Thursday, July 07, 2005

Good vs. Evil

Today, we all woke up to the news of a terrorist attack in the city of London. As President Bush so aptly pointed out, there is a huge
contrast between what civilized people do and how they act (referring
to the G8 leaders meeting to help alleviate the poverty, spread of HIV/Aids, and environmental issues in Africa) versus those whose only goal is to kill and destroy ANY life because of their rabid evil ideology. The contrast between good and evil could not be more stark or more clear.

We mourn the loss of life and pray for the recovery of the injured from this horrific display of moral evil in the hearts of Islamofascists whose goal is like Satan's steal, kill, and destroy.

Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV) - The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?

The answer?

Jeremiah 17:10 (KJV) - I the LORD search the heart, [I] try
the reins, even to give every man according to his ways,
[and] according to the fruit of his doings.

The Bible is so unique in it's relevance to the time it was written as well
as to how relevant it is for today. Look at the following verses of
Jeremiah 17 (NLT) and note how they can apply today:

Judah's Sin and Punishment
The Lord says, "My people act as though their evil ways are laws to be obeyed, inscribed with a diamond point on their stony hearts, or with an iron chisel on the corners of their altars. 2 Even their children go to worship at their sacred altars and Asherah poles, beneath every green tree and on every high hill. 3 So I will give all your wealth and treasures-together with your pagan shrines-as plunder to your

enemies, for sin runs rampant in your land. 4 The wonderful inheritance I have reserved for you will slip out of your
hands, and I will send you away as captives to a foreign land. For you have kindled my anger into a roaring fire that will burn forever."
Wisdom from the Lord
5 This is what the Lord says: "Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the Lord. 6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness,

on the salty flats where no one lives.
7 "But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into

the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.
9 "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? 10 But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve."

There are people in this world whose only goal is to steal and destroy. Perhaps they see themselves as incapable of killing anyone (physically), but their goal to kill another's walk with Christ and/or ministry which is involved with sharing the gospel of Christ is extremely evident. Such people must have suffered greatly within their own individual lives in order to be so cruel as to try and ruin another's reputation and ministry outreach. It makes you wonder what was done to them for them to be so bitter, mean, angry, hateful and out to destroy another person's life and ministry just because they are so miserable within their own lives. The good news is that just like satan is already a defeated foe, so are the efforts of those who choose to remain in his grip of deception and purposely attempt to thwart the efforts of those saved by God's grace.

We are finding out more and more of the horrendous details regarding the kidnapper/rapist who killed the parents and brother of the two Groene children. Apparently he had a blog that detailed the fact that he was abused and sexually assaulted when he was young. The old adage that abused children often become abusers themselves is very evident in this person's life. The blog stated that his goal was to cause harm and wreak havoc upon society as best he could before dying himself. This is an individual who is in bondage to sin, evil and death. It could not be more evident who his particular 'god' is...the evil one himself. Is this man's sin more terrible than anyone elses? Human wisdom would judge...of course! If you are reading this and thinking that your sin is
not as grievious, then you won't like reading the rest of this post.

The fact is that all sin is rebellion against God and his laws. This is why we cannot save ourselves and must, of necessity, look to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for all of our sins. There is no other way to be reconciled to Holy God. Period. The Bible reveals what God did for us through Jesus Christ to overcome the sin, evil and death penalty that
we ALL would deserve.

Now, I would like to mention that there are many people who have had horrendous things happen to them because of evil, sin and death in this world. This has made them bitter, angry, deceitful, hateful, revengeful, and causes them to lash out at anyone who has obviously been rescued from their plight. Such people have made it their duty to attempt to ruin others through their bitter hatred that wreaks havoc within their own souls and they don't even realize that what they are fighting against
is the very thing that could help rescue them from their miserable plight. Jesus describes such people in not so flattering terms:

John 8:44 (NLT) - For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with
his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Either we are for the Lord or against him. There is no inbetween
in this matter. There is no gray area in the contrast between good vs. evil, salvation vs.condemnation, surrender vs. cold heartedness, grace
vs. pride, forgiveness from God vs. contempt for God, mercy vs. judgment, hope vs. despair, love vs. hatred, friend of God vs. enemy of God.

Psalm 94:16 (KJV) - Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? [or] who will stand up for me against the workers
of iniquity?

Psalm 94 (NLT)

O Lord, the God to whom vengeance belongs,
O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice be seen!
Arise, O judge of the earth.
Sentence the proud to the penalties they deserve.
How long, O Lord?
How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?
Hear their arrogance!
How these evildoers boast!
They oppress your people, Lord,
hurting those you love.
They kill widows and foreigners
and murder orphans.
"The Lord isn't looking," they say,
"and besides, the God of Israel* doesn't care."
Think again, you fools!
When will you finally catch on?
Is the one who made your ears deaf?
Is the one who formed your eyes blind?
He punishes the nations-won't he also punish you?
He knows everything-doesn't he also know what you are doing?
The Lord knows people's thoughts,
that they are worthless!
Happy are those whom you discipline, Lord,
and those whom you teach from your law.
You give them relief from troubled times
until a pit is dug for the wicked.
The Lord will not reject his people;
he will not abandon his own special possession.
Judgment will come again for the righteous,
and those who are upright will have a reward.
Who will protect me from the wicked?
Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Unless the Lord had helped me,
I would soon have died.
I cried out, "I'm slipping!"
and your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side-
leaders who permit injustice by their laws?
They attack the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
But the Lord is my fortress;
my God is a mighty rock where I can hide.
God will make the sins of evil people fall back upon them.
He will destroy them for their sins.
The Lord our God will destroy them.
Hebrew of Jacob.

The book of Revelation describes what happens to those who lead
others astray.

Revelation 2:18-29 (NLT)

The Message to the Church in Thyatira
18 "Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira.

This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are
bright like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:
19 "I know all the things you do-your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. 20 But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman-that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet-to lead my servants

astray. She is encouraging them to worship idols, eat food offered to idols, and commit sexual sin. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she would not turn away from her immorality.
22 Therefore, I will throw her upon a sickbed, and she will suffer greatly with all who commit adultery with her, unless they turn away from all their evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.
24 But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira
who have not followed this false teaching (`deeper truths,'
as they call them-depths of Satan, really). I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come.
26 "To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,

I will give authority over all the nations. 27 They will rule
the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.
28 They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! 29
Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit
and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

Before the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be preached, the bad news of the deceitful hearts of
unregenerate man, which leads to all kinds of evil, sin and death must be faced by all of us! The only hope we have in
our situation is Jesus Christ. People who are NOT saved by
the grace of God HATE TO HEAR THESE FACTS OF GOD'S WORD. There is a great reason why. They have not been
born again (see previous post). Jesus told us, "You MUST be born again." Those who are not do not have the Holy Spirit indwelled in their hearts to help lead them unto
righteousness. Satan hates all those who take up Jesus' offer to be born again spiritually. The people under his deception and influence hate to hear this. Satan loves that fact, but he hates the people under his influence! People who are knowingly or unknowingly
under his wicked influence will do ANYTHING to deny, dismiss, mock, ridicule, ignore, disguise, skew and attempt to indoctrinate others to their own prideful views and ultimate detriment. These are the signs of the unrepentant, unregenerate heart.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the ONLY HOPE for them. They
can kick and scream and rage against this fact which ultimately will
end up causing their own doom. We either die with our own sin upon
our souls, or with Christ's redemptive sacrifice releasing us from the penalty of sin, evil and death. Your decision about this will last
for eternity. What's YOUR decision?

