Friday, June 22, 2007

Stepping outside of reality

STEVEJ SAID:

“I'm not an atheist, nor do I admire Hitchens at all. But I see his point here. What rational person would, in the absence of heavy religious pressure, be drawn to all these harsh doctrines?”

i) Are you claiming that it’s irrational to believe in harsh truths? I believe that many harsh things are true due to the heavy pressure of reality.

Actually, nothing would be more irrational than to first ask myself if something is harsh, then deny that it could be true. Rather, the only rational course of action is to first ask if something is true, and if it is true, to bring my beliefs into conformity with the real world.

I don’t sort the possible object of belief into what is harsh and what is not, then reserve assent for whatever is agreeable to me. That would be delusional. A make-believe world of wishful thinking.

ii) You are also assuming tht what is harsh is wrong. Why should I share your assumption? For example, I think that child molesters should be treated harshly. They deserved harsh punishment. That is good. That is just. I empathize with the victim.

“Stepping outside of your theology for one or two seconds, I'm sure you can muster the empathy to see how some might find these ideas offensive.”

By all means, let’s consider the implications of stepping outside my theology.

By stepping outside of my theology, I step outside of reality. I step outside of morality. I step outside of meaning. I step outside of hope.

When I step outside of my theology, I step outside of any grounding for good and evil.

When I step outside my theology, I step outside of any grounding for human reason.

When I step outside my theology, I step outside of any hope for the future.

“God gives his creatures specific instructions about not eating of a certain tree.”

And the problem with that is what, exactly?

”Yet He allows a crafty devil to enter the garden.”

No, he doesn’t merely “allow” it. Rather, that’s part of the plan. This is a test. A test of their fidelity. As such, it involves a prohibition as well as a tempter.

“And trick them.”

Where does the Bible say that? According to Scripture, Eve was deceived, but Adam was not deceived” (1 Tim 2:14).

Adam was the federal head of humanity, not his wife. Original sin traces back to Adam (Rom 5: 1 Cor 15).

Since Adam was not deceived, he was in a position to intervene. To overrule his misguided wife. To defend his wife against the advances of the Tempter.

As Gene points out, the garden was a sanctuary, and it was the sacerdotal duty of Adam to guard it from defilement by unclean creatures like the Tempter.

“(To boot, they had no knowledge of good and evil at all).”

False. The name of the tree is an idiomatic merism for omniscience. Good and evil are opposites. Everything ranges along a moral continuum, with degrees of good and evil. To know good and evil means to possess godlike knowledge of all things good and evil.

Prior to the fall, their experience was limited to the good things of the garden. Yet there was evil in the world. The Temper represents the incursion of evil into the holy land of Eden.

Adam and Eve did know the difference between right and wrong. Indeed, the prohibition presupposes such a knowledge. It is wrong to do what God has forbidden.

“As a punishment, God pronounces a number of curses (pain in childbirth, death, weeds in the soil).”

Yes, wrongdoing merits punishment. That’s called justice.

“But without telling anyone,”

Except for Adam and Eve, who else was there to tell?

Anyway, parents frequently know things their children don’t know, and parents make decisions for their children.

“God imposes the curse of endless torment in hell after death for the whole race.”

Wrong. God doesn’t damn the whole human race. Everyone will not end up in hell.

“To whom He also transmits a wholly depraved nature incapable of any real good whatsoever.”

i) No, not “wholly depraved.” Total depravity doesn’t mean that. Common grace preserves a remnant of common decency in the reprobate and unregenerate.

Original sin effects spiritual inability. The unregenerate are incapable of repentance and faith.

ii) A fallen man is not a zombie. He is conscious of his evil predilections. He is both the actor and the audience. He sees himself drawn to evil, and does it anyway. He watches himself committing sin. Reviews his own performance.

iii) The sons of Adam identify with Adam’s sin, in much the same way as we identify with a cinematic character. I am not the character I see on the silver screen, and yet I can relate to that character.

“God later commands all men to repent and believe the gospel ... but this inherited nature precludes their ever listening to it.”

It’s true that an evil heart prevents the listener from giving the gospel a fair hearing. So what?

A misogynist can’t bring himself to think well of women. Is his pathological hatred of women exculpatory? The more evil you are, the more guiltless you are?

“So in eternity, God keeps humans (most of them, in fact) in an immortal state for the sole purpose of inflicting on them the most ghastly tortures imaginable with no hope of abatement.”

i) Where does Scripture ever say the sole purpose of hell is punishment for it’s own sake?

a) Even if that were true, retributive punishment is intrinsically good. It’s an end in itself. That justice be done is intrinsically good.

b) But retributive justice can also be a means to a greater good, which the revelation of God’s character as a just God who exacts retribution on evildoers.

c) And this, in turn, supplies the backdrop for his gratuitous grace and mercy towards the elect.

ii) Where does Scripture say the damned are subject to the “most ghastly tortures imaginable?”

Are you getting this from a few picturesque metaphors? Are you getting this from a literary, artistic, and cinematic tradition?

iii) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the damned are subject to torture. Who is tormenting them? One hellion would be tormenting another hellion.

What is wrong with that? Isn’t that poetic justice? The damned suffer at their own hands?

iv) Assuming that hell is, in fact, horrible beyond imagination, it is horrible because it is populated by horrible people. What is wrong with throwing all the horrible people together? A quarantine of evil.

“Honestly, aren't you bothered by any of these ideas?”

The only things that bother me are real things. I’m not bothered by fictions.

If something isn’t true, then it doesn’t bother me. It only bothers me if it’s true.

So how is your objection an objection to the reality of hell?

“Don't you wish in your heart of hearts that you could discard some of them and still be Christian?”

i) To begin with, I couldn’t discard them even if I wanted to. Doing theology is not like writing a novel, where—if you don’t like the ending—you can rewrite the ending to make it more to your liking.

Reality is not a piece of paper that you can crumple into a little ball and toss into the trashcan.

Revelation comes to us from God. The Bible is a revelation of reality—seen and unseen—past, present, and future. The future doesn’t have a set of outtakes or alternative endings. You and I don’t get to insert a deleted scene.

ii) It doesn’t matter what I feel. I’m not God. I’m a creature. I don’t necessarily have the same attitude about everything that God has.

At best, I have an attitude appropriate to my creatureliness. I enjoy steak and lobster. God does not.

I’m not God, and he isn’t me. So how I feel about the fate of my fellow man, even if that bothered me, is irrelevant to the fact of damnation.

28 comments:

  1. I agree with you completely, Steve. Except the part about God not liking steak and lobster. Jesus may be a big fan of both or at least one.

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  2. A couple points:

    If I did caricature the faith, the caricature isn't very far from the reality. We still have one of the two first parents deceived (I maintain that "tricked" is OK). You still have people who can't repent being told to repent and being punished for not repenting. You still have people suffering for all eternity, a suffering that's compared to being burned in fire. (Am I wrong on this?)

