Thursday, April 05, 2018

The invention of writing

Christopher Hitchens had a stock objection to Christianity. He recycled this objection in multiple debates. He'd rehearse the antiquity of man on conventional dating schemes, then point out that for most of human history, God did nothing to prevent human suffering, and then, 2000 years ago, he intervenes in a Third World backwater.

As I've pointed out before, that objection reflects his theological ignorance. The purpose of the atonement was never to eliminate suffering, but to make it possible for God to justly forgive sinners.

But there's another issue. According to current archeological information, writing was only invented about 5000 years ago, in the ancient Near East. Suppose the atonement took place 70,000 years ago. There'd be no written record to copy and disseminate knowledge about that event. Writing is a medium of mass communication. Until the advent of writing, it would be impossible to accurately preserve and widely disseminate a public record of the atonement. And not coincidentally, the site of the atonement is also the site where written languages first evolved. Moreover, pictograms are ambiguous. It took longer to develop alphabetic writing systems. 


  1. Bingo. Even the Pentateuch was originally written in a very primitive consonantal paleo-Hebrew. An improvement over cuneiform and hieroglyphics, but still pretty rickety by our standards. In any case, the story of the atonement, the Gospel, really begins with Abraham 4000 years ago.

  2. Steve, this is off topic so I understand if you don't address it. I hold the view that in God's sovereignty He might possibly save some people who lived and died not having accepted the Gospel (especially if they had never heard it in their lifetimes). Maybe God regenerated them before death to recognize their sinfulness before the God of general revelation and they flung themselves on the mercy of that God, and so God applied the benefits of Christ's death to them without their conscious knowledge. Or maybe they were never regenerated at all in this life, but saved by Christ's sacrifice out of shear sovereignty on God's part. Possibly even contrary to the fact that they consciously rejected the Gospel while alive. I affirm that on account of our universal sinfulness we are all worthy of hell, so I don't think God has any obligation to do any of the above. Nor do I have a positive belief that God does save some in such ways, but I can't help but not close the door to such possibilities. What do you think about such a view? Especially in light of the following quotes that I've copy and pasted below from Here and Here. I don't know how accurate the quotes are. I also know that the first link quotes the WCF out of context since it cites WCF 10.3, but doesn't include 10.4 which seems to deny inclusivism.

    Augustus Strong, Reformed Baptist, 1836-1921 : “Since Christ is the Word of God and the Truth of God, he may be received even by those who have not heard of his manifestation in the flesh…We have, therefore. the hope that even among the heathen there may be some, like Socrates, who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit working through the truth of nature and conscience, have found the way of life and salvation.” (Strong, Outlines of Systematic Theology)

    "We can safely say (i) if any good pagan reached the point of throwing himself on His Maker's mercy for pardon, it was grace that brought him there; (ii) God will surely save anyone he brings thus far; (iii) anyone thus saved would learn in the next world that he was saved through Christ" ^[7]^
    ? J. I. Packer, God’s Words, p. 210.

    "God can illuminate whom and when he will, even without the external ministry, which is a thing appertaining to his power." ^ [9]^
    ? Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter 1 (1566)

    "That some unevangelized men are saved, in the present life, by an extraordinary exercise of redeeming grace in Christ, has been the hope and belief of Christendom. It was the hope and belief of the elder Calvinists, as of the later."
    William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology vol. 2 (1888), p. 706.

    Though I've held my view for a while, I got the idea to ask what you think about it after watching a W.L. Craig video (Here or Here). I think Craig's main error is in his view of Prevenient Grace that makes such salvation ultimately depend on man's will rather than God's unconditional election.


    1. Here's a quote I came across about 15 years ago by Boettner that shaped my thinking:

      The Scriptures, then, are plain in declaring that under ordinary conditions those who have not Christ and the Gospel are lost.

      And in accordance with this the Westminster Confession, after stating that those who reject Christ cannot be saved, adds: "Much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess . . ." (X:4).

      In fact the belief that the heathens without the Gospel are lost has been one of the strongest arguments in favor of foreign missions. If we believe that their own religions contain enough light and truth to save them, the importance of preaching the Gospel to them is greatly lessened. Our attitude toward foreign missions is determined pretty largely by the answer which we give to this question.

      We do not deny that God can save some even of the adult heathen people if He chooses to do so, for His Spirit works when and where and how He pleases, with means or without means. If any such are saved, however, it is by a miracle of pure grace. Certainly God's ordinary method is to gather His elect from the evangelized portion of mankind, although we must admit the possibility that by an extraordinary method some few of His elect may be gathered from the unevangelized portion. (The fate of those who die in infancy in heathen lands will be discussed under the subject, "Infant Salvation.")
      - Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, chaper 11

  3. And, as was pointed out in the Christianity Today Book Panel Debate, if humanity lasts for say, 400,0000 years, then Christ would have come relatively early in human history.