1 Corinthians 6:11 (NLT) - There was a time when some of
you were just like that, but now your sins have been
washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You
have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.

Footnote: Or you have been cleansed.


Thomas said...

Seeing as how you take my words to be the journey-work of demons, I wonder what you'll get out my discourse. I had thought to avoid this dreadful discussion on this somber day; but your attempt to rhetorically link the horrors of faith-based terrorism with the efforts of rationalists to alleviate this curse upon mankind have only kindled my indignation.

Far from being a follower of your dark prince, I dismiss him as the perverted fantasy of Christian theologians anxious to pass the blame for our cruel world onto someone else than its alleged Creator. This effort stands as a failure, for the creator and conceiver of Satan is as much the author of evil as the inferior beings He designs, whom He could destroy with a single whim. We should not be surprised at these calumnies of the Christian apologists against their God, for they have painted a caricature of Him in the Old Testament that is offensive to all moral justice, and all philosophical contemplations worthy of a potential deity.

But you have described my little rants as beneath your contempt, so I will pass on to our mutual habit of quoting from authorities; I leave with the words of that infidel, patriot, and lover of liberty, Thomas Paine, on the subject of the Christian deification of Satan:

"The ancient Mythologists tell us that the race of Giants made war against Jupiter, and that one of them threw a hundred rocks against him at one throw; that Jupiter defeated him with thunder, and confined him afterward under Mount Etna, and that every time the Giant turns himself Mount Etna belches fire.

It is here easy to see that the circumstance of the mountain, that of its being a volcano, suggested the idea of the fable; and that the fable is made to fit and wind itself up with that circumstance.

The Christian Mythologists tell us that their Satan made war against the Almighty, who defeated him, and confined him afterward, not under a mountain, but in a pit. It is here easy to see that the first fable suggested the idea of the second; for the fable of Jupiter and the Giants was told many hundred years before that of Satan.

Thus far the ancient and the Christian Mythologists differ very little from each other. But the latter have contrived to carry the matter much farther. They have contrived to connect the fabulous part of the story of Jesus Christ with the fable originating from Mount Etna; and in order to make all the parts of the story tie together, they have taken to their aid the traditions of the Jews; for the Christian mythology is made up partly from the ancient mythology and partly from the Jewish traditions.

The Christian Mythologists, after having confined Satan in a pit, were obliged to let him out again to bring on the sequel of the fable. He is then introduced into the Garden of Eden, in the shape of a snake or a serpent, and in that shape he enters into familiar conversation with Eve, who is no way surprised to hear a snake talk; and the issue of this tete-a-tete is that he persuades her to eat an apple, and the eating of that apple damns all mankind.

After giving Satan this triumph over the whole creation, one would have supposed that the Church Mythologists would have been kind enough to send him back again to the pit; or, if they had not done this, that they would have put a mountain upon him (for they say that their faith can remove a mountain), or have put him under a mountain, as the former mythologists had done, to prevent his getting again among the women and doing more mischief. But instead of this they leave him at large, without even obliging him to give his parole- the secret of which is, that they could not do without him; and after being at the trouble of making him, they bribed him to stay. They promised him ALL the Jews, ALL the Turks by anticipation, nine-tenths of the world beside, and Mahomet into the bargain. After this, who can doubt the bountifulness of the Christian Mythology?

Having thus made an insurrection and a battle in Heaven, in which none of the combatants could be either killed or wounded — put Satan into the pit — let him out again — giving him a triumph over the whole creation — damned all mankind by the eating of an apple, these Christian Mythologists bring the two ends of their fable together. They represent this virtuous and amiable man, Jesus Christ, to be at once both God and Man, and also the Son of God, celestially begotten, on purpose to be sacrificed, because they say that Eve in her longing had eaten an apple.

Putting aside everything that might excite laughter by its absurdity, or detestation by its profaneness, and confining ourselves merely to an examination of the parts, it is impossible to conceive a story more derogatory to the Almighty, more inconsistent with his wisdom, more contradictory to his power, than this story is.

In order to make for it a foundation to rise upon, the inventors were under the necessity of giving to the being whom they call Satan, a power equally as great, if not greater than they attribute to the Almighty. They have not only given him the power of liberating himself from the pit, after what they call his fall, but they have made that power increase afterward to infinity. Before this fall they represent him only as an angel of limited existence, as they represent the rest. After his fall, he becomes, by their account, omnipresent. He exists everywhere, and at the same time. He occupies the whole immensity of space.

Not content with this deification of Satan, they represent him as defeating, by stratagem, in the shape of an animal of the creation, all the power and wisdom of the Almighty. They represent him as having compelled the Almighty to the direct necessity either of surrendering the whole of the creation to the government and sovereignty of this Satan, or of capitulating for its redemption by coming down upon earth, and exhibiting himself upon a cross in the shape of a man.

Had the inventors of this story told it the contrary way, that is, had they represented the Almighty as compelling Satan to exhibit himself on a cross, in the shape of a snake, as a punishment for his new transgression, the story would have been less absurd — less contradictory. But instead of this, they make the transgressor triumph, and the Almighty fall.

That many good men have believed this strange fable, and lived very good lives under that belief (for credulity is not a crime), is what I have no doubt of. In the first place, they were educated to believe it, and they would have believed anything else in the same manner. There are also many who have been so enthusiastically enraptured by what they conceived to be the infinite love of God to man, in making a sacrifice of himself, that the vehemence of the idea has forbidden and deterred them from examining into the absurdity and profaneness of the story. The more unnatural anything is, the more it is capable of becoming the object of dismal admiration.

But if objects for gratitude and admiration are our desire, do they not present themselves every hour to our eyes? Do we not see a fair creation prepared to receive us the instant we are born — a world furnished to our hands, that cost us nothing? Is it we that light up the sun, that pour down the rain, and fill the earth with abundance? Whether we sleep or wake, the vast machinery of the universe still goes on. Are these things, and the blessings they indicate in future, nothing to us? Can our gross feelings be excited by no other subjects than tragedy and suicide? Or is the gloomy pride of man become so intolerable, that nothing can flatter it but a sacrifice of the Creator?"

Christinewjc said...

For someone who thinks of himself as an atheist/agnostic/secular humanist whose personal belief and take on our Creator is deemed as a 'fantasy', you sure have a lot to say against Him! Countering a 'fantasy'? That's not logical.

Hmmmm...what's wrong with this picture?

It is YOUR atheistic/agnostic/secular humanist 'deification' of Satan that certainly shines through...or should I say darkens through. Only light shines. Where darkness lurks it's aim is to destroy. The soul that is dark is absent of any light.

You can think what you want. Quote whom you choose. However, you will NEVER overtake the Word of God. You can't even overshadow it. When that Light shines through the darkness (such as that you obviously adhere to), it is then that the minions of such darkness (those of your ilk)scatter like cockroaches back into that dark, dank pit of despair.

I should probably end here, but for the sake of others who may venture over here and read I will post a few questions and answers that counter most of what your feeble and ridiculous rant so hopelessly, incorrectly, and hatefully spews.

I want to know and understand where sin came from. I know it entered the world through deception by the serpent, but how did it enter into Lucifer? Where did it come from?

The wording of your question implies that sin was some external force that entered into Lucifer. Rather, Lucifer was the author of sin. Being the highest of angels, he pridefully determined to set himself above God. This he did of his own free will and volition (for more on this, see my Renewal Theology, 1: chapter 10 on "Sin").

