Christian Salvation Makes No Sense: The Muddle of Good Cop/Bad Cop Morality

I’ve often been asked why I am not a believer, particularly in light of the fact that I used to be one (a Christian one at that). Why, when I have plenty of nice things to say about believers, do I rarely have anything similarly nice to say about specific religious beliefs?

Why it is that, in addition to simply having no reason to believe, I no longer find Christian doctrines especially sensible or compelling in their own right? Well, let me spell it out!

Today my subject is the Christian concept of salvation.

Now, plenty has already been written on the pragmatically incoherent concept of someone “dying for your sins.” This idea is, I suspect, largely the product of the merging of several different theological and political needs felt by early Christians, done without serious concern about whether those needs were really philosophically compatible. But this particular controversy is a subject for another time, I think. My problem today is with a different aspect of the doctrine: the uncomfortable marriage between the supposedly irredeemable nature of humanity and the proffered solution of salvation.

For those unfamiliar, a basic tenet of most Christian evangelism is that no one is simply worthy of salvation by their mere existence; no one is without sin (the merest bit of which is, apparently, intolerable), and thus no one is deserving of any forgiveness from God for their failings or of a chance to share in the Christian paradise. Supposedly, human beings are so fallen, so vile, that Mr. Perfect cannot tolerate our continued existence for more than, oh, say 6000-7000 years, at best. After this, we must either simply cease to exist, endure eternal tortures, or receive whatever florid fate theologians decide is inevitable this week: certainly we cannot be allowed to simply share in any place where we could see our loved ones again. We cannot get better enough on our own (no matter how we try to be good) even though it is our responsibility to do so.

This claim is quickly followed up by the promise of a path to salvation: simply believe the correct ideology, and do your best to keep believing in it, and somehow now you’re now acceptable and forgiven, despite still being no less sinful than before.

The implication here is that we should be so amazed and thankful and full of praise that we got something we did not deserve. This emotional theater might have appeal inasmuch as it seems to match up with other human experiences (I didn’t deserve this bagel, but you bought one for me anyway: that’s so sweet of you!), but when presented as a moral philosophy, it’s flatly ridiculous.

If human beings are not morally worthy of whatever “salvation” is, then Jesus’s saving of humanity is simply not a praiseworthy action at all. Either it’s moral to save human beings, or it isn’t. Either God’s original anger at humans for failing to live up to impossibly inhuman demands (again, another topic for another time) is righteous, or Jesus’ scheme for salvation is, but it cannot be both. As much as theologians have tried to avoid this aspect of their story, the doctrine of salvation is morally schizophrenic to its core.

Either we are like a reckless child now drowning in a well who needs saving, or we are like a rapist that never gets caught by the police. Saving the former is moral, even if the child is “imperfect,” but helping the latter escape custody would be is abhorrent and wrong (or at least insofar as catching and jailing the rapist will actually do some good for the world, something neither the Christian visions of eternal torment nor even simple oblivion accomplish: again a matter for another time). Aiding and abetting a criminal so that they can outrun police is not considered an act of justice: so why would Jesus pardon of supposedly unredeemable people be a good thing? Why should anyone praise him for it? And if the proscribed punishment (either eternal torment or oblivion) is so unbelievably horrible that those that might suffer it deserve pity, then it is the punishment itself is what’s wrong.

It’s not my purpose here to argue that human beings really are irredeemable (in fact, I don’t see why the alleged perfect should ultimately be the enemy of the good, the acceptable, or even the depraved), but simply to insist that one cannot have it both ways. Supposed moral principles demand, above all else, consistency. The Christian story of salvation (and damnation, though not all believe in that half) provides none. Jehovah is vengeful to the point of insanity. Jesus, on the other hand, is essentially soft on crime. Likewise, we have the bizarre doctrine that humans are fundamentally incapable of being good… and yet it then turns out that they are capable of of it in what turns out to be the only thing that actually matters to Christian concepts of good and evil: whether people believe the correct things or not (something I’ve argued elsewhere is an inexcusably trivial matter and irrelevant on which to base ones treatment of others).

Of course, I’m not sure the doctrine is really supposed to make any sense. It has, after all, proven to be extremely effective simply as a form of emotional manipulation (both to evangelize new converts and to buttress existing faith). And it’s not hard to see why. The theology begins by attempting to inspire guilt: deep metaphysical guilt (how dare I even exist, detestable creature I!). And then, just when it’s created the requisite amount of misery and self-hatred, it follows it up with an offer of release and restitution. It’s a sort of dramatic roller-coaster: inspiring deep self-loathing in someone in order to win a grateful devotion to whomever proffers a solution. It’s the same psychological technique used everything from basic training to criminal interrogations: break someone’s will, and then build them back up again.

Again: makes for good stories. Or soldiers. But for someone seeking moral wisdom? A disaster.

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33 Responses to Christian Salvation Makes No Sense: The Muddle of Good Cop/Bad Cop Morality

  1. C.L. Mareydt says:

    … when the student is ready … the teacher will appear …
    truth always prevails, spiritually, soulfully, & naturally …
    sometimes it just takes longer than expected or believed!

  2. Bad says:

    Similar mystics of just about every belief system under the sun make similar claims: that they have the truth, and that their truth will simply be one day understood by all.

    Such assertions are incredibly easy to make, and surely must be quite self-gratifying for you to believe!

    But ultimately, such claims are worthless. We discover truth by coming to know why one thing or another is the truth, not by running around blindly asserting mystical insight left and right.

    In other words: if you don’t have any sensible response to anything I’ve said, why waste your time and my own gloating about how I’m confused or wrong, without explaining why I am?

  3. Quester says:

    Thank-you, Bad, for taking the time to write this out so clearly. I’ve never gotten much further than the simplistic “Either there’s grace, or there isn’t. Either death is defeated, or it isn’t.” Seeing the logical contradictions laid out like this were really helpful for me.

  4. doubtingmoab says:

    Heya Bad –
    I have to agree that if we dissect the morality of salvation and “God’s Plan” we find it completely morally bankrupt – much like the entire Christian story. It’s amazing to me that I was a Christian once, too. Willingly, even! LOL.

    Also enjoyed your comment on angryxtian’s site. Remind you of Landmark Baptist?
    LOL.

  5. bitchspot says:

    A lot of atheists were once Christians, I guess sometimes you have to see the nonsense from the inside before you recognize it as such. The difference is that we take a step back and examine what we believe and why and when it fails to match up to what we observe in reality, we aren’t afraid to jettison it into the refuse pile and look for something better.

    doubtingmoab: It’s ignorance and fear that keeps the Christians in the pews on Sunday. Just be happy that you’re one of the people who overcame both.

  6. doubtingmoab says:

    Hard not to be American and not Christian at birth – as if a child can become a Christian without giving consent. I love Dawkin’s take on that in “God Delusion.” How is it that one can be a Christian without one’s consent? How is that moral or just?

  7. clickjaw says:

    What does “seeking moral wisdom” mean?

  8. Bad says:

    What does “seeking moral wisdom” mean?

    Insight into morality or moral guidance: the sort this doctrine is supposed to provide.

    That’s not to say that all Christian teachings are poor moral teachings: certainly the golden rule is important (though common in nearly all cultures in some form or another), and the ethic of resistance through charitable pacifism which many have read out of the Gospel stories has served some movements, such as Civil Rights struggle or the struggle for Polish freedom from the Soviet Bloc quite well.

    But this doctrine is, I think, ultimately a source of moral confusion and calamity.

  9. clickjaw says:

    “Insight into morality or moral guidance…”

    Insight into what, guidance by what? Morality has no state of being objectively. How does one gain insight into something that’s intangible; how does something without substance, self-volition, or existence other than in the preferences of the individual that chooses to abide by them; have any bearing over my life-or anyone elses for that matter? It’s a concept; not a reality. A word devoid of substance.

  10. Bad says:

    I disagree. When I say “morality” it’s very clear to everyone what I am talking about, even if we might not all agree on what is moral, or how you would know whether or not something is moral. It’s clear enough that we all know at least what the debate is OVER (i.e. what is the right way to act, treat other people, think about whether to judge something right or wrong, etc.)

    I agree that morality is probably not an “objective” matter in the sense that it is a factual matter: i.e. something that can simply be confirmed or disconfirmed by physical evidence. It is ultimately a judgment, not an object. But that doesn’t mean that people cannot agree on some basic values as premises and then logically debate what follows from them. Generally ALL moral discussions simply take these premises for granted, and this is not the same thing as saying that discussions of morality are baseless.

  11. Ward says:

    I’m always interested to read the points of view of the jaded, the disconcerted, the disheartened, the downfallen, the ambivalent, the indifferent, those who claim they once believed, those who made false professions of faith or simply those who try to rationalize faith down to a science when it is not one.

    I cannot see the wind, yet I believe it exists. The wind is sometimes cruel and sometimes kind, but how I expose myself to it has more to do with what benefit or damage I will derive from it then what it does itself. Then wind does not make a sound, yet it howls through the trees and whispers through the grass. I cannot taste the wind yet without it many things I do taste would not come to fruition as pollenation would not take place and maple trees would not build up sufficient strength to stand up and grow large enough to produce the maple sap that becomes the syrup I enjoy so much.

    God is also intangible in many ways, but unlike the wind in all others.

    The author of this post has a very twisted view of faith and should be very thankful that he can criticize it so freely. I doubt Muslim critics would ever have such freedom…as a matter of fact, in muslim countries I know they don’t.

    Christianity endures despite all naysayers, fallen sons & daughters, and those claiming to have left it… because of faith.