    And every indication from the New Testament is that God (or even Christ himself) is inflicting the pain: "in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God ..." Hell is never portrayed as a kind of Devil's Island where incorrigible criminals are dumped to wreak mayhem on one another. The bottom line is this: If God creates a Lake of Fire and hurls people into it, how can anyone deny that God is the one inflicting the suffering?? The very fact that you guys resort to such word games and hair's breadth word-distinctions is indicative of a weak position.

    You're right that we can't deny something just because it's harsh. I believe in cancer and war, even though these things are highly unpleasant. But the doctrine of a loving God can't be sustained in the face of eternal misery. In our own world, the more loving and compassionate the person, the less likely he or she would ever torture anyone (let alone forever). Are you saying that when we raise love and compassion to an infinite level, that the torture of rational beings becomes inevitable?

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  3. Sinners sin. Sinners sin against other sinners.

    Generally speaking, if we let the sinner off the hook for his sin, it's possible we are being unjust towards the one whom he has sinned against. It's possible we are victimizing the victim. It's possible we are making light of the sinner's sin. How is that more fair than punishing the one who has sinned?

    And in a sense, God is the one most sinned against when a sinner sins.

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  4. If I did caricature the faith, the caricature isn't very far from the reality. We still have one of the two first parents deceived (I maintain that "tricked" is OK)


    You've equivocated.

    ou still have people who can't repent being told to repent and being punished for not repenting.

    This overlooks that the reason for this is their own love of their own evil. This inability is moral, not natural. You seem to think ability limits responsibility, where's the supporting argument?

    You still have people suffering for all eternity, a suffering that's compared to being burned in fire. (Am I wrong on this?)

    Apocalyptic language that requires an exegesis.

    And, has been pointed out already, they get what they want anyway, so where's the outrage for God giving people what they actually desire: freedom from His presence to bless and from the constraints on them?

    And every indication from the New Testament is that God (or even Christ himself) is inflicting the pain: "in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God ..." Hell is never portrayed as a kind of Devil's Island where incorrigible criminals are dumped to wreak mayhem on one another.

    Actually, what we have in the NT is apocalyptic language and a string of metaphors and similes. The relationship to fire is analogical. You're reading the Bible like Tim LaHaye.

    These images are drawn on OT images of judgment, where Israel is the paradigm case. Israel sells itself into slavery in Egypt, the way Adam on our behalf sold us all into the slavery of sin. Unbelievers who hear the gospel are compounding the error by agreeing with what Adam did, which, by the way undermines the alleged unfairness of us being punished for Adam's sin. In sinning ourselves, we agree with him. None of us, given the same conditions, including DIRECT FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD, would have done anything different. Ergo, we agree with Adam, so our punishment is deserved.

    As Israel was carried into exile, so are unbelievers in the eschaton. The "lake of fire" is analogous to exile in Babylon, dispersion, in short, permanent exile, separation from the covenant land, from the Temple, from the God of the covenant's blessings.

    Likewise, God's judgments on Israel in the OT consist of man's inhumanity to man. God leaves Israel to inflict its own unrighteousness on itself. He raises up nations; He allows all sorts of things. Is He responsible? Yes, but He isn't to blame. These curses were told them in Deuteronomy.

    So, Steve, this isn't resorting to "word games" at all. It's a matter of making the proper exegetical connections. God is "inflicting" the suffering for a reason, and the way He's doing it, isn't by hooking them up to a torture device in fire, but by allowing man's inhumanity to man to bear its full fruit for all eternity, which, again, is exactly what they deserve and exactly what they want.

    But the doctrine of a loving God can't be sustained in the face of eternal misery.

    Of course, love isn't the only attribute of God, and the "omnibenevolence" of God isn't a doctrine you'll find argued here. You're arguing like an Arminian annhiliationist, and Scripture is rather clear that God doesn't "love the sin and hate the sinner." Read Psalm 5:4 -6.

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  5. Patrick, those are insufficient options. You're saying that our understanding should be limited to just two perspectives: (1) God inflicts excruciating pain on sinners forever in hell, or (2) God doesn't recompense sin at all.

    I'm not saying that evildoers should get away with their evil deeds. But I am saying that torturing a living being for trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions of eons without any hope of future mercies is utterly untenable.

    How can you live one happy moment knowing that multitudes are writhing and convulsing somewhere in hideous suffering that will never end?

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  6. --The only things that bother me are real things. I’m not bothered by fictions.

    >>Very, very nice.

    --Doing theology is not like writing a novel, where—if you don’t like the ending—you can rewrite the ending to make it more to your liking.

    >>That's not what the Pope tells me!

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  7. SteveJ,

    Where do you get this idea that God will torture the damned? Could you cite your source, please?

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  8. "You're reading the Bible like Tim LaHaye."

    Lol, that one caught me off guard. Thanks for the laugh, Gene.

    CMA

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  9. "God inflicts excruciating pain on sinners forever in hell"

    "multitudes are writhing and convulsing somewhere in hideous suffering that will never end?"

    You seem to be equating the Bible's depiction of hell with say, Dante's or the Koran's. Daniel 12 indicates that hell is a place of everlasting disgrace and shame, not some sort of medieval torture-box.

    "But the doctrine of a loving God can't be sustained in the face of eternal misery."

    But the doctrine of a just God can

    "But I am saying that torturing a living being for trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions of eons without any hope of future mercies is utterly untenable."

    On what basis? Yours or Scripture's?

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  10. Gene,

    Regardless of the symbolic, eschatological interpretation of these texts, if you still have people living in misery forever and ever, you're holding a morally untenable doctrine. How you get to that teaching doesn't matter quite so much ... whether you speak the language of Tim LaHaye or N.T. Wright.

    Concerning the culpability of damned sinners, no amount of explanation can make the Calvinist doctrine coherent and rational. A sinner can't believe the gospel any more than he can hold his breath for a week. But God tells the sinner he must. The sinner, of course, can't and doesn't. So he's punished for not doing the impossible.

    Where's the justice in that?

    It doesn't help to argue that the sinner "loves his sin." That's all he can do, by your own admission. Maybe God should punish lions for eating meat instead of tree leaves.

    Also, it's just a dodge to say that God is merely obliging sinners who really want hell instead of heaven. So are you affirming that after, say, 100 billion years of torment, the damned will be relieved ("Whew!") that they aren't in an uncomfortable place like heaven where they have to be around a holy God and all that singing? Is God really doing the damned a big favor by placing them in a lake of fire?

    Besides, you're painting the denizens of hell as all loathsome miscreants prone to hurt one another. (That makes it easier on you, doesn't it?) But what about the decent Tibetan villager who simply died practicing his native-born religion? Or the teen girl dying in childbirth? Or the sweet Jewish lady down the street? Will they all be dumped in with Charles Manson, Nero and Jack the Ripper? Is Hitler in hell with all his Jewish victims, punching it out? That's sick.

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  11. SteveJ,

    It seems to me that your problem with an individual suffering eternally in hell is two-fold:

    1) It under-estimates the holiness of God.

