we’d ever not want to do. The only way force becomes an issue is if there is also free will — the two go hand in hand. So we’ve got God saying “I don’t want to force you to love Me, so I’ll give you free will.” But the only way He’d ever be in a position to force us is if we *have* free will in the first place. Without free will, the force aspect becomes a moot point. As it is, God could have the relationship with us without free will. It would be an automatic thing, and we still would not be forced into this.

    I believe the response to this is that God doesn’t want a robot, someone who is simply “programmed” to do something. This programming would mean that the person would never want to do anything but good by default. If God did not create us with this free will, then we would be created to do only good. So we can be created by God to do wholly good. But in order to create us with this free will, we have to be created with the ability to not do wholly good. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have this free will, we’d be a robot. That capacity has to be there. And this is what I keep tripping on: it is possible for God to create us sans free will. We would then be created to do wholly and only good. We’d be created perfectly, and the source of all of this goes back to God. And yet since God didn’t want us “programmed” to do wholly good, we were given free will. I don’t think it can be said that one was created to be wholly good, and yet given free will at the same time. To be created wholly good would mean that you wouldn’t even be capable of having a sinful thought, and if you aren’t capable, then you don’t have free will. It again comes down to in order to choose something, you have to be attracted to it in the first place. If we go back to your lust example: the person who is driven by that bodily desire for sex — would they even contemplate adultery if that bodily desire wasn’t driving them in the first place? Would adultery even be an issue?

    I just don’t see how it can be said that we weren’t created perfect, and yet God didn’t create us with the ability to do both good and evil. The two go hand-in-hand. If you aren’t created perfectly, then you’re created imperfectly.

    Sex was created by God, and all of creation God said was “good.”

    I want to make sure we’re defining good the same way here. We would say God is good. God can only be good. He is not evil. So since God is good, and God is perfect, good can also equal perfect.

    We then say that God created everything, and it was good. But then in the second creation story, we’ve got a bad thing occuring, which is the knowledge of good/evil. So then creatoin was not created to be consistently good, because then it would have remained so. Yet God is consistently good. We seem to have two different definitions of “good” occuring here.

    The way in which I think he appears to us is in the crafty manner he appeared to Eve – in the justifying of sin.

    There is a difference between being duped, and allowing oneself to be duped, and it seems that both are going on here. On the one hand, the serpent tricked Eve. On the other, Eve knew exactly what she was doing. But if she knew what she was doing, then she wasn’t tricked. If she was tricked, then on some level, she’s absolved of her decision. This would be the difference between her telling herself the action is good when she knows it’s bad, and the serpent tricking her into thinking she is literally doing a not-bad thing. He tricked her into thinking that she was willfully and knowingly obeying God — for to do good is to obey God.

    This is what I see you saying: God did not create us to like evil. If we do sin, we do so willfully and knowingly, because we talk ourselves into it — we justify our actions through saying that they really aren’t that bad or something along those lines. But the only way to be in a position to talk ourselves into this, to fufill this gratification, is if the desire for that gratification is there in the first place.

    If man has not been made to like sin, then why does he choose it? He chooses it for a number of reasons. I will not spell them all out, but here’s one: gratification.

    How can you find sin gratifying unless you liked it on some level? From what I see, you seem to now be talking about two different desires: someone who has no desire to break God’s commandment, and yet a bodily desire to fufill the sex drive. So the bodily desire is not really a desire? Or the person’s desire? I’m not sure you can divorce the two like that.

    Do you see how this person may not have any desire to sin, no desire whatsoever to break God’s commandment, but a great bodily desire for gratification of the sex drive?

    Do you think that this is a sin? Do you think it is sinful to have unintentional thoughts? Do you think a just God would punish someone for an unintentional thought?

    It’s been presented to me as such by some. If sin is defined as any desire, no matter what the desire is, as something that misses God’s mark, then an unintentional thought would qualify. The complication is that, in my experience, it’s not this clear-cut. If you have that unintentional thought, you can’t just send it away. If anything, you make it stronger by struggling to not entertain it. It’s one of those things where if someone tells you, “Don’t think about elephants,” then that’s all you think about.

  • 89. jmcrist  |  December 21, 2007 at 12:53 am

    OneSmallStep:

    Oh, you’ll get your reply mister! ;]

    Hopefully tomorrow… if not, it will have to be Saturday or Sunday. You’ve brought up some things I’ve missed, and then there are some other places where I just want to run one more lap :p

  • 90. Iris  |  December 21, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Hello, I’m new to this blog and I find it really enjoyable! I have read this entire thread, and like Amy said, I’m no great philosopher–so bear with me. I also admit that I was never really a Christian (except in the childhood sense that Everyone-Else-believed-in-God so-it-must-be-real), and I am currently an atheist not just because I love science but because a person’s unswerving faith in [insert deity here] is above all based on where they are born! That’s really the clincher for me.

    I must say,

    Kramii, above you said some know more of God than others, referring to Judeo-Christians in particular (I’m assuming you also meant that individuals who follow this tradition are also fallible, etc). Did anyone find the assertion that some “know God better than others” scary? I mean, if a population (Say, Ontario, or everyone in Manchester, England) decided not just to make religion a ‘private’ (in many ways this cannot be said in the U.S.!–our fascist president speaks to God) practice but Law: they were going to follow Biblical Law and Christian values (whatever those are). Wouldn’t there be groups of people, namely clergy, who interpreted (from a multi-interpreted text) the law, or ‘God’s will’, better than others– the grisly punishments god uses in the bible, the horrific moral codes, etc? (and kramii in no way said we should do this and specifically said that we attempt to know god through flawed earthly methods, it just got me to thinking)

    Isn’t this a problem for Christians, that we are whatever faith we are born into, that the idea that God is Unknowable is used as weapon against people and that the more ignorant a population is, the more religious they are (in a general sense–no offense)? If Judeo-Christian values are the closest to knowing god, so to speak, why don’t more Christians insist that literal biblical law is the Law of, say, the Uk, Canada, or the U.S.? And how do we know who knows god better? If Judeo-Christian values/laws/codes are closer to knowing god, and knowing god is good, shouldn’t Christians be insisting that we follow it as law? [I submit that they know it would be disturbingly bloody and oppressive.] Isn’t the idea of it being a “personal/spiritual” practice a more modern cultural idea?

    Sorry, thats a bit off topic–and there are obviously some limitations here. Any insights or critiques of my approach would be helpful.

  • 91. Iris  |  December 21, 2007 at 10:45 am

    [these are serious questions, and if I seem irreverent--well I guess I am, but I have no intention to mock anyone]

    Also, not being raised with a “god shaped hole in my heart”, I am curious–Kramii (in particular), Onesmallstep/theists: if God is unknowable; if the point of prayer is not to ‘get what you ask for’ (from another thread, I think; I’ve read too many); if there are conflicting interpretations of the bible(s); if there are confusing and violent demands and laws from god that most Christians have to reinvent for modern times; if morality and goodness are dependent on God’s will, which is unknowable-by his own choice, apparently, because he won’t show Himself; if our faculties (created by God) are insufficient to interpret god’s will or even basic morality; if your religion is just one of many, many others; if science gives answers or theories that explain the phenomena religions were created to explain; if other ethical systems are available that demand behavior based on logic and love for your fellow human and the bioshpere and do not require ‘faith’ in an entity that is, by its own choice, incoprehensible and conceptually incoherent….what is the point?

    What is the point in believing in and claiming Christianity as a guide at all if god is so inconceivable, beyond understanding and the basis for what basically becomes an unknowable, arbitrary moral code (if god’s will is un-knowable, and is also the basis for morality), if not to simply reinforce, for comfort and tradition’s sake, that He is There?

    I think I am right to be truly confused here; it may even be the point…

    Above Kramii also said that it turned out that God didn’t intend to let Abraham kill his son. So, what if he did, and Abraham killed him? You would simply say it is God’s will, and its motivation is unknowable. Again, what is the point in using this as an ethical yardstick when there are other, less arbitrary and even more reasonable codes available? (Aside from the empty threat of being tortured for all eternity by a Loving god in hell fire…this is a big stumbling block for a close Xian friend–she wants to fill the ‘God-shaped hole’ her conservative Polish Catholic father left, but Reason and *actual compassion* make her doubt the solvency and righteousness of such a tyrannous belief system).

  • 92. LeoPardus  |  December 21, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Iris:

    Well put. You summarized a lot of the problems/absurdities succinctly. I shall be interested (though doubtless, not surprised) to see responses.

    One note: It doesn’t help anyone to call Bush a ‘fascist’. I’m no fan of his, but we all know that term is simply wrong. And it mars your otherwise very good post.

  • 93. confusedchristian  |  December 21, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Iris, you make complete sense to me. What is the point? I’ll tell you the point, as I know it.

    Believing in God works wonders for those who want to partake in a community that isn’t exclusive and is free. I am part of my Christian community because we in fact look out for each other, help each other out, and spur each other on to do good in the world.

    Believing in God gives a person a sense of purpose and makes them feel important. A narcissitic person can feel like theya re doing amazing things for the world as they “save” the lost and build a church. They can feel a ton of pride and security, and build a network of faithful friends. Being part of a “big thing” and being on the “good side” makes soemone feel really special.

    Believing in God gives a weak person a sense of power. The weak person (low self esteem, addiction issues, etc) can feel like God is making them better now that they have purpose and they don’t have to deal with underlying issues that the “faith” takes care of.

    I could go on and on. The point is that faith in God has a lot to do with a person’s psychological well being far more then it has to make sense!!! I believe a lot of Christians wouldn’t admit it (the denial prevents them from realizing this thus keeping their psyche in good condition) but I think it is entirely true.

  • 94. jmcrist  |  December 21, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Iris:

    When I was an atheist, I had the same arguments.

    You said: “Also, not being raised with a “god shaped hole in my heart”, I am curious–Kramii (in particular), Onesmallstep/theists: if God is unknowable; if the point of prayer is not to ‘get what you ask for’ (from another thread, I think; I’ve read too many);”

    Who says that God is unknowable? It’s certainly not Christianity! The fantastic and epic claim of the Christian is that God is knowable. Please cite some Bible verses that give you this idea.

    And on prayer: it’s very much to get what you ask for – but also to praise God.

    “12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

    “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

    “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

    You said: “if there are conflicting interpretations of the bible(s); if there are confusing and violent demands and laws from god that most Christians have to reinvent for modern times;”

    There are conflicting interpretations of the Bible, which makes it very important to study. The authors did not flippantly throw words on to a page so that anybody could read them and take away their own interpretation. They wrote with intention, and to convey specific meanings. While there may be some conflicting interpretations by us, we can agree that there is ONE correct interpretation – and it is knowable. Have you ever studied the Bible yourself?

    In the Old Testament there are demands and laws which carry penalties that seem harsh. God ordered the slaying of entire villages in the Old Testament. If you study the history, you find that the cultures which God was at war against practiced some extremely immoral things, such as infanticide, for instance. The Old Testament law (for cleanliness and the such), was fulfilled in Christ so we do not need to practice them anymore. Jesus was the perfect fulfillment of the Torah and created a new covenant with us in the New Testament. We are not reinventing the wheel for modern times here.

    If this isn’t what you were referring to, please feel free to correct me.

    You said: “if morality and goodness are dependent on God’s will, which is unknowable-by his own choice, apparently, because he won’t show Himself;”

    Why do you think morality is dependent on God’s will? Why do you think that it is unknowable by His choice? Why do you believe He hasn’t shown Himself?

    The Christian view is that morality is based upon God’s nature – which is knowable by His choice. God revealed Himself (and His will) throughout the Bible. Each law, such as the ten commandments or the law of love, are reflections of God’s character. God says do not commit adultery, and it reveals the kind of heart God has to His people – that God will not commit adultery toward us (to a non-believe some context might need to be had – in the Bible it is revealed that God’s people are His bride, and that He will marry us at the coming of the kingdom of Heaven. Of course, this is not in the same sense that a man and woman get married. Human marriage is a shadow of the real thing).

    You said that God has not shown Himself, but He has in Jesus Christ.

    You said: “if our faculties (created by God) are insufficient to interpret god’s will or even basic morality;”

    What do you mean by God’s will? I think it can be known to us. We’re to love one another and honor one another, and serve. We’re to care for the poor and the sick and the helpless. This is God’s will – it is all revealed in the Bible.

    As for morality, we all have basic moral intuitions that tell us what is right and what is wrong. We all know that it is wrong to steal and lie and murder. Do we not?

    You said: ” if your religion is just one of many, many others; if science gives answers or theories that explain the phenomena religions were created to explain; if other ethical systems are available that demand behavior based on logic and love for your fellow human and the bioshpere and do not require ‘faith’ in an entity that is, by its own choice, incoprehensible and conceptually incoherent….what is the point?”

    Here’s a false presupposition: that religion was created to explain things that couldn’t be explained. I completely disagree with this.

    Just because there are multiple religions does not mean that they are all false. There are many different views on the origins of the universe or of man, but that doesn’t mean that all views are false. How is this an argument against religion – or Christianity in general?

    I look forward to hearing your response.

  • 95. jmcrist  |  December 21, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    OneSmallStep:

    Your response is coming. I’ll probably try to get it to you tomorrow.

  • 96. OneSmallStep  |  December 21, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    While there may be some conflicting interpretations by us, we can agree that there is ONE correct interpretation – and it is knowable.

    I don’t think we can agree on this at all. Correct according to whom? There are specific reasons that Judaism says that Jesus was not the Messiah, based on Messianic prophecies that were not fufilled. Their interpretation is going to be radically different than Christianity’s. Or if we take the Tanakh — Satan radically changed in terms of Christianity. In the Tanakh, he was simply seen as “an adversary,” not some fallen angel. The concept of an afterlife evolved: the Messiah had nothing to do with saving people from hell. The Messiah was not supposed to be God made flesh.

    And that’s just Judaism. If we look at the three big branches: Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodox, then we also get different interpretations. The atonement theories are one such example.

    12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

    But how many people perform miracles with the consistency of Jesus? And I don’t see how this verse cannot refer to physical supernatural acts, given that right before, Jesus tells everyone to at least believe what he says based on the the works that he’s doing, and those who have faith in him will do even greater works than those. Yet we don’t see that at all today.

    I think that was Iris’s point: prayer is often a 50/50 chance. If prayer is not answered, that it was not God’s will that one be healed, or one find a job, even if someone asks in Jesus’ name. Which also ties back into the “knowable.” In any religion, God is really only known in bits and pieces. How often have we seen the fall back position of “God’s will is mysterious” or “I can’t wait to get to heaven and find out!”

    The Christian view is that morality is based upon God’s nature – which is knowable by His choice. God revealed Himself (and His will) throughout the Bible.

    But herein lies the problem for many — God specifically says “Thou shalt not murder,” and then commands the Israelites to murder. Jesus says that to be like God is to forgive seventy-times-seven, or to love one’s enemies, and not just those who love you back. We take this moral code provided by God, and then many run into a problem, because that moral code is not found everywhere in the Tanakh. We take what God says is good, and see that God goes against exactly what is to make us be like God. Take 1 Samuel 15, and the punishment for the Amalekites — they were specifically punished for something their ancestors did when attacking the Israelites after they left Egypt. That is not “forgiving 70 times 7.”

    The Old Testament law (for cleanliness and the such), was fulfilled in Christ so we do not need to practice them anymore

    What exactly does this mean? How does Jesus fufill laws that require burning incense twice a day? Removing ashes from the alter? The sowing of two different seeds together? (I pulled these from the Jewish Encyclopedia, in terms of the 613 Mosaic laws). I don’t say this in as a way to attack, but I often see this saying, and wonder what people mean when they refer to “the law.”

    Iris — to answer your question, I think the point is that it gives people a sense of connection, or a sense of purpose. It’s their way of becoming part of something bigger, of having their actions matter, or making the world better. Can we find this in ethical systems based on logic? Yes. If there was no God whatsoever, I have no doubt I’d still be filled with this huge sense of awe every time I look at the night sky, because I’m a part of the universe.

    Other people might find comfort in this system, because let’s face it: there’s a lot of injustice in this world. If we read of a seven year old girl who is raped and murdered, don’t we all wish that there is some sort of afterlife where she’d have a better fate? That the rape/murder wasn’t the last thing she’d experience before oblivion?

    However, some people have what they can only define as a spiritual experience, that has no rational explanation. I’ve had those. The concept of God is a reason provided for those experiences.

  • 97. jmcrist  |  December 22, 2007 at 2:12 am

    OneSmallStep:

    I’ll answer this more thoroughly tomorrow or Sunday.

    But earlier when I said that there is one correct interpretation, I do not mean that we will all agree on it. I just mean that it is there because the authors intended it to be. The correct interpretation is the author’s original intent. Just like the equation 2 + 2 has one correct answer, most verses and passages of the Bible have one correct interpretation.

    I shouldn’t have jumped in to an all out defense of Iris’ statements. None of them stand as a valid argument.

    What I mean is: even if no one can interpret the Bible right, and we can’t exactly figure out morality, and God did not make Himself knowable (as I believe He did), this does in any way falsify Christianity. These aren’t arguments – these are frustrations.

    That’s all.

  • 98. jmcrist  |  December 22, 2007 at 2:13 am

    This doesn’t* in any way falsify Christianity

    [doh!]

  • 99. bry0000000  |  December 22, 2007 at 3:54 am

    “What I mean is: even if no one can interpret the Bible right, and we can’t exactly figure out morality, and God did not make Himself knowable (as I believe He did), this does(n’t) in any way falsify Christianity. These aren’t arguments – these are frustrations.”