    Christians endure torture, mutilation, death, watching their family members slaughtered before their eyes, having everything taken from them like modern day “Job”s because of faith. (Indonesia, Pakistan, Filipines, Malaysia, Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, The Dalai Lama’s Tibet, etc if you need examples cited)

    I don’t think the author understands this concept. But I wish him/her well in all endeavors and trust s/he is as open minded and willing to accept counterpoint as s/he is to make it.

  12. Bad says:

    I’m always interested to read the points of view of the jaded, the disconcerted, the disheartened, the downfallen, the ambivalent, the indifferent, those who claim they once believed, those who made false professions of faith or simply those who try to rationalize faith down to a science when it is not one.

    That’s strange, because you don’t sound interested, you sound sort of sarcastically pissed off and bitter.

    I cannot see the wind, yet I believe it exists.

    No offense, but this is and always has been a terrible example in religious apologetics. The idea that empiricism requires EYEBALLS is a really unfortunate misunderstanding of the whole idea of evidence. The fact that the wind isn’t visible to the naked eye doesn’t make it any less concrete or physically real and demonstrable than rocks, trees, or the hands you use to feel the wind. It’s a terrible metaphor for those attempting to establish the idea that the supernatural is real.

    And, of course, I fail to see what it has to do with anything I said. Nothing about anyone accepting the arguments of this post requires anyone to discount the existence of a supernatural god, if they so please. I’m just pointing out why a particular doctrine of a particular religion doesn’t seem to make any sense.

    Do you agree? Disagree? I can’t tell.

    Then wind does not make a sound, yet it howls through the trees and whispers through the grass.

    In other words: it makes a sound.

    Christianity endures despite all naysayers, fallen sons & daughters, and those claiming to have left it… because of faith.

    Lots of things endure despite all naysayers: that’s indeed what faith allows. And clearly, that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes the naysayers are right.

    Christians endure torture, mutilation, death, watching their family members slaughtered before their eyes, having everything taken from them like modern day “Job”s because of faith. (Indonesia, Pakistan, Filipines, Malaysia, Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, The Dalai Lama’s Tibet, etc if you need examples cited)

    Don’t you think it’s a little presumptuous of you to compare the very real sufferings of people persecuted because of what they believe to yourself not liking something someone wrote on the internet? Oh, sure, they tossed us in prison, destroyed our house and family, but you, you had to read something you didn’t agree with. There there. There there.

    I mean, really. I’m a HUGE proponent of the idea that people should never be persecuted for their beliefs (though that doesn’t mean that ideas are free from criticism, which is not the same thing as persecution at all). In fact, this moral commitment of mine is precisely why I find many aspects of Christian theology so morally repulsive.

    What’s especially stunning here is that you are essentially trying to gain sympathy for yourself and your position on the backs of people wrongly (and horribly, entirely unlike yourself) persecuted merely for having different beliefs, and yet you seem to be defending a theological system based on the idea that ultimate and eternal persecution based on mere thought crimes is just and warranted. This is precisely the sort of moral muddle I’m talking about. How can you seek to appeal to a compassion that the theology you are defending stands in such stark contrast to?

    I don’t think the author understands this concept. But I wish him/her well in all endeavors and trust s/he is as open minded and willing to accept counterpoint as s/he is to make it.

    I’m extremely willing to accept counterpoint! At the moment though, I’m sort of failing to see how you’ve provided any so far. Your comment could have been left without reading a single word of my post: you don’t respond to anything I said or even mention the content of what I said in any way whatsoever. So far you’ve offered an apologetic that’s so cut and paste that as far as I can tell it could have been posted by a robot who posts the same comment to every blog that criticizes Christianity: utterly regardless of the specifics of the criticism!

    You claim I don’t understand the “this” concept. Well, hows about explaining the relevant concept so we can all see if that’s really true or not, instead of just insisting that I don’t understand it?

    What is the point of making an assertion, but then not defending or explaining it? Bare assertions are a waste of everyone’s time. We need to know why we should take such claims seriously: the why is, frankly, far more important than the what.

  13. Ward says:

    Dear Mr. Bad,
    If anyone sounds sarcastically pissed off or bitter, you do in your last reply. I certainly did not mean to offend you by offering a countering point of view, merely stating my own beliefs. And certainly, I read the entirety of your post and did so very willingly. I am glad I have the choice and freedom to be able to read countervaling arguments.

    I know you’re entitled to your belief and I was very pleased to read your posting. I acknowledge the legitimacy of your point of view and would defend your right to state it. I just happen to disagree with it, in general.

    My post was all about faith, which defies any hypocrisy, morality issues and so forth brought forward. Because faith is blind. Faith is believing in the intangible. I am not trying to gain any sympathy in any way, shape or form.

    I am truly sorry that expressing my opinion has made you so angry and frustrated.

    Sincerest regards,

    Ward

  14. […] a Very Good One: A Response to Recent Apologia on Salvation My recent missive on the Christian doctrine of sin and salvation has attracted quite a number of readers, but nowhere near as many critical comments as I would have […]

  15. clickjaw says:

    Bad

    “It’s clear enough that we all know at least what the debate is OVER…”

    Yes, we know what the debate is over; of course, the social construction of morality has been pounded into our heads since birth. And if we settle for that then we are no different than the Christians of the enlightenment era. Nothing should be presumed, and everything must be tested by the fires of doubt. However, what I’m on about is the reason why you believe that it is something worth debating or something worth applying to counter another meaningless belief. You can only logically communicate something if the premises are true, and since there is no way of proving the premises of moral obligation to be true, then any debate and any conclusion from that debate are ultimately meaningless.

    “…(i.e. what is the right way to act, treat other people, think about whether to judge something right or wrong, etc.)”

    What “is”, or how “ought”? The distinction is profound. There is nothing in matter that objectively indicates its value to me; rather, I indicate subjectively what value I believe it to have. The analysis of moral obligation is of a different category altogether, an incomprehensible one at that.

    “I agree that morality is probably not an “objective” matter in the sense that it is a factual matter; i.e. something that can simply be confirmed or disconfirmed by physical evidence. It is ultimately a judgment, not an object.”

    A judgment based on what? Judgments can only be made about things that warrant value; without value, there’s nothing to judge. If morality is “probably” not objective, then it has no value other than those who assign a value to it preferentially. When you judge an intangible belief with an equally intangible morality the only possible answer is absurdity. Only things of substance warrant value in a necessary fashion (i.e. all things that pertain to sustaining life, that is, if one believes sustaining life is valuable) and since morality is without substance and subsequently unnecessary – morality is not capable of being judged.

    “But that doesn’t mean that people cannot agree on some basic values as premises and then logically debate what follows from them. Generally ALL moral discussions simply take these premises for granted, and this is not the same thing as saying that discussions of morality are baseless.”

    You’re right, discussions regarding morality are not baseless, they’re meaningless, and you’re also right in saying people can mutually agree about any premise and debate it, but the task is only meaningful if the premises are objectively true. If “ALL” moral discussions generally base their premises on the mutually agreed upon preferences of the debater’s subjective beliefs, and those beliefs lack any clear objectivity, then both debaters are wasting their time on meaningless drivel. You say the Christian doctrine of salvation is morally confused, however, the system you use to come to this conclusion is groundless, preferential, indefinable, and without being.

    To paraphrase Wittgenstein, “Where one is unsure; one must remain silent.”

  16. Bad says:

    Again, Ward, your manage to write several paragraphs that fail to address anything I said, and then address things I didn’t say for no discernible reason. When was the ability of anyone to freely have opinions in doubt? Why waste time reaffirming this point? Why is that when people are confronted with logical refutations of their claims, they respond by changing the subject to a discussion of free speech? Of course we have free speech: this is an entirely moot point.

    You didn’t offend me by offering a countering point of view. The problem is that you failed to offer a coherent point of view at all. A few pointless heckling accusations and inexplicably irrelevant diatribe about the wind and the persecution of believers is not the same thing as expressing disagreement with what I said. It’s failing to grapple, at all, with anything I said. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time, including your own.

    You could have typed your response without ever reading anything I said. As far as I know, you still have not. I’m not pissed off or bitter, I’m simply baffled at this sort of behavior, this failure to engage.

    The closest you’ve yet come to saying anything of substance is this:

    My post was all about faith, which defies any hypocrisy, morality issues and so forth brought forward. Because faith is blind. Faith is believing in the intangible.

    The problem with this point is that I can’t for the life of me figure out what it has to do with anything, how it refutes or even discusses anything I said. Yes, faith indeed can indeed blind one to all other issues, including the possibility of being wrong. I fully agree. Where did you get the idea that I disagreed with this?

    My point, rather, is that such a thing is a bad idea. And in the case of faith in this particular doctrine, and embrace of the amoral and immoral.

    As best I can tell, your implication may be something of along the lines of “faith is exempt from making any sense because…” but then you never actually supply the because.

    I am not trying to gain any sympathy in any way, shape or form.

    Then why cite the sufferings of people who are not yourself as a means to try and bolster your own position? The fact that people are persecuted does not demonstrate the truth of what they believe (or else we have a real problem, because people with all sorts of conflicting beliefs are all persecuted). And it certainly does not demonstrate that faith in the idea that people SHOULD be persecuted for what they believe (which is the Christian view I am criticizing, after all) is valid. Again, what sense does it make to appeal to people’s compassion and tolerance in the service of trying to justify a view that fundamentally rejects that very same measure of compassion and tolerance?

    I am truly sorry that expressing my opinion has made you so angry and frustrated.

    Now come on. Do you honestly think that anyone will believe you are “truly sorry” when the apology is basically another backhanded accusation?