    2) It under-estimates the sinfulness of mankind.

    The second is more obivous in your reasoning. Your appeal to sweet little Jewish ladies and nice guys in Tibet minding their own business are completely off-base. Are you going to argue now that there are folks out there who aren't so bad? How do you know that the Tibetan guy wouldn't have been worse than Hitler given the power and opportunity? After all, Jeffrey Dahmer's neighbor's thought he was a swell guy until it turned out that he was eating people.

    How much should people be punished for hating an All-Good God? 100 days? And what if, while they are being justly punished, whatever measure you decide that to be, they continue hating God for the fact that they are being justly punished? Should those offenses be overlooked? People in hell will never love God, ever. Unless you are a straight Pelagian, you must admit that salvation comes by God's grace in some way and not by man's effort only. Do you think that hell is a place of redemption then? (I.E. After a certain amount of time being punished God draws people in hell to himself to stop hating and start loving him?) And if they never stop hating God, and thereby accruing guilt, how will they get off the hook?

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  12. Regardless of the symbolic, eschatological interpretation of these texts,

    In other words, you'll just ignore what's been stated.

    if you still have people living in misery forever and ever, you're holding a morally untenable doctrine.

    How you get to that teaching doesn't matter quite so much ... whether you speak the language of Tim LaHaye or N.T. Wright.

    In short, what you'll do is remove all the caveats offered and argue a simplistic version, but where's the supporting argument for that?

    Scripture determines what is a morally tenable or untenable argument, and it doesn't consider this morally untenable.

    You're arguing for a sentimental theology, but that's an assertion minus the argument. It's argument by emotion, nothing more.

    You're also changing the goalposts. At first you talked about an eternal torture chamber. When the Scriptures are exposited, you don't deal with that, you simply talk about misery being morally untenable. Where's the supporting argument?

    And before you argued about the tenability of a "loving God," but God's love in Scripture is directed toward the elect, not the reprobate. His "love" for them in this life is related to common grace, not special grace, and that itself is dependent on a covenant with an elect person, Noah (Genesis 8). His "love" in the New Covenant era is due to His mercy toward the elect and their actions as salt and light in the darkness. For a time, He is drawing near for their sakes, not out of some sort of "omnibenevolence" so don't try to argue about what is "moral" or "loving," with us without first justifying the concepts you have already asserted.

    Concerning the culpability of damned sinners, no amount of explanation can make the Calvinist doctrine coherent and rational.

    A. You're conflating what is "rational" with what is, in your estimation moral. Like what is moral what is "rational" is determined by Scripture, not your assertions.

    B. If it is "irrational" what laws of logic are violated? What Scriptures prove otherwise?

    C. Is it unjust of God to do this? That would depend on Scripture's definition, not your ipse dixit. You'll need an exegetical argument that ability limits responsibility.That commits you to libertarian free will, contracausal freedom, but that denies that our choices have causes. Who then is "irrational?" Not we.

    A sinner can't believe the gospel any more than he can hold his breath for a week. But God tells the sinner he must.

    Actually sin generates its own warrant to repent. God need not "tell" the sinner he must. The sinner, due to the nature of sin, is obligated to repent. He already knows this instinctively. That's one reason you see a multiplicity of religions that hold to this concept. Men know that when the do wrong, they must repent and make it right. Special revelation's role is to properly inform them of the proper object to whom they should repenting and in whom they must invest their faith in order to be justified; but the fact of the necessity of repentance, God's wrath, etc. is already written on their consciences according to Romans.

    The sinner, of course, can't and doesn't. So he's punished for not doing the impossible.

    No, he could do it if he wanted to do so. The fact that he tries to do so and musters false repentance is proof enough of this. He can muster that much.

    He can't muster true repentance, because he won't when confronted with the proper reason and object apart from grace. Further his inability to do so is, itself, a judgment for sin, and something to which he is most agreeable, since he hates God anyway. So, so what you're saying is that God is unjust for giving the sinner what he secretly wants, since no sinner would ever have made a different choice than Adam.

    I'd also add that men are not being punished for not believing in Christ; they are punished for their sins. They would only be charged with a failure to turn to Christ if presented with the gospel and rejecting it. The doctrine of particular redemption is quite specific about this. I deny general atonement. It would help if you would familiarize yourself with this concept.

    You're making an argument that ability limits responsibility. On your view then, God is not morally responsible for his actions if He cannot commit sin.

    Again, we have another assertion minus the argument coming from you.

    Also, it's just a dodge to say that God is merely obliging sinners who really want hell instead of heaven.

    No, it's a dodge to make an argument that ability limits responsibility and then make your claims, because this commits you to some version of libertarian free will. So, you wind up arguing that God is morally wrong for giving people what they want. In turn, you act as if he should either not punish them for sin or violate their free will, which would, in turn, violate your belief that ability limits responsibility. You're the one arguing an irrational position.

    So are you affirming that after, say, 100 billion years of torment, the damned will be relieved ("Whew!") that they aren't in an uncomfortable place like heaven where they have to be around a holy God and all that singing?

    For starters, where is the final state of the righteous (which is Earth, not heaven by the way) ever depicted that way? What's depicted is a life of meaningful labor, obedience to God's laws, etc. We're not talking about clouds and harps.

    The reprobate will be quite happy that they won't have to bow down to God's moral Law. They will be happy with their exile and would, given the alternative, prefer it to being with God and subject to Him. Once again, this isn't my position, it's that of Scripture, for Scripture is quite clear that the 10 dispersed tribes of the North did not return, and they were, at the time of writing, still continuing in their sins. The message they sent God was that they were not repentant and that they did not desire to return to the covenant land, and they seemed to be quite happy with that. Israel in the Pentateuch engaged in historical revisionism by talking about how good they had it in Egypt, while God was, via Moses, leading them! Hell is no different.

    Is God really doing the damned a big favor by placing them in a lake of fire?

    If your children didn't want to live in your house under your rules, there would, I would hope, come a point you'd tell them to get out and go on their own.

    See how SteveJ simply continues with his Tim LaHaye presentation as if this hasn't been answered already. When he can actually start interacting with what we present, he'll get a better answer. Let's start by him showing us that the Bible says hell is like Dante's Inferno.

    Besides, you're painting the denizens of hell as all loathsome miscreants prone to hurt one another. (That makes it easier on you, doesn't it?)

    More sentimental fictions from you about those there.

    That's exactly what men are apart from God's restraint of the evil in their hearts.

    But what about the decent Tibetan villager who simply died practicing his native-born religion? Or the teen girl dying in childbirth? Or the sweet Jewish lady down the street? Will they all be dumped in with Charles Manson, Nero and Jack the Ripper? Is Hitler in hell with all his Jewish victims, punching it out? That's sick.

    This is one of those questions that betrays your shallow theological understanding and requires more correction of that than anything else.