    I think I disagree. I think this is just evidence of a religion made by man succumbing to logical conventions; cop-outs, if you will.

    Morality, as a standard of living, was meant to be given to man by God, right? If this is the case, I would think it would be of some importance to God for us as humans to understand his standard of living. In fact, I think it would be important enough to make sure that we as humans knew without a doubt what his standard of living was. We could then choose to either accept or reject it, thus giving us the illusion of free will (the FW argument runs into other problems, but I’ll let those alone for now).

    I have to ask this: does it make sense for God to expect us to live up to a certain moral code without knowing exactly what that moral code is? I don’t think it does.

    And even if it did, it would beg the question How smart does one have to be to know Jesus?

  • 100. OneSmallStep  |  December 22, 2007 at 10:12 am

    J M Christ,

    I do not mean that we will all agree on it. I just mean that it is there because the authors intended it to be.

    I would still disagree with this, because of the difference in knowledge between today and back then. Pretty much all of the Bible is written from a flat-eath perspective. Take the ascension of Jesus, with him literally rising up into the clouds and vanishing from sight. That speaks of a belief system that has heaven directly above us, which we know is not the case. The authors would intend it to be interpreted that way, and yet the interpretation would be wrong. So the “correct” interpretation is in fact false. Or if we go back to the idea of Satan — when he’s used in Job or along those lines, the author could have no intention of speaking of some sort of fallen angel that rebelled against God. Yet Satan is interpreted by Christianity to be just that. If so, it’s going against the author’s intent.

    even if no one can interpret the Bible right, and we can’t exactly figure out morality, and God did not make Himself knowable (as I believe He did), this does in any way falsify Christianity.

    I’m confused as to how you can think this is the case. That if the three things you listed are true, Christianity can still not be proven wrong. If God did not make Himself knowable, and Christianity claims He did, those are two conflicting statements. Same with the other two — if the focus on Christianity is God reconciling creation to Himself, and yet none of that creation can read the book properly or correctly identify morality, it would call into question the clarity of the religion.

  • 101. jmcrist  |  December 22, 2007 at 11:27 am

    You said: “I would still disagree with this, because of the difference in knowledge between today and back then.”

    Are you saying that the authors did not have specific intent in their writing? Are you saying that they had no specific meaning to convey – and that there is no correct interpretation to be had (even if we don’t have it)?

    You said: “I’m confused as to how you can think this is the case. That if the three things you listed are true, Christianity can still not be proven wrong. If God did not make Himself knowable, and Christianity claims He did, those are two conflicting statements.”

    I definitely haven’t been communicating clearly. You’re correct: if Christians claim that God is knowable and He is in fact not, that presents quite the dilemma for the Christian. I was wrong in saying that it wouldn’t.

    My intention was to establish that these things are not arguments. It is one thing to make a claim and it is another to back it up. In order for this to be compelling, I must see why Iris thinks these things, and in turn, see how these things disprove Christianity. At this point, I do not think that they do.

    Then again, it doesn’t appear that Iris’ statements were meant to disprove anything. He’s simply asking the point in such a case. I think I showed that his view is not the case.

  • 102. OneSmallStep  |  December 22, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    J M Crist,

    Are you saying that the authors did not have specific intent in their writing? Are you saying that they had no specific meaning to convey – and that there is no correct interpretation to be had (even if we don’t have it)?

    We may be looking at interpretation differently, and I may be misinterpreting you. From what I’ve read, it sounds as though you believe that each author in the Bible had the same ‘purpose’ in writing. A unified purpose, if you will. So no one author will have an intent that will contradict another author.

    I very much disagree with this, because in reading the Bible, I would see that the authors had things they wanted to convey — but those things don’t always agree with other writings, and what other authors wanted to convey.

    The other complication is that even if the authors had a specific intent in writing, it does not mean the authors are correct in their interpretation. For example: let’s say an author writes about how an apple tree fell over in a storm. The author says that means that God is displeased with apples. But in actuality, what it really meant was that God simply wanted to feed poor children, who would then be able to take the apples with no punishment, because the apples were no longer on the tree.

    If we interpret this as what the author meant, we would have to go with God hates apples. That was what the author wanted to convey. But the author is wrong. So the “correct” interpretation with this scenario would not match the author’s intent.

    I see this a lot in interpreting the Bible. The flat-earth verses are suddenly metaphorical. The first story in Genesis becomes allegorical, even if that wasn’t the author’s intent. We start saying that we *really* know what the author meant, because we’re using the knowledge of today to interpret the Bible. The “correct” meaning is ultimately left up to our subjectivity, which is why I disagree with the statement that the correct interpretation is the author’s intent. (I disagree with this if we are searching for what the passges truly mean, and not what the author means they mean).

    So I would say that the authors had a specific intent in writing — but that doesn’t make their intent a correct interpretation.

  • 103. confusedchristian  |  December 22, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    I think Iris’ points are very valid. He has articulated in a nutshell, if it can’t be proven, what is the point?

    JmChrist, you probably dont want to read the following carefully, I imagine it could foster a lot of doubt. Instead you’ll probably want to create a straw man argument to address the doubt issue. But just in case, I’m going to spell it out for you from my perspective.

    I think that question is addressed right at the “born again” experience and it’s why JM christ must dismiss it as invalid. Furthermore, that argument just becomes “doubt” from “satan” and must be avoided at all costs.

    It gets even more complicated as the doubt itself can never be addressed. As long as we live, nobody will ever be able to prove that any religion is actually not a religion and is the truth. Christians do this all the time “It’s not a religion it’s a relationship” further saying “You know it’s just the truth, the facts, I know I can’t prove it to you, you just have to believe them”

    So basically you have to believe in something you can’t prove, and as life goes on and you doubt it’s true because it can’t be proven, you just chalkt hat doubt off as the enemy or the flesh.

    You begin to rationalize the reason why you doubt, “oh it’s because I’m not praying enough” or “I’ts because I’m not doing God’s will in my life” and so on and so fourth.

    The doubt becomes a shameful thing. Expressing the Doubt to other Christians gives you demeaning results. They express that you’re inferior, that you should be ashamed of yourself for giving into the Devil, that yoyu should get in the BIble more, Pray more, and practice your faith more. Whatever it is, the initial doubt must be rationalized as something NEGATIVE so it is not experienced again.

    If any activity increases the doubt then that activity becomes NEGATIVE as well. If any source of knowledge in the world brings fourth more doubt, it must also have NEGATIVE notions. This helps nullify the doubt.

    Again the doubt is not “What if God does not exist?” but it is more “How do you know the Bible is true, that Christ rose from the dead? Why can’t this be proven????”

    Again.. Why can’t this be proven???

    You see, that is an extremely valid argument. But because it can foster so much doubt and negative thinking towards something you want to believe, your mom and dad want you to believe, your wife or husband wants you to believe, maybe your boss or co-workers, then this doubt generates an incredibally negative connotation. You must rationalize as much as you possibly can in order to remove the doubt or keep it in check. Sometimes that involves hating intellectualism, secular education, and secular government. Sometimes it doesnt.

    So Iris, thank you, your argument is extremely valid.

  • 104. jmcrist  |  December 22, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    You said: “Here’s what I’m still left with: God made man in His image. Yet man is born inherently sinful. At what point does that sin contaminate the image? When does sin enter into the picture of our individual creation? I didn’t see an answer to this particular line of questioning. How “hands on” do you see God involved in your creation?”

    Before I thought we were talking specifically about Adam and Eve, in which case they were not created inherently sinful.

    As for man’s creation post-Garden: if I’m honest, I’m not sure. I do believe in original sin – the idea that man is born with a sinful nature. Yet, at the same time, I believe that God creates each person.

    Before I say anything, I want to make it clear that I’m not speaking on behalf of Christianity here. As I just said, I’m not sure how to answer this question – although, I do think there is a correct answer. Personally, I think that given our sin, God is just letting us live with the consequences. God forms us but lets us inherit the sinful nature as consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin. I think His purpose in allowing us to experience sin is so that our choice in Him might be a free one.

    As God says through Paul in the book of Acts 17:25-27, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

    You said: “But He did create us to like good, correct?”

    I’m not sure – I think we’re drawn toward the good for a number of reasons. The Bible does say that God wrote His law on our hearts. Even if we were not made with a liking towards good, it seems that we have the knowledge of what good is.

    You said: “Okay, but this still leaves us with something that is perfect — God — creating an imperfect being. By any definition of perfection, such a thing cannot occur. Imperfection cannot spring from perfection. This also leaves us with God creating man with free will, and yet God does not possess free will. How can God create a being to have something that He does not Himself possess?”

    Why can’t an imperfect thing come from a perfect Being if He so intended it that way?

    You said: “The other complication involves the idea of “force.” If you force someone to do something, you are making them do something they do not want to do. Say we were created completely and totally good. We were created perfect. We were created without the ability to sin, and created to never do evil. We would, by default, love God. But we wouldn’t be forced to love God, because loving God wouldn’t be something that we’d ever not want to do. The only way force becomes an issue is if there is also free will — the two go hand in hand. So we’ve got God saying “I don’t want to force you to love Me, so I’ll give you free will.” But the only way He’d ever be in a position to force us is if we *have* free will in the first place. Without free will, the force aspect becomes a moot point. As it is, God could have the relationship with us without free will. It would be an automatic thing, and we still would not be forced into this. I believe the response to this is that God doesn’t want a robot, someone who is simply “programmed” to do something. This programming would mean that the person would never want to do anything but good by default. If God did not create us with this free will, then we would be created to do only good. So we can be created by God to do wholly good. But in order to create us with this free will, we have to be created with the ability to not do wholly good. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have this free will, we’d be a robot. That capacity has to be there. And this is what I keep tripping on: it is possible for God to create us sans free will. We would then be created to do wholly and only good. We’d be created perfectly, and the source of all of this goes back to God. And yet since God didn’t want us “programmed” to do wholly good, we were given free will. I don’t think it can be said that one was created to be wholly good, and yet given free will at the same time. To be created wholly good would mean that you wouldn’t even be capable of having a sinful thought, and if you aren’t capable, then you don’t have free will. It again comes down to in order to choose something, you have to be attracted to it in the first place. If we go back to your lust example: the person who is driven by that bodily desire for sex — would they even contemplate adultery if that bodily desire wasn’t driving them in the first place? Would adultery even be an issue?”

    Tell me if I understand you right: you’re saying that if God just made us to love Him, He wouldn’t have to force us?

    You’re correct in saying that adultery probably wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the bodily desire. But the bodily desire itself is not the evil. Sex is actually good. Pleasure is good. God does not condemn these things. He condemns the inappropriate use of these things. He condemns it when we do immoral things to get these pleasures, which is what adultery is.

    You said: “I just don’t see how it can be said that we weren’t created perfect, and yet God didn’t create us with the ability to do both good and evil. The two go hand-in-hand. If you aren’t created perfectly, then you’re created imperfectly.”

    I agree with you.

    You said: “Sex was created by God, and all of creation God said was “good.” I want to make sure we’re defining good the same way here. We would say God is good. God can only be good. He is not evil. So since God is good, and God is perfect, good can also equal perfect.”

    Good does not equal perfect. You cannot equivocate the two.

    You said: “There is a difference between being duped, and allowing oneself to be duped, and it seems that both are going on here. On the one hand, the serpent tricked Eve. On the other, Eve knew exactly what she was doing. But if she knew what she was doing, then she wasn’t tricked. If she was tricked, then on some level, she’s absolved of her decision. This would be the difference between her telling herself the action is good when she knows it’s bad, and the serpent tricking her into thinking she is literally doing a not-bad thing. He tricked her into thinking that she was willfully and knowingly obeying God — for to do good is to obey God.”

    I agree with the first part of this. Understand, the serpent is guilty in that it talked Eve into sinning, but Eve is guilty in that she engaged in a dialog with the serpent. Eve allowed herself to be tempted, and the serpent in his craftiness, won her over to the temptation.

    I’m not sure about all the politics of what took place in the Garden, but Eve definitely knew that God did not want her to eat of the fruit of the tree, and the serpent definitely played the role of the tempter.

    You said: “It’s been presented to me as such by some. If sin is defined as any desire, no matter what the desire is, as something that misses God’s mark, then an unintentional thought would qualify. The complication is that, in my experience, it’s not this clear-cut. If you have that unintentional thought, you can’t just send it away. If anything, you make it stronger by struggling to not entertain it. It’s one of those things where if someone tells you, “Don’t think about elephants,” then that’s all you think about.”

    From my understanding of the Bible, the desire or thought only becomes sinful when indulged upon. As far as getting rid of the thought or desire, I do it often. There are times for I fail, I am only human. But I do my best not to.

    Maybe I’m an odd duck, or perhaps I’ve got God’s help in staying self-controlled. We can talk about this more after your reply.

    I hope I covered everything, and I look forward to hearing your response.

  • 105. OneSmallStep  |  December 22, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    J M Crist,

    I think His purpose in allowing us to experience sin is so that our choice in Him might be a free one.

    But there is a huge difference between experiencing sin and allowing someone to inherent a sinful nature. And if I may rephrase: God does create us, yet allows us to inherit the sinful nature, correct? But even in terms of the allowance – if that is a deliberate choice on God’s part, then it is still what God is using to create humanity at this point.

    Even to say that “given our sin, God is just letting us live with the consequences.” But isn’t that punishing the rest of humanity for Adam/Eve’s transgression?

    I’m not sure – I think we’re drawn toward the good for a number of reasons. The Bible does say that God wrote His law on our hearts. Even if we were not made with a liking towards good, it seems that we have the knowledge of what good is.

    Then this might be part of our communication problem. If you are along the lines that God did not “install” any desires of any sort into humanity, then I can see why we keep slamming into this wall. But then where would the desires come from? If I look at my life, anything I do is driven by a desire: either gratification, or survival, or compassion. If I did not have those desires, then I would not function. I wouldn’t eat. I wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t do anything. I’d just sit somewhere until I starved to death (though it would probably be the lack of water that got me first). Or if God wrote His law on our heart: why would following those laws hold any appeal for us, unless we also had a *desire* to follow those laws.

    Have you ever seen the movie “Serenity?” Because a major plot point in that movie relates to what I’m discussing here.

    Or for another example: I believe you mentioned previously that you were engaged to be married? I’m assuming, then, that this is a desire driven by your love and your “want” to remain with this person for the rest of your life. Without that desire, why would you be engaged? Why would you make this promise, or refuse to cheat on her, without the desire to make her happy?

    Why can’t an imperfect thing come from a perfect Being if He so intended it that way?

    I would find this a contradiction. If God is in fact perfect, then anything that He does, including creation, would also have to be perfect. If something is without flaw, then anything it does would have to be likewise. Otherwise, how can it be perfect? I suppose to use an analogy – let’s say you were going to create something and you wanted it to have a knowledge of calculus. If you knew nothing about calculus, how could you then create something with that knowledge? You need to possess it, first. Now, you can deliberately withhold something from what you create, yes. The problem I’m running into is that if you are a perfect creature, and can do nothing imperfectly, then I see no way how the perfect creature can create imperfectly, because it requires an imperfect act. You would literally have God doing something that is imperfect.

    Tell me if I understand you right: you’re saying that if God just made us to love Him, He wouldn’t have to force us?

    It’s not so much God creating us to love Him. God is seen as good. If God created man to be wholly and perfectly good, then man would love God, who is good, by default. I’m seeing a distinction between God creating man as only good, and God creating man to love Him. What I’m saying is that if God created man to be wholly good, there would be no “force” involved. If you are good, and literally cannot sin no matter what, then you will only be attracted and drawn to what is good. You will only choose what is good. Therefore, you will only choose God. The only way “force” becomes a factor in any of this is when free will is introduced to the equation. It’s not God saying, “I’m going to design this person to love Me.” It’s God saying, “I’m going to design this person to be only good. I will not design this person in a way that allows the person to sin.”

    Good does not equal perfect. You cannot equivocate the two.

    If God is both perfect and good, then why not? How can the two be separated? How can anything that God does be separate for something else? God’s justice would be both perfect and good. As it is, the way Christianity is defined, God requires perfection – such as Jesus being the “perfect” sacrifice. One sin and one sin alone, even if no other sin is committed, is enough to condemn a person. That person is not only no longer perfect, that person is no longer good. The two are presented as synonyms.

    Eve definitely knew that God did not want her to eat of the fruit of the tree, and the serpent definitely played the role of the tempter.

    Wait – how is talking to the serpent sinning? That was never disobeying any commandment uttered by God. So then she never once thought eating the fruit was good. So how exactly are you defining “good” when you earlier stated that the serpent tricked Eve into thinking eating the fruit was good? That she honestly thought it was “good” as in following God? Or that she was re-defining what “good” meant?

    From my understanding of the Bible, the desire or thought only becomes sinful when indulged upon. As far as getting rid of the thought or desire, I do it often. There are times for I fail, I am only human. But I do my best not to.

    Well, I think your perspecitve on this is much healthier than some of the other Christian ones I’ve seen out there. :)

  • 106. jmcrist  |  December 23, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    OneSmallStep:

    You said: “If you are along the lines that God did not “install” any desires of any sort into humanity, then I can see why we keep slamming into this wall.”

    I’ve got no clue about the finer points of God’s creation of man. I know some things as they’ve been revealed in the Bible, and as I’ve understood them. And then, there are some things revealed in the Bible that I still don’t know or understand. Perhaps the answers to some of these questions are in some part of Scripture I have yet to study.

    I do not think that God created man with sin in his heart. Our inclination to sin is a result of the fall. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are both guilty of disobeying God’s one and only command (at that time). The serpent had his hand in their disobedience, in that he played the role of the tempter.

