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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

God isn't loving? Round 2

The first round in this discussion is here. My friend has since replied to that and I've responded.

2nd round:

I said: regular font

Danielle Replied bold font interspersed within my round 1 reply

I replied to that: red font

First of all we need to examine this idea of applied torment, regarding hell. The descriptions of what awaits those who reject God are in the context of a society that held honor/shame in much higher regard than we do.

Why are the descriptions in the Bible about the torment awaiting the unsaved contingent upon the context of a certain society's views on honor/shame?

Because that was the society and culture originally addressed. To ignore that context leaves us in an arbitrary and insecure position of completely redefining the meaning per each change in culture and society. We wouldn't do that with modern literature and expect to understand what the author meant. We can't expect any better for writings to ancient, non-western cultures using different languages.

[see Luke 16 for example].

I'll reference material about Luke 16 further down.

Are you saying that the Bible was influenced by the people who were writing/translating it? Does that mean that you believe the translators to have imput their biases into the scripture? If so, wouldn't that negate it's being infallible?

I see no reason that personal style, cultural context and literary devices per both of those, are in conflict with being inspired or the original text being infallible or inerrant. Some might try to argue that having to study such issues for understanding speaks against both, but there is no reason that something must be universal in expression in order to be inerrant or infallible.

The following will inform and help avoid misconceptions about this and contextual matters for those on any side of these issues.

click for more

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

...inerrancy applies only to the original manuscripts (which no longer exist, but can be inferred on the basis of extant copies), not to the copies or translations themselves. Further, inerrancy does not mean blind literalism, but allows for figurative, poetic and phenomenological language, as long as it is accurate.


99% Inspiration, 1% Perspiration? Inerrancy, Inspiration, and Ma-Besayil

a look at how contextual factors work in with the Chicago Statement, in response to certain Skeptical claims

With this understanding in mind and with the knowledge that rabbinical writings and even the OT used apocalyptic and extreme imagery when speaking of divine judgement, we can see that Dante's inferno and other literal takes on the matter are quite in error.

Are you saying that looking at scriptures like Luke 16 as literal is an incorrect interpretation? Please explain why you think so.

Parable for one and the language contained therein for another.

Luke 16 and other passages

somewhat down the page:

Now, it is important here to make sure we understand this point--that the traditional view of hell does not contain the images of torture of Dante, the Greek and Roman writers, the Jewish pseudepigraphal writers, and many of the early Church Fathers. We must try to see the biblical teaching without these cultural and historical preconceptions.


To make sure we understand that the biblical teaching is best summarized this way, let me make a few comments on some biblical passages related to this:

Strictly speaking, this verse AT BEST describes the intermediate state of the Rich Man, between the First Death and the Second Death, as opposed to the “lake of fire” or "hell". It might not be representative of the final state, although the image of ‘fire’ is still present therein. And even the "torment" that the Rich Man feels may be relative to his 'comfort and luxury' experienced on earth.

And there is a strong possibility that it teaches almost NOTHING about the next life...Many (conservative and moderate) biblical scholars argue that this picture was not intended by Jesus to be taken as a detailed description of hell, but rather solely as an image of status-reversal (i.e, the last will be first).

When you deal with that piece of scripture I have others that I would like your opinion on. Also, could you tell me how you pick and choose which parts of the Bible to take as metaphor and which should be taken literally it would greatly help me to understand the BIble.

The article I linked to above deals with many of those passages. Make sure you look at that first.

You imply that decisions about passages are arbitrary "pick and choose" and that simply is not the case. I would think that someone who had/is a major in theology would have been exposed to hermeneutics and proper means of exegesis in some fashion. As I already explained, it is foolish to ignore the original context of any literature when attempting to understand what the author was saying. We do have data about the environment that the scriptures were written in and can reason from there.

This leaves us with those who have rejected

You're speaking of rejecting Christ? It's a little ambiguous.

Yes, knowingly rejected Christ or rejected the truth they did have. Also, God's transcendent knowledge certainly enables him to know all possible outcomes for an individual in all possible worlds and as such, "what if?" questions are not applicable. The result will be based on that complete knowledge of a person's desires and decisions.

being cast out of the community

To hell, correct?