    The doctrine of hell includes gradations. Jesus told Pilate his sin was lesser than that of the tribunal. Apostates are the closest to the center, so, it is in this particular way that ability limits culpability. That is, what a person knows or does not doesn't go unnoticed.

    1. Those created apart from the gospel and the written Laws of God at all will receive a "lighter" retribution. For all we know, they're living in a cushy spot in the best part of town in relative ease as the ruling class.

    2. On the other hand, Romans 2 tells us that they will receive a punishment for, in doing the the things of the law on their consciences, they prove that they know that God exists, what God is like, etc. Ergo, when they fail to do them, they are charged accordingly.

    3. Paul goes on to elucidate the idea that those with the most truth get the worst punishment. In other words, in terms of the OT, the reprobate Jews will get it worse than the Gentiles, in the NT era, those who hear the gospel get it worse than those who are denied it; of those, the ones that apostatize from the faith get it worse and so on and so on. Consequently, its a straw man to argue that everybody is lumped together the same way.

    4. That Tibetan villager is still a God-hater at heart, so where's the injustice? Ditto with everybody you've named. If they loved God, they would obey all of His Law perfectly, and the only thing that keeps them "decent" is God's restraint upon them.

    As to that nice Jewish lady. I've had that conversation with Jews before, and I'll tell you the same thing.

    a. That Jewish lady, if she wants to be observant commits herself to the Mosaic Covenant. This would include BOTH the blessings and cursings of that covenant found in Deuteronomy. So, the breezy way you try to speak for her is out of order. She has no right to complain before the bar of God's judgment given the content to which she is committed. If she loved God, she would do the works of Abraham and enter the New Covenant, and that covenant is prophesied, by the way in Jeremiah. That sweet Jewish lady would, if God lifted his restraint on her, enter the synagogue, burn the Torah, set fire to the pews, and curse God with all her might.

    b. And it isn't as if we're talking about people being killed for just one thing. No, let's take that sweet little lady.

    That lady, if she sins just ten times a day every year for 70 years, will have sinned 255,500 sins. If you had that many traffic tickets, Steve, they'd put you under the jail! So, all the sentimentality in the world won't justify your assertions about her.
    Further, she continues to sin in hell for all eternity.

    Sojourner is right, you have a low view of sin. James says to break one point of the Law is to break it all. What he's saying is that sin is not a simple thing. When you steal, for example, you are doing more than that. You are coveting to. You're committing idolatry. In short, you break both tables of the Law, regarding the love of God and love of your fellow man. When you steal, you demonstrate hatred for your fellow man. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said that was no different than murder.

    Let's take Adam in the Garden. That one sin violated the whole Law. He committed idolatry, for all sin is idolatry. He listened to a demonic being, tantamount to a graven image being allowed to sit in the tabernacle. He coveted the fruit and stole it, for God had prohibited it. He was married to Eve, and in doing this, he violated his marriage covenant, a form of adultery. He further took God's name in vain, for in cultivating the Garden, he accepted the terms of the covenant given to Him. The narrative day is the 7th, so he violated the Sabbath. By eating he further committed mass murder upon both his wife and all men that would follow, and then he bore false witness by shifting blame, trying to even blame God, like you, I might add.

    So, SteveJ, your view of sin is shallow and low. This is what man is guilty of with just one sin, so we could, in theory, multiply the sins of that sweet little Jewish lady or that Tibetan monk by a factor of ten.

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  13. Semper Reformanda6/22/2007 8:19 PM

    SteveJ keeps asserting that "people living in misery forever" is an "untenable doctrine", but he doesn't back any of this up with an argument. An assertion, no matter how gratuitous, is not an argument.

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  14. SteveJ said:

    I'm not saying that evildoers should get away with their evil deeds. But I am saying that torturing a living being for trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions of eons without any hope of future mercies is utterly untenable.

    How can you live one happy moment knowing that multitudes are writhing and convulsing somewhere in hideous suffering that will never end?


    So you're arguing that God's punishment against sin is somehow gratuitous? From which passage(s) of Scripture do you gather this notion?

    Also, are you more merciful than God?

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  15. Where do you get this idea that God will torture the damned? Could you cite your source, please?

    Rhology:

    These texts certainly sound to me like God Himself is the agent of misery upon the unbelievers:

    God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power ...

    As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. ... If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. ... For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"and again, "The Lord will judge his people."It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

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  16. Gene,

    Of course ability limits responsibility. We cut children a lot of slack because they're children; we don't expect adult behavior -- they're not yet capable of it. If an elderly person with dementia says something embarrassing or insulting, we overlook it because of his condition. What kind of cruelty demands something that a person by nature is unable to perform?

    If your children didn't want to live in your house under your rules, there would, I would hope, come a point you'd tell them to get out and go on their own.

    True, but I wouldn't put them in a furnace and make them stay in it.

    The doctrine of hell includes gradations. Jesus told Pilate his sin was lesser than that of the tribunal. Apostates are the closest to the center, so, it is in this particular way that ability limits culpability.


    Gene, you criticized me for drawing images from Dante, and here you are talking about circles within hell!

    Also, you mention the blessing and cursing of Deuteronomy. A couple thoughts: Nowhere does God tell the Israelites that post-mortem torment awaits those who break the law. Why not? Why would He tell them about relatively trifling earthly punishments for disobedience but say nothing about the most horrible curse of all? Why the omission? Second, the Jewish law did not demand perfect perpetual obedience. This is a giant fallacy of Reformed theology. Sacrifices built into the law presupposed that people would break that law. Still, God Himself says that the law was possible for people to keep (30:11). In fact, Luke tells us that Zechariah and Elisabeth were righteous and kept the law blamelessly (Luke 1:6).

    And about LaHaye. To suggest that LaHaye's concept of hell is unique to him is nothing short of dishonest. Reformed luminaries like Spurgeon, Edwards, Warfield, Pink, etc., all held to the same crass, repulsive view of hell that LaHaye does ... actually their views were worse and spoken of more graphically.

    So, SteveJ, your view of sin is shallow and low. This is what man is guilty of with just one sin, so we could, in theory, multiply the sins of that sweet little Jewish lady or that Tibetan monk by a factor of ten.

    Gene, you're welcome to worship a God who keeps fallible people alive forever in pain over ONE SINGLE SIN, and calling that a "high view of sin." Suppose a legislature passed a law that every legal breach, no matter how slight, would be punished by having the perpetrator's eyes gouged out and his body eaten by wild dogs. Would you admire such a governing body for its high view of the law? I wouldn't.

    Patrick,

    Also, are you more merciful than God?

    No, I'm not. That's why I can't believe that God would perform such a merciless act as to punish an ignorant Tibetan villager for all eternity.

    Semper,

    SteveJ keeps asserting that "people living in misery forever" is an "untenable doctrine", but he doesn't back any of this up with an argument.

    Not every assertion requires an argument. Here's an assertion: "It's horrible to cut open a live infant and tear out its beating heart." Do I have to prove it? Only to an idiot.