As a part of free will, Lucifer (turned Satan) had the ability to be the author (choice to choose his own) of sin. This reiterates what was posted previously. As the answer states, "this he did of his own free will and volition." As free-will creatures, we have the choice to do the same.

It is also important to note that God did not create the devil! He did create the angels, one of whom-possibly the highest-became the devil through his own willful action against God. The fact that the devil is instrumental in all evil thereafter does not mean that God is the cause of such since the devil was not originally God's creation.

God did not create evil. According to Genesis 1, everything God created, or made, was declared "good" (verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), indeed altogether "very good" (verse 31). Among the highest good there is the gift of freedom: "Man is that entity made to be free" Genuine freedom includes freedom of decision for or against God (man was not made a robot!). It was man's decision against God and His command that brought evil upon the earth. (Satan was also involved but not the cause of this evil; man was fully responsible.) Evil is disharmony that man willfully brought into the world.

More questions and answers:

If God is omnipotent how come he can't do evil?

Because God is altogether holy; therefore, He will not do anything that contradicts His character. God is totally without sin. God the Almighty One is also God the All Holy One. In His omnipotence, He can do everything consonant with His holy nature and nothing in contradiction.

Does evil in the world preclude the existence of God? It has been said that evil in the world precludes the existence of God, or at least takes away from His divine nature. Is this reasoning flawed and if so, why?

Evil in the world does not preclude the existence of God, but it might seem to preclude the existence of a holy and righteous God. God, however, is not the source of evil. It is the result of the sin of angels first, then man, who in the freedom God gave them were disobedient to Him and thereby brought evil into God's creation.

How is God's permissive will related to the occurrence of sin and the Fall?

Sin could not have occurred without God's permissive will. It was a matter both of God's permission and of His will. God permitted it to happen, yet also through its occurrence He purposed to make it an instrument to manifest His grace and glory.

There is undoubtedly a strange paradox here. God surely did not will the sin of man, else He would have been the author of evil; yet He did will that through sin and the fall His purpose should be fulfilled. One aspect of this surely will be the demonstration of His grace, for only through sin will the glory of God's grace become utterly manifest. Without the sin of the human race, there would have been no Calvary and no demonstration of the incredible love of God. Thus it is through the very sin and fall of man that the "amazing grace" of God the Father in Jesus Christ will be made known.

The permissive will of God stands ultimately behind the sin and fall of mankind. This by no means mitigates the heinousness of sin and evil nor the ensuing misery of the human condition. But it does say that through it all God is sovereignly working out His purpose to manifest the heights of His grace and glory

If God is perfect, if heaven is perfect, then why did so many angels rebel against God?

Among the highest perfections of all God's creatures is the freedom of the will. This applies to angels as well as human beings. Freedom of the will also includes the possibility of rebelling against God. Actually, if there were no freedom of the will the situation would be less than perfect.

Why did God, who is Love, create us all knowing that many would go to hell?

I think and believe that God (the only Creator) sent us His Son to be Christ our Savior. I also believe that He knew how every individual person would end up in the End. Why then did He go ahead and create us all knowing that most people were going to hell with Satan and his angels. I say that on the basis of the Scripture that says that God is love. I don't believe I would do so with that knowledge and power of those I love. Maybe I just don't understand what love is.

God in creating us foreknew that sin, death, and hell would eventuate. Where then is God's love? It lies in the marvelous fact that He determined in Christ to pay the cost. Christ on the cross accordingly suffered the eternal punishment that is mankind's due, with the terrible darkness, its fiery pain, and total abandonment by God. With the cry of agony, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:24), Christ bore the full weight of sin, death, and hell. In the words of Calvin, "Christ bore in His soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man." Thus hell is no reality foreign to God in that He has already experienced the worst that any person will have to endure. This truly is love beyond all comprehension

If God is sovereign, but I must choose His plan of salvation, then who is in control of my destiny? God or me? If the answer is me, then is God sovereign?

In answer to your question, you must bear in mind the paradox between God's sovereignty and man's response. Both are included in a true understanding of salvation. It is a paradox because it seems contradictory to speak thus of a divine-human relationship. However, God and man are not on the same level. God remains sovereign throughout. Man remains responsible for his actions.

Does God's omnipresence include hell and the lake of fire?

Hell is sometimes described in the Bible as a place of "outer darkness" (Matthew 8:11-12; 22:13, 25-30). It is therefore a place totally removed from God who is light. Omnipresence does not include hell, which is wholly the absence of God. The same thing is true of the lake of fire, which represents the agony of separation from God.

Are we predestined ... chosen by God ... to become believers?

There is a proper way to put it. Rather than to say that we are predestined to become believers, we should say that we are predestined as believers. There are always two sides interchangeable: God and faith, God's sovereign action and our choice.

Many times the Bible says that God has chosen certain individuals ahead of time to be His flock (sheep versus goats). Does it explain why He's done this in the Bible? What happens to the people who were never drawn to Him?

The words of Jesus in Matthew 22:14 are quite relevant, "For many are called, but few are chosen." This does not mean an arbitrary choice in regard to those chosen; rather the call is unlimited, and those who say "yes" are the chosen ones. Thus they are "God's chosen" by their own decision in answer to God's call. God's desire is to draw all people to Himself.

What does the doctrine of "original sin" affirm?

"Original sin" refers to the fact that the human race is sinful in nature. This by no means refers to human nature as God made it-or makes it-but to the fact that before man commits any sin he is already a sinner. This situation may be described in terms both of sin being passed on to all people from the first man and our identification with primal man in his sin. However depicted, the important feature is that man does not come into the world as an innocent or neutral creature but is affected by sin in all aspects of his being (Psalm 58:3; cf. Psalm 51:5). Indeed, by virtue of this fact, man is vitiated in every area of his nature-body, soul, spirit-so that he is utterly incapable himself of restoration and salvation. His only hope is in Jesus Christ.

Christinewjc said...

Previous post questions and answers source: Renewal Theology
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Thomas said...

"Countering a 'fantasy'? That's not logical."

It's not necessarily logical, but it's a worthwhile task. The problem with this particular fantasy is that so many people believe in it. Your religion is not the only one in the world I have a problem with, Christine. Every religion that I know of is based on credulous statements and unverified doctrines. I'm against Christianity, Islam, Shintoism, Satanism, Scientology, and every bit of crackpot nonsense you can think of, starting from creationism and ending with UFOs. I'm not possessed by Satan, so far as I can tell, but I do have the admittedly annoying hobby of trying to debunk other people's irrational beliefs. I don't care if it's a private source of comfort to you; but if you're evangelizing, I happy to argue right back at you.

As for scattering like cockroaches at the sign of God -- please. I've read the New Testament several times, and I've digested as much of the Old as a I could stomach. It's a huge patchwork of Levantine myths, confusingly and contradictorily tied together by anonymous editors drawn from the self-interested priestly classes. Biblical scholars have identified several distinct authors at work, none of them witnesses to the actual events. They each have their own axe to grind, and they each tell the story differently. The Bible is vulgar and violent for the most part, with some good bits of poetry and moral sentiment tucked in at the end. I'm particularly fond of Ecclesiastes, which strikes a nice existentialist tone. Most of it's rubbish, though, and I'd much rather read Homer or Shakespeare or Keats. It's a shame that the admirable teachings of Jesus had to be buried along with so many accretions of superstition and myth-making.

Your defense of the Christian theodicy is based on the notion of free will. How do you reconcile this notion with an omniscient God, who sees all, past and future? I have enought trouble reconciling the idea with the determinate (and even the essentially random) laws of physics. Christian denominations have for centuries been divided into Calvinist and Arminian sects -- on which side do you stand? Calvinism strikes me as somewhat more intellectualy respectable, though morally repugnant. I have trouble sussing out the orientation Dr. Williams, given the typically confused and non-rigorous theological discourse he uses.