    You still don’t seem to get it: you’re more than welcome to express as many opinions as you want here. The problem remains that I’m still waiting for you to actually do so.

  17. Bad says:

    Yes, we know what the debate is over; of course, the social construction of morality has been pounded into our heads since birth. And if we settle for that then we are no different than the Christians of the enlightenment era.

    Ah, but I’m not trying to be different or not be different. I’m trying to be accurate.

    Nothing should be presumed, and everything must be tested by the fires of doubt.

    This would make more sense if we were talking of factual matters. But we aren’t. While I think we can question our basic moral values somewhat, but the questions don’t really seem to take us too far astray from general consensus. And that seems to work out just fine.

    However, what I’m on about is the reason why you believe that it is something worth debating or something worth applying to counter another meaningless belief. You can only logically communicate something if the premises are true, and since there is no way of proving the premises of moral obligation to be true, then any debate and any conclusion from that debate are ultimately meaningless.

    Again, no: this is a misunderstanding of logic and reasoning.

    All logic, all empirical verification: it all has to begin with premises that are merely accepted, not proven. Empiricism: judgments of true and false, are premised on mooting the question of whether or not our shared sensory existences are real, no different than when people debating morals simply agree from the outset that, for instance, causing suffering is evil.

    And secondly, declaring premises merely agreed to “meaningless” is nonsense. Moral values do have meaning to people, end of story. And if people agree on basic moral ideas, then they can have a very meaningful moral discussion.

    Talking about “ultimate” meaninglessness is the incoherent idea here. Meaning is something experienced by people, no more, no less, not by “ultimate” anythings. There’s nothing strange or inappropriate about looking to people’s values and then debating moral systems that can or cannot be logically based on these premises.

    What “is”, or how “ought”? The distinction is profound. There is nothing in matter that objectively indicates its value to me; rather, I indicate subjectively what value I believe it to have. The analysis of moral obligation is of a different category altogether, an incomprehensible one at that.

    You’ve so far failed to explain how it is incomprehensible. Indeed, it seems very easy to comprehend as far as I can tell. Everyone seems to know what is meant by moral obligation, by shoulds and should nots. That’s the essence of good communication: mutual understanding conveyed by words.

    A judgment based on what? Judgments can only be made about things that warrant value; without value, there’s nothing to judge. If morality is “probably” not objective, then it has no value other than those who assign a value to it preferentially.

    But people do assign value to it, and similar value, so therefore your point is simply moot. If YOU don’t assign the same value to things, then I quite agree that there is no real basis on which the rest of us can “prove” that you should. But so what? What does that have to do with anything?

    When you judge an intangible belief with an equally intangible morality the only possible answer is absurdity.

    No: you are the one mistaking izzes and oughts here. Morality is not “intangible” in the sense that it is a thing claimed to exist but that cannot, in fact, be confirmed to exist. It is a judgment.

    Only things of substance warrant value in a necessary fashion (i.e. all things that pertain to sustaining life, that is, if one believes sustaining life is valuable) and since morality is without substance and subsequently unnecessary – morality is not capable of being judged.

    So what? What does ultimate skepticism get you? It is just as fatal to reality as you think it is solely to morality. That’s why virtually no one is an absolute or ultimate skeptic.

    You’re right, discussions regarding morality are not baseless, they’re meaningless, and you’re also right in saying people can mutually agree about any premise and debate it, but the task is only meaningful if the premises are objectively true.

    Again, this seems to be a serious misunderstanding on your part of what the word “meaningful” means. It’s meaningful because people find it to be meaningful. You seem to be trying to define the word “meaning” as if it were itself an objective, factual matter.

    Are you possibly falling into precisely the fallacious understanding of “meaning” that I outlined in my post debunking of theism’s supposedly special claim on the term?

    If “ALL” moral discussions generally base their premises on the mutually agreed upon preferences of the debater’s subjective beliefs, and those beliefs lack any clear objectivity, then both debaters are wasting their time on meaningless drivel. You say the Christian doctrine of salvation is morally confused, however, the system you use to come to this conclusion is groundless, preferential, indefinable, and without being.

    You’ve failed to explain why, as far as I can tell. I used logic to demonstrate that two core principles are at odds. Is “logic” is the system you are calling “groundless, preferential, indefinable, and without being”? I also used my own moral judgment to condemn it: how can a judgment be faulted for being “preferential”? That doesn’t make any sense. It IS preferential: preferential to the idea that causing suffering without cause is monstrous.

    To paraphrase Wittgenstein, “Where one is unsure; one must remain silent.”

    I’m not sure paraphrasing Wittgenstein is a good idea: whatever you think about his philosophical beliefs, they aren’t the sort easily distilled down into a slogan.

    In any case, I’m not unsure in any, well, meaningful sense of the word, when it comes to my moral judgments. They really are, in fact, my values.

  18. Chris Dills says:

    First, your post is quite an elegant and well thought.

    Concerning a statement that you made

    “Either God’s original anger at humans for failing to live up to impossibly inhuman demands (again, another topic for another time) is righteous, or Jesus’ scheme for salvation is, but it cannot be both”

    In reality it is in fact both. God’s anger and wrath is completely righteous because man was created with the purpose of reflecting God’s glory and being His image. That image is molested through sin and God’s anger is just in light of that. That anger can only be appeased through the giving of a life, a sacrifice. Jesus’ “scheme” of salvation is constructed in a way that He is a “propitiation” for our sins, meaning that He took the full wrath of God in man’s stead. Also, your statement assumes that Jesus is acting in a way contrary to God’s will. In reality, Scripture shows that God Himself had the plan for salvation in mind even before the creation of the earth. All of it was set in motion not to establish a moral compass, but to show the grace of God and His righteousness. This is how both can be righteous.

    “This claim is quickly followed up by the promise of a path to salvation: simply believe the correct ideology, and do your best to keep believing in it, and somehow now you’re now acceptable and forgiven, despite still being no less sinful than before.”

    One of the biggest flaws of the mainstream church as a whole is that “simply believing” is the requirement for sin. The Apostle Paul is quite clear that no one comes to God without God first coming to them. It is God that initiates salvation and God that sustains it. That is how a follower of Christ can be no less sinful and still be acceptable and forgiven. Jesus intercedes for the individual and God no longer sees that persons sin, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Salvation itself has almost nothing to do with the individual, but everything to do with God’s grace and power and Christ’s righteousness. My morality did not obtain my salvation, nor can it negate it.

    Sorry if this was unclear, I’m writing while in class. Good post.

  19. Bad says:

    I’m afraid, Chris, that I don’t see how that explains anything. You’ve told a story, and I I am, of course, familiar with the story. But the moral sense, the moral logic, is still lacking as far as I can tell. Whatever arcane and unintelligible magic rituals are necessary to allow human beings to somehow be forgiven for sin, their sin is either forgivable or it isn’t. The wrath is either justified or insane, but the wrath cannot be both fully justified AND then justly revoked. Either the rage and its punishments was overbearing to begin with, or the forgiveness undeserved, but it makes no moral sense to insist that both are the case, and that both the rage and the forgiveness are praiseworthy. That’s how one can be emotionally manipulative, certainly, but as a moral doctrine it’s simply incoherent.

    And of course, I’ve already referenced my opinion on the idea of “propitiation”: that it is, again, moral nonsense (killing an innocent person is simply additionally wrong, not a form of atonement). But that is beside the present point.

    Also, your statement assumes that Jesus is acting in a way contrary to God’s will.

    I don’t think it does. I think it implies, rather, that this concept of God’s will is simply incoherent if you wish to imagine Jesus and God as being of the same mind.

    As an aside, I don’t agree that Scripture (at least in the sense of OT Scripture, as opposed to NT claims about Scripture) shows what you claim it does: I find the Jewish interpretation of their own Scriptures (which do not support the idea of original or unforgivable sin in the first place, leaving no such problem for Jesus to “solve”) to be a far more plausible reading than the Christian re-imaginings. But this too is beside the point. I don’t believe in Judaism either, just that their reading of what the ancient authors believed is more believable.

    Salvation itself has almost nothing to do with the individual, but everything to do with God’s grace and power and Christ’s righteousness.

    This particular doctrine is a bit different from the one I’m criticizing, but if anything, it’s worse. It only further underscores the injustice and amorality of the entire affair: God demands ridiculous things, and then decides, seemingly arbitrarily, whether or not to care about his own rage and deliver or not deliver the conditions of salvation from it.

  20. Bradford says:

    Good, thoughtful post explaining the roadblocks you have to salvation. As someone who used to not believe in God I will attempt a reply to your post.

    Why it is that, in addition to simply having no reason to believe, I no longer find Christian doctrines especially sensible or compelling in their own right?

    I presume you mean that you have no reason to believe in God, most certainly not the Christian version.

    Well, if you think about it, the existence of God is a binary choice: God exists or God does not exist.
    One of these statements is true and one is false. They cannot both be true and they cannot both be false. It must be one or the other, just as an electrical switch is on or off; either the switch is on or it is off./p>

    So which is it? It must be one or the other. Here is basically the two versions:

    Version 1
    There is no God. Hydrogen (and all matter for that matter) has always existed or it spontaneously appeared from nothing. These particles of matter over unfathomable lengths of time moved themselves together, perhaps by magnetism or molecular attraction to form water, proteins, iron, and all manner of molecules which combined to form comets, planets, suns, and eventually a living organism. Over time the information blueprint of this organism (DNA) mutated forming different but similar organisms which changed even further over time. Eventually, blind organisms derived the ability to see, mindless creatures derived the ability to evaluate conditions and make use of what it has seen, and deaf creatures derived the ability to hear. Plants, themselves blind, deaf, and mindless who have no concept of air currents, structural design, or gravity formed, by blind, mindless processes aerodynamic seedlings which could disperse in the breeze. Spiders with silk glands (another chance mutation) appeared from the pool of organisms forming and taught themselves to spin webs and somehow imparted this information into its DNA. After so many millions of years of these blueprint changes, organisms becoming more and more complex, these changes accumulated to form a human being, forming at the same time both male and female versions that could come together and produce offspring.