    As for God’s hand in the creation of those born with the fallen nature, I’m not sure. As far as I know (and I could be wrong about this) it’s not talked about in any in depth way in the Bible. However, it is consistant that God usually lets the consequences of sin be suffered by people.

    You said: “I would find this a contradiction. If God is in fact perfect, then anything that He does, including creation, would also have to be perfect. ”

    Creation itself implies imperfection.

    You said: “It’s not so much God creating us to love Him. God is seen as good. If God created man to be wholly and perfectly good, then man would love God, who is good, by default. I’m seeing a distinction between God creating man as only good, and God creating man to love Him. What I’m saying is that if God created man to be wholly good, there would be no “force” involved. If you are good, and literally cannot sin no matter what, then you will only be attracted and drawn to what is good. You will only choose what is good. Therefore, you will only choose God. The only way “force” becomes a factor in any of this is when free will is introduced to the equation. It’s not God saying, “I’m going to design this person to love Me.” It’s God saying, “I’m going to design this person to be only good. I will not design this person in a way that allows the person to sin.”

    We’re still faced with the same problem here. God is creating man to love Him. He is programming man to love Him. God is using His causal power to limit the choice of man.

    You see what I mean?

    You said: “If God is both perfect and good, then why not? How can the two be separated?”

    These words mean different things. For example,

    “I know many men who are good, but who are not perfect.”

    “That chocolate I just ate was really freaking good, almost perfect, but not quite.”

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/good
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/perfect

    You said: “Wait – how is talking to the serpent sinning? That was never disobeying any commandment uttered by God.”

    Entering into dialog with temptation is walking on the edge when it comes to sin, however, it is not a sin in and of itself. Notice that God punished Adam and Eve for eating the fruit, not for speaking with the serpent.

    I’m not sure where this confusion came from – perhaps I was not being clear (as has been a pattern throughout this dialog).

    You said: “So then she never once thought eating the fruit was good. So how exactly are you defining “good” when you earlier stated that the serpent tricked Eve into thinking eating the fruit was good? That she honestly thought it was “good” as in following God? Or that she was re-defining what “good” meant?”

    Perhaps, instead of saying good, I should have said “for personal gain,” or something of the nature. The serpent told Eve that the fruit would be beneficial for gaining wisdom, and pleasing to the eye, etc. He sold it to her, convinced her that it was something she couldn’t live without, that God was holding out on her and that she could be like Him, etc.

    Eve knew clearly that God did not want her to eat the fruit, and she did. She directly disobeyed God. After she eats the fruit, I imagine she was like “What the- this isn’t what I thought it was going to be. That freakin’ serpent lied to me!” But it was too late.

  • 107. jmcrist  |  December 23, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    ConfusedChristian,

    I don’t see doubt as a bad thing, necessarily. It is only a bad thing when it is not tackled and figured out.

    For instance, most of my doubts are emotional rather than intellectual. I’ve done a lot of research on Christianity and the evidence supporting it, so intellectually I feel confident in my belief. The problem for me, at times, is getting the belief from my head to my heart.

    To those who aren’t Christian, you’re probably going to laugh at me for what I’m about to say – but I’m not trying to be mushy. In my Christian walk, I sometimes doubt God’s love for me. There are sins that I’ve committed in the past, and sometimes still commit, that makes me feel completely disconnected with God. I, for some reason, think that if I redouble my efforts and read the Bible, pray, post some apologetic on my blog, share the gospel of Jesus, etc. then I’ll “feel” closer to God and His love will be more intimate.

    The truth, however, is that God loves me whether I sin or not. He can see the next time I’m going to fall and spit directly in His face, and He still chooses to love me. What I’m slowly learning is that I can’t always live by what I feel.

    Now, you asked several times “Why can’t this be proven?????”

    Here’s what I’ve got to say. There is an ample amount of evidence out there defending Christianity to anybody who is looking. However, if you’ve already determined that certain things cannot be proven, or that they are false, then none of it will be of any benefit.

    If you’re not this kind of person and want to see some evidence, I can point you toward some reading material.

    Other than that, I don’t think I fall into the image you painted of who I am. It’s no biggie though, I can understand you frustration with the Christian stereotype – I am frustrated with it as well.

  • 108. Thinking Ape  |  December 23, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    jmcrist,
    Already having replied once to you without any response I am not hoping for much, but I, for one, am always open to evidence that is new to me. The more I read and learn about Christianity, and talk to Christians, the farther away I walk away from religiousity in general. I spent my teenage years reading everything from Duane Gish in “biology” to McDowell and Strobel in “apologetics.” During my early college years I read Schaeffer, Martins, Sire, Hughes, and then later Augustine, Aquinas, Kierkegaard and Tillich.

    Once I entered religious studies scholarship I encountered a vast array of Biblical resources that simply are not compatible with fundamentalism or evangelicalism. Unfortunately, because of upbringing in the evangelical world, I have a hard time seeing contemporary Christianity outside of that box. I do not know what it means to be a Christian who is not “evangelical” or “born-again.”

    I continue to wander in my agnosticism, not because I am convinced by atheist tendencies, but because the basis of my previous belief system, that of superstitious spirituality and a hope for authority in the scriptures, simply does not add up. I can grant the existence of a philosophical God – but certainly not the one I find in the Judaic scriptures nor the various Christianities.

    But again, I would love to read what you have read that appears to have convinced you to suspend various aspects of reason for a faith that appears anything remotely universal or coherent.

  • 109. jmcrist  |  December 23, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    Thinking Ape,

    I’m sorry for not responding to your previous post. However, you state that you are not interested in debate and that “The fact of the matter is, however, that the Yahwist’s god is not omnipotent nor omnibenevolent.”

    So, what’s there to talk about? You’ve already made up your mind, and do not seem open to considering different points of view.

    To be honest, I see the same problem in your most recent response. You say that you’d like to read whatever convinced me to “suspend various aspects of reason for a faith.” You’ve already determined that whatever reading material I could recommend will only foster the suspension of reason. In short, you think anything I have to present is unreasonable. You’ve already made up your mind.

    Look, I feel obligated to give an answer to the honest questioner. But I do not feel this obligation toward any motive that falls short of this. Perhaps I am mistaken about you – and if I am, I apologize. Please show me that I am incorrect.

  • 110. OneSmallStep  |  December 23, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    J M Crist,

    I do not think that God created man with sin in his heart. Our inclination to sin is a result of the fall.

    This also might be part of the confusion. When you say the first sentence, are you referring to “man” as how God created Adam, or how God creates man now?
    In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are both guilty of disobeying God’s one and only command (at that time). The serpent had his hand in their disobedience, in that he played the role of the tempter. Maybe we should say the Original Man? Try and distinguish between the two?

    So perhaps its that God’s original intention was not that man sin, but man is now created with an inclination to sin, because God allows man to inherit that sin nature. Because, based on Christianity, we are clearly created these days with the inclination to sin. However, I would guess you are saying in the garden man was created as a blank slate: neither inclined to do good or evil. Of course, I still fall back on someone has to put desires into man, or then we won’t function. :) But do you really think you can say on one hand that you don’t kow the finer points of creation, and yet know that God didn’t create man with both sin and goodness in his heart? Becaues the latter does seem to fall under the finer points of creation.

    However, it is consistant that God usually lets the consequences of sin be suffered by people.

    Even the people innocent of that particular sin? Does it really seem just to you that we all suffer the consequences of the original sin, if we had no role in it? That we aren’t provided an equal opportunity, as Adam/Eve are? If man is going to be created, today, inclined to sin, then I would see it as injust to then punish man for following the primary inclination. What else would be the outcome?

    Creation itself implies imperfection.

    Imperfection of what, though? I would see it implying that God is not consistently perfect. That God is capable, and did, do something imperfectly. Even if creation implies imperfection, it’s still a contradiction of what the word “perfect” means.

    We’re still faced with the same problem here. God is creating man to love Him. He is programming man to love Him. God is using His causal power to limit the choice of man.

    So are you saying that the two are equal? If God creates someone to be wholly good, then that person is also “programmed” to love God? Or if God says that He will make man incapable of sinning, then God is also programming man to love Him? I still see a distinction, because man automatically loving God would be a indirectly connected to man created 100% good. It’s not something that God would have to directly “program” into man.

    The thing is, if God is making someone wholly good, and that limits the choice of man, then by giving man free will, God is making man something other than wholly good. God is making man something other than 100% good. And if man is created less than 100% good, then, to me, I’m once again at God creating man with good/bad tendencies. Free will seems to entail creating man with the ability to do both good and evil. So it would be man was made 50% good and 50% … what? Or 90% good and 10% something else. No matter what, it seems we are saying that man was not created 100% good, and so something else had to fill in the gap. If you aren’t 100% good, then the only thing I see left to fill is “not good.”

    These words mean different things. For example

    Well, I’m going to again reference how Christianity defines “good.” The whole concept of the Romans quote — there is no one good, not one — and the fact that committing one sin alone is enough to make one “not good.” That one sin also makes one imperfect, and that one sin makes man “bad.”
    I don’t know where you stand in terms of non-Christians and salvation, but haven’t you ever had people say that they will get to heaven because they’re a good person? As in, they’re kind, they don’t murder, they help the poor and so forth? The typical response I see to that is that the person is not good, because no one is good — if they lust or hate, even if they haven’t acted on it, they are no longer good. Under this system, there is a huge correlation between the two, almost impossible to divide them.

    The way that the secular world describes good, as provided by your examples, seems drastically different than how Christianity describes good. Secularism puts “good” on a scale. Christianity does not. If I say that I am good to a Christian, I would fully expect a response of, “So you’ve done everything perfectly? You’ve never committed the tiniest sin?” So the secular arena does not define good as perfect — but in my view, Christianity does.

    Eve knew clearly that God did not want her to eat the fruit, and she did. She directly disobeyed God.

    I know I’m getting nitpicky with the words here, but given that the written form can be a confusing form of communication, I feel it’s important to do that. So, to clarify: you say that Eve knew clearly that God did not want her to eat the fruit. So she knew that she was directly disobeying God. However (and my apologies if we’ve already covered this next section, we’ve talked a lot), you earlier said the following: “Eve thought it would actually be a good thing to eat from the tree, not a bad thing – not an evil thing.”

    I would then interpret this as even though Eve knew she was directly disobeying God, she didn’t think eating the tree was actually a bad/evil thing. However, I don’t see how the two can co-exist. If she knew she was disobeying God by eating from the tree, then she would have to know that eating from the tree was bad. Yet if we drag inclination into this … her intentions would’ve been bad. But if she thought that choosing personal gain was not an evil thing … then she would’ve thought that disobeying God was also not an evil thing. Yet she knew that it was evil. Those two just aren’t adding up for me. The argument originally seemed to be that the only way “sin” gets a foothold is to disguise itself as something it isn’t. But if we think that sin is in fact an okay thing to do, then how can we on the other hand know that we’re doing wrong?

    ANother question — say Eve didn’t eat from the tree, yet still conversed with the serpent. However, day after day, she kept thinking about eating from the tree, and indulging in that desire. Based on how you have previously defined sin — if you lust after someone and imagine scenarios, that is a sin — would that mean that Eve would still have sinned, even though she didn’t actually eat from the tree?

    “What the- this isn’t what I thought it was going to be. That freakin’ serpent lied to me!”

    Actually, I think the serpent was pretty accurate in his description: they did become “like gods, knowing good and evil.” (which brings up another fun topic of how could they know what good/evil was beforehand), and they died 930 years later, rather than suddenly as the text seems to imply. That’s all the serpent stated. And if the reason why God kicked them out was that they didn’t eat from the tree of life and live forever, then they were already dying, in a way. The interesting thing I find about the story is the concern God had over them eating from the tree of life.

  • 111. Thinking Ape  |  December 23, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    jmcrist,
    I think you are reading too far into what I have written. When the human-all-too-human aspect is displayed time and time again in the Yahwist’s writings, I must assume that this is a god different than the one we normally talk about as the distant “God the Father.”

    You say that you’d like to read whatever convinced me to “suspend various aspects of reason for a faith.” You’ve already determined that whatever reading material I could recommend will only foster the suspension of reason. In short, you think anything I have to present is unreasonable. You’ve already made up your mind.

    One non sequitur after another. You ask people not to put you into the typical Christian box and yet you do exactly the same. I am in no way saying that Christianity must be unreasonable, which is exactly why I qualified myself in that very statement about “various aspects of reason.” What does that mean to you? Because to me that simply means that if it offends my contemporary idea of reason, then it is, well, not reason. This means something like walking on water. It in no way means that it has not happened – I just mean that the fervant belief that a man-god did it is, for all pragmatic purposes, unreasonable. Why this is so offensive to you, I do not know. How you read into anything I said that would mean I think you or your sources are unreasonable, I also do not know – except with the hunch that you want to place me in the “unbeliever” box.

    I have been searching, sir, for quite some time. I want the unwavering faith I once had because it is easier to go about my life with it. Don’t insult me. Don’t give me this sort of attitude. I asked sincerely and honestly for sources and credible reading material. I only stated samples of what I have previously read so you did not give me a list of weak apologetics. I wanted you to know what sort of page we are on in our discussion. If you had asked me for information, what use would it be for me to send you to Ehrman, Mack, Bloom, Prothero, and others when you already read them and found their arguments wanting?

    Quite honestly, I think you are looking for excuses not to give me any resources or else you wouldn’t respond in the way you did, somehow blaming me for not being “open” enough. If anyone is being “open,” wouldn’t it be the person who risks complete estrangement from everything and everyone he knows and loves because of an intellectual decision?

  • 112. Jalf  |  December 24, 2007 at 2:07 am

    There are different explanations for “good” depending on who you talk to and what religion they come from or don’t come from. Something someone sent me as a joke has given me a healthiy perspective of what good is. That comment from #4 is close to it. The perspective starts in a philosiphy class on the debate of what good is … umm I’ll skip on to the points.

    1. Cold is not the opposite of heat. Cold is the absence of heat.
    2. Darkness is not the opposite of light. Darkness is the absence of light.
    3. Immorality is not the opposite of morality. Immoarlity is the absence of morals.

    The previous three points are true and sets up the perspective of 4.

    4. Evil is not the opposite of Good. Evil is the absence of Good.

    In all the suppositioins that people have for good, Evil as the absence of Good can pretty much cover any bad thing you can think of against God who is supposed to be the incaranation of good.

    1. God allowing evil? He’s not, he’s giving us the choice to not be absent from doing the right thing. The choice to not fill in the holes in our lives affects others because our “holes” are also part of the lives others around us. I guess God could fill that hole Himself, but then He would not give people the choice to change their mind and fill their lives for themselves.
    2. God making evil? He doesn’t make it. In a real sense it doesn’t exist. Its the absense of good.
    3. God can do evil? This question can only come up if you think its possible for God to be negligent, irresponsible, indesicive; if you think God is less than our idealized version of a god (as in capitol letters GOD) than ya, He can forget to do good.
    3. God being evil? That just means we are screwed, completely, totally, and absolutely. But we’re not complete black holes in life. If God were evil he wouldn’t have made creation without screwing with it constantly. I’d say creation is not at 100% misery.

    As for tying God’s lack of omnipotence with the supposed choice that God makes in refraining from doing evil (in this case in refraining to forget to do good). I would think that self control, restraint, and purpose are something you would expect from the creator of the universe. If not control or restraint, this supposed being at least has a purpose for itself. Why would it do something it doesn’t want to do (in this case evil). Do people really expect a flippant, flighty, “jumps from one agenda to another” type of god? There have been: Loki, Pysche, Zeus …. and the people they came in contact weren’t happy. Does the image of God (at least the monotheistic god) and flip/flop really go together? I would think the hallmark of the omnipotent god is the power to do exactly what he wants to do. If he choses good over evil that’ll be his perogative and no other being in exsistance would be able to change that.

  • 113. Jalf  |  December 24, 2007 at 2:20 am

    Sorry, last point … I forgot it for #112.

    4. God isn’t much of a god if he can’t fix people to get them in heaven. If a person chooses evil in the sense that it is the absence of good, than when that person gets in front of “the gates” of heaven, there isn’t anything left of that person, since life is “good”. God would have to create another being that looked and sounded just like the original, but it wouldn’t be the original person because the original chose nothingness over life.

  • 114. confusedchristian  |  December 24, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Hi JMChrist,

    I find it fascinating that your doubts have been emotinoal and not intellectual! I’ve been just the opposite. My faith has always been emotional but far from intellectual. In fact, when applying questions and using reason to the best of my ability I have often found less and less proof of that the Bible is infallible, that Christ is the only way into heaven, and then finally, that God can’t be proven anyway.

    But don’t think I’ve made up my mind just yet. In fact, my belief system is always subject to change, that’s the beauty of not choosing to let others tell me what to believe. Maybe I’ll find God? This is the only path I can take to find him. If I don’t find him then I suppose he doesn’t exist.

    Anyway, I’m really interested to see where you have found this proof that he exists.

  • 115. Thinking Ape  |  December 24, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Jalf, are your points coming from a Biblical perspective of God or a philosophical one? I would definitely agree with you on almost all points for the latter, but the former just doesn’t mesh with such a perfect Almighty. Evil, within the Bible, often is encompassed by a spirit of some sort. Some would even say that a man like Adolph Hitler would have been afflicted by the similar spirit that God sent into King Saul. Evil, in this case, is not simply the absence of good, it is an actual entity.

