Debates and Dancing

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

There are about ten different things that I need to (and therefore should be) doing right now, but I have to talk for a moment about the debate I saw tonight. My roommates and I went to go see a debate, sponsored by Campus for Christ, between William Lane Craig (a well-known Christian apologist) and Christopher DiCarlo (someone who I had never heard of before, but an atheist professor at a college in Ontario). The debate question was, “Does God Matter?” and before the debate even began, I thought it was somewhat of a useless question. I think it is a secondary question after the question, “Does God exist?” As it seems to me, if God exists, then he matters, but if he does not exist, then he does not matter. I think that that conclusion was reaffirmed throughout the debate.

Overall, I felt that the debate was pretty bad. I mean, both debaters were competent, and I think both made very good points, but ultimately there was little to no dialogue between the two. Both gave their opening statements, and then there were supposed to be two rebuttals – but their rebuttals primarily consisted of them saying the same things over again. Neithe really even brought up the other person’s points to assess them, other than Craig mentioning that DiCarlo claimed he was committing the genetic fallacy (something which was never addressed again by either person after that point). After these “rebuttals,” they had half an hour of questions and answers from the audience, and these were, for the most part, fairly unintelligent questions. It sounded like nobody really knew what the debaters meant, and it seemed that the debaters didn’t ultimately know what the significance of the debate topic was. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a fiasco, but it was certainly a let-down. I suppose I got what I paid for it, though, since it only cost $2 for UW students.

At any rate, Craig brought up a very good point that under an atheistic worldview, nothing ultimately matters. If God does not exist, then everything is doomed to the eventual heat death of the universe, all humans will eventually die and cease to exist, and life therefore is meaningless and purposeless. I think that these are valid, large-scale conclusions. He quoted several existentialists, nihilists, and atheists to prove his point, and I think it is a valid one. DiCarlo took a very different tactic, and one on later analysis I think was a great strategy. It took me a little longer to figure out what he was trying to say, as his presentation was fairly disorganized, but essentially he said that since there are many possible gods with followers that all say that they are following the “real” one, then we cannot be certain that we’ve found the right one. I think that, to a certain extent, everyone would agree with this – even if one is a confident Christian, if he is honest with himself, I think he would have to say that he cannot be 100% certain he is right. So, based on this premise, if we cannot (and I must emphasize that we are unable to) be certain about which God exists, then why does the question matter at all? He gave a surprisingly good analogy to illustrate this.

Imagine that in the auditorium, we turned out all the lights so it was pitch black. He then told everyone that there were 20 metal bars under their seats – some were silver, some brass, some lead, etc., but there was only one gold bar. All of these bars were the same weight and same size, and all of them smelled and felt the same, so there was no way to tell which one was the gold bar. We could pass them around and let other people feel them and try to figure it out, but at the end of this exercise he would say, “Now who’s got the gold bar?” Obviously, under these circumstances, no one would know for sure. Thus, even if there was truly a gold bar, why would the question matter? If we are unable to determine the answer, then why does the question matter to begin with? Similarly, we are living in conditions where we have the possibility of there being any one (or more) of a multitude of gods. They all have competing religions to discuss the differences, and yet at the end of the day, we are living in a situation where no such definitive proof exists that would prove one correct and the others false. It can’t be done. There is no deductive logical proof that can prove God’s existence with certainty. So in these conditions, if we are unable to answer the question, then why does the question matter to begin with?

I find this an ingenious analogy. Now perhaps at some level it breaks down. It is operating under the assumptions that we truly cannot know for sure what God (if any) exists. Some would disagree with that, and cite personal experience or direct revelation. But even these are not definitive – personal experience can be wrong, like an optical illusion, and direct revelation can be false. If there were definitive proof for a specific God, then somehow I think we’d have figured it out by now, and we’d all be following that particular one. I found DiCarlo’s argument to be very persuasive, even though I would still argue that the pursuit of the answer to the question, if one can be found, is an important one. Ultimately, then, his conclusion is that we all live our lives to the best of our abilities, and come to common agreements on moral issues where agreements can be reached. If the question of God’s existence cannot be answered, then we might as well accept that we’re all we’ve got and get on with life.

So who won the debate? I think they both did. I found both answers to the question to be compelling, though I found Craig’s interpretation of atheism to be overly pessimistic. On a large scale view of the world, perhaps all we do is ultimately meaningless. But should that stop us from enjoying life on an individual and societal level? I don’t think so. I don’t know who I heard this from, but I like it – “Do we stop dancing and cry just because we know the song will end?” Of course not. We are still able to enjoy the song while it lasts and make the best of it, whether that song of ours ends in 8 years or 80 years. And moreover, which will cause us most regret as we near the end of the song – that we danced to the meaningless song, or that we failed to? I’m not claiming this as an intelligent answer to the question of “Does God Matter?” but perhaps I’ve given you some food for thought. Hopefully so.