Properly defined, yes

and experiencing the internal torment of bitterness, resulting from that shame and dishonor.

It seems to me, based on Biblical doctrine, this isn't resulting from shame and dishonor, but their denial of Christ.

You're ignoring the cultural context still. The denial of God leads to that separation with the attendant loss of honor which results in the anguish of shame.

Honor and Pain - A Refocus on the Atonement and Eternal Punishmen

How can God do otherwise, if he is to allow them the choice? It would certainly not be wise or just, to allow the community that has accepted and loves God, to be held hostage to those who choose differently.

I think it's a bit of a logical jump to assume that people believing differently than the Christians in a community would be "holding them hostage." Please explain how you came to such a sensational conclusion.

Seems nothing but rhetoric, rather than an argument. It isn't sensational to realize that a community that is about loving God and being in God's presence will be held hostage by those who refuse to love God and yet by your reckoning they should still be allowed to be there. Your position ignores that such would hardly care to be in God's presence. What choices are there? Make them love God? Make them want his presence? Deny joy to everyone else because of them? Your rhetoric also glosses over the real issue here. It isn't about something as bland and vague as just believing differently, but about having rejected God. I've said it before, salvation isn't about a pop quiz in theology. God most certainly knows what someone is truly seeking and what we seek we will find.

We also know from scripture that any punishment is proportional and it should be noted that a being that transcends time would have no difficulty making proportional punishment last for eternity, should that be the case.

Proportional to what?

To their sin. You seem to have picked up on that in the next sentence so why ask the question? Are you looking to merely argue or have dialogue?

[could you give me a scriptural reference?] Since all sins are equal in the eyes of God, that seems not even worth mentioning, since everyone (except, argueably those who blasphme the holy spirit) would be punished the same.

All sin, is at it's most basic, turning from God to a lesser good. In that sense they are the same. But are you really unaware of the concept of reap what you sow being in the Bible?

Pharaoh comes to mind, of a specific example of reaping what you sow. He had denied the Israelites material blessings, by making them slaves. He attempted population control by killing the male infants. The judgment that followed damaged Egypt materially and killed the firstborn.

Exodus 1:8-22

There is also the possible matter of God's undiminished glory being of such a nature that those who have not prepared themselves to accept his presence, can only experience pain, if even in their own minds.


Gee, perhaps that's why I said:

"There is also the possible matter"

Please provide scriptural reference to God's Glory being too much for those who "have not prepared themselves to accept his presence." and how it causes mental/physical pain.

However it is a reasonable view and in accordance with scripture as noted here:

The Divine Inferno


By withdrawing his active presence from them, he may be offering a final mercy to those who continually reject salvation and the very presence of God.

He is offering them mercy by sending them to hell? Again. Conjecture.

You're still operating under a completely de-contextualized reading of those scriptures as well as not being aware of scriptures that support that possibility as I referenced above. Merely tossing the word conjecture around doesn’t change that.

Regarding the definition of love, I would think that it should result in hatred for that which exploits and destroys that which is loved.

So, assuming that you can prove how not believing in God would destroy your ambiguous reference to "that which is loved" (which I can only assume would be the created, in light of the statement this is suposed to be in response to),

The above is wasted rhetoric and adds nothing of substance to your reply.

you are saying, basically, that God then Hates those who "exploit and destroy" "that which is loved". Is this conjecture again, or do you have Biblical support to say that God hates his creation if they do not embrace Jesus - which would be a kin to saying that he hates his own chosen people, The Jews, as well as other unbelievers.

I didn’t say hates, if they do not embrace Jesus. I'm speaking of physical violence and destruction of other people. You've said you don’t have a problem with evil being punished. As for those who deny God, they will be the cause of their own shame and loss of honor.

The Bible shows that God's judgment is followed by long periods of grace even in the Old Testament. He didn’t respond immediately against Pharaoh and gave many warnings before the most serious judgment.

OT passages on what God avenges

As well as, I noted that hell may actually show God's mercy not only his justice.

