Monday, July 19, 2010

Brainless Atheism

Babinski wants to keep reminding us that there’s no correlation between infidelity and high IQ. I appreciate his unwitting services to the Christian faith.

“Second, You both admit you don't know what happens to a fetus, but you also both admit you want to believe that infants who die are not eternally damned.”

i) I haven’t said what I want to be the case concerning infants in my exchanges with Babinski.

ii) Since I’m human, I have the emotional make-up of a human being. But God isn’t human, so I don’t expect that he feels the same way about the same things that I do. I don’t assume that God feels the same way about steak and lobster, or Rita Hayworth, or Italian sports cars, that I might feel.

So I don’t see how that is even relevant to the issue at hand. Assuming there’s a discrepancy between my wants and God’s wants, so what? I’m not God.

iii) Human babies are cute. They’re meant to be cute.

The suicide bomber who murders 30 Israeli teenagers in a Tel Aviv pizzeria started out life as a cute little baby. I’m sure that Ted Bundy was a cute baby. I can only judge by what I see before me. But that’s not the whole story. Appearances can be deceptive.

BTW, not all kids are cuties. There’s the kid who vivisects the neighborhood cats.

There are also horror films in which cute kids are turned into little vampires and zombies. They go from being cuties to beasties. That’s a good metaphor for what happens when you remove common grace.

iv) The objection to infant damnation usually assumes the torture chamber view of hell. I do not.

It also assumes that you remain whatever you were when you died. But I don’t assume that.

For instance, I don’t assume that if a baby dies and goes to heaven, he remains a baby for all eternity.

“My reply is this, your coulds and wishes disagree with those of Calvin, Edwards and Augustine (an early church father) who agreed that according to their studied interpretation of the Bible infants who died unbaptized were damned. Look up their arguments and how and why they based them on Scripture. Argue with your Christian mentors from the past.”

i) I don’t think baptism has any bearing on the issue one way or the other.

ii) I’m not answerable to Calvin, Edwards, and Augustine. I’m answerable to God.

iii) I’ve made my case for my understanding of the sacraments on more than one occasion.

“Third, If you both wish to believe that infants that die unbaptized go to heaven, then also note that abortion would thereby ensure the salvation of more souls percentage-wise than any evangelistic tent rally ever did.”

I already deflated that argument in a previous post. But Ed can’t think on his feet. Ed can only read aloud what is written on his cue cards.

“Fourth, let's even assume for the sake of argument that we could baptize babies in the womb with holy water and a syringe and some prayers by a Calvinist minister before aborting them. (Even though the Calvinist minister might abhor abortion he might compromise enough to at least ensure the salvation of each fetus before it is aborted.) That would certainly ensure their salvation, even per Augustine.”

I don’t think baptism ensures anyone’s salvation. We are saved, not by the water of baptism, but by the blood of Christ.

I don’t believe in holy water. For purposes of baptism, any water will do.

“Lastly, if you can prove that Augustine, Calvin and Edwards misinterpreted the Bible concerning original sin and the damnation of infants…”

Original sin doesn’t ipso facto damn anyone. Every heavenbound Christian is born in sin.

“I suppose the best you can do is reach a proposal of indeterminacy as Steve has, but that is also to admit that God does not exactly make a family great after a miscarriage, since they don't know whether their child is suffering eternity.”

Why is that a reason to be an atheist rather than a Christian? It’s like telling a cancer patient that it’s better for him to forego cancer therapy, without which he has a zero chance of recovery, than to undergo therapy, which gives him a 50/50 chance.

“You can hope all you want, and as an agnostic I too hope for the best.”

The hope of a Christian, and the hope of an agnostic, are hardly equivalent.

“According to Augustine an unbaptized infant was a ‘limb of Satan’”

Augustine is not my rule of faith.

“Some Catholic saints even experienced ‘spiritual visions’ that depicted little children suffering in hell.”

Why should I put any stock in their visions?

“But recently the Catholic Church…”

Since I’m not Catholic, why should I care?

“JONATHAN EDWARDS - The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever… Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell?”

i) Since Edwards hadn’t been to heaven at the time he said that, he’s in no position to say that.

ii) Perhaps he was expanding on some of the colorful imagery in Revelation. But aside from the fact that Revelation uses picturesque metaphors, the martyred saints in Revelation take moral satisfaction in the just punishment of their mortal enemies. That’s hardly equivalent to parents and children.