19 responses to “Debates and Dancing”

feeno

Jeff

I can’t sit through a debate. No matter the topic or who the debaters are. Even if I like the topic, Abortion, Politics, Religion or whats the best college football conference. Even if I like the debaters themselves, They are usually exactly like you described last nights.

Now that that is out of the way let’s debate this. Talk about irony. Well you get my drift.

First of all, I could never win a debate against someone like you.(I’m not trying to butter you up) My problem is that I only Know one side and try to defend it.
You on the other hand seem to have a good grasp of both sides of an issue.

And your right, if there is no God then who cares if he matters. Also if we have thousands of gods who is the real one.

Here’s where hopefully I can help.
Let’s start out with this premise, “If there is a God” If there is a God, I choose the one that created the world and everything in it. Now we can argue over who we think that is, but if there is a God we would both choose that one, I think?

Man is smart, and has made many things. But they are only imitations of what God has already created.

In my humble opinion those two simple things lead me to believe in the God of Genesis.

I hope I don’t get on your nerves, because I really think you are exactly what your profile says you are, cool and funny (kinda) ha ha

Even though I hate debates, you should keep going and continue your search. Keep up the good work on your blogs.

Peace out, feeno

Jeff

Hey feeno,

Good thoughts. I agree with you on the debate thing – generally debaters tend to say what they’re going to say and have little dialogue, but this was just worse than usual. They weren’t even addressing the other’s points. It was disappointing, since they were obviously both competent people, and I was looking forward to a good discussion.

But at any rate, in regards to what you said here. The first thing I’d argue would be starting out with the premise of God’s existence to begin with. But I can accept that as a presupposition for these purposes, so here we go. You’ve said that the obvious choice would be to choose the God that created everything. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “choose”, however. I don’t think there’s much of a choice involved here. If one God exists, we would obviously choose that one. If more than one God exists, however, I don’t think we’d really need to “choose” which one to follow – we could conceivably follow all of them like the Greeks or Romans. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean by that, however.

At any rate, assuming that there was a God that created everything, you’d be right – man only fashions imitations of God’s original creation. However, I don’t see how this would lead you in any way to the God of Genesis. Are these two conditions – being the Creator, and man’s limited creative powers – exclusive to Yahweh? I don’t think so at all. If Allah is the right God, those same conditions would occur. Or if Zeus and his pantheon were real, then I think it would still be the same. Maybe I’ve missed the point of what you’re saying, but I don’t see how one can make the leap from “Creator” to “Yahweh” based on what you’ve just said. Perhaps you could clarify yourself a bit?

Anyway, thanks for the comments – I enjoy the discussions we’ve had so far 🙂

feeno

Jeff

We are getting pelted with snow and freezing stuff. The whole town is shut down, except me. I should have stayed home and try not to stress over the jobs not getting done. It’s hard to believe how much damage can be done by snow. It looks so pretty and harmless as it falls to the ground. But we got power lines down, cars in ditches and crashes all over the roads and people without electricity. Check the weather channel, I live in the Cincinnati area. You’ll see what I mean.

Anyways as I re-read what I wrote I can see how I didn’t make much sense. I’ll try again, hope this clarifies things a bit.

If you think about it, An atheist only believes in one less god than a Christian. The fact that there are many gods we can choose from doesn’t matter. Only one of those gods created the universe. So logic tells me (you can take that with a grain of salt) there is either only one god or no god at all. Then because man can only imitate things of god, never create, then I chose god over no god.

Now to answer your question, how do I make that leap to the God of Genesis? Great question and very insightful, you just didn’t let that slide. Good for you. Well, here’s my answer – Hope it flies,
The God of Genesis is the only God who contacts/communicates with his creation. He talked with Adam,Eve,Enoch,Abraham,Moses the Prophets etc.

Allah never did that. (maybe he claimed some contact with Abraham?)

Zeus, All I know about him is that he had a couple of brothers and was a horn-dog. But I never heard any claims by him about creating the world.

Be patient with me. My brother once told me ” A friend is our friend in spite of our self”

Peace out, feeno

Jeff

Wow, yeah, you guys are getting dumped on. It was snowing up here pretty much all day today, I actually witnessed a minor car accident, but it doesn’t sound like we’re getting anything nearly as bad as there. Hope you and those around you are safe!

Anyway, thanks for clearing up what you wrote, it makes a lot more sense to me now. I might throw in a slight argument against there either being one God or no God. I don’t think it’s at all clear that that’s the case, especially when you consider that throughout much of history, the majority of people on earth have believed in tens, hundreds, or even thousands of gods. Hindus today still believe in something like six million gods (although they choose only to focus on a select few). However, for the sake of argument, I guess we can take Occam’s razor and say that if we have a) a bunch of gods that can do things, or b) one God that can do everything, then we might as well take the simpler explanation.

However, I’d certainly put up an argument against your statement that man can only imitate things of God. That’s circular reasoning – it’s essentially saying, because God exists, therefore God exists. We don’t have the ability to create worlds or universes (at least yet), that’s true, but we’d have to establish that that was something that could not come about without a God. That’s the domain of the cosmological argument, for the most part, which I won’t get into for the moment, but if you’re interested, there are plenty of critiques of the argument online.