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  17. Semper Reformanda6/22/2007 11:38 PM

    "Not every assertion requires an argument. Here's an assertion: "It's horrible to cut open a live infant and tear out its beating heart." Do I have to prove it? Only to an idiot."

    Only because most people would share that assumption. So yes, every assertion *would* require an argument if the opposition didn't share your operating assumptions. Since we don't share those assumptions here, then yes, you do have to provide an argument, otherwise we have no reason to believe you. What is gratuitously asserted can be gratuitously denied.

    Especially when you claim that the doctrine of hell is untenable. Yet you claim to be a Christian. Well I'm not sure I get it - the doctrine of hell is pulled directly from the Bible...do you believe God or no?

    Now, on to the passages provided, Steve has already adressed the issue of the imagery of hell, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll simply repost what he said the first time:

    "1.Scripture often recycles stock imagery—including poetic imagery. That’s what makes it stock imagery.

    The mere fact that it’s used over and over again does not, of itself, suggest that it’s literal.

    2.In addition, some of the imagery is apparently incompatible. Fire is a light-source. So how do you harmonize fire with darkness?

    Now, if we felt the need to harmonize the imagery, we could postulate something like a campfire. However, there’s nothing very hellish about a campfire.

    I think it’s more plausible to suppose that Scripture is using different metaphors to express the extreme misery of hell.

    “Light” and “darkness” are standard spiritual metaphors throughout Scripture. So is “fire,” the force of which varies according to context.

    3.Taking this literally also generates some other logistical problems. What, literally speaking, would be a lake of fire? Something like a lava flow?

    But the devil is cast into the lake of fire. Yet the devil is a discarnate spirit. So he’s fireproof.

    Conversely, if we assume that the damned are reembodied souls, according to the general resurrection, then they are not fireproof. To the contrary, tossing one of them into a lava flow would incinerate the flesh.

    But why resurrect the damned only to once again negate the effects of a resurrection?

    Of course, it’s possible to miraculously preserve the flesh in conditions of extreme heat (Dan 3), but in the case of Daniel’s friends, not only were they unharmed, but they felt no pain.

    But if being burned alive in the lake of fire is a painless experience, then what’s the point?

    4.Likewise, the reference to “worms” is an allusion to maggots which infest and devour a corpse.

    But, literally speaking, the damned are not going to be eaten alive. Otherwise, they’d have no body left.

    5.Now, it’s quite possible, due to the general resurrection, that the damned will be susceptible to physical pain. And they may inflict pain on one another. But that’s a possible inference from the general resurrection, and not from fiery figures of speech."

    The wailing of gnashing of teeth references are perfectly compatible with the notion of eternal shame and disgrace, which, as has already been mentioned, is pointed to in Daniel 12.

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  18. SteveJ, you seem confused.

    You can't seem to tell the difference between God carrying out judgment and the way it is carried out, nor are you showing anything about how this is at all objectionable, since Scripture, not whatever your own ideas are, provides the warrant for what is moral and what isn't.


    None of these Scriptures are defeaters for what I, Steve, and the rest have outlined, and I can't help but notice you didn't bother to actually exegete the text.

    God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power ...

    All this text proves is that the unrighteous will be punished for sin. "Everlasting destruction" is language that goes back to the OT, where the nation is destroyed, eg. laid waste forever. Again, the image is one of being put out of the covenant community permanently. They are shut out from the presence of the Lord's majesty and power.

    As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    And how is this at all something that would infer something that the Christian should find distressing? The image is one of a garden. Should we take joy if the weeds are not taken out? Should we rejoice that weeds suck the life out of the crop and choke the good plants?

    Yes, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and why is that objectionable? Your "ethical monotheism" should be re-entitled "sentimental monotheism." What is your epistemological warrant?

    And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. ... If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    And once again, I've dealt with that.

    If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. ... For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"and again, "The Lord will judge his people."It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

    Here, "raging fire" is an OT image of war and judgment akin to Sodom aand Gommorrah and descriptions of the nations that God raised up to "consume" apostate Israel. This text is specifically addressed to a Jewish audience, so it carries with it all the images of judgment from the OT. The Jew that does not continue into the New Covenant will face the curses of the covenant in which he stands, per Deuteronomy.

    This statement: , "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"and "The Lord will judge his people."It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."again,
    come from Deuteronomy 32 itself, and the rest of it continues, In due due time their foot will slip; for the day of calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them."

    Notice that this is a song of PRAISE to God from His people for his actions, and, what's more it is inspired Scripture. So, what you are advocating here is out of step with what Scripture says should be our attitude. "Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people."

    And if that's not enough, part of this text calls on Psalm 135, a song of praise..."Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the LORD..." The acts of God, including His acts of justice are called out for praise. Yet you would have us call this irrational and immoral.

    Further, look at the way the judgment is framed...the adversaries feet slip. This image is quite common in the OT. They bring judgment on themselves. God's "repaying" consists mostly here of him letting their evil bear its own fruit. God isn't hear hardening anybody or torturing anybody. God is simply letting His enemies do their own thing, because in due time, it will result in self-destruction.

    Further, this last text specifically describes those closest to the truth yet who apostatize. These are people who know the gospel, have sat under the truth, and then either as Jews they have failed to enter the New Covenant or as Gentiles like the majority of people since that was written, they have sat in churches, imbibed the truth, partaken of all the good things offered and yet they have not entered the New Covenant and have, instead chosen to spit in the face of Christ, the Incarnate Son Himself, to trample that great work of the cross, and give the proverbial middle finger to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, thereby apostatizing...pray tell, if that person does not qualify for a direct action on the part of God for all eternity and you find that immoral and irrational, might I rather candidly suggest that you need to reevaluate your position.

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  19. SteveJ said:

    [I asked:] Also, are you more merciful than God?

    No, I'm not. That's why I can't believe that God would perform such a merciless act as to punish an ignorant Tibetan villager for all eternity.


    1. Yet it's odd that you should sit in judgment over God as he has revealed himself to us in the Bible insofar as things like justice, punishment, hell, etc. are concerned.

    2. Why would this be merciless in your view? God is not punishing him for his ignorance, per se. God is punishing him for his sin. A sinner is justly punished simply for having sinned, not necessarily for not knowing God (although I do believe sinners suppress their knowledge of God, but that's another issue).

    3. Or are you suggesting he's not a sinner?

    4. Moreover, as I've already asked you above, are you contending God's punishment is gratuitous? That it's either unwarranted or perhaps not proportional to the sin committed? Again, are you more merciful than God? What makes what you say about mercy and love morally superior to what God says about mercy and love in the Bible?

    5. I should also point out that you're conflating what the Bible teaches with what some Christians teach. Of course, it would be ideal if Christians faithfully taught what the Bible teaches. But it's not necessarily true in every case that a Christian is faithful to what the Bible teaches. In any case, ultimately, you have to support your argument from the Bible, not from what this or that Christian says about hell or whatever.

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  20. Gene,

    I have no problem with understanding many of these texts metaphorically. Several of your exegetical points make sense. I've heard good arguments linking the "eternal fire" with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

    So do sinners suffer for all eternity or not?