“R. A. Torrey [one of the contributors to The Fundamentals, a series of tracts published in the 1920’s that helped popularize ‘fundamentalist’ Christianity. Torry argued in the above case that slaughtering the children was an act of infinite mercy because it ensured them eternal paradise.]”

Torrey was a fine Christian. But his conclusions are only as good as his supporting arguments.

“A small Danish (Protestant) sect went around killing as many newly baptized infants as they could discover…A. J. Ayer, Voltaire.”

Voltaire? Surely you don’t think he’s a reliable church historian?

“Some (Catholic) Spaniards in Mexico and Peru used to baptize Indian infants then immediately dash their brains out; by this means they secured that those infants went to heaven. – Bertrand Russell.”

Once more, surely you don’t think Russell is a reliable church historian.

“THEOLOGICAL OPTION #1: THE SOULS OF DEAD FETUSES GO TO HEAVEN. This first option is the most optimistic, loving, and forgiving, but seems to turn abortions into “altar calls” with 100% assurance of eternal salvation for each and every aborted fetus.”

Even if we were to judge that argument on purely pragmatic/utilitarian grounds, it doesn’t work on its own terms. If you abort every baby, then that action will (ex hypothesi) save the aborted generation at the cost of dooming the human race. Fewer human beings would be saved in the long run.

“THEOLOGICAL OPTION #2: THE SOULS OF DEAD FETUSES GO TO WHEREVER GOD ORDAINS THEM TO GO, EITHER HEAVEN OR HELL. According to various Bible verses, God “ordains” all things, including the premature deaths (including executions) of fetuses, pregnant women, and children. In other words, each soul in this world ‘gets’ what God has “ordained” for it, regardless if they are aborted in the womb, or reach old age.”

True. However, that’s neutral on the fate of dying infants.

“THEOLOGICAL OPTION #3: THE SOULS OF DEAD FETUSES WHOSE BODIES ARE NOT BAPTIZED, GO TO HELL. Theologians from Augustine to Jonathan Edwards considered it right for God to send to hell the souls of fetuses whose bodies were not baptized before they died. Their doctrine was called ‘infant damnation’ and it was taught by Christian churches for centuries. So, all fetuses that are not baptized before they die go to hell.”

I reject the underlying sacramentology.

“THEOLOGICAL OPTION #4: BAPTIZE FETUSES IN THE WOMB. If baptism spiritually cleanses the fetus’ ‘original sin,’ ensuring it goes to heaven, then why take any risks of it not getting baptized, and instead baptize fetuses by inserting a syringe filled with water into the womb? This would be especially useful in cases where the life of a fetus and/or the mother was at risk. Indeed, the option of syringe baptism continued to be taught to Catholic seminarians right up till Vatican II in the 1960s.”

One doesn’t have to look very far to find out that I’m not overly sympathetic to Catholic theology. So what’s the point?

“Attempting to counteract such Catholic excesses as he viewed them the Protestant Reformer, John Calvin, forbade mid-wives (or anyone else for that matter) from hastily baptizing sickly newborn infants, because Calvin believed in waiting a few days until a proper baptism ceremony in church could be conducted. According to Calvin, it was God’s providential choice, not human effort, that determined who would wind up in heaven or hell, and if the fetus or newborn didn’t survive long enough to have a proper baptismal ceremony, it was God’s will that it die prematurely and/or suffer in hell for eternity.”

“And/or”? Damnation is hardly interchangeable with premature death.

15 comments:

  1. Does God have a brain? Or is He also brainless?

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  2. "It also assumes that you remain whatever you were when you died. But I don’t assume that."

    Scripture does say explicitly, though, that man is held accountable for the works done while in the body and is judged based on those things immediately upon death, not for the things they'd do in some other form eons (or even years) after their demise.

    The notion that infants are damned and eventually become the things after death for which they were damned seems contrary to Scripture, no?

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  3. Steve is replying to Ed's comments in the thread here. In that thread, Steve and I had both commented on the subject of infant salvation. Ed's reply quoted above was supposed to be a reaction to both of us.

    Notice that Ed ignores my distinction between probability and certainty. He ignores what I said about how the earlier patristic sources are more significant than the later sources he cites. And he posts a lot of comments about infant baptism and Catholicism that are irrelevant to a credobaptist Evangelical like me. It doesn't seem that Ed is making much of an effort to interact with his opponents. Apparently, he's largely copying and pasting material he compiled in other contexts, without much concern for interacting with the beliefs of the people he's currently responding to.