At any rate, even if we accept those first two, and we assume that there is a singular Creator God, your argument to get to the God of Genesis seems to be more of an argument from consequences. You happen to like the idea of a God that communicates to people, so you choose that one over a non-communicating one. Perhaps I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying, but that’s how I read it. Not to mention that Allah is rumoured to indeed communicate with people – Muhammed, of course, but they would claim that he spoke to all of the prophets of the Old Testament just as you would say Yahweh did that. Other religions may not have God communicating directly, but some (such as the Mormons) have him speaking through angels or other intermediaries. And still other ancient religions would claim that he/they spoke to a select few, whether those were priests or oracles.

So with that said, I don’t see a reason to jump from a Creator God to Yahweh, God of Genesis – at least not without some evidence that would distinguish him from some other God. You may, of course, use personal experience – God talking to you – as evidence to back that up, but unfortunately, many other religious people, including Muslims, would claim that their God has spoken to them. And so it would become a matter of figuring out who’s actually hearing from God and who’s delusional. That’s a little tricky when you’re going by personal experience.

At any rate, there you go. You’re welcome to try again – perhaps there’s something I’ve missed, like some way to determine that Yahweh is the one who, in fact, created everything. I haven’t seen his personal signature on any rocks, but perhaps you’ve got something 🙂

feeno

Jeff

Yesterday my Bro. in law got stuck at the bottom of an icy hill with snow all around him. So With about a 40 ft cable I was able to pull him out. It was fun, not near as fun as pulling out the Ford that was stuck with my GMC. Then driving home I was able to be a cute young girls Knight in shining armor as I pulled her out of a jam. (told you I haven’t grown up, still like trucks and cute girls.)

This “debate” is more exhausting
than “butts up ball”. I really can’t believe you played that. Around here nobody ever heard of it. I guess If your standing up in front of the wall ready to be the target of a firing squad your butt hole would be pretty tense. But it could have gotten it’s name by bending over during firing squads? We had to stand up straight and it sucked when you get clipped in the inner thigh or a good kidney shot. Owww It still hurts to think about.

Yes, I have heard of this circular reasoning which you speak of. I believe God created the world out of nothing. (so there’s nothing new under the sun) Man just uses what God has put here. but we could go around and around and…..
O.K. enough already.

Also you will notice I don’t use the “God spoke to me card” on your site or Johns’. I understand fully well who I’m talking to and don’t wish to muddy the water with those sorts of arguments. Oops hold on, God just told me to end this post.

P.S. Do you want another circular argument, I look outside and see God’s signature on every tree, flower, mountain, lake, bumblebee, deer, etc.

Peace out, feeno

Jeff

Oh wow, well sounds like the snow is keeping you busy at least 😛

Haha well to be honest, I’m not sure that we actually ever played wallball/butt’s up where we had to throw the ball at the person. I don’t think the teachers on duty in the playground would have stood for it. Haha I think when we played it, when you spelled whatever word you were spelling, you just were out of the game. Which kind of sucked, because then what do you do for the rest of recess?!

At any rate, it’s good that you don’t use the “God spoke to me” argument. Although I’m not all that old, even I’ve had enough experience where you think God has said something, and then you do it and it fails miserably, and then you write it off as “Well I guess it was just my own thoughts leading me astray.” I’ve heard stories of people who put their life savings into a certain ministry because they “felt led to” by God, only to have it blow up in their faces. Perhaps it’s a test, but you’d think he’d try to treat his children just a bit better than that, right?

Certainly I can’t discount personal experience. If you say that you’ve experienced something, then I believe you! I just might not agree about what you think is the source of that experience…I’m a Psychology major, so this sort of thing interests me greatly. There are some psych. researchers who have actually been able to induce “religious experiences” by activating a certain part of the brain. How cool is that?! And what’s cooler is that these experiences get interpreted differently according to the person’s beliefs. So what might be one’s virgin Mary might be another’s Jesus Christ. Another interesting (and similar) phenomenon happens to those with temporal lobe seizures – if you’re interested, search YouTube for Vilayanur Ramachandran and his segment on “Temporal Lobes and God”. He’s a researcher that has dealt with this sort of stuff. I find it fascinating. But perhaps you don’t 😀

feeno

Jeff

Superbowl, It sucked!
Superbowl party, It was pretty cool'
My mother-in-law and two sister-in-laws made home made enchiladas with rice and beans and all the traditional trimmings. That of course was Sunday.

Then Saturday night I went to Kevin's house for the MMA fights.
They had Pizza from the best pizza place ever, wings, Salomi with creme cheese in it and bowls of different chips and dips and chocolate brownies with chocolate icing, M&M's etc.

Actually when I got there, There was about 8 or 9 guys sitting around playing poker.
One of the guys was the Mayor of our town. When they asked me if I wanted to play' I told them yes, but only so I could blog my friend Jeff to tell him I played poker with the Mayor. I did leave with more money than I showed up with. I even left some money there to help pay for the fight.