Your Christian mythology is based upon a child-like god who builds a toy, gets mad when the toy breaks, and they finally has to commit a peculiar sort of suicide in order to make the toy realize its badness -- only then, will the god forgive the toy. It is an original story, but hardly a fit object for sane contemplation. Frankly, the vision of the world revealed by modern science is a much more satisfying one, both to the moral and to the intellectual faculties.

Anna said...

Thomas -

One thing is for sure - there will come a time when we find out who is right. If Christine and other believers are right, we have gained much. If we're wrong (and I don't believe for a second we are), we have lost nothing. On the other hand, if you're wrong, you have lost everything.

By the way, regarding your comment as to your reading the New Testament several times, in a previous post you said you had not read the Book of Romans. In fact, you were starting at Genesis and working your way through.

Thomas said...

Woops, Anna, you caught me on a blooper. I should have said that I have read the Gospels several times over. I haven't paid much attention to the Pauline appendices, though I have read some of it in passing. The Gospels are considered the good news, so I focused on that. I especially like the Gospel of John, for its rhetorical beauty, though I've come to see an active ideology at work that I obviously disagree with. I like the Gospel of Matthew for its story telling and for the focus on Christ's ethical teachings. Mark and Luke I've also read, but once you've read one synoptic gospel, you've read them all. I've also read the Gospel of my namesake Thomas, but a printer's error seems to have dropped this one from my KJV.

I clearly know much less about the Bible than either of you ladies, and it would be silly to present myself as an expert. I bought Asimov's Guide to the Bible recently, and I hope to explore more with his steady hand. I also recommend the Shocken Bible (so far, only the Pentateuch), which attempts to render the text into an approximation of the original Hebrew. Jew though I be, I know less of Hebrew than I do of Maori, so I can't say whether or not the accuracy is enhanced -- it does serve however to highlight the foreigness of the original work.

Still, I got to love my old King James. He was a gay, you know.

Thomas said...

BTW, there are a few thick books I keep always by my bedside, to give me something to read in the morning before my husband awakes. These are Ulysses by James Joyce, The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Sterne, the works of Shakespeare and of course the King James Bible. The writer and critic Anthony Burgess once described these literary works as essentially spatial as opposed to temporal texts, inviting exploratory wandering instead of a forced march of chronological plot-keeping. In the light of that, I've eased up a bit on the excessively determined straight line path from Genesis to Revelations. I've already skipped ahead many times -- but I've by-passed the last three books of the Pentateuch and moved straight on the genocidal fun of Joshua. For a serious and ancient contemplation on the human encounter with a heartless universe, I turn to the Book of Job time and again.

Still, nothing in the Bible or in all literature can surpass the last few pages of Molly Bloom's soliloquy, with the singular exception of the divine Hamlet. These two I would take to stars with me.

CrackerLilo said...

Anna writes:

One thing is for sure - there will come a time when we find out who is right. If Christine and other believers are right, we have gained much. If we're wrong (and I don't believe for a second we are), we have lost nothing. On the other hand, if you're wrong, you have lost everything.

Actually, that is called Pascal's Wager, and I can rebut it rather easily.

For many of us, conforming to conservative Christian mores means hiding our sexuality, personality, true interests, and more. This was certainly my experience. (I posted a bit about that here.) So I would be losing a lot in this life if I were to go back to the kind of church I grew up with, starting with my wife and my freedom to question.

Do I really want to give up concrete things I have for things I do not know exist for certain? Isn't that as stupid as using your grocery money for lottery tickets instead of food?

What if I give up those concrete things for the abstracts you're telling me about, and *you're* wrong?

I'd rather at least enjoy my life here on Earth.

Thomas said...

One final point, Anna, and then I return to my Bible study. You write:

One thing is for sure - there will come a time when we find out who is right. If Christine and other believers are right, we have gained much. If we're wrong (and I don't believe for a second we are), we have lost nothing. On the other hand, if you're wrong, you have lost everything.

This notion is formally known as Pascal's wager. Pascal was a wise man, and in my chosen course of study as an economist, I have learned much from his struggle to develop a practical theory of probability.

Here, I'm afraid, Pascal has made a blunder. Not one deserving serious censure, for his Wager was a throwaway gambit in an unserious and therefore respectable attempt to justify his faith. It serves instructional purpose merely to point out that error. He was strictly right to conclude that if Christianity and atheism are the only two possible models of the universe, one experiences a higher "expected value" from following the Christian religion as opposed to disbelieving it. The error here is contained in the premise -- for it is by no means the case that Christianity and atheism are the only two competing doctrines in the world.

Supposing Islam to be true, you and I and all other non-Muslims would be in equally hot water. This adds a negative potential penalty to believing in the Christian god, lowering the overall expected value of that belief while leaving atheism more or less unaffected. One could equally imagine a perverse deity who punishes those that believe in him unquestioningly, and rewards those who had their doubts. This ups the ante in atheism's favour. However, the infinite number of possible religous alternatives means that every belief has a more or less indeterminate expected value. We may attach separate and non-equal a priori probabilities to the likelihood of each religion, but there are so many of them we would end up hopelessly outstripped. We would be better off abandoning this "pragmatic" path, and returning to the safer ground of rational discourse and evidence-based fact finding.

In closing, I like to point out that if I am correct, and there is no God and no afterlife, then in reality I shall never have the truth of this demonstrated to me after death, for in death I will not be, and there will be no future knowledge for me to accumulate, nor any future state for me to experience. In your hoped-for afterlife, there will be many opportunities for smug observation on the truth of your religion, while in from the grave I expect to be placed, there shall be nary an "I told you so" to rise from my cold lips. Uncertainty is the fate of all reasoning beings, and I for one embrace it as long as I have breath within me.

Thomas said...

Woops again! Cracker Lilo beat me to the punch on Pascal's Folly! Hello dear!

Christinewjc said...


God's Word contains a verse that best describes what its view of an atheist is.

Psalm 14:1 (KJV) - [[To the chief Musician, [A Psalm] of David.]] The fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, [there is] none that doeth good.

Next, the Bible tells us two important points about addressing "the fool".

Proverbs 26:4 (KJV) - Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

Proverbs 26:5 (KJV) - Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

These two verses may appear to be in contradiction. But the writer (Solomon)is saying that we shouldn't take a foolish person seriously and try to reason with his empty arguments. This will only make him proud and determined to win the argument. Another point to these verses is that in some situations, I ought not to even try to answer a fool, for there is no way I can penetrate his closed mind. I may, in fact, be stooping to the fool's level if I do choose to answer. The part of the first verse that states, "or you will be like him yourself" warns me that such a fool will most likely abuse me and I will be tempted to abuse him in return. Then, of course, there are other situations where common sense dictates a need to answer in order to expose the fool's pride and folly.

Personally, I often continue to answer for that last reason. Not for my sake, mind you, but for the sake of others who may come to this blog and read. However, there often comes a time when it just makes plain sense to not try and reason with a non-believers empty arguments. This takes spiritual discernment in each encounter and when the time is right, I follow the Spirit's leading.

Why consider not speaking to a fool?

Proverbs 23:9 (KJV) - Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

Proverbs 1:22 (KJV) - How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

In the book of Proverbs, a "simple one" or a fool is not someone with a mental deficiency but someone with a character deficiency (such as rebellion, laziness, or anger). The fool is not stupid, but he is unable to tell right from wrong or good from bad.