    Furthermore, any questions concerning the morality of any god will be moot (such as in your points 3 and 4). God can do and, if you believe much of the Bible, did and will do many horrendous acts that if a human did such a thing would be considered wicked, unethical and immoral. The last point you made was entirely subjective, for you are obviously sitting in some sort of comfort as you have access to a computer and the internet – many people live in excruciating pain and agony from the time of their birth to their death.

  • 116. bry0000000  |  December 24, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    TA, I think you already responded to one of Jalf’s points earlier with

    “The Bible itself states that God is the author of both Good and Evil:

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7

    “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” Amos 3:6

    “Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?” Lamentations 3:38″

    which insinuates (to me at least) that God did author Good and Evil, and therefore establishes that Evil is its own entity in itself rather than Good’s absence.

  • 117. kerrin  |  December 25, 2007 at 1:17 am

    You begin your logic with a false premise:

    If God is in deed able to do anything, God would then be capable of doing evil

    An omnipotent being can do anything that is not a logical contradiction. An omnipotent being can not make a round square because such a thing does not exist. It is a logical contradiction.

    This premise was taken from your first (being your strongest) “qualifiers” of God and therefore make the weaker ones false also.

  • 118. bry0000000  |  December 25, 2007 at 3:49 am

    “Omnipotence (literally, “all power”) is power with no limits i.e. unlimited power.” Strait from wikipedia, kerrin.

    But, I’ll humor you for a minute. Following your argument, God is a slave to logic for he cannot act outside its parameters. Therefore, he is not all powerful nor omnipotent.

  • 119. kerrin  |  December 25, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for humoring me. I don’t disagree with the definition of omnipotence. It’s the logical application of this definition that I was challenging.

    If there is an omnipotent being it would be above human reason and logic since this being, in its omnipotence, would have caused humans to possess the faculties to reason.

    As humans our understanding of such a being is subject to logic. An omnipotent being is not subject or “slave” to logic but above it.

  • 120. Thinking Ape  |  December 25, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    Could someone please give me a Biblical or Koranic example of God being “above logic”? It is amazing to me that God gets so big and powerful that he is pragmatically useless.

  • 121. jmcrist  |  December 25, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    OneSmallStep:

    Merry Christmas! I apologize for the long delay in reply. For the next week and a half I’ll be Houston, and I’m not sure how often I’ll be online. I imagine it won’t be any different than right now, but you never know.

    You said: “But do you really think you can say on one hand that you don’t kow the finer points of creation, and yet know that God didn’t create man with both sin and goodness in his heart? Becaues the latter does seem to fall under the finer points of creation.”

    You’re correct. It’s a fine point of theology that I’m not sure I have the answer to. I surely don’t *think* that God created the Original Man with any inclination in his heart for sin. I could be wrong, I don’t think I am, but I could be – and it might very well be something we’ll never know. It’s interesting that we’ve come to this – it could have saved us a lot of time :p

    You said: “Even the people innocent of that particular sin? Does it really seem just to you that we all suffer the consequences of the original sin, if we had no role in it? That we aren’t provided an equal opportunity, as Adam/Eve are? If man is going to be created, today, inclined to sin, then I would see it as injust to then punish man for following the primary inclination. What else would be the outcome?”

    It does seem unjust that my son, for instance, would be punished if I murdered someone. I do not understand completely the nature of the sin in the Garden, there could be many things we are leaving out or that we simply do not know. I do know, however, that their sin is not sentencing me to hell – only to physical death.

    As for man and the primary inclination, I think you’re mistaken about the nature of the inclination. We might not be able to peg it precisely, but I think we can both agree that we have the ability to resist it. Therefore, it does seem just that we are held responsible for not resisting it.

    You said: “Imperfection of what, though? I would see it implying that God is not consistently perfect. That God is capable, and did, do something imperfectly. Even if creation implies imperfection, it’s still a contradiction of what the word “perfect” means.”

    The creation is not eternal; it has a beginning. This is an imperfection.

    I think it is possible for a perfect Being to create something that is imperfect.

    You said: “So are you saying that the two are equal?”

    Not exactly – your proposed scenario only seems to move the problem one step backwards, before free will. But it does not escape the dilemma.

    You said: “Well, I’m going to again reference how Christianity defines “good.” The whole concept of the Romans quote — there is no one good, not one — and the fact that committing one sin alone is enough to make one “not good.”

    The word “good,” though is defined by its context.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=good&version1=31&searchtype=all&limit=none&wholewordsonly=no

    That’s a list of Bible verses that use the word good. There are quite a few that escape the limits of perfection. I can list some if you want – I just figured this was easier.

    You said: “I know I’m getting nitpicky with the words here, but given that the written form can be a confusing form of communication, I feel it’s important to do that. So, to clarify: you say that Eve knew clearly that God did not want her to eat the fruit. So she knew that she was directly disobeying God. However (and my apologies if we’ve already covered this next section, we’ve talked a lot), you earlier said the following: “Eve thought it would actually be a good thing to eat from the tree, not a bad thing – not an evil thing.”

    Yeah, I didn’t mean that it was literally morally “good.” This was a careless mistake on part. I just meant that she saw it as good in the same way that I would say a piece of pizza was good. That is all. Perhaps I should have said something along the lines of Satan making the fruit attractive.

    I know my replies were brief. I hope this answered some questions. I’m looking forward to your response and have enjoyed this dialog so far. Thanks for not calling me names :P

    -Michael

  • 122. jmcrist  |  December 25, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Thinking Ape,

    Here’s two to start:

    The Kalam Cosmological Argument -

    Reasonable Faith –

    Also, unless you read the books I don’t want to hear objections to the arguments presented. Many counter-arguments are addressed in the books themselves in a lot more detail than can be discussed here.

    I have a question for you:

    Being an agnostic, it seems you have two options. You can live as though God does not exist, or as though God does.

    For some odd reason, the default way of life is always as though God doesn’t. Why is this? Why doesn’t some agnostic go, “You know, I’m really not sure if God exists. Because of this, I’m going to live has though He does.”

  • 123. jmcrist  |  December 25, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    ConfusedChristian,

    You said: “I find it fascinating that your doubts have been emotinoal and not intellectual! I’ve been just the opposite. My faith has always been emotional but far from intellectual. In fact, when applying questions and using reason to the best of my ability I have often found less and less proof of that the Bible is infallible, that Christ is the only way into heaven, and then finally, that God can’t be proven anyway.”

    Well, let’s start at the beginning. Do you or don’t you believe in God?

    Why or why not?

    After this is answered, we can move on to Christianity.

  • 124. bry0000000  |  December 26, 2007 at 12:24 am

    “For some odd reason, the default way of life is always as though God doesn’t. Why is this? Why doesn’t some agnostic go, “You know, I’m really not sure if God exists. Because of this, I’m going to live has though He does.”

    I think I can answer this, but please chime in, TA, if you have a different opinion.

    I can say that quarks, the tiny particles in an atom’s nucleous, are made up of smaller particles called brys. These brys have a certain set of parameters and characteristics that make quarks behave in a certain manner. When someone asks why quark x behaves in a certain manner and why quark y behaves in a different manner, I can attribute that difference of behavior by describing the elements or existing brys that make those quarks behave that way.

    I don’t know how far electron microscopes have come in regards to observing quarks, but I can say at least a few years ago, quarks (and brys) were impossible to observe. Even though I could use the theory of brys to explain quark behavior, no self respecting scientist would ever subscribe to the theory of brys without observable objective evidence of the existence of brys. Just because the author of brys says that brys exist doesn’t make it true.

    I believe the same goes for agnosticism. There is no evidence for God’s existence outside of holy scriptures… well, that and the non-argument that “God’s existence is revealed through nature” and such. By default, the rational thing is to not live as though God exists, even though he might. It’s like pre-20th century scientists who accepted that there were things they didn’t know about science (with a few notable exceptions) and therefore didn’t believe that time travel was legitimate, even though they accepted the possibility.

  • 125. Thinking Ape  |  December 26, 2007 at 1:29 am

    jmcrist, thank you for the suggestions, I am very familiar with the Kalam argument, but I have only heard of Craig, not read him. Since this would be a topic all unto its own, if you allow, I wish to return to this discourse at a later time so that I may read the text you suggest. As for your question,

    Being an agnostic, it seems you have two options. You can live as though God does not exist, or as though God does.
    For some odd reason, the default way of life is always as though God doesn’t. Why is this? Why doesn’t some agnostic go, “You know, I’m really not sure if God exists. Because of this, I’m going to live has though He does.”

    I am not too sure how to answer this. For one, even in my closest family members, whom I love very much, and my wisest of evangelical mentors, I see very little difference in the way people live their lives. I myself have changed my thoughts, but my actions have only matured through the years, which I attribute more to life experience than I do to some sort of areligious epiphany. So I am unsure how valid the question is. I live a rather stoic life and do my best to incorporate ethics from various thinkers, including Christians and non-Christians. What I must ask, then, what do you mean by “the default way of life is always as though God doesn’t”? How do you perceive this life to be? Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll?

    I have in no way, in any argument, attempt to refute the existence of God. I don’t think it is possible to prove or refute, but I do think there are excellent evidences and “proofs” on both sides. I, however, through my study and experience of the Christian faith, reject the Yahweh of the Christian Old Testament and the mythological Christ of the Christian New Testament. I live my life, therefore, knowing that their could be a God, but it is a God that is relatively incompatible with my form of knowledge as a human being – whatever that means. The only other God that makes sense to me is that of various gnostic religions.

  • 126. Iris  |  December 26, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    jmcrist:

    “Well, let’s start at the beginning. Do you or don’t you believe in God?

    Why or why not?

    After this is answered, we can move on to Christianity [or Zoroastrianism/Hinduism/Islam/Judaeism/etc, etc, ad nauseaum].” –Brackets mine.

    jmcrist, seriously: how is it *not* a problem for a Christian that there are dozens of major religions, thousands of cults or New Age spiritual systems, many with Sacred Books, some with historical weight. These groups have tenets, moral codes, plans for salvation, and are practically indistinguishable in terms of their claim to Truth. I mean that the adherents insist they have the truth, that they have Salvation/will avoid punishment/or some comparable thing, and insist that their Truth is obvious, or that they only need Faith, or that no proofs are necessary.

    Christians say that all other religions are incorrect (not to mention other Sects!), which means billions of normal, good people with free will throughout the last 2000+ years have been wrong, mostly because of their location of birth, and are burning in hell for all eternity. Why would an omnibenevolent god make such a confusing array of choices? Why would a man put his most beloved children in a burning building, lock them in a room filled with millions of keys, and, as their screams issue from the ninth floor window, exonerate himself of murder by saying they had a choice to find the right key (to quote a popular metaphor for the dilemma of multiple faiths)!

    Also, I was not attempting to put forth “frustrations’ alone. I am not frustrated with how difficult it would be for myself to believe an unprovable/not-necessarily-the-most-ethical-or-coherent belief system. I have never been raised with religion (remember-the single largest deciding factor influencing your belief system is where you are born); I don’t ‘miss’ or need it as it seems a bit absurd anyhow. I was, however, putting forth some very serious problems that Xian friends have had themselves with the Faith. People are being asked to believe, for no reason (faith), one particular set of beliefs out of thousands and thousands of other sets! Some of which may be: more appealing; have newer, less confusing Sacred Books; more coherent; claim to have dieties who are friendly, reveal their will clearly and who don’t commit genocide, etc.

    Thanks to anyone who took up jmcrist’s objections to my post; I have been way to busy to pop in.

  • 127. Iris  |  December 26, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Interestingly, a very good friend who was formerly Catholic and has been an atheist for at least a year read a section of Krueger’s “What Is Atheism?” and was surprised at the section on morality (that morality exists outside of God(s), belief in gods, the bibles, etc). She said even though she stopped believing a while ago, she had never really consciously thought about morality being independent from God, as a system of ethics based on human social interaction/logic/culture etc.. She was shocked at how strong her childhood conditioning was, and devoured the rest of the book.

    Isn’t that weird and interesting?

  • 128. kerrin  |  December 26, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Thinking Ape,

    I think that I gave a valid logical & philosophical argument from both Biblical & Koranic (theist) stand point, disproving the “Omnipotence Paradox”. If you are looking for specific examples in their holy texts, I do not know the Koran well. So I can only give you Biblical examples. There are many, they would be any time said God does things or acts in ways that are beyond human comprehension or reason. Are you looking for specifics?

    An omnipotent being is possible, although I have no logical proof of the existence of such a being.
    Descartes:

    [Omnipotence] is not bound in action, as we are in thought by the laws of logic.

    I am curious what you mean by “pragmatically useless”. How would you see an omnipotent being as such?

  • 129. LeoPardus  |  December 26, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    TA (post 120):

    I’m thinking the verse(s) that say, “His ways are above our ways” or “His motivations are beyond searching out” may qualify.

  • 130. bry0000000  |  December 26, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    Kerrin,

    I’ve seriously been trying to reconcile a couple of your assertions with each other, and haven’t been able to do so. First, you say

    “An omnipotent being can do anything that is not a logical contradiction.”

    and then say

    “If there is an omnipotent being it would be above human reason and logic since this being, in its omnipotence, would have caused humans to possess the faculties to reason.”

    The one possibility I’ve come up with is that there is a higher sense of Logic that God subscribes to, but that would have to rule over him just as our everyday logic would otherwise rule over him.

    But to make the view of logic more compatible with both assertions (not completely with the second), we can assert something else. Assuming there is a God and that he is our creator, a God that is a slave to logic would have no control over allowing a freethinking being that he created to possess the faculties of logical reasoning as logic rules over God.

  • 131. kerrin  |  December 26, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    bry0000000,

    Thanks for considering my thoughts and seeking to think through them.

    “…a higher sense of Logic that God subscribes to”, yes this is what I was inferring. However, this would not “rule over him” but instead this would be his character (this “higher sense of logic”), in Christian theology it would be the essence of who he is (love, goodness, etc), all of which humans can only partly comprehend, the individual aspects of and how they interact with one another. We’re limited by the boundaries of human logic and the fact that we are not perfect, all knowing creatures.

    Descartes is much more eloquent in this matter then I:

    [Omnipotence] is not bound in action, as we are in thought by the laws of logic. — from Meditations on First Philosophy

    You draw this conclusion:

    [this higher Logic] …would have to rule over him just as our everyday logic would otherwise rule over him

    This is equating an omnipotent being (not “ruled” by logic) with human reasoning (ruled by logic)… which can not be done since an omnipotent being transcends human logic. Our understanding of and thinking about an omnipotent being is ruled by human logic but the being would be not ruled by our limited logic.

    I may misunderstand but I fail to see how this may be asserted:
    “…a God that is a slave to logic would have no control over allowing a freethinking being that he created to possess the faculties of logical reasoning as logic rules over God.”
    Taking into account my second assertion you start with a false premise: “a God that is a slave to logic” and end with one: “as logic rules over God”… rendering your assertion logically false. If human reasoning is ruled by logic and if reasoning is given by a transcendent, omnipotent being that being would have complete power over what he created.

    I very much enjoy this interaction and again thanks for responding.

  • 132. Thinking Ape  |  December 26, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Kerrin, I fail to see how you provided me with Biblical examples. It is one thing to say that you are arguing from a “Christian” standpoint, and quite another to say that standpoint is “Biblical.” I for one would argue that contemporary Christian perspective is not only blatantly ignorant of the New Testament, but the entire Christian history, starting from the second generation of Christians, is disgustingly anti-semitic and knows very little of the first, and largest, part of their own scripture – the Old Testament (which in itself is a perversely distorted representation of the Jewish Tanakh).

    So when I read about a god who comes down to walk and talk with his creation, as I do in J text of the Tanakh, I wonder about what that god has to do with the highly theologized “God the Father” of the New Testament. If I may ask, what does your God the Father do? How useful is he? In today’s Christian, he has taken a back seat to the charismatic Holy Spirit and the soul-saving Jesus.

    You ask about logic, well then what is the point of a God that we can barely even begin to understand? If he is so high, then perhaps he is too high – so high that he is utterly useless for our depraved and simple minds. How useful is this logic given to us if it is unable to grasp even one iota of this infinite deity?

  • 133. Thinking Ape  |  December 26, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Leopardus quotes,

    I’m thinking the verse(s) that say, “His ways are above our ways” or “His motivations are beyond searching out” may qualify.

    Yes, I suppose only God could make 1+1=3

  • 134. kerrin  |  December 27, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Thinking Ape,

    It is one thing to say that you are arguing from a “Christian” standpoint, and quite another to say that standpoint is “Biblical.”

    Good point. And a distinction I failed to make. I was not necessarily arguing from a Christian prospective but from a theist’s prospective of an omnipotent being.

    I for one would argue that contemporary Christian perspective is not only blatantly ignorant of the New Testament, but the entire Christian history…

    I would have to agree with you here. Although I would qualify it with “most” not all “contemporary Christian perspective” is this way.

    If I may ask, what does your God the Father do? How useful is he? In today’s Christian, he has taken a back seat to the charismatic Holy Spirit and the soul-saving Jesus.

    Honestly the charismatic movement was what first caused me to be skeptical of contemporary Christianity.
    My understanding of God the Father and his usefulness in the context of Biblical faith is that he would be seen as the provider & protector. The Father then would be useful to those who follow the faith because they could ask for & attribute any protection & provision from him.

    If he is so high, then perhaps he is too high – so high that he is utterly useless for our depraved and simple minds. How useful is this logic given to us if it is unable to grasp even one iota of this infinite deity?

    You slightly overstate my logical explanation of an omnipotent being. If there is an omnipotent being that was the first cause of the universe there would be much we could understand about this being through what he created and gave his creation. “unable to grasp even one iota” is an overstatement of my conclusion.