Anyways Fri. night we celebrated my daughters 21st B-day (even though her birthday is today. she's back at school now) And Thurs. night we all went out to Texas Roadhouse. I'm telling you all this because I'm going to try to join a gym this week? And lose some weight. (but I eat well).

I had to re-read what we were talking about, but I'm ready to go again. I can't say I ever heard God speak to me audibly. But if he made it that easy their would be a lot less skeptics? I have also sincerely prayed to God looking for answers, when I felt he wasn't listening. I wondered what I was doing wrong as a Christian for him not to be answering me. But the problem with that thought process is that God knows what's best for me, Plus he is not a genie in a bottle for me to have wishes granted. Can I explain why my friend opened a business (A bakery in our town) after much prayer, then to see him close his doors less than 2 years later, with a lot of debt. Probably not, we could speculate on different scenarios. But I really don't know. But Does that mean God's not treating him well?
If their is no god who cares. If there is a God maybe we'll find those things out later?

If you get a chance, check out my blog and the last thing I wrote to Gandolph, it might be something along these lines?

Hope all is well, give me a full report. Peace out, feeno

Jeff

Hey man,

Wow, Superbowl, great game. I must confess, I don’t follow football at all, and so I didn’t really have a favourite (although I arbitrarily chose the Cardinals before the game began), but it was definitely a good game. 99 yard run for a touchdown! The guy looked like he was about to have a heart attack afterwards! At any rate, I didn’t really do anything special for the Superbowl, but me and one of my roommates just hung out and watched it. It’s always a good time 🙂

So here you are, having basically told me your whole week. Maybe you should just put it up on your blog instead, and let everyone see it! Haha go nuts man, I generally just sit down and write whatever comes into my head. Whether that ends up being a summary of my day or an essay on predestination vs. free will, I never know until I’m all finished. Maybe you could talk about how meeting the mayor has changed your life…or start blogging about the intense suffering you are going through as you work out at the gym 😀

At any rate, I think you’re right – if God spoke audibly to people, there’d be a lot fewer skeptics. I think that based on the characteristics we have about him in the Bible, that should be what he’d want, right? He’s supposed to be all-loving, and not willing that anyone should perish. Sounds like any way he can convince skeptics is a step in that direction.

And you mention that God knows what’s best for us. I was actually thinking about that a few days ago, and realized well, when it comes to eternity in heaven or eternity in hell, I think it’s pretty clear which is best for us, right? If going to heaven is better for us, then God should be working to that end with all his available power (which is…all power). Maybe in terms of life on earth, he’s got the big picture and we may think something is best for us when it’s not, but when it comes to eternity, as far as I can tell, it’s pretty clear, right? That’s one of the questions I struggled with on my way out of Christianity. I simply can’t conceive of any possible reason why God would remain “hidden” (maybe not completely hidden, but at least not completely obvious either) when people’s eternities are at stake. It just seems to me that if God is truly all-loving, and God truly wants us all to go to heaven, and that he truly is all-powerful, that he’d be doing a lot more to save people – especially the ones that are on the fence. Perhaps there would always be those hardened skeptics, no matter how many times the booming voice from heaven called their name, but I would certainly think that even if he couldn’t save everyone that way, he could certainly save more. But perhaps I’m just expecting too much 😛

Cheers,
Jeff

feeno

Jeff

I tend to ramble, sorry. But I did write another blog, very short, please check it out if you get a chance. Thanks.

I’m probably not going to give you a good answer, and if I do, I’m sure it’s one you’ve heard before. Before I try to answer these questions I must say, that I too lay awake at night and struggle with concepts in the bible that “seem” contradictory. Such as why a loving God would send people to Hell. Although that question to me is easy to answer. The tough one for me to answer is why was hell in God’s plan to begin with? But one kinda answers the other. So then why would god send people to hell?
We must first look and see who God is, (his nature) Because he is Holy and Righteous he can’t or won’t overlook sin. There has to be a consequence for sin.

From reading a lot on John’s site I know the common response to this concept of a Holy God that would allow this to happen. It would go something like this: Well, that God has a personality flaw and his ego has turned him into a maniacal 3rd grader who tortures any one who dares to challenge his authority. (or something like that?)

Even if that is true, His word says
But God demonstrated his own love for us while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Another tough question is why doesn’t God reveal himself to us more obvious than he does? Especially if we are truly seeking him. There are many verses that elude to the fact that if we seek him we will find him.

Let me try to explain this with a great story from the book of John.
You know all to well about our buddy “doubting Thomas”. At one time Thomas was ready to die for Christ. (John 11:16) Then I believe after Christ was crucified and died and was buried that Thomas’ whole world was crashing down around him. Everything that he believed in was taken, and he started to have doubts.(justified, I believe).

I don’t know why Thomas got special treatment from God? But I pray He does the same for you.