God loves us enough:

Rom 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Rom 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

My point being, that love is not some simplistic concern only for "happiness".

Love must not be misunderstood as merely disinterested liking of the object. If we truly care for someone we do what we can to help them be better, even at times, saying things they would rather not hear and might make them unhappy at the moment. To only be interested in one's "happiness" would be less attention than we give to our pets. This is a great mistake parents make when they refuse to actually be parents and act merely as friends of their children, but not even as good friends, who would tell the child they're doing something that could harm them.

There is a difference, though, in acting as a parent or good friend would, and telling them there is a better way, pointing out their mistakes, or letting them accept the consequences for their actions, ect.

Which is what God does.

And actually setting the course of events for their fall, denial and sin and subsequently creating a lair to aid in their torture and eternal torment.

I see no reason to accept the premises entailed in this statement. It is not supported by scripture or sound argument.

But with this we must consider that God is not just a God of love, in the true sense of the term, but also of justice, which I would think is tied up within that as well. Shouldn't we be grateful that God avenges against evil and exploitation? I've seen the argument for evil used to deny the God of the Bible exists, but then it is also argued that when God punishes evil, that also proves the God of the Bible can't be a loving God. Such jumping around seems to reflect an a priori desire to reject the God of the Bible rather than seek truth in the matter.

You are mistating my original comment. It is not his "punishing of evil" that I find fault with. Instead, it's his creation of Lucifer, while his foreknowledge would have shown him that Lucifer would be the reason for the fall of mankind,

Ok then, I don't think much of Christians who say "The devil made me do it." I doubt you would either, but that is all your argument amounts to. Sin is at it's most basic, turning the will from God to a lesser good. This would be possible regardless of Satan being involved. You're also being mighty convenient with an extreme fundie literal take on Genesis.

and the torture of his children whom God supposedly "loves".

I think I've provided an over abundance of reasons for you to drop the torture rhetoric. It was nothing but an argument from outrage anyway and isn't supported by scripture in context. I've also shown how a proper understanding of hell, fits within the idea of a loving God. Putting in dismissal quotes doesn't really overcome that.

The classification of what is sinful as being opposed to the very nature of mankind,

The law was summed up by Christ as love God and love your neighbor. I don't see how that is contrary to our nature. If you're tempted to bring up controversial issues, I would say, they diminish greatly our relationship with God and our reward in heaven, but salvation itself is not lost, unless we choose to reject God and be in apostasy. However, continually walking in such activities may encourage and create habits that will condition us to do this and we should therefore seriously consider what choices we make.

and the punishment for actions when he supposedly created us to be inclined to do.

So now it's also God made me do it? Which lousy excuse is it? Satan made me do it or God? Whatever weaknesses we have and however we have them, we are also certainly capable of faith that brings forgiveness. Biblical faith being loyalty based on evidence of performance.

So, why would God go ahead with creating this world, if he knew some would reject Him? I would ask in reply, what other options are there really? Create nothing? But that certainly cannot be compared to anything that is actual, as to exist is value in and of itself against that which has no value by it's complete lack of actual existence.

It is intellectually dishonest to act as if that is the only option. For one, God could have not created Lucifer. That would have kept Adam and Eve from their fall and allowed his children to live in paradise. And that's just off the top of my head.... Don't act like there aren't other options for and allpowerful, allknowledgeable God.

You're just repeating a weak excuse for sin so I'll repeat what I said before. I don't think much of Christians who say "The devil made me do it." I doubt you would either, but that is all your argument amounts to. Sin is at it's most basic, turning the will from God to a lesser good. This would be possible regardless of Satan being involved. As such, your claim that the world you propose is even possible is not supported. So, intellectual dishonesty on my part is not the issue, rather, your lack of presenting better worlds that are actually possible is the problem.

You're also working with a misconception of omnipotence. It means God can do all things that are possible and don't conflict with his nature.

What of creating beings that do not have the ability to choose and thereby only love God?

How is a being's free will challenged by the existance of Hell? Again, a logical leap.

