Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Jerky theology

An exchange I had with an unbeliever on Facebook:

"I guess I shouldn't have entered this conversation at all, since I don't believe in God or sin ... so your questions don't make sense to me except as hypotheticals."

Since "sin" is a theological category, we could temporarily substitute a generic category like "evil". "Sin" is an interpersonal evil, between creatures and God or creatures and their fellow creatures. Presumably you believe in interpersonal evil. 

"God's a jerk for creating the situation that we need to be saved from and then wanting to be adored for offering a rescue to some people and not others."

Even on a merely human level, it's easy to consider a scenario in which a powerful human being puts another human in a situation where the other human then needs to be saved from that situation, if that's a morally enlightening experience. Suppose a teenage boy has contempt for the disabled. Suppose there's a classmate in a wheelchair whom the teenage boy taunts and bullies. Makes his life a living hell. 

Suppose the country is run by a benign dictator who finds out. Suppose, as remedial punishment, he has physicians administer nerve blockers, causing the abusive teenage boy to become temporarily disabled. For a year, the teenage boy will be confined to a wheelchair, to find out firsthand what it's like to be disabled, defenseless, and dependent on the kindness of strangers. 

After a year, he's restored to normal. But he's now acquired the virtue of compassion, because he knows from personal experience what it's like to be in that trying situation. 

"and then wanting to be adored"

God doesn't want to be adored for his own sake. He doesn't need our adoration. It is, however, virtuous to revere what is good. 

"for offering a rescue to some people and not others"

i) Actually, the offer of salvation is indiscriminate.

ii) If two people are guilty of evil, there's no obligation to pardon either one, much less both. 

"... and I just don't see any reason to believe that this fantastical story is the truth"

What about evidence for the historicity of the Gospels? 

"I do think morality can be built around promoting happiness and alleviating suffering, and that makes way more sense that the God hypothesis"

In this life, many people can and do experience irreparable harm. If there is no afterlife, then their situation is hopeless. And even if they have a happy life, that's zeroed out at death. How does that make way more sense than the "God hypothesis"?

"I'm sure some of the events in the gospels actually happened, but that doesn't make them entirely true, or their base hypothesis true. I write fiction myself, expressing things I believe are true in a fabricated story."

To write accurate historical fiction requires one of two things:

i) If you're writing about a time and place of which you have firsthand experience. But that would mean the Gospels are based on eyewitness information.

ii) If you do extensive research on a time and place in the past. But people in the 1C didn't have our historical reference works. 

So it won't work for you to classify the Gospels as historical fiction. 

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