    Version 2
    God has always existed, has no beginning or ending. This God created all matter, and from this matter God created the universe, setting the magnitude of suns and the spinning of planets. God also created all living things within a short period of time from each other, including humans; both male and female God created them.

    Others more intelligent and expressive than myself have put it better than I but this is basically what it comes down to. People have argued for centuries over which is the correct version. I do not pretend to resolve such disputes here other than portray the two options available. Whichever version you choose is a matter of faith because no human has any idea where matter came from. There are only guesses and a consensus of plausible possibilities.

    Which is the correct version of 2? That is something the individual must discover via honest and objective evaluation of all truth claims. Many groups claim their version 2 is absolutely true and the others false. Maybe Douglas Adams had it right and the answer is 42 –version 2 with forty clarifications yet to be discovered.

    Right then, on to the rest of what you’ve written.

    Now, plenty has already been written on the pragmatically incoherent concept of someone dying for your sins; This idea is, I suspect, largely the product of the merging of several different theological and political needs felt by early Christians

    Christianity isn’t an idea. It is based upon eyewitness accounts of Jesus Christ, his teachings, his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

    God is love. The one thing God cannot do, despite being all powerful and omnipotent is that he cannot make you love him. If he did, altering your body chemistry and mind to automatically love God then it would not be love. You would be like a programmed Stepford wife.

    So what must God do about someone who has been given a free choice to love and obey the rules but does not? The penalty of disobedience is death because God made everything perfect and pure. Disobedience to God (sin) is like a drop of ink in a glass of water that contaminates all of creation. The soul that sins, it must die. But God loves his creation and does not want to destroy it so he made a provision to get around his own law: impart the penalty of death for all who sin onto a sinless individual. “Kill” that individual (Jesus Christ) satisfying the law then resurrect that individual. Voila! The penalty of death is paid and God does not have to destroy what he created. Those who want to be reconciled to God now have a means to do so, but the individual must choose that option. God won’t force it upon one just as he won’t force someone to love him.

    That, in a nutshell, is Christianity.

    By the way, hell is indeed annihilation. It is called The Second Death. After the judgment, if your sins are not covered by Jesus Christ then you will be cast into the lake of fire and disintegrated. The bible verse John 3:16-19 says:

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    Notice it does not say “if you don’t believe you will have everlasting life in hell.” No, it does not say that at all. You either have everlasting life or you don’t. This corroborates other bible scriptures that say hell is “The Second Death.” Sadly, mean-spirited and hateful “Christians” have used eternal torment to scare people into obedience to the church. If you don’t believe in God then God gives you what you want: no God. This life on earth will be what you get.

    This claim [irredeemable nature of humanity] is quickly followed up by the promise of a path to salvation: simply believe the correct ideology, and do your best to keep believing in it, and somehow now you’re now acceptable and forgiven, despite still being no less sinful than before.

    Once you accept Jesus Christ your spirit is reconciled with God, you are “born again”. You become a new person with a renewed spirit. Sure, at times the Christian fails to resist temptation, to let emotion and flesh supercede the spirit. A true Christian, that is, a person who has truly accepted Jesus Christ, will indeed sin less than before. If a person continues sinning as before as if nothing had changed then it can reasonably be argued that the person only mouthed words or mimicked actions, did not consider the truth of the existence of God nor did that person really believe what Jesus did on the cross.

    If you read in the bible Matthew 7 it gives an example of people who proclaimed belief and salvation but their actions proved they were not Christians.

    Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:19-24

    If human beings are not morally worthy of whatever “salvation” is, then Jesus’ saving of humanity is simply not a praiseworthy action at all. Either it’s moral to save human beings, or it isn’t. Either God’s original anger at humans for failing to live up to impossibly inhuman demands (again, another topic for another time) is righteous, or Jesus’ scheme for salvation is, but it cannot be both. As much as theologians have tried to avoid this aspect of their story, the doctrine of salvation is morally schizophrenic to its core.

    All people are absolutely worthy of salvation, to be redeemed. God will save anyone who chooses to be saved. We humans cannot meet the standards of righteousness in our fallen flesh but Jesus can and did. Christian let Christ’s righteousness be their righteousness all the while striving to live in holiness.

    Why would Jesus’ pardon of supposedly unredeemable people be a good thing? Why should anyone praise him for it? And if the proscribed punishment (either eternal torment or oblivion) is so unbelievably horrible that those that might suffer it deserve pity, then it is the punishment itself is what’s wrong.

    Some people realise they’ve made a mistake in life, committed sin. God allows one to repent of sin rather than proclaim a hideous “1 Strike and yer out” rule. This is praiseworthy indeed, to be given a second chance. It is fair and just. But for the one who refuses to acknowledge sin, who points a finger at God and says “Not me! I did NOTHING wrong, bub” then the punishment of annihilation is just: the person did not want God, the person gets what is wanted, which is, no God.

    Jesus, on the other hand, is essentially soft on crime

    The purpose of Jesus’ first coming to earth was not to punish crime:For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved There will be a day of judgment and then Christ will judge.

    Of course, I’m not sure the doctrine is really supposed to make any sense. It has, after all, proven to be extremely effective simply as a form of emotional manipulation (both to evangelize new converts and to buttress existing faith). And it’s not hard to see why. The theology begins by attempting to inspire guilt: deep metaphysical guilt (how dare I even exist, detestable creature I!). And then, just when it’s created the requisite amount of misery and self-hatred, it follows it up with an offer of release and restitution. It’s a sort of dramatic roller-coaster: inspiring deep self-loathing in someone in order to win a grateful devotion to whomever proffers a solution. It’s the same psychological technique used everything from basic training to criminal interrogations: break someone’s will, and then build them back up again.

    The doctrine makes sense to me, and I am not emotionally manipulated for I have thought this through, the proof being what I have written here in my own words.

    Other than some scripture I pasted in all I have written here is my own. I’m not living in misery and self-hatred. Salvation is not a release from misery but a hope and joy that I’m not just a blob of flesh and this is all there is, with no purpose and no reason for being here other than random chance.

    I do have to agree with you that many churches attempt to win converts by using psychological tricks such as fear of hell, charsima, gimmicks (WWJD–What Would

    Jesus Do rather than what the bible says); promises of wealth etc. to draw people into church. There are many people who ride an emotional roller-coaster of “Am I going to heaven? Yes? Oh no!” Such people who live that way tend to be emotionally weak to begin with, relying on the strength of other’s faith to be their own. This is dangerous and why cult’s flourish, taking advantage of such people.

    Anyway, to wrap this up (I do hope I closed all my html tags–you really should add a preview tab to make sure) I enjoy reading your blog. Don’t agree with it all, of course, but it is well-written and intelligent.

  21. Bad says:

    Well, if you think about it, the existence of God is a binary choice: God exists or God does not exist.

    True, although the key to such a binary is a nice, clean definition of God.

    Here is basically the two versions:

    No. This is where a lot of apologetics goes quite wrong. You can’t decide what is true based on what version of the world you find most appealing. Or even, in some sense, what you find plausible (because, in most of the key cases, we do not know exactly what is plausible and what isn’t, and this is never more the case with the nature of existence itself: we have NO BASIS to judge the particular existence we see as especially likely or unlikely).

    I also don’t see much in the way of an explanation on the God side of the ledger. God did all these things… somehow. Because God can hypothetically do anything. But of course hypothesizing a being that can do anything solves mysteries “easier” than any other explanation. It is far far simpler to say that a God simply makes it rain than to learn about how weather works. But saying that “God did X” doesn’t REALLY explain X. If you rephrase the claim a little, it basically works out to “an unintelligible being did it in an unknown way” which is essentially no different than saying “I don’t know how it happened at all.” The fact that you can stick a name on a non-explanation doesn’t turn it INTO an explanation.

    Thus, I find the presumed basis of plausibility here to be critically flawed on at least these two major counts.

    Also, notice the difference between version 1 and version 2. While I think version 1 is somewhat of a caricature, at least it seems to represent the basic idea that we should explain all these things in detail based on the best evidence we have. Version 2, on the other hand, basically just says to imagine a being that can do anything, and it does a bunch of stuff.

    I also, obviously, disagree with the idea that judging the merits of an explanation is based on faith. This is especially so given that version 1, properly rendered, does not actually have the same pretensions that version 2 has to necessarily have all the answers to everything (though, as it happens, we do have a pretty decent idea of where MATTER came from, though not how the universe originated (or even if it did), which are two distinct questions). Science works from the ground up rather than simply claiming to explain everything with a few pat claims.

    Christianity isn’t an idea. It is based upon eyewitness accounts of Jesus Christ, his teachings, his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

    Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but the interpretations of what these stories and teachings consisted of, and what they really implied, are all ideas. If what you believe turns out to be the exactly reproduced version of Christ’s ideas, then they are still ideas, and we can still discuss them as such, including whether those ideas make any sense or not.

    God is love. The one thing God cannot do, despite being all powerful and omnipotent is that he cannot make you love him. If he did, altering your body chemistry and mind to automatically love God then it would not be love. You would be like a programmed Stepford wife.