Properly understood, as I've explained herein, the state of hell cannot be guaranteed against, while still allowing for free will. There is no logical leap but a proper conclusion. Your argument is resting on a very weak foundation. An argument from emotional outrage based on a misconception of hell.

But certainly this isn't really love, if no choice is actually available. Some might argue that not having true love, would be worth it, if there were no sin. But this ignores the great value that we all place upon free will. Even if some say that free will doesn't really exist it is acknowledged that we at least need to act as if it does, so that justice and civilized society can function. If merely pretending that free will exists is valuable, then the actual thing much be magnitudes greater.

Again, free will isn't negated by not being sinful. You would still have the option to act outside of sin. And since sin wouldn't exist, it's not logical to argue that our not being able to sin, would hinder our free will. Not being able to fly doesn't hinder my free will, because I'm not able to fly.

Bad example. You can still choose to attempt to fly, but with disastrous results, if you choose the wrong methods. It's also not your only reason for being. What your presenting is that God only create those beings he knows will not reject Him. If one's only reason for existing is their inability to do something, then their freedom has in fact been disallowed on that matter. As this is about loving God, choice must be part of the equation.

At this point, we have two things of great value, free will and true love, the later, which can only be accomplished by the former.

That's arguable, but I've already taken far too long responding to this.

I would say that since you said the God of the Bible is not loving, you must accept answers from the context of the Biblical data and Christian theology.

Joh 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

1Jo 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

If you want to argue against the Christian context, that's a different discussion entirely.

Your argument that started this discussion:

The Christian God isn't really loving... I suggest Atheism...

Seems to hold love in such a high regard, that if the God of Christianity is not loving, He is worthy of rejection. Now you say otherwise?

It's also rather surprising that an anarchist would discount the value of freedom.

Now, if your point is that true love is not dependant on making a free choice, I would like to see how that can be argued in a sustainable fashion. We don't think much of forcing love on others even in human relationships and people argue so much against God because they think he arbitrarily predestines everyone, that clearly it's widely held that freedom to choose and love are necessarily linked.

But if beings are capable of making choices, then it cannot be guaranteed that some will choose badly. That is simply a logical impossibility. Is it really a reasonable option, to say that we must guarantee that no evil or suffering must occur, if it the only way to do so, is to eliminate free moral agency and thereby true love?

I'm not really following you here. You're saying that it's a logical impossibility that, with the existance of free will, people will choose badly??? I think you may have made an error in that statement.

Yes, I made a mistake but won a bet that you would catch it and recognize it as a an error ;-p

What it should have said:

then it cannot be guaranteed that some will not choose badly

And, again, it's incorrect to assume that eliminating the option to sin negates free will. If sin doesn't exist, our will is not being hindered.

I've addressed that. If that's the only qualification for someone existing or not existing, those who will sin, will not exist, those who will not, are allowed to, then the creatures freedom has most certainly been eliminated. Your statement is also rather empty. How is a creature to have free will on a matter if they are not given an ability to actually make choices relevant to it?

I would say this would leave a world of beings nothing better than the lowest creatures, despite any physical resemblance to ourselves.

I find it funny

Your subjective sense of humor isn't an argument ;-p

that you would say that a race of people unable to sin would be the "lowest creatures". Isn't this the perfection that you find so admirable in Jesus?

Heb 4:15 For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Christ was not just a man but the incarnation or intersection of God and man. As created and contingent beings, we are of a much different nature. Free agency is a valuable gift, not just by my reckoning, judging from those who argue so strongly that God predestines arbitrarily and that is unjust. You seem to be saying much the same by claiming God set up the course of events, as if man had no choice, as if "Satan made me do it" is now a reasonable excuse and therefore God is not loving. As such, I see no reason, nor convincing argument from you, that removing our freedom to choose makes us of more value.

For those of the libertarian view or varieties thereof, freedom from govt. intrusion is highly valued, even though it allows us the opportunity to bring harm to ourselves. That we should then expect just the opposite from God, would ignore this natural human impulse and expect the creator, exactly what many would reject from human government over such minor things as wearing seat belts while driving. Moving to the more important matter regarding eternity, leads me to say that we should value even more, the freedom to choose, despite the potential to harm ourselves that such a choice may allow. But with that, and only by that, we have true love and the great gift and responsibility of moral agency that can result in a loving relationship with God for all eternity.