The book of Proverbs has a clear statement of purpose - to impart wisdom for godly living. All who seek wisdom will greatly benefit from these wise words. It is where one can discover the source of wisdom, the value of wisdom, and the benefits of wisdom.

However, the book is wise to the ways and 'pseudo-wisdom' of man. Proverbs 1:7 sums it up quite well.

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV) - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

In this age of information, knowledge is plentiful but wisdom is scarce. Wisdom means far more than simply knowing a lot. It is a basic attitude that affects every aspect of life. The foundation of knowledge is to fear the Lord - meaning - to honor and respect God, to be in awe of his power, and to obey his Word.

Now look at the warning against rejecting God's wisdom:

Proverbs 1:22 (NIV) "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?"

Notice what Proverbs 1:20-21 (NIV)states:
Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech.

The picture of wisdom calling aloud in the streets is a personification to make wisdom come alive for us. Wisdom is not a separate being; it is the mind of God revealed.

You said that you have read the gospels several times. But it appears that you have made the opposite conclusion from what Anna and I did when it comes to answering Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?"

Who do you say that Jesus is, Thomas?

By reading about Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, we can see wisdom in action. In order to understand how to become wise, we can listen to wisdom calling and instructing us in the book of Proverbs.

There is so much more that I could share but this is getting long. Perhaps you might want to look up some New Testament calls to wisdom in 2 Timothy 1:7 and James 1:5.

You mentioned that you have read and like the book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 10 discusses that wisdom is better than folly.

Eccl. 10:12 (KJV) -The words of a wise man's mouth [are] gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

Eccl 10:13 The beginning of the words of his mouth [is] foolishness: and the end of his talk [is] mischievous madness.

Eccl 10:14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?

Ecc 10:15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.

Solomon's purpose in writing this book was to spare future generations the bitterness of learning through their own experience that life is meaningless apart from God.

The key verse:

Eccl. 12:13 - "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

My advice? Make sure you don't reject God's offer of wisdom to you.

Christinewjc said...

Hi crackerlillo,

Welcome to my blog. Just wanted to say hi and that I intend to answer your post in more detail later tonight. My post to Thomas was long and I have to get ready for the day.

My daughter and I are going apartment hunting near her college campus. Her good friend didn't make it into the on-campus housing and they really want to room together so we hope to find a place that would be close to the school and not to expensive.

I do not know (yet) what church you used to attend. But I wonder how you would answer the same question I posed to Thomas. That question is from Jesus Christ himself when he asks, "Who do you say that I am?"

Depending on how one answers that question will determine how one looks at Jesus' admonition:

Mar 8:36 - For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mar 8:37 - Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mar 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

CrackerLilo said...

That question is from Jesus Christ himself when he asks, "Who do you say that I am?"

One God among many. I like the brief glimpses I've gotten to see, but I have to say I am much tighter with Athena and La Sirene thus far.

I attended an Assemblies of God church. I had this wonderful feeling of just giving myself over when I first joined it, but I think that what I was overcome by was the strong emotion of a large group rather than any God. I have always been very easily influenced by others' emotions when I see them face to face (do with that what you want).

I wrote this "testimony" of how I became Christian and then Pagan a *long* time ago, in 1997, if you'd like to see it.

My Own Hell to Raise

Wow, I've had another lifetime since then! I no longer date the boy, the girl no longer goes to church, I *married* her...but my impressions of what church was like for me still hold.

Thomas said...

Wow, Christine, you really floored me over with that quote from the Bible about atheists being fools. Or is that fools are atheists? I suspect it's not the latter, as most of the fools that know believe in God. Anyway, you can find similar denuciations of non-Scientologists in Scientology books (there they are called "suppressive persons); you can find denunciations of non-Marxists in Marxist literature (they are called "lackeys of the bourgeoisie"); and you can find similar denunciations of infidels in Islamic, Mormon, and Zoroastrian texts. Anyway, the authors of the Bible were convinced theists (for the most part), so it's no surprise that they would have unflattering things to say about my sort.

I don't claim to be a smarty and I don't mind being called a fool. I try to do the best I can. For someone as dumb as I am, the only hope I have is by falling a skeptical path. The first step is to realize that I may be wrong; the second step is to realize that others may be wrong as well. Only by evaluating claims on the basis of how they square with the evidence, can we hope to to make any progress. Arguments from authority carry no weight, for authorities have been proven wrong in the past and will continue to be proven wrong in the future. I have been proven wrong in the past, and when that happens I am anxious to change my mind.

You claim that I cannot tell right from wrong. This is an accusation that I am very sensitive too. The honest answer is that I don'thave the solution to every vexing moral issue of the day, especially those that pit the claims of one group against those of the other. I try to put my ethical beliefs on a solid rational footing, but there is a certain number of moral claims that will always remain frustratingly axiomatic. For the most part, I consider the fundamental question to be "How can I alleviate another's suffering?", or "How can I promote his or her happiness?". This puts me somewhat in utiliarian camp, with the noble company of John Stuart Mill and the less noble company of a number of felicific calculators. However, in certain areas the minimal utilitarian approach strikes me as inadequate, and so I begin to inquire about rights and duties. This leads to me to the broad Kantian school of ethics. These two schools dominate contemporary ethical philosophy, and they have their origins in more ancient schools such as the Epicurean and Stoic philosophies. I dunno, honey. I try to read up on all the schools of thought that I can, to inform my moral intuition. Sometimes decisions need to be made quickly, and rigor has to give way to ordinary compassion. I don't belong to the cheap and shallow school of moral nihilism, and neither do I believe that blind obedience to religious texts will lead you anywhere. Old Yahweh commanded the Israelites to commit some pretty heinous acts. In their attempt to justify the slaughters, cruelty, and criminal punishments of the Old Testament (or of the Koran), fundamentalists allow their common moral sense to be overpowered by a hideous obedience to authority.

Here's a question for you: is the moral law simply whatever God wills it to be, or does God shape his will in accordance to predetermined moral law? If the former be true, I sincerely hope God never changes his mind, as the Bible alleges him to have done in the past; if the latter, I wonder what utility the God-hypothesis adds to the debate. I'm inclined to think that there may be moral order implicit in the relations between rational being, and therefore that morality may have an eternal existence, much like theorems of mathematics. What that morality might consist of requires careful, critical study.

Now finally to your main question: who was Jesus? That's a tough one, Christine. The best I can say is that I wasn't there, so I never got to know the man. He has not even left behind any writings in his own name. We have to rely on the testimony of the Gospel writers, who were not eye-witnesses, and who disagree about various points here and there. The orthodox Christian response is that he was partly human, and partly divine. (Or was it fully human and fully divine, or merely fully divine, or entirely human and not divine, or twenty percent of one, and 80 percent of another, with trace amounts of some foreign substance, perhaps? People have killed each other over such niceties.)

Anyway, my opinion is that Jesus, son of Joseph, was both partly human and partly fiction. I say partly human because there was in all likelihood a historical person with that name who lived in Palestine two thousand years ago, who was a dazzling preacher with many astonishing moral insights, and who was cruelly put to death by the imperial authorities, in collusion with a hypocritical priestly class. Nothing in all that stretches the bounds of likelihood, and similar sad and inspiring cases can be found throughout the record of human history. But there is much that is clearly fiction in these Biblical accounts, for the bare sake that none of the authors were really contemporary with Jesus, and they include many small tales that alert the suspicious reader to a tall tale: I refer to the petty miracles of wine-making and blindness-curing; the utterly unverifiable account of the virgin birth; and the apparent wish-making of the resurrection. It's undeniable that he left a strong impression on his followers, who had a natural and overpowering need to believe that he had not in fact died, considering the amount of trust they had placed in him, and the amount of hope that they had gained from his short life. Lesser men have inspired these sorts of rumours before: look at all the sightings of Elvis that grace our supermarket tabloids.