Peace out, feeno

Jeff

Hi feeno,

I think we’re really hitting on some important questions about the Christian faith here. These points that we’re bringing up played a big role in my de-conversion. And while I didn’t find your answers satisfying, don’t worry – I don’t think I’ve ever heard a good Christian response to these questions. Mind you, while I was a Christian I would have said the same thing you’ve said here. So let me explain why I don’t find these answers satisfying – maybe I’ve just overlooked something and need a fresh look at it 🙂

In response to your answer about hell, I have a question for you first. Do you believe that God has free will? I mean, usually people talk about the free will of humans, but do you believe that God has this same sort of free will? I think that most Christians would say yes. Anything we can do, God can do better or something like that. But you say that God can’t overlook sin and that there has to be a consequence for sin. To me, it sounds like these are constraints on God’s actions. If we believe that a) God is constrained by his “nature” and b) God didn’t create himself – and that would include creating his nature – then we are saying that God is unable to do anything he wants because his nature will not let him. This obviously conflicts with the idea of omnipotence. If we are dealing with a truly omnipotent God, he should have been able to create the world any way he wanted to, create people any way he wanted to, and set the parameters and consequences of sin any way he wanted to. To say he somehow had to do it a certain way seems to indicate that there is something more powerful than God.

So ultimately, I think the choices here are: a) God is constrained by his nature, and is forced to send people to hell, which makes him less than all-powerful, or b) God is all-powerful and chooses to send people to hell, and he chooses the standards for sin in what could be seen as a totally arbitrary fashion (after all, he would be setting the standards for right and wrong, so whatever he says, goes).

Anyway, after that you mention how some people say God is a egotistical bully, but the Bible said he is love. I would merely say that the Old Testament paints God as, at the very least, a strict and ruthless God who is prone to extreme emotions such as anger, jealousy, etc. But in the New Testament, the theology has changed into an all-loving God. Primarily, most scholars would say this is because in the Old Testament, God was responsible for both good and evil, and “Satan” was more of a prosecuting attorney – he had access to the throne room and his job was to “accuse” people on earth – while later on in time, the concept of God had shifted into an all-good deity, with a polar opposite now known as Satan. To me, this at least is staying true to the original texts of the Bible, rather than trying to reconcile God’s horrible genocides with his “all-loving” nature found in the New Testament. Smushing it all together makes God into a deity with multiple personality disorder…

At any rate, as for your last point about doubting Thomas, there’s the kicker. The Bible says “seek and ye shall find,” and yet many people honestly seek and never seem to find – myself included. I don’t know why Thomas got special treatment from God either, but for a God who’s apparently impartial, he sure gave a lot of special treatment out in the first century. I just hope that your prayers (and the prayers of the others that are praying for me) are more effective than mine were. I could use some finding to go along with my seeking.

feeno

Jeff

What is up? I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner, Actually me, my brother and 8 of our friends all met up in the Smokey Mountains on Friday. We spent 2-3 days smoking expensive cigars, drinking cheap beer and leaving about 2000 rounds of spent ammo on the ground in the Volunteer state. This is something we do every year, We also own a cabin in N.C. and every other year we all meet there. Some of the wives cook food ahead of time. (a lot of food) and we make our own biscuits and gravy. But the theme for our trip is watching the movie ” The Outlaw Josey Wales” together and eating giant bowls of homemade chili. This was our 13th or 14th yr anniversary. Every year seems to get better. I may blog about it one day?

I came home really behind on work, and didn’t even check out any blogs until late Sunday night, and when I read your last post I just didn’t have the energy to respond. But I promise I’ll get back to you soon with some sort of response. You sure don’t make it easy on me. Your questions are well thought out and sincere. But it might be a couple of days before I’m back on my computer.

Hope your weekend was fun. Talk to you soon. Peace out. feeno

feeno

Jeff

Well, I got a lot more work done than I thought today, so before I check out what’s going on over at D.C. thought I’d check back in.

When you ask me some of these questions, I realize that I’m not the know-it-all I thought I was.
But I’m not afraid of failure so here goes.

Do I think God has free will? Yes.
Does this contradict his omnipotence, Well, I’m sure here is where we will disagree. But for freewill to work,or to have true freedom, there has to be consequences for the decisions we make. Other wise where is the freedom to choose. Sure God could have created a bunch of Zombies, but how do you know if a Zombie loves you, or is just doing what he is programmed to do?

I certainly might do things different if I was God. But I’m not his equal, so what do I know?

As far as “so whatever he says goes.” This wont help my case any, but I’ve actually said that several times about him, After all he is God.

Now to try tackle O.T. God V. N.T. Jesus. 1st I must say that most scholars are wrong if they think that God is responsible for any kind of evil. But being thinkers like we are, sure there are things that I don’t quite understand. But the difference with my thinking is, that I base all my assumptions on the fact that God is just. And it’s hard for me to compare God with Satan even if we say there polar opposites. Satan was a created being, he might be the polar opposite of some angel or something. And when God created the Angels, he gave them free will also.

Whew, I knew this would be exhausting. Though I’m glad I got through it. Not that it was all that enlightening or anything.

If Felix Unger and Oscar Maddison
can be friends, we’ll be just fine.