    I only wish to show that the “Omnipotence Paradox” as a proof for atheism is weak at best and primarily based on a false premise. It would be more intellectually honest if this is someone’s proof for atheism to say, “I can’t know” logically if an omnipotent being exists or not.

  • 135. bry0000000  |  December 27, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Kerrin:

    Your two premises were incompatible with each other.

    A) An omnipotent being can do anything that is not a logical contradiction.

    Is incompatible with

    B)If there is an omnipotent being it would be above human reason and logic since this being, in its omnipotence, would have caused humans to possess the faculties to reason

    because he would either be subject to his own logic, or his logic wouldn’t matter in decision making, making him capable of doing evil. The whole “higher logic” doesn’t hold a lot of water because it is impossible to understand whether or not he does have a ‘higher logic’ he subscribes to, so it’s equally likely that he doesn’t.

  • 136. kerrin  |  December 27, 2007 at 10:39 am

    bry0000000,

    Premise A would be in the realm of human thinking about a higher being. It was used to show your initial premise false.

    Premise B is a logical explanation for a higher being in a realm other then human thinking. Thus is compatible A. Reference my quote from Descartes.

    it is impossible to understand whether or not he does have a ‘higher logic’ he subscribes to

    This is another assumption that you have yet to prove. Is it really impossible? I gave you a plausible explanation making it possible to understand. I will concede though that humans can not understand 100%.

  • 137. bry0000000  |  December 27, 2007 at 10:50 am

    If Premise A is true, then God is subject to human logic, regardless of whether or not he subscribes to a ‘higher’ logic, because he cannot act outside human logic.

    And as far as assumptions go, I believe it is you who is assuming God’s logic is something that “humans can only partly comprehend.” We can only partially understand his logic in the realm of human logic, correct? So have we nothing other than an assumption (commonly justified via “faith”) that God acts under any other system of logic at all?

  • 138. bry0000000  |  December 27, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Just some food for thought:

    If God does indeed possess a ‘higher logic’:

    A) Why did he endow humans with an ‘incomplete’ or ‘inferior’ logic, especially if human logic has incomplete or impotent application?

    B) Does God not want us to understand him?

  • 139. confusedchristian  |  December 27, 2007 at 11:49 am

    by0, one argument I’ve heard is that God has done this on purpose so despite our ability to understand him we choose him anyway. To him, that’s the ultimate form of devotion and that’s what he’s looking for. You see, even if he’s hard to understand, and that he doesn’t make sense, he just wants us to love him anyway or he’ll torture us forever. No doesn’t that make sense? Now convert.

  • 140. bry0000000  |  December 27, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    I love the last part of that post :D.

    This God sounds like an abusive boyfriend/girlfriend, which explains his description as a ‘Jealous’ God. Not that I blame him. If my girlfriend was worshiping some other guy besides me, I would want her to be apart from me forever, just like the big G.

  • 141. confusedchristian  |  December 27, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    by0,

    God is definitely a jealous God.

    Zeph 3:8 (NIV)
    ” Therefore wait for me,” declares the LORD,
    “for the day I will stand up to testify. [a]
    I have decided to assemble the nations,
    to gather the kingdoms
    and to pour out my wrath on them—
    all my fierce anger.
    The whole world will be consumed
    by the fire of my jealous anger.”

    Now, he is also a very loving God, and all you have to do to avoid punishment is accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

  • 142. bry0000000  |  December 27, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Oh, I know it. He spends a good deal in Exodus 20-22 telling us how he is a jealous God. But it’s so nice to know he demands so little of us to avoid punishment. Just make a permanent lifestyle change…

  • 143. confusedchristian  |  December 27, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    OH no no its not a permanent lifestyle change all you have to do is believe, now convert!

  • 144. kerrin  |  December 27, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    bry,

    If Premise A is true, then God is subject to human logic, regardless of whether or not he subscribes to a ‘higher’ logic, because he cannot act outside human logic.

    No an omnipotent being would only be subject to human logic as far as we think about and try to define this being. Because of the law of non-contradiction (law of human logic). An omnipotent being if it exists can act outside of human logic because it is above it, by way of causing the human logic. Again this does not prove its existence but disproves your initial thought that there is a contradiction which you conclude disproves its existence.

    I believe it is you who is assuming God’s logic is something that “humans can only partly comprehend.” We can only partially understand his logic in the realm of human logic, correct?

    Yes. This is an assumption but it is based on a well thought out epistemology (see David Hume). Briefly, human knowledge comes through human perception. Perceptions are not infallible. We can never attain 100% certitude in our knowledge, but we can come close.

    If you want to argue that human perceptions are infallible then you may have grounds to stand on. But I think you will have a tough time with that one.

  • 145. Thinking Ape  |  December 27, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    kerrin, when you say,

    I only wish to show that the “Omnipotence Paradox” as a proof for atheism is weak at best and primarily based on a false premise. It would be more intellectually honest if this is someone’s proof for atheism to say, “I can’t know” logically if an omnipotent being exists or not.

    I think we are in agreement. I have yet to be convinced of the atheist standpoint, nor have I in the theistic side – I so I continue to reside in the “I can’t know” category, literally (a-gnostic = “without knowledge”). From the way your comments were arguing, you appeared to be giving a positive, rather than a negative argument. I completely agree that there is no proof against the omnipotence of God (only some evidence), but I also believe their is no proof for it (with only evidence being somewhat far-fetched metaphysical ponderings). In all my study of within theology and the philosophy of religion, I have yet to be swayed either way. You will notice that the majority of my critiques of your comments were against a Biblical theism, not a philosophical God.

    As for the God the Father description, those roles have continued to be attributed to the other two “gods” in the “tritheism” of Christianity (especially the HS).

    Furthermore, I stand firm on my belief of theistic incoherence. This god of Christianity continues to be built up so much that we are unable to understand anything about him. Theologizing continues to be but the inner workings of man, with more to do with his own imagination than that of the reality of an omnipotent being. Theologians say they worship God, but they make that God in their own image.

  • 146. jmcrist  |  December 27, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Thinking Ape,

    You said: “What I must ask, then, what do you mean by “the default way of life is always as though God doesn’t”?”

    You mentioned that you do not see much difference in the way the Christian lives his life compared to the atheist. I want to make a quick comment: in evaluating the difference in lifestyles between Christians and atheists, I think it is better to look at the life Jesus calls the Christian too, rather than the life of the Christian itself. For the person you look to may not be a Christian. He may only adhere to the peaceful, life permitting, pro-love aspects of the Gospel – but not to the soveriegnty of Jesus in all areas of the mind, heart, and life. He might affirm Jesus in the world, yet deny Him in his heart. He might attend Church and give a tenth of all he makes in tithe, yet cheat his taxes or harbor lust in his heart. I’m not talking about the occasional “fall” that is common in the Christian life, I am speaking of the continual willful sinful when the man knows he is in full disobedience to Jesus.

    Jesus calls us to die. He calls us to make Him Lord in every place of our lives: our offices, our interests, our actions, dispositions, desires, etc.

    So, what’s the difference between the two? What’s the difference between the man living as though God exists and the man who lives as though He does not?

    Do you willfully lust after women? Do you join in with the rest of the guys when they gawk, stare, drool and comment about the young lady walking past?
    Do you willfully attend to drunkeness?
    Do you willfully cuss those who anger you?
    Do you willfully hate your brother?
    Do you willfully ignore the interest, desire and concern of others to labor after your own?
    Do you willyfully walk the earth with no fear of God in your heart?

    I could go on and on with these. The call of Jesus isn’t to just be “nice” to people, it’s to mourn for the world, weep on your knees because of your sin, and deny yourself at all costs for the sake of Jesus. This list wasn’t written for the purpose of contrasting the Christian’s righeousness with anyone else’s (the Christian gets His righteousness from Jesus alone). I fall into sin myself. It’s the willfullness of these actions, devoid of repentance, that is pulling people ball and chain into Hell.

    Again, do not look to the Christians you know. If you do not see the difference between them and the atheist – there is definitely a problem. Look to the life Jesus calls us to live. That is where the radical difference will lie.

  • 147. jmcrist  |  December 27, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Iris,

    You said: “jmcrist, seriously: how is it *not* a problem for a Christian that there are dozens of major religions, thousands of cults or New Age spiritual systems, many with Sacred Books, some with historical weight.”

    If the following statement is true, what do you think the implications of it are?

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

    You said: “These groups have tenets, moral codes, plans for salvation, and are practically indistinguishable in terms of their claim to Truth.”

    What do you mean that they are indistinguishable? Could you elaborate a little further for me?

    Thanks

  • 148. confusedchristian  |  December 27, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    jmChrist, you asked if I believe in God, I’ll be honest, I do sometimes. I do when I want to believe, but if I put all my desires aside, all my needs, and my wants, I don’t know if he does or doesn’t. You should be able to prove God under the assumption that he may or may not exist. If you are proving God exists with the presupposition that he does, then you’re not proving anything you’re just believing.

    Regarding Jesus saying he’s the way and the truth and the life, what do you think he means when him being the way, the truth, and the life, tells everyone that they must keep God’s commandments or they will perish? Clearly, it seems that he’s not just saying you believe in Jesus and then you don’t have to obey him.

    Also, are you aware that in Islam God says that Jesus must not be worshiped? If you do worship Jesus it is a false idol therefore you will go to hell? What are the implications if the Islamic revelation of God is true and the Christian revelation is False?

  • 149. Thinking Ape  |  December 27, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    jmchrist,

    in evaluating the difference in lifestyles between Christians and atheists, I think it is better to look at the life Jesus calls the Christian too, rather than the life of the Christian itself.

    Why? This would say nothing about Christians or Christianity, since Jesus did not preach much of the mythical aspects of later Christianity. What it would do is compare my life to that of a Jewish philosophical teacher. Jesus preached nothing new on the ethical spectrum. Jesus is predated by the ethical preaching of the Greek philosophers in the west, and in the east he is predated by the majority of what are now known as “eastern religions” (i.e. Buddhism, Taoism, etc.). The world is not separated into Christians vs. non-Christians, even though that is what was taught by the Roman Catholic church for over a millennia. Furthermore, why only pick out the user-friendly version of Jesus? The guy obviously didn’t care much for the institution of the family.

    He may only adhere to the peaceful, life permitting, pro-love aspects of the Gospel – but not to the soveriegnty of Jesus in all areas of the mind, heart, and life. He might affirm Jesus in the world, yet deny Him in his heart.

    So it all goes back to the score-keeping god, doesn’t it. If he doesn’t “act” like how you, who of course is a perfect Christian, believe Christians to act, then he might not even be a real Christian! He is only ruining it for the rest of the perfect troops for Christ! You are getting into dangerous theological waters on this one – if I may ask, are you coming from a Pentecostal background?

    I’m not talking about the occasional “fall” that is common in the Christian life, I am speaking of the continual willful sinful when the man knows he is in full disobedience to Jesus.

    How did we get on this subject? How often do you meet people that are continurally “sinful when the man[/woman] knows he is in full disobedience to Jesus?” I wasn’t talking about Charles Manson. I am talking about Bible-believing, evangelical, missionaries who give everything they have to God, including the prescription that God comes even before family! People, Christian or not, are not, on a general basis, out to get you or out to purposely hurt others. But people do look out for their own self, which conflicts with other selfs. But could you imagine if their were two gods? How about two of your gods? Do you think they could live in perfect harmony, without conflict? Judging from the jealous Yahweh of the OT, I doubt it.

    So, what’s the difference between the two? What’s the difference between the man living as though God exists and the man who lives as though He does not?
    Do you willfully lust after women? Do you join…

    Yes, you must be Pentecostal. Only someone so spiritually superior could equate mankind’s biological impulses to a lack of salvation. The most hilarious thing is that you think this any of those have to do with someone’s spirituality. I could deny most of those horrendous presumptions (especially ones dealing with hatred, lust, and the lack of compassion), but what I find interesting is that you think this has anything to do with living a Christian life, when it looks closer to the Greek Stoics or the cult of Pythagoras. I think, however, you forgot some requirements to your list:
    Are you, jmcrist,
    Poor in Spirit?
    Rich in meekness?
    Merciful?
    A peacemaker?
    Because if you want to sit here and make judgment about people that you know very little about, I would do the same and suggest that you are none of those. Spiritual haughtiness is perhaps the only consistent theme throughout the synoptic Gospels – and it wasn’t in favour of it.

    The call of Jesus isn’t to just be “nice” to people, it’s to mourn for the world, weep on your knees because of your sin, and deny yourself at all costs for the sake of Jesus.

    You are not speaking to ex-nominal Christians here, but thanks for the reminder. I dedicated my entire life to the pursuit of God’s word and only continued to meet people like you who challenged the truth of that. Meanwhile, what I found was that Jesus never called for us to “weep on our knees for our sin and deny ourselves at all costs” – well, unless you are a Gnostic Christian, which would go well with my presumption that you are Pentecostal.

    It’s the willfullness of these actions, devoid of repentance, that is pulling people ball and chain into Hell.

    Oh right, and atheists and bad Christians willfully commit atrocities on a daily basis, while true and almost-perfect Christians, like yourself, only do immoral and corrupt things out of ignorance?

    Look to the life Jesus calls us to live.

    Once again, I have, and some of it looks great. But I have also looked at what he said, according to the canonical (and non-canonical) sources and it sounds nothing like Christianity, especially your version of it. I have also looked at the words of Sakyamuni, Rabbi Hillel, Plato, and found great wisdom in their ethical teachings, some of which surpasses that of the canonical Jesus. Jesus called on people to change their lives, he never told you to engage in blasphemy by worshipping him as a god.

  • 150. Iris  |  December 27, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    jmcrist, I mean to say, as someone not raised inside of xianity or not indoctrinated, more specifically, into any religion, I don’t see much of a difference between the offerings of the major religions. I wasn’t being clear. I really want you to see where I’m coming from here, so this is going to be long.

    Try and see it from my POV. I am a materialist. Three believers of different religions approach me, seeking to make a convert of me. They all seem sincere, well versed and passionate about their beliefs. They carry the Sacred books which belong to their religion, and contain, they claim, the immutable word of God or many Gods. This is the first time I’ve heard about these religions in any detail, so I listen with interest.

    The first person claims they have a pantheon of over 30 million deities. One supreme creator entity, who is all powerful, embodies all of these other deities into itself–except not for all practitioners, he admits, because it is a religion with countless variations and sects. There is a huge body of incredibly ancient sacred literature that describes my lifelong duties, possible ways to approach these duties, and the idea that I accumulate consequences from actions, which will last throughout my many lifetimes–many lifetimes in which
    I will have chances to redeem my former actions. He explains that what he says is completely true, the texts, though translated many times over many thousands of years, are completely true and essential to a life of purpose and that it is incompatible with other systems of belief. As for Brahman, proof of his existence is all around us, in the design of the world and in great miracles, weather events and in the lives of historic prophets and priests and yogis, about whom I can learn in the sacred literature.

    The second tells me that I have a savior. He was God himself, but also the son of God. This God loves me, his creation, above all else. He is Love itself. He is all powerful and all seeing, and he created the world in seven days. The original people he put on Earth sinned, so I am also a sinner, and if I accept his son as my salvation, who died for my sins, I will be redeemed and go to heaven for an existence of eternal bliss. If not, no matter how good of a person I am, no matter who I help or love or care for, I will be condemned by this all loving God to an eternity of torture, because, the man claims, he has a righteous sense of justice. I will not get other chances, like this previous religion that was offered to me. In this religion, like the previous one, I must worship this God, and pay homage to Him. What this religious person believes is definitely true, because this son rose from the dead after three days. This cannot be definitively proven however, so I must believe in him on Faith alone. He may also test me on occasion with hardship, and may reward prayer, or may not. His will is difficult to understand but must accepted without question. This person also has a Sacred Book. It is ancient, but, he admits, it is one of many, many versions of the same book. Some of the chapters of the Sacred Book were left out by the Church who follows the son of god. He claims that his version is the correct one.

    The third person explains that he believes in a sun god. This sun god is the giver of all life and the proof of his power is proved only by looking up at the sky, or at the vegetables on your dinner plate! Sun god cares about your well being, and has a specific set of tenets that were given in a prophesy to the very woman in front of me in 1982. She says that he has worked direct miracles in her life, such as bringing her money, getting her to a gas station when her car was on empty for 40 miles, and curing her of the brain tumor she had for six years. She has dozens of disciples who have also been healed through the sun god’s miraculous power. She has changed her name at His command, and wants to bring other people to his power and glory. Properly worshiping him through meditation and chanting will transport you to his Holy Kingdom after your ceremonial cremation. This cremation will show him that you truly believe that you were created in his image.
    The only punishment for disbelief is that you will never know the beauty of this kingdom.

    Honestly, which would one pick, if they were inclined to do so?
    The one with no hell, with a seemingly visible god? As someone who has no religion, who was taught to be upright and moral and use reasoning and logic, who is content with the intellectual exercise of scientific discovery, who questions and wonders, who appreciates the vastness of nature and space, why would I believe any of these above religions? Please understand that when an evangelist approaches and says Christ is my savior, it is no different than if they said aliens, or narwhals or potatoes were my savior. There is no reason to believe this is true over any other belief system whose adherents insist they are correct and Christians are wrong.

    And, jmcrist, why should I believe a random proselytizer, saying that ONE version of many versions of an ancient, multi-translated book which was written by men and heavily edited (aren’t there over 80 gospels? how do you know which are correct?) by a political body (the Catholic Church) and which has different interpretations by different sects–this version of this book in this language from this sect of this ONE religion in all of the religions, cults and philosophies in human history, which may not even make sense to me at times and cannot be substantiated by science or empirical reasoning–THIS ONE BOOK HAS ALL THE ANSWERS TO LIVE A PURPOSEFUL LIFE AND AVOID A GRISLY, ETERNAL TORTUROUS EXISTENCE IN HELL!