    Patrick,

    Yet it's odd that you should sit in judgment over God as he has revealed himself to us in the Bible insofar as things like justice, punishment, hell, etc. are concerned.

    The biblical doctrine of final punishment is uneven at best. Some texts appear to teach traditional eternal torment, others annihilationism, still others universal redemption. In Luke 20:35, it sounds as if only "worthy" persons will be resurrected at all.

    Of course, people will insist on the view they consider most orthodox within the tradition they inhabit.

    Moreover, as I've already asked you above, are you contending God's punishment is gratuitous?

    Eternal misery would, I believe, be gratutious. Eighty or ninety years of sin punished by endless eons of torment? That doesn't seem just or proportionate.

    Again, are you more merciful than God?

    Again, no. But that's part of my argument. I would never subject a person to prolonged torture, therefore I deny that God, whose mercy exceeds mine infinitely, will do it either.

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  21. Of course ability limits responsibility. We cut children a lot of slack because they're children; we don't expect adult behavior -- they're not yet capable of it.

    We do expect them to obey us when we say "Don't do that." We do expect them to know right from wrong, and I would add that we don't have to teach children to do wrong; we have to teach them, constantly, to do right.

    If an elderly person with dementia says something embarrassing or insulting, we overlook it because of his condition. What kind of cruelty demands something that a person by nature is unable to perform?

    This fails to distinguish between natural inability and moral inability, so it doesn't apply.

    You aren't arguing against the former, you are arguing against the latter. That commits you to contra-causal freedom. That in turn means you would have to agree that if God is unable to sin, He is not morally free and therefore not morally responsible for His actions. It would also necessarily commit you to causeless choices. That's irrational. Those are your choices within the biblical worldview, and what's more, you are doing so without benefit of argument.

    If you are going to argue this, then you need to provide a biblical argument for libertarian freedom. I'll repeat myself, sir. The Bible, not your emotions or mine, determines what is real, rational, and moral. Where, then, does the Bible (a) teach libertarian freedom and (b) if it does speak of ability limiting responsibility, in what manner? I've given you one example, and you can find others in John Frame's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. God read it.

    Moral inability arises due to the love of evil in the hearts of men. They can't because they won't. They love their sin, and not only that, each and every one of us, given all the blessings of the Garden of Eden itself would have still disobeyed God, ergo, this inability is the result of a curse which is wholly justified, so your outrage is misplaced.

    True, but I wouldn't put them in a furnace and make them stay in it.

    SteveJ, for a 53 year old man, you have a nasty habit of acting childishly. You can't seem to interact with an argument and you keep repeating this when it has already been answered several times.“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Dan 12.2)

    This is the first verse in the bible that refers to post-death, post-resurrection, long-term effects of this life, for those who actively reject God’s goodness. Notice that the 'quality of life' is described as 'disgrace' and 'contempt'--hardly mind-numbing torture terms! If the hell-experience had been understood as the intense suffering commonly attributed to it, then this verse has focused on very minor aspects of that--to the point of being misleading perhaps.

    From Immortality: The Other Side of Death, Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland, Nelson:1992

    "Before proceeding, though, one more preliminary is in order. We do not accept the idea that hell is a place where God actively tortures people forever and ever. There will indeed be everlasting, conscious, mental and physical torment in various degrees according to the lives people have lived here on earth. But the essence of that torment is relational in nature: the banishment from heaven and all it stands for. Mental and physical anguish result from the sorrow and shame of the judgment of being forever relationally excluded from God, heaven, and so forth. It is not due to God himself inflicting torture."

    "In response, we should first point out that we would agree that an un-ending hell of moment by moment, active torture by God would be unjust and hard to square with his love and the intrinsic dignity of man. But we have already shown that our understanding of hell is different from the torture-chamber model."

    "Remember, hell is not a torture chamber, and people in hell are not howling like dogs in mind-numbing pain. There are degrees of anguish in hell."

    "The Bible describes hell primarily in relational terms--it is 'away from' God. Therefore, it involves banishment from his presence, his purposes, and his followers. Like heaven, hell is a freely chosen destination. What we decide to believe and do in this life sets us on a road leading to a final destination in the next...Hell is also a place of shame, sorrow, regret, and anguish. This intense pain is not actively produced by God; he is not a cosmic torturer. Undoubtedly, anguish and torment will exist in hell. And because we will have both body and soul in the resurrected state, the anguish experienced can be both mental and physical. But the pain suffered will be due to the shame and sorrow resulting from the punishment of final, ultimate, unending banishment from God, his kingdom, and the good life for which we were created in the first place. Hell's occupants will deeply and tragically regret all they lost. As Jesus said, 'For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?' (Matt 16:26)"

    "The Bible's picture of hell, therefore, indicates that upon death, some people will be translated into a different, nonspatial mode of existence. They will be conscious, and they will await the resurrection of their bodies, at which time they will be banished from heaven and secured in hell where they will experience unending, conscious exclusion from God, his people, and anything of value. This banishment will include conscious sorrow, shame, and anguish to differing degrees, depending on the person's life on earth."

    Gene, you criticized me for drawing images from Dante, and here you are talking about circles within hell!

    And I'm doing so as a strategy to get you to understand since you have not objected when we've pointed out that your view is more derivative of tradition, Dante, et.al. than Scripture. You can't seem to keep track of your own arguments. My answers are pegged to what you appear to be using to frame the issue, so you have only yourself to blame. I also gave you exegetical justifications. Yours are remarkably absent from this exchange.

    Also, you mention the blessing and cursing of Deuteronomy. A couple thoughts: Nowhere does God tell the Israelites that post-mortem torment awaits those who break the law. Why not? Why would He tell them about relatively trifling earthly punishments for disobedience but say nothing about the most horrible curse of all? Why the omission?

    Because we're talking here about temporal punishments. We recognize that revelation is progressive. That said, Deut 32.22f:

    For a fire has been kindled by my wrath,

    one that burns to the realm of death below.

    It will devour the earth and its harvests

    and set afire the foundations of the mountains.

    "I will heap calamities upon them

    and spend my arrows against them.


    EBCOT (The Expositor's Bible Commentary.) comments:

    "The result of the Lord's anger (v. 22) is described as a world-embracing cataclysm of fire adversely affecting three entities: the realm of death (whether the afterlife or the grave for dead bodies), the earth and its harvests (its productivity), and the very foundations of the mountains (Ps 18:7)

    I'd add that Jewish literature is often more graphic than the frightful descriptions of hell found in Christian apocalypses. The rabbis speak of licentious men hanging by their genitals, women who publicly suckled their children hanging by their breasts, and those who talked during synagogue prayers having their mouths filled with hot coals.

    Second, the Jewish law did not demand perfect perpetual obedience. This is a giant fallacy of Reformed theology.Sacrifices built into the law presupposed that people would break that law

    This is undermined by your next statement. The sacrifices were necessary because perfect obedience was required. What we have in the Mosaic Law is a dualistic covenant. On the one hand it recapitulates the Creation Covenant and on the other it administers grace.