Peace out, Oscars

Jeff

Wow, sounds like a great trip! You’ve watched the same movie every year for 13 years? That’s impressive! I’m afraid that movie seems to be a bit before my time, but I’m sure my dad would like it. He’s a fan of Clint Eastwood…maybe he’s seen it 🙂

Anyway, I’m trying to figure out how best to explain myself about this free will thing. (I’ve written out about three things and keep losing my train of thought 😛 ) Essentially, I don’t think that God’s options are either a) create hell and send all the disobedient people to it, or b) create a bunch of zombies. One of the main justifications for hell is the idea that God is “just.” And in order for that to actually mean something, we must know what that word actually means. I think that makes sense. So what is justice? I think that most individuals would define it as something like “making sure everyone gets exactly what they deserve: no more, no less.” That’s how I’d define it, at least off the top of my head. So under that definition, would God and the punishment of hell be considered just?

Well, first off, people who are being sent to hell are being sent there for finite sins. They live a finite life on this earth, and yet then they are thrown into hell for an infinite amount of time. I don’t think that there’s any way to say that the punishment fits the crime here. It’s like killing your children for talking back to you – the punishment is just absolutely unreasonable. I don’t think that’s just under any sense of the word.

Moreover, the whole concept of Jesus’ atonement for our sins goes against any concept of justice that we have. You may have heard the analogy of a person coming into a courtroom and paying the debt of a criminal who would have no way to pay it himself. Sure, that may inspire us on an emotional level, but is that justice? If justice is getting what we deserve, then in what sense can someone taking the place of another person be construed as justice? If so, then I’m sure someone would have set up a system by now where criminals could pay to have someone else serve their prison sentence for them. I think that would offend every sense of the word “justice” that we have.

Now, as you said, God is God, so whatever he says, goes. If he does indeed exist, you’re absolutely right. I have no way to tell him that he can’t do whatever he wants to do. But while God may be able to do whatever he wants, let’s not ascribe to him the terms “loving” and “just” if that is not what he is. Either we have some basis for calling him that, or we don’t. To say, “Well God is just, but he can do whatever he wants,” doesn’t work, unless “whatever he wants” to do is always just. But in the case that we are going to give him the label of “just” – or if he’s going to apply that label to himself – I think we’d have to say that he’s constrained to “just behaviours” then, and thus is not free to do whatever he wants.

Anyways, as far as God and Satan and such, I think we’re getting a bit off track, but take a look at Isaiah 45:6-7. Depending on what version you’re reading from, the connotations might be tamed down – you may have the word “calamity” instead of “evil” – but here’s the translation of that word:
ra – note that it has strong connotations to “evil”.

But at any rate, when it comes to Scriptural exegesis, I’m certainly no expert, and likely neither are you, so perhaps we should get off this topic. I’ll just leave you with this link, which explains what I was talking about probably a lot better than I could explain it:
Satan: Early history
Agree with it, disagree with it. Whatever. Just know that it seems to be a valid position based on critical scrutiny of the biblical texts.

At any rate, I had to look up who Felix Unger and Oscar Madison were, but hmm…I think the analogy might work 😀 Hope you enjoyed your weekend, and have a good week!

Jeff

feeno

Jeff

Good morning. Hope all is well. Today is my birthday. As I look at that number 45, it seems like such a big number. Although I really don’t feel like I’m old, but what does that feel like? My best friends father-in-law and 2 different people I go to church with also have a birthday today.

Tonight my parents are taking me to dinner at the Elks Club. (no y2k food tonight)

Tomorrow my church is putting on a benefit concert for a local inner-city mission. And afterward one of my best friends from high school and his family will be in town and we will all go out for Mexican food after the concert.

And then Sun. after church I’m taking a group of 5th and 6th graders up to a place called perfect north slopes for tubing, down a mountain made of man made snow.

Then sun. night I’ll probably take my H.S. kids back up to the mission to help out where we can?

I know for a 21 year old college stud like you that weekend sounds pretty boring. Actually I wish I didn’t have to go tubing with the kids, I’d rather be on the couch sleeping as I catch glimpes of the Daytona 500 between my occasional awake sessions. But I’m usually glad I go?

Thanks for letting me tell you of this mindless dribble. In the future I will try to stay more on topic and focused.

DOES THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME?
The story in Luke, about the rich man and Lazarus, The rich guy has a few things to say, but God being unfair or unjust is not one of them.

JUSTICE? Justice is getting what we deserve. But mercy and grace allows us to “weasel” out of justice. Did you ever hear anybody in your old church say “Mercy is not getting what we deserve and Grace is getting what we do not deserve?” I kinda like that.

OMNIPOTENT. Just because God chooses not to do something doesn’t mean he can’t. When I think about that argument long enough it gives me a head ache. That’s like asking if God could create a “Kryptonite” to take away his power. How do I answer that? If I say he can do it, then you could say there’s something more powerful than God. If I say no, then you could say, see God can’t do everything. Oh yeah, I need an aspirin.