    Whew! I must say, I am not trying to mock you. But I was not indoctrinated into your particular mythology, and saying to me “My version of this book, the right version, says this is so. Christ was resurrected, it says so right here in this book I am predisposed to believe in. So what if the bible(s) compiled by the church are heavily edited and the miracles He performed aren’t substantiated by any historians who lived at that time? It’s real, because I believe it to be true and you should too, or you will be punished terribly.”

    All these ‘options’ present a serious problem for someone who believes God is omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent, I think (jmcrist, what do you think of the ‘keys’ example above?). If God is all good, he wouldn’t want anyone to burn in hell for all eternity because even though they were decent enough folk, they didn’t accept Christ, for whatever reason. Since we are free to choose, He would provide proof of his existence, or at least pare down the cacophony of white noise that is other religions, ‘false’ evidence against the existence of Him, etc. So he is all good…and if he is omnipotent, he knows ahead of time that some percentage of the population will burn in hell because he makes Christianity such an unclear choice, and knows that there are dozens of other religions who say they are the Truth. How can he be both all-good and all-knowing if he basically condemns people to hell based on what family they are born into? How does this make sense at all?

    It cannot be reconciled. At this point, one could say we cannot know god’s will (which jmcrist heartily disagreed with above), and if this is so, what is the point anyway? How is believing in a God with unknowable whims and will necessary to a life of purpose (or an afterlife free of eternal torment)?

  • 151. Iris  |  December 27, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    jmcrist, the keys example is in post 124.

  • 152. Iris  |  December 27, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Oh, and jmcrist…you said:

    “If the following statement is true, what do you think the implications of it are?

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)”

    What if another religion has some other condition for entrance to Heaven? Why are you right and they wrong? You are stating the problem yourself: “IF you believe this to be true…” IF! It’s faith! It’s like saying, “Believe this, and it will make sense”. It should be the other way around!

  • 153. jmcrist  |  December 28, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Thinking Ape,

    You asked the difference between the Christian life, and the non-Christian one. I could have responded by saying that the Christian life ought to be one marked with radical self-denial, love, and servitude for the sake of Jesus. However, I thought it might be more clear if I spelled it out a little bit.

    Regardless, I answered. Now, why don’t some agnostics choose to live as though Jesus is the Christ, rather than as though He isn’t?

    When the agnostic says, “I don’t know if there’s a God,” why is the default position to live as though God doesn’t exist, rather than as if He does.

    This doesn’t make sense to me.

  • 154. jmcrist  |  December 28, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Confused Christian,

    You said: “jmChrist, you asked if I believe in God, I’ll be honest, I do sometimes. I do when I want to believe, but if I put all my desires aside, all my needs, and my wants, I don’t know if he does or doesn’t.”

    This is the existential problem with atheism. Francis Schaeffer wrote a great deal about this in his book The God Who Is There. I recommend picking it up, you might enjoy it (if not, you can always return it).

    He talks about how strange it is that the personal man came from the impersonal universe. He says that if God does not exist, we are worse off than the rocks, because we have deep rooted desires and needs that can never be fulfilled.

    Ravi Zacharias preaches a lot on the existential aspect of God. I’m sure you can find plenty of his podcasts if you Google around for a while. His books (although I’ve never read them) I’m sure are good as well.

    You said: “You should be able to prove God under the assumption that he may or may not exist. If you are proving God exists with the presupposition that he does, then you’re not proving anything you’re just believing.”

    I see what you’re saying here, and let me reassure you. I’m not saying “God exists because it’s in the Bible! Duh!” I realize an argument like that is nothing but fodder.

    The Christian faith is a rational one. However, I think you must examine yourself before evaluating its truth. Are you already closed off to accepting any evidence supporting Christianity? Are you already add odds with Christianity emotionally? Do you dislike it or disagree with Christianity itself because of the hypocricy of some Christians? Have you been burned be Christianity in the past?

    These are serious questions, as they will effect how you interpret the evidence. I’m not saying that the evidence is only good if you’re willing to accept it, I’m saying that your spiritual, moral, and emotional condition will effect how you see it. I think that if you ponder on this for a moment you will see its truth in other realms as well.

    You said: “Regarding Jesus saying he’s the way and the truth and the life, what do you think he means when him being the way, the truth, and the life, tells everyone that they must keep God’s commandments or they will perish? Clearly, it seems that he’s not just saying you believe in Jesus and then you don’t have to obey him.”

    You’re correct. Jesus also says “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” And in John 15, Jesus is telling is disciples that He is the true vine, and we are the branches. He says that if we want to remain in the true vine we have to obey His commands (John 15:9).

    To say that all we must do is believe Jesus, but not obey His commands, will only breed hypocrisy and cheap grace.

    The Christian is saved by grace through faith, in Jesus alone (Eph 2:8). And only he who has faith obeys, and only he who obeys has faith (James 2:14-26).

    You can look up all those Bible verses here: http://www.biblegateway.com

    Now though, back to the question: What do you think Jesus means when He makes His claim to exclusivity – that He is the ONLY way. Does this not mean that all other ways are nill? What do you think?

    You said: “Also, are you aware that in Islam God says that Jesus must not be worshiped? If you do worship Jesus it is a false idol therefore you will go to hell? What are the implications if the Islamic revelation of God is true and the Christian revelation is False?”

    Yes, I understand that Islam says that Jesus is not God. However, I reject that Islam is true. If I’m wrong on this, I will pay eternally. I am aware. But I have full confidence that I am not wrong, based not only on the evidence supporting my worldview, but also because God has made it clear to me (Romans 8:16).

  • 155. jmcrist  |  December 28, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Iris,

    Give me some time. I’ll read through your post and get back to you. But in advance: thank you for your reply.

  • 156. TheDeeZone  |  December 28, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Ravi Zacharias podcast i”Let My People Think” is available through iTunes.

    His website: http://www.rzim.org/

  • 157. confusedchristian  |  December 28, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    jmChrist, I don’t think people naturally want a God to exist, I think people just want answers to why they exist and the “meaning of life” and the answer was given in the field of religion. The idea of eternal life wasn’t really part of a religion until a few pagan religions and Christ. AS far as Judaism goes, especially in the days of Moses, an idea of eternal life was not believed in. All books of Moses speak nothing of an afterlife. It’s also interesting to point out that many eastern religions are much older than Abraham’s revelation.

    Honestly, I prefer the practical approach. Have I been burned by Christianity? No I’ve been burned by people, the only burning I’ve had from the Christian world view is the discovery that its not real. I’m sorry but I’ve had too many unanswered questions that really aren’t much emotional unless you include the emotion of frustration when being faced with the fact that it’s not true and the existence of God cannot be proven.

    Now I understand what you’re saying, that because of circumstances I’ll be quick to refute Christianity. Actually it was because of my inability to intellectually understand Christianity where I decided it isn’t real. Quite the opposite to be honest. If anything, I have a lot more to gain in believing in Christianity (my parents, friends, etc would be happy) and a lot more to lose not believing in Christianity. In fact, I love a lot of people at my church and I enjoy their company.

    So right now I am a closet-atheist. In the Real World, outside of my guise as “confusedchristian” I am believed to be a bible believing Christian. Also, what you’re seeing is a snapshot of me, and I am always changing, and becoming a new person. I am truely becoming “born again’ but in a sense of having a world-view shift. This is because I am letting go of fairy tales.

  • 158. confusedchristian  |  December 28, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    jmChrist, it was my intellectualism that destroyed my faith. Being unable to have a concrete understanding of scriptures all the way to being unable to prove any of this is even Holy. Every time I would think I had the scriptures figured out, there’d be another contradiction that would make my head spin. Instead of growing in faith the more I read the Bible the more I lost myself. I began to be a very unhappy person because I couldn’t decipher what was sin or what wasn’t and I couldn’t figure out how to really interpret the scriptures properly. I couldn’t perform proper exegesis or hermeneutics because I was overwhelmed with conflicting interpretations. It was a slipper slope that lead to apostasy. I could never find any peace in the Religion of Christianity. I could never figure out what Holy Living was or what I was supposed to do to be a follower of Jesus. I understand I could have taken the easy way and just accepted the interpretation of my pastor(s)s but I really wanted to understand it for myself. Combine that with the Bible being unable to be proven and you have apostasy.

    I already said this but I guess you just don’t want to believe that.

  • 159. OneSmallStep  |  December 28, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    J M Crist,

    I surely don’t *think* that God created the Original Man with any inclination in his heart for sin. I could be wrong, I don’t think I am, but I could be – and it might very well be something we’ll never know. It’s interesting that we’ve come to this – it could have saved us a lot of time :p

    Well, it sounds like you don’t think God created man to have an inclination towards anything, either good or bad. Which then leads me back to what created those inclinations? If God did not create man to be attracted towards sin, and yet man was attracted to sin because man ate from the fruit … where did that attraction come from? If not from God, then God was not in complete control of our creation. It also again comes down to the idea of if man does not have desires, why would man do anything? We need those desires, or we’ll just waste away.

    As for man and the primary inclination, I think you’re mistaken about the nature of the inclination. We might not be able to peg it precisely, but I think we can both agree that we have the ability to resist it. Therefore, it does seem just that we are held responsible for not resisting it.

    The problem is, I don’t see Christianity presenting it this way. If I go for a really conservative outlook, the idea is that we don’t have the ability to resist it. Because we are inherently sinful, we will sin by default, unless God intervenes. God intervenes by providing one with faith – as in, no one would seek out God unless God first sought the person. However, man would sin gleefully, without any outside intervention, because that’s how man inherently is. The only way that man can resist it is with the help of God – so, no, we don’t have that ability. If you don’t create something to be inherently good, is it really just to punish that person for not being good when it’s not in their nature?

    I think it is possible for a perfect Being to create something that is imperfect.

    So you think it’s possible for a perfect Being to do something that is imperfect, and not be a contradiction of what perfect means?

    Not exactly – your proposed scenario only seems to move the problem one step backwards, before free will. But it does not escape the dilemma.

    I’m unsure as to how this removes the dilemma backwards. If man is created 100% good, then there’s no force involved. Force only becomes a factor if you are making someone do something against his or her will. But if God makes us 100% good, then God isn’t “forcing” us to love Him, because He’s not going against our will. I also don’t think that saying God creating man 100% good is the same as God creates man to love Him. I differentiate between the two.

    That’s a list of Bible verses that use the word good. There are quite a few that escape the limits of perfection. I can list some if you want – I just figured this was easier.

    I still don’t see this addressing my primary point – if I tell you I’m a good person, or if I tell any conservative Christian I am a good person, they are going to tell me I’m not, because I did not behave perfectly. Perfect behavior is a requirement for being considered good. One sin, and one sin alone, is enough to condemn me to a place other than heaven. That one sin makes me a not good person, if comparing myself to God. God is considered good, and part of that goodness is that God does not sin. Not sinning is equated with perfect behavior. In this case, the context is explained through either describing God, or describing people. If I say that God is good, and I say that people are good, I’m absolutely certain you’ll disagree with me, because people sin.

    If we are going with different contexts, then is there any person you would consider good? Good enough to gain entrence to heaven without intervention from Jesus? If you’re going to say that someone can be good, and still sin occasionally, then how can we apply the word “good” when describing God?

    I would also be curious on your take in the Garden – if Eve decided not to eat of the fruit, but constantly thought about eating the fruit, would that be a sin? She would be willfully lusting after disobeying God.

    What do you think Jesus means when He makes His claim to exclusivity – that He is the ONLY way. Does this not mean that all other ways are nill? What do you think?

    It depends on how you define “exclusive.” I tend to see this statement as not referring to Jesus as a person, but rather what Jesus represents. A call for radical love, and a radical change in behavior. In this case, any way that calls for those qualities is the way to God.

    Now, why don’t some agnostics choose to live as though Jesus is the Christ, rather than as though He isn’t?

    This is an invalid question, though. Per your tradition, even if they did live a life of radical servititude, it wouldn’t matter. They lack the correct beliefs, and thus are condemned to be punished. As it is, I do question your criteria of those who live as though God doesn’t exist – first, do we need some supervisor to ensure that we behave correctly? I know many non-Christians who would try very hard to not willfully do anything you listed, because of the pain it would cause those they care about. Or because they don’t want to be trapped by that sort of behavior. I know many non-Christians who do pursue justice, or try and be peacemakers, or meek, or merciful. That is living as though a God exists.

    Besides, you can’t “choose” to live like Jesus is a certain set of criteria. That’s a belief factor. You can choose to live a moral life, but you can’t choose to live as though certain doctrines are true. Most agnostics I know don’t choose to live as though God doesn’t exist, they choose to live the best life they can, and help others, be kind, and so forth.

    We can’t even use a criteria of the life Jesus calls people towards, because that’s ultimately up to interpretation. How I read the Bible is obviously radically different to how you read it. Or how liberal Christians read it differs from conservative Christians.

    The Christian faith is a rational one. However, I think you must examine yourself before evaluating its truth. Are you already closed off to accepting any evidence supporting Christianity? Are you already add odds with Christianity emotionally? Do you dislike it or disagree with Christianity itself because of the hypocricy of some Christians? Have you been burned be Christianity in the past?

    I would be incredibly careful with statements like these. First, you find it to be a rational system. I don’t find conservative Christianity rational at all. But what you are really doing here, or at least coming across as doing, is making a judgement call on every single person who disagrees with you. You are saying to us that we have no intellectual reasons for not believing this as the truth, but rather we just don’t want to believe it based on a variety of emotional factors. If this is truly how you feel, then what is the point in even discussing any of this with you? You seem to be operating under the assumption that you know us very well, simply because we don’t agree with your doctrine. But if you really feel this is the case, then I’d have to wonder whether anything I say would do any good.

  • 160. karen  |  December 28, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    When the agnostic says, “I don’t know if there’s a God,” why is the default position to live as though God doesn’t exist, rather than as if He does. This doesn’t make sense to me.

    Think about this: If you didn’t know there was a god, would you go around worshiping something that felt imaginary or trying to believe in something you just couldn’t buy? I doubt it. If you did, you’d feel extremely false and you’d be resentful that you were wasting time and priorities on something that you were skeptical about.

    Or think about it this way: Why do you take the default position of not believing in UFOs, or Hindu reincarnation, or New Age healing crystals or any number of extraordinary truth claims (assuming that you don’t believe in those things)?

    It’s probably because you don’t find enough solid, objective evidence out there to support such fantastic notions. Sure, you can find plenty of “true believers” in each of those propositions who will give you vivid personal experiences that seem to “prove” their validity. But I doubt you’d take those experiences and change your mind, without additional factors.

    As Carl Sagan so famously said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Is that so hard to understand? He also said:

    For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

  • 161. kerrin  |  December 29, 2007 at 2:15 am

    Thinking Ape,

    Thanks for keeping this a rational and not emotional discussion. You agreed with my argument against the “Omnipotent Paradox” and said:

    I completely agree that there is no proof against the omnipotence of God (only some evidence)

    I appreciate your honest, intelligent, and rational approach to my comments. It would have been easy to not say anything in response. It is my view that atheist propaganda (like the “omnipotent paradox”) is just as harmful as christian propaganda when it comes to a rational intelligent discussion of such matters. What do you think?

    In your first comment on this post you honestly stated:

    I’m not really interested in the philosophical aspect of this debate because the issue of God’s omnipotence has never convinced me either way.

    It probably didn’t convince you in the same way it did not convince me… it is based on a false premise and doesn’t take into account a plausible (though not verifiable) logical explanation of an omnipotent being. Why would you not say instead: the philosophical premise for this post is false and therefore not worthy of an intelligent discussion?
    That would have saved you from having to answer all this other stuff that has little to do with the original post.

    From the way your comments were arguing, you appeared to be giving a positive, rather than a negative argument.

    In my comment to you I mistakenly thought you meant theist when you said “Biblical and Koranic”. In my comments to the author of this post I sought to challenge his false premise… the only way to do so was with logical philosophy (not through the Bible or the Koran or theology). I’m not sure how I could have done so with a “negative argument”. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Point being, we reached a conclusion, finally, the statement:”God is not Omnipotent” is false, it’s not a rational argument. A more appropriate and rational discussion may have been framed around something like: “If there is a God he could be omnipotent” or since atheist like to be negative: “God is probably not omnipotent”.

    I may be taking us way off topic with the next questions. So let me know if you would rather not discuss these here.

    As for the God the Father description, those roles have continued to be attributed to the other two “gods” in the “tritheism” of Christianity (especially the HS).

    Agreed, most contemporary Christian theology gets this wrong biblically.

    Furthermore, I stand firm on my belief of theistic incoherence. This god of Christianity continues…

    Are you equating a philosophical theists with Christianity? Or just saying that the contemporary Christian theists position is incoherent? In your view was there ever a coherent theistic position?

    Theologizing continues to be but the inner workings of man, with more to do with his own imagination than that of the reality of an omnipotent being. Theologians say they worship God, but they make that God in their own image.

    If there was a body of theology that rational explained a God that was not in man’s image would you be open to it? Or do you believe that you have exhaustively studied theology and have concluded there are none that do so?

    If you would prefer we can discuss this via email. I am very interested in your thoughts and learning from your prospective… only wish we could talk over some fine brew!

    Cheers!