In this context, the analogy isn't applicable. I do not owe the government the existance of the universe and all that exists. The government isn't all knowing or all powerful. They were elected by men, and not in existance before anything else existed. Not only that, but for that God to be able to sentence us to an eternity in torment doesn't seem too in line with Libertarian thought either, so I don't see how you could argue it's being pertanent.

You've missed the point and your argument is largely based on the misconception of hell, and thereby not persuasive or relevant. The point is quite simple. Freedom from government interference is valued, even if it allows for harm to ourselves or others. Nothing you have presented justifies reversing this position when referencing God or dismissing the comparison.

Within the context of a world of actual value, which therefore cannot help but allow the possibility of evil, we have to wonder if too much is then allowed. I would say it's clear that the world has a net balance of more good, as we are not all in despair and contemplating suicide and tragedy is still shocking rather than so common place that we merely shrug at such news.

This is funny.

Cute rhetoric, but nothing more

First, how can you ascribe a higher amount of value to a world filled with evil, as opposed to one without,

I've done more than that. I've shown that certain valuable features of the world cannot possibly guarantee that no evil will exist. I've also argued that evil choices result in additional good being created. You haven’t begun to even present a different world that's actually possible, which is what my use of "actual value" meant, much less present one that still has these valuable properties, let alone prove that it can also have more good and less evil than this. Mere speculation wont suffice.

when your desire as a Christian is for everyone to imitate Christ, and thus, have a world free of evil.

Because we choose to do so, not because we are unable to do otherwise. That ability to choose is in and of itself of great value.

Second, how can you say that the world has more good in it than evil, when Biblically you are called to not be of the world because of the very fact that the world IS evil.

In comparison to God's love, the world is of less value. However, that actions net out to more good than evil is hardly idle speculation.

Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Not only that, but the fact that everyone here is sin, and sin is evil, means that there would be more evil than good in the world.

You seem to be referencing a particular view on original sin, one I don't hold to, as such, this argument doesn't really suffice and also ignores the actual summation of actions in this world.

Finally, the primary purpose of the world is not merely physical comfort, but knowledge of God that leads to eternity in His presence, which would be greater than any possible comfort one could have in the finite time of their life in this world. The final result will be a community of those who will experience God's joyful presence face to face, by free choice and freely given love. Some will have only arrived at that by way of suffering, through their own choices or by the choices of others, keeping in mind that even those choices that harm others, result in more good being created, precisely because of free moral agency. But for the innocent we know such suffering is recompensed and that such temporal experience will easily be outweighed by the eternal experience of God's love and joy.

I think this has diverged from the point quite a bit. I wasn't speaking of physical comfort, or the suffering that is necessary in life. I'm talking about the Paradox that exists in the doctrine that God is immeasureably good, all knowing and all powerful, and loves his creation/children, yet created the mechanism of their eternal torture, orchestrated their "fall from grace" by his creation of Lucifer and yet is still supposed to be seen as loving. I think you adequately addressed this in your post, but this last paragraph I think was just facilitating your desire to continue writing. :)

I've addressed what you state here throughout my reply.

As to that paragraph ;-p

I was anticipating additional objections to this world being a proper choice for God to have created and therefore providing more support for it being the best possible way to the best possible world as I noted in my last paragraph which got cut.

Sorry that was so long winded but I think some of my reply naturally leads to further questions and I hope to have covered those. To summarize, this is the only way to the best possible world. A community that has freely chosen to love God and desire his presence. What is logically necessary to allow, so that untold multitudes can have that choice, will in the end, be overthrown and defeated. Even now, evil acts result in more good, despite the intention and result in some coming to God that would not have otherwise. A God that takes the great risk that some will choose otherwise and still allows us to exist and have that choice and thereby the ability to love with the final result being our eternal experience of joy and love is truly just and loving and worthy of our adoration.

roll it up


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