    I don’t think it means anything to say that God “is” love: it’s basically a philosophical boast (love is awesome, I think God is awesome, therefore God must be the awesomest stuff all rolled into one). Love is something you feel for another person. The character God might or might not love people. I’ll judge that by how this God is described as acting.

    I wish I had more time at the moment to delve into more specifics of your comment and my thoughts in responses, but that will have to wait a bit. In the meantime, to sum up my general take, I think you have largely told back to me the theological story of killing an innocent person to “fulfill” the law without actually explaining how it makes any sense at all. I know the story. I know the doctrines. My argument is not that one cannot insist that they are truly the teachings of Christianity, but rather that, as I explained, they don’t make any sense.

    You keep repeating elements of the story back to me as if they answer my questions and complaints. But I don’t think they do: they merely repeat the very things I’ve already explained that I find illogical, unworkable, etc. It still can’t be that the annihilation of a person, based on nothing more than their mere petulance or other character flaws (something that seems to me to be very obviously the height of evil) is both right and also dismissable, and that the matter is, to boot, seemingly arbitrary!

    I’ll hopefully have more to say on a concrete nature soon, but feel free to disagree with my summary version (which may be rougher and more simplistic than it should be given the brevity and rush).

    I wish I could add a preview tag. I don’t know how, or if it’s even possible.

  22. Bradford says:

    First, thank you for going to the trouble of closing some of the html tags I missed. Such effort is rare. I was horrified at how sloppy it looked after I pressed submit. I
    thought I might could edit after submitting but could not. I will be more careful. I really should get a 60″ monitor.

    the key to such a binary choice [God/No God] is a nice, clean definition of God.

    That is why I mentioned there is a dispute who this being is, whether Allah & Mohammad, Jehovah only, Jehovah & Jesus & Holy Spirit, the great sky spirit, Elvis, or everything being god just in different pieces of the whole. That is why you must first make the binary choice, objectively without feelings then, if you are convinced there is a God then examine the truth claims to see which is correct based on evidence and experience. As you know, there are many egotistical and aggressive groups of people who assure everyone they are right and everyone else wrong which is why objective examination is essential to get past the huffing and puffing and pride. In some cases, such as in Arabia, to attempt an objective investigation is vigorously prevented, such as by threat of death, and should your conclusions contradict what the reigning religious overlords have decreed to be the truth the threat is carried out. That is how fiercely the extent some will go.

    A loving God who wants its created creatures to love him back does not deny one the free and open choice to choose, even if the choice is incorrect despite all the
    evidence pointing in the right direction.

    You can’t decide what is true based on what version of the world you find most appealing. Or even, in some sense, what you find plausible (because, in
    most of the key cases, we do not know exactly what is plausible and what isn’t, and this is never more the case with the nature of existence itself: we have NO BASIS to
    judge the particular existence we see as especially likely or unlikely).

    I agree one can’t decide truth on how one feels but at some point one must get off the fence of indecision and apathy and make a concrete decision based on the
    available evidence such as scriptures, archaelogical findings, logic (why does human history not go back 10,000 years if we’ve supposedly been here for many more?) etc. At some point you must make a choice and have faith your choice is correct. To go through life waffling about what might be true or not is weak and unacceptable.

    I also don’t see much in the way of an explanation on the God side of the ledger…The fact that you can stick a name on a non-explanation doesn’t turn it
    INTO an explanation.

    That was well said and I agree. To add to this I would say there is a huge difference between saying “God created this, what is its purpose and how does it
    work?” and saying “I don’t know or care how it works cuz God did it, uh-huh, yeah, good’nuff answer for me har-har. Huge difference. Belief that God did it is not a blanket
    excuse to answer things we may be ignorant about how or why something works.

    We should explain all these things in detail based on the best evidence we have. Version 2, on the other hand, basically just says to imagine a being that can do anything, and it does a bunch of stuff.

    I agree one must explain in detail the evidence at hand but here is the issue: if you do not believe in God you will interpret all data based on a “There Is No God”
    presupposition just as someone who believes in God will interpret all data with a “There Is A God” presupposition. All data is rendered to the viewpoint on that binary choice one has made of God/No God if unknown/unprovable/unobservable/variable data is found. Explanations contrary to one’s presuppositions are automatically discarded. The “No God” person will say “We don’t know yet but a natural mechanism is certainly the cause” whereas a “God” person will say “God did it but we don’t know yet on the mechanism God used.”

    I also, obviously, disagree with the idea that judging the merits of an explanation is based on faith…Science works from the ground up rather than simply
    claiming to explain everything with a few pat claims

    .

    And I must, obviously, disagree. As I mentioned, one’s presuppositions will be the final arbiter of possibly unknowable or unknown data such as where
    matter came from. There might be a giant spigot somewhere spewing out hydrogen for all we know but then that spigot had to have a source. A person’s faith in the choice
    one has made concerning God/No God will decide how that person explains unknowndata such as the age of a particular oxygen atom. While it is true (good) science works from the ground up it is not immune from one’s presuppositions and especially the presuppositions of one’s peers and those in authority.

    Christianity isn’t an idea. It is based upon eyewitness accounts… Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but the interpretations of what these stories and teachings consisted of, and what they really implied, are all ideas.

    If it is an eyewitness account (and I am convinced it is) then what is written is the truth and the teachings therein is based on truth thus being more than mere ideas.

    I don’t think it means anything to say that God is love: it’s basically a philosophical boast (love is awesome, I think God is awesome, therefore God must be the awesomest stuff all rolled into one). Love is something you feel for another person. The character God might or might not love people. I’ll judge that by how this God is described as acting.

    True, love is how you feel towards another. A (sane/non-dysfunctional) father loves his child. We are God’s children and in that way he loves us. Say a father’s child is about to drink poison or dump poison in a punch bowl at a party possibly killing everyone who drinks. The father spanks the child causing it to scream in pain. A bruise appears on the spanked spot. Someone who did not know what the child was about to do will conclude the father was evil in spanking the child. Before judging the
    character of God you must first know all the extenuating circumstances that causes God to take a certain action against humans which in some cases was the termination of life –capital punishment if you will.

    I think you have largely told back to me the theological story of killing an innocent person to fulfill the law without actually explaining how it makes any sense at all

    I honestly do not know how to explain it better so that it makes sense. Either you accept God exists or you don’t. Even the bible says the gospel of Jesus Christ will not
    make sense:

    For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…For after that in the wisdom of God the world
    by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

    I suppose it all boils down to whether you choose to believe in God and whether you choose to believe in Jesus Christ. I don’t know how else to put it. I will think some
    more on the subject and maybe I will get an inspiration. I try to put things in my own words rather than parroting what others have said. That’s a lazy cop-out in my opinion.

    In any event, I acknowledge that your arguments are valid, worthy of respect, and that it may be no amount of argument on the subject will be of any effect. This subject
    has been argued for over 2000 years and the argument still rages on so…I’ll leave it at that.

    As for adding a preview function to your webpage, it isn’t a tag but a script that allows one to view what one has written before posting the data to your webserver. I
    don’t know if it is a PERL script you could use or PHP. It’s useful but not critical or anything. I think I did a better job this time checking my html tags.

  23. Drew says:

    **Long Post Alert!!!***

    My apologies in advance!

    I know this is not the main subject of your post, however, I cannot let this statement slip by without a little critical inquisition.

    “Now, plenty has already been written on the pragmatically incoherent concept of someone ‘dying for your sins.'”

    First I’ll start with an example:

    Let’s say that a man crosses paths with a child who’s crying. Upon a little inquiry the man finds out the boy was chided by his fellow playmates because he didn’t have a bike, and to make matters worse, the boy did originally have a bike that his poor mother scrimped and saved to buy, but the boy had ghost-ridden it in front of a passing bus which lead to its destruction.

    So the man, having compassion in his heart decided to give the boy an old bike he had in his garage, but only on the stipulation that the boy never mistreat the bike like he did with his first one. The boy agreed, and swore up and down that he would never do anything like that again. The man, in order to hold the boy accountable to his word, stated that if he ever saw him mistreating the donated bike, he would take the bike away, “That’s the deal; take it or leave it!” They mutually agreed to the proposal, and consecrated it with a handshake.

    Later that day, the man crosses paths with the same boy, and when he did, the boy was, once again, ghost-riding the bike dangerously close to traffic. The man, outraged, walked over to the boy who was then picking up the fallen bike, and attempted to take it from his hands.

    At the exact same moment I turn the corner and see an old man stealing a bike from a screaming boy. I run up, and before the man can even defend himself, I punch him in the jaw causing him to fall down and blackout.

    Now obviously a story has been narrated, a crappy one at that, but nevertheless one with a beginning, middle, and end. Now let’s say the narrator decides to tell the story (for whatever reason) from the point when I turned the corner. Most people would think I’d done the right thing, however, there’s another 2/3rd’s of the story that people must be aware of to get the full context, to know the old man was justified in his actions.

    By the statement from your article quoted above; you are that half-assed narrator!

    Now, that is not to say that I understand the “why” of God’s justice, why Jesus had to die for the sins of the world. But then again, I’m not privy to everyone’s private counsels. God chose to make justice work like the way he has proclaimed it does in this world for his own private reasons. Christ, at one time, decided that he would make satisfaction if humanity ever chose faithlessness, (i.e. not trusting in God) to faithfulness (i.e. obedience to God). This is the way it was in the beginning of things, and why God’s justice works the way it does is beyond any semblance of my imagination due to the fact that God has never declared the “why” of his law. It just “is”; no further explanation given Biblically. Sorry!