  • 162. Thinking Ape  |  December 29, 2007 at 3:32 am

    Kerrin, I feel that we are probably a lot closer in conclusions that we probably thought we were – we just are viewing certain aspects of the arguments at hand at differing stages in our life. I think we are also sometimes using words very consciously without realizing that the other might not have picked up on that consciousness – I know I am often guilty of that (i.e. the whole theistic vs. biblical comment).

    But alas, let me respond to your latest comment and clarify some things I said earlier. When you ask me for a response on this:

    It is my view that atheist propaganda (like the “omnipotent paradox”) is just as harmful as christian propaganda when it comes to a rational intelligent discussion of such matters.

    I first instinct is to agree. Yet at the same time I am careful of the word “propaganda” because of its connotations. I won’t bother with semantics, since I think I know what you are saying. I think that the original author of this post would agree with how you put the hypothesis “God is probably x” – but that doesn’t make a good title, does it? Obviously this is not a philosophical dissertation, so many liberties are taken with such arguments on this blog because it stirs discussion and good debate, like this one.

    I loathe that you quoted me when I said,

    I’m not really interested in the philosophical aspect of this debate because the issue of God’s omnipotence has never convinced me either way.

    I honestly haven’t looked back on the original article for several days, but I wrote the above quote with my academic studies in mind. The reason I didn’t like that you just reminded of that is because I obviously did get caught up in this debate. My original undergraduate major (well, after Theology) was Philosophy, specifically concentrated in the philosophy of religion. It is my weakness, but I don’t care for it. It is like chasing the little white rabbit that never actually existed.

    So when you wished I said,

    …the philosophical premise for this post is false and therefore not worthy of an intelligent discussion?

    I could not do this honestly. I think it most definitely warrants discussion, especially if there is a flaw in its reasoning. But like I said earlier, the purpose of the majority of this site is to stir discussion, not give solid answers and spew atheist propaganda. If the original author had not wrote this article, we would not be tackling some of the issues that we have been – whether they were random tangents or not.

    Speaking of tangents…

    Are you equating a philosophical theists with Christianity?

    Nno. I equate philosophical theists with some, most of them dead, sophistacated theologians and philosophers who have found the rational arguments for a theistic god as somewhat plausible or, like Sir Thomas Aquinas, attempted to do so and found the entire project to be rendered moot and decided to rest on faith. These people may be Christian, but are more likely to be agnostic theists or reformed Jews or Muslims.

    Or just saying that the contemporary Christian theists position is incoherent? In your view was there ever a coherent theistic position?

    No and no. If there was ever a coherent theistic position, it was accomplished by those of the Jewish tradition, but even then its coherence was overshadowed by its lack of universalism.

    If there was a body of theology that rational explained a God that was not in man’s image would you be open to it? Or do you believe that you have exhaustively studied theology and have concluded there are none that do so?

    I’ll answer that second question first: no I have not, nor will I ever. What I have done is, in an answer to your first question, more or less ruled out any major example that could even display the philosophical possibility that God can be seen or experiences without man – at least by man. The best analogy I can think of is, like all analogies, limited and flawed, but here it is: if the number “one” had thoughts and insights, what insights would it have on the number “two thousand”? “Four thousand”? “One million”? How about “infinite”? One has never experience two, three, or four – so how can it possibly comprehend “infinite” except but thinking of it as a series of “ones” that never stops?
    Perhaps that analogy works for you, perhaps it doesn’t. It is the best I have right now.

    If you would prefer we can discuss this via email. I am very interested in your thoughts and learning from your prospective… only wish we could talk over some fine brew!

    Unfortunately I am horrendous with respond to emails (especially long, in-depth ones that make me think too hard). I occasionally respond to particular topics at our sister site, d-C org, but we could also continue any discussion on the forum there as well.
    As for the brew, check me up if you are ever in the Vancouver, BC area :D

  • 163. oakenthief  |  December 29, 2007 at 7:36 am

    jmcrist, I’m not sure if you will post anymore on this thread, but consider this post from a de-converted xian author at de-converion.com. This gets to the heart of my problem with all of your arguements:

    Leopardus said:

    “Bill:

    For if you exist and yet the universe cannot and does not know it, then perhaps God exists and you cannot know it — or do not know it — yet!

    Or from your POE posts at your own site:

    For all any one of us knows, an all-wise God would say to us, “You know, I am destroying evil, I am alleviating suffering; and this is the ONLY way for me to do so. This is omniscience intervening.”

    It doesn’t fly. Just look at it from another angle:

    Perhaps God does not exist and you don’t know it yet.

    OR

    For all any of us knows, an all-wise God would say to us, “I’m not destroying evil. It would only take me less than a nanosecond if I did decide to. You’re on your own. This is omniscience not intervening.”

    Bruce put it simply in saying that your default assumption is that God exists. This is a presupposition. It forces you to direct all consideration toward upholding the presupposition. As long as you hold it, you won’t be able to grasp what we see.

    I know this because I was there. Only a couple years ago I could not grasp the concept of there not being a God. Atheism was, from my point of view, just impossible. It seemed like a form of brain damage.

    I can’t point to a magic moment when I shed the presupposition of God’s existence. But it happened. And it was just so flaming obvious. Years of apologetic scales fell off my eyes. And now I can’t understand how I was so blind for so long.

  • 164. oakenthief  |  December 29, 2007 at 7:38 am

    I’m sorry, duh it’s too early! It was Leopardus at debunking….I just liked the way it was worded. jmsrist, you are welcome to respond in email at oakenthief@gmail.com

  • 165. oakenthief  |  December 29, 2007 at 7:55 am

    oops…jmcrist, oakenthief is Iris!

  • 166. kerrin  |  January 1, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Thinking Ape,

    I think [this post] most definitely warrants discussion, especially if there is a flaw in its reasoning.

    You are right. Maybe I was being too aggressive in proposing this post has no merit. I know that hearing your prospective has been beneficial to me and would not have happened without the author writing this post. Also I have benefited by trying to disprove a popular atheist proof for God’s nonexistence, it has helped me to see how to frame and qualify my statements better…. thanks bry000000!

    And now back to my tangent which may not be that much of a tangent after all. When you say:

    What I have done is, in an answer to your first question, more or less ruled out any major example that could even display the philosophical possibility that God can be seen or experiences without man – at least by man.

    Have you ruled out the possibility that if there is an omnipotent being that it could be self-revealing? How? Furthermore have you ruled out that this being may have chose to reveal itself through humans, who are limited in knowledge by their perceptions, by temporally bypassing their imperfect perceptions with omnipotence?

    if the number “one” had thoughts and insights, what insights would it have on the number “two thousand”? “Four thousand”? “One million”? How about “infinite”? One has never experience two, three, or four – so how can it possibly comprehend “infinite” except but thinking of it as a series of “ones” that never stops?

    It’s a good analogy but doesn’t quit cut it for me because of the above questions. By the way I think I’ve read a similar illustration used for refuting Hume’s philosophy of unique events (miracles).

  • 167. Thinking Ape  |  January 1, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Kerrin asks,

    Have you ruled out the possibility that if there is an omnipotent being that it could be self-revealing? How?

    Depends what you mean by self-revealing. If it looks human, then it probably is human. I have not ruled out the possibility that an Almighty would have the capability of revealing itself, but at the same time that is no longer my default position. That self-revealing God would have to give evidence of its Godhood before I automatically worshipped at its feet (not too mention that I would probably not worship a God I felt was morally inferior to the majority of humans, i.e. Zeus, Loki, Yahweh, etc.).

    Furthermore have you ruled out that this being may have chose to reveal itself through humans, who are limited in knowledge by their perceptions, by temporally bypassing their imperfect perceptions with omnipotence?

    I am not too sure what you mean by your qualifying statement, “…by temporally bypassing their imperfect perceptions with omnipotence.” Imperfection is simply that. A finite being can understand finitely, or additionally, can understand a finite amount of an infinite (which is what I was getting at with my analogy). If an Almighty exists, It could, theoretically, do as It wishes. But like I said, that cannot be my default position or else I would be following David Icke or whatever nutjob claiming to be God. So my is no, I have not ruled out the possibility of accepting such a situation, I simply have not found any evidence, yet, that such a situation has happened. In the last several years I have had to reject orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism based on literary-historical grounds. Christian mysticism, Islamic Sufiism, and Buddhism all seem more plausible, but all incorporate extremely speculative conclusions.

    By the way I think I’ve read a similar illustration used for refuting Hume’s philosophy of unique events (miracles).

    I remember reading his short treatise against miracles, but don’t recall said example. It is possible, though, that numbers would have been used, but then again, I didn’t find the Humean argument against miracles very persuasive.

  • 168. jmcrist  |  January 2, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Iris,

    Thanks for your reply. I apologize it took me so long to get back to you. I’m on Christmas break and, to be honest, it’s slipped my mind.

    You said: “jmcrist, I mean to say, as someone not raised inside of xianity or not indoctrinated, more specifically, into any religion,”

    I realize the argument was never laid out explicitly, but it seems to me that part of your beef with my Christianity is that I was raised with it, therefore it is unreasonable. However, I was not raised inside of Christianity. I grew up in a very secular household. We did not attent Church on Sundays, and we didn’t pray before meals. I was actually an atheist for 3 1/2 – 4 years before becoming a Christian (age of 19).

    When I think about it, not one of my Christian friends grew up in Christian families. And the one Christian friend I had that was raised in a Christian family isn’t Christian anymore. So you can throw out the whole idea that God is condemning people based on the family they grew up in.

    As for the remainder of your post, I’m going to focus on the suppossed Christian who approaches you – as my argument is that Christianity is true.

    You said: “What this religious person believes is definitely true, because this son rose from the dead after three days. This cannot be definitively proven however, so I must believe in him on Faith alone.”

    First of all, what would it take to definitively prove that Jesus rose from the dead? What kind of evidence are you looking for?

    Second of all, the Biblical definition of faith is “trust.” It has been redefined in western culture to mean “belief in that for which there is no proof.” I’m just saying that when the Bible says that someone must have faith, it is speaking of trust – not pulling down the blinders and plunging forward without your intelligence. Faith in Christ is trust in Christ – in His promises.

    You said: “His will is difficult to understand but must accepted without question.”

    I’m not saying that this isn’t taught in some Churches, but it’s definitely not in the Bible. Questions are not a bad thing – just get them wrestled with. Questions that are not wrestled with are what leads to ignorance.

    You said: “This person also has a Sacred Book. It is ancient, but, he admits, it is one of many, many versions of the same book.”

    What do you mean that it is “one of many, many versions”?

    You said: “Some of the chapters of the Sacred Book were left out by the Church who follows the son of god. He claims that his version is the correct one.”

    What are you speaking of here? Which chapters were left out? Where is this claim coming from?

    You said: “And, jmcrist, why should I believe a random proselytizer, saying that ONE version of many versions of an ancient, multi-translated book which was written by men and heavily edited (aren’t there over 80 gospels? how do you know which are correct?)”

    Again, what do you mean when you say “multi-translated?”

    Heavily edited? Who edited it and where?

    Over 80 gospels? How do I know which is correct?

    This isn’t difficult to figure out. The gospels of Peter and Mary and Thomas, etc. are gnostic gospels – as well as many others (and by the way, there’s not nearly 80 of them). Not only were they written well after Jesus ministry on earth, but they are written in a different language (not native to early Palestine), and contain teachings of the Gnostic religions in them. It’s very, very, very clear that they are counterfeit.

    You said: “jmcrist, what do you think of the ‘keys’ example above?”

    I don’t like the example. It’s incorrect. First, it says that God locked us into a burning building. According to Christianity, we locked and set the building on fire ourselves. Second, it paints God as evil. But according to Christianity, God desires that all men be saved (1 Tim 2:3-4), and He showed His love to us by sending His only Son Jesus into the burning building to set us free (1 John 4:9).

    Look, I don’t think it’s that difficult to find God. He says that “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).

    If you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him – it’s that simple.

    I have a question for you. Have you studied any of this? Have you looked into Christianity at all? Have you tried to find out if there was any historical evidence for Jesus resurrection? Have you looked into how the Bible got to us? How was it translated? How was it preserved?

    Have you honestly sought out the truth in any of this?

    When I was an atheist, I didn’t. I simply took the arguments of intelligent, yet defiant philosophers, such as Nietzsche, and held tightly to those. I never, not once, looked at the other side’s defences. Have you?

  • 169. karen  |  January 2, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I have a question for you. Have you studied any of this? Have you looked into Christianity at all? Have you tried to find out if there was any historical evidence for Jesus resurrection? Have you looked into how the Bible got to us? How was it translated? How was it preserved?

    Have you honestly sought out the truth in any of this?

    jm, you need to read LeoPardus’s post, “Who are the de-cons” and you’ll understand better where we are coming from. It’s here:

    http://de-conversion.com/2007/10/28/by-the-way-who-are-the-de-cons/

    When I was an atheist, I didn’t. I simply took the arguments of intelligent, yet defiant philosophers, such as Nietzsche, and held tightly to those. I never, not once, looked at the other side’s defences. Have you?

    Again, see the above post. You’ll find that we were 100% committed Christians and thought long and hard about all of us both while we were involved in churches and during the arduous process of deconversion.

  • 170. Thinking Ape  |  January 2, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Just as a corrective note to jmcrist’s latest comment:

    the Biblical definition of faith is “trust.”

    The Biblical usage of faith is closer to “commitment,” which is why the Jewish tradition does not rely on a “belief-based” structure like Christianity – early Christians quickly focused the meaning of “faith” to “belief” and was again expanded to “belief in something unseen” during the Protestant Reformation.
    Anthropologists speculate that the movement from the Jewish “covenant-based” model to the Christian “belief-based” model has been a result of the distancing of God from our imminent lives (i.e. God is not as responsible for the changing as the seasons and the bringing of bountiful food like he use to be – he lets us work hard for that now).
    Jmcrist’s usage of “trust” is no better than just saying “faith” because it would simply replace the word without any explanation; watch what happens when I replace “faith” with “trust” in the definition that jmcrist does not care for:
    [trust is the] belief in that for which there is no proof.

    In the Jewish tradition, a covenant was a two-sided tangible promise – one that many believe Yahweh broke. In mythological Christianity, there is no tangible covenant – only a “trust” in something unseen. However, the earliest documents of Christianity would show that, if read through the Jewish eyes that wrote them, “faith” has nothing to do with belief or trust.

  • 171. HeIsSailing  |  January 2, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    jmcrist says:

    Questions are not a bad thing – just get them wrestled with. Questions that are not wrestled with are what leads to ignorance.

    One of the pastors of my church said this same thing to me when I was really struggling with my Christian faith. Now that I have left Christianity, I no longer get phone calls or invitations to his house.

    jmcrist, would you say that questions are not a bad thing only if the answers lead one back to Christian faith? What if the answers one finds leads one away from faith like it did with me? Would you say that we found the wrong answers, were disingenuous with the evidence, were prideful, or otherwise did something to allow our sinful natures to be tempted by answers we wanted to believe rather than answers that were truthful? Are questions harmful if they lead one away from faith in Christ? Just curious what your take on that is.

  • 172. jmcrist  |  January 3, 2008 at 2:09 am

    To All:

    (Or mainly just the people I haven’t replied to yet): I’ll get there! Just give me some time. Thanks!

    Thinking Ape,

    I understand that it won’t work entirely in every instance. But, the Old and New Testament idea of faith carried with it the idea of trust. The contemporary understanding of faith has more to do with blind belief, wouldn’t you agree?

    Karen,

    Read. But, to be honest, I still wonder if Iris has looked into these things. Remember, he asked if there were 80 gospels (a statisitic taken from Da Vinci Code, if I’m not mistaken). Anyone who has studied textual criticism or the formation of the New Testament amongst the heretical gospels would know that there were not nearly 80. That’s all I’m saying.

    HelsSailing,

    Look, I believe we should be committed to the truth – so much so that if irrefutable evidence were presented to me that Jesus did not raise from the dead, I would leave Christianity.

    Do I think you were insincere? Nah. I don’t know what happened. I don’t really think anything negative of your persons, I just think you’re wrong :p (just like you think I’m wrong).

    I hope you don’t take offence.

    -Michael

  • 173. HeIsSailing  |  January 3, 2008 at 10:22 am

    jmcrist:

    I hope you don’t take offence.

    No offense taken. I just think it is a bizarre belief in that we will be judged because we were convinced by the wrong evidence. What happened to rebellion against God?

  • 174. Thinking Ape  |  January 3, 2008 at 11:49 am

    jmcrist response regarding faith:

    I understand that it won’t work entirely in every instance. But, the Old and New Testament idea of faith carried with it the idea of trust. The contemporary understanding of faith has more to do with blind belief, wouldn’t you agree?

    Certainly, I was only nitpicking – “trust” is closer to the classical idea of “faith” than our contemporary blind faith (especially in North America and its missiological offshoots). I just wanted to briefly show, for the record, that “faith” has a fairly complex history and means different things to different people and people groups (not to mention eras of people). My reason for “correction” was only because I have heard this “faith as trust” concept pop up in online and realtime Christian sermons, and each time they allude to it as if that was what the most accurate sense of the word was in the earliest Christianity. But if baby steps are needed…

  • 175. iris  |  January 3, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    jmcrist, I know you’re getting to the post. I have read some apologetics, and I did not get my eighty-gospels statistic from the D’vinci code (I haven’t read it), though I will retract it for the time being. I will not retract that the Bible(s) as we know them are heavily edited by the churches that built them. The Church’s compilation of the Bible was selective and purposeful. Modern translations (I’m thinking of NIV here) dishonestly translate ‘slave’ to ‘servant’ to make the Bible more palatable, among other dishonesties. Is anyone rushing to add other pieces of ‘the Bible’ that are discovered in modern times? Who decides if they do or do not belong in the Bible(s)? Why does the GO text have more books? The point really is, if it is god’s word, why is it so damn confusing, and which text is correct?