I really believe that the Christian ethical doctrine is among the most beautiful ideas of its kind. The full force of Christ's teachings on forgiveness were absolutely new in their time, and they form the core of how I try to live my life. I don't say that I even come close to fulfilling them, I wish I might come ever closer to a state of universal love. The Sermon on the Mount is perhaps the most remarkable speech that I have ever read. The Hellenic world that Christ was a part was shamefully quiet about the evils in its midst, the evils of slavery and casual cruelty towards women and children and foreigners, but Christ was not quiet, and they killed him for it. The story of Christ bears a striking similarity to the stort of Socrates, and I suspect that details in the Gospels were drawn from earlier accounts of that hero of the Gentile intellectuals. But one can never be quite certain of these things.

Sadly, the message of Christ bears many contradictions. I refer not merely to the messianic quotes attributed to him. They may be fabrications of later authors eager to promote a new religion, but they may equally represent Christ's own opinions about himself, which I would find rather embarassing. I am also thinking of various flaws contained in Christ's moral teachings as presented in the Gospels, which are all we really have to go on. (The Gnostic gospels are just as suspect as the canonical ones.)

I'm a bit sleepy, so I shall commit the venial intellectual sin of copy-and-paste, and give you Bertrand Russell take on the defects of Christ's character, which come after a certain amount of praise in his essay, "Why I am not a Christian":

"You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, 'Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell.' That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about Hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: 'Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come.' That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.

Then Christ says, 'The Son of Man shall send forth his His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth'; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.' He continues, 'And these shall go away into everlasting fire." Then He says again, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.' He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him asHis chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that.

There are other things of less importance. There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig tree. 'He was hungry; and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: "No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever" . . . and Peter . . . saith unto Him: "Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away."' This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects."

It's a good essay, and you should check it out and give it one of your thorough refututations; don't expect me to stick up for everything Russell ever said, though. As much as we strive for coherence, every human being is a mess of contradictions; my favorite humans were all examples of this, such as Jefferson, Hamlet, and Jesus (who were respectively real, fictional, and somewhere in between). Jesus certainly belonged in the top tier of human greatness, a wonderful man who will no doubt continue to fascinate us all for the rest of time.

But was he God, or a god, or a third of a god? I tend to think not. He was human, all too human, deliciously, awfully, hopefully, frightfully human. Just like all the rest of us.

Christinewjc said...

There is a lot to respond to in your post and I will probably break up my response by making several posts over the weekend.

First, I'd like to post a link to an essay that reveals just what kind of man Bertrand Russell really was.

It just goes to show how important it is to know the details about a person before using them to make a point. Especially important when using an evil man's opinions while attempting to refute Jesus Christ.

It is a long essay, but I will quote a portion:

"Let it be understood at the outset of this discussion, that valid discoveries of scientific principle are but a paradigmatic portion of what the term "mental-creative processes" must be understood to signify. With that restriction, it is admissible to focus upon the crucial epistemological features of mathematical physical thinking. That provisional inquiry provides the starting-point for a systematic comprehension of the curiously perverted mental processes of the late Bertrand Russell. This also addresses a much larger, more fundamental issue, the role of transmission of ideas over centuries in shaping the history of the recent six centuries of European and global civilization.

This is of special importance as a prerequisite for understanding the British radical empiricism introduced to Adam Smith, Bentham, and Malthus by Ortes, and the bastard French offshoot of that radicalism, the positivism which emerged over the course of the recent two centuries from the post-Restoration circles of Abbot Moigno's followers. This is indispensable for understanding the systematic evil permeating all of Russell's known work in every field."

Next, here is a link to an essay that refutes the evidentialist challenge to religion.

Next, here is an essay that compares Theism vs. Atheism which defends the fact that it is more reasonable to be a theist than it is to be an atheist.

I especially appreciated these important questions stated near the end of the essay:

"From molecules in motion will never come moral values or the laws of logic. From a mound of dirt, a single thought will never be produced - no matter how much time is given. If no God exists and all we are is molecules in motion, from whence come human rights? If an innocent child is merely a random collection of atoms, can we really say that it is wrong to crush him? If there is no life after death and all we face is everlasting extinction, can this life really have meaning? What counsel can an atheist offer a suffering friend on his deathbed? Can we climb above despair if all we face is extinction? When the universe dies, all will die with it. If atheism is true, then human experience is a cruel joke. And, if life is a cruel joke, then why even bother to debate?"

In my next post, I will proceed to answer your questions/concerns about what Jesus said and why he said them during his earthly ministry.

Christinewjc said...

Looks like the links didn't post properly. I need to learn how to link the way that you did in your post!

Christinewjc said...

Here's another great essay on "What Is Truth".

This is a great lead-in to my next post about Jesus Christ.

Thomas said...

Dear Christine,

The way to link to sites in html is as follows:

(a href= York Times(/a)

Only in HTML, you would replace the parantheses with the angle brackets, which you can find above the comma and period keys.

Now, about old Bertie...

I said I wasn't going to defend all of the doctrines of Bertrand Russell, even though he was a brilliant philosopher and upstanding human being. I must defend him however, from the accusations of the Sciller Institute. All that need be said is that this group is controlled by the notorious crackpot and anti-Semite Lyndon Larouche, a man who has run for President for the past thirty years, and who has spread all sorts of wild conspiracy theories about everyone under the sun. He has dreamed up a vast fantasy about Al Gore and George H. W. Bush being in collusion with international bankers (read: Jews), in a conspiracy founded by Bertrand Russell and H. G. Wells, funded by drug money raised by Queen Elizabeth herself. I'm not making this up! so before you assault the Bertrand Russell quotes I so lazily inserted, please look to see where the information you use is coming from. Lyndon Larouche, I assure, is no friend of Christianity. He is the head of a self-aggrandizing and rather violent political cult. The stuff coming out of the Schiller Institute is too bizarre to take seriously.

I haven't gotten the chance to read the other articles thoroughly, though I look forward to doing so later. Let me answer some of the questions in the paragraph you selected.

"From molecules in motion will never come moral values or the laws of logic."

These is asserted without evidence. It's often assumed that matter is somehow a dead and lifeless thing, without value. I've never understood this. You believe that God created all matter, so you should at least give Him credit for that. Matter is simply a substance, which can become organized into complex, thinking things like ourselves. It's that organization that has meaning and value. Whether the simpler constituents of that organization are molecules, or whether they are some kind of "spirit-parts" makes no difference.

"From a mound of dirt, a single thought will never be produced - no matter how much time is given."

Photsynthesis turns dirt into cellulose in plants. Enzymes turn cellulose in muscles in cows. Similar enzymes turn those muscle proteins into the components of nerve cells in humans. (I bypass the cow stage, personally.) The interconnections of those neurons in the human brain become patterns of memory, imagination, and logic. Thus, dirt becomes thought. The process can take as little as two weeks, I suppose. I'm no farmer.

"If no God exists and all we are is molecules in motion, from whence come human rights?"