I definitely know that I’m not an expert of “scriptural exegesis” because I don’t even know what that means. (however I will look it up after I log out.) And I did look up Satan: early history, And not to sound mean, but I wasn’t impressed. I know there trying to prove a point and I might be going a little off topic but saying that Onan was killed because he practiced birth control and that Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she looked the “wrong way” is like saying you have a flat tire because there is no air in it. Although you just ran over some spike strips. And the plagues and the flood, those could have been avoided. There was certainly a lot more in there than that. I just don’t have the energy to look through it all right now. After all I’m getting up there. And need a nap already.

Hope your week went well and your week end goes even better.

Peace out, feeno

Jeff

Hey there,

Well happy birthday, feeno! Sounds like you’ve got a good weekend planned, and despite what you say, I think it sounds pretty cool. I’m always up for tubing 😀 But hey, as far as your age goes….what’s that they say again, you’re only as old as you feel? So if you don’t feel old, you aren’t! Besides, if you’re not old enough to get the seniors’ discount at stores, then I think you’re technically still considered “young.” Well, at least…”not old.” 🙂

My weekend sounds much less exciting than yours, but this coming week is Reading Week for me – a week off of school, and unlike most people I likely will actually use it to do some reading…but mostly it’s a chance to relax, which is good. I’m looking forward to doing that…I’m actually writing this from back home, so it’s good to be back here. However, I don’t really have anything exciting planned for the week, so I’m hoping that I can find something. If not, though, it’s not a huge concern…I still get to relax and maybe even catch up on my sleep!

Anyway, I don’t think that we necessarily need to resort to using parables to determine what is just or unjust. I mean, Jesus was a pretty smart cookie, but I think most humans (and other animals as well!) have a pretty good sense of justice. So let me ask you…do you think that the punishment of an eternity in hell fits the crime of a limited number of sins? I guess we can still use the parable as an example. This rich guy was obviously pretty selfish when it came to Lazarus. But notice that he does genuinely care for his brothers, right? So he’s obviously not all bad…just maybe a little insensitive. Do you think that his punishment fits the crime? Certainly he deserves something, yes, and for that we are in agreement, but does burning in hell for all eternity – billions and trillions of years with no end – seem like justice?

As far as being able to "weasel out" of justice, well that seems to just make the whole thing worse. The Bible tries to portray God as the perfect judge. If a person being convicted of a crime was able to "weasel out" of the punishment just because the judge loved him, would you say that was justice? Would you say that a mother was practising good discipline if she punishes one child but doesn't punish another for the same misbehaviour, simply because the one child said, "But I love you, Mommy!" Now, obviously we know that there is room for love in this equation, but how will the child ever learn self-discipline if he is never punished?

I think that we could call the Christian God a lot of things, but I don't think that we could say that he is "just." I think that offends every sense of the word that we have. It's just that Christianity has gotten Christians to the point where they accept a contradiction, simply because it's God. They don't see how letting someone go because they say they love you is not "perfect justice." I know I didn't see it that way, anyways.

At any rate, as far as the website on Satan is concerned, that's okay if you weren't impressed. I hadn't looked at in a while, and now that I've read it over again, I see https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8945016&postID=6772909098610356571&pli=1that it's more of a summary of current scholarship on the issue rather than an effort to persuade. Obviously if you believe that the Bible is a unified whole, then this sort of thing will be meaningless to you. (Which reminds me, I'm curious – what denomination are you?) But in regards to Onan and Lot's wife, etc., I think the point they're trying to make is that God did such things. I doesn't really matter why God did it to them, just that it was him that was the cause of it, not an evil being. However, I mostly pointed out the website to you as a way of showing where scholarship stands on the issue. You don't have to agree with it, and that's fine. I think I originally brought it up to show that the Bible itself does teach that God brings about evil. It just only does so in some of the older books, whereas by the time the New Testament rolls around, Jewish thought has changed immensely. But I think this is a tangent. Maybe we can just drop this subject? Let's just consider it an educational detour about the state of current scholarship 🙂

Anyway, once again, have a happy birthday, and hope your weekend is a blast! And hope you don't tire yourself out with all those activities…after all, you're getting older 😛

All the best,
Jeff

feeno

Jeff

Before I forget what’s on my mind I’ll hurry up and jot it down, then I’ll get back to my age.

Your questions are good and valid. And like I said before I still lay awake at night and wrestle with these types of questions. In God’s defense though (not that he needs me to defend him). What he thinks is just and how we define just are probably way different.

Now you brought up an interesting thing about Christians excepting contradictions just because ” God said it”. I will always give God the benefit of the doubt, but if I don’t understand something I do research it as much as possible.

Let’s look at this hell thing one more time. Is it fair or just? Well to an Atheist, hell doesn’t exist. But to a Christian as awful and eternal as hell is, ultimately it is avoidable. so we do have some say in the matter. Anyways if there is a God, he’ll be the one who decides these things.

I don’t think I forgot anything?