  • 176. jmcrist  |  January 3, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Iris,

    I did respond to your post, my reply is #168.

    You said: ” I will not retract that the Bible(s) as we know them are heavily edited by the churches that built them.”

    Can you please provide some evidence of this? How was the Bible heavily edited? Where at?

    You said: “Modern translations (I’m thinking of NIV here) dishonestly translate ’slave’ to ’servant’ to make the Bible more palatable, among other dishonesties.”

    I don’t know that I would call this a dishonesty. There are words in the Koine Greek which we do not have an accurate representation of in the English. When we come across a word that has two to three meanings in English, what do we do? I’m no translator, but I’m guessing the scholars get together, discuss it, and choose what they think is the best option.

    Another thing to realize is that no translations are going to be perfect. The NIV is a meaning for meaning translation, where the ESV is more literal, and is a word for word translation. The result is that the NIV has more readability but is less accurate in places, while the ESV is more accurate but less readable.

    Regardless of these differences, the NIV is still a VERY good translation. If you look into the differences that surface in these translations, they are slight.

    You said: “Is anyone rushing to add other pieces of ‘the Bible’ that are discovered in modern times?”

    Well, what other pieces of the Bible are you speaking of? As far as I know, the modern gospels which rush through the news every few years are usually bogus. The Gospel of Judas was written near the end of the third century (that’s at least 200 years after Christ) in Coptic by a sect of Gnostics. It was very easy for scholars to figure out that this was an imposter – not written by an eye witness or at the hand of an eye witness.

    If you’re referring to any other books, let me know and I’ll look into it.

    You said: “Who decides if they do or do not belong in the Bible(s)?”

    I would go into this, but it’s a big topic. Here are some resources below.

    Check this out (these are videos): http://leestrobel.master.com/texis/master/search/?sufs=2&thesaurus=1&q=New+Testament+Canon&s=.1

    And this offers a decent explanation:

    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/bibleorigin.html

    This explains how the manuscripts were copied one from the other (helpful for anyone who thinks they basically played the telephone game):

    http://stoneswillcryout.blogspot.com/2007/05/about-week-and-half-ago-i-posted-my.html

    You said: “Why does the GO text have more books?”

    I’m not sure I understand this question. What is the GO text?

    You said: “The point really is, if it is god’s word, why is it so damn confusing, and which text is correct?”

    Well, if some research is done on the topic the confusion clears. History tells us which text is authentic and which is not.

    As for the understanding of the Bible when it is read, it can be a difficult process because of the cultural differences. Most of the Bible was written by very Jewish people, in a very Jewish culture, who did things in a very Jewish way. Sometimes one will come to a place in the Bible and find a difficult passage.

    For instance, Paul says in the New Testament that God will save women in childbearing. What does this mean? After getting into the cultural context, we find that Paul was writing to Timothy in Ephesus, a city full of people that worshipped Artemis, the goddess of fertility. The thought was that Artemis would save women in childbearing if they performed certain tasks and rituals. Paul, in writing this, is saying that Artemis is bunk – it is the one true God that will save women in childbearing.

    I hope this cleared some things up. I’m looking forward to your response.

    HelsSailing:

    What do you believe? How did you come to that conclusion? I’m interested.

    Thinking Ape,

    I think we were in agreement the whole time and just didn’t realize it. Or, maybe you realized it and I didn’t.

  • 177. HeIsSailing  |  January 3, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    jmcrist asks:

    What do you believe? How did you come to that conclusion? I’m interested.

    jmcrist, I am a former contributor to this site. I don’t have the time I once had, but if you check out some of my older articles, you should get a pretty good idea of what I now believe, don’t believe, and why.

    jmcrist:

    Can you please provide some evidence of this? How was the Bible heavily edited? Where at?

    One of the best books on this topic that I am aware of is Bart Erhman’s, ‘Orthodox Corruption of Scripture’. It is scholarly, heavily documented, and shows how many of the variants in the oldest NT manuscripts can be mapped to heresies that were prevalent during the formative years of Christianity. It is one of my favorites.

    I don’t think it is quite as bad as Iris is making it to be, however. Although Erhman demonstrates many textual variants, not all made it into the final product.

    Iris, there are a lot of good sources out there that discuss the formation of the Christain New Testament canon(s), and textual transmission, and a lot of bogus junk. I am not a Christian, but I think most Christian and non-Christian scholars agree pretty much on the basics of this subject. Bottom line is it is not quite as bad as you are making it out to be. For instance, I don’t think anybody considers any of the Gnostic Gospels (with the exception perhaps to the Gospel of Thomas) to preserve any historical truth regarding Jesus.

  • 178. jmcrist  |  January 7, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    Sorry it took me so long to respond.

    You said: “The problem is, I don’t see Christianity presenting it this way. If I go for a really conservative outlook, the idea is that we don’t have the ability to resist it. Because we are inherently sinful, we will sin by default, unless God intervenes. God intervenes by providing one with faith – as in, no one would seek out God unless God first sought the person. However, man would sin gleefully, without any outside intervention, because that’s how man inherently is. The only way that man can resist it is with the help of God – so, no, we don’t have that ability.”

    I’m not a Calvinist, so I disagree with much of the theology you tore apart here.

    You said: “So you think it’s possible for a perfect Being to do something that is imperfect, and not be a contradiction of what perfect means?”

    Right. As I said before, creation implies imperfection.

    You said: “If man is created 100% good, then there’s no force involved. Force only becomes a factor if you are making someone do something against his or her will.”

    In any case, the problem is that man does not have a choice. Whether God forces it onto the man or He creates Him with that limitation, the problem is the same.

    I’m not sure we’re going to get anywhere with this. It’s been a good philosophical discussion, but the fact is that we don’t know how God created man exactly. Most of it is speculation.

    You said: “It depends on how you define “exclusive.” I tend to see this statement as not referring to Jesus as a person, but rather what Jesus represents. A call for radical love, and a radical change in behavior. In this case, any way that calls for those qualities is the way to God.”

    I disagree with this. The Bible is very clear on the exclusivity of Jesus.

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2010:1-21;&version=31;

    Jesus is the gate (John 10:1-21), the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

    “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

    Acts 4:11-13

    “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12)

    You said: “This is an invalid question, though. Per your tradition, even if they did live a life of radical servititude, it wouldn’t matter.”

    Right, I realize this. But look:

    People have two choices – live as though God exists or as He doesn’t.

    I’ve never met an agnostic that tries to live as though He does.

    That’s all I’m saying.

    You said: “I would be incredibly careful with statements like these. First, you find it to be a rational system. I don’t find conservative Christianity rational at all. But what you are really doing here, or at least coming across as doing, is making a judgement call on every single person who disagrees with you. You are saying to us that we have no intellectual reasons for not believing this as the truth, but rather we just don’t want to believe it based on a variety of emotional factors.”

    I’m not saying that anybody is stupid. I apologize if this comment was taken that way – I did not mean to insult anyone.

    I think that it is possible for people to have false beliefs that are rationally justified. I mean, thank about it, if it wasn’t rationally justified to you you wouldn’t believe it! Take a look at past scientific theories for example. For instance, look at the flat earth theory. Don’t you think the people back then were rationally justified, based on their observations, in concluding that the earth was flat? Everything they had told them the earth was flat – but they were wrong.

    Another thing – and I’ll think you’ll agree with me on this – for many people emotional factors do come in to play. This is true on both sides, Christians and non-Christians. I’m sure there are a lot of Christians with nothing but emotional objections toward atheism, or emotions that effect their evaluation of atheism. But there are also atheists with nothing but emotional objections towards Christianity.

    That’s why, if one wants to evaluate the evidence fairly, he first needs to look in himself.

    You said: “If this is truly how you feel, then what is the point in even discussing any of this with you? You seem to be operating under the assumption that you know us very well, simply because we don’t agree with your doctrine. But if you really feel this is the case, then I’d have to wonder whether anything I say would do any good.”

    As far as convincing me, we’re traveling down the wrong road. We’re currently arguing finer points of theology. I don’t think, given the Scriptures, you’ll be able to prove that God is evil or not omnipotent. Your best bet in convincing me that God does not exist, I think, would be to dive into the origins of the universe, or the historical evidence surrounding the resurrection of Christ. If you want to continue to discuss these things (and I’m willing), I’d like to take the conversation to email. It’s easier for me to edit long responses and offer replies (I can save drafts and the such)

  • 179. confusedchristian  |  January 7, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    2 Choices “live as though God exists or he doesn’t”
    that’s wrong on so many levels.

    No need to really articulate.

  • 180. Thinking Ape  |  January 7, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    jmcrist, you say that

    The Bible is very clear on the exclusivity of Jesus.

    but you only use examples from the Johannine tradition (John 10:1-21, 11:25, 14:6, and 1 John 5:12); why is that? I mean, using the Bible itself seems somewhat circular, but only using one tradition of works within the Bible appears to exclude the complexities of different Jesus traditions that the other texts were written by and for.

  • 181. confusedchristian  |  January 7, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Paul declares in Romans 5 that Christ’s victory is far greater than Adam’s transgression! Listen to Paul’s confidence in the work of Christ! If Paul believed people had to recognize Jesus to enter heaven or burn in hell, how could he write the following verses?

    “.Just as the result of one trespass (Adam’s) was condemnation for all men , so also the result of one act of righteousness (Christ’s) was justification that brings life for all men . For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. ( Romans 5:18,19).

    “Since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

    “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4;10).

  • 182. LeoPardus  |  January 7, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    TA:

    He cited Acts. That’s not Johannine. He could have cited I Timothy 2:5. There are more.As far as I’ve ever been concerned, it is exclusive.

    If you can make a solid case for the non-exclusivity of Christianity, from the Bible, I’d be interested.

  • 183. Thinking Ape  |  January 7, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Leo,
    Oh, I am well aware that the majority of the early Christian writings, canonical or not, make an argument for the exclusivity of Jesus, I was wondering why he chose those specific passages. I did not see the Acts citation, perhaps I have a blind spot for that book. Although Acts is not Johannine, it is, along with the Pastoral Epistles, relatively late developments when compared to the authentic Pauline epistles or other early Christian writings (Mark, Matthew, etc.).

  • 184. Thinking Ape  |  January 7, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    BTW, he merely thew in a citation, but unlike the others, he did not quote it – my eyes glazed over, my bad.

  • 185. jmcrist  |  January 7, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Thinking Ape & confusedchristian,

    Here’s a couple verses from Paul for you:

    “But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”[a] that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:8-10)

    “12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12-14)

    “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:9)

    “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (2 Tim 2:10)

    “14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Tim 3:14-16)

    I didn’t quote the Acts verse because it was a bit long and required context.

  • 186. OneSmallStep  |  January 7, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    J M Crist,

    I’m not a Calvinist, so I disagree with much of the theology you tore apart here.

    I’ve seen many non-Calvinists present Christianity this way as well, including the aspect of free will. I’ve seen many non-Calvinists say that we don’t have the ability to be good without God’s intervention at all.

    Right. As I said before, creation implies imperfection.

    But the point about this wasn’t what creation implied. The point was what the word “perfect” involves, which is that something perfect cannot produce imperfection. If we say that it can because creation is imperfect, this doesn’t solve the problem of the very meaning of the word “perfect.” If I say I am perfect, and yet produce an imperfect work of art, then I cannot hold to the description of “perfect” in terms of myself. Otherwise, the work of art would also be perfect.

    If we look to creation, it seems like we’d be going backwards in order to define the word “perfect.” Rather than say “This is what perfect means” and then see if creation matches up to the definition, we look at creation and say even though it’s imperfect, it still came from a perfect creator. It’s using the results to define the word, rather than having an objective standard to see if the results merit the description of the word.

    In any case, the problem is that man does not have a choice. Whether God forces it onto the man or He creates Him with that limitation, the problem is the same.

    I think what I was originally commenting on was the aspect of God forcing someone to love Him, and how “force” is only applicable if there’s free will involved. If man is 100% good, then man can’t be forced to follow anything that is good.

    But why is it a problem if there’s no free will in terms of doing good? (I think a standard response to this is that God doesn’t want robots, but God would get robots in the end anyway, when people choose God. In heaven/afterlife/after the second coming, there’d be no evil anyway, which means that man would have to be 100% good in order to lack the ability to do evil. If free will were that valuable, shouldn’t man have it for an eternity?) Why wouldn’t you want a creation that is created wholly good, with no room for evil? Free will itself is pretty much useless to God, because He knows what will occur anyway. There are no surprises to Him. And, I still get dragged back to the inclination factor. If God did not create man 100% good, as you seem agree with, then there had to be something to fill in that “non-good gap.” It would mean that by creating man with free will, God had to create man to be both good and non-good. Free will can only exist is man is created to do both evil and good. And so I circle – again and again and again :) – around the point that God had to create man with the ability to do evil. Or free will wouldn’t have worked.

    I disagree with this. The Bible is very clear on the exclusivity of Jesus.

    I do find it curious that none of the Synoptic Gospels were quoted here (and I would say that it was more portions of the NT that insist on the exclusivity, not the entire Bible itself). The reason I say why the John verse of the way/truth/life, no one approaches except thorugh Jesus focuses more on what he represents rather than who he is is due to the Synoptics. For instance, replace the word “Jesus” with “Love.” Or mercy, or any other attribute of God. The statement still works, especially if Jesus is set up as a contrast to Adam. Love as a way to God is still “exclusive”, because it eliminates any ways that are not loving.

    If I look at the sheep/goats parable, the point to that wasn’t who did or did not believe the right things about Jesus, or have the right faith. The point was on the person’s actions. Jesus also comments on how a person’s faith has saved them – I think it’s about six times – yet they wouldn’t have known the “right” things about Jesus, or the right doctrine. He makes references that peacemakers are the children of God, or that we know who God’s children are by the fruit they produce. Or the Samaritan – he was praised by Jesus, and yet didn’t follow the exclusive way. That’s why I see Jesus as representing something, rather than just saying, “Believe in me and that’s it.”

    I’ve never met an agnostic that tries to live as though He does.

    Okay, but this still wouldn’t make sense, if we’re going based on the Christian God. The agnostic would have to live a perfect life, which is impossible, so … what would be the point? Plus, they’d be living such a way in order to get some sort of reward. As in, if there is a God, one better live a life pleasing to God just in case there are repercussions. But that’s a selfish way to live.

    Everything they had told them the earth was flat – but they were wrong.

    But then it’s not an irrational or emotional belief, it’s a belief based on the best evidence at the time. To use your analogy here, the way it was originally presented, and what I was reacting to, was that you felt we all knew the Earth was really round and had evidence as such, and yet kept insisting that the Earth was flat.

    Another thing – and I’ll think you’ll agree with me on this – for many people emotional factors do come in to play. This is true on both sides, Christians and non-Christians.

    I don’t deny it. But I find that many of the contributors here did not want to lose their faith. Many of the atheists I know are in the same situation. They did everything they could, they pleaded with God, dove into the Bible, and in the end, could not rationally hold to certain, or all, Christian beliefs.

    Your best bet in convincing me that God does not exist,

    I’m not trying to convince you that God doesn’t exist. I do think God exists. Just not in the manner in which you describe. My point here is that if you don’t think we have rational reasons for why we believe what we believe, and react purely and only on emotional reasons, then even a theological discussion as to the nature of God is going to be futile because there’s not actually a discussion with the other person, there’s a discussion with a caricature.

    If you want to continue to discuss these things (and I’m willing), I’d like to take the conversation to email. It’s easier for me to edit long responses and offer replies (I can save drafts and the such)

    I’d rather not move to e-mail, just because of the time factor. We’d probably go four times as long or such. :) If you’d rather end the conversation here, that’s okay.

  • 187. Thinking Ape  |  January 7, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    JmChrist,
    Thank you for the verses, I am well aware of them. I was just a little confused by the limited scope of your previous comment. I for one would never argue that the majority of the Christian New Testament does not argue for the exclusivity of Jesus, although I do not believe that all of the scriptures agree on what they mean by that exclusivity (i.e. James vs. Paul, Matthew vs. John, etc.). But again, this isn’t a fight I am trying to pick. I was just wondering if you are naturally attracted to the Johannine tradition, or if that was just what was handy at the time?

  • 188. jmcrist  |  January 8, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Thinking Ape,

    I was just reading 1 John at the time, and the popular verses in John 14 (Jesus being the way the truth and the life), came to mind.

    You said that you don’t think the Scriptures agree on the exclusivity of Jesus. Care to elaborate?

  • 189. Thinking Ape  |  January 8, 2008 at 1:05 am

    jmcrist,
    Understood…
    I meant that I don’t believe that they agree on the representations of Jesus (and hence the form of exclusivity). Who Jesus is to the Matthew writer or the James writer differs from the Pauline or Johannine Jesus. Hence, what Jesus’ exclusivity means to these writers would probably differ. How, exactly, is a good discussion for another place.

  • 190. jmcrist  |  January 14, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    Hey bud, I haven’t forgotten your response. I’ve just been kind of busy lately. I will give you a response soon. Sorry for the wait.

  • 191. jmcrist  |  January 28, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    OneSmallStep,

    Sorry it took me so long to reply. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll be too impressed with this one.

    It seems we’re kind of at an impasse (as I’m sure you’re aware). I must say, however, that I thought this conversation was pretty awesome. If you’d like to continue with another topic, or whatever, I’m game for sure.

    Nice talking, my friend.

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