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  4. James,

    i) Your interpretation assumes that 2 Cor 5:10 is meant to be a restrictive definition, as if it stood in antithetical contrast to any other considerations. Yet we know from Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15 that Paul didn’t regard actual sin as the only basis for divine judgment. Original sin was another ground.

    In referring to deeds, it is clearly alluding to adults. It doesn’t address the status of infants.

    ii) Your interpretation also reduces judgment to a matter of timing. It ceases to be a question of grace and justice, and becomes a question of good luck or bad luck–as if a serial killer will be judged less harshly if he’s accidentally run over by a bus an hour before he planned to murder a coed. I don’t think God is that shortsighted.

    iii) In context, 1 Cor 5:10 probably refers, not to the general judgment, but to the judgment of Christians. And, in that respect, not to the assignment of one’s eternal destiny, but to the conferring or withholding of rewards for good works (or the insufficiency thereof)

    iv) Deeds reflect one’s underlying character. One is judged, not so much for particular sins, but for the character which they evidence.

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  5. Jaguk Hemaphredes said...

    "Does God have a brain? Or is He also brainless?"

    What is brainless is your failure to grasp idiomatic figures of speech.

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  6. James said...

    Scripture does say explicitly, though, that man is held accountable for the works done while in the body and is judged based on those things immediately upon death, not for the things they'd do in some other form eons (or even years) after their demise.

    Rev. 22:11 says, "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy."

    I take that verse to refer to the eternal state. If so, then the more a sinner in hell sins, the more punishment he merits and guilt he accrues. That's why hell is, in some sense "self-perpetuating" as W.L. Craig has said.

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  7. Steve - "What is brainless is your failure to grasp idiomatic figures of speech."

    I see. So while atheists, in your opinion anyway, are only figuratively brainless, your God is *literally* brainless.

    I understand now. Thank you!

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  8. JAGUK HEMAPHREDES SAID:

    "I see. So while atheists, in your opinion anyway, are only figuratively brainless, your God is *literally* brainless. I understand now. Thank you!"

    Which is only a problem if you're a physicalist. And physicalism is, itself, a problem.

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  9. Steve - "Which is only a problem if you're a physicalist."

    It's not my problem if your God is brainless, Steve. But it's good to know that if an atheist is brainless, that's only a problem if I'm a physicalist (which I'm not).

    Toodles!

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  10. JAGUK HEMAPHREDES SAID:

    "It's not my problem if your God is brainless, Steve."

    You're one of these people who never sounds dumber than when you try to be clever.

    To say X is brainless is only pejorative in a figurative sense.

    It's not pejorative to say the archangel Michael is literally brainless, since angels are discarnate beings with pure intellects.

    Likewise, if you were a physicalist, then the lack of a brain would be a problem. The same problem does not obtain in dualism, in reference to discarnate agents.

    Try not to make of fool of yourself by trying to be clever beyond your meager means. You don't have what it takes.

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  11. At least, Steve, you seem now to concede that your God is brainless. That's a good start. You lampoon atheists for allegedly being figuratively brainless, while worshiping a literally brainless God.

    This apparently gets under your skin, otherwise why bother?

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  12. JAGUK HEMAPHREDES SAID:

    "At least, Steve, you seem now to concede that your God is brainless. That's a good start. You lampoon atheists for allegedly being figuratively brainless, while worshiping a literally brainless God. This apparently gets under your skin, otherwise why bother?"

    You keep repeating the same lame one-liner, which simply makes you look dense. But thanks for corroborating my post. A case one of brainless atheist (Hemaphredes) coming to the defense of another brainless atheist (Babinski). Very considerate of you to illustrate my thesis. Nothing like confirmation from the horse's mouth.

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  13. But on your terms, Steve, I'm only figuratively brainless, in your opinion. But your God is literally brainless. I know your concern is to throw around pejoratives, but there is a larger issue here you're trying to deflect. In that regard, you're right on cue.

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  14. "Literally brainless" is not a problem for a discarnate being. That's a specious problem if you illicitly transfer the figurative connotations of the idiom to an inapplicable object.

    You keep demonstrating my initial point that there's no correlation between infidelity and high IQ. It's very self-effacing of you and Babinski to make my point for me. I do appreciate your unwitting services to the Kingdom.

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