    Still, God Himself says that the law was possible for people to keep (30:11).
    This is Campbellite theology and pure Pelagianism. If what you say is true, then why didn't they keep it perfectly? Who has ever done this?

    What you've done is make a gigantic assumption that a command to do a thing proves the ability to do it, e.g. God would not command us to do what we cannot do.

    God gave the Law to expose sin and increase the consciousness of our inability to keep the Law so we would know we are condemned sinners and without excuse for our sins. The Law’s purpose is to show us that we do not have the ability to keep it, not to show us our ability to keep it. “The Law came in so that transgression might increase.” (Rom.6:20a).

    The Law is good, but it is our love of evil that keeps us from keeping it. “By the works of the Law, shall no flesh be justified.” (Rom.3:20, Gal.2:16). If men have the ability to keep the Law, then there are two ways of salvation: works and grace. Such an idea ultimately negates the need for the gospel itself. Paul specifically calls such a thing an anathema in Galatians.

    The Law cannot justify because of the weakness of the flesh (Romans 8:3). Paul tells us more about exactly what makes the flesh weak. Romans 8:5-8; For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

    This objection is irrational. Nothing can be deduced about abilities from a command. One can command someone to do something to show them their inability and increase their guilt. Remember, the reason that men cannot obey is moral. They cannot obey, because, by nature, they do not want to obey.

    This statement, "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach." refers to the fact that this covenant was preached to them, confirmed to them by signs and wonders, placed all over their homes, and was intelligible. God did not make it so hard that it would be impossible to, if they wanted to to carry it out. You've conflated a statement about the Law and the covenant with a statement about the ability of the human will. Nothing can be deduced about the will from a command or a statement like this.

    In fact, Luke tells us that Zechariah and Elisabeth were righteous and kept the law blamelessly (Luke 1:6).

    This is not a statement about the merits of keeping the Law for justification or of sinlessness. What we have here is a comparitive statement about them in relationship to others. They were pious Jews. They were elect persons saved by the grace of God and persevering in the covenant. That's a very common statement in Scripture. They were people like Job, but Job is not depicted as sinless, and 1 Samuel, I believe, clearly states that there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.

    To suggest that LaHaye's concept of hell is unique to him is nothing short of dishonest.

    What's dishonest is to say that I have suggested that his concept of hell is unique to him. Can you quote me on that? Given your shallow theology, I thought I'd chose somebody that might be better understood.

    Reformed luminaries like Spurgeon, Edwards, Warfield, Pink, etc., all held to the same crass, repulsive view of hell that LaHaye does ... actually their views were worse and spoken of more graphically

    Then talk to somebody that holds those views. You keep acting as if Steve and I and these others do. Interact with our view and not that one. All this demonstrates is that there is variance in Christian theology, and there are reasons for that variance, speaking of which all we have from you is a bunch of emotion, nothing much else. If somebody holding that view wants to come here and argue that hell is a torture chamber with real flames then let them come here and do it, and we'll engage them on exegetical grounds, but you're not doing that, all you're doing is arguing by outrage.

    Gene, you're welcome to worship a God who keeps fallible people alive forever in pain over ONE SINGLE SIN, and calling that a "high view of sin."M
    First, here's what I actually wrote, since you can't seem to interact with it:

    And it isn't as if we're talking about people being killed for just one thing. No, let's take that sweet little lady.

    That lady, if she sins just ten times a day every year for 70 years, will have sinned 255,500 sins. If you had that many traffic tickets, Steve, they'd put you under the jail! So, all the sentimentality in the world won't justify your assertions about her.
    Further, she continues to sin in hell for all eternity.

    Sojourner is right, you have a low view of sin. James says to break one point of the Law is to break it all. What he's saying is that sin is not a simple thing. When you steal, for example, you are doing more than that. You are coveting to. You're committing idolatry. In short, you break both tables of the Law, regarding the love of God and love of your fellow man. When you steal, you demonstrate hatred for your fellow man. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said that was no different than murder.

    Let's take Adam in the Garden. That one sin violated the whole Law. He committed idolatry, for all sin is idolatry. He listened to a demonic being, tantamount to a graven image being allowed to sit in the tabernacle. He coveted the fruit and stole it, for God had prohibited it. He was married to Eve, and in doing this, he violated his marriage covenant, a form of adultery. He further took God's name in vain, for in cultivating the Garden, he accepted the terms of the covenant given to Him. The narrative day is the 7th, so he violated the Sabbath. By eating he further committed mass murder upon both his wife and all men that would follow, and then he bore false witness by shifting blame, trying to even blame God, like you, I might add.


    So, what I did was show how your view of sin is shallow and facile and simplistic by way of exposition and illustration. "One single sin" involves many more sins than that one, no matter which way you go, and you have simply ignored it, which I can't help but notice seems to be your operative mode. You don't discuss what I write, but something else.

    Suppose a legislature passed a law that every legal breach, no matter how slight, would be punished by having the perpetrator's eyes gouged out and his body eaten by wild dogs. Would you admire such a governing body for its high view of the law? I wouldn't.

    I wouldn't either, but for different reasons. I begin not with my preconceived notions of what is just and right but with what Scripture teaches. Scripture teaches that the punishment fits the crime. For example, "an eye for an eye" means "an eye for an eye'" not "a life for an eye." If you steal, you repay but not an extortionate amount. What you described would not fit that model, and what you have been consistently told here is that not only is a person punished for sin s/he commits here, s/he continues to sin there too, unabated. You're not interacting with the argument we're making, and I surmise it's because you aren't familiar with it.

    You, by way of contrast have yet to provide a non-arbitrary epistemic warrant for anything you have said. Nothing, not a word, just emotion and sentimentality, all flowers and violins, a Land of Fiction, and you have the nerve to call what I'm talking about "irrational?!" I don't think so.

    No, I'm not. That's why I can't believe that God would perform such a merciless act as to punish an ignorant Tibetan villager for all eternity.

    According to Romans 1 and 2 he is not ignorant, nor does he seek God. Once again you don't interact with what we say to you. Rather, you continue to on as if this hasn't been answered. Nor have you provided a non-arbitrary epistemic warrant for your assertions.

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  22. So do sinners suffer for all eternity or not?

    I have answered this several times already.

    The biblical doctrine of final punishment is uneven at best. Some texts appear to teach traditional eternal torment, others annihilationism, still others universal redemption. In Luke 20:35, it sounds as if only "worthy" persons will be resurrected at all.


    All assertion, no argument. Let me explicit here. SteveJ, you will need to ante up and start actually producing some argumentation. If this is what you think, then you need to show the Scriptures and do some exegetical work. That might mean a blog article, and then calling our attention to it. For ease, I've gone ahead and emailed Steve and Patrick with the URL to your blog, and the 3 of us, if you wish, as we can (I have some physical health issues that sometimes preclude me for several days at a time from participation) look in and see what you are saying.