    When Adam sinned, the subsequent consequence for his sinning (i.e. his faithless condition) was passed on from generation to generation for a reason as yet undisclosed. Why it works like this; I don’t know. The only type of answer I could ever give for a question like that would be one of “personal conjecture”, and so, I won’t give one. Unfortunately, the Bible is also silent on this issue, so, in the end it doesn’t really matter what I subjectively believe because (a) it’s my own opinion, which essentially counts for nothing, and (b) I’m not the only ignorant one; everyone else is as ignorant as me to the reason of God’s “why”!

    It’s kind of like a game, say football for instance. The game was created, and rules were created to govern the game. In addition, judges are put in place to enforce those rules and apply penalties to whoever disobeys them. A person may not understand why they only get four plays to get either a touchdown or reach the next first down marker, yet, nevertheless those are the rules. And a player might think that to be unfair and unreasonable, I mean after all, the players on the opposing team are really good, and way bigger than our squad, yet, once again, those are the rules and they must be obeyed. All begging and pleading will not make it any different.

    Next, it must be understood that through Adam’s sin, all became sinful; and conversely, through Christ’s sinless life and perfect righteousness; all, in one perspective, became like Christ (i.e. sinless), and to those who accept the gift of Christ’s righteousness – they too shall become sons of God according to the scriptures, etc.

    This is the gospel message, and contrary to popular belief, the message is indeed two-fold. When I say that all the world’s sin is forgiven, I do mean All THE WORLD; however, if I have only kept the law in never committing a sin, then I’ve only done half the job. The law not only requires perfect obedience, but perfect righteousness (i.e. good, God-pleasing works) as well. I can’t just “keep” the law, I must also “do” it, and do it nonetheless without sinning, for if I do practice good works according to the law with any minute amount of sinfulness in my heart, then in the eyes of God even my good works are sinful because my original sinful condition taints them.

    For instance, let’s say I was a wild spend thrift who never gave a second thought about putting a purchase on credit. Then, let’s say for sake of exemplification that I, because of the enormous debt I now have, decide to declare bankruptcy, and permission was granted me to do so, and subsequently my debts would be erased resulting in my being free from debt, etc. However, there will come a time when I have to build my credit again (that is, if I ever want to do legitimate business in the real world), and that requires me to handle money from then on in a right manner. However, if after the fact, I continue to spend money credited to me without anything to counterbalance the debt I accrue, then I really haven’t gained anything by declaring bankruptcy, and my credit is still shot; if not worse.

    Christ is our “credit” so to say, because, as God has declared it, we, in God’s eyes, continually write checks our butt’s can’t cash, and since Christ, for our sake, handled life on this earth in a right manner, perfectly, we reap the rewards. And that is the best part; Christ would be perfectly justified in keeping his righteousness all to himself, but he gives it to us as a free gift in the spirit of love. Why he still loves us, in spite of our continued sinfulness I don’t know, after all, do I have to? Will a starving man refuse bread, will a poisoned man refuse the anti-venom, and will a perishing man deny salvation? Yet, this much I do know from the revelation of the scriptures; that God required us from the beginning to be a certain way, we chose contrary to God’s will, and God saved us regardless.

    Now, one might naturally ask at this point, “What if someone never heard the message of the gospel; is God then really loving that person by letting them die without a chance for redemption?”

    Well, it really comes down to this, if we consider that God, the one who created the law, would’ve been fully justified in destroying Adam the very second of his betrayal, and justifiably doing so without giving Adam and Eve any chance for redemption, and yet, when he did no such thing, what then was his purpose in threatening in the first place? Well, one could conclude that God isn’t consistent with his punishments; yet, we (albeit eventually, not immediately) indeed die as he said we would. No, in contradistinction, he delayed our death, only to reveal that his ultimate purpose thenceforth was and is to save us from his righteous wrath. However, if someone didn’t hear this message and eventually died never hearing it, God’s hands are clean, for if they die damned then they are only spiritually dying in the original condition they had coming into this world, the condition of original sin.

    The natural objection at this point would be, “Why are some saved and some not?” Well, once again, I simply don’t have an answer to this one, and I’m afraid no one does, therefore it’s safe to be suspect of any Christian apologist that offers to entertain one, for the Bible is simply silent on the matter. However, I must reserve myself to the fact that I was sinful when I came into this world, and sinful shall I leave it, that is unless, God chooses to save me by some preexisting loophole in his law that He, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, had worked out beforehand. Also, this much I know; I am no better than anybody else, and I, like Lewis was dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom of heaven. I was an atheist, I was incredibly sinful and unfortunately still am, and I could care less about some God who loved me and wanted to save me. I still find these urges to leave God in me, yet I believe! – in spite of my faithlessness. And no matter what argument I bring against God, when I apply consistent criticism to it, God still wins out in the end.

    So, paradoxically the bible leaves me with two conclusions, (a) I die damned and justifiably so, or (b) God chooses to save me by offering me the gift of salvation in Christ. If I accept it, then it is God who has given me the ability to be faithful, and, as a result saved me; however, if I reject it, then the responsibility and consequence of that action or inaction falls squarely on me. Some might say that I sidestepped the issue, okay so be it, but in all respect to the truth, I can’t give an answer in relation to the way God does things unless they’ve been clearly defined in the Bible. After all, that is the only clear revelation I have of Him and His actions in the world.

    So what does any of this have to do with the story of the boy and the old man, and that nasty half-assed narrator comment too?

    Well, essentially everything! This is the context of Christianity’s historical narrative, and when one doctrine, an important one at that, is ripped from its context and analyzed apart from the rest of story then of course it’s going to appear as you say, “pragmatically incoherent”. Just like if someone started my little tale from the time the old man was taking the bike back, people would misconstrue the reason for the man’s actions. Yet, when it is analyzed within the narrative’s context; it is completely consistent with the entire story and is relevant to anyone, granted that they accept the premises.

    What particularly perturbs me about this accusation of the gospel’s “incoherence”, is the fact that when I consider your intelligence, which far exceeds mine, and your eloquence, which is quite good, that you would say something so silly! Now, I must preface my next statement with the fact that you admit to being a former follower of the Christian faith, which leads me to one of two conclusions; (1) the church you belonged to didn’t really do a good job of teaching you essential Christian doctrines, and that you never independently looked into them yourself, or (2) that you DO know the doctrine entirely within it’s context, and you’re blatantly mischaracterizing it for the appearance of intellectual superiority. If it’s the first, then I’m sad your pastor failed you, and that you never looked deeper into the doctrine within its context; now, if it’s the latter, then shame on you for handling a critique so irresponsibly.

    I hate it when the “Fundy American Evangelical” absolutely mischaracterizes atheists as quasi-Satanists in sheep’s clothing. Conversely, I equally hate it when atheists mischaracterize the tenets of the Christian faith. I sincerely hope your error is of the first order, and not the second. And this leads me to a more pertinent and relevant criticism of your piece.
    You stated, “If human beings are not morally worthy of whatever “salvation” is, then Jesus’s saving of humanity is simply not a praiseworthy action at all. Either it’s moral to save human beings, or it isn’t. Either God’s original anger at humans for failing to live up to impossibly inhuman demands (again, another topic for another time) is righteous, or Jesus’ scheme for salvation is, but it cannot be both. As much as theologians have tried to avoid this aspect of their story, the doctrine of salvation is morally schizophrenic to its core.”
    Your forgetting the other half, Jesus didn’t say that the people are saved because he says so, rather, people are saved because Christ’s sacrifice made satisfaction for God’s wrath. Christ died the death we deserve so we don’t have to. After all it wasn’t like God just gave up his grudge against sin because he was tired of holding it and decided to declare people saved if they believed X, if that were the case then I’d agree with you that it was like moral schizophrenia.
    Yet, that’s not the case; God’s wrath was satisfied on the cross, and therefore the law, and the curse and punishment that goes along with the violation of the law was fulfilled once and forever. The case is simply this, Christ decided to bear our sins (for reasons undisclosed), and he, in turn, gives us his righteousness. Think of it like clothing, He, while remaining righteous, wore our “garment” of sinfulness, and we, while remaining sinful, wear and continue to wear his “garment” of righteousness. God’s conception of his law is so absolute, thorough, consistent, and complete that in no way could he ever look at a sinful person and simply ignore there sinfulness. No, he has to, for lack of a better word, “trick” himself into seeing something different than what we actually are, hence the need for us to be diguised in Christ’s “garment” of righteousness. So, when he looks at us he doesn’t see us per-se, he sees Christ, and therefore sees us as righteous for Christ’s sake. No contradiction; no contrary action on God’s part. He is consistent with his law, not confused or “schizophrenic” as you say.
    You also say, “Either we are like a reckless child now drowning in a well who needs saving, or we are like a rapist that never gets caught by the police. Saving the former is moral, even if the child is “imperfect,” but helping the latter escape custody would be is abhorrent and wrong (or at least insofar as catching and jailing the rapist will actually do some good for the world, something neither the Christian visions of eternal torment nor even simple oblivion accomplish: again a matter for another time). Aiding and abetting a criminal so that they can outrun police is not considered an act of justice: so why would Jesus pardon of supposedly unredeemable people be a good thing? Why should anyone praise him for it? And if the proscribed punishment (either eternal torment or oblivion) is so unbelievably horrible that those that might suffer it deserve pity, then it is the punishment itself is what’s wrong.”
    Well, here you blatantly display a false dichotomy and dilemma. You’ve set up an either/or situation that doesn’t, once again, meet up with the context of Christianity’s narrative, or warrant its existence in the first place. I would agree with you that helping a rapist evade capture to be morally wrong in a human sense, but I question your understanding of how God judges sin. If you believe God judges sin on a bell curve like humankind judges crimes, then that is a poor understanding of how God has revealed in the scriptures that he judges us. According to the scriptures everyone is born condemned, you may disagree with that, I may disagree with that, but if the Bible is our only revelation of how God does things, then that is the only way to understand, or critique his actions.