I believe that rights, whether for humans or for other animals, come from the compassion and empathy we feel towards our fellow suffering beings. We all naturally want to avoid pain and experience happiness. From an objective third-party perspective -- you might say, from "the point of view of the universe" -- why should our own desires matter more than those of another conscious being? Whether rights are social contract agreed to in order to preserve our own security, or whether they have a transcendent aspect, I cannot say. The notion of God adds nothing to this question. Your average atheist is just as moral as your average religionist.

"If an innocent child is merely a random collection of atoms, can we really say that it is wrong to crush him?"

A child is not a "random" collection of atoms, but rather a highly organized one, engineered by eons of evolution to be responsive to injury. To crush a child is to destroy that organization, infliciting pain (a wrong in itself), and to destroy the beautiful pattern of a human life. Wrong, evil, and cruel. But then you don't believe in "innocent" children, do you, O daughter of the apple-eaters?

"If there is no life after death and all we face is everlasting extinction, can this life really have meaning?"

Something does not have to last forever to have meaning. A film is usually over in about two hours, but think of all the meaning that can be packed into one. If life was eternal, any finite span of it would truly be worthless. It's the sure fact that life will end one day, sooner rather than later, that gives me the impetus to live my life.

"What counsel can an atheist offer a suffering friend on his deathbed?"

As much as I can offer. That his sufferings will soon be at an end. That I love him, that I always will cherish his memory, that my life has been enriched by his presence. That against all odds, I had the pleasure of his company. There's not much you can say, but then again, death sucks. I notice that Christians cry at funerals right along with the agnostics. Perhaps they have some doubts?

"Can we climb above despair if all we face is extinction? When the universe dies, all will die with it."

The universe is not scheduled to die for upwards of a hundred trillion years. It will be a long, drawn out affair, the gradual victory of entropy over life. Perhaps our super-intelligent descendents can find a solution to this seemingly intratable problem. Either way, I have no legitimate reason to concern myself with events eon hence. I won't be there, and neither will anyone else I know. If human life survives for an eternity, I will still be forgotten, along with everyone else from our time, except maybe Jesus, Buddha, Shakespeare and a couple of others. To think about it any other way would be vanity, vanity, or so saith the preacher.

"If atheism is true, then human experience is a cruel joke. And, if life is a cruel joke, then why even bother to debate?"

I do not say the cosmos is a joke. A joke implies a joker. The only way I could reconcile theism and reality is to assume that the demiurge was a court jester with a poor sense of humour, trying to entertain some higher deity.

I debate because it pleases me to.

You'll notice that most of the points raised above were emotional appeals, noting how said it would be if atheism were true. I'm sorry, but the universe does no have to operate the way we want it too. I'm sad that the world is plagued by war, that genocides have happened and continue to happen, that death comes after the span of a few brief decades, and everyday is not a bundle of sunshine. No matter how hard I try to wish that reality away, it still stares me right back in the face. If you had compelling evidence that either the cruel tyrant God of the Old Testament or the more merciful deity of the New Testament existed, I would be forced to accept these facts. I'd swallow that pill and move on with my life. As it is, I see no reason to do so.

Good day.

Thomas said...

I apologize for my numerous typos, but I must get to work. See you later.

Anna said...

Thomas -

For some time now, I've been both reading and posting on this blog and Stephen's blog. My question is: what are you looking for? There are any number of people who travel around the world and debate in various forums on the opinions you express here. They would be happy to engage you in debate. One who stands out in my mind is Ravi Zacharias. He is from India and well versed in most of the world religions. Why waste your time with this group? Again, what is it you are looking for here?

Church, religion, belief in God - what is it all about? Christians -who are they? Many people want to pigeonhole others into little boxes so they can understand them based on their own paradigm. It doesn't work. You are talking religion/philosophy. We are talking relationship with Jesus Christ.

You claimed to have read the New Testament through a number of times and was called on it. You then noted you had read only the Gospels - but actually admitted only reading portions because you considered some to be redundant.
When Biblical texts are quoted and explained within their proper context, off on a rabbit trail you go.

The Bible is God's revelation to man of who He is, His character, and His plan for His people. You cannot understand it unless you ask God and have a heart willing to hear the truth. Christians understand that and have opened their hearts to a relationship not a religion.

The Church, the Church, the Church. The Church is not a building, but all those who have a relationship with Christ. I've been to some of those buildings, which people object to and where they have been mistreated. What they've missed is God wasn't welcome there either.

If you have the heart, ask questions and receive answers. You don't need to like to accept the answers, but don't try to make the Bible out to be something it is not.

Many Christians have left lifestyles, which were destructive in nature and found true peace and joy in Christ. Others have come to know Christ at a young age and found Him faithful throughout life. Stephen has found freedom in Christ. He could easily go on and live a quiet, happy life. However, he puts up with all the insults, threats, lies and other garbage people throw at him because he has a passion for those who are without hope and believe they have no escape.

You've said the only reason you still come here is because Christians keep evangelizing. Well, if you don't want to hear it, don't expose yourself to it.

Believe in God or not, dislike Christians and the Bible or not, but don't harden your heart. Hear people out then take some time to research it honestly. Try reading other materials that may explain away some of your confusion and questions. It's not easy to do, but you may be surprised at what you find out. At worst, you will have read some interesting material.

So, Thomas, what are you looking for here? If you want us to say everything is cool just go on the way you are, we can't and won't. It would be a lie and would only hurt you. We care deeply what happens to you and will continue to pray for you.


life's journey said...

christinewjc - Why waste any more time with this Thomas in a dress with a bouquet of flowers? Way too much time on his (her) hands only wanting to waste yours. Pray for this poor soul. Claiming to know everything, he shows his utter ignorance. We all were once there. Thank God there is still hope for him and all the others. So thankful I discovered your web page. Mighty blessings in the name of Jesus for your heart.

life's journey said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Thomas said...

Anna, thanks for your suggestions. What I had thought might have been a fun game of debating theology has turned into a dull exercise of responding to withered banalities about faith. I'm easily bored, so I should have seen this coming.

I wasn't looking for you to say everything was cool. I was hoping that you and Christine and the other evangelists would see the moral horrors that lurk at the heart of your fundamentalism. The tottering planks of absurd dogmas that hold it up. I hoped for too much. It is clear that most people believe what they were told as children, and will continue on it that path as long as they live -- though the fairy-land faith of youth has to be patched up from time to time with sophistical exegeses, so that the lunacies of child-belief don't shine forth so readily. If you had been raised in any other faith you would have believed just the same. I don't exclude myself from this, but I do try to axiomatically examine the teachings of my parents, to see where they might have led me astray.

If the Church is not merely the building, more's the pity. I admire and adore the architectural abilities of tradtitional Chrisitianity, and my first visit off the plane in Europe is typically to see the beautiful Gothic cathedrals which survive in that happily secularized continent. American protestant Christitianity, that banal offshoot of a once aesthetic faith, has nothing to offer except for surplus of warehouse-like megachurches. The feeble Anglicanism and Romanism that lurk in the lovely cathedrals of England and France are more easily endured than the rollicking televisual visitations the Holy Spirit in America, backed up by hideous pop-music and the offensive odour of body sweat and rotting piles of flowers.

Christianity could be merely laughed at, if all it lead to were the widespread delusion of Creationism and an imminent Rapture. It could be steadily ignored if all it did was to supply the visual kitsch of black-velvet Jesus paintings and the literary atrocities of Tim LaHaye. But fundamentalism must be opposed for the obhorrent moral catastrophes it produces. It actively retards the ethical faculties; it closes one's eyes to the endearing humanity of those it chooses to call sinners; and it provides a vehicle for the triumphant parades of politicians who preach the opposite of the doctrines of the man from Galilee. It calls pleasure a sin, and masochism a duty. It is a nightmare from which humanity is struggling to awake. I will fight it; I must fight it.