    Eternal misery would, I believe, be gratutious. Eighty or ninety years of sin punished by endless eons of torment? That doesn't see just or proportionate.

    A. What is your epistemic warrant for this assertion?

    B. Let's take the 80 years. Again, at 10 sins per day for 365 days a year (we'll give leap year day off), that's 292k sins! Since one sin involves more than one, we can raise that to 2.92 million at most, by using the Decalogue alone.

    So, pray tell, what should one sin cost by demerit? How should God punish it? Should God just overlook sin? If that person has rejected the Savior, should He graft them into the covenant anyway? Wouldn't that be a violation of free will?

    If you 're going to start down this road, then it's high time you start making some constructive suggestions.

    Again, no. But that's part of my argument. I would never subject a person to prolonged torture, therefore I deny that God, whose mercy exceeds mine infinitely, will do it either.

    Notice I would never...therefore I deny...

    So what you have done, it seems is arrive at some conclusions what is just and right and moral on your own based on we know not what, then proceed to talk about what God should or will do, yet when arguing your position, it has thus far reduced to emotive appeals and sentimentality. I've repeated this phrase several times, and I'll do it again, you need some supporting arguments, a non-arbitrary epistemic warrant. Further if you're going to run to Scripture, you need to provide something more than a bunch of verses. You need to exegete the text as best you can and /or counter what we have stated with Scripture, since it is Scripture, not your feelings or thoughts about what is rational,moral, fair, just, etc. that determine what is real, moral, rational,moral, etc.

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  23. Gene,

    SteveJ, for a 53 year old man, you have a nasty habit of acting childishly.

    You're right. Finally, something we agree on!

    "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt." (Dan 12.2)

    I understand that this text doesn't explicitly mention physical pain, but it doesn't preclude it either. As I've pointed out, there are plenty of other texts that do appear to teach physical pain. And that book excerpt also affirms "mental and physical anguish" in final punishment.

    By the way, the excerpt is pure double talk. It says that hell is not a torture chamber. God isn't actively tormenting anyone. But yes, it affirms, the damned will suffer mental and physical aguish forever.

    All of these qualifying statements and micro-distinctions point to one conclusion: You and the authors of the excerpted book have a real problem with the concept of eternal punishment. You can't state it flat-out like Edwards. But in the end, you and Edwards have the same thing: a painful, post-mortem punishment that never ends.

    This is Campbellite theology and pure Pelagianism.

    I don't care what it is. Boogey men like "Campbellism" and "Pelagianism" get trotted out all too often to silence an argument.

    What you've done is make a gigantic assumption that a command to do a thing proves the ability to do it, e.g. God would not command us to do what we cannot do.

    But Gene, did you read the text (Deut. 30:11)??? God says that the people DID have the ability to keep the law. I know it flies in the face of Reformed theology, but it's what the text says. Isn't it? Or does the concern to be soundly non-Pelagian trump Deuteronomy?

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  24. That might mean a blog article, and then calling our attention to it. For ease, I've gone ahead and emailed Steve and Patrick with the URL to your blog, and the 3 of us, if you wish, as we can (I have some physical health issues that sometimes preclude me for several days at a time from participation) look in and see what you are saying.

    Agreed, Gene. And I'm sorry to hear about your health problems. Feel free to respond whenever you are able.

    Peace.

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  25. Steve J. said:

    The biblical doctrine of final punishment is uneven at best. Some texts appear to teach traditional eternal torment, others annihilationism, still others universal redemption. In Luke 20:35, it sounds as if only "worthy" persons will be resurrected at all.

    As Gene and others have pointed out, you need to prove your case by exegeting the Scriptures. Show us how you interpret the relevant passages. We'll show you how we interpret them. And then we can compare which one is more faithful to the entirety of the Scriptures, which one is more reasonable according to the rules of logic or grammar, and so on.

    So far, with due respect, your interpretation contrasted with, for example, Gene's interpretation of the verses in question seems rather shallow at best, speaking as objectively as I can.

    Of course, people will insist on the view they consider most orthodox within the tradition they inhabit.

    Well, we could turn the tables around here, couldn't we, and say the same for you: Of course, Steve J. will insist on the view he considers most correct within the belief system he inhabits. So...?

    Eternal misery would, I believe, be gratutious. Eighty or ninety years of sin punished by endless eons of torment? That doesn't seem just or proportionate.

    [I asked:] Again, are you more merciful than God?

    Again, no. But that's part of my argument. I would never subject a person to prolonged torture, therefore I deny that God, whose mercy exceeds mine infinitely, will do it either.


    1. But what does this do to change the rebellious heart of the sinner? A rebel will always remain a rebel. A God-hater will always remain a God-hater.

    2. Even on your own grounds, though, the argument is on a shaky foundation. By Steve J.'s measurement, if a person is a serial killer and murders 10 victims, then assuming each person on average might live up to 100 years old, then 10 x 100 = 1000, so 1000 years in hell ought to cover it. Anything more would be gratuitous!

    However, this sort of arithmetic ignores things like what the murdered person could've done with his life, all the potential good which the murdered person could've accomplished had he lived longer. It ignores the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and so forth which could've come from him had he lived longer. And all the good his children and their descendants might've done for the world. What other lives they could've affected. I mean, who knows? The course of human history itself could potentially have been changed had one person not been murdered by another.

    So how can you account for all these things? How can a finite human being like Steve J. (or whoever else) weigh and measure and calculate what punishment is to be meted out, for how long, etc.?

    Of course, the simple answer is he can't. We can't. We are finite creatures. We are limited in so many ways. We do not have a God's-eye-view and perspective on our own lives let alone the lives of others. Let alone collective humanity. We are not omniscient.

    We cannot weigh good and evil on the scales and come to a fair judgment. For one, we are not good. We are not holy. We are fallen, sinful, rebellious creatures. Have a read through Job 38-42, for instance.

    Sorry, but as far as I understand your argument, Steve J., you would have us believe finite, sinful human beings can indeed stand in God's place and adjudicate such matters. This is why I keep asking you, are you more merciful than God? This is the sort of thing I'm trying to get at.

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  26. Its mind boggling that people are actually debating these issues.

    "Don't eat the fruit!"

    Sneaky magic snake is tricksy!

    :::YAWN!!!:::

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  27. To Gene and Co.,

    Rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I'd refer you to an online article I wrote (long, long ago) from an annihilationist perspective. I confess that I don't hold to standard annihilationism today, but the article does set forth some scriptural arguments about hell that you can tear into. Being much better scholars than I, you probably won't have much trouble dismantling it. But here it is:

    http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/endless.html

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  28. I agree that we don't need to reinvent the wheel, which is why I'd recommend that Christians read the following works:

    http://www.sbts.edu/docs/tschreiner/review_PetersonFudge.pdf

    http://www.amazon.com/Hell-Under-Fire-Scholarship-Punishment/dp/0310240417

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