    The Bible tells us our current situation (from conception) is like that of someone on death row; we are basically living on borrowed time, which means, that from the gate, in God’s perspective, there is essentially is no difference between the child and the rapist; both are equally condemned. This may not jive well with our human conceptions and vision of justice, but ultimately when it comes to the question of how God perceives us, if whether we are judged to eternal damnation or eternal life, then it only matters how we are perceived in his eyes. I agree with you that there is a way we, in our human capacity enact justice, but that is not the way the Bible tells us God adjudicates his, so to compare our conception of justice to that of God’s is really comparing apples and oranges.

    Also, if God created the law and infused it with his creation, and we sin against him or his creation, we ultimately, in either case, sin against him and him alone. That’s not to say that if we sin against our neighbor we don’t owe them a debt in a human sense or something along those lines, but if our sin, no matter if it’s against our neighbor or against God, is, in an ultimate sense against God, then it’s within his prerogative to forgive. We can even see this in the human sense of morals; it’s not morally confusing.

    For instance, when a survivor of a rape attack forgives their attacker, do we not see this as a morally beautiful action on the behalf of the rape survivor? I do, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. In another instance, when those Amish school girls where gunned down by a local wacko a couple of years ago, everyone marveled at how the families of the children who perished could be so forgiving of their child’s murderer. They even went to his funeral and cried with his family for God’s sake. Their act of forgiveness seemed to be the vanguard of morality, because of its rareness.

    And so it is with Christ, that when he took the wrath of God upon himself for our sake, even though we didn’t deserve his mercy, even though God could have wiped out the entire human race with Adam and Eve and started over, he didn’t, which is why we perceive Christ’s action of salvation to be the greatest act of all humanity and not senseless as you say. Simply put, it’s the greatest act of love ever committed on our behalf. Nothing compares: nothing ever will.

    And finally, rhetorically speaking, I’m a little confused on why you would write an article like this. Was it to bolster the Atheist position for you and your cronies, or was it to convince weak-minded Christians that there faith was supposedly illogical, or, maybe, a little of both? In any case I’m going to give you a little tip, if you really want to (and my apologies for the lame “Karate Kid” reference) “sweep the leg” on Christianity, you should really try attacking it’s historicity. Many Atheist’s stick to a philosophical critique of Christianity, which is fine, but you better be pretty damn sure about your initial understanding of Christianity in its entire context, otherwise articles like this can very easily be picked apart by any semi-knowledgeable Christian like myself, and make you appear, well, rather less than knowledgeable. This is merely conjecture on my part, but I believe many Atheists’ don’t follow the way of staking their attack on Christianity’s historicity due to the fact of the extensive scholarship involved. It’s much easier to take Christian doctrines out of context and attempt to destroy the Christian faith based on weak, if not faulty premises to begin with so as to appear intellectual. But, the matter is much more serious, thus it’s more important to be right than it is to appear haughty and superior.

  24. Bad says:

    I honestly don’t know why wordpress allows these sorts of posting bugs to exist, and doesn’t give us a preview option. I’d dearly love to have one. I’ll mull over these lengthy posts and get back to them as soon as I can.

    For now, I just have to comment to Drew that it’s not quite enough to claim you’ve addressed my arguments and exposed huge flaws: there’s still the possibility that you’ve missed the point, misrepresented my arguments, or are just plain wrong. There is certainly, as you allege, the possibility that my arguments have done the same. But who is correct in that particular accusation is just something we’re going to have to hash out in extended arguments: not something you can settle in a single declaration.

    And again: merely repeating doctrines to me that claim that my arguments are wrong, doesn’t convince me. Simply repeating that the answer to my dilemma is that the Bible says it isn’t one is not the same thing as actually addressing it.

    I think the very very critical error you make is in exempting the punishment or treatment of God of his creation from any serious moral judgment. But the fact that this plays into the question of whether punishment or forgiveness is moral is central to my argument. Insisting that human beings are really really horrible jerks to God and that I somehow missed this point also seems wildly off base. This point is essentially irrelevant to my main argument and I think constitutes you misrepresenting me, not me misrepresenting Christian doctrine. My argument is about moral consistency and flat out moral judgment, not any particular sort of storytelling.

    Your forgetting the other half, Jesus didn’t say that the people are saved because he says so, rather, people are saved because Christ’s sacrifice made satisfaction for God’s wrath. Christ died the death we deserve so we don’t have to.

    I’m not forgetting that in the least. In fact I made reference to it at the outset… by noting that it’s also moral nonsense… but that I wasn’t going to rehash that debate, and was instead going to focus on the issue of consistency and coherency.

    After all it wasn’t like God just gave up his grudge against sin because he was tired of holding it and decided to declare people saved if they believed X, if that were the case then I’d agree with you that it was like moral schizophrenia.

    Actually, THAT would actually make far more sense than your story. Sometimes people’s vengefulness causes them to forget that punishments are only worthwhile insofar as they too are moral: once they become mere vendettas, serving no moral purpose, they are merely compounding evils, not solutions. If God was to realize the error of his rage, then this at least would demonstrate some sort of sensible psychology, rather than a simple incoherence of doctrine.

    Yet, that’s not the case; God’s wrath was satisfied on the cross, and therefore the law, and the curse and punishment that goes along with the violation of the law was fulfilled once and forever.

    Again, this issue isn’t directly relevant to the case I made, and this is the issue I said had been debated to death elsewhere. But, while you’re at it, perhaps you could stop simply repeating the doctrine and start explaining how it makes any coherent moral sense. What is the justification for a law that is satisfied by punishing people who didn’t do anything wrong? What purpose is functionally served by this process: how do you get from act A to result B? This doctrine treats moral wrong as if it were some sort of object or ritual talisman, rather than a judgment, and that this object can be destroyed by some sort of magical ritual or blood sacrifice.

    It seems deeply, deeply confused: a decidedly pagan concept of ritual curses and bloody appeasements to insane and vindictive Gods, with the bizarre assertion that in this particular instance, the God is for some reason not insane or vindictive.

    It’s little wonder that very few literate Jews were convinced by the Christian message. In their Scriptures and subsidiary writings (which in Judiasm, contrary the the obsession with the Bible as the one and only thing that mattered, also matter), these sorts of pagan philosophies are condemned and heralded as leading the Jewish people astray. Human sacrifice is said to be a tremendous evil. In fact, for Jews, the whole problem that Jesus supposedly solves never really exists in the first place. Scripture is quite clear that atonement is not out of the reach of normal people, and sin sacrifices are, in fact, trivial matters. Atonement and prayer are already available as the main sources of forgiveness and properly striving to be righteous.

    No, he has to, for lack of a better word, “trick” himself into seeing something different than what we actually are, hence the need for us to be diguised in Christ’s “garment” of righteousness. So, when he looks at us he doesn’t see us per-se, he sees Christ, and therefore sees us as righteous for Christ’s sake. No contradiction; no contrary action on God’s part.

    Are you kidding me? You can really read the above and not think it utterly bizarre, answering none of my objections, and only making things worse? An all-knowing God needs to trick itself by disguising people in the blood of its son/itself so that when it looks at people it doesn’t fly into a murderous rage? That’s supposed to explain everything?

    You’re right: there perhaps isn’t a contradiction, per se, right there in that. Contradictions require some semblance of logic in the first place.

    I would agree with you that helping a rapist evade capture to be morally wrong in a human sense, but I question your understanding of how God judges sin. If you believe God judges sin on a bell curve like humankind judges crimes, then that is a poor understanding of how God has revealed in the scriptures that he judges us. According to the scriptures everyone is born condemned, you may disagree with that, I may disagree with that, but if the Bible is our only revelation of how God does things, then that is the only way to understand, or critique his actions.

    I’m not disagreeing with it in my argument, though of course I do disagree with it. I’m actually taking it seriously as a moral principle, and then demonstrating that, in fact, it isn’t taken seriously as a moral principle. It’s abrogated by mystifyingly inexplicable hand-waving in a way that real moral principles cannot be. You cannot both insist that someone really is condemned, no caveats, and then tell a story that doesn’t take that seriously and is full of caveats.

    I’ve got to move on to other things for now, but I’ll be back to consider more of the rest of your criticisms later.

  25. Bad says:

    It strikes me that there may be a potential source of real confusion here in my talking about “forgiveness.” I’m focused on the moral picture here, but there are whole aspects of things like forgiveness that don’t necessarily have moral content: you can tell a whole psychological narrative about how someone is angered by an evil act, but comes to forgive it in time. This can, indeed, be a sign of emotional maturity.

    But that’s not what is at issue in this case. What’s at issue is not so much forgiveness itself, which is mostly an emotional matter for the forgiver, and more the matter of the change in treatment towards the forgiven, and whether that change is itself moral or not: whether it produces good, and what good. The issue is not telling stories about God or anyone else’s psychology, but rather the question of why it would be moral to treat people one way, given what they are, but then moral to treat them in a way inconsistent with what was originally supposedly the morally justified manner.

    Talking about how humans “deserve” annihilation or hell may thus have gotten us off track, because “deserve” can have some emotionalized overtones that change the subject somewhat. The issue is that annihilation is first a moral thing to do to someone, but then suddenly not annihilating becomes equally moral. It’s what these acts achieve, for good or ill, that is at issue here, not the emotional journey of God or anyone else in deciding what to do.