And yes, Life's Journey, my avatar does where a dress, or at least robe -- not unlike your supposed Saviour. I take more umbrage at your claim that I claim to know everything. I do not. I am aware of my deep and infinite ignorance and I struggle against it. You on the other hand relish your ignorance and pretend it a virtue.

There is hope for you and all the others. Awaken your moral faculties, turn on your brain, look into your Bible, and see it for the tissue of horrors that it is. Look outward then to the real revelation to mankind: the wonderful majesty of nature, reality, and the cosmos, a mystery forever to be explored, a beacon to the free mind.

Christinewjc said...

thomas: "The stuff coming out of the Schiller Institute is too bizarre to take seriously."

I could say the same thing about Russell and his bizarre ideology. Just the title of LaRouche's article says it all anyway. Russell is an evil man. We need not go any further but to the Bible to define and identify who would rank as an evil man. Based on the rest of your posts I see that it would be a waste of time to point them out. If one comes from the worldview that the Bible is not truth and doesn't intend to seek out the matter to the fullest (i.e. read and study it instead of picking out piecemeal verses to disparage) then I must remember the Proverb verses on how to deal with fools.

Perhaps you missed the following which explains what the term "fool" means in Scripture:

"In the book of Proverbs, a "simple one" or a fool is not someone with a mental deficiency but someone with a character deficiency (such as rebellion, laziness, or anger). The fool is not stupid, but he is unable to tell right from wrong or good from bad."

Notice how it describes a fool as someone with a CHARACTER deficiency. This is crucial to understanding why you believe as you do. Many people think that the term "fool" here means stupid. In fact, many are highly intelligent! It is often their intellect that gets in the way of their ability to turn to faith in Christ. They fight it with every ounce of their being and every argument from man's wisdom that is under the sun. We all have faith is certain things and/or people while on this earth. If we didn't, we couldn't survive. We all have a built-in notion of right and wrong, but this can get skewed by humanistic influences so that the concept of "good is labeled as evil and evil is labeled as good."

Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) - Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.

Where do we go to find out what is good and what is evil? The laws of God. We can't pick and choose which ones we want to relativize and obey and which ones we don't. Just like according to laws on the books in society, a person can't just pick and choose which ones to obey and not obey. Break the law? Pay the consequences.

But in God's mercy, our Supreme Judge of the universe took off his robe and placed himself in our place to pay the consequence of our sin. This is Christianity's answer to the sin problem. What is the secular humanistic answer to solve the sin problem? Is there one? Do they work? If not, why not?

I know that what I am sharing here is probably considered silly and/or a myth by you, but if you researched the matter further, you could draw a different conclusion. I continue to post answers for the sake of others who come by and read. They will see your worldview vs. the Christian worldview and make their own decision as to the correct answers.

Many likeminded individuals such as yourself often see the God of the Old Testament as barbaric and view what the Scriptures record as horrific. You make a common error of most skeptics. You assume that the Bible approves of everything that it records. The Bible records the errors and sins of mankind. It is a book of truth which doesn't gloss over the deceitful hearts of mankind within its pages. You are aware of God's solution to man's ignorant decision to learn and do evil and thus sin against God by doing so. The sacrificial crucifixion, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. A truly just God doesn't allow sin and evil to go unpunished. God provides the Savior to take that punishment in order to appease his righteous anger while at the same time giving his Son the glory of adopting those who believe in him into the family of God. This is that amazing grace that you do not recognize as being what it is...forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy extended with a lifetime hope and guarantee of eternal life with God.

Yes. This is silliness to you. Childish even? Jesus stated that we must become Child like (notice, NOT childish...very different) in order to see the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3 (NLT) - Then he said, "I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18:4 (NLT) - Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Did you see that? Each person needs to humble themselves as a little child. What this means is to trust. A child trusts the loving adults around him/her because he/she KNOWS the love offered to him/her. Not knowing the love of God, people often allow pride, sin, fear, hate, suffering, stubbornness, lack of faith, fear of death etc. to overtake them and not allow God's provision for salvation to enter into their lives.

Life's Journey was probably correct. I am probably wasting time to share all of this with you. Those who have the goal(s) as you described that you have are not open and receptive to the Gospel message; they are intent on destroying it. Through your mind's eye steeped in deception, you see your intent as "good" and Bible believing followers of Christ as "evil".

Isa 5:21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Isa 5:22 Woe unto [them that are] mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink

Isa 5:23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

Isa 5:24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, [so] their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Finally, I would recommend that you read Hebrews 11.

The first few verses define what faith is and the hope that is in us.

Great Examples of Faith
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. 2 God gave his approval to people in days of old because of their faith.
3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God's command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

God has given people the free will choice to put their faith into anything or Anyone that they choose to. For me, Jesus Christ is the only one worthy of trusting and I place my faith unconditionally into His Hands for all eternity. For only He is Worthy. Every knee shall bow before him one day, either willingly or unwillingly.

Romans 14:11 - For it is written, [As] I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

Rom 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Revelation 5 (NLT)

The Lamb Opens the Scroll
And I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: "Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and unroll it?" 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.
4 Then I wept because no one could be found who was worthy to open the scroll and read it. 5 But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, "Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David's throne,* has conquered. He is worthy to open the scroll and break its seven seals."
6 I looked and I saw a Lamb that had been killed but was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits* of God that are sent out into every part of the earth. 7 He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. 8 And as he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense-the prayers of God's people!
9 And they sang a new song with these words:

"You are worthy to take the scroll
and break its seals and open it.
For you were killed, and your blood has ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
And you have caused them to become God's Kingdom and his priests.
And they will reign* on the earth."

11 Then I looked again, and I heard the singing of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and the living beings and the elders. 12 And they sang in a mighty chorus:

"The Lamb is worthy-the Lamb who was killed.
He is worthy to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and blessing."

13 And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They also sang:

"Blessing and honor and glory and power
belong to the one sitting on the throne
and to the Lamb forever and ever."

14 And the four living beings said, "Amen!" And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped God and the Lamb.

5:5 Greek the root of David.
5:6 See note on 4:5.
5:10 Some manuscripts read they are reigning.

Revelation 22:12-17

12 "See, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me, to repay all according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. 15 Outside the city are the dogs-the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.

16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne.* I am the bright morning star."

17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let each one who hears them say, "Come." Let the thirsty ones come-anyone who wants to. Let them come and drink the water of life without charge.

Christinewjc said...

Hello Life's Journey,

Welcome to my blog! I can understand your feeling the way you do about my conversing with Thomas. Yes. There is always hope that the unsaved will come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Then, there are those who will fight it till the very end and die without Christ as their Savior and Lord. Since we do not know how far our influence in sharing the Gospel can go for each individual, we must continue to share even when outrightly rejected by the other person. Of course there is a proper time to "leave that house and shake the dust off of one's sandals." This is an allegorical statement designed to indicate that when all that can be said and done has been unequivocably rejected, it is time to leave our efforts behind. At that point, we can only pray for them. Even when reaching this point with Thomas I feel that God's Word never returns void. There may be someone coming to read this blog one day whose eyes will be opened by the exchange going on here and they may be motivated to seek out the claims of Jesus Christ and God's Word, the Bible. It is for those people who will be blessed by such an exchange, that I continue to post despite the hardened heart and rejection continually being displayed by Thomas.

Again, welcome to the board and hope you will visit often!

God bless you,