O.k. now, were you able to relax to some good reads this week-end? Was the visit home profitable. When my daughter comes home from school she usually gets a lot of laundry done, oil changed, bills paid, and her mom still slips her a couple bucks. Take advantage while you can.

I ended up feeling sea sick after about the 4th or 5th time down the slopes, what a wuss. But other than that my week end was great.
We raised $1,000.00 Sat. night for a local mission. And had a great visit with my friends who came in from Denver.

Thanks for your hospitality over here. Hope you wont tire of me. I actually look forward to your site/comments.

Peace out, feeno

Jeff

Well, my weekend was decent. I’m still at home, since we have the whole week off this week. It was going well, except last night I woke up at about midnight and started throwing up to no end. It was ridiculously horrible, but I finally got to sleep at about 2am. So today I’ve just been taking it easy, I’m still not feeling 100% so I’m just lounging around. Good excuse to relax, I guess 🙂 So with that said, glad to hear that your birthday weekend went better!

You mention that what God thinks is just and what we think is just are probably way different. That might be the case, but then, once again, why are we calling him “just”? You’re right, he might be on some higher level than us in terms of morality, but ultimately what it comes down to is that we are looking at him from a human perspective, so we have to use human terms to describe him. And if the label we’re using doesn’t apply to him, then why are we applying it? To define justice as x-y-z, realize that God isn’t any of those, and then still continue to apply the word to him causes the word itself to lose its meaning. If God is just, but he goes against all our notions of justice, then what exactly is justice, then?

I’m in danger of getting into a discussion about Plato here, but I’m not sure I’m completely being clear here so maybe I’ll take it at another angle. We have notions about abstract concepts in this world: justice, truth, love, etc. Christians, then, take these notions and say that God is the perfection of them. In other words, God is perfectly just, perfectly true, perfectly loving. He is at the extreme end of all of these. If we had a scale from 1-10, God would be 10s on all of them. But what I’m saying is that it’s a matter of degree, not of kind – God is not a different kind of love, only more loving than us. In the same way, God is more just than us, but he still would be seen as the same kind of just. As I mentioned, if he is some different kind, then the word itself loses its meaning.

Alright, that was too philosophical for me today. I’m going to leave it there and go back to lounging around to keep my head from hurting too much 🙂 Have a good one!

feeno

“Sup Cool Breeze

I don’t think I’m in danger of hell fire here, for agreeing with you on that. Maybe we should find another word than just? But I still believe we will be without excuse when he comes back?

Hope you don’t spend all your time off being a little sick. A lot of people around here have some kind of congestion and there’s no medicine for it. You have to wait it out for a couple weeks?

The weather here today is beautiful, warm and sunny. Tomorrow we are suppose to have snow and cold temperatures again.

With the weather like it is today I’m getting pumped for softball season. Hopefully we are still chatting when the season starts, so I can exaggerate on how great I
am.

Maybe with the time off this week you can write another blog?

I haven’t been to the gym yet, but I am trying to eat a little less, and me and the wife have started walking around our neighborhood.

Oh, I almost forgot, you asked what religion I am. My mom is Baptist, she married my dad when I was about 11. He is Catholic. I went to Catholic schools from the 7th grade until I graduated H.S. We went to Mass with my Dad, and a Baptist church with my mom. Crazy huh. When I left home at 18 (Air Force) I knew I didn’t want to Catholic or Baptist. When me and my wife met we started attending Non-denominational churches. Which we did until about 4 yrs ago.
I somehow ended up at a Baptist church again and teach at different Catholic youth outings.

I know, I coulda just said Baptist.

Hope you feel better, feeno

Jeff

Hey there,

Well, my sickness seems to have cleared up, which is good. But since you mention the weather – today’s been kind of a strange day. A little snow this morning, which then moved into rain. Kind of yucky all around. I think it’s supposed to be rainy for the rest of the week. But oh well – that means spring is coming! Haha I’ll just take your word for it about how good you are at softball 😛 As for myself, I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to the sports seasons too much – I don’t really play a whole lot of sports, although I do enjoy it when I do – but I’m mostly just looking forward to being able to shed my winter coat. At least all the piles of snow are almost gone…it’s a good sign!

At any rate, it seems as though our debate has kind of wound down…you agree that maybe “just” isn’t quite the right word, and I’d agree that no matter what we call God, if he’s in a bad mood, we’re all screwed. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what we call him – he’s still God, so he can still do whatever he wants. If he wants to make the sky rain chocolate bars, he can do that. (And I’ll fully support it!)

I kind of guessed you might be Baptist. I don’t know, I might be wrong about this, but there sure seem to be a lot of Baptists around. However, it also seems like Pentecostals are taking over some of that…”market share”, if you will. The Catholic mix is a nice touch – I never had much contact with (practicing) Catholics until last year, and the differences are pretty interesting. Me and a friend of mine had some good debates over theology – how something was only a “mortal sin” if you knew it was a mortal sin. Gotta love that 😀

At any rate, have a good one, and make sure to put in a few prayers for warmer weather. Who knows, maybe it’ll help! Haha cya

Jeff

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