    For example, forgiving a rapist is good insofar as continuing to stay angry does no particular good in the first place, and punishing the rapist eternally produces nothing worthwhile either, and could potentially improve the behavior of the rapist. Telling a story about how one comes to forgive might be interesting, but it isn’t the same thing as justifying first why it is just to punish, but then also why it is just to stop at some point: what purposes all these things serve.

  26. Chris Dills says:

    Sorry for the delay in my response. I’ll keep this short.

    I am a little uncertain as to how you can view forgiveness from a justified punishment somehow immoral or irreconcilable. All throughout the course of human history the act of pardoning past wrongs that were indeed worthy of punishment has been quite common place. Even in America today, Governors and Presidents have the power and moral authority to pardon criminals at their choosing. The criminal justly deserves their punishment that they were convicted of and the authority is just in releasing them from that punishment. Forgiveness, even seemingly unnecessary forgiveness, is a “moral doctrine” that is etched in the human condition.

    As to your aside on the Jewish view of original sin and the need for Jesus’ “solution,” the O.T. prophets speak constantly of the Messiah to come as the forgiver of sins and a restoration to God’s kingdom. Whether or not they believe in original sin is irrelevant, since they recognized the need for sacrifices to temporarily atone for the sins they had committed. Also, I did not mention an “unforgivable sin” at all. The only unforgivable sin that the New Testament speaks of is in essence rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. Thanks for the dialogue.

  27. Bad says:

    No need to apologize for a delay in your response when I still haven’t caught up to your last one!

    All throughout the course of human history the act of pardoning past wrongs that were indeed worthy of punishment has been quite common place. The criminal justly deserves their punishment that they were convicted of and the authority is just in releasing them from that punishment. Forgiveness, even seemingly unnecessary forgiveness, is a “moral doctrine” that is etched in the human condition.

    Indeed: and here is the rub: doing so was good because it achieved good things: less endless conflict, less obsession and effort over wrongs that could never be righted, and so forth. Forgiveness, in humans, serves all sorts of important psychological and social needs. But the important thing, morally, is that it does good: produces good things, staves off bad things.

    When we are speaking of forgiveness for punishments, though, we treat forgiveness as good precisely because we believe that the punishment is no longer good to carry out. If it still was, we’d still carry it out! When a murderer is justly pardoned, the reason that can be laudable is because it ultimately does more good than continuing to imprison him. Causing ongoing pain to a man who long ago ceased to be a threat to anyone, and to whom the victim’s relatives are no longer likely to seek vigilante vengeance, is just a bad thing to do. So we stop it. And that’s laudable.

    And, more importantly, it’s morally intelligible. We humans use punishment as the imperfect but best thing we’ve got. We punish criminals for all sorts of good social reasons. But we also STOP punishing them for good social reasons as well. And we can state and discuss these.

    But the punishment that the God of this doctrine promises is extreme and flatly absolute. It’s also very specific about the criteria under which it is deserved. For such a drastic and otherwise cruel and evil thing to be necessary and just, there had better be a darn good reason as to WHY it is good. No real reason is given: people are just sinful, that’s horrible, and annihilating them after a brief sinful life is good… for some unknown reason.

    Forgiveness in this case provides no reasons at all as to why the original punishment is no longer advised or right. Nor does it explain why what used to be good (and, remember, demanded a VERY high burden of necessity to justify it being good) is now a bad idea. It simply completely reverses the sentence. This is not like a governor pardoning an old murderer. It is like the governor pardoning people at random, or based on criteria like “do you believe in astrology?”

    As to your aside on the Jewish view of original sin and the need for Jesus’ “solution,” the O.T. prophets speak constantly of the Messiah to come as the forgiver of sins and a restoration to God’s kingdom.

    I beg to differ. The messiah is not a “forgiver of sins.” In Judaism, this issue of forgiveness of sins just isn’t the paramount issue that Christian theology sees it as in the first place. Atoning for your wrongs, seeking forgiveness from god: all of these things are present and working in Jewish tradition right now. Jews live and die and strive to be righteous right now without needing some special messiah to make those lives worthwhile.

    For the Jews, the messiah is not some magical being (in fact, there isn’t even only one messiah: the messiah we are talking about just happens to be yet to come, in the Jewish tradition). He is a prophet, like the prophets that came before: a mortal man who engages in real world politics: but with the critical distinction that he brings with him the messianic age. And it is the age, not the messiah himself, that is actually important. The fact that this age has obviously not arrived is the key reason why Christianity was very unsuccessful in convincing literate Jews.

    Here’s a pretty good summary of what the Jews read their Scriptures to say about the messiah.

    Also, I did not mention an “unforgivable sin” at all. The only unforgivable sin that the New Testament speaks of is in essence rejecting Jesus as the Messiah.

    You didn’t mean to mention it, at least in those words: original sin, the core concept, is precisely the doctrine we’re looking at. And yes: believing the wrong thing (i.e. apostasy) is often described to be the one and only truly “no-return” proposition.

  28. Chris Dills says:

    God’s punishment is good because sin is acting in a way that is contrary to God’s law. God is righteous and perfectly holy and rebellion against His design is unacceptable, but you already know this.

    You made a statement alluding to the fact that God’s punishment is no longer right. That’s not exactly the case. God’s wrath and punishment will still be enacted on those who do not accept the sacrifice made by Jesus. The punishment on individuals is not relinquished randomly or simply because they “believe” in something, but because there is an inward regeneration covering (not removing) the sinful nature of the person. Thus, the punishment is no longer warranted in that individual case. This, however, does not negate the necessity and righteousness of God’s punishment of those without the atonement. The punishment is no longer good to carry out on the Christian alone because the “crime” has been nullified. Now whether you believe this doctrine or not (which I assume you do not) is not the case. I merely wish to show that God’s punishment and forgiveness can be reconciled logically, even if in a spiritual nature. Just punishment can be justly forgiven.

  29. Bad says:

    God’s punishment is good because sin is acting in a way that is contrary to God’s law. God is righteous and perfectly holy and rebellion against His design is unacceptable, but you already know this.

    That doesn’t explain why the punishment is good though. It might if the punishment had, for instance, a deterrent effect. But the whole rationale behind the punishment is that humans cannot ever be good enough to make any difference. So what moral purpose does it serve to hurt people because they are imperfect? It’s like beating a dog that can’t help doing what it did wrong.

    The punishment on individuals is not relinquished randomly or simply because they “believe” in something,

    It is random if, as some have stated outright, it’s not really even the people who choose to get gracified. And it most certainly IS all down to what someone believes, in the end. That’s what faith, not works, is all about.

    but because there is an inward regeneration covering (not removing) the sinful nature of the person. Thus, the punishment is no longer warranted in that individual case.

    I have to respectfully dismiss this as handwaving. The person still sins, and even if they didn’t, it still was either through no power of their own (in which case why hesitate to just do it for everyone?) or by something laudable in the person… in which case it seems that all people are not equally incapable of doing good (some are now doing, in fact, what turns out to be the one and only thing that makes any difference to good/evil under this doctrine). They are functionally no different as people. The situation of whether annihilating or torturing them for all eternity will do good or evil has not changed in any substantive way.

    The punishment is no longer good to carry out on the Christian alone because the “crime” has been nullified.

    You can’t “nullify” crimes: they were committed, end of story, and the question then is what the best course of action is to take afterwards in response.

    I don’t agree that this is logical. It’s a parade of moral non-sequiturs, from harming an innocent person to radically (in fact, just about as radically as you can get) changing the treatment of people based on what they believe.

  30. Tim Guy says:

    Its actually even worse. because the salvation offered does not remove the original condition that caused the need for salvation. Further the salvation is never fully guaranteed, thus leaving the believing individual in a perpetual state of fear and dread, shame, sorrow and temporary relief. On an even worse note the punishment is also dangled before the believer and never fully removed. To that you can tack on ambiguous rules and guidelines and a promise of power that never materializes. resulting in large amounts of doctrine being created as to why prayer is not answered, the sick are not healed etc etc etc. “when God says no” “when god lets you die of cancer” “when God lets you rot in jail for 30 years” the list goes on. Thus at the beginning of a week a Believer can thank “God” in tears for helping them mow their lawn and can end the week in tears asking “god” why they have a brain tumor. God apparently is more interested in helping them with a lawn mower than their physical and emotional well being.

    The thing that eventually started unraveling it all for me was the total lack of anything experimentally or measurably regarding the Holy Spirit. I prayed for literally hundreds of hours for the baptism of the Spirit, for the revelation of the spirit for many things that are flatly promised every believer in the Bible. I received *nothing*. ever. I convinced myself i had the holy spirit. But then after i began seriously studying other denominations within Christianity, and experiencing them… i could not shake the growing realization that all of them sincerely believed they had the holy spirit and that the holy spirit taught them and they all were totally convinced that they were the ones who were right and everyone else in error. And this regarding every single major and minor doctrine or idea in the New testament. You have Paul Washer and Joseph Price completely sincere completely honest and completely at opposite ends of Christianity to where Paul Washer is convinced Prince is a heretic and Prince is convinced that Washer is teaching a false Gospel. But Both totally believe they have the holy spirit instructing them.

    This is something that to this day i am still struggling with along with the complete lack of promised miraculous power demonstrated in a reliable way anywhere. For me personally the biggest issue is the way the bible dangles salvation before you and never totally gives you comfort, there is ALWAYS the fear that if you blow it you could be a false believer and destined for eternal torment. Jesus paid the price for sin and he didn’t pay the price for sin unless you prove you believe by being perfect according to whatever denomination you attend.

    I could go on and on… but ill stop.

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